LESSON #1: THE LOCKS TO THE OSCAR DOORS FOR LEAD PERFORMANCES HAVE BEEN BLOWN OFF— The Screen Actors Guild Awards this past on Sunday shook up the Best Actor and Best Actress Oscar races in unexpected ways. “Manchester by the Sea” star Casey Affleck has won virtually ever major and minor lead-up award (go look at the data here), yet here comes Denzel Washington for “Fences.” Is a comeuppance coming (one that I hinted at last week) for Affleck? Only three times in 21 years of the SAG Awards, and not since 2003, has the Best Actor SAG winner NOT gone on to win the Oscar. Over in Best Actress, Natalie Portman and Isabelle Huppert have been deadlocked and trading wins all awards season. In comes Golden Globe winner Emma Stone and the rush of “La La Land” to take the SAG. Their category just became the hardest one to predict for February 25. The SAG-to-Oscsar correlation in Best Actress is looser than Best Actor, but not by much with only five departures out of 21.
LESSON #2: THE SUNDANCE FILM FESTIVAL CONTINUES TO SET THE TONE EVERY YEAR FOR INDEPENDENT FILM— Robert Redford’s Utah-based festival always offers a first look at strong independent films that will be bouncing around the scene all year and gaining acclaim. Last year it was “Swiss Army Man” and “The Birth of a Nation.” Discovery for 2017 starts with the Grand Jury Prize winner “I Don’t Feel at Home in this World Anymore”from director Macon Blair and starring Melanie Lynskey and Elijah Wood. It debuts on Netflix on February 24th. Continue your checklist with audience award winner “Crown Heights,” directing winner “Beach Rats,” screenwriting winner “Ingrid Goes West,” breakthrough performance winner “Roxanne Roxanne,” and the documentary winner “Dina.”
LESSON #3: SUPER BOWL MOVIE TRAILERS AREN’T SURPRISES ANYMORE— Name the last time you were blown away by a surprise teaser trailer that aired during the big NFL championship game. Mine might have been 14 years ago (which itself pales in comparison to its true first teaser). I’m betting yours was a while back too. These formerly excellent 30-60 second spots used to be special. They were unannounced, aired only once before the days of YouTube replays, and part of the thrill of the commercials being as must-see as the game itself. Now, because of oneupmanship and drumming up supposed additional hype, we know which movie teasers are coming a week or two before the game. Even worse, some studios (just like the product commercials too) have started to post them online ahead of Super Bowl Sunday, defeating any need or thrill to watch them on game night. Overambitious and impatient marketing departments have made my bathroom breaks during the Super Bowl even easier.
LESSON #4: THERE IS ROOM FOR HUMAN HEART IN SCIENCE FICTION— Call me a softy or a sunny optimist, but I’m not afraid be in the minority to say that I greatly enjoyed “The Space Between Us,” currently getting blasted to the teens on Rotten Tomatoes. Yes, it’s cheesy, corny, and light, but I’ll take “The Space Between Us” over the next “Percy Jackson and the Hunger Maze Runner City of Bones Games with the 5th Wave of Divergent Mortal Instruments.” To me, the YA movie marketplace is overfilled with militarized kid-on-kid peril. For as much as their is room for heavy, there should be room for sweet too. I’ll take the cute and heartfelt teen romance for a change.
DON SHANAHAN is a Chicago-based film critic writing on his website Every Movie Has a Lesson. He is also one of the founders and directors of the Chicago Independent Film Critics Circle. 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 Facebook, Twitter, Medium, and Creators Media.