What We Learned This Week: May 4-10

LESSON #1: YOU CAN’T BEAT PARKED CARS WHEN IT COMES TO SOCIAL DISTANCING— The late spring calendar turning to May means the best window of pleasant outdoor weather months are coming to North America. With that, the 330 or so surviving drive-in movie theaters in the U.S. are approaching a rather rare season opener where they are quite incredibly the only movie theaters open. What peaked with over 4,000 locations in the 1950s had been dying a slow death of budget issues, technology hurdles, amenity shortfalls, and the constriction of urban/suburban sprawl. Now, instead of a real-life equivalent to the forgotten Radiator Springs from Cars, their spread-out and safe designs are the social-distancing lifeboats bringing cinematic joy to the masses after months of closure. Here in my neck of the woods of Chicagoland, the McHenry Outdoor Theater, part of Golden Age Cinemas, opened this past weekend. Please let this be the beginning of a comeback of a welcome novelty (go ahead and add car-hop drive-in restaurants too)! Come to think of it, I cannot think of a better re-purposing of defunct large urban/suburban spaces (like all of those dead shopping malls and department stores) than if a worthy investor can paint a few parking stalls, put up a big-ass screen, and throw-in a few concession stands.

LESSON #2: IT DOESN’T MATTER WHAT’S GOING TO BE PLAYING— What a beautiful sight that video is! The best part is it doesn’t even matter what’s playing. As you saw, the re-opened McHenry Outdoor Theater playing a throwback double-bill of The Flintstones and Jurassic Park. The groundswell of trafficked pilgrimage looked like the final scene in Field of Dreams. People will come and I hope studios see that. They don’t have to swing for the fences with huge release. The anticipation is already there and the floods will come. Whoever and whatever is first is going to rake. Along those lines, Christopher Nolan doesn’t have to expend himself to be the savior of saviors with Tenet.  I’ll always applaud the guy as a huge proponent of traditional film and theaters, but just a wee bit of his semi-greedy ego is showing to the guy that revives cinema. I love you Chris, but let’s see a team effort.

LESSON #3: IF THINGS ARE GETTING A LITTLE WEIRD AT HOME, EMBRACE IT— Until an IMAX spectacle can save us all, we are still stuck at home in our third month of widespread stay-at-home orders. There’s a chance some queues are drying up and the cabin fever is making folks a little weird. I say roll with it. Get eclectic with your home viewing. Even somethings squeaky like Disney+ can help. It was click bait, but I got a charge out of this Collider article of “The Weirdest Movies on Disney Plus.” It’s actually a pretty deep dive into their live-action properties with some kitschy picks. Check them out and refill the watchlist.


DON SHANAHAN is a Chicago-based and Rotten Tomatoes-approved film critic writing on his website Every Movie Has a Lesson. His movie review work is also published on 25YL (25 Years Later) and also on Medium.com for the MovieTime Guru publication.  As an educator by day, Don writes his movie reviews with life lessons in mind, from the serious to the farcical. He is a proud director and one of the founders of the Chicago Independent Film Critics Circle and a member of the nationally-recognized Online Film Critics Society.  As a contributor here on Feelin’ Film now for over two years, he’s going to expand those lessons to current movie news and trends while chipping in with guest spots and co-hosting duties, including the previous “Connecting with Classics” podcasts.  Find “Every Movie Has a Lesson” on Facebook, Twitter, and Medium to follow his work.  (#132)

What We Learned This Week: April 27-May 3

LESSON #1: THEATER CHAINS DO NOT HAVE A LEG TO STAND ON— I’m not going to lie or sugarcoat. I couldn’t be shaking my head and laughing harder at the puffed chests of theater chain companies like AMC and Regal this week and their little tiff with Universal Pictures over Trolls: World Tour. Companies like that on the ropes of bankruptcy trying to boycott/ban a studio’s offerings is the equivalent of biting the hand that feeds, especially when they’re starving. Sure, it’s cute to see more than one theater chain taking a stand, but what happens when the studios take a stand to trump them. This is billionaires arguing with zillionaires and no one wins, especially the quarantined theater-goer.

LESSON #2: LIFE WILL BE DIFFERENT WHEN THEATERS DO OPEN AND IT HAS BE— It looks like Texas is going to attempt to re-open some public places including movie theaters first and their guidelines are a really substantial swerve from the way things used to be. They’re saying be ready for “airport-style security” and possibly temperature checks. It’s not going to feel very welcoming, but maybe it will be safer. And that’s the point of all these new hurdles. In our current climate, we flat-out need to accept these changes.  The trouble is we know people are going to complain about the inconvenience. Fine, if you don’t like it, stay home.

LESSON #3: TEMPORARY CHANGES CAN STILL BE GAMECHANGERS— Easily the biggest industry news of the week was the shift of eligibility requirements for the Academy Awards. The Academy leadership is waiving the requirement for a 7-day theatrical run in the Los Angeles area to qualify. The gates are not fully open as they sound. The catch is films “must be made available on the secure Academy Screening Room member-only streaming site within 60 days of the film’s streaming or VOD release.” So, you’re good if you give your film to them and not just everyone.  The plan is for this to be a temporary one-year switch, but watch this catch on and sway members with the convenience and the openness. Watch this get a chance to stick around. I’d put a gentle bet on the table it could become the new standard.

LESSON #4: ELEVATE TO ATTEND A FILM FESTIVAL AT HOME— If you’ve never been to the flush fullness of a film festival, you have a chance to absorb one from home later this month. YouTube is teaming with Tribeca for We Are One: A Global Film Festival curated with works from the Cannes, Toronto, Sundance, and Venice levels of prestige. Mark your calendars for May 29-June 7 and follow the channel here. Discover some excellent, enriching, and eclectic content you wouldn’t get anywhere else from the comfort of your living room or toilet seat (because we all know you crush a few binges while crushing a few other binges from this place).


DON SHANAHAN is a Chicago-based and Rotten Tomatoes-approved film critic writing on his website Every Movie Has a Lesson. His movie review work is also published on 25YL (25 Years Later) and also on Medium.com for the MovieTime Guru publication.  As an educator by day, Don writes his movie reviews with life lessons in mind, from the serious to the farcical. He is a proud director and one of the founders of the Chicago Independent Film Critics Circle and a member of the nationally-recognized Online Film Critics Society.  As a contributor here on Feelin’ Film now for over two years, he’s going to expand those lessons to current movie news and trends while chipping in with guest spots and co-hosting duties, including the previous “Connecting with Classics” podcasts.  Find “Every Movie Has a Lesson” on Facebook, Twitter, and Medium to follow his work.  (#131)

What We Learned This Week: April 20-26

LESSON #1: IMPATIENT PEOPLE HAVE TERRIBLE PRIORITIES SOMETIMES— Hey, I get it. I miss going to the movies too, but you’re not going to die without them. Therefore, don’t die for one either. They are a luxury and not a necessity. Not watching one at a public theater right now is a first world problem. If someone can tell that state of Georgia that, please do so. Besides, there isn’t a damn thing released to watch. Stay home, folks. Stay safe and unplug a little. 

LESSON #2: WHEN THE TIME COMES, SUPPORT WILL BE THERE— I promise you “absence away makes the heart grow fonder.” Yes, the theater chains are reeling, but when it’s safe, people are going to return in force. While it may be a little on the “too soon” side to match Lesson #1, I commend the initiative of IFC Films’ Indie Theater Revival Project to offer their library of stellar titles to surviving and re-opening indie locations. Other than eager and loyal audiences, the industry itself wants this comeback. Help will come.

LESSON #3: GO AHEAD AND WATCH A LITTLE FICTIONAL PARANOIA— Since this whole pandemic began, there has been a “guilty pleasure” spike in attention and viewership for virus-themed movies like Contagion and Outbreak. However, some on-edge viewers want nothing to do with those kinds of movies thinking they’re going to be gasoline on the anxiety fire they have burning between their ears and under their sternums. I got a kick out of a recent notion from Dr. Pamela Rutledge on Insider that watching those movies can be a good thing. The psychologist cited that movies like that have identifiable characters that make us feel not so alone. More importantly, many of those movies has resolutions of closure that we need to target and keep in mind in our real situations. I dig that logic. Let’s queue up some Soderbergh.

LESSON #4: THIS IS A GOOD TIME TO LEARN MORE ABOUT THE PEOPLE MAKING MOVIES— During this time when there’s nothing new to see, I believe the keepers of physical media have it the best right now in this lockdown. Not only do they have libraries of favorites, they also have some extra time dive into special features. If you feel like putting a steady favorite on your screen, try doing it with the director’s commentary on. If you’re reading a few more books, maybe dive into a behind-the-scenes one on film or a biography of a Hollywood titan. E-books are mere clicks away with library cards and subscription services. Deepen your appreciation and widen your knowledge. 

LESSON #5: THERE’S NO SUCH THING AS A PERFECT FILM— Alright, I’ll be the asshole against #FilmTwitter and boredom-breaking trending threads. Don’t bother making a #FivePerfectMovies list because there are no perfect films. I mean every single one of them, even my beloved Casablanca. It’s an impossibility and, guess what, that’s OK. It really is. Imperfection doesn’t make them bad, “trash,” or any other negativity-triggering adjective. They are made by people. All people are flawed and so are their creations. Stop giving fake halos out, Twitter.


DON SHANAHAN is a Chicago-based and Rotten Tomatoes-approved film critic writing on his website Every Movie Has a Lesson. His movie review work is also published on 25YL (25 Years Later) and also on Medium.com for the MovieTime Guru publication.  As an educator by day, Don writes his movie reviews with life lessons in mind, from the serious to the farcical. He is a proud director and one of the founders of the Chicago Independent Film Critics Circle and a member of the nationally-recognized Online Film Critics Society.  As a contributor here on Feelin’ Film now for over two years, he’s going to expand those lessons to current movie news and trends while chipping in with guest spots and co-hosting duties, including the previous “Connecting with Classics” podcasts.  Find “Every Movie Has a Lesson” on Facebook, Twitter, and Medium to follow his work.  (#130)

What We Learned This Week: April 6-19

LESSON #1: TRUST YOUR AUDIENCE TO BE DISCERNING AND MATURE WHEN NECESSARY— As if you haven’t suspected such for a while, the prudish filter at Disney is thicker than cured concrete and more petty than your worst boss. For an odd and slightly depressing example, Disney+ recently felt the need to digitally edit some minor and non-sexual nudity from the classic romantic comedy Splash. Apparently, the sweet cheeks of a mermaid will burn children’s eyes alive. Grant your audience more discerning maturity, Disney. I get that profits and fandom demand that Disney champion and maintain a family-friendly brand image, but not everyone in every family needs the same cuddling and coddling. Between edits like this and quietly vaulting the harder Fox titles it acquired since last fall, Disney looks worse hiding it than they would embracing it. An easy fix is giving all of this content its own warning label shingle or (even better for the stockholders) its own paid gateway. You can’t tell me a restarted Touchstone Pictures wing (where Disney used to bankroll the PG-13 and further stuff) or Fox Studios-branded streaming service with the likes of Alien and Predator wouldn’t have an eager audience. Disney profits from putting that content out there and builds a future empire home for new projects down the road. All they would have is their name in the corner of the ownership deed in fine print. That sounds like a win to me. Instead, they’re too scared of Song of the South Daryl Hannah’s butt.

LESSON #2: THERE IS A POSSIBLE FUTURE WILL MAY HAVE TO EMBRACE— A fascinating editorial by Scott Mendelson in Forbes made the rounds on #FilmTwitter and our own Feelin’ Film Facebook group. It onlines the future of cinema with as many clouds and rays of sunshine. The potential truths are hard to swallow, but extremely possible. The senior contributor backs his conjecture with strong stats. It’s an outstanding read about the big picture that many may not want to hear but will have to admit is possible. 

LESSON #3: CHANGES COMMONLY START AT THE HIGHEST LEVEL— This pandemic industry shutdown is pushing more than just a few toes to be dipped into the streaming marketplace as a front-line option. Whole studio lower torsos are wading in those waters and some are making those waves from the top down. You may not notice change immediately, but keep an eye on Warner Media and the hire of their new CEO Jason Kilar, the 48-year-old former founder of Vessel and board member at Universal and Dreamworks. The IndieWire article link wants to call this the beginning of the death of Old Hollywood. He certainly has different experience and goals. Watch the shifts coming at the WB. 

LESSON #4: SOMEBODY PUSH MARTIN SCORSESE AWAY FROM THE BUDGET BUFFET TABLE— I don’t want to roll the first two lessons as a lead-in to this one, but a harsher version of this one could read “Change or Die.” Quintessential filmmaker Martin Scorsese is out there with his hat in his hand asking Apple and Netflix for money to make his next project Killers of the Flower Moon. Surely, the conglomerates could spare a few million for one of the finest artists of the century to continue his passion. The problem is Martin is holding out a 200-million-gallon hat. That’s the dollar amount he “needs.” Boomer, that’s too much. Trade some filet mignon for some mac-and-cheese. Trim a few excesses. Make a few more economical choices. I don’t blame Paramount one bit for balking at that dollar amount. They wouldn’t see a return on their investment and that’s exactly the same reason the wildly over-budget The Irishman landed on Netflix. Even kudos cost money. It will be very telling if even Netflix and their deep pockets say no.

LESSON #5: CAN WE GET A MORATORIUM ON ROBIN HOOD FILMS?— Look, I know the Robin Hood creation and character have been open to the public domain for five centuries, but that doesn’t mean we need to have some kind of bastardized film attempt every two years. Sure, the old foxy Disney animated folly is a cute one. However, even that movie getting the live-action “reimagining” treatment from Blindspotting filmmaker Carlos Lopez Estrada still counts as one more sloppy thing to stick to a wall to see if it sticks. Can we put some years in between the opportunities to beat this character to death? Go make another King Arthur, Spider-Man, or Batman incarnation… oh wait… 

LESSON #6: IF YOU’RE RUNNING OUT OF QUARANTINE RECOMMENDATIONS, HIT UP JAMES GUNN— The genre-fueled tastes of the Guardians of the Galaxy director would make any fanboy proud. What started as a gargantuan list of 140 films on Twitter was simmered down to 54 on SlashFilm. That’s a pocket full of gems and the article is kind enough to tell your coach potato self where to watch them.


DON SHANAHAN is a Chicago-based and Rotten Tomatoes-approved film critic writing on his website Every Movie Has a Lesson. His movie review work is also published on 25YL (25 Years Later) and also on Medium.com for the MovieTime Guru publication.  As an educator by day, Don writes his movie reviews with life lessons in mind, from the serious to the farcical. He is a proud director and one of the founders of the Chicago Independent Film Critics Circle and a member of the nationally-recognized Online Film Critics Society.  As a contributor here on Feelin’ Film now for over two years, he’s going to expand those lessons to current movie news and trends while chipping in with guest spots and co-hosting duties, including the previous “Connecting with Classics” podcasts.  Find “Every Movie Has a Lesson” on Facebook, Twitter, and Medium to follow his work.  (#129)

What We Learned This Week: March 30-April 5

LESSON #1: ONE MORE TIME, FOR THOSE IN THE BACK, TRY NEW MOVIES— If you heat anyone pouting that there’s nothing new to consume, tell them they’re not looking hard enough. Don’t watch the same comfort food you’ve seen 30 times. Dig deeper. Challenge yourself. Check out Hoopla, Kanopy, and more. On Kanopy alone, there are 107 of Roger Ebert’s “Great Movies.” That’s second to the Criterion Channel and f’n free with a library card. If deep isn’t your speed and mainstream is still your drug of choice, check out HBO’s new free streaming offerings for some excellent options, new Netflix additions for April, and Pixar’s Onward just hit Disney+ on April 3rd. Finally, keep the patience coming. Disney’s Artemis Fowl joins Trolls World Tour and The Lovebirds as the first theatrical movies to announce a straight-to-on-demand release instead of postponement (more on that later).

LESSON #2: SHORT FILMS ARE WORTH YOUR TIME TOO— When it comes to broadening your palette beyond vanilla, I’ll also recommend casting a line for some excellent world of short films. Many that were going to screen at the cancelled SXSW Film Festival are being made available on Amazon Prime. There’s also a massive collection of 66 Oscar-nominated and award-winning shorts being made available thanks to the National Board of Canada. Thanks, neighbors!

LESSON #3: HOMESCHOOLING CAN INCLUDE MOVIES— Raise your hand if, not only are you stuck at home right now, you are being called upon to be a school teacher as a parent for whatever e-learning initiative is thrust upon your children. As a school teacher myself, I’m one of those educational bartenders pouring those stiff drinks, and I feel you. Take this column and lesson as permission from a legitimate professional. There’s no reason you can’t include movies in your lessons (after all, look at my website name). Remember when we were kids and this popular meme was true:

Well, it’s your turn to bring that joy to children. Home is the classroom now and you (or at least you better) control the TV. It’s time to shine. Best Movies Right Now has put together a perfect 50-film Netflix homeschooling playlist that encompasses science, social studies, literature, and more. This gets my highest teacher’s stamp of approval:

LESSON #4: LET THE ADVANCE POSTURING BEGIN— Someday hopefully the blockbusters will emerge from forced hibernation.  Disney took out its bundle of flags and, like an Oklahoma Land Rush, laid claim to new release dates for the next two years and change for the Marvel Cinematic Universe and more. Take a peek:

Just as when there isn’t a stoppage such as this, when Disney lands, they land with bullying authority. That’s a whole bunch of superheroes that will test the fatigue some (crazy) people feel. Their presence will either add competition to what was already there or make everyone else move. More often it’s the latter.


DON SHANAHAN is a Chicago-based and Rotten Tomatoes-approved film critic writing on his website Every Movie Has a Lesson. His movie review work is also published on 25YL (25 Years Later) and also on Medium.com for the MovieTime Guru publication.  As an educator by day, Don writes his movie reviews with life lessons in mind, from the serious to the farcical. He is a proud director and one of the founders of the Chicago Independent Film Critics Circle and a member of the nationally-recognized Online Film Critics Society.  As a contributor here on Feelin’ Film now for over two years, he’s going to expand those lessons to current movie news and trends while chipping in with guest spots and co-hosting duties, including the previous “Connecting with Classics” podcasts.  Find “Every Movie Has a Lesson” on Facebook, Twitter, and Medium to follow his work.  (#128)

What We Learned This Week: March 23-29

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

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

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

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

 


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

What We Learned This Week: March 16-22

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

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

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

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

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


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

What We Learned This Week: March 1-15

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

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

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

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


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

What We Learned This Week: February 23-29

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

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

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


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

What We Learned This Week: February 17-22

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

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

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

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


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