What We Learned This Week: September 21-October 4

LESSON #1: THE WORLD CAN USE A DOSE OF BORAT RIGHT NOW— The rumors were always present that a Borat sequel was in the works from Sacha Baron Cohen. After a few months of secret shooting during the pandemic, Borat: Gift of Pornographic Monkey to Vice Premiere Mikhael Pence to Make Benefit Recently Diminished Nation of Kazakhstan will be unleashed to the world via Amazon Prime just in time for Election Day. Yes, you read that right. Expect the Vice President to be made an easy mark. In this election year, the world is ready for this kind of scathing laughter and cringe comedy. Bring it on.

LESSON #2: WE LIVE IN A WORLD WHERE EVEN THE BEST ARTISTS NEED PAYCHECKS— Barry Jenkins has quickly gained legendary auteur status with his Oscar-winning Moonlight and equally vibrant follow-up If Beale Street Could Talk. Word broke Tuesday with a headline that looked out of We Got This Covered or The Onion if it didn’t say Deadline above it. Jenkins has been tabbed by Disney to helm a follow-up to the CGI-reimagining of The Lion King. Before you dust off your The Lion King 1½ and The Lion King II: Simba’s Pride DVD collectors items, word is this will be a new direction and even a prequel highlighting a young Mufasa. Begrudge him or shake your head all you want, but I say this all the time in this column space: This is a business first and art exposition second. That happens the second you put a price tag on anything. Dozens of indie-level directors have done this in our recent history (David Lowery, Ava DuVernay, Colin Trevorrow, Gareth Edwards) and even more have done it for decades (Nolan, Spielberg, Scorsese). It’s “one for them and two for you.” It becomes about, 1) the effort you put in the big one, and 2) what that paycheck allows you to do next. Take DuVernay. She flipped that A Wrinkle in Time money into When They See Us, an upcoming Colin Kaepernick bio series on Netflix, infused money into her ARRAY distribution company for black artists, and helped launch the Evolve Entertainment Fund to promote inclusion. That’s not the worst aftermath and use of taking the big money. Let’s see what Jenkins can do both with the project and the cache. 

LESSON #3: AWARDS SEASON STARTS NOW– Film lovers, it’s October and, even during a reduced year of overall releases, the season of golden harvest is upon us. Oscar season! The virtual and drive-in versions of the usual top-notch film festivals are highlighting some early contenders to watch for. The early buzz leader is Nomadland from celebrated director Chloe Zhao (another indie darling like Jenkins who took the Disney/MCU money with The Eternals). The Frances McDormand starrer won the People’s Choice award at the Toronto International Film Festival, the top prize of the Venice Film Festival, and is slotted as the centerpiece of the New York International Film Festival. Close on its tail are the rave reviews for Regina King’s One Night in Miami. Keep an eye on the upcoming Netflix debut of Aaron Sorkin’s The Trial of the Chicago 7 for another potential frontrunner. Folks, after months of random cast offs and C-level films landing on VOD and streaming sites, the top shelf stuff is coming. Now, the new diversity measures for the Oscars are a whole other (and wonderful) thing. We’ll save that for another WWLTW.


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. (#141)

Episode 218: Moonlight

For this month’s Donor Pick Episode we’re going back into Barry Jenkins’ filmography to talk about his Oscar-winning picture from 2016. Though already covered by Aaron and a guest when Patrick was out of town, we take this opportunity to discuss it together and give the film our new format treatment where we have a deep conversation about its emotional impact on us, and what we think others can take away from the unique perspective Jenkins shares with us.

Moonlight – 0:02:26

The Connecting Point – 1:02:16

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