I started an extensive review of 1980’s Ordinary People four days ago and today I’ll finish the rest of the movie (actually 3/4 of the movie, but I’ll manage to keep it short). Let’s get right into it.
Ordinary People is an exceptionally observant movie about families, psychological problems and relationships. It shows hard truths about people and is not idealizing anything, which is not what I had expected from a 1980 movie. Its screenplay (by Alvin Sargent) is excellent in its dialogue and structure. Robert Redford’s direction is so deliberate, his touch is almost too visible (not for me, but I assume some people might be bothered by it). The acting is flawless throughout, it’s almost impossible to pick anyone. But overall, the movie is just good in the things it has to say and how it says them. It obviously worked in 1980, but I think it’s just as relevant today.
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After over 5 years of teaching critical thinking, some ideas seem to repeat themselves, so last year I turned it around for my English course and first introduced what I think are the cornerstones for most problems in our society, before moving on specific topics where you can find those ideas. It worked insofar as that everyone is more aware of these things, but it also makes a good running joke whenever I mention them again. And the students now try to use them for an answer when I ask something. They learned fast that in most cases, they’ll be right with one of the three words I introduced. And I use those words often enough in my posts to warrant some explanation. Which words am I talking about and why are they so important? Good thing you ask, that’s what we’re here for today, kids!
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American Hustle is like a dream come true for an actor. Looking at those amazing performances you cannot imagine anyone turning down a role in this movie. Every character is interesting and different from anyone else, there are so many nuances that’s it’s both a challenge and a blessing for every performer. The acting is as energetic as David O. Russell’s direction and you can feel the enjoyment everyone probably had while making this movie, but also the exhaustion of inhabiting and showing these characters, who constantly upset each other and live at the edge of a heart attack. It’s a great movie, entertaining and thought-provoking. The story, based on the ABSCAM scandal, is not easy to follow and it’s probably hard to understand what exactly everyone is doing, but since the movie is mainly there to showcase its characters, that is only a minor flaw.
Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go is a tricky novel. It seems almost innocent in describing the lives of its three main characters which live an uneventful life in a boarding school and how they grow up. But beneath that unexciting surface lurks a dark story about rearing children in ignorance, teaching them to pretend and making them believe in authority at all times. Yes, the book also deals with cloning and what makes us human, but this has been dealt with in enough other books and movies. What fascinates me about that book is the way it portrays education and society but also the way it incorporates the three things I tell my students too often about: ignorance, authority and pretense. I just finished reading the book in my main class and was happy to see it was received (mostly) well, because I wasn’t sure students would find it appealing. But now I know that I would read it again and while working on it, I was surprised how much the novel has to offer and how thought-provoking it is. It has a lot of aspects to discuss and I want to try to get at most of what I deem important, which will still be a lot. For structure’s sake, I will follow the three-part division of the book. Continue reading Book Report: Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go (2005)