I have already posted several pages from my most recent book, “Home Study Projects and New Ideas for English Language Arts.” Chapter One contains ideas on how to use feature movies as part of one’s English course. Two of my recent blogs have recommended two movies (“The Best Years of our Lives”, i.e. tips on choosing a lifelong mate, June 30, 2020; and “The Breakfast Club”, i.e. learning to see your classmates in greater depth, May 13, 2020).
Homework becomes a pleasure when you can choose a movie, write a report on it and get some credits for doing it. It’s even more interesting when you write two reports at home: one on the movie and another on the book on which the movie was based. Below I have listed eight movies that I think are well worth watching. Most of them contain messages for young people. If you know any kids who are suffering from the Covid blues, tell them about these movies and suggest that they might want to tackle a movie report at home. I will enclose a movie report form in my next blog.
1. Captain Fantastic (2016)
A brilliant unconventional couple choose to live in the woods where they home-school their six children to be open-minded, well read, discerning, physically fit and able to survive anywhere. When the wife dies her husband and the children visit the wife’s conservative parents and that leads to heated arguments about how to raise children. This movie raises questions about what students are learning and what they need to learn.
2. Christine (1984)
A teenage boy, a victim of bullying, lovingly restores a vintage car. It turns out that the car has a will of her own and a violent, jealous disposition. (Novel by Stephen King)
3. Cinema Paradiso (1988) Italy,
World War II. An Italian boy whose father is killed on the Russian front in 1943 becomes a projectionist’s helper and gets a good basic liberal education (and knowledge of how to make movies) by watching hundreds of movies several times. In time the boy becomes a famous movie director. (Screenplay by Giuseppe Tornatore)
4. The Duellists (1977)
During Napoleon’s campaigns two young French army officers get into a duel over a trifling matter. The duel is a draw. One of them is a fanatic and insists on fighting the other whenever their paths cross. Over the years they end up having four spectacular duels. (Based on The Duel by Joseph Conrad)
5. Imitation of Life (1959)
Two single moms (one Black, one White) set up a successful business selling pancakes. Each has a daughter and these become close friends. Serious problems come to a head when the Black mom’s daughter (who looks white) runs away from home and the White mom’s daughter falls in love with a man who has started dating her mother. An important theme in the movie is parents who don’t spend enough quality time with their children. (Source unknown)
6. Moonstruck (1987)
Cher plays a widow in her thirties engaged to be married to a rather staid, boring man. He
asks Cher to invite his estranged younger brother to the wedding. She carries out the mission, but with surprising results. The moon in this movie is unusually large and affects all the characters. In the background you can hear the music of La Bohème, beautifully integrated with the plot. This movie raises the question: What makes for a successful choice of mate?
7. Splendor in the Grass (1961)
It’s Kansas in the 1920s. Two senior high students fall in love (the real McCoy) but their love is thwarted by the boy’s rich father who arranges for him to go to Yale in far-off New Haven. The girl suffers a nervous breakdown and the boy, well, I won’t tell you more or I
might ruin the plot. This would be a good movie to show if you are studying Wordsworth. I read somewhere that one critic found this movie marred by ‘adolescent self-pity.’ I totally disagree. I find it an accurate, plausible portrait of an adolescent in shock and grieving over the loss of her first love. Why are some movie critics so scornful of tender emotions? Are they afraid of them? Have they seen too many John Wayne movies? It would be interesting to find out if your students agree with such critics. (Screenplay by William Inge)
8. Susan Slade (1961)
A young woman spends ten years in Chile with her American family and when the family returns to the United States she has a shipboard romance with a young man who is obsessed with mountain climbing. The plot is complicated and the themes engrossing: close love in one’s family of origin; the joy of first love; the importance sometimes of resisting parental pressures when choosing a mate, etc. This is an excellent film which gives young people important questions to think about. I won’t spoil the plot for you.