Celebrating Scandinavian Cinema

Given the number of iconic films and filmmakers that have emerged from Scandinavia over the years, it is somewhat surprising that Australia has never hosted a festival before that celebrates the cinematic output of this region in Europe that comprises Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Iceland and Finland. Well, such an oversight has been rectified with the news that the inaugural Scandinavian Film Festival will take place next month in Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne, Perth, Adelaide and Byron Bay.

Scandinavian

Whether it is the work of Victor Sjostrom in the early years of the 20th century, the masterpieces of Ingmar Bergman, the provocations of Lars Von Trier or great works from directors such as Aki Kaurismaki, Susanne Bier and Thomas Vinterberg, Scandinavia has consistently produced a diverse group of filmmakers who have crafted some of the most interesting films of their time.

The Scandinavian Film Festival provides a great opportunity for Australian audiences to watch the latest works from the current batch of Nordic filmmakers. In fact, it will no doubt be the only opportunity to see many of these films on the big screen in this country.

The Brisbane event will be held exclusively at Palace Centro in Fortitude Valley from July 11 to 20. The opening night film is the adaptation of best-selling novel The 100 Year Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared, with over 20 others films also on the program.

To peruse the schedule of events in each host city, book tickets or find out more about the various films screening in the festival, click here for the festival website.

First Big Sound Artists Announced

More than 80 artists have been announced for BigSound Live 2014, the music industry showcase in Brisbane on September 10 and 11. With more announcements still to come, it is expected that more than 100 artists will take to stages in 14 venues throughout the Fortitude Valley music precinct.

Bigsound

Already confirmed are the likes of Deep Sea Arcade, Thelma Plum, Gold Fields, Ash Grunwald, Kingswood, The Creases, Holy Holy, The Phoncurves, Remi, Lurch and Chief, Alison Wonderland and many, many more.

Several new venues will be a part of the festival this year, including The Underdog, Crowbar, The Elephant and The New Globe Theatre. The event will once again feature the Triple j Unearthed Stage as well as a new electronic music stage and a new outdoor venue situated behind Brightside and Magic City.

For tickets and event information, including the full list of artists confirmed thus far, click here to visit the BigSound website.

Breakfast Club Live on Stage

If, like me, you are a fan of John Hughes’ classic 1985 high school drama The Breakfast Club, you will be very pleased to learn that the stage version opened tonight at Brisbane Arts Theatre.

Breakfast Club Arts Theatre

This coming-of-age story of five high school students who find themselves spending an entire Saturday in detention, which has been adapted by Andrew Jarvis, will run until Saturday, August 2.

Tickets and event information are available from the theatre website or and there is a behind-the-scenes video, which includes interviews with the cast members, available on their Facebook page.

The Brisbane Arts Theatre is a self-funded performing arts theatre located at 210 Petrie Terrace.

Arts Theatre

Frank

Few filmmakers have successfully been able to weave absurdist humour into an affecting story about friendship, mental illness and the power of music in quite the same way that director Lenny Abrahamson has done with Frank. This is a funny yet moving story about a group of flawed individuals who find solace and security in the collective of a band whose mere existence is more important than anything they may achieve. This is a wonderful movie that will no doubt be dismissed by many as just another quirky independent film, but it is so much more than that. With Frank, Abrahamson has crafted a film that is everything a movie should be. It is thoroughly entertaining, emotional, thought provoking and powerful in its examination of an aspect of the world in which we live that is rarely represented with any insight or compassion. It is emotional without being manipulative and it is funny without mocking the characters and/or their circumstances.

Frank poster

Domhnall Gleeson (About Time) is Jon Burroughs, a wannabe songwriter and musician who still lives with his parents and spends his days at a mind-numbingly boring office job. When the keyboard player in the band Soronprfbs is hospitalised after attempting to drown himself, Jon is in the right place at the right time and is drafted in as a substitute. Although the gig is a disaster, Jon makes an impression on Frank Sidebottom – the enigmatic leader of the band who wears an oversized head at all times – and is offered a permanent place in the band. When the group, which also includes Don (Scoot McNairy), Clara (Maggie Gyllenhaal), Baraque (Francois Civil) and the all-but-mute Nana (Carla Azar), head to an isolated cabin to record an album, Jon struggles to understand the motivations of the band and finds himself at loggerheads with the protective Clara. As the recording process drags on interminably, Jon takes to posting regular updates on social media that ultimately result in an offer to perform at the prestigious South by Southwest Festival in Texas. Whilst Frank is excited by the opportunity, the rest of the group are less enthusiastic, with good reason as it turns out.

Frank 2

Frank never removes the fake head; even to sleep, eat or shower and, as a result, the audience, like Jon, spends a lot of time trying to work out exactly why Frank refuses to reveal his identity. What is he hiding? What is his story? Jon’s fixation is very much a statement about contemporary society; the fact that we seem to think we have the right to know everything about an individual and can find out anything we want at the click of a button. Conversely, Frank’s papier-mache appendage is a challenge to modern celebrity culture in which the face – and the image – of musical artists is often more celebrated than the music they produce. None of the other band members share Jon’s curiosity, they simply accept Frank how he is and are deeply suspicious of this newcomer to whom Frank has taken a liking. Although Frank is vague and dismissive anytime Jon tries to delve a little deeper, the reasons for the mask become clearer as the film progresses. Beginning as a hapless interloper who we initially find amusing as the fish out of water amongst this group, Jon ultimately morphs into a somewhat unsympathetic character in his determination to fulfil his own dreams of musical success with little regard for the rest of the band.

Frank 1

The spectre of mental illness runs throughout the narrative, sometimes tragically, but Abrahamson avoids sentimentality. There are damaged people here, but in many ways this is a celebration of those people who exist on the margins of what we generally accept as being ‘normal’. Watching this, I couldn’t help but wonder how somebody like Frank would be treated in the real world. As the enigmatic, insecure titular character, Michael Fassbender (Shame, 12 Years a Slave, X-Men) is forced to speak with his body; communicating his emotions and state of mind via posture, tics and mannerisms. He does a fabulous job in presenting Frank as a man whose talents are undermined by significant psychological distress, perhaps much in the vein of Pink Floyd’s Syd Barrett. Abrahamson has produced a highly original film that leaves you amused and moved in equal measure. A comedic, tragic, satirical, poignant paean to those who dance to a different beat. It’s weird, but it works. In fact, it is something rather exceptional.

And the Best High School Movies are…

It’s been a while since I compiled a list of some sort and we all know that ‘best of’ and ‘the most…’ lists are really what the internet is all about (or so it seems). So, in the interests of doing my bit to satisfy the obsessives who prowl the web looking for lists of things – anything – about which they can debate and decry amongst themselves (and anybody else who’ll indulge them), I have compiled a list of the 10 Best High School Movies. As a teacher, I thought this was the best place to start when it comes to identifying the best movies I have seen.

Breakfast Club

The list is drawn only from films that I have seen and in which high school life and/or students are the primary narrative focus. It was a difficult process narrowing the list down to 10 and the films are not listed in any particular order of preference. I could not even begin to undertake the painstaking, and ultimately pointless, task of listing them in any order of preference as they are all great for a variety of different reasons.

Brick

So, here are my selections:

The Breakfast Club
Donnie Darko
Clueless
Election
Heathers
Ferris Bueller’s Day Off
The Perks of Being a Wallflower
Brick
Elephant
The Virgin Suicides

Now, no doubt there are many omissions that will rile a good many people so, in an effort to placate some readers at least, the following 10 films came very close to inclusion, would be worthy additions to any such list but missed out on this occasion simply due to the fact that I needed to confine the list to just 10 selections.

Pump up the Volume
Freedom Writers
Rock and Roll High School
The Last Picture Show
Pretty in Pink
Mean Girls
Rebel Without a Cause
Easy A
10 Things I Hate About You
2:37

Education Update #14

Education News 3

Avoiding the Trap of “Q & A Teaching”

“Q & A teaching” occurs during the direct instruction portion of the lesson; the instruction turns into a Q & A session instead of the teacher giving a clear model or explanation. It’s easy to understand why we do this; we want students to be involved and stay engaged in the lesson. The problem for a lesson covering a new skill, though, is that the end result is disjointed instruction possibly including wrong information, since students were asked to contribute aloud before they were ready….read more

Teachers Open Up About the (Mostly Lousy) Economics of Their Dream Job

Through the TED-Ed network, we asked 17 public school teachers working in locations from Kildare to Kathmandu, Johannesburg to Oslo, to tell us what they earned last month, and to give us a sense of how they spent their salaries. We chose to focus on public school teachers, because the way these educators are treated says something about national priorities, the economic climate, and a country’s vision for the future. The teachers’ responses show that it really doesn’t matter where you are — certain worries and goals are universal….read more

Learning Is Non-Linear. Why Not Curriculum?

More recent neuroscience evidence has led me to think that learning can be thought of in at least two levels. There are probably more but two will suffice for now. On the one hand is the acquisition of knowledge and skills or what are better known as competencies. On the other is deeper learning, when we make associations in our brains that lead to Ah Ha! moments or new insights….read more

Simple Ideas To Improve Student Motivation

The best lessons, books, and materials in the world won’t get students excited about learning and willing to work hard if they’re not motivated. Motivation, both intrinsic and extrinsic, is a key factor in the success of students at all stages of their education, and teachers can play a pivotal role in providing and encouraging that motivation in their students….read more

The Barriers To Using Social Media In Education

In 2012-13, The US department of Commerce ranked 55 industry sectors for their IT intensiveness, education ranked lowest (below coal mining). Education industry that bears the responsibility to prepare children for the world of tomorrow, itself is not ready to embrace the digital revolution with an open mind. We’re not talking about the number of machines lying in your computer lab or iPads in the classroom. We’re talking about the motivation behind having these machines – digital education in true sense….read more

Six Reasons Why Twitter is A Teacher’s BFF

Twitter. It was the last thing I wanted to spend my time on. I already used Facebook so why would I need another social media platform to eat up my spare time and contribute to my procrastination regime? If you are an educator interested in active citizenship, global perspectives, development education, English, Geography, SOSE, HSIE, Digital learning, pedagogies I can guarantee that it is worth the look!….read more

Fifty Time-saving Social Media Shortcuts Worth Knowing

You probably spend quite a bit of time on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and Google+. They’re the ‘big 4′ of social media and there is a good chance you wish you could use these websites just a … little … bit … faster. Lucky for you, there’s a handy cheat sheet now available with more than 50 (we counted!) time-saving social media shortcuts that are designed to help you watch videos, share posts, and do just about anything faster than you can even imagine….read more

Powerful Tools To Create Polls And Quizzes In The Classroom

Using polling tools in the classroom is probably old hat by now. There are a ton of different tools available to teachers – many of them free- and they’re being put to use in a variety of different ways. From simply polling your class to get information and opinions to taking quizzes and having your students poll for group work or projects, there are a lot of possibilities out there for these types of tools. Check out this awesome list….read more

How to Critically Judge Online Content

Below is some advice you can share with your students to help them learn about how to critically judge online (and offline) content. The information included is based on Google Safety resources as well as on an article I shared previously….read more