What We Learned This Week: March 17-23

LESSON #1: JORDAN PEELE IS THE FIRST JORDAN PEELE— I submit a new addition to the  off-cited list of movie review cliches from Letterboxd user Erik Bazjert.  I say it’s time to do away with labeling actors, actresses, or filmmakers as “the next _____ (fill in the blank with some classic performer or legend).”  I get the want of complement, praise, and respect, but, more often than not, distinctions like that become a pigeon-holing crutch to the current performer and/or an lessening admonishment to the classic performer being cited.  I say let people be themselves and stand on their own merit. For that reason, I love the clickbait headline clapback of Quartz film critic Adam Epstein.  Us director Jordan Peele isn’t the next Spielberg or Hitchcock.  He’s the first Jordan Peele. I love that strength and sentiment.

LESSON #2: FOR ONCE, A BIG COMPANY ADMITS A BAD DECISION— Disney absolution and re-hiring of James Gunn for Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 was not only best for business, but the right thing to do.  Sure, maybe they were scared of a imaginary bottom line of reduced profits or the rancor of upsetting their roster of valuable stars, but, somewhere in the deep dark legal departments and decision-making conference rooms of The Mouse House, cooler heads and wisdom prevailed.  It would be wonderful to have all of this be a Wikipedia footnote in the filmmaker and the future film’s past. But, you know all of this old noise will get drummed up again during the Vol. 3 press tour in two years when every soundbite-sucking microphone is going to want an opinion from all stakeholders on how this return came to be and ultimately turned out.  Expect courteous pleasantries from everyone. The expose level stuff will have to be saved for someone’s memoirs.

LESSON #3: RESTRUCTURING WAS ALWAYS GOING TO COME— Speaking of Disney and its officially completed purchase of 20th Century Fox, don’t be surprised about the layoffs and restructuring that is already beginning with the shuttering of the Fox 2000 shingle led by Elizabeth Gabler.  Click bait is going to call it an affront on women-led film and the death of another mid-budget production source.  This counts as wait-and-see and par for the course. This is just the start and acquisitions like these always lead to cutting duplicates and redundancies.  For example, watch Blue Sky get folded into Walt Disney Animation or Pixar or both. Changes like this were always going to happen. Be ready for more.

LESSON #4: YOU ARE LUCKY IF YOU LIVE NEAR AN ALAMO DRAFTHOUSE— One of the best movie theater outfits going just made their outstanding and classy niche even more attractive.  The Texas-based Alamo Drafthouse brand is starting a “Season Pass” service where $20-per-month will grant you a movie a day.  That pays for itself in three movies.  The Alamo Drafthouse’s eclectic offerings have always impressed and hooked cinephiles and casual fans alike.  One of the best just got better.  If you live near one of their locations, do check this out.

LESSON #5: TRY SOME UNCONVENTIONAL HORROR— Circling back to the upcoming wave of Us, the horror genre will get a great deal of attention from audiences this month, both at home and at the theatres.  If you’re like me and not a big horror fan, you probably need some offbeat horror suggestions to dip your toe into something different.  The now-defunct Alcohollywood podcast published a very nice ten-film of “unconventional horror” films.  Starting with the old James Whale/Boris Karloff Frankenstein, they have some great picks and buried treasures on there.  Keep building the queue and wish list for your streaming services and library.  

 


DON SHANAHAN is a Chicago-based and Rotten Tomatoes-approved film critic writing on his website Every Movie Has a Lesson 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 new member of the nationally-recognized Online Film Critics Society.  As a contributor here on Feelin’ Film now for over a year, 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 special “Connecting with Classics” podcast program.  Find “Every Movie Has a Lesson” on Facebook, Twitter, and Medium to follow his work.

What We Learned This Week: March 2-16

LESSON #1: TOXIC FANDOM WILL NEVER WIN— There’s a remarkable silver lining I love seeing shine through the unfortunate trend of toxic fandom.  Whether it’s Star Wars: The Last Jedi, some polarizing DCEU movie, or Captain Marvel this past week, more often than not, all of the negative ranting and raving of those factions loses emphatically and embarrassingly.  Look at Captain Marvel garner positive reviews and score at the box office as it was out of public spite for troll culture.  Toxic fandom still causes its unnecessary amount of damage (and wasted clickbait time), but it seems like the louder they piss and moan, the larger the amount of success and love gathers in the other direction to put the ugly folks back in their place.  I love seeing that public comeuppance.

LESSON #2: WOMEN BRING HOME THE BACON— Let’s keep the Captain Marvel and Brie Larson love going.  Despite the ugly headline-making misogyny in Hollywood and that disparaging long-time data of male-speaking roles dominating Best Picture Oscar winners, a new study charted by the powerful CAA talent agency shows that movies led by female characters have earn more money in the last five years.  Make that money, ladies! Pay attention and give the people what they want, studio execs!

LESSON #3: CONTENT COMPETES WITH PRICE POINT— We’ve seen the rumors of Apple’s entry into the video streaming marketplace to battle Hulu, Amazon, and Netflix.  We’ve seen their reports of spending $1 billion on shows and content, including a solid lineup of existing networks.  Clarification on what exactly this newfangled thing is going to be may be arriving with their March 25 company event.  As I say in this column space often, I think the greatest consumer motivator is price point.  If the rumors of a $10/month price tag are true, that’s legitimately competitive and head-turning.  If it’s the other rumor of $30-40 monthly, then start listening for crickets. The second motivator is content.  With the number of ala carte streaming services growing by the months of the year, you have to offer some can’t-miss content or exclusive gets to make people want to shell out those extra ten bucks and device exchange.  Without knowing Apple’s buffet menu, so to speak, that motivator is up in the air. More clarity and competition is hopefully coming on the 25th.

LESSON #4: DON’T FORGET ABOUT THE CRITERION CHANNEL TOO— Much like the movies carrying the badge, the spring standalone debut of The Criterion Channel is still on schedule for an April 8th launch.  The service will be a tidy and very worthwhile $10 per month.  Think of it as a library of classics for the price of one first-run movie ticket a month.  Filmstruck breakup victims rejoice! When its arrival comes, Guillermo del Toro has a pretty sweet must-see list of Criterion films to get you started and improve your taste in movies.  Did I mention price point? Did I mention it’s getting crowded? Well, follow the money and see the next lesson.

LESSON #5: STREAMING WILL BECOME THE NEW MARKETPLACE LEADER SOONER THAN YOU THINK— Speaking of Apple’s steaming to enter the streaming seas, the truth the pattern of this lesson title is become more true with each passing day and revenue report.  At the end of last year The Hollywood Reporter published the results of a study by Ampere Analysis that forecasted that this year, 2019, will be the first time global streaming revenue will add up higher than box office receipts.  No matter the “essence of cinema” debates high (Steven Spielberg) and low (old men shouting at the wind), the bottom line isn’t lying and traditionalists are missing the momentum staring at them in the face.  There’s room for both marketplaces, but to call the eventual leader inferior any more is going look ridiculous. Bend, adapt, and improve.

LESSON #6: TREAT YOURSELF SOME ASIAN MASTERPIECES— These are belated recommendations to follow up the semi-recent Chinese New Year.  And yes, there I go dropping the “M-word” on behalf of this 2015 list from Taste of Cinema.  From there picks, I’m a big In the Mood For Love fan, but from Kurosawa to Kiarostami, there are gems here.  Use the JustWatch app or website to find where these are available to stream or rent.  


DON SHANAHAN is a Chicago-based and Rotten Tomatoes-approved film critic writing on his website Every Movie Has a Lesson 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 new member of the nationally-recognized Online Film Critics Society.  As a contributor here on Feelin’ Film now for over a year, 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 special “Connecting with Classics” podcast program.  Find “Every Movie Has a Lesson” on Facebook, Twitter, and Medium to follow his work.

What We Learned This Week: February 27-March 1

LESSON #1: ROTTEN TOMATOES IS DOING THE RIGHT THING— Better late than never and following the lead of IMDb, the popular review aggregator website is banning user reviews being posted to films prior to their release.  This week, internet trolls were piling on Captain Marvel before the film was even released.  Since there’s no good way of vetting strangers off the streets versus the critics that build the Tomatometer (myself included), this was a necessary stoppage and a measure I wholly appreciate.  Let the pros lead the way first and users join in after. There’s no need for haters trying to make an internet name for themselves hijacking a film’s standing with unsubstantiated garbage and fake reviews like that.  

LESSON #2: ROGER EBERT WAS HUMAN— Speaking of film critics and piggybacking on the Oscars crowning a new year of “best” films and performance, I stumbled across a 2016 article on Taste of Cinema that dug through the archives of Roger Ebert to find ten great films, some with Oscar successes, that he “hated” with less-than-stellar reviews.  From Gladiator to Reservoir Dogs and more, it’s quite a little list.   

LESSON #3: STEVEN SPIELBERG, HARVEY WEINSTEIN, GEORGE LUCAS, PETER JACKSON, AND JAMES CAMERON ARE THOUGHT OF MORE HIGHLY THAN GOD— With awards season just completing with the Oscars this week, I found an interesting little article last fall on MovieWeb that collected acceptance speech data from the Academy Awards up to 2015.  As it turns out, the five most thanked people at the Academy Awards before God were the five men mentioned in the lesson title.  Other fun data from the study included that the Academy was thanked 43% of the time and parents thanked only 28% of the time. How about that?

LESSON #4: PHYSICAL MEDIA CONTINUES TO TAKE HITS— With the push of streaming services and digital access, we’re slowly seeing physical media inching closer to becoming an endangered species.  I think we’ll alway have a niche like the Criterion collection for high-end keepers and this new little wave of 4K, but expect those store shelves and home displays to shrink as the years continue.  One big body blow to the standing of physical media came this week with Samsung announcing they are not longer going to manufacture Blu-ray players.  This feels heftier and more uncertain than the transitions we’ve lived through in the past (VCR to DVD, DVD to Blu-ray) because there’s not a new physical “thing” replacing the previous media.  We have files and hard drives now. Welcome even more to the future.  

LESSON #5: TREAT YOURSELF TO A GOOD JOURNALISM MOVIE— If you’ve been following WWLTW lately, I like ending on a thematic list of recommendations.  Call it homework assignments or something to build for Letterboxd. This week, take a gander at this list of the 10 best journalism movies as listed by the Washington Post.  There’s not a bad film on it.  Use the JustWatch app or search engine to find where they are available for streaming or rental

 


DON SHANAHAN is a Chicago-based and Rotten Tomatoes-approved film critic writing on his website Every Movie Has a Lesson 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 new member of the nationally-recognized Online Film Critics Society.  As a contributor here on Feelin’ Film now for over a year, 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 special “Connecting with Classics” podcast program.  Find “Every Movie Has a Lesson” on Facebook, Twitter, and Medium to follow his work.

What We Learned This Week: February 17-26 Post-Oscars Special

LESSON #1: WE HAVE AN OUTRAGE CULTURE PROBLEM— Between the old John Wayne story at the beginning of the week and Green Book’s Best Picture Oscar win last night, we continue to learn (more like re-learn) that we have a consistent section of the social media population that seek things to be upset about, no matter if those chosen topics or pillars are part of their actual lives or not.  John Wayne and his politics are dead. He’s but one of many Hollywood figures over the course of history to be on the wrong era and side of equity and equality. Boycott every artist with questionable opinions, then or now, and you wouldn’t have much to watch. At the same time, no one is forcing you to see Green Book and call it the best of the year.  Love what you love.  Let differences of opinion say as small as they matter.  The world keeps on spinning after both so-called disasters.  All the more reason to avoid Twitter. Fixing the future is better than squawking about the past.

LESSON #2: WE LIVE IN A WORLD WHERE BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY IS A FOUR-TIME OSCAR WINNER— Rami Malek was wonderful, but the rest of those wins (editing and two sound awards) are really suspect.  Looking into the history books, check out what Bohemian Rhapsody’s four trophies puts it equal with and ahead for multiple wins.

EQUAL:  Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, All the President’s Men, Network, Ordinary People, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Platoon, Rain Man, Unforgiven, The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, The Departed, No Country for Old Men, Inception, Birdman, Life of Pi, The Shape of Water, and more

AHEAD OF:  Miracle on 34th Street, The Adventures of Robin Hood, Brokeback Mountain, All Quiet on the Western Front, a few more, and all the films with one or zero Oscars.

That’s astounding company of comparison, if I may say so.  Enjoy using the “we live in a world where ___” line for any number of new Oscar winners in any given year.  Every Oscar winner has a worst moment or career low point that can be cited and compared to a non-winner. For example, the directors of the Urban Legends: The Final Cut (John Ottman) and Stuck on You (Peter Farrelly) now have more Oscars than Alfred Hitchcock or David Fincher.  It’s fun for a second, but don’t belabor the joke too long.

LESSON #3: NO MATTER WHAT, GOOD HISTORY WAS MADE AT THE 91ST ACADEMY AWARDS TOO— Behind the questionable wins for Bohemian Rhapsody and Green Book, it was a good night for burgeoning diversity, led by Black Panther, BlacKkKlansman, and female artists left and right.  Stay tuned to the Feelin’ Film podcast this week for their recap show.  Aaron White has an outstanding list of first and achievements to share with you on the awards recap episode of Feelin’ Film.

EPISODE 151: 2019 Oscars/Feeler’s Choice Awards Recap

LESSON #4: NOT TOO MANY PEOPLE MISS HAVING AN OSCAR HOST— It had been 30 years since the last hostless Oscars. 1989 was a legendary trainwreck because of it. The 2019 edition moved quite swimmingly until that last hour when the bigger awards require more individual time.  The whole show clocked in at three hours and twenty-two minutes, which is nearly a half-hour less than last year. It felt shorter, tighter, and quicker. I’d be very OK if it stayed that way. Let the jokes come from smart presenter choices and let that be the lightness.  Also, someone needs to pay that announcer Randy Thomas (her tenth show) a fat bonus for keeping it quick and properly teasing for the viewers for the telecast all night. Hey, did you hear Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga were going to perform “Shallow?” Yeah, me too, like a dozen times.  Hook and hold on to those viewers, ABC.  Jokes aside, the streamlined show and all its teasers worked.  Rating show this year’s show was up 12% from last year’s all-time low… to the second lowest show ever.  Well, up is up and there is a long way to go. In my opinion, the movies are the draw and never the host or the side acts.    

LESSON #5: THE MOMENT OF THE NIGHT— Speaking of that, let’s enjoy the absolute peak performance of any kind from last night.  The lighting, the reversed shooting direction, the steps up from the audience, the wardrobe, the emotion, the constant eye contact, all of it, was mesmerizing.

 


DON SHANAHAN is a Chicago-based and Rotten Tomatoes-approved film critic writing on his website Every Movie Has a Lesson 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 new member of the nationally-recognized Online Film Critics Society.  As a contributor here on Feelin’ Film now for over a year, 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 special “Connecting with Classics” podcast program.  Find “Every Movie Has a Lesson” on Facebook, Twitter, and Medium to follow his work.

What We Learned This Week: February 10-16

LESSON #1: THE ACADEMY OF MOTION PICTURE ARTS AND SCIENCES WAS (AND STILL KIND OF IS) CARELESS, UNINTELLIGIBLE, AND DISRESPECTFUL TOWARDS THEIR OWN INDUSTRY— On Monday, Academy president John Bailey revealed that rumors were true.  In an effort to shorten a bloated show and improve ratings, four categories were announced to become relegated to commercial breaks.  At the last minute before the publishing of this post, they relented. The four that were getting the cold shoulder were Best Cinematography, Best Editing, Best Makeup and Hair-Styling, and Best Live Action Short.  The damage is done and they still deserve the lecture.  Let’s start a train of “to say it simply” sentences.  Begin with careful use of time.  You can’t tell me there weren’t smarter cuts of time possible in a hostless telecast.  Trim the gags, bits, montages, and other weak joke fluff.  Cut the half-hour red carpet show and just leave that to E! where it belongs.  How hard would that have been? Maybe they needed to consult an editor… oh wait… Second, look at optics. I was astonished that in the room of AMPAS decision-makers, a team of artists and industry professional peers, there was a lack of perception of what this kind of move looked like.  Did they not just get slammed this past year for the silly Popular Film category suggestion?  Does no one internally pay attention?  This became a double defeat in the court of public opinion before the awards even arrive and they stood down Friday.  The AMPAA looked like they can’t handle or put on their own show after 90 years and the subtraction immediately looked like disrespect.  Doing this wasn’t appeasing casual fans who are impatient with award shows more than it alienated the base of true fans.  It’s the cinephiles and movie lovers that bring in the casual fans, not the other way around.  Alienate them because you dumbfoundedly admonish your own people and you ruin the whole thing with bad press and social media outrage. 

LESSON #2: PUBLIC PRESSURE WINS BECAUSE IT CAME FROM THE RIGHT LEVEL OF PEOPLE— The pressure it took on the Academy to properly honor the people below the title was to rally people above the title.  I’m not the type to boycott anything, but I get why people weren’t going to watch the Oscars (and they still might not).  The group fixed it are the precious people the TV cameras beg to see: ACTORS.  They are the largest voting body in the Academy. If the #MeToo movement has taught us anything, they had clout and these were fitting politics to flex.  They look great and unselfish today to honor their fellow artists. The preening performers rallied get behind the craftspeople that make them look good and insisted on their proper inclusion. The Academy rightfully blinked.

LESSON #3: BAD CGI CAN KILL A MOVIE BEFORE IT STARTS— The latest new teaser of Disney’s Aladdin re-imagining gave viewers our highly anticipated first look of the special effects being used to morph the jovial Will Smith into the famed blue genie.  And holy cow did the internet react.  Memes for days!  The fallout calls to mind so many frequent and intersecting WWLTW lessons.  I could bring back my frequent plea for Disney corporate patience where the studio can avoid rushing these projects, but this one’s been in development with director Guy Ritchie for three years.  That’s more than enough time to spend money, go back to however many drawing boards, and get something to look right, especially with Disney’s deep pockets.  I could spout off about excessive and unnecessary marketing, but this trailer is actually the smallest amount of peek compared to other teasers.  It just looks like crap at this point and is going to need tricks under its sleeves.  I could try to preach to let Will Smith and this Aladdin incarnation be its own thing without comparisons to Robin Williams and etc, but that’s not possible when one its objectives and reasons for being is to blend and update the animated original.  I could try to stump for patience to see the full film before judgment, but the damage is done, echoing similar a unfinished-effects-buzzkill 2003 gave us for Ang Lee’s Hulk.  I’m calling it now.  This will be your Solo-level box office “underperformer” (I won’t say “bomb” because all of these movies are too big to fail) for the Mouse House in 2019.  This will set off a momentary pause button that makes the studio question how and why they do these re-imaginings in the same way they gave Star Wars some reorganization last year.  I say temporary because that feeling will only last 56 days, the amount of time between Aladdin‘s box office debut and the arrival of The Lion King on July 19, which has played its cards far better to make an absolute killing.

LESSON #4: SEE SOMETHING PRETTY— In honor of Valentine’s Day and as a celebration of the art of cinematography before Oscar bounces them like a football timeout, treat yourself to some of the finest artistic visual beauty that exists in cinema.  The American Society of Cinematographers recently published this list of the 100 best shot films of all-time.  Topping the list are Lawrence of Arabia, Blade Runner, and Apocalypse Now!, three damn worthy champions of cinematography.  Spanning vistas and shadows to color and monochrome, this films on this ASC list are sterling examples of why this art is important.  Create a new checklist for yourself with this one.


DON SHANAHAN is a Chicago-based and Rotten Tomatoes-approved film critic writing on his website Every Movie Has a Lesson 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 new member of the nationally-recognized Online Film Critics Society.  As a contributor here on Feelin’ Film now for over a year, 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 special “Connecting with Classics” podcast program.  Find “Every Movie Has a Lesson” on Facebook, Twitter, and Medium to follow his work.

What We Learned This Week: February 3-9

LESSON #1: LIAM NEESON IS IN BIG TROUBLE NO MATTER HOW YOU LOOK AT IT— And here I thought a few weeks ago in this column space, that John Lasseter was going to a big test for post-outrage career paths.  Matching the pulling of the actor’s PR appearances for Cold Pursuit this week, his situation, stemming from his poorly-placed personal admissions and steps towards change in the years since, has two impacts: personal and professional.  The forgiveness, recovery, and damage control are different for both worlds.  He may be able to show his face and make appearances to continue the soul-baring conversation he started, but he may be radioactive on the business side for a while.  I still say if Hugh Grant can be arrested for soliciting a prostitute two decades ago and be the Oscar-worthy villain of Paddington 2 years later, the zero laws broken by Liam Neeson can make redemption possible.  It definitely going to take more than good kissing.

LESSON #2: INTERMISSIONS ARE A WORTHWHILE IDEA— Word around the internet campfire is that the latest edit of Avengers: Endgame is still a mammoth three hours and Disney is considering building in an intermission into film.  I’m all for it. Trim no more. Pick a dynamite editing point for some exhaling and reflection. Give us a bathroom break and a rousing Alan Silvestri overture while we refocus.  Nail that tone. If any film could pull it off, it’s this future juggernaut. Intermissions would extend running time and prevent as many turnstile turns and showings compared to some 90-minute hopscotch movie, but plenty of long films have scored at the box office.  Avatar was 162 minutes.  Titanic was 195.  They made billions.  Bottom lines will be fine.

LESSON #3: FINDING THE RIGHT TONE— Speaking of tone, one of the reasons Universal Pictures’ Dark Universe failed was that it wasn’t dark enough.  The Mummy was a Tom Cruise vehicle, not a thriller.  Even though the old Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi classics aren’t anywhere near hardcore horror by today’s tastes, these characters (and others) are still monsters.  Give them some teeth and some edge, not sugary action fluff. Universal’s hiring of producer Jason Blum and Upgrade director Leigh Whannell for their Invisible Man remake is the right direction to go with smaller aims and horror expertise.  That’s the tone you need here.

LESSON #4: STEVEN SODERBERGH IS THE SMARTEST GUY IN THE ROOM AND GETS NO CREDIT FOR IT— The Oceans series director recently did an interview with Deadline talking about his career path.  One tangent delved into the underwhelming results of his last two films Logan Lucky and Unsane.  Both were well-reviewed films that were lost to audiences.  The grassroots and cost-minded Soderbergh saw marketing costs skyrocketing in the industry and considered it a threat to the success of true independent film working on small budgets.  Fascinatingly, Soderbergh wanted to try spending less (no junkets, talk shows, and more) on those two recent films, going more the viral routes. He found that the silly and preening attention that comes from late-night couches and more gets more attention than social media.  I wish he wasn’t wrong because the fluff is too much and too frivolously expensive. Fascinating interview from a guy with a heck of career arc.

LESSON #5: KNOW WHEN TO SAY WHEN— It looks like Vice Oscar nominee Christian Bale got The Matt Damon Diagnosis recently.  Here at 45 years old, the toll of the “yo-yo dieting” going back and forth between dramatic weight losses for The Machinist and The Fighter and unhealthy weight gains to play American Hustle, Batman, and Dick Cheney has caught up to the actor.  Citing his mortality, Bale says he won’t go through those swings again and let the makeup do the magic.  Wise decision, Christian. We want you to hang around for as long as possible.


DON SHANAHAN is a Chicago-based and Rotten Tomatoes-approved film critic writing on his website Every Movie Has a Lesson 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 new member of the nationally-recognized Online Film Critics Society.  As a contributor here on Feelin’ Film now for over a year, 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 special “Connecting with Classics” podcast program.  Find “Every Movie Has a Lesson” on Facebook, Twitter, and Medium to follow his work.

What We Learned This Week: Post-Super Bowl Challenge- YEAR 2

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.  You missed out.  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 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.  Third and finally, there isn’t the dazzle of the one-time viewing anymore.  Any hype is beaten to death by repeat views and 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.

This all adds to unrealistic, messy, or improperly-fueled expectations that hang on a film all year.  I long for a day when the repetitive spoiler blathering goes away, allowing patience to create real hype, not the over-marketed variety we have now, to create a higher form of anticipation.  For the second year in a row on Feelin’ Film, I throw down the gauntlet!

THE SECOND YEAR CHALLENGE

Pick TWO films on your “most anticipated list” for 2019 and avoid the marketing for it from now until their releases.  Last year, it was one movie.  This year, pick two.

Don’t say Captain Marvel with only a month to go.  Don’t say Avengers: Endgame because that’s an easy automatic.  Dig deep.  Pick a real long-term challenge for 2019.  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.  Such willpower can be done.  I promise you it’s worth it.  Every twist and development becomes a surprise and the connections are made richer than ones pre-built by marketing hype.

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.

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 two films 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 know this is going to work for you!

What We Learned This Week: January 19-February 2

LESSON #1: YOUNGER IS BETTER AND LONGER LASTING— Before you say “that’s what she said,” let me explain that I’m are talking about Batman.  Word hit hard that Ben Affleck is retiring (i.e. passed over and forced out) from the role of the Caped Crusader, one he already entered while in his 40s (granted, they sought a veteran intentionally).  Warner Bros. moves forward with the Matt Reeves-helmed The Batman for 2021 and I’m begging they go younger.  Don’t do another guy over 40 and don’t even do another actor in their mid-to-late 30s.  Lock in a steady Batman in his prime and past his overly-told origin story in the starting age range of 25-29.  Let that guy own the role for a decade instead of being interchangeable like bad underwear.

LESSON #2: THE INDEPENDENT SPIRIT AWARDS ARE LOOKING BETTER THAN THE OSCARS RIGHT NOW— Between the many harebrained decisions and non-decisions being made by the Academy and their show producers (awards during commercial breaks, go/no-go on song nominees) and their semi-questionable nominees, the Oscars are looking like a, pardon my French, a s–tshow right now.  I look the day before the Oscars at the slate and schedule for the Independent Spirit Awards and I’m duly impressed.  Those are true nominees of the best of film.  That’s a red carpet and party I’d rather be at.  

LESSON #3: NETFLIX KNOWS WHAT’S GOOD FOR THEM— Speaking of the Oscars, there has been an anti-Netflix sentiment for the last few years.  This simmering industry stench of haters surrounds how Netflix’s streaming service does not commonly include theatrical distribution.  One of the Academy’s rules for awards qualification is to have at least a soft theatrical release somewhere. Netflix has bent to that in small ways (Mudbound) and big ways (Roma).  Well, their biggest bend of all dropped soon after Netflix snagged 15 total nominations when they agreed to join the MPAA.  It’s an olive branch of commitment to make nice and do good by the industry that they are steadily part of reforming every year.

LESSON #4: NETFLIX KEEPS REMINDING US HOW AMBITIOUS THEY ARE— At the same time the streaming giant shows industry savvy, Netflix continues to stoke its hubris fires with the burning of subscription dollars (thanks, price increases!).  Back at the end of December, Netflix announced its intentions of pacing to churn out 90 films a year with budgets as high as $200 million.  That’s beyond huge.  That’s bigger than Disney’s output.  With every high profile acquisition, every word-of-mouth hit, and, more importantly, every influx of subscribers, Netflix becomes a bigger player.  A critic like me or Aaron and Patch on Feelin’ Film could cover only Netflix films and fill a year’s worth of review quota.

YOU CAN’T BEAT FREE— Marvel is partnering with AMC Theatres to re-release Black Panther for FREE at several locations during Black History Month.  Folks, you won’t find a better price to see an Oscar nominee short of some library screening or summer kids club event at a daycare center.  You get Ryan Coogler’s gem with all the bells and whistles of a real big screen. Go catch it again or for the first time.


DON SHANAHAN is a Chicago-based and Rotten Tomatoes-approved film critic writing on his website Every Movie Has a Lesson 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 new member of the nationally-recognized Online Film Critics Society.  As a contributor here on Feelin’ Film now for over a year, 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 special “Connecting with Classics” podcast program.  Find “Every Movie Has a Lesson” on Facebook, Twitter, and Medium to follow his work.

What We Learned This Week: January 1-18

LESSON #1: THE OSCARS CAN SURVIVE WITH NO HOST— I couldn’t be more content with the fact that ABC and MPAAS cannot pin down a proper host for the 91st Academy Awards.  Maybe this will mean fewer dumb monologues and bits.  Maybe the whole dang thing will get done in under three hours.  I can’t wait to see how this goes as a test case for no host and tighter schedule of things. Besides, how many Alfonso Cuaron acceptance speeches are we really going to hear (present answer: 3).  Be ready for those Oscar nominations on Tuesday after the MLK holiday.

LESSON #2: JAMES WAN IS KILLING IT— Thanks the swimmingly sweet returns of Aquaman, director James Wan has become the second filmmaker after James Cameron to lead a pair of films to surpass $1 billion in global earnings.  Cameron, of course, had Avatar and Titanic (two films north of $2 billion, mind you) and Aquaman adds with Wan’s Furious 7.  There’s a good chance that young man (42 is a baby in this business) gets to sign his own blank checks moving forward.  Studios would be lucky to acquire his services.  He is currently without a new directorial effort on the horizon.  

LESSON #3: AMERICANS DON’T TRANSLATE FRENCH VERY WELL— More than the year-long-plus delay caused by the fallout of The Weinstein Company, The Upside had been doomed for a while.  Dumping it in January was but one more sign.  The domestic filmmakers took what was a huge international hit of big time empathy (The Intouchables) and scrambled it with American gags and personalities.  Sure enough, it butchers the original and has tanked audiences and critics.  The Ringer recently did solid article looking back at Hollywood’s shoddy track record with French comedies.  Improvement is needed where filmmakers need to do better or audience just need to find and enjoy the original things, subtitles and all.

LESSON #4: EDDIE MURPHY NEEDS A COMEBACK— At 57, Eddie Murphy is too good and still too young of a celebrated entertainer to be forgotten and relegated to the sidelines.  I have long said he needs to put away the family films and go back to his hard-R roots.  The announced long-distance sequel for Coming to America could be the springboard for a resurgence.  Hustle and Flow director Craig Brewer is an ideal fit to squeeze a little more pulp from the low-hanging fruit.  While we’re here, go ahead and get Arsenio Hall back to work next to him.  With the pair, it’s only half of a good idea.  

LESSON #5: TREAT YOURSELF TO A GOOD SOUNDTRACK— Finally, we’re in Oscar season, so I advise you to soak in the good stuff available this time of year and not the defrosted junk that are called “January wide releases.”  Both The Film Stage and First Showing featured articles listing the best scores and soundtracks from 2018 films.  Of the year’s releases, I highly recommend If Beale Street Could Talk, Hearts Beat Loud, Mandy, Eighth Grade, Aquaman, A Star is Born, and Creed II.  The Film Stage article even imbeds some full Spotify playlists for easy sampling.  Make a few clicks and put the earbuds in at work or on the move.  Enjoy the Mozart effect!


DON SHANAHAN is a Chicago-based and Rotten Tomatoes-approved film critic writing on his website Every Movie Has a Lesson 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 new member of the nationally-recognized Online Film Critics Society.  As a contributor here on Feelin’ Film now for over a year, 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 special “Connecting with Classics” podcast program.  Find “Every Movie Has a Lesson” on Facebook, Twitter, and Medium to follow his work.

What We Learned This Week: January “Soapbox Special”

The edition is an extended look at how one new industry move sets off some big questions for the business landscape.

LESSON #1: JOHN LASSETER IS A TEST FOR CAREERS MOVING BEYOND THE #METOO MOVEMENT— I came on this column space a little over a year ago with my first “Soapbox Special” to address the uneven career assassinations that have occurred both before and after our present #MeToo landscape.  I shared my stances where I separate the person (their personal life) from the persona (their careers) and never boycott anyone.  Likewise, my consistent emotional response to cases like Kevin Spacey or Bill Cosby is one of patience and sadness.  I refuse to jump the gun with outrage and boycott on mere “allegations” and “claims”  These folks are innocent until proven guilty in my eyes, which seems to fly against the court of public opinion that immediately sinks people on the first click bait headline before we even know if they deserve it.  A year later, with former Pixar czar John Lasseter being hired by Skydance to lead their animation division, we have reached the decision points of who and what “gets to,” more or less, move on from #MeToo.  Lasseter comes to Skydance after a self-imposed leave of absence from Pixar amid claims of sexual harassment he deemed as “missteps.”  His resurrection hiring has been met with a great deal of adamant outrage from some sectors. 

LESSON #2: IT’S TIME FOR CONSUMERS TO BE REFLECTIVE AND FAIR— From John Lasseter all the way to Kevin Spacey and anyone else in between, people need to table the court of public opinion and get a better look at the whole situations beyond the outrage and headlines.  Here are the reflection questions that I think folks need to consider at this point:

1) What’s the proper waiting period between allegations and actual guilt?  MY ANSWER: When it gets its day in court and no less that that. Go ahead and hate the convicted Bill Cosby.  The evidence came and the ruling has come down.  Cool your jets on all the unproven stuff elsewhere.  Save your crucifixion nails until the gavel hits the block.  Until then, call it quarantine or something and be the discerning consumer you want to be with that right.  Reserve judgment because it’s not even your place to judge.  

2) What amount of contrition or correction is necessary in order for people to continue their careers?  MY ANSWER: That’s up to each case and each consumer, but the amount can’t be zero.  I’m a proponent of giving people chances to correct their wrongs.  Some stars have handled that better than others (Louis CK, Kevin Spacey).  This is just me, but I will gladly acknowledge and appreciate those who legitimately try to seek forgiveness and personal improvement.  I wish more viewers and fans could do the same.  

3) What are these people allowed to do with their rest of their careers?  MY ANSWER: Anything they want or anything a boss wants to hire to run their business.  This might have to circle back to old adage of the punishment fitting the crime.  If the person(s) in question come out of Question #1 with unfounded innocence and have completed the mea culpas of Question #2, they should be able to return to their field of profession.  Similarly, if the person(s) doesn’t get through Question #1 clearly yet have served their time or sentence of meted and legal punishment (think Michael Vick from the NFL), then they should be able to return to their field of profession.  That’s not to say all people are going to support either of those wishes.  Once again, folks can be whatever discerning consumer they want, but those returning people should be allowed the chances to try and correct their mistakes.  

I know if it were any one of us instead of them, we would want those same minimums and grace.  That’s how you find any possible empathy in these situations.  Try some of this reflection before pissing and moaning all over social media.  You’ll be a calmer and better person for it.


DON SHANAHAN is a Chicago-based and Rotten Tomatoes-approved film critic writing on his website Every Movie Has a Lesson 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 new member of the nationally-recognized Online Film Critics Society.  As a contributor here on Feelin’ Film now for over a year, 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 special “Connecting with Classics” podcast program.  Find “Every Movie Has a Lesson” on Facebook, Twitter, and Medium to follow his work.