Tag Archives: film/television/photography

The Monkees

Are you old enough to remember when The Monkees television show was broadcast between 1966 and 1968? I saw it in those years, and if memory serves it was one of the last things up in the Saturday-morning cartoon lineup (though I think this was a rebroadcast and the show debuted in primetime), right before The Jetsons. By Christmas of 1967, I had my own copy of The Beatles’ Magical Mystery Tour, which only confirmed my tender-aged skepticism of the The Monkees as both thespians and musicians.

Here is a reading on The Monkees along with its accompanying vocabulary-building and comprehension worksheet. I haven’t tagged this as high-interest material, because I’m not sure it is–but it might be, depending on the student who receives it. There is a fair amount of conceptual inquiry implicit in the story of The Monkees, including the difference between commerce and art, the continuum between the popular and the rarefied in the arts, as well as the coarse and the fine in culture.

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.

Texas Chainsaw Massacre

Texas Chainsaw Massacre: A notorious horror movie (1974), written by Kim Henkel and Tobe Hooper, in which a family of chainsaw-wielding unemployed slaughterhouse workers terrorize a Texas community, desecrating the local cemetery and decorating their house with human and animal remains. The title proclaimed the film’s horror credentials, although it contains few scenes with much gore. It was loosely based on upon the atrocities committed in real life by deranged Wisconsin farmer Ed Gein, whose bloodthirsty activities also influenced Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho.”

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

Catch-22

Catch-22: “A novel (1961) by Joseph Heller (1923-1999) about the experiences of Captain Yossarian of the 256th (Army) bombing squadron in Italy during the Second World War. Yossarian’s main aim is to avoid getting killed. ‘Catch-22’ has become part of everyday speech to indicate a ‘no-win’ situation. Heller originally defined Catch-22 in chapter 5 of the novel:

‘There was only one catch and that was Catch-22, which specified the concern for one’s own safety in the face of dangers that were real and immediate was the process of a rational mind. Orr was crazy and could be grounded. All he had to do was to ask; and as soon as he did. He would no longer be crazy have to fly more missions and sane if he didn’t, but if he was sane he had to fly them. If he flew them he was crazy and didn’t have to; but if he didn’t want to he was sane and had to’ 

Heller’s original title had been Catch 18, but his editor Robert Gottlieb pointed out that they were publishing Leon Uris’s Mila 18 in the same season. Heller later recalled:

‘I thought of Catch-Eleven, because it’s the only other number to start with an open vowel sound, I guess we doubled that.’

A film version (1970) with Alan Arkin as Yossarian was directed by Mike Nichols. Heller’s novel Closing Time (1994) features some of the same characters in later life.”

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

David Letterman on Statistics

“USA Today has come out with a new survey; apparently, three out of every four people make up 75 percent of the population.”

David Letterman

Excerpted from: Winokur, Jon, ed. The Big Curmudgeon. New York: Black Dog & Leventhal, 2007.

Howard Hughes

Somehow, about six years ago, a struggling student I served improbably found her way to the late Jonathan Demme’s early and critically acclaimed film “Melvin and Howard.” The film is a fictionalized account of Melvin Dummar’s account of encountering Howard Hughes in the Utah desert and giving him a ride to Las Vegas. You can click through on the links to read more about this implausible story.

Anyway, my student, an inquisitive young woman, wanted to know more about Howard Hughes. I worked up this reading on Howard Hughes and its accompanying vocabulary-building and comprehension worksheet to supply her with some context for understanding the story in “Melvin and Howard.” Incidentally, I watched the movie myself and didn’t care much for it. Having since seen several of his films, I learned that Jonathan Demme just wasn’t my kind of filmmaker, though I did think his rendition of “The Silence of the Lambs” was the best of the various productions around the legend of the brilliant serial killer, cannibal, and psychiatrist Hannibal Lecter.

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.

The Algonquin Wits: Herman Mankiewicz

“Watching his Round Table friends leaving the Algonquin one afternoon (while they were still young and relatively unsuccessful), Herman Mankiewicz (not yet a Hollywood producer) said to Murdock Pemberton, ‘There goes the greatest collection of unsaleable wit in America.’”

Excerpted from: Drennan, Robert E., ed. The Algonquin Wits. New York: Kensington, 1985.

Book of Answers: Dalton Trumbo

“When was Dalton Trumbo summoned before the House Committee on Un-American activities? In 1947. The screenwriter and author of Johnny Got His Gun (1939) was imprisoned and blacklisted for his refusal to answer questions about his Communist affiliations.”

Excerpted from: Corey, Melinda, and George Ochoa. Literature: The New York Public Library Book of Answers. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1993.

The Manchurian Candidate

The Manchurian Candidate: A memorable film (1962) directed by John Frankenheimer, based on Richard Condon’s novel of the same name (1959). It tells the story of a Korean War ‘hero’ (played by Laurence Harvey) who returns to the USA as a brainwashed zombie triggered to kill a liberal politician, his ‘control’ being his ambitious mother (played by Angela Lansbury). She goes on to order him to kill the presidential nominee, so that her husband, the vice-presidential candidate, can take over. Manchuria is a region of communist China to the north of North Korea. The expression ‘Manchurian candidate’ has subsequently been used to denote a person who has been brainwashed by some organization or foreign power and programmed to carry out its orders automatically.”

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

Television

Finally, on this fine summer day, here is a reading on the origins and development of television as a technology and a cultural force along with its vocabulary-building and comprehension worksheet.

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.

William Wallace

If you have on your hands any fans of the movie Braveheart, then you or that person might have a use for this reading on William Wallace and the vocabulary-building and comprehension worksheet that accompanies it. It might be a reality check for readers, as much of Mel Gibson’s film is derived from various–dubious–legends about Wallace. I recall a lot of discussion of these problems when the film was released.

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.