Tag Archives: film/television/photography

Saturday Night Live

If you or your students can use them, here is a reading on Saturday Night Live along with its accompanying vocabulary-building and comprehension worksheet. The show is soon to arrive, amazingly, at its fiftieth anniversary. As a friend of mine once put it, it gave us a reason to stay home on Saturday nights when we were young–which was probably a good thing in terms of our financial and physical (and perhaps moral) health. The reading, for all that, is relatively short.

If you find typos in these documents, I would appreciate a notification. And, as always, if you find this material useful in your practice, I would be grateful to hear what you think of it. I seek your peer review.

Dalton Trumbo

“Dalton Trumbo: (1905-1976) American screenwriter and novelist. One of Hollywood’s highest paid writers in the 1930s and 1940s, Trumbo was blacklisted and served a prison term for his refusal—as one of the ‘Hollywood Ten’—to answer questions about Communist affiliations posed by the House Committee on Un-American Activities in 1947. Living in Mexico, he continued to write popular movie scripts, such as Exodus (1960), The Sandpiper (1965), and The Fixer (1968), although some of his work in the 1950s had to be credited to pseudonyms. He published four novels, including Johnny Got His Gun, all of which expressed his populist attitudes.”

Excerpted from: Murphy, Bruce, ed. Benet’s Reader’s Encyclopedia, Fourth Edition. New York: Harper Collins, 1996.

Daguerreotype

“Daguerreotype: A product of the first widely used photographic process (1839 onward), named after its inventor, L.J.M. Daguerre. A daguerreotype is made without a negative by exposing a silver halide coated copper plate and then fuming it with mercury vapor to bring out the image, which characteristically appears in reverse. More popular than the contemporary calotype process, the daguerreotype was gradually supplanted after 1851 by the collodion wet plate process.”

Excerpted from: Diamond, David G. The Bulfinch Pocket Dictionary of Art Terms. Boston: Little Brown, 1992.

Blog Post 5,000: A Tentative Beginning to a Unit on Writing Reviews

In six years plus of this blog, I have finally reached the 5,000-post mark. Post Number 5,000 is a set of documents that I began toward developing a unit on writing reviews some years ago while working in an ill-fated middle school in the North Bronx.

For now, however, here are the basic, undeveloped documents for this unit. Here is a a tentative unit plan, which is still mostly in template form. Likewise this lesson-plan template and this worksheet template. Here is a a glossary of critical terms  for writing film reviews. This is a start on the first worksheet of the unit.

Finally, here is a list of aesthetic criteria for evaluating cultural products. Let me mention in passing that this is for teacher use; the one time I taught kids to write reviews, I made sure that they made, with proper guidance, their own lists of aesthetic criteria for the media or event they were criticizing.

You may want to check back here later, as I am in the process of developing this long-neglected unit.

If you find typos in these documents, I would appreciate a notification. And, as always, if you find this material useful in your practice, I would be grateful to hear what you think of it. I seek your peer review.

Nineteen Eighty-Four

“Nineteen Eighty-Four: A dystopian novel (1949) by George Orwell (1903-50). The book comprises a prophecy of the totalitarian future of mankind, portraying a society in which government propaganda and terrorism destroy human awareness of reality. It is generally thought that Orwell named the novel by reversing the last two figures of the year in which it was written, 1948, but an article by Sally Coniam in the Times Literary Supplement of 31 December 1999 proposed another theory. In 1934 Orwell’s first wife, Eileen O’Shaughnessy, published a poem, ‘End of the Century 1984,’ in The Chronicle, the school magazine of Sunderland Church High School, where she had been a pupil in the 1920s. The poem was written to mark the school’s 50th anniversary, looking back then forward to the future and to the schools centenary in 1984. It seems likely that Orwell could have adopted the year accordingly, although for him it was a random date. Support for this lies in the poem’s mention of ‘telesalesmanship’ and ‘Telepathic Station 9,’ terms strangely modern for their time, which seem to prefigure Orwell’s own ‘Newspeak,’ teleprogrammes,’ and ‘telescreen.’

Following the publication of Orwell’s novel, the year 1984—until it came and went—was long regarded as apocalyptic, and as such was even entered in the Oxford English Dictionary. Appropriately enough, a film version entitled 1984 starring John Hurt and Richard Burton was released in 1984.”

Excerpted from: Crofton, Ian, ed. Brewer’s Curious Titles. London: Cassell, 2002.

The 39 Steps

John Buchan’s 1915 action novel has been filmed at regular intervals, following Alfred Hitchcock’s classic version with Robert Donat as buccaneering hero James Hannay. Buchan was famously inspired to write the novel by his daughter counting the stairs of the nursing home in Broadstairs, where he was convalescing. He turned the phrase into a key mystery of the novel, and Hannay’s eventual discovery of its meaning (it is the number of steps down a cliff path to a waiting yacht) helps keep Britain’s military secrets intact from the Germans.

Hitchcock significantly changed Buchan’s plot for his 1935 movie, writing a climactic music hall scene in which ‘Mr. Memory’ is asked ‘What are the 39 Steps?’ and is about to reveal the answer (‘The 39 Steps is an organization of spies collecting information on behalf of the foreign office of…’) when he is shot dead. An equally evocative twist was introduced in the 1978 film starring Robert Powell, where the thirty-nine steps turn out to be the number of stairs in the clock tower of Big Ben.”

Excerpted from: Rogerson, Barnaby. Rogerson’s Book of Numbers: The Culture of Numbers–from 1,001 Nights to the Seven Wonders of the World. New York: Picador, 2013.

The Sopranos

OK, continuing with items from the I-don’t-know-why-or-when-I wrote-this shelf in the warehouse at Mark’s Text Terminal, here is a reading on The Sopranos (which I loved, so that may figure into this) along with its vocabulary-building and comprehension worksheet. I expect that this will have, more than 14 years after the final episode of the show aired, very little relevance to students–if ever it did. I must have put this together for a student who asked for it, but I cannot for the life of me remember who that would have been.

If you find typos in these documents, I would appreciate a notification. And, as always, if you find this material useful in your practice, I would be grateful to hear what you think of it. I seek your peer review.

Leave It to Beaver

OK, for some reason, here is a reading on “Leave It to Beaver” along with its accompanying vocabulary-building and comprehension worksheet. I haven’t the faintest idea why I produced these documents on this late-1950s and early-1960s television show. A friend of mine extolled its virtues in the past; the one episode I saw nauseated me–a sitcom vision of a placid, indeed complacent, ultra-White America produced during the depths of Jim Crow–and I never watched another episode.

So again, I can’t imagine why I wrote this worksheet other than, perhaps, to help students understand how often popular media, particularly fictional narratives, are at variance with reality.

If you find typos in these documents, I would appreciate a notification. And, as always, if you find this material useful in your practice, I would be grateful to hear what you think of it. I seek your peer review.

Tomas Gutierrez Alea

“Tomas Gutierrez Alea: (1928-1996) Cuban film director. After earning a law degree in Cuba, he studied filmmaking in Rome (1951-53). A supporter of Fidel Castro, he helped develop Cuba’s film industry after 1959 and made the Communist regime’s first official feature film, Stories of the Revolution (1960). Later he worked within the restrictions of the regime to satirize and explore various aspects of life in postrevolutionary Cuba in such internationally acclaimed films as Death of a Bureaucrat (1966), Memories of Underdevelopment (1968), The Survivors (1978), and Strawberry and Chocolate (1993). He is regarded as the finest director Cuba has produced.”

Excerpted from: Stevens, Mark A., Ed. Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Encyclopedia. Springfield, Massachusetts: Merriam-Webster, 2000.

Nighthawks

“Nighthawks: A painting (1942) by the US artist Edward Hopper (1882-1967), showing people at an all-night coffee stand. A nighthawk is the same as a ‘night owl,’ i.e. someone who likes to stay up all night. A nighthawk—also called a mosquito hawk or bulbat—is also the name for any of a group of American nightjars. Nighthawks has also been used as the title of two films, one (1978) about the night-time cruising of a gay British schoolteacher, and the other (1981) about American policemen pursuing a terrorist.”

Excerpted from: Crofton, Ian, ed. Brewer’s Curious Titles. London: Cassell, 2002.