The Institute for Humane Education is offering an online program for teachers
called Sowing Seeds Online. Humane education provides the knowledge, tools, and motivation to enable students to become engaged and fulfilled solutions for a peaceful and sustainable world. It is a month-long online course for secondary school teachers that begins on May 1, 2009.
Sowing Seeds Online provides teachers with an opportunity to dive into the issues of humane education, enliven their teaching, enrich their courses, and help their students become ever more engaged citizens.
* Teachers will develop new techniques and ideas to make their classes more rewarding, interesting, and meaningful.
* They will learn new strategies and develop tools and ideas for teaching about the most important issues of our time, while interacting online with other educators and the course advisors.
* Participants will receive a copy of The Power and Promise of Humane Education by Zoe Weil, President and Cofounder of the Institute for Humane Education.
I won’t be able to post pictures until I get home, but here is a quick update on Roger Ebert’s festival at the University of Illinois. Unlike many festivals, which have a dozen or more choices of events every minute of the day, this one has just one panel or film at a time, which creates a marvelous shared experience and sense of community. The screenings take place in the magnificent Virginia Theatre, an historic space that has served as a vaudeville house and as an enormous cathedral of film. Thursday night, we saw “Trouble the Water,” a stunning, infuriating, heart-breaking, and uplifting documentary about Hurricane Katrina and New Orleans. The film-makers were there to talk about it afterward, including the young couple whose home movies and journey are at the heart of the story.
Yesterday, I attended a panel discussion that included writer-director Ramin Bahrani of “Chop Shop” and the upcoming “Goodbye Solo,” Misty Upham of “Frozen River,” Carl Molider, producer of “Let the Right One In,” and Andy Ihnatko of the marvelous blog Celestial Waste of Bandwidth. Upham, a Native American, spoke of being told in auditions to come back when they do a western. “I can play a regular person! I can play a taxi driver. I will do anything that does not involve a teepee or buckskin!” The debate on whether we should “let” people see pure popcorn films like “Wolverine” was very spirited and I especially enjoyed a teacher from Downer’s Grove in the audience who said that she loved it when the kids in her film class tell her she has spoiled movie-going for them because they can’t “just watch” anymore.
Then I was on a panel of critics — 10 critics, 90 minutes, you can do the math. But at least from where I was sitting at the end of the long, long table, it was surprisingly substantial and a lot of fun. We represented print, radio, television, and the internet. Many of us have done them all. We have appeared in every possible form of media except perhaps cuneiform tablets and notes in bottles. We had the obligatory mourner’s wait over the state of newspapers and how hard it is to make money as a movie critic. But I really enjoyed the variety of voices and the unquenchable passion for movies and for thinking about them, writing about them, and especially helping the good ones find their audience. I especially liked the comments from Time Out Chicago’s Hank Sartin and it was a great pleasure to meet for the first time my email friend Eric Childress, of the withering CriticWatch, which takes on the “critics” who will call anything “the feel-good film of the year” to get their names in the ads.
After a couple of hours at the University’s Center for Professional Responsibility in Business and Society, where I serve as an adviser, I returned to the Virginia Theatre to see “The Last Command,” a 1928 silent film directed by Josef von Sternberg. Emil Jannings plays a Russian general, a cousin to the czar, now reduced to trying to find work as a Hollywood extra for a few dollars a day. A very young William Powell plays the director who hires him to play…a Russian general. It was a thrill to watch it on the big screen, with the live accompaniment from the Alloy Orchestra, which specializes in music for silent films. The film is an artifact in its tone and context — it was re-enacting events of the Russian revolution only a decade later — but it is utterly immediate in its themes and Powell, especially, gives a performance of timeless grace and humanity.
I also had the quintessential festival experience of sharing an elevator ride with one of my filmmaker heroes, Guy Maddin. Bliss.
Terrence Howard’s performance in “Fighting” is so bizarrely strange and awful that it occurred to me he might be hoping we didn’t realize it was him. Howard plays Harvey, a street hustler who discovers Shawn, a gifted young boxer (Channing Tatum) and sets up a series of underground, all-or-nothing, no-rules street fights. All Tatum has to do is punch, take punches, and mumble inarticulately whenever he sees the lovely Zulay (Zulay Valez). Howard has to pontificate, hide his money, confess to having been badly treated by his former partners, and ask Shawn to take a dive. Neither one manages to pull it off.
The film does have two things going for it. First is its conceit of multi-million dollar underground organizations that promote illegal street boxing (and the betting thereon) from behind hidden doors under the baseball hat racks in tiny little souvenir stores. That is the only logical explanation I have ever seen for the persistence of those shops, which never seem to have any customers. The second is the marvelous Altagracia Guzman as Zulay’s grandmother. As she did in the superb “Raising Victor Vargas,” Guzman is at once hilarious, endearing, and completely authentic. She provides moments of pure poetry. A small nod to the Foley artist, as well. The sound effects for all the whams and bashes may be cartoony — you almost expect Wile E. Coyote to show up with a package from Acme — but they are entertaining.
But the rest of the film is just dumb and dull. I think the screenplay is punchdrunk. Shawn needs money. He likes to fight. So, fight #1 he surprises everyone. Shawn is hiding something. Fight #2 is against a really big guy. He surprises everyone again, except for the audience. Then there are a few more fights, some old scores to settle, some revelations, some reactions to the revelations (I understand and sympathize! I am disappointed and betrayed! Both!) and everyone goes home. Kidding! The big, big fight is yet to come and as they like to say in movie tag lines, this time it’s personal.
It takes some serious effort to de-star and de-actor Howard and Tatum, but director-co-author Dito Montiel manages. This fight film needs to stay down for the count.
It’s Shakespeare’s birthday! Try to talk like Shakespeare. Or check out Turner Classic Movie Channel’s list of their favorite Shakespeare adaptations. Can you name three movies inspired by Shakespeare set in high school? Two that became Broadway musicals? Or one set in outer space?
All of Shakespeare’s plays have been filmed, many more than once. Some of my favorites are:
1. Twelfth Night A shipwreck survivor disguises herself as a man and gets involved in many mix-ups as she finds herself falling for her boss and being fallen for by the woman he has asked her to woo on his behalf.
2. A Midsummer Night’s Dream An all-star cast appears in Shakespeare’s merriest romantic comedy, with the entanglements of three romantic couples and a little fairy dust.
3. The Taming of the Shrew Famously bombastic couple Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor play famously bombastic couple Petruchio and Kate in this raucous battle of the sexes. It is not only the shrew who is tamed.
4. Henry V Kenneth Branaugh’s fierce version of one of Shakespeare’s most thrillingly heroic stories is brilliantly done — and a lot of fun to compare with Laurence Olivier’s very different WWII-era version.
4. Hamlet Mel Gibson stars in one of several great versions of the play about the conflicted Danish prince.
6. The Merchant of Venice Al Pacino plays Shylock in the story of a money-lender driven to revenge by the defection of his daughter. Lynn Collins is luminous as the heroine Portia.
7. As You Like It Another woman-disguised-as-a-man story and another lovers-in-the-forest story — but this time transplanted by the film-makers to Japan in a very colorful production with a radiant Bryce Dallas Howard as Rosalind.
8. Macbeth Orson Welles’ version of the Scottish play is arresting and provocative.
9. The Tempest I’m still waiting for a worthy version of my favorite Shakespeare play, but until that happens, this version of the story of the shipwreck survivors on an island with a sorcerer and his daughter is worth seeing.
10. Shakespeare in Love This multi-award winner makes no pretense of historical accuracy but it is wise, exciting, and ravishingly romantic.