What We Learned This Week: May 6-12

LESSON #1: BIDDING WARS CAN BE FUN— In huge industry news this week, media conglomerate Comcast stepped in with a new $60 billion all-cash offer full of pot sweeteners to purchase 21st Century Fox from Rupert Murdoch, months after Disney’s $52 billion all-stock deal looked to be imminent.  Welcome to the of billionaire bullfight!  I know some Marvel Cinematic Universe dream fulfillment lies in the balance down here on the fan level, but I’m kind of rooting for all the executive hardball tactics to make Disney squirm a little to cough up more money.  Laugh all the way to the bank, Mr. Murdoch.  Make them pay through the nose.

LESSON #2: DISNEY CONTINUES TO WANT ITS OWN MONEY— In this column’s frequent reports on Disney’s coming exclusive streaming services and pull-out from Netflix, we know they want to keep their own exclusive dollars without sharing.  They have the power, demand, and clout of content to do so and more steps were going to come.  I am happy to humblebrag report that I called this latest news TWICE last summer. In April, Disney officially announced that they will not be presenting any of their hot Marvel properties in the high-demand Hall H parties they have conducted for years at the San Diego ComicCon.  I don’t think this is a year of radio silence to sell the Avengers: Infinity War cliffhanger.  I think they want people to pay only them for the big convention stages.  I expect Disney/Marvel to start building their annual D23 event into their showcase.

LESSON #3: MOVIEPASS IS STILL DOOMED— The floundering MoviePass service continues to be a hot topic, last mentioned here in April where I labeled it “doomed to fail.”  More financial news keeps coming to light about the amount of money going down the drain faster than infant diarrhea (if infant diarrhea ever made it to drains).  Following Aaron White’s post and suggestion, it may be time to consider alternatives like Sinemia, other alternatives, or the available deals already being done by the theater chains themselves (like AMC’s returning $5 Tuesdays). Share your good experiences and recommendations with your FF peers.  In the meantime, gather your eulogy for the upcoming MoviePass funeral.

LESSON #4: KIDS CAN USE A DOSE OF SILENT FILMS— In this cinematic and television market of repetitive and hyperactive animated crap, I just love this LifeHacker Offspring piece shared by our Feelin’ Film contributor Jacob Neff recently entitled “Why You Should Watch Silent Films With Your Kids.”  I back the statements made in the article 100%, from the quality of the buried treasure content to the “with your kids” part of making movie-watching a shared experience and not a babysitting tactic to ignore your kids.  As a parent of a 5-year-old and a 3-year-old myself, I can attest to the awesome draw of a good Charlie Chaplin flick.  Try it sometime.  Use the clips in the LifeHacker article as preparation (and while you’re there click on the embedded recommended article on “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood” and screen time). Sit with them and marvel at the creativity and entertainment together.  I promise a stellar experience.


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

 

What We Learned This Week: April 29-May 5

LESSON #1: YOU NEED TO START FOLLOWING OUR GUY JACOB NEFF— This week, Feelin’ Film debuted its newest contributor Jacob Neff and his weekly “You Should Be Watching” column. Pulling from Netflix, Amazon Prime, and Filmstruck, Jacob presents a curated list of winners that I highly recommend.  The calendar portion of his column alone creates the perfect priority list.  Let his discerning taste, curious spirit, and stellar research help you get the most from your free entertainment time.  Follow him on Letterboxd as well!

LESSON #2: MARTIN SCORSESE IS WISE— Legendary director Martin Scorsese recently made some comments about the state of film criticism being marginalized by the aggregation and shallow examinations from sites like Rotten Tomatoes becoming the norm.  He called it the “devaluation of cinema,” and he’s not wrong.  This isn’t old-and-out-of-touch-man syndrome.  This is a true expert and historian for the medium.  I shared this story link in the FF Facebook discussion group and set off an excellent discussion any and all interested should check out.

LESSON #3: TRAILERS ARE FULL OF SUGAR-HONEY-ICED-TEA— Shocker!  A two-minute sizzle reel designed to market a film and sell tickets edited by different people than the original filmmakers turns out often to be a manufactured and even inaccurate portrait of the finished product.  You don’t say?!  The Ringer recently put out a dynamite PSA editorial on this topic of lying trailers. Welcome to another of many reasons why I, for one, do not much stock into trailers anymore.  I don’t feel sorry anymore for folks that build unrealistic expectations off of these marketing ploys.  The so-called think pieces called “trailer breakdowns” might just be even worse because they double or even triple the wasted energy to dissect something that is misdirection.  As always, I preach patience.  Let the movie stand for itself and come to you.  In the meantime, I hope the folks at Disney/Marvel take the advice of this Forbes article and don’t give us a shred or second of marketing between now and the untitled Avengers 4.

LESSON #4: JAMES CAMERON NOW CAN’T HELP HIMSELF— Last week, it was pining for superhero movie fatigue to help his own Avatar films down the road.  Now that the spotlight came over, more tape recorders and cameras are running in front of James Cameron.  This week, he’s dropping the hot take that 2001: A Space Odyssey lacks “emotional balls.”  Well, on some level (like Scorsese), he’s not wrong to a degree.  It’s all in a matter of how you say it and present it.  Louis Plamondon, a burgeoning film editor friend of mine, said it best:

“A tell-tale sign that artists have reached the end of their product life cycle in terms of pop culture relevance is whenever they desperately feel the need to drop attention-seeking controversies whose timing is meant to coincide with something they have to sell.” 

Cameron is clinging to relevance with a new AMC series to sell, biding time on Avatar sequels, and it shows.

LESSON #5: THE CANNES FILM FESTIVAL HAS BECOME A HOTBED FOR MORE THAN JUST PRESTIGIOUS FILM AND FANCY FASHION— The hoitiest and toitiest of the cinema world descend on the French Riviera beginning on May 8 for the Festival de Cannes.  The slate of high-profile films being screened both in-competition and out-of-competition is impressive (including Solo: A Star Wars Story).  What’s making more headlines than the lineup is what is NOT being allowed to join the competition.  Festival leaders have stated they will not accept Netflix films at the fest, which feels hypocritical when other TV platforms like HBO (Fahrenheit 451) have films there.  In a roller coaster of posturing and power plays, Netflix ended up going from threatening to withhold to flat-out skipping the Cannes Film Festival for consideration.  It’s good to see snobbery is still in full swing.  At least Netflix is self-aware, stating that they want to get in less fights this week with festivals, Oscar voters, and theater companies.  Someone or something needs to broker a compromise.

LESSON #6: WE WILL SEE IF “FIRST TO THE MARKET IS ALWAYS IMPORTANT” REALLY MATTERS— Mixing with the world of television and eager to beat Disney to the punch, Warner Bros. and DC Comics publicly finalized their plans to launch their own exclusive streaming service, named DC Universe, later this year, winning the #f1rst troll award.  Offerings will include exclusive new TitansSwamp Thing, and Harley Quinn series.  DC, in my opinion, has been superior to Marvel in the animated department (both film and television), but I will be curious to see how much film content makes the channel, since that’s where the big bucks are.  This is either going to be a benefit of being first or the set-up to being one-upped by the next guy who can now scout and ahead see what they have to beat.

LESSON #7: THE ACADEMY IS CONTINUING ITS PERSONAL IMPROVEMENT TO TAKE THINGS SERIOUSLY— First it was #OscarsSoWhite and now it’s been the #MeToo movement.  The old standards and blind eyes over at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences needed every bit of the criticism and urgency to modernize and change that it’s received the last few years.  The news this week that the Academy has expelled Bill Cosby and Roman Polanski from their membership is an encouraging sign that intolerance is becoming an expectation and new standard.  Coupled with saddness and disappointment at the errors of these men (and Polanski’s call for due process), this effort to re-vet the books is still overdue cleanup and I hope it lasts longer than spring and two men.


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

 

What We Learned This Week: April 22-28

LESSON #1: STAY OFF SOCIAL MEDIA UNTIL YOU SEE ANY HOTLY ANTICIPATED MOVIE— The internet is not a kind place with secrets. Trust Aaron White and I in our reviews of Avengers: Infinity War that you’re going to want this one untarnished. Total social media darkness is recommended (especially over in the gladiatorial arena of unchecked internet courage known as Twitter).  The full plot is already posted on Wikipedia and the casting and trivia sections of IMDb give notes away as well.  Come back when the coast is clear.  As the teacher-preacher around here, I will testify and extend the advice that all of us should be treading lightly when it comes to social media with any big film, not just Avengers: Infinity War.  All of the noise is worth filtering all the time.

LESSON #2: SPEAKING OF SOCIAL MEDIA, THE STARDUST APP IS FUN AND YOU NEED TO GET IN ON THIS— Color this with a shade of shameless self-promotion, but if you do like social media and the quick interactions that are possible out there, give the new Stardust app a look for Apple and Android devices.  Tidier that Periscope and tagged to match movies and TV shows, their user-created personalized video takes are a lot of fun for audience engagement.  Find Aaron White’s username of “FeelinFilmAaron” and mine at “movielessons.”  We promise a good time!

LESSON #3: PUT UP OR SHUT UP OR, FOR THAT MATTER, S–T OR GET OFF THE POT— I’m sure there are classier parables with glass houses, stones, and kettle colors when it comes to James Cameron’s recent silly and incendiary comments rooting for superhero fatigue to help his own Avatar sequels.  I’ll stick with my cruder ones.  Adding more gasoline, the Titanic and Terminator director is calling The Godfather thunder of comparisons to his upcoming epics.  You know, Jim.  Read this lesson.  Your clout looks a lot more legit when you can actually deliver.  Avatar was a long nine years ago.  I get it.  An artist on your level can’t be rushed.  That’s cool, but then focus on your precious work and leave the success you’re not getting to those who worked and earned it.  Call me when the Pandora dinner is ready.  I’ll be the old graying man on the couch snacking and enjoy the heck out of the reruns of MCU films that have passed you by.

LESSON #4: SOME FILMS DO NOT NEED SEQUELS AND A QUIET PLACE IS ONE OF THEM— The news of John Krasinski’s hit thriller getting a greenlit sequel at Paramount stands as troublesome.  This is another item of industry proof that this is a business first and an art convention second.  This is a studio exec who cannot help but try and capitalize on a hit.  The real trigger for any sequel should be the story, not the earnings report.  I know A Quiet Place ends with a door-opener for more and beats Cloverfield (coincidentally from the same studio) when it comes to wider-world potential, but the remarkably successful film will last longer and be better as itself with no imitators.  Leave it be.

LESSON #5: YOU DON’T GET TO SELF-LABEL YOUR OWN WORK AS MASTERPIECES— Last but not least, it’s Avengers: Infinity War weekend and battles are center stage.  I will revisit a common battlefield of mine.  Even after seeing the MCU epic, the best fight I discovered and observed this week was this rapid war of words between two celebrated directors: William Friedkin of The Exorcist and The French Connection and Nicholas Winding-Refn of Drive and Neon Demon.  Take in this very short 90-second video of the extremely pretentious Refn calling his own film a masterpiece and watch the old school Friedkin (who has actual masterpieces on his resume) pricelessly react and retort:

As the Masterpiece Division Cop of the Feelin’ Film Tone Police, William Friedkin just became my spirit animal.  He preaches what I preach, that masterpieces take time to assign because films have linger, live, and hold up.  Audiences and historians decide that, not the filmmaker themselves.


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

 

What We Learned This Week: April 8-14

LESSON #1: INFUSE HEART INTO HORROR FILMS FOR ELEVATED IMPACT— John Krasinski’s A Quiet Place is making a killing at the box office for a multitude of reasons.  First, from a business standpoint, it’s a well-marketed horror movie with a PG-13 rating to increase the potential audience compared to R-rating fare.  Second, and more importantly, Krasinski and company made an intelligent and resonating film compared to the usual shock value thrills of the genre.  I believe their secret ingredient was heart.  Strip away the monsters and you have a family survival film comprised of characters you care about and invest in, not a cast of hollow and unmemorable stereotypes occupying a buffet menu for carnage.  For most disposable horror films, you kind of root for the creative kills but once the surprises are gone, so is the repeat value.  In A Quiet Place, you dread any potential for loss and the journey of avoidance becomes more compelling than any swift action.  That’s a powerful draw worth revisiting.  You’ll find three over-the-moon reviews of A Quiet Place between Aaron White’s take, the main episode here on Feelin’ Film, and my own on Every Movie Has a Lesson.

LESSON #2: HOW DO YOU PROPERLY REPLACE DECEASED ACTORS?— The rumor is out there that Meryl Streep could replace Carrie Fisher as Leia in the next Star Wars film.  Naturally, the purists… errr… I mean… hardcore fanboys led the charge of torches and pitchforks against such an idea, forgetting needs and logistics of the story in place.  If you have noticed (as the cited article points out), each returning Original Trilogy great has led the main focus for each film (Han had The Force Awakens, Luke had The Last Jedi), and Leia was the planned centerpiece of the third in J.J. Abrams’s script before Fisher’s death.  If that is true, it’s going to take quite a rewrite.  With shooting due to start this summer, it’s going to be very interesting to see how filmmakers are going to modify the plan.  What would you do?

LESSON #3: HOW DO YOU PROPERLY REPLACE DISGRACED ACTORS?— Comic actor T.J. Miller keeps adding to his sh-tstorm and diminishing reputation.  After reports of sexual misconduct and violence and transphobic bigotry surfaced last winter, he’s added federal fake bomb threat charges this week.  Even before this week, many, including a film critic peer of mine Danielle Solzman and an excellent Scott Mendelson piece in Forbes magazine, have questioned why Miller hasn’t received the Kevin Spacey treatment and been replaced or cut from Ready Player One (a simple ADR replacement you would think) and the upcoming Deadpool 2.  I have to believe the answers aren’t always as simple as a replacement, between the hangups of effort, time, negative impact potential, contracts, or the sliding scale of morality trying to define punishments that fit crimes.  In the end, I’ll sound like a teacher to say “fair is not always equal.”  What worked for Ridley Scott and TriStar Pictures might not work for Steven Spielberg and Warner Bros.  The only part that is up to moviegoers is whether to support films with these questionable cast inclusions with your ticket money.  For a critic like myself, it’s about checking biases at the door and judging the film not the people.

LESSON #4: THE SECRETS OF NETFLIX— I can’t be the only person who wastes time scrolling Netflix menus looking for something the sparks my interest while running into the same promoted and retreading menu preferences.  Word is there are codes to unlock and directly navigate to the narrow subgenres appearing within the evolving algorithms on Netflix that contain thousands of underrepresented movies.  Has anyone tried these?!  Follow this link and let us know!


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

 

What We Learned This Week: April 1-7

LESSON #1: BUILDING A CINEMATIC UNIVERSE IS HARD— With the impending arrival of Avengers: Infinity War marking a peak as the seventh film of the planned ten-film third phase of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Patrick Shanley of The Hollywood Reporter asked the question “Can Anyone Besides Marvel Make a Cinematic Universe Work?” and it’s a good one.  We’ve seen Universal Pictures flop with its “Dark Universe” of movie monsters and Warner Bros. unable to find the same success with their DC Comics titles.  Franchises with sequels can be done (Transformers, Star Wars, Fast and Furious, etc.).  It’s the intertwining of standalone films and storylines that can exist on their own outside of the combinations that is key.  That requires developing more than one narrative and character.  Marvel did it right with by having patience with its unified vision.  Nothing was rushed.  The other attempts have not shown that level of patience.

LESSON #2: BELIEVE IN CINEMATIC GUILTY PLEASURES— The arrival of Pacific Rim: Uprising side-by-side with the nostalgic energy of Ready Player One calls to mind the idea of guilty pleasures.  Some movies are never going to win Oscars, but are just flat-out fun and garner repeat viewings for easy entertainment.  A fellow Chicago film critic buddy of mine always tries to assert that there are no such things as guilty pleasures.  If a film is good for someone to a pleasurable level, it must have some objective merit worth a higher rating without shame or the need to defend it.  I see his point, but I disagree.  I think it’s perfectly OK, realistically even-keeled if you will, to recognize the differences found between artistic integrity of a film and the fun value.  Honestly, we do the very same with the vice versa end of the highbrow other stuff.  For example, a film like Schindler’s List or any Terrence Malick film can easily be recognized for its artistic superiority and seriousness, but no one is going to Netlfix-and-Chill to a Holocaust film or an Emmanuel Lubezki slideshow of familial hate and trees.  If we’re going to put qualifiers on one end, why not the other?

LESSON #3: DON’T ALWAYS BELIVE FILM SNOBS— From guilty pleasures, we switch the gears to revered classics and faked bragging rights.  Film snobs exist in this world (I work amongst them constantly), but, let me tell you, the majority of them are full of sugar-honey-iced-tea.  First, they don’t admit to finding fun in those aforementioned guilty pleasures.  They were silly kids and teens once too, and I’ll put money on them geeking out to some adventure or playing princesses in a younger life.  They didn’t always watch French New Wave films on 35mm.  The second point of fakery stems from this Gizmodo article by James O’Malley presenting the top movies film snobs say they’ve seen but never actually have.  Those types of film snobs feel the need to rub our commoner noses with notions like “you’re not a true cinephile if you haven’t seen ____” or “you haven’t lived unless you’ve seen ___.”  If they are faking that, they deserve to be called out.  You have my permission to troll the hell out of these people with every meme of movie commercialism possible.

LESSON #4: AVOID PURVEYORS OF THE WORST CLICHES OF FILM REVIEW— Speaking of film snobs and piggybacking off of last week’s column, film critics are often guilty of hyperbole of their own.  Props to Feelin’ Film Facebook discussion group regular Jacob Neff for providing this Letterboxd list piece by Erik Bazjert on the worst frequently-used cliches in film reviews.  I adore this list and know too many film critics who fall for these and write with a pull-quote/pun methodology of little substance.  Worst of all, more often than not, these cliches are celebrated and even encouraged by every studio’s marketing departments to fill their posters, packaging, and signage with these overused and weak zingers.  Even if I never get to scratch off that bucket list item of having one of my reviews cited on a DVD/Blu-ray cover, I, for one, actively try to avoid every single one of these tired and ultimately meaningless expressions.


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

What We Learned This Week: March 25-31

SPRING BREAK AND EASTER EDITION!

LESSON #1: DEAR CHRISTIAN FILM COMPANIES AND DISTRIBUTORS, SPREAD YOUR RELEASE SCHEDULE OUT— Don’t get me wrong.  I get it.  Easter might as well be Christmas: Part II, the Super Bowl, and WrestleMania when it comes to public awareness on all things Christianity.  Just because all eyes are on the “reason for the season” (if they can put down the eggs, bunnies, and candy) doesn’t mean that Easter should be the most stacked weekend of the calendar year for Christian-themed films.  The presence of I Can Only ImaginePaul Apostle of Christ, and God is Not Dead: A Light in the Darkness makes for three films competing for your Easter weekend dollars against the inviting mainstream fare like Ready Player One.  Spielberg’s film is going to get its money, but your films have a hard enough time making money (as well as other problems) as it is to have to now compete with each other.  Share the wealth, space your calendar out, and that means more than the two-week head start I Can Only Imagine gave itself to great success.  The calendar is full of holidays.  Pick another couple go-to weekends and fallbacks other than Easter.

LESSON #2: STEVEN SPIELBERG STILL HAS THE MAGIC— As heard on this week’s main Feelin’ Film podcast and read in my own review on Every Movie Has a Lesson (among many others) as well, Ready Player One feels like a tremendous return to form for the 71-year-old director who has spent the better part of the last decade making safe and tidy historical Social Studies lectures on film.  Cinema has sorely lacked the full power of his signature sense of wonder after mere glimpses in films like War HorseLincoln, and others.  Cue the WWE chant!

LESSON #3: STEVEN SPIELBERG NEVER LOST THE MAGIC— No matter the moral history preaching that went on, Steven Spielberg never lost his technical prowess within the medium.  If anything his more reserved and refined projects sharpened it and modernized it to be ready for something like Ready Player One.  The craftsman-level maturity he and his frequent collaborators (editor Michael Kahn, cinematographer Janusz Kaminski, ILM guru Dennis Muren, and others) bring to a project like Ready Player One elevate the material and prevent what would be over-amplified noise and lazy fluff in lesser hands (yeah, I mean you Michael Bay and Tim Burton).  Rediscovered mojo or not, he never lost the talent.

LESSON #4: STEVEN SPIELBERG STILL LOST OTHER THINGS— Where Steven Spielberg might be slipping is with his rhetoric.  While doing press this week for his blockbuster’s big release, he commented that Netflix films shouldn’t qualify for Oscars, equating the streaming platform to a television outlet, making the filmmaker appear to be a little out of touch with the evolved marketplace film viewers operate within nowadays.  If you go to the official rulebook from the Academy, here’s the basics of what it takes for Best Picture eligibility:

I’ll grant the kicker of the Part D listed above as deal-breaker in my book to match Spielberg’s opinion.  Here’s the thing, Netflix has previously and does currently release some of its films in theaters for limited runs.  The trouble is, for the most part, their theatrical drops are a blip on the radar and the bare minimum similar to the “one-and-done” trend happening in NCAA Men’s Basketball with holding players in college for a year before making the leap straight to the NBA.  Neither practice really does much good and just delays the inevitable profitability (NBA money or Netflix reach) but, if the rule is followed eligibility is met, plain and simple.  This year’s prestigious Cannes Film Festival is already displaying an anti-Netflix power move by banning Netflix Original films from competing without a theatrical release.  I’ve said this before on other topics.  It’s all about price point, earning potential, and this being a business first now.  If a studio can make more money selling to Netflix (just ask Paramount with Annihilation) than it would the cost of printing it, marketing it, and putting it in limited theaters, I sure couldn’t tell them not to.

LESSON #5: “META” CAN’T GET WEIRDER THAN SHIA LEBOUF— In WTF news that could only come out of Hollywood, word hit the wire that Shia LeBeouf, at the young age of 31, has written (under a pseudonym) his own film autobiography and the casting has raised an eyebrow.  Signing Manchester by the Sea Oscar nominee Lucas Hedges to play the young Shia is a nice get, but what gets really weird is that LeBeouf himself will play his own father.  Yowzers!  Even if Shia is a dead ringer for his own father, I don’t know how big the grain of salt has to be to suspend the disbelief that the Shia you’re watching acting next to the other dude playing Shia isn’t the real Shia you see and recognize but his dad instead?!  That’s not going to be a good look for the continually growing deep end you’ve been leaping from, Mr. LeBeouf.  Dude, either play yourself (because you can) for the vanity or get another actor to separate the work behind-the-camera from the one on-camera.

LESSON #6: MORE OFTEN THAN NOT, NUDITY IS AN UNNECESSARY DISTRACTION IN MOVIES— As the former horndog pre-teen/teen who had no problem sneaking through his local video store to rent some Shannon Tweed Skin-a-max films back in the day, this lesson might be the most mature realization I’ve ever grown up to admit the truth on.  Get out the #adulting hashtag.  Jessica Chastain got herself a headline this week talking about nudity in film.  No stranger herself to nudity, the acclaimed actress made excellent points on discomfort, victimization, and whether the nudity in question matches what the characters themselves would really do.  The word “gratuitous” was never used by Chastain, but most of us adults can quickly label nudity in a movie (female and male, mind you) with that word pretty quickly.  She brings up valid points and I tip my hat with respect that someone wants to talk about it, especially during this #MeToo era.


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

 

What We Learned This Week: March 11-17

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

 

What We Learned This Week: Post-Super Bowl Challenge

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

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

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

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

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

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

THE CHALLENGE

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

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

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

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

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

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

What We Learned This Week: December 10-16

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

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

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

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


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

 

 

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

THIS SPECIAL “SOAPBOX SPECIAL” IS A LESSON TOPIC THAT IS LENGTHY ENOUGH TO BE ITS OWN EDITORIAL.  THIS ONE IS GOING TO TAKE A BIT TO SPELL OUT.  HERE GOES.  COME AT ME, BRO!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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