Sunday, April 22, 2007

Adam's Apples the Movie

ADAM'S APPLES (released in 2005 in Germany) is the story of a neo-Nazi, Adam (Ulrich Thomsen last seen in Kingdom of Heaven and Mostly Martha) who gets out of jail and is paroled to a Christian pastor, Ivan (Mads Mikkleson), and his church in rural Denmark (it is in Danish with English sub-titles). The parolee is tough, silent, and bewildered by the pastor who at first seems eccentric, and who we discover lives in a perpetual state of denial because he is barely able to keep himself together. The film tells us about what brought Ivan to this state of being and of Adam, an insensitive man, capable of great violence, whose intolerance is transformed into empathy. It makes for dark Christian comedy. The film is a conversation about good and evil (the apple metaphor) that leads to a beautiful Eucharistic moment when Adam does something small, generous, and deeply caring. At first I thought this would be a "Christian" film, pedantic and message-laden. Alas, it is anything but that. I don't think I have ever seen anything quite like Adam's Apples.
Adams arrival, Adam (Ulrich Thomsen) and Ivan (Mads Mikkelsen)
Because Ivan insists Adam must have a goal, Adam, thinking he is being as absurd as Ivan, says he wants to make a cake. "An apple cake? Good! You can take care of the apple tree until August 1st." Adam's bewilderment is tangible to us, the audience, and the source of much of the comedy. The other characters in the film are like a collection of people from the Gospels, all in need of some kind of healing.
I am a fan of Fight Club, a film that Craig Detweiller once said may one day be considered the defining film about masculine identity of the 1990's. What Fight Club is to mainstream film, Adam's Apple's is to "Christian" film. (In some way's I was reminded of the dark comedic element of Jesus' Son.) I don't know if Adam's Apples was billed as a Christian film in Denmark - perhaps not. It is original, darkly funny; a unique film about the human potential to respond to grace. Wow, was I surprised. I think if Flannery O'Connor were alive today, she might be a screenwriter who could bring us a film like Adam's Apples; where sin abounds, so does great grace.

Friday, April 13, 2007

IPods, Blogs and Beyond: National Media Education Conference 2007

The 2007 theme,  “iPods, Blogs and Beyond: Evolving Media Literacy for the 21st Century” - will be explored in more than 75 conference events, including keynotes, workshops, special interest caucuses and more. Workshop titles include

  - Using Media and Technology in the Language Arts Classroom

  • Educating Media Educators for the 21st Century Classroom --- Media Literacy in Pre-Service Teacher Education Programs
  • Let's Write a Movie!  Teaching Language Arts Skills Through Scriptwriting
  • Media Literacy and Service Learning in the Classroom
  • Podcasting in the Classroom
  • Media Literacy: The Missing Link to Civic Engagement in the Digital Age
  • Equity, Ethics, & Standards: Media Literacy in Secondary English Classrooms
  • Using Wiki Writing to Foster Critical Analysis of the Media
  • Fair Use in the Age of YouTube: Media Literacy and Copyright Issues
  • Getting 21st Century Critical Thinking into the Curriculum
  • Making MySpace a Safe Space: Risks and Realities of the Online Culture

Here's the complete list (15 page- color PDF) including descriptions and presenter names and film screening information.

 Keynote speakers include:

  • Robin Blake, British media literacy expert and Ofcom’s Manager for Media Literacy
  • Renee Hobbs, media literacy pioneer and author of "Reading Media: Media Literacy in High School English."  
  • Douglas Rushkoff, creator of "Merchants of Cool" and author of more than 10 books on media, art, society and change.  
  • Henry Jenkins, MIT professor and one of the <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags" />U.S.’s most innovative thinkers on video gaming and learning.

The first ever 2-day Media Literacy Education Research Summit is held immediately prior to NMEC, and features  feature presentations by an international group of experts and researchers from disparate fields.. More details on the Summit are here. A combined discount rate is available when you attend both the Research Summit and the NMEC.

Register online today with a credit card. Don't wait until 2009 -- this important biennial conference is the only one like it in the country, and it's your chance to meet and learn from the best.

Sample Southwest airfares until April 19:
$64 one-way, to/from Amarillo, TX
$44 one-way, to/from Chicago (Midway), IL
$44 one-way, to/from Cleveland, OH
$44 one-way, to/from Dallas (Love Field), TX
$44 one-way, to/from Detroit, MI
$84 one-way, to/from Harlingen/South Padre Island, TX
$64 one-way, to/from Houston (Hobby), TX
$44 one-way, to/from Kansas City, MO
$44 one-way, to/from Louisville, KY
$64 one-way, to/from Lubbock, TX
$84 one-way, to/from Midland/Odessa, TX
$44 one-way, to/from Oklahoma City, OK
$74 one-way, to/from Orlando, FL
$84 one-way, to/from San Antonio, TX
$44 one-way, to/from Tulsa, OK
Two weeks are left to receive the Early Bird rate of $295 (AMLA members) at the National Media Education Conference 2007, June 23-26 at the Millennium Hotel in St. Louis, Missouri, hosted by the Alliance for a Media Literate America (AMLA).

Double hotel rooms at the Millennium conference hotel are only $80. See the end of this email for rock-bottom airfares from Southwest available when you book by April 19 (next Thursday) and fly from Illinois (such as $44 from Chicago Midway), Texas, Ohio, Michigan, Kentucky, Oklahoma and Kansas City. They also have excellent rates for all other cities they serve.Check out hotel details and air options.

(I am posting this from Susan Rogers who is doing publicity on behalf of the AMLA)

Susan Rogers

Editor & publisher

featuring the Media Literacy Speakers Bureau and

hundreds of resources for media literacy education.

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Pride the Movie

In 1971 Jim Ellis (Terrence Howard) makes his way to Philadelphia from North Carolina to apply for a job as a swimming coach at the prestigious Mainline Academy. Coach Bink (Tom Arnold) is rude and rejects him. Ellis applies for a job as a teacher in the public school system but is hired to close the decrepit Marcus Foster Recreation Center instead because young people no longer use it. As African-American kids shoot hoops in the yard, the director, grumpy Elston (Bernie Mac), whiles away the time sleeping in his chair.


          Ellis discovers the old swimming pool filled with junk. He clears it out and fills the pool with water. Elston growls about what will happen with the Philadelphia Department of Recreation (PDR) gets the bill. Ellis, who had been a high school swim champion until an unfortunate altercation with a policeman at a meet ended with his arrest, finished college but was on the brink of unemployment. When the city removes the hoops from the yard, the kids can no longer play so Ellis shows them the pool and offers to teach them to swim. Twenty five years later, Ellis is still teaching inner-city African-American kids how to swim at the PDR. Hundreds have gone to college on swimming scholarships due to his efforts.



        Pride, based on a true story, follows a very conventional story line, which is to be expected given that it took four writers to craft the script. Terrence Howard is very good as a man who continues to struggle with his demons even as he labors to show young people that swimming, like all sports, takes discipline and builds character. We expect Bernie Mac to play the comic, but here he plays a dramatic role just right. I especially liked him when he approached the neighborhood church to enlist the congregation to support the team. Tom Arnold, however, is a cardboard character, the token biased white-guy. Direction is by novice director Sunu Gonera.


        I love that the filmmakers decided a movie about swimming was worth their time. Having been on my high school swim team (a long time ago!) I really got into the film’s competitions and appreciated what it took for the young people to train and become a team. At one point Ellis/Howard walks into the rec center and takes a deep breath when he smells the pool. I know that "feeling"; it's one of excitement and anticipation. Even with the expected emotional jag at the end and its low-budget feel, I enjoyed Pride very much. And I think Terrence Howard is terrific.


Lives of Others the Movie

I just got home from Johannesburg, South Africa from the 5th World Summit on Media and Children and I hope to be sharing some information with you soon about that. But I wanted to take a moment and tell you about one of the finest films I have seen in a very long time: The Lives of Others. It won the Oscar for best foreign language film this year; German with English subtitles.

Hauptmann Gerd Wiesler (Ulrich Mule) is a Stassi agent in East Germany in the 1980's. He is asked to bug the apartment of a playright, who is loyal to the government, so that the minister of culture can have the writer's girlfriend when he is arrested and exiled (or worse.)

The previews for this film give no hint of the depth and transcendence of this film: how art can transform a human being and inspire deeds of generosity that seem unimaginable in such a repressed and corrupt regime. The only reason I went to see it was because a colleague said that after seeing it he was glad it won the Oscar over "Water", which I thought (and still think) deserved the award. But I am glad "The Lives of Others" did win; it is an intense, amazing film. Wiesler's interior transformation is "seen" in his eyes, his gaze, for outwardly his life, that seemed to have had meaning, slowly empties as it is filled with his humanity. I am pleased that "the Academy" saw that "The Lives of Others" is so deeply meaningful. Ergo, bravo!

At one point, as Wiesler is listening, the playright, the artist, sits at his piano and plays "A Sonata for a Good Man." The music is beautiful and he says to his girlfriend, "I don't think it is possible for someone to hear this music and not be a good man."

If you like to savor films, don't miss this one.