The Zombies are Coming

The undead will be unleashed on Brisbane this weekend when the annual Zombie Walk takes to the streets of West End on Sunday afternoon (October 5).

First staged in 2006, the Brisbane Zombie Walk is an annual event to raise money and awareness for the Brain Foundation. The 2013 walk was held at the RNA Showgrounds and raised more than $50 000 for the Brain Foundation.

The 2014 Brisbane Zombie Walk will take place at the ABSOE Building (home of the Boundary Street Markets and The Motor Room) in West End from 2:00pm this Sunday.

Zombie Walk Poster

In addition to the walk itself, the event will include markets, make-up and food stalls, as well a music festival featuring The Drafts, The Blood Poets, Dr.Parallax, Monster Zoku Onsomb and several more musical artists and DJ’s.

This is an all ages event with general admission just $15.00.

For more information about 2014 Brisbane Zombie Walk, visit the event website.

For more information about the Brain Foundation, click here.

The Immigrant

James Gray obviously has a strong connection with New York; that much is obvious from watching the five feature films he has directed. Each of these offerings are set in the city that never sleeps and, in each case, the city itself is more than just a backdrop. The social and political fabric of New York during the time in which each story is set always plays a pivotal role in narrative and characterisation. With his latest offering, The Immigrant, Gray takes us back to the New York of 1921 amid the influx of those fleeing Europe in the aftermath of World War 1. Amongst those who have arrived on Ellis Island seeking entry into America are Polish sisters Ewa (Marion Cotillard) and Magda (Angela Sarafyan). When Magda is deemed too sick to be granted immediate entry and whisked away to the infirmary, Ewa is subsequently – and somewhat dubiously – deemed a woman of “loose morals” and is also denied entry. It is only the intervention of the seemingly benevolent Bruno (Joaquin Phoenix) that ensures Ewa is granted leave from the island.

The Immigrant poster

Gray and Phoenix have worked together on three previous occasions (The Yards, We Own the Night and Two Lovers) and there is obviously a kinship between the pair, however it is Cotillard who shines the brightest in a film that is an otherwise dark affair, both visually and narratively. The French actress has a mesmerising screen presence and is blessed with enormous talent, both of which are combined to great effect in her portrayal of a woman forced to endure myriad indignities in her bid for a better life. Gray claims that he wrote the film especially for Cotillard after meeting her over dinner and is also quoted as declaring her the best actor with whom he has worked. Certainly, her performance here as the fragile yet feisty Ewa only serves to justify such ebullient exaltations.

The Immigrant 2

Needless to say, Phoenix’s Bruno is not all he seems – charming one minute, prone to fits of rage the next – and soon enough Ewa finds herself mired in his seedy world of low-rent entertainment and prostitution, having been rejected by relatives she thought would lend assistance. Despite everything Bruno puts her through, Ewa remains stoic; spiritually and emotionally off-limits to all and sundry and determined in her resolve. Scheming and scamming when necessary, she remains solely focused on getting her sister out of quarantine to make a fresh start in America. In fact, it is Bruno who suffers from a lack of self-worth, a weakness that Ewa needs to exploit if she is to achieve her objective. When Emil (Jeremy Renner), Bruno’s well-intentioned but somewhat hapless magician cousin, enters the fray and instils hope in Ewa, a battle for her affections ensues.

The Immigrant 1

With a look that suggests the influence of Francis Ford Coppola, cinematographer Darius Khondji (Stealing Beauty, Magic in the Moonlight) shot on 35mm film and has drenched The Immigrant with a hazy almost sepia-like hue that very effectively imbues the film with the low light aesthetic of the candles and gas-lit lamps of the time. In fact, all of the period details are quite impressive and whilst the atmosphere of The Immigrant is somewhat bleak overall, the ending – and the final shot in particular – is both haunting and hopeful. Following fabulous performances in the likes of La Vie en Rose, Inception and Rust and Bone, Cotillard has again proved herself one of the finest screen actresses in the world today, somehow presenting Ewa as both dignified and vulnerable with a subtlety that is utterly compelling. Whilst The Immigrant suffers from a lack of context for Bruno’s behaviours and the somewhat underutilised narrative opportunities surrounding Emil, such shortcomings are easily overlooked because we are ultimately only interested in Ewa and her steely determination to endure whatever is necessary to reach her objective.

Education Update #27

Education News

A Six Step Process For Teaching Argument Analysis

How “basic” this is depends on who your audience is, but this is more of an overview to help students systematically look at an argument piece by piece–and these are the pieces. This is one of the organizers I use as a teacher–there’s a lot here, from thesis to tone, pathos/ethos/logos to implicit/explicit, audience awareness to media form, to “next steps” that ask students to consider the “So? So what? What now?” closure of any learning experience….read more

Queensland’s OP and QCS Test Ranking System for Year 12 ‘should be discontinued’, Review Recommends

A year-long review of Queensland’s Year 12 assessment and university entrance rankings has recommended an overhaul of the Overall Position (OP) system. The independent review, ‘Redesigning the secondary-tertiary interface’, found the 22-year-old system no longer functioned as originally envisaged and had reached the end of its usefulness….read more

The Teacher’s Guide To Twitter

Twitter has proven itself to be an indispensable tool for educators around the globe. Whatever skill level you may be, Twitter is downright fun and worth your time. So here’s a useful guide that we curated from Edudemic’s archives in an effort to put something together that was a bit easier to read than random blog posts….read more

Eight Ways to Support Students Who Experience Trauma

Children, adolescents and teens in your classroom have experienced or are experiencing ongoing trauma. The impacts of trauma can be far-reaching, long-lasting, and impact students’ ability to access their education. There are small ways, however, that we can make our classrooms more friendly and supportive to students mangaging the impacts of trauma….read more

Teaching the ’60s and the Art of the Film

There are two assumptions underlying this post. First, teaching visual literacy, including film literacy, should be a priority in all high schools. Second, it is a myth that there is no room in school curricula to include this. So please join me in exploring just one example of how it can be done….read more

What LGBT Students Need in Schools: Teachers, It’s Up to You

Being pansexual is an important part of my identity, and though it was summer when I discovered this, it significantly influenced my experiences in school. There are two types of challenges that we can face, internal and external. LGBT people in school face both of these challenges for different reasons….read more

Online NAPLAN Testing Soon to be a Reality

Online NAPLAN testing is one step closer to becoming a reality, with a report released today revealing that future online tests will allow students to answer questions tailored to their level of ability. The report proposes that NAPLAN online tests will adopt a multi-stage adaptive test design, which allows for the difficulty of the test to be adjusted to the students’ needs….read more

Designing Curriculum That Teachers Will Actually Use

What is Leadership in Curriculum? Whatever the answer, the question should not be confused with a related but far different query: What is management in curriculum? Yet, I suspect that few people with curricular responsibilities appreciate how different the questions and answers are – and why real leadership is rare yet sorely needed now….read more

Fear is Not an Option When it Comes to Social Media in Schools

Innovative educators know first hand that social media like Twitter, Facebook, Google, and Instagram can be a powerful tool for teaching, learning, leading, and strengthening the home-school connection. It is the job of innovative educators to ensure parents, colleagues, and administrators know how to embrace the power of social media and also how to address their concerns….read more

Intermediate Level Projects with Scratch: Random Shapes On Demand

Through a renewed interest around in-class computer programming, campaigns like the Hour of Code have brought active support to millions of users trying programming for the first time. A host of other free tools are also making it easier than ever for people to learn coding. The most popular of these new tools for learning creative computing is Scratch….read more

A Straightforward Guide To Creative Commons

Way back when, research meant going to the library, finding something in a book, and indicating what book you found the information in when you created your bibliography. The internet has brought a significant amount of grey area to the world of citations and bibliographies. Students need to understand how to distinguish relevant, reliable material from the wasteland of trash that otherwise litters the internet. Enter Creative Commons. (And thank goodness). The Creative Commons licenses allow any internet user to easily understand how they can (and can not) share what they find on the web….read more

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

If it looks like a Michael Bay film and it sounds like a Michael Bay film, then it probably is a Michael Bay film. Therefore, it was no real surprise to learn that Bay served as producer on this latest screen incarnation of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Although directed by Jonathan Liebesman – whose previous efforts were the very underwhelming Battle: Los Angeles and Wrath of the Titans – this adaptation of the popular comic book characters is chock full of typical Bay bombast; over-the-top moments that only serve to further reduce the credibility of a concept that requires a considerable suspension of disbelief before it even begins. Having said that, these characters have stood the test of time through four previous feature films and as many different television series’, numerous video games and myriad merchandise and toys, so there is an obvious affection for the “heroes in a half shell” and the other characters that populate their subterranean world. Given the credentials of those involved, it is no surprise that there is action aplenty as the four eponymous anthropomorphic reptiles set forth to save New York from being infected by a deadly virus.

TMNT Poster

The film opens with television reporter April O’Neill (Megan Fox) desperately seeking a story that will enable her to be taken more seriously by her colleagues, including her cameraman Vernon (Will Arnett) and boss Bernadette (Whoopi Goldberg). When she stumbles across a robbery in progress and encounters the four vigilante turtles – Donatello, Michelangelo, Raphael and Leonardo – O’Neill sees the story as her big chance; except nobody believes her:
Bernadette: There are four six foot talking turtles walking around New York City, and no one has seen them but you?
April: That’s what I’m telling you.
Bernadette: Okay, get out.

TMNT 1

Having survived a laboratory fire, the four turtles have been raised by Splinter – a rat who was subjected to the same scientific experimentation and has developed similar human characteristics – who serves as both father figure and sensei. Of course, a connection between O’Neill and the turtles is soon established and they find themselves working together to foil the plot of a – you guessed it – genius scientist with evil intentions. In a role beneath his talents, William Fichtner plays the dastardly Eric Sacks who, of course, also has a connection with O’Neill and the turtles. There is very little character development and none of the performances are particularly noteworthy, with Arnett looking especially bored as a character whose motivation for everything he endures is seemingly to bed April. The Transformer-like samurai Shredder is in cahoots with Sacks to poison the atmosphere and much mayhem ensues in the race against time. A sequence aboard a semi-trailer descending a snowy mountain rates as particularly preposterous.

TMNT 2

Despite my reservations, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles seemed to play well with the younger members of the audience, although the violent nature of some scenes – which earned the film an M classification – will make it inaccessible to many TMNT fans. There is certainly nothing subtle about anything that happens and whilst there are a few chuckles to be had as the turtles engage in posturing and one-upmanship in their efforts to impress April, ultimately the film becomes bogged down in extended action sequences that deliver impressive visual effects and little else. An attempt to muse on the importance of family is ham-fisted and half-hearted; playing as nothing more than an afterthought and a poor attempt to add some gravitas to proceedings. This isn’t the worst movie you’ll see; in fact it isn’t even the worst Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie you will see, but there is certainly nothing particularly new or interesting to be found.

Forbidden Hollywood at GoMA

Commencing this Friday (September 26) in the Australian Cinemateque at Brisbane’s Gallery of Modern Art (GoMA) is a fantastic season of classic films that celebrate the creative freedom afforded to Hollywood filmmakers immediately prior to the introduction of the Motion Picture Production Code in 1934. Forbidden Hollywood: The Wild Days of Pre-Code Cinema explores that time of transition from silent movies to ‘talkies’; a short period in history that produced a collection of movies that remained some of the most salacious stories seen on screen until the emergence of the counter-culture movement in the 1960’s.

Forbidden Hollywood

Desperate to attract audiences in the aftermath of the Great Depression, Hollywood studios began to push the boundaries of moral standards and social acceptability with a series of films that mixed gritty realism with glamour. Strong female characters that challenged prevailing moral standards dominated the screen; making household names of the stars who played them.

Whilst the Production Code – a set of censorship guidelines – was originally drafted in 1930 following the release of several risqué films and a series of off-screen scandals involving Hollywood stars, it wasn’t until 1934 that it became a mandatory requirement that all films obtain a certificate of approval before being released. The Production Code would continue to influence what audiences could see on cinema screens until the late 1960’s when it was replaced by the classification system that remains in place today.

GoMA

All of the films featuring in Forbidden Hollywood: The Wild Days of Pre-Code Cinema were made between 1930 and 1934, taking advantage of the creative freedom that existed before the strict enforcement of the Production Code. The likes of James Cagney, Clark Gable, Jean Harlow, Joan Crawford, Katherine Hepburn and Marlene Dietrich star for directors such as Howard Hawks, Frank Capra and Josef Von Sternberg in films bristling with social commentary that pushed the boundaries with regard to depictions of criminality and sexuality.

Forbidden Hollywood: The Wild Days of Pre-Code Cinema features more than 20 films from the era, including Scarface, Blonde Venus, Shanghai Express and 42nd Street.

The season runs from September 26 until November 2 and all screenings are FREE. The full schedule of screenings at the Australian Cinemateque is available here.

GOA Billboards Photo Comp Winners Revealed

The winners of the GOA Billboards Project Photographic Competition have been announced, with Kaiana Tuala from Runcorn State High School taking out the Schools Category with an image that is simple but very effective in delivering a message about the significance of ANZAC within a contemporary context.

GOA Billboards Project

Runners-up in the Schools Category were Dilara Ulkutas from Mansfield State High School and Jayden Gooda from Kelvin Grove State College.

The Open Category – included for the first time this year – was won by Jessie Chandler, while an image by Mateja Sikavica from Mt Saint Michaels College was voted People’s Choice.

To see all the finalist images, click here.

The judging panel for the 2014 awards comprised Maud Page (QAGOMA), Ryan Johnston (Australian War Memorial), Charles Page (Documentary Photographer) and Henri van Noordenburg (Workshop Facilitator and Curator), with the 30 selected finalists currently on show at the Judith Wright Centre until September 27.

The finalists will also feature on GOA’s electronic billboards throughout Brisbane, which offers fantastic exposure and recognition for these talented school students. It really is a shame that there are not more opportunities for young people across all forms of the arts to showcase their talents to audiences beyond their immediate school community.

If you haven’t yet visited the exhibition at Judith Wright Centre, I strongly recommend that you check it out before it closes this weekend.

Brisbane Festival

Sin City: A Dame to Kill For

When Sin City was released in 2005, it captured the imagination of both move and comic book fans, drew praise from critics for its ground-breaking visual style and moved Mexican-American director Robert Rodriguez closer to the mainstream than he had ever been before. It was a masterful rendering of the dark, violent world of the graphic novels created by Frank Miller and it seemed certain to all and sundry that a sequel would follow soon after. Well, it has certainly taken much longer than expected, but a follow-up has finally arrived in Sin City: A Dame to Kill For. With Rodriguez sharing directing duties with Miller himself – as was the case with the first film – Sin City: A Dame to Kill For doesn’t waiver from the original with regard to visual style. What Rodriguez and Miller have achieved with the look of the film is again absolutely splendid; the comic-book sensibility front and centre and beautifully articulated once more. However, as good as it is, the fact that they got it so right the first time around means that audiences familiar with the original Sin City will probably not be as awestruck as they perhaps otherwise would be and therein lies the fundamental problem; there is nothing particularly new in what Rodriguez and Miller have produced here.

Sin City poster

Drawn from several of Miller’s stories – including two written specifically for the film – Sin City: A Dame to Kill For once again takes us deep into the sinister, lawless, violent world of Basin City. Most of the major players from the original have returned, including hulking loner Marv (Mickey Rourke), stripper Nancy Callahan (Jessica Alba), Senator Roark (Powers Boothe), a ghostly Detective Hartigan (Bruce Willis) and Rosario Dawson’s head honcho hooker Gail, while Josh Brolin replaces Clive Owen as Dwight, a lovelorn loser who is manipulated into misdeeds by femme fatale Ava (Eva Green). Joseph Gordon-Levitt features as Johnny, a cocky gambler who messes with the wrong man when he upstages the corrupt Roark, with Dennis Haysbert filling the shoes of the late Michael Clarke Duncan as the (almost) indestructible Manute. Certainly Rodriguez has assembled a stellar cast, with the likes of Ray Liotta, Jeremy Piven, Stacy Keach, Christopher Meloni, Jaime King, Juno Temple, Christopher Lloyd and Lady Ga Ga all featuring. In fact, much of the fun is not just trying to anticipate who might pop up next, but how long they will last before they meet their maker.

Sin City 1

This is film noir writ large; a darker-than-dark story set amidst a society in which sex and violence – far more than words – are the ways in which the numerous nefarious characters communicate. As such, nobody is more articulate than Ava, a sexy succubus who chews men up and spits them out at will. It is interesting that Green spends most of the film naked as Ava, yet Alba’s stripper Nancy never sheds her clothes at any stage. Rendered in black and white with occasional flourishes of colour, the violence is stylised and impossible to take seriously. There are severed heads galore and myriad shootings, stabbings and brutal beatings, but the comic book look keeps it all at an emotional distance. There are some moments of mirth amid the mayhem, such as Johnny’s twisted fingers after a violent confrontation with Roark or Lady Ga Ga’s role as perhaps the most ’normal’ character in the piece, a stark contrast to her more typically outrageous persona. In fact, with the possible exception of Marv, it is hard to like any of the lead characters and that may prove somewhat problematic for some. The film has been labelled as misogynistic in some quarters and, whilst the female characters are highly sexualised, the men here are pretty dumb for the most part, controlled and subjugated by the women.

Sin City 2

There is no doubt that Robert Rodriguez is a talented filmmaker who has carved himself a career outside of the Hollywood machine; the output from his Troublemaker Studios is imaginative, diverse and prolific. He also served as cinematographer and editor on Sin City: A Dame to Kill For and also composed the music with regular collaborator Carl Thiel. Anybody experiencing the world of Sin City for the first time with this sequel should be suitably impressed by what Rodriguez and Miller have achieved. For those of us who so loved the originality of the first film, there is something lacking here and it is really hard to pinpoint why it doesn’t resonate as much. Perhaps it is just that, no matter how good it might be, we have seen it all before.