Last year, I told you about our Language Arts curriculum, Brave Writer’s The Arrow. Today is Movie Wednesday, but we didn’t watch a movie. We watched a show that aired on ABC last night – Countdown to the Oscars: 15 Movies That Changed American Cinema. I saw the show on the guide several minutes after 10pm, turned on the TV and hit record. When we watched it this morning, it only captured #14 through #1. I’ve searched the internet and cannot find what #15 was, so if you saw the show, please let me know! Anywho, watching this 54 minute show provided lessons in not only Language Arts, but also History (of our country and the movie industry), Civil Rights and Cinematography. B wants to make movies when he grows up. He really enjoys doing it now and this show gave great, historical insight. In the future, we will watch almost all of these movies for the content and ingenuity they will lend to B’s education.
The Brave Writer Lifestyle teaches us the importance of word selection in stories, whether they are told in books or movies. When you read a great line in a book, the delivery is yours, in your head. The tone of a book B reads may come across completely differently when I read it. With movies, you hear an actor in character saying an iconic line; see the expression and emotion on their face as it’s delivered. How many lines from movies stick with us, do we use in our daily lives? Lines from movies decades old, movies we’ve seen years ago, still stick with us and we want to make that impression on others when we write (or act). Every movie on last night’s show had lines like that. This show also reminded us when it’s fitting to not use “proper” English; when the local and/or historical way of speaking should be used. See if you can tell from which movie these lines came:
- “Whuzzah happenin’, hot stuff?”
- “I think we’re gonna need a bigger boat.”
- “Well, when I’m good, I’m very good, but when I’m bad, I’m better.”
- “I don’t know nothin’ ’bout birthin’ no babies!”
Ever movie is on this list because it made cinematic history. The Production Codes were created in the 1930s to censor future movies after I’m No Angel was released. The multi-plane camera was invented in order to bring the first, full-length animated movie, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, to the screen. Easy Rider was the 1st indy film that became a blockbuster. 2001: A Space Odyssey birthed the Sci-Fi genre. Jaws showed us that the score of a movie can make a villain.
So many times during this show, we paused to discuss not only the what and why of a storyline, but also the filming. The shower scene in Psycho was a great topic!
B: [Janet Leigh’s character] was ridiculous in the shower! She just stood there and kept letting out short screams while the bad guy took forever to raise his knife. She should have attacked him or knocked him over and run.
Me: She didn’t scream that long. She gave one scream, and the director chose to play it over and over again, at different angles, to prepare the audience for what was about to happen. Otherwise, the scene may have gone by before the audience could absorb it and they might have missed it. (I hit play again and B listened to commentators on the show describe how Alfred Hitchcock reinvented fear in this movie. Audiences had not seen anything like this before and it was so horrifying without even being gory.)
B: I get it! No one was expecting a murderer. No one was expecting that character. The director had to give the audience a second to get what was about to happen so that they could get and be afraid of it as it happened. Cool!
But these movies also taught us about our History. In clips from The Birth of a Nation, B learned that KKK members not only dressed in white but also covered their horses. Although Hattie McDaniel was nominated for, and won, an Oscar for Gone with the Wind, she was not allowed to sit at the same table with her cast mates. She was segregated to her own table in the back. We discussed the significance of a black man cast as the main character of a motion picture (Lillies of the Field) in 1962 and Sidney Poitier winning an oscar. B watched Halle Berry’s emotional acceptance speech in 2001 with shock that a woman of color had not won best actress until the 21st century. Easy Rider was created by, for and about the 60s generation.
Oh my goodness, I can go on and on about this show and the wonderful lessons we got from it today, but I have to stop and make dinner now. I can’t wait to watch one of these films next Wednesday!