Archive for the ‘Wednesday Movies’ Category

Movie Wednesday: Singin’ in the Rain

Wednesday, July 16th, 2014

Singin in the Rain“Singin’ in the Rain” in the Great Movie Ride at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Image by Sam Howzit (cc)

by Brave Writer alum, Kyriana Lynch

Singin’ in the Rain, the classic musical starring Gene Kelly, Debbie Reynolds, and Donald O’Connor, was released over sixty years ago in 1952. Since then, it has become a household name as much as “bacon and eggs” (to quote the film).

The trivia about the film is abundant and oh-so-fascinating. Watch—or re-watch—the movie with the family, and discuss the trivia together!

Debbie Reynolds

Debbie Reynolds was only 19 when she began filming this movie, and it was her first major film. Prior to Singin’ in the Rain, she was a gymnast and had no dance training.

Gene Kelly, a notorious perfectionist, criticized Reynolds’ dancing ability repeatedly while filming. One day, after some harsh words, she hid beneath a piano to cry. In a twist of Hollywood fate, she was found hiding by none other than Fred Astaire, who gave her some dancing advice.

During the “Good Morning” dance number, she kept up with Gene Kelly and Donald O’Connor for fourteen hours of dancing, only to be carried off set with bleeding feet. Later, Kelly would say of her, “Debbie was strong as an ox and could work for hours.” However, Reynolds maintained that, “The two hardest things I ever did in my life are childbirth and ‘Singin’ In the Rain’.”

Gene Kelly

Debbie Reynolds wasn’t the only dancer having difficulties in the film. Even Gene Kelly struggled through filming the iconic “Singin’ in the Rain” scene. The scene took seven days to film, with six hours spent in the fake rain each day. Not only was the water mixed with milk to make it show better on camera, but the mixture made Kelly’s suit shrink. Even worse, the whole time while filming Kelly had a cold and a high fever.

Donald O’Connor

Donald O’Connor’s “Make ‘Em Laugh” dance has been described as one of the most complex numbers in cinematic history, and has never been repeated perfectly. After working himself to exhaustion filming the number, O’Connor was forced to rest for several days. Then, he learned that the film had been damaged. O’Connor had to record the entire scene all over again!

Other Trivia from the Movie

While recording the speaking voice for “The Dancing Cavalier,” it was decided that Debbie Reynolds’ speaking voice was not rich enough. Instead, the actress for Lina Lamont, Jean Hagen—who in reality had a beautiful voice—recorded the speaking voice in the scene. So in the film, Lina was dubbing Kathy who was dubbing Lina’s voice!

An initial idea for the ending featured Lina Lamont in a movie called “Jungle Princess,” where she would speak only in grunts. Also, she and Cosmo would have married.

Only two songs were written for the film: “Moses Supposes” and “Make ‘Em Laugh.” The other songs were all taken from previous MGM films. Thus, the screenwriters were given a list of songs and had to connect them into the script for the movie.

Hope you enjoyed learning these trivial tidbits! Do any of them change how you view the movie or the actors and actresses in it? Discuss your reactions with your family!

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!

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Movie Wednesday: Anne of Green Gables

Wednesday, July 9th, 2014

Green Gables Heritage Place, Cavendish, Prince Edward Island, CanadaGreen Gables Heritage Place, Cavendish, Prince Edward Island, Canada. Image by Robert Linsdell (cc)

Brave Writer alum, Kyriana Lynch writes:

One of the most delightful movies from my childhood is the film series Anne of Green Gables.

At the beginning of this four-hour saga, the protagonist Anne is a spunky redheaded eleven-year-old orphan. She possesses a dreamy nature and is forever imagining things. She wishes her name was Cordelia, insists that her name should be spelled with an “e,” and abhors her red hair.

As she grows older in the story, from a child of eleven to a grown-up young lady about to begin her first job as a schoolteacher in Avonlea, she comes to accept her own appearance yet still retains her wonderful imagination and childlike faith in the beauty of the world.

Here are some of my favorite quotes from the film:

“My life is a perfect graveyard of buried hopes. That’s a sentence I read once and I say it over to comfort myself in these times that try the soul.”

“Tell me what you know about yourself.”

“Well, it really isn’t worth telling, Mrs. Cadbury, but if you let me tell you what I imagine about myself you’d find it a lot more interesting.”

“I wish I were rich and I could spend the whole summer at a hotel, eating ice cream and chicken salad.”

“You know something, Diana? We are rich. We have sixteen years to our credit, and we both have wonderful imaginations. We should be as happy as queens.”

“I promise I’ll never do it again. That’s the one good thing about me—I never do the same wrong thing twice.”

“There’s a world of difference between being called crow-head and being called carrots. I shall never forgive Gilbert Blythe. The iron has entered my soul, Diana. My mind is made up; my red hair is a curse.”

“Marilla, I thought nothing could be as bad as red hair. Green is ten times worse.”

Anne of Green Gables is truly a wonderful movie to watch with the whole family. If you haven’t seen it yet, rent it from the library (or, better yet, buy it to view again and again) and set aside a rainy afternoon to watch the movie. You’ll fall in love with Anne and her sweet sayings and hilarious adventures!

Anne of Green Gables (affiliate link) is a Canadian television mini-series released in 1985. Directed by Kevin Sullivan, Anne of Green Gables is set at the end of the Victorian Era in the early 1900s. It was filmed where its author, Lucy Maude Montgomery, set the original novel—on the scenic Prince Edward Island in Canada.

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!

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Movie Discussion Club: Spring 2014

Wednesday, May 21st, 2014

Movies 240x240The theme for our spring Movie Discussion Club is Miyazaki! The films:

1. MY NEIGHBOR TOTORO (1988, G) Two girls move to the country to be near their ailing mother and are introduced to whimsical forest spirits who dwell nearby.

2. SPIRITED AWAY (2001, PG) In the midst of a move to a new house, a ten-year-old girl and her parents become lost and happen on an amusement park that turns out to be a inhabited by spirits.

3. HOWL’S MOVING CASTLE (2004, PG) An 18-year-old hatter transformed into a 90-year-old woman encounters a wizard who lives in a walking castle with a fire demon. Based on the novel by Diana Wynne Jones.

4. PONYO (2008, G) A five-year-old boy and his adventures with a goldfish princess who longs to become a human.
We have an expert teaching our film discussion class. Nancy Graham has her MA in Cinema Studies and is a homeschooling veteran.

Join us in celebrating a filmmaker whose career has spanned more than five decades and witnessed the evolution of animation from hand-drawn to computer-generated techniques.

Class starts June 2nd
Sign up today!

Also, the Summer Class Schedule is now posted (registration opens Monday, June 2, 2014, noon EDT).

Image © Sonulkaster | Dreamstime.com

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Wednesday Movie: Gifted Hands

Wednesday, March 5th, 2014

Movie Ginger

Tonight we watched the movie, Gifted Hands: The Ben Carson Story, with our girls. What an inspirational story of faith, determination, and courage! Not to mention, it was just a good family friendly movie.

Our girls were a little dejected when we decided to watch this instead of something with more comedic value. The funny thing about it all though is that my youngest daughter was trying to work out the timeline taking place in the movie. It started out in 1987 but flashed back to his life story beginning when he was about ten (1961). Then towards the end it picked back up where it left off in the beginning. I was trying to explain that and I said, “Eureka!” It was just like you had discussed a few days prior in one of your daily emails. I had forwarded that particular email to her and her sister.

Start with the end in mind.

The most dramatic story-telling starts with the ending, or near the ending. The story recreates the events leading to the ending, illuminating it as they do. Try it!

She immediately understood and I believe more clearly understood the story line then. I would like to suggest this movie as a “must see.” I’m attaching a picture of us watching it. Thanks for all you do to educate, encourage, and inspire us homeschoolers. May God bless you and yours!

Sincerely,
Ginger

Image (cc)

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 of our Movie Guide (once per family).

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Wednesday Movies: A Student Review!

Wednesday, January 8th, 2014

Watching a blank screenImage by Kenneth Lu

The following student piece was produced for our fall Break Into Print class taught by noted author Karen O’Connor. Students first learned the language of publishing then they picked a topic they were excited about that would interest others. Next, they selected an article style, prepared their piece for submission, and wrote a query letter.

Amelia’s project was a film review—perfect for Movie Wednesday. Enjoy! (Also, note: there are some spoilers.)

A Quick Review of Thor One and Two and The Avengers

by

Amelia Audette-Diaz (age 11)

Did you like the first Thor movie? If you did then you will love the new one called “Thor: The Dark World.” In the first one Loki becomes evil when he finds out he is adopted (wouldn’t we all?) and is actually the son of an evil ice giant. He wants revenge and chooses to do so by going on his real father’s side, leading him into his adopted father’s kingdom and then killing his real father when he is about to kill his adopted father. Yeah, I didn’t get it the first time either.

But Loki isn’t finished. After dying in “Thor”, he somehow comes back to life in the movie “The Avengers” and wants even more revenge. He controls the mind of a scientist and Hawk Eye, who by the way, nobody knows about because they didn’t make a movie about him. Then Loki makes them build a portal between two different worlds with the help of another evil guy he teamed up with. But the Avenger, which includes Black Widow (no previous movie about that character either), Captain America, Iron Man, Hawk Eye, and the really sensitive Hulk, who steals a motorcycle and arrives just when they need him, is ready to beat Loki. Of course they defeat Loki but completely destroy New York City in the process and send Loki back home with Thor.

In the second Thor movie (“The Dark World”), Thor’s girlfriend, who Thor’s father doesn’t like because she is human and doesn’t live five thousand years, gets infected with red slime and Thor tries to find a cure. He has a plan to give her to the evil villain, who just looks like a white elf that’s power hungry, and then destroy the slime as the evil elf is taking it out of her. His father disapproves and completely forgets to tell him the red slime is undefeatable. But in the end the villain dies and they somehow destroy the red slime even though it’s supposed to be indestructible.

Wow this movie made even less sense than the first one!

If you’d like to include movies in your homeschool, here are some resources:

The BW Lifestyle: Movies and Television. Shares good reasons to include visual media in home education.

A Family Movie List. A compilation of suggested titles from a group of friends who like to discuss movies and books.

Brave Writer Goes to the Movies. This digital eleven page guide helps you to comment meaningfully on plot, characterization, make-up and costumes, acting, setting and even film editing. $9.95

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A New Year’s Resolution: Wednesday Movies!

Wednesday, January 1st, 2014

The Princess Bride

Surprisingly enough, watching TV or movies with your kids ought to be a primary part of any good language arts program. There is nothing like listening to language used in the right context by various people (especially actors) for vocabulary training as well as growing in familiarity with proper syntax.

Using films and TV shows wisely is a big part of the Brave Writer Lifestyle. In the past, we’ve highlighted and reviewed movies here on the blog, and we hope to do more of that in 2014!

Here’s how one Brave Writer family incorporated film into their homeschool:

Julie,

I wanted to gently introduce my children to your philosophy of Language Arts by watching a movie after dinner. So, we plopped down after Chinese takeout and watched my favorite, “The Princess Bride.” I thought it might be a little much for my six year old, but she LOVED it. She has been asking me questions just so I will say, “As you wish” (which means I love you.) I promised her that I would also read her the book. My sweethearts are very excited about school because they didn’t realize that movies would be included!

Cheers!
Sara

If you’d like to do the same this year, here are some helpful resources:

The BW Lifestyle: Movies and Television. Shares good reasons to include visual media in home education.

A Family Movie List. A compilation of suggested titles from a group of friends who like to discuss movies and books.

Brave Writer Goes to the Movies. Our digital product helps you to comment meaningfully on plot, characterization, make-up and costumes, acting, setting and even film editing. This eleven page guide gives you the background and series of questions to help your kids discuss movies on a deeper level, rather than the usual “It was really good…” responses they offer. As your children learn to talk well about movies, these skills naturally help them to discuss literature. Was $14.95, but we’ve permanently lowered the price. Now $9.95!

Winter Movie Discussion Club. This four week online class starts January 6th. The theme: Super Heroes with a Difference! Instructor Nancy Graham (MA in Cinema Studies) will lead discussions about dual identities, the ability to morph, the defiance of gravity, the superhero as outcast/outlaw/outlier, how supersized egos can work together as a team…plus much more!

Image above is a scene from The Princess Bride

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Blog Classic: Wednesday Movie Conversations

Wednesday, May 4th, 2011

Movies are the twentieth century’s contribution to the field of literature. As important as a good education in reading is, film gives us another way to experience the elements of plot and story that make us more human. I’m passionate about bringing education into the 21st century. One way to do that is to value film.

I was asked years ago how our family talks about movies and wrote the following blog entry to answer that question. Hope it helps you too!


When we sit down as a family to watch a movie, a few comments immediately precede pushing the play button.

There’s the usual:

“Scoot over, I want the corner with the pillow,”

and the ever present

“Hey I was holding the ‘click’ first!” (click=remote control).

But once we’ve settled seating disputes and have conferred the privilege of the “click” on the most deserving, we hit the play button and watch the movie du jour.

Movies are great for unpacking plot, theme, characterization, and setting—all in a short two hours! The following tips drawn from our years of family-movie-time may help you expand the value of your movie-viewing experience. Hope so, anyway!

First and foremost: Enjoy watching the film! Pop some corn, cuddle some blankets, and enjoy a true break from the usual routine. The value of movie-viewing will occur naturally, over time, if you enjoy the experience (rather than turning it into some kind of “school-plan” or “lesson”).

Once you have resolved to enjoy the film experience, you can enhance the take-away value by asking good questions.

What do you think is going to happen next?

Wasn’t (actress’ name) in…..? I like her better in this. What about you? I like her here because…. I didn’t like her in that because….

Stop the movie.

Let’s guess how the story is going to end. (Everyone suggests possible endings including our favorite funny one: the helicopter comes and rescues, assaults, crashes or defends… whomever we want to save or vilify.)

Why does it make sense that the story could end that way? (Some kids will cite other movies with similar story lines, will identify the movie as comedy or tragedy, will guess based on “foreshadowed” events in the story.)

You can point out those foreshadowing moments (if you recognize them) to help your kids notice them on their own in other movies. Usually foreshadowing in a movie is conveyed by lines of dialog or the mood created by the style of filming or the inclusion of a specific event that anticipates a fulfillment later in the plot. Musical score can also foreshadow.

Identify the climax. See if you can recognize the moment on which the resolution of the story hinges. That’s the climax. In most movies, it comes towards the end and it’s the point of no return. After the climax, either the boy gets the girl or he doesn’t, Dorothy is either going home or will be stuck in Oz forever. One way to help your children recognize the climax is to ask the following question:

What do we hope will happen by the end of the story? Did it? When did it happen (or not)?

The climax is the moment where everything comes together and we are left with a verdict about whether or not all that effort has been worth it.

How does the setting help you know what kind of movie this is? The setting will establish a context: like fantasy or realism, comedy or tragedy, romance or epic battle. Talk about how the film maker uses the setting to heighten suspense or to create a feeling a safety. You’ll look at lighting, the close ups of the face or the big panoramic vision of the landscape and then ask yourself how these contribute to the overall mood of the plot.

And finally, the best question to end a movie viewing time is: What do you want to see next?

The doldrums, crisis and other reasons homeschool

Monday, March 2nd, 2009

is tedious right now…

Yes, I feel it too. The bleak gray skies, the perennial low temps (unless you live in southern California where I hear it’s 75 degrees and balmy – shame on you!), the slow burn that comes from having gotten past new books and ideas but not yet in the home sretch where you can coast into summer… It’s March and we’re mad as h-e-double-toothpicks and we wish we didn’t have to take it any more!

In my world, homeschool has had to persist in the middle of personal crisis. I’ve had emails this winter that report similar weariness: sick child, husband who lost a job, divorce, ailing parents. These common enough experiences impact homeschooling enormously. It’s not like you can keep up the imagination and energy for art, nature walks, creative writing assignments and math homework when your mind is racing through health insurance payment options or you’re sending out resumes for a new job!

For the rest of you who aren’t in the middle of crisis, you might be in the middle of the March muddle. Spring isn’t here yet and homeschool has lost it’s spark. When energy is low for whatever reason, try a crock pot approach to homeschooling. Here’s how to do it.

1) Strip your homeschool to bare essentials.
Now is not the time to beat yourself up about your lack of creativity. Rely on the routines that you can maintain with the least amount of preparation. In our house, that means we continue with math, reading and poetry teatimes. We also keep up with our writing. I tend to rely on interest-driven writing, I skip big projects that require revision and focus instead of personal writing (journaling, freewriting, silly writing prompts from one of my many word books laying around the house). We always keep teatimes going because they feel special, include yummy food and make the day seem nicer than it actually is.

2) Get help.
You can join a co-op, hire tutors, swap subjects with a friend (I did that one year – I taught English to the my friend’s daughter while she taught math to my son).

3) Be good to you.
This may not be your best season for home education. Accept that. Instead, take time each day to do something nice for yourself. You might enforce a quiet half hour (light a candle and tell your kids they can talk when you blow it out). Read a book during that half hour. Unplug computer and phone. Or give yourself permission to bone up on a subject to be taught later. Perhaps you have always wanted to do crafts with your kids, but it’s too much to prepare, plan and execute right now. Use this down time to read a little, clip a few ideas and file them. Don’t tackle the whole thing. Just tuck away a little bit of input for the future. It will help you remember that a more energetic time is on its way.

4) Television and movies aren’t the enemy.
You have my permission (in case you need it) to use the TV to help you cope. I swear, your children will turn out just fine. Choose some programs that make you feel like a better mother. Watch Discovery channel, the cooking channel, the Project Runways for fashion production. Watch people realize their dreams and ambitions or learn about history or science or run through as many Broadway musicals as you can. Watch Shakespeare movies or all the Disney films in chronological order. Turn the TV into a secret ally. Pop corn. Trust that immersion into the world of film or television for this season will yield great rewards. (I’ll write a post on that soon to help alleviate your anxiety, because television and film can be valuable to your kids.)

5) Take the long view.
You’re a good mom. How do I know? You homeschool. Only devoted parents (usually moms) take on this awesome task. Trust that what you’ve poured in will sustain your kids through this period of chaos, the depression, the pressure, or the distraction. Remember that anything missed now can be easily caught up in a more alive, less blues-y time.

I’m currently in a season just like this. It takes a lot of nurturing self-talk to not beat myself up for being less than on top of my game. One way I’ve coped is I stopped folding clothes. I just throw them in a pile and sort through them as needed. Sometimes giving up even one routine creates a little breathing room and for some reason, clothes folding is just too much right now.

I’ve also realized that this is a season to be close to my kids (in that more “along side them” way). So I sit on the couch and wach their sit-coms, I lay on their beds talking into the night, I page through clothing catalogs hearing about the spring fashion line, I make vegan food recipes with the new vegans in my family, or I joke around through Facebook chat with them (even while we’re sitting in the same room!). I have less energy for the prepared kind of learning, so I’m giving my time and heart and availability instead. I still do math each day with them. And I supervise writing. But I’m allowing their interests to dictate right now. They check out good stuff from the library, they have stuff they want to learn. So we’re going where they lead. I’m following along with money, time and heart (just not as much intention).

I hope you all are finding ways to get through this exceptionally snowy, bleak, gray winter. Peace.

Conversation over dinner

Sunday, August 26th, 2007


We sat outside because it’s summer and we like to eat dinner outside in the summer. Nevermind the racket-making cicadas or the hot breezes that do not refresh. All too soon we ex-Californians will be shut up indoors for a very very long time. So we ate our grilled burgers and bratwursts with cold lemonade and enjoyed the sunshine and shade anyway.

A discussion of favorite movies erupted as they often do in this family. “Nacho Libre” took center stage. (Yes, we fans of “School of Rock” couldn’t resist watching Jack Black in stretchy pants.) Like a brush fire, a good-natured argument developed over whether or not Sister Encarnacion actually falls for “Nacho” (the monastery cook turned incognito wrestler) by the end of the movie. Jon pointed out that the movie finishes with the good sister donning her habit, per her habit; ergo, she remains a nun and not available for dating.

Caitrin, however, cited the fact that Nacho and Encarnacion are holding hands in the final scene, clearly an oft-utilized symbol of romantic inclinations in most comedies where love’s labors succeed. Jon rejoined that a nun does not make such attachments; Caitrin countered that while unexpected, a nun falling in love with a monastery-cook-turned-wrestler makes perfect sense in a romantic comedy. What more evidence did one need than the fact that Encarnacion (a nun, a religious) entered the arena of one of Nacho’s most unholy fights with all the children in their care eschewing convention because she had “feelings” for him?

Then, to drive home the emphatic final point, both Liam and Caitrin took turns reading the back of the DVD box aloud where the plot summary indicated that Nacho’s primary intention was to win the affections of Sister Encarnacion. A comedy always resolves the central aim and conflict of the protagonist. Jon had little left to say.

Already the younger two cite texts to support their arguments with their Dad.

Characterization in books and movies

Wednesday, March 21st, 2007

In addition to plot conventions, movies and books share similarities in how they portray characterization. Naturally movies rely on visual cues such as costume, make-up, and hair style to define the period, personality and attention to personal hygiene of a character. In a novel, the author must describe enough of these details for the reader to create a corresponding image in the imagination. In addition to these obvious categories of characterization, however, are the more subtle aspects of personality which are usually manifest in the following ways: physical idiosyncrasies like a limp or a lisp, twitches, wheezing, playing with hair strands, adjusting glasses, slumped shoulders, saucy gait, pursed lips, raised eyebrows, military posture, poor speech and so on.

When looking at a actor’s choices in a movie, then, it is important to consider what you see the character doing as much as what the character looks like or says. Movies require us to notice acting choices. Does the character mumble or speak clearly? Does the character turn away from someone intimidating or does the character face that person squarely? How does the character relate to the other characters? You can often detect differences in relationships through observing the changes in conversational style and posture between a single character and each unique relationship within the story.

In books, characterization is developed along similar lines, however, you also often have the benefit of internal processing (what the character thinks in addition to what the character does). This is most often the case for the protagonist (the primary character in the story). You may not have access to the minds of the other characters. The benefit of knowing what is in the mind of the character is that you will have layers of motivation to evaluate rather than merely drawing conclusions from behavior. Shakespeare’s sililoquies serve a similar purpose in his plays. They are meant to reveal to the audience what the character is thinking that can’t be observed from the outside.
Another source of commentary on the character is often supplied by the author. Authors will give you clues about characterization based on how they title or describe the character. In The Red Badge of Courage which we are reading for the Boomerang this month, the main character, Henry, is referred to as “the youth” in every paragraph except dialog. It’s important to ask why because the author clearly intends to communicate something about Henry through that label.

In classic plots seen in movies and found in books, there are two primary characters to look for: the protagonist (usually the one we root for) and the antagonist (the one that makes us “boo”). The protagonist faces an obstacle that is the key to the plot. The antagonist wants to thwart the protagonist’s progress in achieving that goal. Sometimes the protagonist is supported by other characters in achieving the quest (as Frodo was in The Lord of the Rings trilogy). Sometimes the antagonist is not human but instead is a force in nature or a war or the gods (not all antagonists are human, either). And sometimes the primary antagonist is the self – a conflict occuring within the primary character.

Don’t feel you need to over-analyze characterization. What is helpful to do is to ask questions of your kids as they read or view that helps them to notice what they might miss otherwise.

  • Why do you think the protagonist has a limp? How does that hurt his chances of success?
  • Who is the antagonist? Why does he or she oppose the protagonist?
  • What does the costume say about that character?
  • What can we learn about the character from the way he iinteracts with his parents, his friends and authorities?

And so on. Enjoy movies and books above all.