LESSON #1: BE RESPECTFUL OF THOSE WHO HAVE PASSED— Actor Armie Hammer stepped onto a Twitter turd of poor context and optical backlash when he somewhat sounded off on the tone of people’s tributes tributes to the last Marvel legend Stan Lee. I get what he was trying to say in terms of making sure any tribute is about the departed and not the poster (similar to comedian Anthony Jeselnik’s legendary rant against “thoughts and prayers”). That counts as fair and good advice, but there’s a gentler way and time to say that then Hammer did, and he caught a good bit of peer flack for it, lead by Jeffrey Dean Morgan. Armie has since deleted the tweets and apologized, but the lesson here remains. Be respectful even when you’re asking for people to be respectful in return, especially during periods of mourning, reflection, and celebration. Things have calmed down, but it could have been worse. Someone could have brought up these unsettled stories. It’s just a reminder that no one is perfect. We take the bad with the good. We do that with Stan Lee and we can do that with Armie Hammer. Enjoy the genuine article before two actors, one younger and one older, will probably duel over the eventual Stan Lee biopic:
LESSON #2: WHEN IT COMES TO ACTING, POINTS SHOULD BE AWARDED FOR ACCURACY— Bohemian Rhapsody is looking to be this year’s The Greatest Showman, a movie with public popularity and a perception of prestige despite fair to middling critical response. After the Bryan Singer firing fallout, the studio will gladly take the money, but even they know an Oscar campaign would have boosted that Bohemian Rhapsody bottom line even more. Outside of costume design or hair/makeup, it’s best chance to make noise is Rami Malek’s outstanding lead performance. It’s too early know how if they young man has the favor and clout to win, but I he should earn a ton of praise for the exactness of his emulation. Accuracy impresses me, so you’ve got to see this side-by-side video of Rami matching Freddie Mercury’s moves from the climactic Live Aid concert performance. I’m sure we’re going to be equally wowed by Christian Bale’s chameleon match of mannerisms in Vice next month, but give Rami some love until then.
LESSON #3: BEAUTIFUL BOY IS NOT ONLY ONE OF THE BEST FILMS EVER ABOUT ADDICTION, IT ALSO IMPRESSES FOR FATHERHOOD— I saw Beautiful Boy last month as the opening night film of the the Chicago International Film Festival and it blew me away. It was one of the easiest 5-star reviews I’ve ever given, standing out as an outlier on Rotten Tomatoes where my rating is above the consensus. Finally releasing wide, Beautiful Boy deserves a bigger audience and I will toot its horn all awards season. If you need a corroborating source after me, this editorial piece from Thrive Global nails the second-level impact spoken by this lesson. Steve Carell’s remarkable performance and the daddy feels might be better than all the exposure given to the ills of addiction. I know it’s a rough watch, but seek out this film.
LESSON #4: CRITERION-LEVEL FILMS ARE GOING TO STAY IMMORTAL— I know there was a great deal of artistic trepidation by the shuttering of the FilmStruck service this month happening at the same time as constant decline of physical media. I referenced that in this very column recently, but let me add this strengthening lesson to it. Great films will never go extinct and, in a way, we have digital to thank for that after an era of decayed negatives. There will always be an audience and forum for them because quality is remembered and celebrated. It might not be FilmStruck, but Criterion will get its own cable channel soon as a potential/temporary replacement conduit to experiencing and discovering classic film. The company is still churning out new discs. Combine their brand with the catalog and Kanopy services possible through your local library and you have more classic film at your fingertips than you ever realized. Put your money into the Criterion channel if you want, but you can do more good supporting public services like the library. Make sure your tax dollars keep working in the right places.
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.