This was my "must see" movie of the summer. Ever since the seven minute prologue/trailer was screened during Star Wars: Rogue One, I was making plans to attend an IMAX screening so I could wonder in it's 70mm brilliance (this is no small feat, as I live 2.5hrs from the closest IMAX theatre).
Unfortunately, the movie I was looking forward to for the last six months turned out to be a bit of a disappointment. Should this movie win an Academy award for cinematography? Yes. Should it win for sound editing? Yes. Where them some excellent performances from the actors (including Harry Styles)? Yes. Was it a movie that inspired me to tell all my friends that they had to go see it? Not a chance.
I understand what Chris Nolan was trying to do. He was portraying war in a non-glorious way, telling a simple story set in a much larger conflict. Unfortunately, the Battle of Dunkirk is not the time to skimp on visual effects. Spielberg's "Saving Private Ryan" has many flaws, but one thing it did extremely well is made me understand the horrors of the Omaha beach landing. For 25 minutes I was on that beach, and the visuals and sound effects told a story that I never forgot (the rest of the movie's plot is troublesome).
Nolan did not take me to Dunkirk. The Battle did not seem "massive", in fact, his attempt to show the story from different character's viewpoints did cause some chronological dissonance (which I was fine with), but at no time did the battle seem massive. At times it looked like the soldiers were lined up waiting for a soup kitchen to open or for Santa to put them on his knee. Aside from sweeping the bravery and sacrifice of the French army (which protected the British flanks as they retreated) away, Nolan also did not demonstrate the colossal loss of equipment, life, and absolute horror that was Dunkirk.
It is sad to think that many will receive their education about "Dunkirk" from this movie. They will have a jaded and narrow view of the battle, and will not understand what a massive undertaking the evacuation from the beach entailed. Watching Nolan's version, it seems like 10 little boats (not 100s) made one voyage over the water and plucked a few soldiers off the beach (not the 1000s of boats that made dozens of voyages..and some of them being ferries not simple little fishing vessels). The fixation the director has of putting Tom Hardy in a mask for 80% of the movie (Bane revisited?), also was a bit disappointing. The use of real Second World War aircraft was spectacular, but only having 4-5 planes dog fighting over the beach, surely undervalues the role of the RAF during Operation Dynamo. Same goes for the Navy.
Do not get me wrong. Nolan created a solid entertaining movie. However, he should have called it something other than "Dunkirk", as he did not do justice in retelling that story.
This year has been particularly challenging for me as a teacher. I have always been told that I have a talent for teaching, and that I relate to kids and can motivate them to push their boundaries and explore concepts that are challenging and outside of their accepted educational comfort zones. That said, I have also always been very comfortable with the curriculum that I am delivering. Having taught pretty well every flavour of History course imaginable along with courses as diverse as World Religions, Computer Engineering, Leadership, and Consumer Design, I never thought that developing an English course for Academic Grade Nines would be so challenging.
To be honest, I never really bought into the English courses I took in High School. There was the odd novel, such as Orwell's 1984, or Shakespearean play that grabbed my interest, but it never seemed to hold the same fascination as History, Science, or Computer Programming. Part of it could have been the teachers I had (all of whom were very professional and I learned a lot from, but sadly never "connected" with), or the curriculum that they placed before us (to this day, I still think Conrad's Heart of Darkness is the worst novel ever written).
When I found out I was teaching a Grade Nine English class this year, I took it as a challenge to push myself to fall in love with the discipline (and to steady my nerves to deal with Grade Nines, who, for the first 19 years of my career I never had the 'privilege" of teaching). I also wanted to teach English as a History teacher, and to add that creative flair and focus on 21st Century Learning Skills that I have always used in my classroom.
To say it has been a challenge is somewhat downplaying this journey my students and I have undertaken. Finding ways to make Shakespeare something they look forward to reading (we are studying a Midsummer Night's Dream), is only now (after a few weeks or hard sledding) starting to really pay dividends. Yesterday's class, where groups shared their "snipets" of important dialogue from Act IV Scene I produced some excellent discussion, and one very special moment were two girls in my class took hold of the scene where Hermia and Helena almost come to blows and absolutely ran with it. I had chills as they delivered Shakespeare using the emotion, cadence, rhythm, and very respect for the Bard's words that I struggled with during my entire High School career. I finally had that "ah ha!" moment that I had been working night and day for over the last eight weeks. Tomorrow, being the greedy teacher I am, I am hoping for a few more of those spine tingling moments were everybody is engaged, learning, and enjoying everything about the opportunity that they have been given.
Grey Highlands has been fortunate enough to be chosen to host Words Aloud, and my students have also been given the opportunity to learn from these talented wordsmiths during an afternoon workshop. The upcoming poetry unit has one that we all have been "dreading", but after taking one class to explore the awesomeness that is Slam Poetry, my students (and their once reluctant teacher) are super keen for tomorrow.
Maybe English class isn't so awful after all.
There is too much hyperoble surrounding anything "Star Wars". Fanboys hate the new trilogy because, well to be perfectly honest, it was the wrong three to make, and Lucas did a horrible job with the scripts. Everyone who loved the original movies emotionally bought into the characters, and it would have been interesting to see where the Star Wars universe progressed to since we
last visited it (as oppossed to seeing how it got to were it is...). Lucas' tinkering with everything has also worn thin...
I am a fanboy. I was the boy, who at age 8, had A New Hope memorized
from start to finish, and thanks to my parents using the movie theatre as a babysitter, I viewed the movie no less than 26 times during it's run in my small town. Empire has grown on me, and now sits a top my favourites, followed closely by a New Hope. Return of the Jedi has never really sat well with me (largely because the Ewoks were my childhood's Jar Jar).
Phantom Menace was one of the biggest disappointments I have ever experienced. Soooo much hype when it first came out, that there was no way
it could live up to everyone's expectations. I remember seething for days
afterwards, and telling my friends (and anyone else who would listen) how angry
I was. Of course, I wasn't angry enough not to go see it for a second time
later that week, just to make sure I didn't miss anything (lol).
The other two were "okay", and much like the Clone Wars cartoon series they
help fill a little of the Star Wars void that creeps up in my life from time to time, but they really do not capture in any way, shape, or form the feelings I have for the Epsiodes 4, 5, and for some parts, 6.
But, ever the dutiful Star Wars fan, I lined up with my family to see Phantom
Menace in 3D Saturday night. I fully expected the theatre to be packed
(since when is any Star Wars event not jammed to the rafters). Surprisingly, when the movie started the theatre was only 50% full...with very few fanboys in site (nobody brought a light sabre to my showing...sigh).
Half-way through the movie, I was totally enjoying the 3D technical aspects
(it is well done and refrains from being gimmicky..instead, opting more for a
depth of field perspective that will, at times, make you gasp with awe).
At the same point in the movie, I was totally hating Jar-Jar and all the other
plot issues that everyone harps on, when I looked over and saw the face of my 10 year old daughter. She was mesmorized and on the edge of her seat...
Then it dawned on me. Lucas did not make this movie for me, nor my
childhood memories. He made it for the other 8, 9 and 10 year olds who go
to the movie theatre not expecting the worst for the money they spent, but
rather the sure joy and magic of the experience. She is not jaded by all
the fan boy discussion or the critics who harp on minor plot details or apparent
racism (really? does anyone seriously think that Lucas sat down, put on a
white robe and triangle hood, and hammered out Jar Jar as a reflection of his
views on a "typical black from the Southern States"?).
Lucas made the movie for kids who play video games and still look for magic
and adventure when they go to the theatre. Nothing more. Nothing
less. When I put down my distain, and looked through my daughter's
eyes, I truly enjoyed the movie (even with the Gungans..but I still can't get
over the horrible masks used for the Trade Federation..seriously a $100 million+ budget, and that's the best you could do?).
Despite what your political stance might be, you cannot help to appreciate that Jack Layton was a man of convictions, who had vision and a great deal of love for this country. He was a welcome voice in a world that has become increasingly bitter, selfish and short-sighted.
His last letter, written on his deathbed, should be required reading for everyone, and hopefully will spark some sort of change to the way we treat each other and how we approach life in general.
The last half of the letter is most relevant to my students, and the text is as follows:
To young Canadians: All my life I have worked to make things better.
Hope and optimism have defined my political career, and I continue to be hopeful
and optimistic about Canada. Young people have been a great source of
inspiration for me. I have met and talked with so many of you about your dreams,
your frustrations, and your ideas for change. More and more, you are engaging in politics because you want to change things for the better. Many of you have
placed your trust in our party. As my time in political life draws to a close I
want to share with you my belief in your power to change this country and this
world. There are great challenges before you, from the overwhelming nature of
climate change to the unfairness of an economy that excludes so many from our
collective wealth, and the changes necessary to build a more inclusive and
generous Canada. I believe in you. Your energy, your vision, your passion for
justice are exactly what this country needs today. You need to be at the heart
of our economy, our political life, and our plans for the present and the
And finally, to all Canadians: Canada is a great country, one of the
hopes of the world. We can be a better one – a country of greater equality,
justice, and opportunity. We can build a prosperous economy and a society that
shares its benefits more fairly. We can look after our seniors. We can offer
better futures for our children. We can do our part to save the world’s
environment. We can restore our good name in the world. We can do all of these
things because we finally have a party system at the national level where there
are real choices; where your vote matters; where working for change can actually
bring about change. In the months and years to come, New Democrats will put a
compelling new alternative to you. My colleagues in our party are an impressive,
committed team. Give them a careful hearing; consider the alternatives; and
consider that we can be a better, fairer, more equal country by working
together. Don’t let them tell you it can’t be done.
My friends, love is better than anger. Hope is better than fear. Optimism is
better than despair. So let us be loving, hopeful and optimistic. And we’ll
change the world.
All my very best,
As we get closer to May 2nd, I think Rick Mercer's rant is a PERFECT reminder to my students who are 18 why they should care, become informed, and vote in the upcoming federal election.
I am really enjoying http://www.bitstripsforschools.com and am currently working on two different projects with both my Grade 10 Locally Developed History class and my Consumer Design Students. As the Position of Responsibility for the Arts, one would assume that I have some sort of ability to draw. This couldn't be farther from the truth. My artistic abilities lie in other mediums, mostly notably Photography. The great thing, is like most students, I ache for other ways to demonstrate my creativity and understanding, and that's why Bitstrips is such an AMAZING tool for students (and teachers) to use. Heck, I even created my first cartoon (posted above).
Having each of my students make their own avatar (which is similar process to making a Mii on the Wii), instantly hooks them. There is so much laughter and giggling in the room it is infectious. It also gives most students the self-esteem necessary to take a few risks and produce some fascinating comic creations. This tool can be used with great success in ANY classroom, and my hope is that more teachers will take advantage of it and turn their kids on to the world of comics.
I tripped across this image when I was doing some reading on "21st Century Education", and I right-clicked and saved it on my computer. It has sat for the past few weeks in my pictures folder, sort of an enigma when compared to the other pics of relatives, friends, cars I'd like to own, and bits and pieces of computer hardware I am thinking of buying. I looked at it twice today, and like every other day I've looked at it, I was determined to put it on the website, but I couldn't decide where. Finally, tonight, I said aesthetics be damned, I'm going to flop it down in the middle of my blog. After all, it fits in with what I am thinking about, and is such a perfect visual representation of how I see myself as an educator.
I braved the weather on Saturday night to go see "Battle: Los Angeles" with my friend Jason. February had been a bit of a disappointment movie wise, and as I paid my $12 to see a flick that at least would pass my "crap that blows up real good" axiom. In that aspect, "Battle: Los Angeles" lived up to the trailers.
Is there anything outstanding or magnficient in this movie? Not really. It was shot like a video game, and for 2 hours I felt like I was watching my friend play Call of Duty: Modern Warfare on a 25ft screen with Dolby Digital surround sound.
The dialogue was cheesy. The logic gaps in the plot are large enough to drive a galactic star destroyer through, and the whole movie has the feeling of a cliche retrospective of a 1950s drive-in sci-fi flick (can you say "War of the Worlds"?). The film's aliens sometimes look robotic and sometimes organic, but at least they're somewhat interesting looking. CGI and matte work is solid, and for the most part, help you suspend disbelief and get involved in the movie. Most of the the action is captured in a shaky handheld style (can you say the stomach churning effect from movies such as "Cloverfield"). Eventhough the special effects make “Battle: Los Angeles” watchable, they alone do not make it a good movie.
A little luck and some perserverance, and I am the owner of a new iPad2 32gb black Wi/Fi. Yes, I want to be cool...well at least for the 2 weeks it's going to take for the new iPad to come to Canada. Was it worth the drive to Buffalo? Was it worth putting up with genuises in blue shirts and their legions of Steve Jobs Kool-Aid swigging applebots? Dunno. So far, I'm a little underwhelmed, but a full review will follow by the end of March Break (and who knows..maybe I'll be looking to sell it by then...lol)
secondary school teacher, amateur photographer, movie buff, computer nerd .