Posts Tagged ‘movies’

Revision, Revision

I’ve spent the few days knee-deep in some heavy-duty revision.  I think that I have revised 10 poems or so to my liking.  I’m also happy to report that some literary journals do get a head start on their reading periods, and I was able to send out four packets of poems.  September is one of the craziest months of the year for me, so if I don’t get poems sent out in August, they often don’t get sent out until late October or early November.

However, revision is not just for poetry.  School starts in a few weeks and I’m in the middle of making some important changes in both my developmental writing classes and my creative writing course.  I just got finished with Tom Hunley’s book, Teaching Poetry Writing: A Five Canon Approach, and I am going to revamp my course according to many of the ideals found in this text, including teaching poetry writing in the context of rhetoric and comp theory.  I actually have more “formal” education in rhetoric and comp than I do in creative writing, so I found Hunley’s discussion of theory refreshing compared to many poetry books which deal with craft, but not pedagogy.

I am also designing a new class for my developmental students.  The class, titled “Sports in Popular Culture” is paired with study skills, reading skills and writing components.  I have plenty of reading material, but I am also using some movie clips.  However, I have been a bit disappointed in the selection of sports movies that contain female characters.  So far, I have one selection: Bend it Like Beckham.  Quite a few years ago, I saw a Lifetime (I think it was Lifetime) movie titled Little Girls in Pretty Boxes.  I like the movie well enough, so I found the book which was a great read, and remains a favorite in my journalism class.  However, the movie has never been released on DVD.  If anyone has any thoughts on movies with women sports figures, please let me know!

Movie Break, the Sequel

Last month, I talked a bit about the portrayal of writers in movies.  Several of you suggested other names of movies that portray writers in today’s society.  During the days that I couldn’t get out my front door because of all the snow, I spent my time catching up a bit on my movie watching.  I loved Wonder Boys — in fact, I went back and reread the novel.   I watched The Dark Half.  So Stephen King.  I liked Stranger Than Fiction.  I also liked Adaptation.   In one way or another, all these films offered glimpses of a contemporary writer’s life — whether it’s academic woes and writer’s block found in Wonder Boys or the challenge of bringing a book to the big screen — a problem explored in Adaptation.  Still, in my creative writing class, I think I am going to show clips from Throw Momma From the Train and maybe Room 1408.   I think I can find short segments from both these films that display problems in writers’ lives — most of the other movies that I watched are a bit too complex for me to make due with just a short clip.   I’m eager to see what my students say about the portrayals found in the films. 

Classes started today; my creative writing class meets tomorrow.  I love the frenzy of a new semester.

Movie Break

I took a break from grading last night to watch an old favorite, Throw Momma From the Train a movie starring Billy Crystal and Danny DeVito.  I haven’t seen the movie in years, and Anthony has never seen it, so it was fun to watch both Crystal and DeVito in their “younger years” (the movie came out in the late 80’s).  A part of the movie that did strike me (and that I didn’t remember until I watched it again last night) is that Billy Crystal plays a creative writing professor at a community college with writer’s block (the character has writer’s block, not the college). I guess I can appreciate the character more now because I do teach creative writing at a community college.

In a dark/funny sort of way, the movie does explore many issues with contemporary writers including writer’s block, writing vs. art, and idea stealing.  It also got me thinking: are there other movies that show contemporary writers working?  I don’t mean biopics about real writers — I’m thinking of more fictional accounts.  The only other movie I can think of is Room 1408 starring John Cusack.  Yes, this is a horror movie, but at the beginning of the movie there is a touching scene where Cusack, who plays a writer who specializes in debunking paranormal issues, is at a book signing and a young girl comes up with one of his older books she purchased off EBay.   It’s clear in the movie that Cusack now “specializes” in travel books that explore the supernatural, and that he really wants nothing to do with his writing from the past — in this case, a book about a son’s relationship with his father.  I’m sure that many viewers didn’t really get that scene, but I thought it was the best thing in the whole movie.

So, can anyone out there think of movie clips that may show the contemporary writer at work?  Next semester, I’m thinking of opening my creative writing class by looking at some of these scenes to get my students thinking about writing issues….

Precious Thoughts

A few years ago, I taught Push by Sapphire in my Modern Novel class.  I was surprised at how shocked my students were at the story.  I mean, really, this is the generation that sees people’s heads get chopped off on the Internet.  When I revised my Modern Novel course to teach it a second time, I took Push off the reading list and replaced it with The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison.  It wasn’t that I was afraid of shocking my students.  I just felt that I didn’t do a good job teaching Sapphire’s brillant novel.  On the other hand, there is a lot of critical material about The Bluest Eye — so I felt that I had more “help.” 

Now, with all the press out about Precious (the movie based after Push), I’m rethinking my decision.   Did I just chicken out of dealing with the Push’s themes of violence, incest, abuse, and poverty?  I know, of course, that The Bluest Eye deals a lot with the same themes; still, there is something far more disturbing about the issues in Push.  Or perhaps, it’s the way that Sapphire approached these issues — unflinching and almost matter of fact.  My Entertainment Weekly (I know — not a great “literary” source, but it works here) recently published a review of Precious stating “What’s terrifying about the abuse here is how casuallly it’s accepted as a fact of life, by both perpetrator and victim.”   I know that I have students who know this way of life.  Perhaps that is what made teaching Push so challenging.  And painful.

With all this said, I want to see Precious.  I know that it’s out in limited release — so I doubt that the film will make its way to rural New York.  Still, there is always DVD.  I also believe that this film has the power to make people talk.  Sapphire, of course, has not been silent about the challenges of making this film, and I’m looking forward to seeing the end result.