What We Learned This Week: March 23-29

LESSON #1: IF YOU WANT TO KNOW WHAT A BLOODBATH MADE OUT OF INVISIBLE MONEY LOOKS LIKE…–… go look at the box office numbers for the month of March. If you thought the unfortunate and gobsmacked drop it made during the weekend March 13-19 was something to behold, it’s downright eerie to this weekend and the complete goose egg due to a nearly total industry shutdown. Take a look. This is becoming quite the asterisk in a ongoing record book.

LESSON #2: WHEN WILL THE MONEY RUN OUT?— This lesson names the big question that has to be looming around boardrooms top to bottom in the industry. Most successful companies on the level of studios and theater chains can weather a temporary stoppage, especially when a couple of businesses are offering to open for free to get people back in. One has to wonder when “furlough” (as it is called at AMC) turns into “failure.” There’s already a bankruptcy bill on the table specifically for movie theaters. This big question may turn into an ugly one.

LESSON #3: WE WILL BE LIVING VICARIOUSLY THROUGH THE MOVIES— This week was supposed to be the Opening Day of the Major League Baseball season. No matter if your local team had high or low hopes (or something in between like my Chicago Cubs), it feels like something pure and pleasant is missing. I’m glad to see A League of Their Own win the monthly Donor’s Choice vote here on Feelin’ Film. We have to live vicariously through the movies. That’s what we have to do with the loss of something like baseball and the homestretches of the NBA and NHL seasons. I’ll gladly curl up on my quarantine couch, crack a beer or two, and watch the likes of Bull Durham, The Sandlot, He Got Game, Love & Basketball, and Slap Shot. Call all of that cinematic comfort food.

LESSON #4: GET USED TO THE NEW TRAFFIC JAM— Speaking of the lag of life in the struggle to leave the sofa, it certainly appears the strain is hitting the data and network systems that are chiefly providing our new main avenue of home entertainment. The increase in Netflix outages in the U.S. and Europe is alarming and never fun. We’re going to have to learn some patience or lean on physical media. Heaven forbid we have to open an actual book or play a board game. 

 


DON SHANAHAN is a Chicago-based and Rotten Tomatoes-approved film critic writing on his website Every Movie Has a Lesson. His movie review work is also published on 25YL (25 Years Later) and also on Medium.com for the MovieTime Guru publication.  As an educator by day, Don writes his movie reviews with life lessons in mind, from the serious to the farcical. He is a proud director and one of the founders of the Chicago Independent Film Critics Circle and a member of the nationally-recognized Online Film Critics Society.  As a contributor here on Feelin’ Film now for over two years, he’s going to expand those lessons to current movie news and trends while chipping in with guest spots and co-hosting duties, including the previous “Connecting with Classics” podcasts.  Find “Every Movie Has a Lesson” on Facebook, Twitter, and Medium to follow his work.  (#127)

What We Learned This Week: March 16-22

LESSON #1: THIS IS WHAT CUTTING ONE’S LOSSES LOOKS LIKE— This sweeping social distancing (and so to be full sheltering orders) due to the COVID-19 virus has studios buckling on what to do with their current and upcoming movie releases. Most that were slated for theaters are “delayed” or “postponed” for the time being, but the question becomes how long can they wait or hold. Rumor has it Warner Bros. is considering a streaming release for Wonder Woman 1984. Could Black Widow be far behind from Disney? As for the current movies that have been frozen by closed theaters, studios are dropping them on streaming and VOD platforms early, as is the case with Onward, The Invisible Man, Emma, and The Hunt. Being released already, trying to squeeze some VOD rental money is their best chance. Price point will be the challenge, but you know those families of four would likely be OK spending $20 for a night at home versus the full theater trip for $9+ tickets and concessions. We’ll see how these tests of marketing and head honcho hubris patience turn out.

LESSON #2: LEARN WHAT THE PARAMOUNT DECREES WERE— I’ll put my school teacher hat on since I’m stuck at home without a classroom for the foreseeable future. Here’s a quick dose of movie history that faded in November with implications that could loom large with a shuttered theater system right now. There was something called the Paramount Decrees. Back in 1948 in the case of United States v. Paramount Pictures, a decision was made that “studios couldn’t withhold films from certain theaters while granting exclusive rights to others or outright buy theaters of their own.” That has kept top-to-bottom control away from studios. Far forward to now with the AMCs and Regals of the world closing their doors indefinitely without business. I hinted at this last week in WWLTW. Imagine a scenario where Disney buys/builds their own movie theaters to exclusively release their products. That would create an outlet arms race and likely kill indie cinema getting theater space. With weakened theater chains, this kind of turn is possible. Stay tuned to how we recover or don’t from this time period.

LESSON #3: BRING BACK DRIVE-INS– In an effort to avoid the possible bacteria cesspools that are crowded and sticky movie theater seats (don’t lie, we’ve all had our “ewww” moments at a movie theater), could old school drive-in movie theaters (and the dirtiness of our own cars, again, don’t lie) be a new alternative in the post-social distancing era? I think so and it’s a lovely thought. There was a great optimistic read this week published by The Los Angeles Times on the topic that talks optimism and relief. Build some big screens, bring your own concessions, fill the seats, and pipe the sound through the Bose-powered infotainment systems in some of our modern cars and you’ve got a renewed and joyous movie experience.

LESSON #4: EXPAND YOUR HOME VIEWING TO SHARE WITH OTHERS— I love the news of Netflix’s new Netflix Party extension. Turning shared movies into chat room opportunities with friends you’re separated from sounds like a blast. I think we need a Netflix Party with our Feelers ASAP. Let’s get on that, fellow admins.

LESSON #5: SOME STARS END UP BEING GENUINELY NICE PEOPLE— As a school teacher, I can speak to this new hurdler of at-home “e-learning” and the challenges of not just planning it, but delivering it to my students and also my own children as a parent. Everyone I see in my professional community is doing their part, and I’m loving those outside of it that are coming to help. And it’s as easy as reading a book for others to hear. What started with Frozen star Josh Gad nightly on Twitter has expanded to dozens of celebrities chipping in to connect and entertain. Grab a device, bring the kids together on the couch or at bedtime, and enjoy a hearty tale from a familiar and kind face.


DON SHANAHAN is a Chicago-based and Rotten Tomatoes-approved film critic writing on his website Every Movie Has a Lesson. His movie review work is also published on 25YL (25 Years Later) and also on Medium.com for the MovieTime Guru publication.  As an educator by day, Don writes his movie reviews with life lessons in mind, from the serious to the farcical. He is a proud director and one of the founders of the Chicago Independent Film Critics Circle and a member of the nationally-recognized Online Film Critics Society.  As a contributor here on Feelin’ Film now for over two years, he’s going to expand those lessons to current movie news and trends while chipping in with guest spots and co-hosting duties, including the previous “Connecting with Classics” podcasts.  Find “Every Movie Has a Lesson” on Facebook, Twitter, and Medium to follow his work.  (#126)

What We Learned This Week: March 1-15

LESSON #1: HEALTHY AUDIENCES BUY TICKETS— What started as film festivals and a very surprising move last week when Sony bumped their big spring tent pole No Time to Die from its so-close-you-can-taste-it first week of April release date seven full months to their fallback spot of November, the mainline movie industry has been frozen by the Corona virus pandemic. Here’s a frequently updated list of the delays and cancellations.  Shocking or not and carrying all the #firstworldproblems level of disappointment, you can’t blame them one bit. If it’s not a good time to maximize reception, wait and hold until when it is. That’s smart business instead of obstinacy and impatience. For the movies, the buzz will only grow.  What won’t grow is Lesson #2.

LESSON #2: THIS HURTS THE LITTLE PEOPLE THE MOST— Big studios have other revenue streams and deep cofers to survive a pause period like this. The people that don’t are the small businesses down the industry ladder. With the lists of closures, lockdowns, and avoidances growing by the day and minute, it’s the day-to-day service workers that depend this steady entertainment industry the most. Disney CEO Bob Iger isn’t losing his paycheck, but every concession worker, usher, ticket taker, and 9-to-5er is. Read an excellent Yahoo article on the implications here. If some businesses lose too much, they’re not going to re-open. This pandemic will pass, but it is going to scar like a forest fire on the tree rings of time.

LESSON #3: IT’S TIME TO DISCOVER THE NEXT LAYERS OF CINEMA— With the A-list and blockbuster parades derailed for at least a month (and likely more), casual fans are going to lament not having any new film content to digest. Sure, you could hit the couch and play a zillion old favorites from physical media collections or streaming services you’ve seen dozens of times. I get that craving for comfort food, but why not dig a little deeper to find something truly new. If there is a tier of cinema that benefits from big studio theater closures, it’s the VOD market. Let this film critic tell you, there is a wealth buried treasure to be had at the B-level of cinema (after you’re done watching Outbreak and Contagion of course). It’s not just the washed-up actor-led straight-to-DVD landscape anymore. Much is worthy indie film looking for an audience. Use the JustWatch website and give a little movie some love. If you’re really crazy and want to dive even deeper, YouTube has legitimate award-worthy short films for days and an obscure cinema aficionado buddy of mine sent me this shared “Cabin Fever” spreadsheet filled with links to free experimental films of all colors and sizes.  The multiplexes might be closed, but we’re never going to run out of content.

LESSON #4: IT’S TIME TO FILL IN THOSE BLIND SPOTS— If swinging into the indie and experimental world isn’t your bag and you’re stuck working from home for the better part of the next month, then it’s time to check off the wish list of movies you’ve always wanted to see. Complete those Letterboxd challenges. Comb your streaming services, borrow discs from the library, or, again, use the JustWatch search engine app to find those egregious blind spots and plot out some rich movie nights at home. For many, this is an unprecedented amount of time off longer than any Winter/Christmas break we had as school kids. Take advantage of it. Get buried in couch pillows, blankets, and whatever preventative measures you fancy, even if it’s just more popcorn.


DON SHANAHAN is a Chicago-based and Rotten Tomatoes-approved film critic writing on his website Every Movie Has a Lesson. His movie review work is also published on 25YL (25 Years Later) and also on Medium.com for the MovieTime Guru publication.  As an educator by day, Don writes his movie reviews with life lessons in mind, from the serious to the farcical. He is a proud director and one of the founders of the Chicago Independent Film Critics Circle and a member of the nationally-recognized Online Film Critics Society.  As a contributor here on Feelin’ Film now for over two years, he’s going to expand those lessons to current movie news and trends while chipping in with guest spots and co-hosting duties, including the previous “Connecting with Classics” podcasts.  Find “Every Movie Has a Lesson” on Facebook, Twitter, and Medium to follow his work.  (#125)

What We Learned This Week: February 23-29

LESSON #1: BOB IGER’S LEGACY IS ONE OF ACQUISITION— The biggest news of the young year on the business side of the movie industry dropped this week with the planned retirement date of Disney CEO Bob Iger. Without a doubt and spending with deep pockets, he turned the most popular family brand niche around into a media powerhouse. The purchases of LucasFilm, Marvel, Pixar, and 20th Century Fox were during his leadership tenure, as were numerous additions and expansions like a theme park in Shanghai and everything surging with Disney+.  I know Walt’s name is on the sign, but you could start naming a few streets and board rooms after Iger and the honors would be warranted.

LESSON #2: NO, SERIOUSLY, STOP WATCHING TRAILERS— I feel like little suds from my usual soapbox are going to always be around. That is especially true when I see another story of a meddlesome studio over-selling a film and ruining its potential essence. The case this time is Leigh Whannell’s wishes for Blumhouse not to further advertise the twists and action of The Invisible Man. I’ve heard critics report that too many scares from the movie are tipped off from the trailer. I feel like horror films have it worse with this problem than other genres. Expect it to continue until you be a discerning consumer that avoids trailers. Let’s start rubbing the worry stone right now for Candyman. That’s another teaser that, even with quick editing, shows too much.

LESSON #3: IT’S THE LITTLE THINGS THAT HELP YOU STAND OUT— We’re seemingly getting to a saturation point with the streaming services where they all need to look the same and work the same to get customers comfortable.  I remember hearing about the Netflix-like screen functions that folks clamored to have on Disney+ after its launch in November. While content and price point always win, I do appreciate little nuances that can make something stand out. As a physical media fan and special features nut, I dig what Amazon Prime Video is doing with their Trivia Section. I love the easy information right there at viewers fingertips. Maybe little perks like that can get us off of our devices to watch and learn all in one place. Nice work, Amazon.


DON SHANAHAN is a Chicago-based and Rotten Tomatoes-approved film critic writing on his website Every Movie Has a Lesson. His movie review work is also published on 25YL (25 Years Later) and also on Medium.com for the MovieTime Guru publication.  As an educator by day, Don writes his movie reviews with life lessons in mind, from the serious to the farcical. He is a proud director and one of the founders of the Chicago Independent Film Critics Circle and a member of the nationally-recognized Online Film Critics Society.  As a contributor here on Feelin’ Film now for over two years, he’s going to expand those lessons to current movie news and trends while chipping in with guest spots and co-hosting duties, including the previous “Connecting with Classics” podcasts.  Find “Every Movie Has a Lesson” on Facebook, Twitter, and Medium to follow his work.  (#124)

What We Learned This Week: February 17-22

LESSON #1: THE CURRENT PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA DOES NOT HAVE GOOD TASTE WHEN IT COMES TO MOVIES— It’s rare this column space goes political but the reaction of Donald Trump to Parasite deserves admonishment. His jeer-laced and mocking misunderstanding of the South Korean Best Picture winner and his dog whistle call for returning to Gone With the Wind are just another chapter of his deplorable and ignorant public nature.  The man has no taste in movies, let alone much taste in anything else, but that’s for a different website. Meanwhile and by contrast, let’s long for the days where we had a POTUS with actual acumen and a discerning eye for good film. In case you missed it, Barack Obama made cinephiles proud with his eclectic and topical best of 2019 list of movies and television. Someday, intelligence and grace will return to the Oval Office.   

LESSON #2: GET YOUR KOREAN ON— Want to be smarter than the Cheeto-in-Chief, bone up on and absorb some fantastic international cinema. There are riches to be found and, thanks to Parasite, all things South Korea are hot right now. If you don’t know where to start, check out one of the many buzz-worthy and click-bait-sourced “must see” lists (one, two, three) that have been crafted for South Korean selections. The commonalities and picks are solid anywhere you look.

LESSON #3: SOMEWHERE IN THOSE BUTTONED KNICKERS, MICKEY MOUSE AND DISNEY MIGHT ACTUALLY HAVE BALLS— A large section of the entertainment audience has groaned for a long time, and not just with the company’s acquisition of 20th Century Fox and their catalog of darker material including Alien and Deadpool, that Disney does not have the courage to release or even create movies with stiffer ratings. They get called sanitized quite often. We have argued that they don’t realize worthwhile and solid stories fitting of their image can still have PG-13 and even R-rated content. That will change ever so slightly with Mulan at the end of March. It will be the first of Disney’s line of re-imaginings to carry a PG-13 rating. While our female Chinese warrior isn’t lopping off heads anytime soon, this is a step in the right direction and sign that Disney may be beginning to take some of these grander stories seriously.  

LESSON #4: CUT A GUY A BREAK— The interminable roller coaster production history of the DCEU has gotten a great deal of click bait, but not enough shared honest truths. Even when legit news comes out, it gets questioned and twisted like crazy by fan agendas and haters. Look no further than the Zack Synder saga of his departure from Justice League. People and speculation were far from kind. The next guy in that universe that needs to be cut a break is Ben Affleck. Reading him in The New York Times describe his personal struggles with alcohol and other vices while wearing the cap and cowl is eye-opening, sad, and humbling. Too many so-called fans shout and nitpick at every little detail and too often forget the people underneath and the inordinate pressures put on them. Speaking of Batman, let’s not do that next with Robert Pattinson over one snippet of test footage and some set photos.


DON SHANAHAN is a Chicago-based and Rotten Tomatoes-approved film critic writing on his website Every Movie Has a Lesson. His movie review work is also published on 25YL (25 Years Later) and also on Medium.com for the MovieTime Guru publication.  As an educator by day, Don writes his movie reviews with life lessons in mind, from the serious to the farcical. He is a proud director and one of the founders of the Chicago Independent Film Critics Circle and a member of the nationally-recognized Online Film Critics Society.  As a contributor here on Feelin’ Film now for over two years, he’s going to expand those lessons to current movie news and trends while chipping in with guest spots and co-hosting duties, including the previous “Connecting with Classics” podcasts.  Find “Every Movie Has a Lesson” on Facebook, Twitter, and Medium to follow his work.  (#123)

What We Learned This Week: January 20-February 16

LESSON #1: IF YOU WANT TO LAUGH AT A FILM SNOB HISSY FIT, COME SEE THIS— If you think a few of my Feelin’ Film group social media posts about the work myself and others do is a big heap of #firstworldproblems and #whitepeopleproblems, groovy and uptight Californians have me beat. You have to see this and laugh. The Hollywood Reporter headline reads Hollywood Critics’ Groups Squabble Over Who Is a Hollywood Critic.” The story here is the former Los Angeles Online Film Critics Society has recently re-branded into the less-of-a-mouthful Hollywood Critics Association and the Critic’s Choice Association, who run the popular awards show of the same name are upset about confusing or inaccurate representation and potential dual membership. Lawyers are involved and everything. Face, meet palm. Inclusion should be the winner here, not selfishness. This is the kind of tiff and behavior that gives the rest of us critics a bad name. Let this Chicago Indie Critics founder and director guy over here tell you. There is room for two groups. There is room for a dozen groups. This should be “the more the merrier” for access, audience, and enjoyment and not a playground finger-pointing throwdown. Clean it up, Los Angeles, and unbunch your drawers.

LESSON #2: WE NEED MORE GENUINE BLACK STORIES— Folks, I have to open with a huge shout-out to the work of Feelin’ Film’s new “Black Label” podcast to bolster this lesson. The roundtable of Kolby Mac, Erynne Hundley, Caless Davis, and Emmanuel Noisette are two episodes into their presentation run and their conversations about representation, black voices, and overcoming tropes is essential listening. A victory of what they clamor for arrives in theaters this Valentine’s Day weekend in the form of The Photograph.  Starring Issa Rae and Lakeith Stanfield, we have a mature and honest ethnic romance free of the forced flaws of baited debates and hammy theatrics too often saddled on this demographic by mismatched voices.  See this movie immediately and give the new podcast a hearty listen. Demand more and we might just get more. We’ve got four vivacious critics doing that here. Join them!

LESSON #3: SAVE A LITTLE SOMETHING FOR THE MOVIE— For the last two years after the Super Bowl, I’ve used this “What We Learned This Week” space for a “No More Trailers” challenge and soapbox.  I’ll link those previous rants and shorten the sermon this year to this lesson.  Less is always more. When I watch the trailer for F9, I feel like I’ve already seen too much of the movie, surprises and all.  It’s the exact example why I advocate not watching trailers to things you know you’re already sold to see.  Save something for the movie. Likewise, Sony has already released Billie Eilish’s James Bond theme song “No Time to Die” nearly two months in advance of the film’s premiere. I understand the promotional aims and needs, but, sheesh, do that two weeks before the movie, not two months.  You’re going to overplay this song before it even gets its proper placement. Save something for the movie. The best tease of the week on the positive end was Matt Reeves’ “camera test” peek of Robert Pattinson in costume for The Batman. Imagine if that Michael Giacchino noir music taste and its scarlet-glow reveal comprised the ONLY teaser/trailer we would ever get for the future blockbuster. Mission f’n accomplished for tone setting and frenzied anticipation.  Your triggered curiosity alone destroys your wallet for the future $9. That would be amazing, but, sadly, we know more and likely too much is coming.

LESSON #4: LET’S SEE HISTORY MAKE A NEW FUTURE— It’s not too late to react to Parasite’s historic Oscar night victories. As the first foreign language film to win Best Picture, it’s name is now forever etched in movie history and trivia game cards.  The challenge to have this historic success actually forge a new direction going forward in the industry. If Parasite becomes a one-year wonder and a thrown bouquet outlier for the rest of the decade, the excitement, good will, and growth possible all fade. Let Parasite be your gateway to more independent and foreign cinema. Don’t be scared of subtitles whatsoever when there is a cognitive benefit to be had. There is a wealth to discover and love. Find it. Celebrate it. Let it make you a better lover of movies. If you need help with that, we’ve got friendly aficionados all over the Feelin’ Film Facebook group.

LESSON #5: THERE IS MORE BEYOND THE OSCARS— For true fans of movies, this was a very good year at the Oscars led by Parasite. Good films, wonderful performances, and eclectic talents were given their due by the Academy and our own Feeler’s Choice Awards that matched the Oscars frequently (Excellent recap show, Aaron and Patch!). But, there’s even more. Before 2019 fades more with the advancing calendar, look back to the Independent Spirit Award winners given the night before the Oscars. In many ways, the likes of The Farewell and Uncut Gems are honored films equal or better than the Oscar winners. Fill your watch list and future queue from the Spirit Award winners before the Academy’s and you’ll get some really good stuff. 

LESSON #6: THERE IS NO SHAME IN SOLITUDE— Lastly, this is Valentine’s Day weekend where it’s also “Singles Awareness Day” because you’re never more aware that you are single than on a cheesy holiday like this one alone. There’s no shame in that. In fact, there’s comfort to be found. Last year, I really enjoyed this piece by the blog Lucy Goes to Hollywood addressing the stigma of going to movies alone. No one who does that is a loser and the experience actually has its own strength and catharsis. I call it an occupational hazard, but it also counts a “me time.” An excellent article on The Stylist by Kayleigh Dray continues the idea of self-care that comes from going solo. Keep that in mind while chasing your couple-dom. You’re doing fine without that extra significant other.


DON SHANAHAN is a Chicago-based and Rotten Tomatoes-approved film critic writing on his website Every Movie Has a Lesson. His movie review work is also published on 25YL (25 Years Later) and also on Medium.com for the MovieTime Guru publication.  As an educator by day, Don writes his movie reviews with life lessons in mind, from the serious to the farcical. He is a proud director and one of the founders of the Chicago Independent Film Critics Circle and a member of the nationally-recognized Online Film Critics Society.  As a contributor here on Feelin’ Film now for over two years, he’s going to expand those lessons to current movie news and trends while chipping in with guest spots and co-hosting duties, including the previous “Connecting with Classics” podcasts.  Find “Every Movie Has a Lesson” on Facebook, Twitter, and Medium to follow his work.  (#122)

What We Learned This Week: January 1-19

LESSON #1: JANUARY SHOULD BE RENAMED “QUALITY MOVIE HIBERNATION MONTH”— Welcome to the doldrums of winter, folks.  We all know the reality.  This is the dumping ground for movies not good enough for the Oscars and not bankable enough for spring or summer tentpole status.  Annually, expect a cheap horror movie success, a Liam Neeson ass-kicker, and big-stars cashing paychecks on weak projects. Get your enjoyment where you can with Bad Boys For Life, Underwater, Dolittle, and more.  I’m a credentialed film critic with scruples.  I haven’t been to a press screening since before Christmas.  It’s that bad and always is.

LESSON #2: “SNUBBED” IS AN OVERUSED AND UNFAIRLY USED TERM— You know, I’ve been convinced. I’m going to drink the Aaron White Kool-Aid.  When recently talking about film scores I’m listening to in the Feelin’ Film Facebook group, I labeled Matt Morton’s Apollo 11 score as “snubbed,” and Aaron admitted that term is wearing as thin with him as “masterpiece” is for me.  I do need to realize that there’s only room for five nominees each year and that the Oscars are a popularity contest of a still-poorly-comprised voting body.  These aren’t complete snubs.  They have backers and votes, just not enough.  They weren’t intentionally slighted and “snubbed” is too negative.  Better terms are needed.  Challenge accepted, Aaron.

LESSON #3: DIVERSITY AND INDEPENDENT FILM ARE STILL OVERLOOKED AT THE HIGHEST LEVEL— The challenge begins here.  Let’s not use “snub” to still talk about deficiencies in the 92nd Academy Award nominations.  For all of the so-called efforts of weening out inactive members and adding diversity, the results aren’t showing it between Green Book winning last year and this list of extremely plain nominations. Go ahead and get the #OscarSoWhite swag out again. The Academy deserves to be called out for this kind of thing.  Women and people of color (and not just black, just ask the team of The Farewell) are still missing higher recognition.  If you look at what was nominated and from what studio they came from, you will see money and favoritism talking. The movies backed by the distributors with the deepest pockets and most lavish “For Your Consideration” campaigns (especially Netflix and their quartet of The Irishman, Marriage Story, The Two Popes, and I Love My Body) scored the spots. If you were little and independent, like A24’s Uncut Gems, The Farewell, and Booksmart, you were ignored. Those losses are consistent top to bottom and not just in the major categories. It’s a minor miracle little shingle NEON squeezed what it could out of Parasite (6 nominations) and Lionsgate got anything at all for Knives Out and Bombshell. If this were politics, we would be talking about the equivalent of “campaign finance reform” from studios buying unfair favor and nominations. Maybe it’s time to open the ledgers and put some rules and limits on that.

LESSON #4: POLITICS IS GETTING IN THE WAY OF FILM CRITICISM— Speaking of politics, there’s a good chance this lesson and paragraph is the first of a future full “Soapbox” edition of “What We Learned This Week,” but I was highly intrigued recently by a piece from Jessa Crispin in The Guardian that posed the title question “Is Politics Getting in the Way of Assessing Which Films Are Actually Good?”  My instant answer is a resounding yes.  Between overly saturated opinions and the constant ego to share them without tact, there are critics that cannot write without spouting some personal assessment of politics or a movie’s politics.  I could name names for hours. I call it “projecting” and I don’t think a film review is the place for that unless said politics are concretely stated by the filmmakers as intentional and deliberate.  Call that objective over subjective.  If that’s not stated, the critic is projecting and throwing s–t to walls to see what sticks for their own fancy, ego, and thirst for clicks. Don’t get me wrong.  For as much as my website is called Every Movie Has a Lesson, I firmly believe “Every Movie Has Politics” too, but, again, that’s not material for a true film review.  Save that garbage, guess work, or, hopefully, carefully manicured discourse for a hot-button editorial labeled as such.


DON SHANAHAN is a Chicago-based and Rotten Tomatoes-approved film critic writing on his website Every Movie Has a Lesson. His movie review work is also published on 25YL (25 Years Later) and also on Medium.com for the MovieTime Guru publication.  As an educator by day, Don writes his movie reviews with life lessons in mind, from the serious to the farcical. He is a proud director and one of the founders of the Chicago Independent Film Critics Circle and a member of the nationally-recognized Online Film Critics Society.  As a contributor here on Feelin’ Film now for over two years, he’s going to expand those lessons to current movie news and trends while chipping in with guest spots and co-hosting duties, including the previous “Connecting with Classics” podcasts.  Find “Every Movie Has a Lesson” on Facebook, Twitter, and Medium to follow his work.  (#121)

What We Learned This Week: December 2019

END OF THE YEAR AND END OF THE DECADE EDITION

Forgive the awards season hiatus! I missed you all and I couldn’t let you go without a quick toast to the end of 2019 and the end of the 2010s!

LESSON #1: IT’S ALL CINEMA— Boy, did I miss one dismissive and hand-wringing soapbox after another with Martin Scorsese, one of the greatest directors of film history.  Rant after rant, click after click, retweet after retweet, boy did ole Marty start a fight.  I don’t mean to sound regressive like #AllLivesMatter versus the true need of something like #BlackLivesMatterbut someone needs to tell Mr. Scorsese that it’s all cinema, from every cheesy and trashy film to every astute and austere film.  That’s from Cats to The Irishman and everything in between. They are made by creators aiming for storytelling, entertainment, and expression.  They just do so to different degrees and for different audiences.  So, respectfully, Marty, STFU.  Because you do great work, I won’t sentence you to Lesson #2 like one of your peers.

LESSON #2: CLINT EASTWOOD CAN RETIRE NOW— Look, I adore Clint Eastwood’s work.  He is essential American cinema (there I go…) and has the legacy and hardware to prove forever.  But, gosh, is he slipping.  With each can he kicks down the road since American Sniper, he’s loosing a grip on the truthful side of his filmmaking to match the purposeful part. Honoring little notes of history is one thing with dramatic license.  Revising and degrading is another.  You crossed a line with Richard Jewell and the treatment of the late Kathy Scruggs, played by Olivia Wilde.  Go back to that sunset and porch rocker, Clint.

LESSON #3: PLEASE LET ADAM SANDLER TURN A NEW LEAF— Before Uncut Gems, I legitimately and truthfully had not watched an Adam Sandler movie in nine years.  I didn’t need Jack and Jill to give up on him and the repetitive manchild garbage he was making.  I had no regrets abstaining from his career.  Hot damn, though, did he supernova with Uncut Gems.  Please let this career resurgence be a true new trajectory and not a one time thing.  Don’t let him dangle a role of two like Eddie Murphy and go back to the low-hanging fruit garden.  He’s back and I want more.

LESSON #4: IT’S EARLY, BUT GRETA GERWIG REMAINS UNDEFEATED— That women knows how to make good films, period. After blazing bright with Lady Bird and all its crassness, she comes back with a PG-rated and spirited adaptation of Little Women that is an absolute delight.  It’s better than just a nod at girl power.  It’s rich and multi-layered art.  She has earned automatic watch status for whatever comes next for her.  And while we’re talking about Greta Gerwig, Dear Academy, don’t make the mistake the Golden Globes did and nominate more women like her for the excellence in their fields.

LESSON #5: ADAM DRIVER AND FLORENCE PUGH WILL BE THE STARS OF THE 2020s— Even with a big second half and huge 2019, I won’t call Adam Driver the star of this decade, but I have a good feeling he will be the star of the next one.  I’ll give this past decade to Leonardo DiCaprio, Bradley Cooper, Ryan Gosling, and Christian Bale before Driver, but few actors have his crossover appeal and towering potential right now.  Need proof?  Pick anything from this year, but especially Marriage Story.  Watch him win the Oscar to kick off his 2020.  As they say, the sky (and for him, the galaxy), is the limit.  His white-hot female equivalent is Florence Pugh who carried a tremendous 2019 with Fighting With My Family, Midsommar, and Little Women. She is a dual Oscar contender for those latter two roles and has Black Widow to start 2020.  We see many ingenues come and go, but, like Driver, her range across genres is formidable and will keep her around and successful for a very long time.

LESSON #6: THIS NEXT DECADE HAS UNKNOWN CHALLENGES AHEAD— The 2010s brought a swell of nostalgia regurgitation like we’ve never seen with peaks and valleys across James Bond, Star Wars, Star TrekMission: Impossible, Jason Bourne, the MCU, the DCEU, TransformersPiratesGhostbustersPlanet of the Apes, Rocky, Rambo, Despicable Me, Men in Black, The Terminator, Toy Story, Ocean’s 8, and every possible Disney re-imagining.  Try as the greedy studios may, surely the noise of all that cannot continue another decade.  Creative bankruptcy has a limit and it’s going to run out and crash hard.  The 2020s have the challenge of creating new properties and experiences because the old stuff won’t last forever.  With the close of a Star Wars saga and a massive MCU phase to finish 2019, we stand at the edge wondering what’s next and what can top what’s been done.  It can’t all be new Avatar movies.  Your decade, your move, Hollywood.  Give us something good.  In the meantime, we’ll be on the couching binging your streaming services.

 


DON SHANAHAN is a Chicago-based and Rotten Tomatoes-approved film critic writing on his website Every Movie Has a Lesson. His movie review work is also published on 25YL (25 Years Later) and also on Medium.com for the MovieTime Guru publication.  As an educator by day, Don writes his movie reviews with life lessons in mind, from the serious to the farcical. He is a proud director and one of the founders of the Chicago Independent Film Critics Circle and a member of the nationally-recognized Online Film Critics Society.  As a contributor here on Feelin’ Film now for over two years, he’s going to expand those lessons to current movie news and trends while chipping in with guest spots and co-hosting duties, including the previous “Connecting with Classics” podcasts.  Find “Every Movie Has a Lesson” on Facebook, Twitter, and Medium to follow his work.  (#120)

What We Learned This Week: October 14-27

LESSON #1: THE PEANUT BUTTER FALCON MAY BECOME THE MOST IMPORTANT FILM OF 2019— Look at me writing a clickbait headline.  I, and many others, think the world of this film (5-star review), but it is now making an impact far bigger in the grand scheme of things than another Scorsese masterpiece entry or Marvel blockbuster. Thanks to its emerging star Zack Gottshagen, The Peanut Butter Falcon has started a groundswell of hiring and representation for performers with intellectual disabilities, as outlined in a recent article in The Hollywood Reporter. That is absolutely huge and a benefit far greater to the industry than hardware and money. This is, without a doubt, the best industry story I’ve seen this month and maybe this year. Folks, see this film for how special it is and not just because of the “special” people in it. 

LESSON #2: GET THE BIG MONEY OUT OF THE OSCARS— I wonder if casual fans notice as much of the “For Your Consideration” stuff as a film critic like myself does.  I’m guessing people see the extra language on marketing materials and maybe the occasional magazine ad. Folks, let me tell you, the studio-powered promotion machines to get their films front-and-center for awards season are unchecked and on the same level as all the wild political campaigning you see in public life.  While I’m happily inundated with screeners and materials during this time of year as a critic in two awards-voting bodies, I can do the math on the sheer volume of money being spent just to get a name or two mentioned and it’s completely too much. Sadly, these full-court press tactics work on the weak groupthink voters at all the levels of this industry.  Voters should be more discerning rather than easily fickle and the pushiness should stop. More people are finally standing up to say something about it and I’ll join them.  

LESSON #3: THERE ALMOST ALWAYS COMES A POINT WHERE A FREE GOOD THING WILL SOMEDAY COST MONEY— I was as surprised and bummed as any other casual box office statistics fan when levels of the Box Office Mojo site where absorbed by the subscription-required IMDb Pro site. Amazon has owned Box Office Mojo since 2008, where I’m surprised it took this long for such a switch.  The basics are there, but the original site was so much tighter and immersive with its data. The new one is very watered down. Let’s see if it can evolve back into an industry leader.

LESSON #4: EASY ON THE INFLATED TROPHIES, HOLLYWOOD BEAN COUNTERS— Speaking of Box Office Mojo, the congratulatory headlines were inescapable this week that Joker will “officially” become the highest grossing R-rated film of all-time.  Child, please.  I do this often, but go to the inflation-adjusted numbers and slow your roll, folks.  Joker has earned over $250 million domestically and triple that overseas and deserves every success, no doubt.  But wake me up when it touches (let alone climbs near the top of) the Top 200 on the all-time inflation-adjusted list before you start handing out those title belts. It’s not catching The Exorcist at #9 or many more of the R-rated films on that list.  Dream on, Warner Bros.

LESSON #5: EVERYONE NEEDS A BREAK AND SHOULD TAKE ONE— I applaud 23-year-old Timothee Chalamat who spoke to Vogue about desperately needing to take a break from acting after a solid few years of constant work. Other actors have done it for years and it’s always a smart play for physical, mental, and emotional recharge and renewal.  As they say, “absence away makes the heart grow fonder.” Expect a committed and improved Chalamat when you see him after. More actors should do this, if even for the fact of not becoming overused and overexposed, let alone to recuperation.

LESSON #6: DON’T BEAT DEAD HORSES— In the latest log on the fire stoked by many of Hollywood’s creative bankruptcy, something that was ran into the ground will now be dusted off and run into the ground again.  Disney has tabbed Chernobyl creator Craig Mazin to join franchise writers Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio to reboot the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise.  I know I’ve said it somewhere before in this column, but put some time between death and rebirth.  Sure, when you go all the way back to 2003, it will be nearly 20 years since the first movie, but it’s only been two years since its last one.  Wait twenty years after that instead and then dazzle us with a new take in 2037. Go away and try your own “absence makes the heart grow fonder.” We still freshly remember the s–t show.

LESSON #7: SLOW THE F–K DOWN, YOU BINGER— Speaking of taking a break, the entertainment you consume is supposed to be rich and entertaining experience.  Why would you speed it up just to get more? Word around the campfire is Netflix is experimenting with the possible setting of showing its content at 1.5x speed.  Come on, man.  Have some patience.  Part of the magic of film and TV shows is the editing of pace and timing.  Those are crucial and deliberate creative traits. Don’t ruin that because of your impatience.  

LESSON #8: IF YOU WANT CUSTOMERS, GIVE SOMETHING EXCITED AWAY— Verizon isn’t hurting for business or customers, but you know they’ve dropped the swag of swag in offering full-year Disney+ subscriptions to new and existing unlimited data home and wireless customers.  That sure beats a toaster or set of steak knives. Good luck topping that, Sprint and T-Mobile. Well played, Verizon.  

LESSON #9: TURN UP THE BRIGHTNESS ON THE THEATRICAL EXPERIENCE— I won’t jump to the alarmist “ruining the the theatrical experience” level that Edward Norton in implying in a recent interview in The Daily Beast, but the firebrand actor that never minces his words is right.  Improper brightness and poor sound in cheap and untrained theater chains can make a bad enough viewing experience to turn off ticket-paying moviegoers.  If you’re going to pay today’s full prices on the promises of a superior experience to the 4K and HD stuff capable from your couch, you should get it. The luminosity talk in his interview was fascinating.  I notice it too and he isn’t wrong.


DON SHANAHAN is a Chicago-based and Rotten Tomatoes-approved film critic writing on his website Every Movie Has a Lesson. His movie review work is also published on 25YL (25 Years Later) and also on Medium.com for the MovieTime Guru publication.  As an educator by day, Don writes his movie reviews with life lessons in mind, from the serious to the farcical. He is a proud director and one of the founders of the Chicago Independent Film Critics Circle and a member of the nationally-recognized Online Film Critics Society.  As a contributor here on Feelin’ Film now for over two years, he’s going to expand those lessons to current movie news and trends while chipping in with guest spots and co-hosting duties, including the previous “Connecting with Classics” podcasts.  Find “Every Movie Has a Lesson” on Facebook, Twitter, and Medium to follow his work.  (#119)

What We Learned This Week: October 6-13

LESSON #1: PEOPLE ARE NOT GETTING ALL OF JOKER, INCLUDING TOP CRITICS— There is a whole bunch more going on in the Todd Phllips hit than people are understanding.  Anyone who is calling that movie empty, meandering, or plotless doesn’t know what they are watching.  Watching is one thing and absorption is another. Some viewers are good at processing movies quickly or fully and others are not.  You can see that at every level, from a Letterboxd fanboy to a headlining critic.  I’ll be one that says those folks are definitely missing out.  Our guy Emmanuel Noisette lays it all out, so get your Kool-Aid glass ready! 

 

LESSON #2: WILL SMITH NEEDS A NEW AGENT— Dammit, Big Willy.  Even north of 50 years old, you still have charisma for days.  You are a joy in just about every movie you grace with your presence, including Aladdin and Gemini Man this year, but you are picking lackluster and even terrible projects to waste your glowing talent on.  Feelin’ Film host Aaron White recently posted the last decade of Will’s resume via the Silver Screen Riot podcast:

Yikes! That is one heck of a losing streak.  Will, you are rarely the problem, but you need to make some better business and professional decisions.

LESSON #3: MARVEL ARE NOT DIMINISHING ACTING OPPORTUNITIES— Former Friends icon Jennifer Aniston ranted a little this week in Variety and poked the anti-Marvel bear when she cited available roles diminishing in this era of blockbusters.  While she’s plenty right that the “midbudget original movie” market has shrunk and shifted to the streaming platforms (she should know, she makes those movies on Netflix all the time), Marvel is not the problem.  If anything, look at the sizes of the ensembles they bring together. Look how much cache those actors and actresses earn, even for being a bit player. The raised Q-rating they get for being in a fan-friendly movie does wonders for their career.  The wave isn’t missing you, Ms. Aniston. You’re missing the wave. Maybe you need a new agent like Will Smith.

LESSON #4: LEARN A LITTLE MORE ABOUT CINEMA AND SEEK OUT SOME GREATS OF PRODUCTION DESIGNS— All the green screens in the world cannot beat a legit practical set or location that has been artfully created into something fabulous and unique.  Enjoy this stellar video on some of the best production designs ever and seek out where to see some of these movies on the JustWatch app, which has now merged with Letterboxd!  My vote is The Grand Budapest Hotel.  


DON SHANAHAN is a Chicago-based and Rotten Tomatoes-approved film critic writing on his website Every Movie Has a Lesson. His movie review work is also published on 25YL (25 Years Later) and also on Medium.com for the MovieTime Guru publication.  As an educator by day, Don writes his movie reviews with life lessons in mind, from the serious to the farcical. He is a proud director and one of the founders of the Chicago Independent Film Critics Circle and a member of the nationally-recognized Online Film Critics Society.  As a contributor here on Feelin’ Film now for over two years, he’s going to expand those lessons to current movie news and trends while chipping in with guest spots and co-hosting duties, including the previous “Connecting with Classics” podcasts.  Find “Every Movie Has a Lesson” on Facebook, Twitter, and Medium to follow his work.  (#118)