What We Learned This Week: March 11-17

LESSON #1: GIRLS SHOULD PLAY TOO— Setting off a firestorm of action on a Feelin’ Film Facebook group post this week was the announcement of a Rotten Tomatoes alternative specializing in female film critics.  Underserved and underrepresented, I’m all for a platform to celebrate and highlight different voices in film criticism.  The more the merrier.  Gender inequality is a rampant problem and opportunities like Cherry Picks (I hope a better name is coming) can only help the topic and add to the discussion.

LESSON #2: CAN WE BAN THE TERM “MADE IT FOR THE FANS” PLEASE?— Speaking of RT, over these recent ’10s years of Rotten Tomatoes gobbling up more public attention, the perceived backlash against low RT scores has set off soundbites from several stakeholders.  A prominent reaction a few years back was director David Ayers after Suicide Squad (video).  The latest is actor Joel Edgerton pushing back against the negative reviews bestowed upon the Netflix release Bright.  Both gentlemen used the term “made it for the fans” as a shield of righteousness for what they say was the intended purpose of their films.  Breaking news, Joel and David, critics are fans too.  They just have a wider and more published platform to voice their opinion.  Not all fans are going to like crappy films.  Want more fans, and therefore more critical, support? Make better films and earn more fans.

LESSON #3: HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT A DANNY BOYLE JAMES BOND FILM?— With director Sam Mendes not slated to return to the James Bond world after Spectre, audiences and news writers have been in a three-year guessing game of who will take over the helm of the spy franchise.  Word is that man could be Slumdog Millionaire Oscar winner and Trainspotting leader Danny Boyle.  Coupled with Trainspotting screenwriter John Hodge, I think the pair is an exciting fit for Bond.  Fun fact: Boyle directed Daniel Craig in a Bond-esque role opposite the Queen in his Opening Ceremony program of the 2012 Summer Olympics in London.  Boyle and Hodge can add a pulpy edge and a different speed of kinetic energy to push the action and the character forward in interesting directions.  Whatever they concoct, you know it sure won’t be boring.

LESSON #4: HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT A JON FAVREAU STAR WARS SERIES OR EVEN A GAME OF THRONES-ESQUE ONE?— In similar news, news landed that Iron ManThe Jungle Book, and current Lion King director Jon Favreau has been brought on to write and executive produce a live-action Star Wars series in the near future.  Favreau follows the February announcement of Game of Thrones creators David Benioff and D.B. Weiss being tapped to write and produce a new film series.  Like Boyle, I think the powers that be have found great hires.  Favreau brings of engaging storytelling, humor, and blockbuster know-how while the Benioff/Weiss team brings edginess and world-building strengths. All of the qualities can have an effective place in this universe.  The task now is for Disney not to micro-manage and fire them like the other top-notch talent they’ve brought in before.

LESSON #5: DISNEY IS THE HOLLYWOOD PLAYGROUND BALL HOG— Why are they the selfish superstar that doesn’t pass? Because they can be.  This month, Disney announced the calendar of their intended release dates for the next five years.  Disney has retained Marvel’s traditional reservation of the first weekends in May, the Star Wars pre-Memorial Day tradition, Pixar’s usual third-week-of-June slot, and their own Thanksgiving animation slot.  More and more, they are squeezing for the Fourth of July weekends, that magical Presidents Day/Valentine’s Day weekend in February (thanks, Black Panther), and bigger chunks of Christmas.  Disney is Kobe Bryant, the “seat’s taken” kids from Forrest Gump, the manspreading subway rider, and bank-buying billionaire all rolled into one with zero f–ks given.  When they show up, everyone else runs for cover.

LESSON #6: NETFLIX DOESN’T HAVE ANY QUIT RIGHT NOW— Ambition is one thing.  Resources is another.  The wild thing is when a creative outlet has both.  That’s Netflix right now.  The volume of original content they are putting out is downright insane.  You would think they can only get so much be money to be had from new subscribers.  That number has to level out and slow production, right?  Not anytime soon, according to Netflix.  They’re booming to have around 700 original shows and movies in the 2018 calendar year.  That’s beyond machine-like.  You wonder how much is too much or how much isn’t profitable.

LESSON #7: THE SLIPPERY SLOPE OF AUDIENCE RESPONSIBILITY VERSUS STUDIO ACTIONS— Speaking of Netflix, Annihilation, filmmaker Alex Garland’s tepid box office loser and follow-up to Ex Machina, landed on Netflix only a few short weeks after a theatrical bow from big studio Paramount.  Indiewire’s Zach Sharf wrote an interesting take on the matter citing that part of the fault for the film’s failure is on the audience as much as it’s on Paramount.  He talks about “hard sells” and he’s right.  The general moviegoing audience pays for a more simpler fare than Annihilation.  That’s not a bad thing entirely, but that’s what’s making money.  Any diligent corporation should find the best scenario for earning and profit.  With Netflix throwing its money around, Paramount made an appropriate business decision and one, as it turns out, made more money than failing in the theaters.  I hate to say, but get used to these kinds of decisions and deals.  That’s the landscape.  They only people that can change that are the consumers and it’s going to take quite the unified and concerted effort to change trends.  Stop paying for Transformers films and give that money to risks like Annihilation if you want better products.  I’ve said this many times in this column and in the Feelin’ Film discussion group.  Whether we like it or not, this is a business first and an art exhibition second.

DON SHANAHAN is a Chicago-based film critic writing on his website Every Movie Has a Lesson.  As an elementary educator by day, Don writes his movie reviews with life lessons in mind, from the serious to the farcical.  He is a proud member and one of the founders of the Chicago Independent Film Critics Circle.  As a contributor here on Feelin’ Film, he’s going to expand those lessons to current movie news and trends.  Find “Every Movie Has a Lesson” on FacebookTwitterMedium, and Creators Media.


What We Learned This Week: Post-Super Bowl Challenge

Primo movie teasers have become an annual tradition connected to the Super Bowl.  The championship game is typically the most-watched global television event of the calendar year and movie studios, just like other brands and companies, target maximum eyes on their valuable offerings.  Back in the days before YouTube replays numbering the tens of millions in less than 24 hours, those coveted 30-second Super Bowl ads were shown ONCE.  That was it.  If you didn’t see it, POOF, it was gone.  Back then, the hype generated was real and the trailer-making marketers knew all it took to grab an audience was the right juicy single morsel.  Less was more and we were hooked on a mere 30 seconds.

Today, three trends have whittled away the effect of a good Super Bowl teaser.  First, in this marketing culture of #f1rst and scooping the competition, too many of these ads are available before the Big Game, sapping much of the surprise factor.  Second, we’ve reached a day and age where trailers regularly give away far too much of film.  As awesome as that Mission: Impossible Fallout teaser was last night, it showed too much (and the full trailer was even worse).  Film directors like Rian Johnson shouldn’t have to tweet a spoiler warning on his own film’s trailer.  Wolverine’s appearance should have been a well-kept surprise in X-Men: Apocalypse and not a stinger reveal in a trailer.  The same goes for Darth Vader in Rogue One, Hulk in Thor: Ragnarok, and, heck, even Michelle Monaghan for Mission: Impossible Fallout, among many others.  Third and finally, there isn’t the dazzle of the one-time viewing anymore and any hype is beaten to death by the buzzy over-saturation of click bait editorials that overanalyze every second of the teasers of teasers let along the real teasers or full trailers themselves.  Personally, I find it nauseatingly too much.

This all adds to unrealistic, messy, or improperly-fueled expectations that hang on a film all year.  The Super Bowl spots are the peak springboard of turning the calendar over to a new year of movies.  As soon as January hit, the flood of those “most anticipated films of 2018” lists and think pieces arrived and cropped up eager conversations over in the Feelin’ Film Discussion Group.  The wild use of the word “expectations” is another soapbox for a different day (and soon), but I long for a day when the repetitive spoiler blathering could go away, allowing patience to create real hype, not the over-marketed variety we have now, to create a higher form of anticipation.  A great example was this past holiday season.

I made it well known in the Feelin’ Film circles that I didn’t watch the final Star Wars: The Last Jedi trailer that dropped last October.  I avoided it like the plague, especially with the spoiler suspicions attached.  I wanted the mystery.  More importantly, I didn’t need to see a thing to be excited or sold on the film.  The existence of it from the moment Star Wars: The Force Awakens ended two years ago was all it took.  I didn’t need a synopsis.  I didn’t even need a title.  They had money.  An occupational perk/hazard for me as a press-credentialed critic is that my screenings don’t have trailers.  They’ve been easier for me to avoid to the point that I don’t watch them at all anymore for 90% of the films I see and review (and that’s over 150 films a year).  Such willpower can be done.

The resulting enjoyment of avoiding the Star Wars: The Last Jedi trailer made for an incredible viewing experience.  No silly hype tipped off any details or trained me to watch for certain anticipated moments.  The moments came to me.  Every twist and development was a surprise and the connections made were richer than ones that would have been pre-built for me because of marketing hype.

With that example and hope in mind, I have a challenge for all of you Feelers.


Pick ONE film on your “most anticipated list” for 2018 and avoid the marketing for it from now until its release. 

Don’t say Black Panther with only two weeks to go.  Don’t say Avengers: Infinity War coming in May because that’s an easy automatic.  Dig deep.  Pick a real long-term challenge for 2018.  Turn off the noise.  Don’t watch the trailers.  Don’t read the click bait and certainly don’t read reviews before finally seeing the film.  Go to the hallway and refill your napkins and popcorn butter at the multiplex.

My rationale is that if the film you pick is on your official or unofficial “most anticipated list” you already know enough about it and want to see it where you don’t need any more marketing.  You’re already hooked.  Knowing anymore about it only chips away at the final result.  I’m tired of hearing and reading the whining of supposedly ruined “expectations” by films that don’t turn out the way people were sold by from the trailers.  Remove that whining potential by removing the problem of over-selling marketing.

The challenge is to let the film speak for itself and not speak for the marketing.  Feel a different buildup.  Feel the patience of old school hype.  Leave something to the imagination.  Let the Super Bowl be the last peek.

Try it for one film and help out your peers.  Share your pick in the comments or in the Facebook discussion.  We’re a support group as much as we are a discussion spot.  Afterwards, evaluate that experience.  Was the anticipation better or worse?  Was the culminating film experience better or worse?

Call me confident, but I don’t think I’m going to get many “worse” admissions if you give this an honest try.

What We Learned This Week: December 10-16

LESSON #1: $54 BILLION DOLLARS IS AN ASTRONOMICAL AMOUNT OF MONEY— The huge Disney/Fox deal that has been rumored finally became official on Thursday.  If you thought the two $4 billion deals Disney paid years ago for Marvel Comics and LucasFilm properties was high, the price tag on this one is enormous, but consider the prizes being the list of holdings coming over in this merger (see the article).  As before in this column, I get the fanboy dreams possible with this (see the character rights breakdown picture below), but I am going to miss the separation of history.  Here’s a good article of the 102-history of Fox.  I remain questioning whether this really is a good thing.

LESSON #2: YOUR R-RATED DEADPOOL WILL BE FINE UNDER THE DISNEY UMBRELLA— Disney CEO Bob Iger already answered one fan uproar after the merger with a statement on the fate of R-rated content like Deadpool coming over form Fox.  His final line was “As long as we let the audiences know what’s coming, we think we can manage that fine.”  People forget Walt Disney used to own the Dimension Films brand from 1993-1999 responsible for films like From Dusk Till Dawn and the Scream franchise.  All Iger and company have to do is create another production shingle under another name just like Dimension.  Hell, just call it 20th Century Fox.  Easy peasy!  Disney’s not going to say no to hit-making money.

LESSON #3: THE GOLDEN GLOBE AWARDS REMAIN AN ABSOLUTE JOKE— This is becoming a yearly rant, but so many of the Golden Globe nominations announced Monday reek of questionable voting, taste, and any semblance of intelligence.  Snubs happen with any awards, but there’s are always more dumbfounding.    The Hollywood Foreign Press never seem to get the category split between comedy and drama right in a believable way.  Zero comedy love for The Big Sick?  No women directors?  Come on.  We’ve always heard the hints that this is a pay-for-play popularity contest for foreign press to throw a party to see and be seen.  I’ve just about stopped watching them altogether.  Still, as always, their winners senselessly affect Oscar races and it stinks.

LESSON #4: SOME FILMS HAVE NOT AGED WELL— I’ve been meaning to do some retrospectives this year since this is the 20th year since I graduated high school in 1997.  This past week, I charted my reflective “10 Best” of 1997 and several other lists and categories on Every Movie Has a Lesson.  The topic came to mind of what films have aged well or poorly over time.  I certainly had some films from 1997 that went down in love and appreciation for me in twenty years.  ScreenRant recently did a piece on the topic and made some great picks.  What are some films that have not aged well for you?  What are some films you liked long ago but have changed your mind on now?  Comment and let’s hear some thoughts and titles.

DON SHANAHAN is a Chicago-based film critic writing on his website Every Movie Has a Lesson.  As an elementary educator by day, Don writes his movie reviews with life lessons in mind, from the serious to the farcical.  He is a proud member and one of the founders of the Chicago Independent Film Critics Circle.  As a contributor here on Feelin’ Film, he’s going to expand those lessons to current movie news and trends.  Find “Every Movie Has a Lesson” on FacebookTwitterMedium, and Creators Media.



What We Learned This Week: December 7th “Soapbox Special”


LESSON #1: IF YOU MADE A LIST OF ALL THE FILMS TO BOYCOTT BECAUSE OF PEOPLE WITH UNCLEAN RECORDS AND REPUTATIONS (FOR WHATEVER REASON), YOU WOULDN’T HAVE MANY FILMS LEFT TO WATCH— The arrival of Woody Allen’s latest film Wonder Wheel brought on an editorial over on RogerEbert.com written by Olivia Collette entitled “Why I Stopped Watching Woody Allen Movies.”  I feel like this sentiment comes around each year and with each new Allen film, yet the narrative doesn’t change.  People talk of boycotting his films, yet here he is still making films on an annual basis in his 80s.   Maybe his checkered history is amplified even more this time around by the recent epidemic wave of attention being given to the seemingly endless sexually-centered wrongdoings in Hollywood.

Even so, I hate to tell you this, but Woody Allen’s talent is not moot or erased by his transgressions.  His films still exist and are worthy of their regard.  He still wins awards and people flock to work with him because, bad person or not, the man is one of the greatest to ever gaze through a camera and yell “action” and “cut.”  This isn’t old baseball record book behaviors.  Annie Hall, Midnight in Paris, and any other respected Woody Allen film don’t carry asterisks because they were made by “he who must not be named or celebrated.”  The work should and does speak for itself.

The very same goes for any of the names that have been mentioned this year or those from decades past that didn’t get the ferocity of today’s news cycle headlines. Go look up the skeletons in the closet of Errol Flynn, Clark Gable, Cary Grant, Alfred Hitchcock, or any other of the forgotten scandals from this Ranker list.  They did plenty that would break the internet if it happened today.  Formerly recent names like Allen, Bill Cosby, Tom Cruise, Sean Penn, Roman Polanski, Mel Gibson, and more have well-documented histories that have had their attached hate subside to some degree with time.  Hell, Gibson was a multiple Oscar nominee last year with Hacksaw Ridge.  Ignoring how many of this new rumors ever end up with guilty sentences and substantiated claims and how many don’t, will time soothe the reputations of new names like Harvey Weinstein, Casey Affleck, Kevin Spacey, Louis C.K., and others?

Current and short-sighted torch-carrying folks, fueled by all of this news cycle and Twitterverse of newly surfaced rumors and claims, seem to want to ignore and/or remove all of the work done by these new names.  Just look at what’s happening to Kevin Spacey.  When the current generation does that to Spacey and does not do the same to any of those aforementioned names of yesteryear who did more and plenty worse, I find them to be absolute hypocrites.  If you’re going to feign concern for social justice and make those selective lists to boycott, be complete about it.  Execute real integrity.   Turn back the hands of time and add everyone.  If you’re not going to do that, then don’t make the list at all, because a selective one just looks preachy and petty.

This is where the title of the lesson/rant comes in.  If you took away every actor or actress that (*pick the laundry list sin item that irks your armchair sensibilities*) ever used illegal drugs, got a DUI, committed homosexual or heterosexual adultery, had a child out of wedlock, had an abortion, married multiple times with or without proper annulment or divorce, committed a crime of physical or verbal assault/abuse, or acted in a derogatory way to a person of differing race, gender, or orientation, you wouldn’t have many people left, period.  If you truly don’t condone all of that, then you shouldn’t be watching movies or TV shows.  This lesson applies to athletes too.  They makes millions because people pay millions for their work.  That doesn’t mean they are better or worth idolizing in a warped way.

I, for one, have made it a point, going back to the beginning of my love and work with movies two decades ago, to strongly and consistently separate the public persona from their work and craft.  They are two entirely different things to judge.  The films are inanimate and subjective pieces of art and entertainment to judge.  The same cannot be done with people.  Those are different judgments that, frankly, are rarely ours to pass.

We hardly ever hear or learn of the whole story behind any of these rumors, so any definitive judgment from us would be incomplete and irrational.  That said, audiences and fans are allowed to make choices and preferences from the information they know or think they know.  That’s fine.  Be a selective consumer.  Be an informed fan as best that you can.  Have discerning taste suitable for your comfort levels.  All of that is fair, but we are not in charge of their courtrooms, boardrooms, bedrooms, spouses, or places of worship where real judgment takes place.  We’re outside of that and we should stay outside of that.  You wouldn’t want someone passing incomplete judgment on you, so don’t do it to strangers you blindly placed on entertainment pedestals.

To outline examples of my mentality, I can dislike Tom Cruise’s beliefs and still enjoy a Tom Cruise film with no reservations because it’s about the work and not the person when the lights go down and the movie starts.  I can never remove Kevin Spacey or O.J. Simpson from the movies I watch and enjoy.  I will have Alfred Hitchcock films on my all-time best lists without hesitation or a second thought because the films deserve those merits even if the man behind them doesn’t.  If anything, their places and appearances become a reminder and a time capsule for a woulda-coulda-shoulda cautionary tale.  If we are really going to reflect on the individual acts of wrong, learn something, grow from observing these mistakes, that’s how those defamed people should be looked at and remain in Hollywood history.

I highly encourage others to seek or at least entertain the same.  Separate the person from the art.  Open your mind to more objective rationales.  If you can’t, then you can’t.  Everyone has their limits and I get that, but there is a point where you’re doing the medium a disservice to think you can ignore talent and achievement.

Where do we go with this?  Last month on this column, I shared that sadness and disappointment should be among the first emotions that arrive well before outrage and judgment when these shocking claims and stories come to light.  I made that my universal stance statement to purposefully choose to stand on a shorter and calmer soapbox.  In that same column, I expanded on Feelin’ Film co-founder Aaron White’s discussion thread question of “at what point do we require more than just an allegation to ruin someone’s life forever?”  I echoed his mentality to properly practice “innocent until proven guilty” and not the other way around.

Empathy and patience need to be preached, especially if those accused and even those that have been proven guilty have sought contrition or have paid whatever proper price was assigned for their mistakes and/or crimes.  A way to do that concretely and consistently is to separate the person from the work.  You then bring the right respect and reflection to the art and become part of the healing, not the hurt.  Try it.  I think you’ll feel better.

DON SHANAHAN is a Chicago-based film critic writing on his website Every Movie Has a Lesson.  As an elementary educator by day, Don writes his movie reviews with life lessons in mind, from the serious to the farcical.  As a contributor here on Feelin’ Film, he’s going to expand those lessons to current movie news and trends.  Find “Every Movie Has a Lesson” on FacebookTwitterMedium, and Creators Media.

What We Learned This Week: November 19-27- Thanksgiving Hangover Edition

Folks, holidays off of work will derail any routines you have, be it parenting or writing and publishing film reviews and online content.  I had a week and my world went lazy in a happy and welcome hurry.  Super-sized to match our post-Thanksgiving “muffintop” bellies, here’s a late edition of “What We Learned This Week!”

LESSON #1: YOU REALLY NEED TO SEE LADY BIRD— There is a five-star and potential best-of-2017 film sitting right under your noses with Greta Gerwig’s Lady Bird.  My review glows like the California sun and you will find much more like it from my peers on Feelin’ Film and the pros on Rotten Tomatoes. In fact, take a look at this distinction, one even greater than the RT buzz given to Get Out‘s high score earlier this year:

LESSON #2: WHILE YOU’RE AT IT, GO SEE WONDER TOO— So often, we ask where are the quality family films in this current Hollywood marketplace.  I can’t be the only parent out there who asks for something better than made-for-TV ABC Family and Hallmark channel movies and the endless string of mindless noise coming out of blockbusters like MinionsSing, and etc.  Disney scaling things down with Pete’s Dragon and The Queen of Katwe last year gave me hope that a legitimate live-action family film could still be made and be mildly successful.  Wonder is that exceeding hope this year.  Its messages are virtuous and heartwarming.  Add Stephen Chbosky’s film to your shortlist for holiday viewing.  It’s a keeper.

LESSON #3: SPEND EXTRA TIME IN THE LOBBY, BATHROOM, TRAFFIC, OR AT DINNER BEFORE SEEING COCO (BUT DON’T FORGET TO STILL SEE COCO)— Disney/Pixar’s Coco is another family-friendly keeper right there with Wonder, but the animated “short” before it the opposite.  I don’t know about you, but I was done with Frozen when it came out.  Subjecting a (hopefully) diverse family audience to 21 minutes of repetitive Olaf silliness on top of previews and other advertisements before a hearty and heavy 109-minute film is too much.  Dear Disney, save that crap for your own TV channel and future streaming service.  Dear Pixar, we come to a Pixar film for your brand of superior original shorts, not Disney’s extra product placement.  Future Coco audiences, use article guide from Slate to calculate how much time to stall and cut right to the feature.

LESSON #4: BE MINDFUL OF WHO IS IN BED WITH WHO WHEN IT COMES TO THE BUSINESS OF HOLLYWOOD— Rotten Tomatoes was applauded before the release of Justice League for its stance to hold its first official rating designation until the opening day of Friday, four days after publication embargoes for critics ended that Tuesday.  It was seen as a move of patience and a step in the right direction away from the immediacy of rash judgment.  When you learn Warner Bros. owns Flixster, the parent company of Rotten Tomatoes, you might realize it was a selfish move of shielding flack instead of championing temperance.  Let me continue to join many other voices, including this great piece from Hype, begging for the general public to loosen their obsession with the broken math of Rotten Tomatoes.  Find critics you trust and appreciate and separate from the pack mentality of pitchforks and/or circle jerks.

LESSON #5: YOU GET WHAT YOU GET WITH JUSTICE LEAGUE— I’d love a Zach Snyder or Joss Whedon “director’s cut” (hell, even both) of Justice League, but conflicting reports make it sound like it can’t or won’t happen.  No matter what, too many folks play amateur armchair film editors.  If we get a bonus, that’s great.  If we don’t, take what the film gives you.

LESSON #6: SPEAKING OF SUPERHEROES, IT’S TIME FOR EVEN MORE DIVERSITY REPRESENTATION— Seeing the strength of the Amazons in Wonder Woman and Justice League as well as the badassery of Tessa Thompson’s Valkyrie in Thor: Ragnarok, it’s time additional diversity in comic book films.  This Collider column and list lay out six places inclusion of LGBTQ characters could have been made and it’s a good blueprint for more.  Heck, just start with women in general, let alone the other special demographics of the acronym.  The Guardian recently outlined a primer for a full “women’s canon” foundation.  It’s impressive.    Let’s see Hollywood continue to get progressive and build on the good starts and new energy.

DON SHANAHAN is a Chicago-based film critic writing on his website Every Movie Has a Lesson.  As an elementary educator by day, Don writes his movie reviews with life lessons in mind, from the serious to the farcical.  As a contributor here on Feelin’ Film, he’s going to expand those lessons to current movie news and trends.  Find “Every Movie Has a Lesson” on Facebook, Twitter, Medium, and Creators Media.

What We Learned This Week: October 1-7

LESSON #1: THERE ARE LIKELY MORE SKELETONS IN MORE CLOSETS THAN WE WILL EVER KNOW— Last year, it was the allegations surrounding Casey Affleck.  Last week was the culmination of old indiscretions from Ain’t It Cool News and Alamo Drafthouse.  This week, it’s the unearthed disgusting behavior from mega-producer Harvey Weinstein.  I wish this story would be the last on the topic of unchecked sexual harassment, but I think any law of averages from any statistical measure will tell us this is the tip of an iceberg and not the finale.  I’ll repeat my plea from last week to remove the silence and dish out the overdue consequences.

LESSON #2: HARRY DEAN STANTON DESERVES TO WIN THE THIRD POSTHUMOUS ACTING OSCAR EVER AWARDED— You can call Lucky a capstone, a eulogy, or whatever you want, but the late Harry Dean Stanton deserved serious Oscar consideration for Best Actor even before his death.  His legend will only grow with the public seeing the film. Starkly present in both the character and the actor himself, every wrinkle hides a layer, a story to be told, or a touchstone to an unseen memory. You cannot stare deep enough into his sullen eyes without being captivated by his plight.

LESSON #3: THE MONEY PEOPLE EARN MAKING A MOVIE— Mark me down as a guy who never knew how much the folks you see listed in the end credits of a film got paid.  We hear about the big paychecks of actors and directors, but rarely the “little people.”  Check out this article from TIME magazine. File this under the “You Learn Something Every Day” department.

LESSON #4: IS THE THEATRICAL PRODUCT GETTING SLOPPY?— I recently enjoyed the perspective written up by Sonny Bunch in The Washington Post.  I found the technical details behind projection, sound, and lights to be fascinating.  The more I think about my theatrical experiences every week, the more I see what Bunch is referring to.  Calling it a “scapegoat” to attendance I think is a little too strong, but discerning fans are right to expect and want better from their premium ticket prices.

LESSON #5: GEORGE CLOONEY IS TOO YOUNG TO BE GETTING LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT AWARDS— The American Film Institute announced that George Clooney will be receiving their 46th Lifetime Achievement Award next June.  Mr. Clooney is only 56-years-old.  I don’t want to turn into Don “TMasterpiece” Shanahan, but George’s career is far from full or even complete.  Let’s put the “lifetime” in lifetime achievement awards.  The guy could work at the top of his game for another quarter-century.  Come back when the guy is 76 instead of 56.  Next thing you know, Jennifer Lawrence is going to win the thing before she turns 30.  Jeez!

DON SHANAHAN is a Chicago-based film critic writing on his website Every Movie Has a Lesson.  He is also one of the founders and the current directors of the Chicago Independent Film Critics Circle.  As an elementary educator by day, Don writes his movie reviews with life lessons in mind, from the serious to the farcical.  As a contributor here on Feelin’ Film, he’s going to expand those lessons to current movie news and trends.  Find “Every Movie Has a Lesson” on Facebook, Twitter, Medium, and Creators Media.

What We Learned This Week: September 24-30

LESSON #1: HARASSMENT SHOULD NOT BE TOLERATED AT ANY LEVEL IN THIS INDUSTRY— This lesson could also read “PERPETRATORS GET THEY DESERVE.”  The recent allegations surrounding the Austin-based Alamo Drafthouse and Ain’t It Cool News website are disturbing and troublesome.  I couldn’t be more pleased to see workplaces all around several industries clean up their acts and seek greater integrity.  These inequalities shouldn’t be silenced anymore.

LESSON #2: AMBIGUITY IS A POWERFUL DISCUSSION STARTER— I’ve seen Blade Runner 2049 and I can say that it hits with the same mystery and rich uncertainty that surrounds the 1982 original. When it’s silent, Blade Runner 2049 can infer volumes of connotations. When it speaks in its guarded circles of exposition, it conversely shields and misdirects its real secrets.  Diving into all of the possible interpretations is brilliance and fun.  In many ways, mother! did the same a few weeks ago.  While I’m here, Denis Villeneuve has become the modern artistic authority on cinematic intensity.  There’s nothing flat or flimsy about his work.

LESSON #3: TOM CRUISE IS STILL TOM CRUISE— I know plenty of people that won’t watch the man anymore because they disagree with who he is and what he values off-screen, but, at his workplace, Tom Cruise still has gung-ho charisma.  He’s 100% committed to his roles from pre-production to selling the hell out of them with exhausting international press coverage and public appearances.  American Made has a candor and sizzle that fits him perfectly without turning him into an indestructible superstar.  Bonus points go to Cruise being credited as a stunt pilot in the film.  Often, that’s him on the stick and that POV authenticity adds to the film.

LESSON #4: IS THE HONEYMOON PERIOD OVER FOR THE LEGO MOVIE FRANCHISE?— Plenty of films would kill for a $20 million dollar opening weekend frame, but when you’re sailing for the Warner Bros. flagship and bearing The LEGO Movie name, you have to do better than $20 million and a distant third place finish.  Is The LEGO Ninjago Movie an outlier or the first sign of ho-hum market over-saturation.  Is all forgotten if Chris Pratt’s Emmet or Will Arnett’s Batman come back with monster sequels to their blockbusters?  Probably, but the lesson is worth asking.

DON SHANAHAN is a Chicago-based film critic writing on his website Every Movie Has a Lesson.  He is also one of the founders and the current directors of the Chicago Independent Film Critics Circle.  As an elementary educator by day, Don writes his movie reviews with life lessons in mind, from the serious to the farcical.  As a contributor here on Feelin’ Film, he’s going to expand those lessons to current movie news and trends.  Find “Every Movie Has a Lesson” on Facebook, Twitter, Medium, and Creators Media.

What We Learned This Week: August 27-September 2

LESSON #1: THERE’S A DIFFERENCE BETWEEN “FAVORITE” AND “GREATEST”— I’ve used this very lesson’s line quite often in the Feelin’ Film discussion group over the year.  As a credentialed film critic who is still a starving fan of cinema, I cannot help but wear two hats and grade with two scales, and I’m completely at peace with that.  However, thanks to sites like Letterboxd, we rank things to death and I, for one, get hung up on the labeling because there is a stark difference between “favorite” and “greatest.”  “Favorite” is personal taste while “greatest” is more objective and reflective in measurement.  It’s beautiful when they are the same film, but there are many cases when that doesn’t happen.  The most recent topic that reminded me of the necessity for separate distinctions was the recent BBC poll ranking the 100 greatest comedies of all time.  Comedy is the most subjective of all film genres, where the divide between “favorite” and “greatest” is both distant and touchy from one person to the next.  Comedy also has the proclivity to not age well.  Combine those reactions together and the dissection comments of “what about ____,” “why isn’t ____ higher,” and “I can’t believe ___ isn’t on there ” reminded me that comedy is personal and even the trolls have room for a say.  Then, I looked at the years and it led me to the next lesson.

LESSON #2: MILLENNIALS DON’T REALLY CARE ABOUT CLASSIC FILMS— For the multitude of younger audiences circulating the web today, the BBC’s top 10 was entirely comprised of films older than 1993’s Groundhog Day, topped by 1959’s Some Like it Hot (a completely deserving top film IMO).  I wonder how many of the butthurt Millennials who were dropping those comments from Lesson #1 have even seen a Charlie Chaplin or Buster Keaton film.  This lesson title is lifted from a recent New York Post article that hit the truth of wonderment with a ton of bricks.  The piece reported polling data from FYE.com of 1,000 Millennials and 1,000 Americans over 50 on seeing top IMDb-rated films.  The results were eye-opening.  I get that differences in quality and tone from classic films to modern films and how audiences and tastes have changed.  Still, I will stand up as a guy calling for young people to respect history and educate themselves before they rant.  Learn the roots that inspired the films we’re watching today.  Go discover the endless buried treasure that comprises lists like the BBC’s Top 100 Comedies and the IMDb Top 250.  Even if they don’t like what they find, they’ll at least be an educated voice instead of an ignorant one.

LESSON #3: LET’S VISIT JESSE AND CELINE EVERY NINE YEARS UNTIL THEY DIE— If note-worthy director Michael Apted can revisit the same group of British citizens every seven years in his beloved Up documentary series that started at 7 Up in 1964 and turned 56 Up in 2012, then let’s have a narrative feature do the same.  Word fluttered recently that there is hope for a fourth Before film from director Richard Linklater and stars/co-writers Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy.  To whatever studio gets that pitch, move heaven and earth to make it happen in time for 2022.  Linklater, Hawke, and Delpy have built a trilogy of perfection since 1995.  How beautiful would it be to follow the star-crossed couple of Jesse and Celine from the twentysomethings to their silvery senior years? Gosh, that’s a good dream!

LESSON #4: L.A. CONFIDENTIAL IS CURTIS HANSON’S MASTERPIECE— During the recent Noir City Festival in Chicago, the famed Music Box Theatre in Chicago hosted a 20th-anniversary screening of Curtis Hanson’s L.A. Confidential, complete with author James Ellroy in the house for a rousing introduction and post-film talk back.  Here fellow Chicago critic Jeff York and I talk about the experience on the Page 2 Screen podcast on the International Screenwriters’ Association Network.  Twenty years ago, when I was just getting into movies as a high school grad approaching his freshman year of undergrad, I was lucky enough to discover L.A. Confidential on the big screen and it was a gateway drug to learning about the noir genre and smart procedural films after a decade-long buffet of 90s action films built as trashy and excessive glamour projects (go look at the 90s filmographies of Steven Seagal, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Sylvester Stallone, Bruce Willis, and Arnold Schwarzenegger).  The film should have beat Titanic for the Best Picture Oscar that year and it still stands as a watershed today.  Curtis Hanson died a year ago this month, leaving behind a resume of The Hand that Rocks the Cradle, Wonder Boys, White Dog, The River Wild, and 8 Mile.  L.A. Confidential is his unquestioned masterpiece and one of my Top 5 all-time films.  If you’ve never seen it, treat yourself.

LESSON #5: THE WORLD IGNORED THE RETURN OF STEVEN SODERBERGH AND IT’S A DAMN SHAME— Speaking of masterful directors, Steven Soderbergh’s Logan Lucky deserved better at the August box office.  The whole month has been a hot mess and dumping grounds for trash left and right for the last three weeks, but Soderbergh’s heist film is a gem.  The guy came out of retirement and delivered a crowd-pleasing winner.  I’m surprised in the summer of Baby Driver that Logan Lucky couldn’t find a similar niche audience.  Here’s to hoping it finds a sweet spot on the next level of VOD, Netflix, and home viewing.  Consider that film a current treat to wash down the Curtis Hanson one with a smile.

DON SHANAHAN is a Chicago-based film critic writing on his website Every Movie Has a Lesson.  He is also one of the founders and the current directors of the Chicago Independent Film Critics Circle.  As an elementary educator by day, Don writes his movie reviews with life lessons in mind, from the serious to the farcical.  As a contributor here on Feelin’ Film, he’s going to expand those lessons to current movie news and trends.  Find “Every Movie Has a Lesson” on Facebook, Twitter, Medium, and Creators Media.


What We Learned This Week: August 20-26

 RETURNING FROM SUMMER VACATION: I take two weeks off and all hell breaks loose!

LESSON #1: “MANSPLAINING” IS NEVER ENDEARING OR RESPECTFUL— For a guy who has fostered one “Strong Female Character” after another, including two of the greatest in Sarah Connor and Ellen Ripley, James Cameron sure missed the big picture of Wonder Woman.  In an interview with The Guardian (full context), the Titanic filmmaker stated “All of the self-congratulatory back-patting Hollywood’s been doing over Wonder Woman has been so misguided” and adds “She’s an objectified icon, and it’s just male Hollywood doing the same old thing! I’m not saying I didn’t like the movie but, to me, it’s a step backwards.”  Well now, Mr. Pott.  What color is the kettle?  Mr. Cameron is entitled to his opinion and slant (the film is far from perfect), but the fun thing is we all get one too.  Don’t worry Wonder Woman director Patty Jenkins dropped the mic on him with this commandingly brilliant tweet:

LESSON #2: MOVIEPASS MAY HAVE FINALLY FOUND AN ATTRACTIVE PRICE POINT— Mitch Lowe, the co-founder of Netflix, made tsunami waves recently with a ballsy new business model for the mildly-received MoviePass program.  Reducing the $15-50 per-month rate with plenty of fine print and red tape for a tidy $9.95 fee with new fine print and red tape looks like a steal.  However, will customers buy-in and, more importantly, will theaters play ball at taking a possible haircut?  The AMC Theatres chain (more on them later) immediately pushed back threatening legal action and downright banning MoviePass customers.  You have to love that $10 price point, but how useful is it if the theater companies in your area don’t take it?  Compromise is needed.

LESSON #3: ALONG THE SAME LINES, THE VIDEO ON-DEMAND MARKET IS STILL TRYING TO FIND THEIR PRICE POINT— Some of you might remember that six years ago Universal Studios initially planned to release their tentpole Tower Heist on premium VOD for $59.99 three weeks after its theatrical release with the goal of putting more money in their pockets instead of splitting it with movie theaters.  The notion was met with instant boycott and dismissal (much like the film itself) and the studio backed off.  Here in 2017, media giants Comcast (parent company of Universal), Amazon, and Apple are all developing a new VOD delivery system that will put top-shelf movies out for rental 30-45 days after their theatrical debuts at a $30 price level.  Even with $30 being substantial savings compared to hauling an average family of four to the cinema, that price point still doesn’t work if the digital download and Blu-ray/DVD release windows of $20 permanent ownership (not a temporary rental) keep dramatically shrinking like they have been for a few years.  What used to be an industry-standard of six months or more between silver screen and small screen has been cut in half.  May theatrical releases like King Arthur: Legend of the Sword and Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 have arrived on August store shelves.  Why wait a month for a single high-priced rental when you can wait three and buy it for keeps for a lesser price?  I don’t see the viable premium VOD marketplace for average tight-budgeted blue collar consumers out there (and that’s not even taking into account the piracy market looming over anything VOD related).

LESSON #4: SURPRISE, SURPRISE!  DISNEY IS OUT TO MAKE ITS OWN MONEY WITHOUT PARTNERS— When you make billions hand over fist, you get to call the shots or, better yet, go out make your own game.  The Walt Disney Company will pull its lucrative movies off Netflix and launch its own branded streaming subscription platform in 2019.  They don’t need Netflix when they have the clout and fanbase to create their own exclusivity and keep all the money.  I can’t say I blame them and I stand by my prognostication from earlier in the summer for the day Disney/Marvel pulls out of San Diego’s Comic-Con and lets their own D23 be the one-way fan access point to that frenzy.

LESSON #5: NETFLIX IS NOT INVINCIBLE— From the outside looking in, casual observers (and this very column) have been exceedingly impressed by Netflix’s huge push in creating their own original television and film content.  They have thrown tremendous resources with the aim of attracting more customers and now have the $20 billion of debt to prove it.  Subscriptions are up an astounding 25% since last year, so the gamble is working, but how long can a company like that sustain those spending habits on top of Disney pulling out?  Expect an investment bubble to burst in some area (licensing fees with the studios) and, naturally, a raise in subscription rates passed onto us very soon to recoup that debt.

LESSON #6: HAS THE SLOW DEATH OF THE MULTIPLEX BEGUN?— Options like MoviePass, VOD, and Netflix have not come close to creating a new entertainment access monopoly large enough to overtake the big screen marketplace.  That said, even with price point challenges and debt issues, have the little dents and pin pricks started to add up to true damage?  I, for one, am beginning to at least wonder.   Blockbuster fatigue, thanks to poor performing duds like The Mummy, have taken their toll on consumer spending and confidence.  Multiple business outlets broke the news that AMC Theatres took a dramatic second quarter loss (and is staring at a third quarter one coming) that caused shares to fall 40% since the beginning of August.  The overall American box office is down a scant 4.4% from last year.  If that’s all it takes to financially wound one theatre chain, how are the other ones doing?  How are they sustaining 20+ screen multiplexes hawking bargain attempts and hokey incentives only to still sit empty on weeknights against growing operating costs?  I bet they’re not doing much better than AMC.  I have to think some form of internal, yet dramatic, contraction is coming.  Movies survived the invention of television.  They will survive digital and device shifts, but not without a shift or two of their own.

LESSON #7: I DON’T KNOW WHAT WARNER BROS. IS DOING WITH THE DC CHARACTER FILMS AND I DON’T THINK THEY KNOW EITHER— Spinning off of Wonder Woman‘s success as the #1 earner of the summer, Warner Bros. has the ambitious DC Extended Universe schedule of Justice LeagueAquaman, ShazamWonder Woman 2Cyborg, and Green Lantern Corps locked on the calendar through 2020.  It’s the slate after that has created a flurry of questions this week.  Matt Reeves made it known that his The Batman will be a standalone film outside of the DCEU and spread gasoline-dipped rumors of Ben Affleck being out at the Caped Crusader.  The WB brass then added the dreamy Martin Scorsese/Todd Phillips team-up announcement of a spin-off Joker solo origin story film without Jared Leto and on its own.  Confounding us even more a day later, the studio reveals they are concurrently planning a Joker/Harley Quinn film starring Leto and Margot Robbie that will be within the DCEU.  What is all this?!  Is Warner Bros. admitting defeat at building a Marvel-like universe and course-correcting to make focused films or are we watching greedy, hubris, and befuddlement? If so, why carry both? This DCEU timeline is going to start looking a clue board spider-webbed with red yarn from a police procedural or a Charlie Day meme.

LESSON #8: EWAN MCGREGOR OR NO ONE— I’ll bring the first fanboy torch and pitchfork to Disney’s announcement of an Obi-wan Kenobi solo anthology film coming in the near future.  Cast Ewan McGregor or no one at all.  After the flop of Alden Ehrenreich requiring an acting coach for Han Solo, cast some damn proven talent.  Call it stability as much as you call it justified fan service.

LESSON #9: LOOK TO ITALY AS THE OSCAR SEASON STARTS NOW— The prime third quarter film festival season kicks off with the prestigious Venice Film Festival beginning on August 30th and the top-shelf Toronto International Film Festival starting on September 7th.  The lineup in Venice includes first looks at Alexander Payne’s Downsizing, Darren Aronofsky’s Mother!, George Clooney’s Suburbicon, Guillermo del Toro’s The Shape of WaterJudi Dench’s crown in Victoria and Abdul, and the Redford/Fonda reunion Our Souls at Night.  I’ll share the killer TIFF lineup next week.  Get your coffee mugs ready to receive a pouring of Oscar buzz!

DON SHANAHAN is a Chicago-based film critic writing on his website Every Movie Has a Lesson.  He is also one of the founders and the current directors of the Chicago Independent Film Critics Circle.  As an elementary educator by day, Don writes his movie reviews with life lessons in mind, from the serious to the farcical.  As a contributor here on Feelin’ Film, he’s going to expand those lessons to current movie news and trends.  Find “Every Movie Has a Lesson” on Facebook, Twitter, Medium, and Creators Media.

What We Learned This Week: July 30-August 5

LESSON #1: THE LITERARY WORKS OF STEPHEN KING ARE NOT ALWAYS FIT FOR FILM— As of the It remake next month, 66 film adaptations, sequels and all, have been created based on novels, novellas, and shorts stories of the legendary Stephen King.  The film list boasts classics like The ShiningThe Shawshank Redemption, and Carrie.  It will not include The Dark Tower.  Sapped of its multi-volume depth of mythology and whittled down into a 90-minute loose spiritual sequel, a grand work like The Dark Tower should have been made into a mini-series for television, as 25 other King works have been before.  Let’s see if Netflix can decant the mess that is The Dark Tower with some quality programming and attention to detail.  

LESSON #2: DETROIT HAS BEEN A TIMELY STORY FOR 50 YEARS, ONLY NO ONE CARED TO REMEMBER–The historical incidents chronicled in Kathryn Bigelow’s Detroit is but one of ten national uprisings from across the country in what became known as the “Long Hot Summer of 1967,” has been timely, ignorance and all, for 50 years.    Bottom line, it was timely next to any one of the over 40 ethnic riots that have occurred on American soil in the last half-century.  This counts as better late than never. If it takes a piece of film entertainment telling serious stories to instigate hard reflection and improved new public dialogue, Detroit is poised to accomplish such a mission.  Hard to watch as it is, consider the film essential viewing.

LESSON #3: STEVEN SODERBERGH IS ON TO SOMETHING— Promoting his first film in four years after flirting with retirement, the Out of Sight, Traffic, Magic Mike, and Ocean’s 11 series filmmaker outlined just how different the business model is for Logan Lucky.  In a heady and fascinating interview with GQ (appropriately click bait titled “Steven Soderbergh is Back to Destroy Hollywood”), Soderbergh described how he went around the studio system to sell the foreign rights to Logan Lucky ahead of time to finance the production.  He then brokered the streaming, home media, television, and airline deals ahead of time to pay for the advertising and marketing.  By doing so, every theatrical dollar for Logan Lucky goes directly to the people who made the film without any studio taking a cut.  That’s ballsy and genius and I hope it pays off and starts a trend of less studio tinkering.

LESSON #4: JEFFREY KATZENBERG IS ON TO SOMETHING EVEN BIGGER— The volume of and dependency towards personal mobile devices, especially handy smartphones, is creating an emerging go-to conduit for digesting entertainment content for a growing section of media audiences.   The former Disney and Dreamworks exec wants to tap into that in an ambitious way.  Outlined in a Variety feature, Katzenberg wants to foster a whole new line of short-form entertainment options targeting 18-to 34-year-olds backed by top-shelf talent and budgets equaling the production quality of primetime television.  Examples include 10-minute series episodes, 5-minute talk shows, and 2-minute newscasts.  This $2 billion pitch, dubbed New TV by Katzenberg, would be revolutionary.  I will still say what I said last week in this department.  It all comes down to price point.  If it’s affordable, people will come.

DON SHANAHAN is a Chicago-based film critic writing on his website Every Movie Has a Lesson.  He is also one of the founders and the current directors of the Chicago Independent Film Critics Circle.  As an elementary educator by day, Don writes his movie reviews with life lessons in mind, from the serious to the farcical.  As a contributor here on Feelin’ Film, he’s going to expand those lessons to current movie news and trends.  Find “Every Movie Has a Lesson” on Facebook, Twitter, Medium, and Creators Media.