Tag Archives: film/television/visual media

Mathew Brady

Moving right along on a Friday morning, here is a reading on Mathew Brady, the legendary Civil War photographer, along with its accompanying vocabulary-building and comprehension worksheet. Brady, it hardly needs to be said, is an important figure in the history of both the United States and the development of photography as an art and science.

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 Weekly Text, November 20, 2020: A Reading and Comprehension Worksheet on Walt Disney

This week’s Text is a simple one, to wit this reading on Walt Disney and its attendant vocabulary-building and comprehension worksheet. This is relatively high-interest material for students, at least many I’ve served. There are relatively few children in our society (and arguably in any society) whose imagination Walt Disney and his characters haven’t colonized.

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 Blackboard Jungle by Evan Hunter

The Blackboard Jungle “The first novel (1954) of the US writer Evan Hunter (1926-2005), based on his personal experience. It is a somewhat sensationalized account of an American urban high school where the boys are rough, the headmaster a bully, and the teachers overworked and additionally plagued by personal problems. As a result of the book, the expression ‘blackboard jungle’ became a popular idiom for any undisciplined school of this type. The phrase itself is a variant on The Asphalt Jungle. A film version (1955), directed by Richard Brooks, is now chiefly remembered for its soundtrack, featuring ‘Rock Around the Clock’ by Bill Haley and the Comets.” 

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

Scarface

Scarface: A gangster film (1932) directed by Howard Hawks, with a screenplay by Ben Hecht and others. The 1983 remake was directed by Brian de Palma and had a screenplay by Oliver Stone. The name of the eponymous anti-hero is Tony Camonte (played by Paul Muni) in the 1932 version; in the 1983 version he is called Tony Montana (played by Al Pacino). The character is based on the real-life gangster Al Capone (1899-1947), who acquired the name Scarface from the scar on his left cheek caused by a razor slash in a Brooklyn gang fight in his younger days.”

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

Little Shop of Horrors

Little Shop of Horrors: A cult horror movie (1960) directed by Roger Corman (b. 1926) about a carnivorous talking plant that quickly outgrows the flower shop of its dimwitted owner and becomes a voracious man-eating monster. The success of Corman’s original inspired stage musical with the same title in the 1980s and an inferior film remake in 1986.”

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

Cultural Literacy: The Birth of a Nation

Here is a Cultural Literacy worksheet on The Birth of a Nation, the infamous 1915 film by D.W. Griffith. I think now is a good time for students to learn about this piece of racist propaganda.

There, I got that out on the page. I’ve been walking around this document, metaphorically speaking, for months. In fact, I have a good deal of material about this film–and know more about it than I care to admit. Suffice to say this: this film innovated production techniques and really represents the birth of the long-form, narrative cinema we take for granted today. Even the Marxist auteur Sergei Eisenstein admired D.W. Griffith’s advances in technique while deploring the racism of The Birth of a Nation.

Generally, this film in its “artistic” and commercial dimensions offers a lot of grist for the critical mill. I am still working up to posting more material about this hot-button issue. For now, this short exercise will have to suffice.

If you find typos in this document, 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 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.