13 May 2011

The Mighty...?

As you can see, I was Thor before being Thor was cool.
(Halloween, 2008)
As is my wont, I saw Thor last weekend and decided to write a little bit about it since I like comics and I like movies and so I expect way too much out of comic book movies despite being easily impressed with them whenever they don't feature extended jazz dance scenes. I'm looking at you, Spider-Man 3.

Thor is a great movie. There are no two ways around it.

So much of a high-concept popcorn flick like this really depends on quality performances and Chris Hemsworth stands head and shoulders above the rest. He’s tremendous in a way that will be hard for Chris Evans or Ryan Reynolds to top this summer. He’s so outrageously charming playing this brash, privileged, spoiled dude who’s just as talented as he thinks he is, but that also has to learn humility and sacrifice. This is also due in no small part to Natalie Portman, Stellan Skaarsgard and Kat Dennings treating Hemsworth like, well, a god, but Hemsworth’s performance is what makes it work. There’s so much complexity in what could be a role that many would play as one-note.

Tom Hiddleston’s turn as Loki should also be noted, and I think he’s going to get a lot of notice once people view the movie a second or third time if they’re unfamiliar with Loki’s character. It’s clear to see how he sets events in motion and works as a master manipulator.

Most of all, Kenneth Branaugh adds a grandeur and gravitas to Asgard that is on par with just about any other fantasy movie epic. He takes something that really shouldn’t work in the scope of what the Marvel Movie Universe has established and makes it fit without appearing hokey or out-of-place.

Really, the only complaint I had was that Volstagg should be way fatter.

Monday, May 2, was Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson's birthday, but it was also notable because we continued through the trial of Tom Robinson. This continued Tuesday and Wednesday, culminating in a quiz covering chapters 17-21 of To Kill a Mockingbird on Thursday. During the reading, you kept track of the facts presented by the four witnesses of the trial (Heck Tate, Bob Ewell, Mayella Ewell and Tom Robinson) based on what Mr. Gilmer or Atticus asked them.

Thursday, you had a work day.

We read through chapter 25 on Friday and discussed the symbolism of both the roly-poly and mockingbirds. That symbolism will be important and can serve as the basis for a really great thesis statement.

Monday, you turned in your character chart and themes worksheets for chapters 12-21. We read through chapter 27, which set up Bob Ewell's half-hearted rampage through Maycomb County. The guy gets fired from the WPA (Works Progress Administration, a jobs program enacted during FDR's New Deal) for laziness and then he's too much of a coward to follow through on any of his threats. Not that following through on them would have made him a better person or a better character in the book, mind you, but it's still the principle of the thing.

On Tuesday, you received the guidelines for the Score TKAM assignment and determined your groups. Your group will receive one jewel case from me, but anything beyond that is your responsibility should that one become lost or damaged.

Yesterday and today we finished To Kill a Mockingbird in class. The final two chapters are easy to read and short, but I'm selfish in that I love reading them in class together because they're just so touching. Boo Radley is one of the most affecting and effective characters in literature, especially given how little time the reader gets to spend with the real character as opposed to the perception of him. After finishing the book today, the plan is to revise some of your thesis statements since that assignment is due Monday, May 16.

Last Monday, May 2, we read the critical essay I affectionately call Cartoons & Cuckoos. This is an excellent example of analysis that takes one aspect of a story and thoroughly picks it apart to study its effectiveness. Plus, it's fun. I think we may lose sight of the fact that, ideally, reading is fun and discussing and writing about it shouldn't be a chore but should be an enjoyable thing to do. Your results may vary, of course, but there's no harm in enjoying the literature you read and possibly making connections between it and, say, the cartoons you enjoy, which is what Natsu did in his essay.

On Tuesday, May 3, you received the guidelines for what amounts to your semester final in the Cuckoo Final Project that is due Tuesday, May 17. The presentations begin that day, too, and I'm hoping that everyone gets really creative with how they decide to relay their work.

Wednesday and Thursday were spent working on the project in class. Wednesday, you signed up for presentation times, and Thursday you received the questions I collected yesterday for bonus.

Friday was devoted to taking the quiz dealing with chapters 15-25.

Monday and Tuesday of this week (along with this week's Thursday and Friday) were also work days for the project. Hopefully, everyone is taking full advantage of the class time they are receiving.

Yesterday was all about discussion of chapters 15 through 27, a large chunk of the book. Days like this are why I dig my job. The highlight of fifth period involved the class making analogies between baseball and One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest for the benefit of one particular student. Unfortunately, said student hasn't been reading, but everyone else seemed to enjoy debating whether or not Nurse Ratched is the pitcher or the umpire in this scenario. Sixth period's discussion lead to the idea that normal doesn't exist. There's a societal perception of normal, but no one ever really fits into it given their own personal life story and history. Recognizing this as a theme for Kesey's book as well as universal truth for life is what makes teaching English enjoyable for me. I hope you get something out of it as well.

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