Freedom Writers (2007) Film Review

Freedom Writers

Erin Gruwell (Hilary Swank) has become a teacher for idealist reasons, inspired by her father, Steve (Scott Glenn) and supported by her husband, Scott (Patrick Dempsey). However, when she starts teaching in a rough school that has been involved in some kind of integration type scheme around the time of the LA Riots in the early nineties, even they think she may be too far out of her depth. Still, she believes she can make a change in their lives, and the connection is the holocaust (which most of the class had not even heard of).

At first I thought: here’s another one of those films about a rough school where an inexperienced teacher uses unconventional methods to connect to her students much to the annoyance of other staff and school management. But wait; this one is a true story and it is really good. Hilary Swank is fabulous, but it is the way she pushes the students despite their anger and fear and bravado to be more and to have a future beyond the gangs and the streets. And hey, teachers? If you’re looking to teach students resilience and self-belief, this is a good text. Students love it. And they’re sick of Remember the Titans (even though that is also a really good film, I reckon).

 

Another Year (2010) Film Review

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Tom (Jim Broadbent) and Gerri (Ruth Sheen) have been married a long time and are happy. They have a son who’s going well, a beautiful house and garden and good friends. Their friends aren’t really as happy. There’s Mary (Lesley Manville) who seems to drink too much too often and make bad choices. Or Ronnie (David Bradley), Tom’s brother, whose son appears at his wife’s funeral with nothing but bitterness and hate. Another Year is true to its name; it’s another year in their lives. And that’s it.

The first scene was particularly interesting, with Imelda Staunton as a po-faced patient being seen by a heavily pregnant doctor. Then they were gone, only seen briefly again later. It was as though Mike Leigh was saying “this could be an interesting film, but instead, watch this”. Boo. I want to know more about that story. The story that was told was fine; the characters were interesting but it really just was stuff that happened in the year with no real plot. And for me, the end was really crap.

Another Year was nominated for an Oscar for Best Writing, Original Screenplay (Mike Leigh).

The Pirates – Band of Misfits! In an Adventure with Scientists! (2012) Film Review

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I’ve been a fan of Aardman Productions since Wallace and Gromit. Or before, even – if you haven’t had a chance to check out Rex the Runt, do. It’s a fairly surreal animation series for adults (well, not specifically – it’s not rude. I just don’t think kids’d like it all that much.) The Pirates is the most recent outing for Aardman, and it certain reaches the same high standard of storytelling.

It follows the Pirate Captain, an affable but not very effective pirate, in his attempt to win the Pirate of the Year Award. He is being helped by a variety of misfit pirates, but they have no chance at beating the other, more impressive pirates. Sailing away, they come across Charles Darwin, who covets the Pirate Captain’s “parrot” Polly, which is actually a dodo. From here is a series of crazy chases and misadventures that takes them to England and meeting Queen Victoria, who covets the dodo like no other.

It’s funny and silly and an excellent film for children. What would be even better would be for it to be a television series. The characters are engaging and silly, and there is the opportunity for some educational content. Well, the possibility – although if Queen Victoria is represented as a madwoman who will go to all lengths to get the Dodo and Charles Darwin as a lonely man desperately seeking love, then perhaps there may be an issue with the educational content.

The Pirates was nominated for an Oscar for Best Animated Feature