Way out weather

The outback hailstorm scene in The Last Wave

Some ideas for an ESL-EFL class on extreme weather, with clips from The Last Wave and Magnolia

Please excuse the title of the post, Way Out Weather, which is also the name of a very fine album by psych-folk singer-songwriter Steve Gunn. It also serves as a handy shorthand for the increasingly extreme and unpredictable weather we are experiencing at the moment due to climate change. Continue reading

Hearts of darkness – Deliverance and Wake in Fright

Kangaroo hunting in Wake in Fright

Death, debauchery and survival in two early ’70s film classics

I’ve been recently acquired an interest in the so-called Aussie New Wave cinema of the 1970s and 80s. Although encompassing a range of genres and often overlapping with what is known as Ozploitation, the period really identifies a period of resurgent confidence and productivity in Australian cinema rather than any kind of aesthetic stance. That said, a number of the stronger works of the ‘Wave’ seem to capitalize on the country’s geographical peculiarities with strange and often sinister results. Notable filmmakers who came of age during the period include Peter Weir and Philip Noyce, who went on to enjoy successful Hollywood careers. Continue reading

The Draughtsman’s Contract

A review of Peter Greenaway’s 1982 period film The Draughtsman’s Contract

Currently on holiday, I am using the blog not to sketch out lesson ideas but to jot down thoughts on films I have recently watched. One such movie is Peter Greenaway’s first feature, The Draughtsman’s Contract, a surreal 1982 costume drama. Having grown up in 1980s Britain, I am extremely grateful to have witnessed the arrival of Channel 4 and its groundbreaking support for British cinema via what was then Film on Four. Continue reading

Chocolat

Giulia Boschi as Aimée and Isaach de Bankolé as Protée

A review of Claire Denis’s 1988 directorial debut Chocolat

I’ve recently acquired an Artificial Eye Collection of Claire Denis movies. By no means an exhaustive anthology of her work – there are just four films (Chocolat, Nénette et Boni, Beau Travail and White Material) – it provides the introduction to her oeuvre I was hoping for. Having read a lot about Denis’s films, and long harbouring the suspicion that I have long overlooked her, I decided to have a binge. I should add that I have seen 2009’s White Material before and that, while I found it unsettling and beautifully photographed, I don’t think I quite gave it the attention it deserved. Continue reading

The Arrival

Harbour gates from Shaun Tan’s The Arrival

Ideas for an ELT class on emigration based on Shaun Tan’s graphic novel The Arrival

One of the few positive things about Twitter is that, if you follow the right people, you are brought into contact with culture that had never before appeared on your radar. I had the great pleasure of such an experience this week when I was alerted to the work of Australian artist-illustrator and filmmaker Shaun Tan, and particularly his epic 2006 graphic novel The Arrival. Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

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