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 Titans, Swamp 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 Facebook, Twitter, and Medium.