This is England

Comparing montages in the ESL-EFL classroom with Shane Meadows’s This is England

I have recently finished watching This is England ’90 on DVD. Clearly I am a bit late in the game, the series having first aired on Channel 4 in 2015. A long-time fan of director Shane Meadows,  it is purportedly the final installment of a saga that began with coming-of-age movie This is England (2006, above), set in the aftermath of the Falklands War. Examining the racism and disaffection of the early Thatcher years, it was followed by three mini-series made for television: This is England ’86, ’88 and ’90. Continue reading

Siren calls from the past

Robert De Niro in Once Upon a Time in America (1984)

From Sergio Leone to Dennis Potter – sound, music and flashback

My last post about 1985’s Dreamchild has got me thinking about scenes of remembering from cinema and television, and particularly how sound can be employed to signal a temporal shift in narrative. In the Dreamchild scene featured in my post the incessant ringing of a telephone seems to open up a rabbit hole both into traumatic past events – in this case the spectre of Alice’s possible abuser – and a fantasy world borne of Lewis Carroll’s imagination. By way of a reminder, here is that scene again: Continue reading

Dreamchild

Review of the 1985 fantasy film Dreamchild, written by Dennis Potter

This post heralds a change in tack for this blog. I initially wanted to channel all my critical energies through the prism of ESL/EFL lesson plans but have begun to feel I had imposed unsustainable limits on myself. Henceforth there will be no such constraints: English language-specific content will be filed under the category ‘Lesson Plans’, as well as any other pertinent categories (Cinema, Music etc.). But from this point on I also hope to use the blog to sketch out ideas I may decide to explore in more detail in my research or simply to post reflections on things of interest to me culturally, notably cinema. This will begin with the following post on Dennis Potter’s 1985 film drama Dreamchild.

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The Breakfast Club

Breakfast Club meme

ESL-EFL class about teenage peer pressure and personality types, based on clips from The Breakfast Club

I’m going to put my cards on the table here and confess to a not-so-guilty pleasure: The Breakfast Club. John Hughes’s 1985 high-school comedy-drama is by a long distance the film I have seen the most times. If I were to guess I would reckon I’ve watched it on over 30 occasions. The film was a great comfort to me in my teenage years when I probably bunked off school to watch it, but I was first introduced to it by my older brother when I was still in primary school and have revisited it more recently on DVD. Continue reading

Love in the digital age

Copyright Jori Bolton

Communicative English class about romance and smartphone app obsession, based on short film 97%

One of my favourite films of the last ten years or so is Spike Jonze’s Her (2013). It is at once science fiction and science present, with many of its ideas about artificial intelligence and its effect on relationships already seeming quite plausible. What I feel is the strength of Her is its uncynical view of love in the digital age. A dystopia it may be, but it is neither judgemental or preachy. Continue reading

Active bystanders

Video-based English class on taking action and not being a passive bystander

I was recently teaching a variation on the Toxic Masculinity class I posted here, including some work on the Gillette “Best Men Can Be” advert, inspired by this great lesson plan by Kieran Donaghy. Having had to split the lesson over two separate classes, I was looking for a short video I could use as a warm-up / engage activity to kick things off on the second week. Semi-spontaneously, I decided to show my students – in this case, B2/C1-level adults – this short Australian public service announcement made by the State Government of Victoria, Australia. Continue reading

Escaping the gridlock

Communicative English class about traffic and congestion, featuring cinema, rock videos, adverts and more

My last post about Michael Patterson’s work and portals to other dimensions put me in mind of one of cinema’s mindblowingly strange opening scenes, namely that of Fellini’s 8 1/2 (1963). The sequence shares much of the urban claustrophobia and anxiety that characterizes Patterson’s Commuter, as well as its framing of that unease within the context of travel and transport. Continue reading

Pop portals and prepositions

Communicative English class about portals and prepositions of movement featuring an iconic pop video and the work of visual artist Michael Patterson

I’m a big fan of portals into other dimensions. Watching the David Lynch/Mark Frost television series Twin Peaks on BBC2 in my second year of secondary school was something of a gateway drug – if you’ll pardon the pun – to all manner of strange and surreal culture. Dale Cooper’s final disappearance into the Black Lodge, a kind of purgatorial antechamber peopled by backwards-speaking dwarves and taciturn giants, tapped into a long tradition of portals into other realms, notably in children’s literature, horror and science fiction. Continue reading

Protest songs and lords of war

ELT class about protest music based on Buffalo Springfield’s For What It’s Worth and its use in cinema

Following my last post about the exploitation of natural resources and Seth Boydon‘s animated short film An Object at Rest, I have been thinking of films and scenes which chart the progress of an object through time. The Hudsucker Proxy‘s key scene does something similar with the hula hoop, as I described here, while the canonical movie of this type might be said to be Albert Lamorisse’s classic 1954 short The Red Balloon (Le ballon rouge). Setting aside these fine works for the moment, a scene that belongs to this tradition is the opening credits to Andrew Niccol’s 2005 movie Lord of War, starring Nicolas Cage. Continue reading

The exploitation of natural resources

ESL-EFL Class about sustainability and the environment featuring clips from dystopian sci-fi and animated short film

With the Extinction Rebellion currently raging in London, and Brits proving they have a taste for protest and civil disobedience after all, it seems the right time to post a class on the environment and particularly the unsustainable pillaging of world resources. Clearly it is a subject that warrants more than a cursory one-off class, but I thought I’d share a few clips that might generate some interesting discussion and help build vocabulary. Continue reading