Archive for the ‘Wednesday Movies’ Category

Check-In from Our Movie Club

Wednesday, June 15th, 2016

Brave Writer Online Movie Club for Teens

Outlaw Readers and the Power of Words

by Nancy Graham

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Brave Writer movie clubs draw a robust and enthusiastic bunch of cineastes. Our conversations call for close observation of composition, camera movement, light, sound, music, and performance. Naturally, we also look at literary elements such as story, theme, character, and narrative voice—so movie clubs prepare the participants for literary analysis as well as media literacy!

We had three movie clubs in a row this spring at Brave Writer—Monster Mash, Enchanted April, and the one that just wound up: Outlaw Readers and the Power of Words. For this last club we viewed and discussed four movies—all of them adapted from novels—set in times and places in which reading is forbidden in one way or another. The first three dealt with book burning as a strategy of oppression and censorship: The Book Thief, set in Nazi Germany; Nightjohn, set in the American antebellum south; and Fahrenheit 451, set in an imagined future in which firemen rout out books and burn them. In our final movie, Dead Poets Society, a band of young men at an elite prep school have their love of poetry ignited by an unconventional teacher, inspiring them to meet for midnight poetry readings and make choices that defy the expectations of their parents and the school administration.

We have such great conversations in our movie clubs. Below are some thoughts from some Outlaw Readers club members, ending with a couple of intriguing questions for you to mull over.

Timothy (age 15) on The Book Thief:

When I close my eyes I see the scene were the car is driving along in the snow, there is nothing there it is like the car is driving along on a blank sheet of paper, there is nothing written on it no trees no houses not even a smudge of a road, a blank world. The scene is sort of like her new life, she is driving away from the old one to the new one, it is blank, waiting for her to start again from the start she has new parents, a new house and new friends. The only thing she has from her old life is a picture of her brother. Everything else is left behind.

Julio Wagner (age 16) on Nightjohn:

I think that the literacy of slaves was considered dangerous because if a slave knew enough as much as their master/owner did, they would have a sense of control and free will about them, as I think John displays in the movie. And it’s that last bit of idea that led me into this next one. The moving scene where John is punished and after starts writing in the dust with a stick. John says, “A, stands up on its two feet…” It’s that saying that really stands out to me, as it shows strength and will power for the will and commitment of acquiring knowledge.

Olivia Vazquez (age 10) on Fahrenheit 451, in which characters save books from burning by memorizing, therefore “becoming” them:

If I had to choose one book to save, I would choose “I’ll Give You the Sun” by Jandy Nelson, which is a story about twins who drift apart. This is one of my favourite books because it switches from one point of view to another over the course of a few years, and I like how the characters evolve throughout the story. Although I would rather save this book, the book I would most like to become is “Beauty” by Robin McKinley because I like the way it is written and because it possesses poetic qualities. “Beauty” retells the story “Beauty and Beast” and is about Honour (widely known as Beauty), who was once rich then tragedies made her life take a drastic turn.

Josie (age 18) on Dead Poets Society:

I think what Mr. Keating teaches his students is important because of the culture of conformity in the school. There was definitely a lot of pressure on the boys—from both their parents and schoolteachers—to do what was asked of them, and live up to the expectations and wishes of the society they lived in. Mr. Keating taught the students that they could “seize the day” and take control of their own lives. He taught that there can be more to poetry than simply memorizing or studying it.

The conflict between Mr. Keating’s independent, free-thinking philosophy and the high-pressure culture of the school and parents comes to a climactic point late in the movie. One of the students, Neil, kills himself as a response to his father’s demands that he quit acting, a pursuit he is passionate about. The school tries to explain this by saying that Neil’s death was the result of Mr. Keating and the Dead Poets Society, who inspired Neil to try acting. This results in Mr. Keating being fired from the school, and the students gathering in a last show of support as he leaves. I think this is important because it shows that, in the end, Mr. Keating did have an impact on his students.

Ivy Favier (age 15) on the feeling of being moved…

I loved how the last boy to understand Mr. Keating was the first to stand up for him. Though it took him the longest to show it, I think that he was the one who most understood the importance of what Mr. Keating stood for; to be who they want to be and to live life fully, while they still can.

Wow. That was a powerful scene. It made me cry and laugh at the same time. And it gave me that feeling… I’m not quite sure how to describe it… Chills going up my spine. I got that same feeling in Nightjohn, when Sarny told all of the slaves their worth, and when John kept writing after he lost his finger, right when he said that A stands on its own two feet. I also got a little bit of that feeling when Liesel and Rudy shouted “I hate Hitler!” I always seem to get that feeling whenever someone in a film does something extremely brave and meaningful, like in those moments I described. The only way I can think of describing that feeling is the chills running down my back, and sometimes laughing and crying at the same time. How would you describe this feeling? What adjectives would you use to describe it?

The next movie club’s theme: Magnificent Horses! Starts July 25th! Movie Discussion Club

Movie Wednesday: Mary Poppins

Wednesday, May 18th, 2016

Movie Wednesday: Mary PoppinsThis vintage Disney melmac plate is part of a set that was released as original
movie merchandise that accompanied the film in theaters (Grannies Kitchen cc).

Fifty-two years ago, a film arrived in cinemas that would go down in history as one of the greatest of all time. Based on the novel of the same name, Mary Poppins (affiliate link) tells the story of a mysterious woman who flies by umbrella into the lives of the Banks family. With their father busy at the bank and their mother committed to the Suffragette’s Movement, Jane and Michael need a nanny to look after them, and Mary Poppins is just the woman for the job.

Mary and her friend Bert the chimney sweep take the children on the adventure of a lifetime, into a world of singing penguins and tea parties on the ceiling, magical merry-go-rounds and staircases made of smoke. They discover the fun in tidying up a nursery with magic, journey into chalk pavement drawings, and explore the rooftops of London. But the children’s harassed father doesn’t entirely approve of magic and fun, and when he loses his job at the bank it will take all of Mary’s powers to make everyone happy again.

A true giant among family films, Mary Poppins is a timeless classic that’s so packed full of color and fun that it’s impossible not to enjoy!

Discussion Questions

  • The writer of the original books, P.L. Travers, discussed the film with Disney while it was being made. She wasn’t pleased with the finished product, feeling that the songs and animated sequence were unnecessary. Do you agree with her?
  • What do you think the film’s message is? Maybe strive to be happy? Give to charity? Don’t be afraid of chimney sweeps?
  • Dick van Dyke’s performance as Bert was well received, but his attempt at a Cockney accent was considered poor. Do you think that matters? Should Disney have cast an actor with a real Cockney accent instead?
  • Out of the many songs in the film, which is your favorite and why?
  • Which of the characters do you think changes the most during the film? Give examples of their character arc.
  • Is it true that Mary Poppins helps everyone? Explain.
  • Mary and Bert have a close friendship, but do you think they have stronger feelings for each other than they acknowledge? Do you think the film would be better or worse if they had a romantic relationship?

Practically Perfect Ideas (all optional!)

If you want to make your movie experience even more supercalifragilisticexpialidocious, you might try one or two of these ideas.

Dress in Costume

  • lace gloves
  • hat with a sprig of quirky flowers
  • big purse or carpet bag
  • umbrella
  • “chimney sweep” equipment (a duster could work!)
  • black eye shadow for soot

Serve Special Treats

Create Sidewalk Art

After the movie you might invite kids to create their own sidewalk chalk art like Bert does. And if you’d like to make your own sidewalk paint, here are instructions.


P.S. Our summer online movie discussion club starts July 25th. The theme: Magnificent Horses!

Movie Discussion Club


Movie Wednesday: Paddington Bear

Wednesday, April 6th, 2016

Paddington Bear Movie Wednesday

Paddington Bear is one of the best ­loved characters in children’s literature. The story of the bear from Darkest Peru who came to Britain with a suitcase, a battered hat and a label saying, “Please look after this bear,” has captured the hearts of millions since the first book was published in 1958.

In the 2015 movie adaptation (affiliate link), Paddington arrives in modern ­day London one cold winter in the hope of finding a new home. And that’s exactly what he finds with the friendly Brown family. But life is never going to be simple when you have a bear living with you, especially when there’s an evil taxidermist after him…

The film has a stellar cast, a witty script, snow, pigeons, a high point in the Natural History Museum, a beautiful message of acceptance and hope, and lots and lots of marmalade. It’s a fantastic film for the whole family. Give it a go!

Discussion questions

  1. If you’ve read any of the original books, how do you think the film compares to them?
  2. Paddington is a CGI character, but all the humans are played by live ­actors. Do you think that works? Why or why not.
  3. Paddington says, “A prudent bear always carries a spare marmalade sandwich under his hat in case of emergencies.” Do you think a marmalade sandwich would come in use in an emergency? What would you need in an emergency?
  4. The bad-­tempered Mr Curry doesn’t like Paddington and wants to get rid of him, but he is horrified at the idea of Paddington being stuffed. Does this make him a good person or not? Explain your answer.
  5. While the original books don’t have any villains, the film does, in the form of Millicent the taxidermist. What are your thoughts about the addition of a bad guy?

Paddington Bear statue in Peru

Paddington Bear statue in Peru. Photo taken while visiting Johannah!

For a little something extra you might try one or two of these ideas:


Gummi Bears!

Marmalade Muffins

Easy Homemade Orange Marmalade

Adorable Paddington Bear Cupcakes


Paddington Bear made from a toilet roll (much cuter than it sounds!)

Paper plate Paddington

Many more fun ideas!

Movie Discussion Club
Top image by Jespahjoy (cc cropped, text added)

Wednesday Movie: Coraline

Wednesday, March 23rd, 2016

Movie Wednesday: Coraline

If Alice in Wonderland was rewritten by Roald Dahl and Edgar Allan Poe and made into a film by Tim Burton, the result would be much like Coraline (affiliate link). This film begins with a doll being taken to pieces by hands made of needles, and if that’s too creepy for you, then this film is going to be too much.

Coraline is bored. She’s just moved to a dusty old house with her parents, who are too busy to pay her much attention. It doesn’t look like anyone’s idea of fun. But then she discovers a doorway into another world where everything is colorful and magical. Her parents are always happy and jolly ­­ and have shiny black buttons for eyes.

Based on Neil Gaiman’s novella of the same name, this is possibly the creepiest children’s film ever made, a dark fairy tale that sends a shiver down your spine without actually terrifying you. It’s also funny, inventive and a beautiful stop­ animation, a style of film that’s rare in this age of CGI. Look out for the cherry trees with blossoms made of painted popcorn!

Discussion questions

1. Would you like to travel to an alternative world? What things do you think would be better there? What things might be darker or scarier? Explain.

2. The film took longer to make than a CGI film would, as it takes such a long time to animate individual so many models. Do you think it pays off? Why or why not?

3. Coraline is offered what seems like a perfect life, if she has buttons sewn over her eyes. What would you give up in order to have the perfect life?

4. What do you think of scary stories? Do you enjoy being scared, or do you prefer light­hearted stories?

Also, movie time can be simply sitting down and enjoying a film together. It doesn’t need to be any more than that. But if you did want to add a little something extra to the experience, here are some fun ideas:

Oreo Button Cookies

Constellation Cupcakes

Coraline Cake

Coraline Costumes Simple / Elaborate

Movie Discussion Club

Coraline image by Alessandro Bonvini (cc cropped, text added)

Wednesday Movie: Chicken Run

Wednesday, March 9th, 2016

Movie Wednesday: Chicken Runby Brave Writer student and intern, Finlay Worrallo

The British animation studio, Aardman, is best known for using stop-motion clay animation techniques featuring Plasticine (a soft modeling material) characters. Wallace and Gromit are of course their most beloved characters, but they’ve made many other animations, and Chicken Run is one of the best.

At first glance it simply looks like a comedy about talking chickens, but there’s much more to it than that. This is a story about the bravest, most determined gang of chickens ever, committed to escaping the farm they live on, which is actually more like a prison camp.

Mr. and Mrs. Tweedy, the farmers, might sound like pleasant people, but they’re actually villains of the most fearsome breed. When they build a gigantic machine for turning chickens into pies, all the chickens are in big trouble. It seems their only hope is an American rooster named Rocky, who claims he can fly…

Chicken Run is a funny, warm, and adventurous film. And remember: all of it is done with nothing but plasticine!

Discussion questions

  1. Is Mr. Tweedy a bad man, or is he bullied into bad behavior by his wife? Explain.
  2. Rocky spends most of the film pretending he can fly. Should he have told the truth from the start? Why?
  3. Did the movie change your view on eating chicken?
  4. Do you think the film would work in any other form ­­ CGI animation, live action, cartoon? How would it be different to the plasticine animation?
  5. Could any scenes be improved? How?
  6. Do you feel at all sorry for the Tweedies? Do they deserve to lose their entire livelihood?
  7. At one point Babs says, “My whole life flashed before my eyes! It was really boring.” What would you make of your life if you saw it all in one go? What parts were boring (or exciting!)?

Chicken Run is available through Amazon (aff link): Chicken Run

Need help commenting meaningfully on plot, characterization, make-up and costumes, acting, setting and even film editing? Check out our eleven page guide, Brave Writer Goes to the Movies. Also, tell us about a film you and your kids watched together (along with a pic if you have one) and if we share it on the blog you’ll receive a free copy!

Also, check out our online Movie Discussion Club! Kids are so excited about discussing movies that they don’t even realize they’re writing!

Movie Discussion Club