Friday, December 14, 2012

Current Clever Reviews

From Rich Juwziak's review of Amour
Horror movies make death easy. Lots of people find them hard to watch, of course, but they ultimately make the loss of life a consumable commodity – with the swipe of a machete, the slash of a knife, the plunge of a handful of razors, humans expire. A series of these makes for a fast-moving popcorn picture.
Even the most gratuitous cases are relatively breezy. The pièce de résistance of the bled-dry torture porn genre, the Saw franchise, featured a series of hideously inventive, Rube Goldberg-esque deaths that, per the guiding hand of serial killer Jigsaw, generally took just a minute to carry out (with, say, another minute or so of setup). A great way to take the edge off extremeness is to make it mercifully brief. Mass murders are common in entertainment but not so much in the typical American life – those of us privileged to a peaceful existence can write off an eyeful of carnage with, "It's only a movie."
Michael Haneke's Palme d'Or-winning Amour is not a conventional horror movie, but it is among the most brutal pieces of cinema I have ever experienced. No heads roll, no blood flies, there isn't even a sense of suspense in this French-language film – just an elderly woman who decays before our eyes, while hers slowly drain of life via a performance from Emmanuelle Riva that is among the very best this or any year has offered.
from A.O Scott's review of The Hobbit
In “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey,” Peter Jackson’s adaptation of J. R. R. Tolkien’s first Middle-earth fantasy novel, Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman) sets out with the wizard Gandalf (Ian McKellen) and a posse of dwarfs to battle a fearsome dragon. [Spoiler alert] they do not kill the dragon, although [spoiler alert] they eventually will, within the next 18 months or so, because [spoiler alert] this “Hobbit,” which is [migraine alert] 170 minutes, is the first installment in [film critic suicide-watch alert] a trilogy.
Let's try our own with the trailer for Pacific Rim.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Review Zingers! Twilight Editition

Apparently Twilight is a muse...

But if you're not a die-hard "Twilight" fan you'll have no clue who's who or who does what. Just know, goth-like vampires are probably bad; hipsters in hoodies are good. Bruce Miller ( - Breaking Dawn- Part 2
ht-Catherine Serio

That it has taken 5 instalments to tell a story that probably warranted 2, at the very most, matters little. Most Twilight tragics would have happily sat through 10 movies to keep the phenomenon going.-Leigh Paatsch
ht-Hanna Netisingha

Heads pop like Champagne corks in “The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn — Part 2,” the final chapter in the megamillion-dollar series about love, war and franchise immortality. And why not? -Dargis
ht- Alondra Garcia

I have now seen something like 10 hours about these vampires as they progress through immortality, and I'd rather see either version of "Nosferatu" that many times.-Roger Ebert
ht-Abby Ripoli

As Aro, the leader of the Volturi, Michael Sheen is a rare delight, smiling malevolently-- and at one point issuing an insane cackle that's worth the price of admission...It ain't much, but it passes for drama--if by 'drama' you mean a climatic showdown between the powerful, berobed Voturi on the one side, and a ragtag band of the 'good' vampires, now in league with Jacob and his pack of giant CGI werewolves, on the other.-Michael O'Sullivan
ht- Austin Kordik

Endless minutes are devoted to colored contact lenses (to mask her red eyes), an arm-wrestling contest with her vampire brother-in-law (Kellan Lutz), and scenes of Edward and Bella running through the picturesque Pacific Northwest woods on her first hunt, which culminates in an al fresco picnic dinner of venison tartare.-Michael O'Sulliva
ht-Sonya Olsen

From the start, the Twilight film series has struggled with the dearth of external conflict presented in its source material. This isn’t a problem for fans of Stephenie Meyer’s bestselling book series, who can recall every thought and emotion behind the many, many protracted stares exchanged between characters, while those not indoctrinated into Meyer’s world are left to wonder why everyone in the film appears to be in constant gastrointestinal distress- The AV Club
ht-Ali Chica

Watching the Cullens pose and smile in their modernist digs, gathered around the piano with frozen aristocratic languor, grows tedious. But, much like the scene of Jacob (Taylor Lautner), the franchise’s favorite pinup, strolling into the story with visibly erect nipples, this family album serves a conspicuous purpose. It quickly becomes evident that Part 2 is primarily an extended final bow — part victory lap, part farewell tour. Drawing out the inevitable gives fans the chance to linger in a world that has become a passionately beloved cult complete with its own conventions, Web sites (and their inverse, hate shrines, dedicated to loathing the series) and academic tomes (“Interdisciplinary Approaches to Twilight: Studies in Fiction, Media and a Contemporary Cultural Experience”). It’s a fan base that has again also proven the might of the female movie audience.- M Dargis
ht- Sean Young

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Critical Reading Journal + Review Zingers!

Here is our triumphant return to the Critical Reading Journal.  Don't forget the requirements for this assignment!

1.  Prior to reading your exerpt of literary criticism, describe how you interpret the end of the novel.  Why do you think so many people are upset by the behavior of Huck in the presence of Tom Sawyer?

2.  Read your article, and the following excerpt from a Jane Smiley article from Harper's (cited from the Chicago Reader here).  How would you challenge, defend, or qualify these ideas regarding the conclusion of the novel? 
As with all bad endings, the problem really lies at the beginning, and at the beginning of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, neither Huck nor Twain takes Jim’s desire for freedom at all seriously, that is, they do not accord it the respect that a man’s passion deserves. The sign of this is that not only do the two never cross the Mississippi to Illinois, a free state, but the Jackson’s Island scenes show that such a crossing, even in secret, is both possible and routine, and even though it would present legal difficulties for an escaped slave , these would certainly pose no more hardship than locating the mouth of the Ohio and then finding passage up it. It is true that there could have been slave catchers in pursuit (though the novel ostensibly take place in the 1840’s and the Fugitive Slave Act was not passed until 1850), but Twain’s moral failure, once Huck and Jim link up, is never even to account for their choice to go down the river rather than across it. What this reveals is that for all his lip service to real attachment between white boy and black man, Twain really saw Jim as no more than Huck’s sidekick, homoerotic or otherwise. All the claims that are routinely made for the book’s humanitarian power are, in the end, simply absurd. Jim is never autonomous, never has a vote, always find his purposed subordinate to Huck’s and , like every good sidekick, he never minds. He grows every more passive and also more affectionate as Huck and the Duke and the Dauphin and Tom (and Twain) make ever more use of him for their own purposes. But this use they make of him is not supplementary; it is integral to Twain’s whole conception of the novel. Twain thinks that Huck’s affection is good enough reward for Jim.

3.  After viewing the 60 Minutes piece,the teacher letter from English Journal, and reading one of these editorial articles from NYT ,  where do you fall in the debate about the novel?  Be sure to draw from these sources in your response.

Finish by November 28, 2012- in your Critical Reading Journal Notebook

For Class participation during break- From New York Times-

Read a review from music, film, food, video games, etc.  Find a zinger and share it with me in the form below.  Does it have snark, sharp diction, humor, or complex syntax?  Send it

Here are some of my favorite reviewers of film:
A.O. Scott       Manohla Dargis       

Roger Ebert- Suntimes          AV Club

Tribune Critics are pay-walled- meh but you can access them through Proquest- ha HA!

from a review by Manohla Dargis-The Man With the Iron Fists

This is a movie as drenched in genre love as it is in the arterial spray from its hordes of sliced and diced characters.
from A.O Scott's review of Lincoln-
The smaller, plainer America of the mid-19th century is evoked by the brownish chiaroscuro of Janusz Kaminski’s cinematography, by the mud, brick and wood of Rick Carter’s production design and by enough important facial hair to make the young beard farmers of 21st-century Brooklyn weep tears of envy.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Cool Reads and Cloud Atlas Movie Review

A.O Scott's review-

“Cloud Atlas” is a movie about migratory souls and wayward civilizations, loaded with soaring themes and flights of feeling, as vaporous and comprehensive as its title. Big ideas, or at least earnest intellectual conceits, crowd the screen along with suave digital effects and gaudy costumes. Free will battles determinism. Solidarity faces off against domination. Belief in a benevolent cosmic order contends with fidelity to the cruel Darwinian maxim that “the weak are meat the strong do eat.”

The Hunt For “Geronimo”- From the Author of Black Hawk Down- Behind the scenes of of the Bin Laden raid.

Where Servers Meet Saunas: A Visit to Google’s Finland Data Center

At Faviken, a tiny restaurant in remote northern Sweden, the 28-year-old chef Magnus Nilsson contrasts the sweet simplicity of foraged and farm-fresh ingredients with a kind of Viking bloodlust. He’ll serve a thrush with its decapitated head, or fire-roast a black grouse in hay, or slaughter a geriatric dairy cow and then dry-age it for nine months until, he writes, “the pure flavor of meat becomes secondary to the aromas of controlled decay . . . rather like a cheese.”

Monday, October 22, 2012

IRP Portfolio Tutorial and Mackie Voting + Franco

Vote      Anthony Mackie 1   Anthony Mackie 5/6    Anthony Mackie 7/8
Actor #2- James Franco
This week's syntax move one more time: participial phrase:

  1. Pursing his lips, he struggled not to call out his professor's obvious error.
  2. A lazy student, always looking for a corner to cut with his assignments, ironically, may do more work to get out of doing work.

Remember to flex with strong verbs!
Period 1  Period 5/6  Period 7/8
This week's cool reads:

Excellent syntax:
[O]verflowing dumpsters; unpaved streets lined with garbage; smoldering trash fires; little rows of shanties tucked into corners of the neighborhood for the local servant class, the kind of miserable hovels that stretch for miles in places like Mumbai; and a small, polluted lake that no one in their right mind would have swum in. We never drank from the tap, of course; even certain kinds of produce were said to be unsafe. The phone was temperamental, too, and so was the television cable.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Annotation for Huck

  • Key rhetorical devices which add meaning or depth (tone, structure, pacing, diction, jargon, credibility, etc.)
  • Modes of writing / genres which you can identify (humor, satire, Shakespearean drama, parody, Romanticism)
  • Highlight or circle any words you don’t know, or any allusions to other literary works, places, or things and jot down their meaning or reference in the margin.
  • Draw a question mark next to any section you would like to discuss, are unsure of, or think would be excellent to bring up in class discussion.
  • Draw a star or exclamation point next to the most essential passages or events in the book.
  • Make notes in the margin on any patterns you see or any other personal reactions that you may have to the reading.
Snuff said

A book list from one of my favorite science writers- Maggie Koerth-Baker

Sunday, October 14, 2012

IRP Non- Fiction Book Selection and Vote Round #1

Cool Books in Library List #1  List #2
Grains of Sand or Stars post

Now go get those books!
LRC Catalog   West Chicago Library    Winfield Public Library   Carol Stream Public Library

Alan Watts - Original #YOLO

This week's good reads...
For Chance Coats-
Soccer Violence In Argentina- From Outside Magazine ---For Bill Carter...
Last second zombie needs for Halloween.
Missouri or Missourah
Photo Essay to show Google's Cooling Centers-
Gross!  I'll use my debit card...Thanks...
Thoughts on Facebook's billionth member...
Who Will Mourn George Whitmore?
Despite a mounting belief among some civil rights activists associated with the N.A.A.C.P., and a few intrepid journalists, that Whitmore was innocent, he remained in prison, facing two death sentences. Depressed, frightened and alone, he pondered his imminent demise at the hands of the state. He asked other inmates: “If you were going to be put to death, which would it be? The chair? Lethal injection? What’s the least painful way to die?” A teenager, having committed no crime — ever — at that point in his life, pondering what means of execution he would choose: this was his reality...
Yet there are no plaques in honor of George Whitmore Jr., no schools named after him, or any civic recognition of his humble fortitude. His name should be known to every student in New York, especially kids of color, but it is not part of the curriculum.
This week, a flawed but beautiful man who offered up his innocence to New York City died with hardly any notice. To those who benefited from his struggles or who believe the city is a fairer place for his having borne them, I ask: Who grieves for George Whitmore?

Monday, October 8, 2012

Tuesday goods and clever writing...

At other times, though, the consumer of such a meal may feel as much like a victim as a guest. The reservation is hard won, the night is exhausting, the food is cold, the interruptions are frequent. The courses blur, the palate flags and the check stings.
Who knew Sesame Street is as corrosive as any other cultural product?  Sheesh...This excerpt is crazy but I love the writing.
Unlike Mitt, I loathe Sesame Street. It bears primary responsibility for what the Canadian blogger Binky calls the de-monsterization of childhood — the idea that there are no evil monsters out there at the edges of the map, just shaggy creatures who look a little funny and can sometimes be a bit grouchy about it because people prejudge them until they learn to celebrate diversity and help Cranky the Friendly Monster go recycling. That is not unrelated to the infantilization of our society. Marinate three generations of Americans in that pabulum and it's no surprise you wind up with unprotected diplomats dragged to their deaths from their "safe house" in Benghazi. Or as J. Scott Gration, the president's special envoy to Sudan, said in 2009, in the most explicit Sesamization of American foreign policy: "We've got to think about giving out cookies. Kids, countries — they react to gold stars, smiley faces, handshakes . . . " The butchers of Darfur aren't blood-drenched machete-wielding genocidal killers but just Cookie Monsters whom we haven't given enough cookies. I'm not saying there's a direct line between Bert & Ernie and Barack & Hillary . . . well, actually I am.
From Gawker
From a biting review of Taken 2:
So yeah. Taken 2 also features Neeson saying, "I need you to listen to me very carefully" about 50 times, the obligatory torture scene where an Albanian tough erotically sniffs at Famke Janssen's face, and some of the worst expository dialog ever crafted by producer and co-screenwriter Luc Besson, which — as anyone who has seen, say, last year'sColombiana knows — is really saying something. The film is directed by the Besson acolyte Olivier Megaton, who is to his mentor approximately what a scarecrow is to a real man. It is among the worst movies I've seen all year, though its bad taste and overwhelming trashiness are so total as to be sort of entertaining. That is, as long you are entertained by things that conform to every known stereotype about our blissfully ignorant American selves and those who might one day come for our wives and daughters.
Muse brought it on SNL...I love it when the horns kick in...

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Peer Editing For Edge Question

Combine any slides for the Twain/ Huck presentations.  We will start on Tuesday in the LRC.  Get your hands on a copy of Huck Finn soon.  We will start very soon.  Books?

Participation in the writing contest is required and you might win a late pass!
Find your class and get started.  Week 1- Anthony Mackie- Due Friday P.M.
Period 1       Period 5/6      Period 7/8

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Edge Essay Assignment and this weeks good reads

Cool post on space exploration and viability of life on other planets.

Edge Essay Assignment

Link to Urtak

Neil Gaiman's 8 Rules to Writing

Grains of Sand or Stars in the Universe?

For thise interested in mind amplification- Howard Rheingold's new book.

The Trouble with Intentions- Verlyn Klinkenborg
 Experienced writers know that every good sentence is retrieved by will from the forces of chaos
How about this opening paragraph from Robin Finn of the New York Times:

THERE are 383 aspirational keys in circulation in the Big City, each of them numbered and coded, all of them equipped to unlock any of four wrought-iron gates offering privileged access to undisturbed siestas or tranquil ambulation inside the tree-lined boundaries of Gramercy Park. At age 181, the only truly private park in Manhattan is lovelier and more ornamental than ever; yes, the colorful Calder sculpture swaying blithely in the breeze inside the fence is “Janey Waney,” on indefinite loan from the Calder Foundation.

 And...AP Writing Contest-2012-2013 Grammies
I may not give extra-credit but I do grant the wish of extra time.  Late Pass!  On way to grab it is through our weekly participation/ grammar exercise.  You will watch one vignette and write a brief description (1 to 4 sentences) that captures the tone.  The catch is that you must blend in at least one form of selected sentence structure while reflected pitch perfect connotation of the tone of the film.  How do you win?  You vote of course...After I tally all all the entries, I post them so you can review them and vote for the best one.  Let's be write, vote and gobble up class participation credit while honing your syntax.
This week's syntax move: participial phrase:

  1. Pursing his lips, he struggled not to call out his professor's obvious error.
  2. A lazy student, always looking for a corner to cut with his assignments, ironically, may do more work to get out of doing work. 

Remember to flex with strong verbs!

Find your class and get started.  Week 1- Anthony Mackie- Due Friday P.M.
Period 1       Period 5/6      Period 7/8