Top 10 Movies About Teachers

Everyone agrees education is important. Most people agree teachers are valuable. Few people know the difference between learning and teaching. Learning happens naturally when children are fully engaged. Teaching happens when teachers love what they do and share that enthusiasm with the children they teach.

After spending years lecturing at private schools across South Africa, including elite schools like Michaelhouse, I gained a new appreciation for education. As a product of the public school system in the Eastern Cape, the poorest province in South Africa, I overcame substantial obstacles to become a regular guest speaker at elite private boarding schools.

Award winning teacher, John Taylor Gatto reminds us it’s just impossible for education and schooling ever to be the same thing.

The Ultimate History Lesson - John Taylor Gatto

To celebrate 10 years since I started my company, NETucation, here’s my top 10 movies about teachers – some great and others not so great.

  1. Stand and Deliver (1988): Together, one teacher and one class proved to America they could…Stand and Deliver. The story of Jaime Escalante, a high school teacher who successfully inspired his dropout-prone students to learn calculus. John Taylor Gatto talked about this story many times in his lectures and interviews, so I had to watch it.
  2. Mr Holland’s Opus (1995): We are your symphony Mr. Holland. We are the melodies and the notes of your opus. We are the music of your life. A frustrated composer finds fulfilment as a high school music teacher. One of the most beautiful movies about how teachers can change lives.
  3. Dead Poets Society (1989): He was their inspiration. He made their lives extraordinary. English teacher John Keating inspires his students to a love of poetry and to seize the day. Carpe diem!
  4. Detachment (2011): A substitute teacher who drifts from classroom to classroom finds a connection to the students and teachers during his latest assignment. A powerful performance by Adrian Brody as a teacher who is broken inside.
  5. Dangerous Minds (1995): Louanne Johnson is an ex-marine, hired as a teacher in a high school in a poor area of the city. She has recently separated from her husband. Her friend, also a teacher in the school, got the temporary job for her. After a terrible reception from the students, she tries unconventional methods of teaching (using karate, Bob Dylan lyrics, etc) to gain the trust of the students.
  6. The Great Debaters (2007): A drama based on the true story of Melvin B. Tolson, a professor at Wiley College, Texas. In 1935, he inspired students to form the school’s first debating team, which went on to challenge Harvard in the national championships. Even though this is not about school, the teaching influence is primarily in inspiring the students.
  7. Half Nelson (2006): An inner-city junior high school teacher with a drug habit forms an unlikely friendship with one of his students after she discovers his secret. Ryan Gosling shows glimpses of what makes him a great actor.
  8. One Eight Seven (1997): After surviving a brutal attack (the weapon used was a board with nails in it) by a student, teacher Trevor Garfield moves from New York to Los Angeles. Samuel L. Jackson is always convincing as an authority figure.
  9. Freedom Writers (2007): A young teacher inspires her class of at-risk students to learn tolerance, apply themselves, and pursue education beyond high school. Some parts of this movie appeal to the sentimental part of me.
  10. To Sir, With Love (1967): About an idealistic engineer-trainee and his experiences in teaching a group of rambunctious white high school students from the slums of London’s East End.

Honourable mentionRushmore (1998): The film is a personal favourite because the main character reminds me of myself. Max Fischer (Jason Schwartzman), a precocious and eccentric 15-year-old, who is both Rushmore’s most extracurricular and least scholarly student, and his businessman friend Herman Blume (Bill Murray) both fall in love with the same female teacher.

More than any other, I recommend you watch The Ultimate History Lesson: A Weekend with John Taylor Gatto, free on Youtube. And if you enjoy it support the Tragedy and Hope community who produced it and receive a discount using the coupon code “RAMONTHOMAS” below.

 

 

Up, up and away…Superman

Superman Christopher Reeve Superman, the archetypal comic book superhero was born in the early 1930’s depression era America. The brainchild of writer Jerry Siegel and artist Joe Shuster Superman was initially a villain but soon became the greats hero known to mankind. The myth of Superman is essentially that he was born on the planet Krypton with a red sun. Before the planet was destroyed his parents, Jor-El & Lara, sent him off to Earth. The only survivor from his home planet he became an American icon helping fight World War II, saving FDR and much more. In the early 1990s Superman was killed in by Doomsday. He was resurrected (sound familiar) and his powers temporarily changed but was soon reversed to the original set of powers.

Christopher Reeve became famous overnight when he starred in the first Superman (1978) movie. He reprised the role 3 more times although the last movie, Superman 4: The Quest for Peace (1987) was pretty lame compared to the sequels. The first two are rated as the best and the third starring Richard Pryor is a bit of a comic farce in the vain of Batman Forever (with Jim Carrey). My personal favourite is #2 with the 3 baddies from Krypton. After suffering severe injuries from a horse riding accident Christopher Reeve was paralyzed. He still continued to do work behind the camera. He also petitioned Hollywood to make more social conscious movies at the 1996 Oscars. Although he will best remembered as the Man of Steel, he has made an enormous contribution to the cause of the disabled, and was in particular outspoken about Stem Cell Research.

What is your favourite Christopher Reeve moment? Please comment on this post and share it with me.

 

School for Scoundrels looses the plot

I recently watched this comedy and was only mildly entertained by it. The more important lesson is that its possible for a shy, nerdy, insecure guy to become confident, social and improve your success with women. So many of the guys who ask me about my coaching programme are infatuated with ONE girl. They miss the point that it is about improving your overall social success with women.

This is one of those few movies like Hitch which can give insecure, lonely or frustrated guys a glimpse of what’s possible. The basic plot of the movie is that Roger, a nerd, played by John Herder from Napoleon Dynamite fame, takes a class with a self-help guru Dr P, played by Billy Bob Thornton. Dr P is a real ass hole and treats all his students with disdain. He has a bad-add enforcer in the form of Lesher, played by the huge Michael Clark Duncan. You can read more detailed reviews on Rotten Tomatoes.

What I want to highlight is how stupid this movie ends. Roger basically wins back his girlfriend from Mr P, who turns out to be the biggest liar and a con-man. When you watch a movie like this you have to think about how realistic it is for a character as pathetic as Roger to build enough confidence to do what he does. What I mean is to actually pull it off. This kind of things never happen in the real world. It takes a long time to build up enough muster to challenge an authority figure like Dr P. There are no short cuts and you can throw luck out the window. Fake it till you make it just won’t cut it with women in the long term. If you want to supercharge your social success with women in South Africa, join the South African Seduction Lair and meet guys with more experience. Stop reading books or listening to audio programs from the Internet. Meet guys who can show you what’s possible.

 

Maybe Jason Bourne is better than James Bond

Matt Damon as Jason BourneJust came back from watching the awesome Bourne Ultimatum. Matt Damon really kicks some solid ass in this film like he did in the previous ones. Bourne is tortured by memory loss and is on a mission to find out where it all began.

This got me think about Jason Bourne vs James Bond as a spy but more so as a male role model. It’s been said other than their initials they do not have much in common. Jason Bourne is edgy, vulnerable and tortured while James Bond is smooth, droll, conscience-free. Bourne is stalked by the loss of his girlfriend in the Bourne Supremacy while James Bond is the ultimate player and womaniser. For a brief moment it seemed like Bourne was going to hook-up with Nicky Parsons (Julia Stiles). But he sent her on her on way as he continued to go for broke trying to find out his origins.

In terms of raw energy Jason Bourne is the more pragmatic of the two spies. James Bond relies so much on gadgets to accomplish what he needs to do. I do accept that Daniel Craig is likely the only actor to play Bond that could be superior in ass kicking than Matt Damon‘s Bourne. So while James Bond relies on his charm, Bourne could be enormously attractive to women because of his single minded conviction while showing compassion when you least expect it.

 

The Triangle in Bermuda unravelled

The Triangle is a miniseries originally broadcast on the Sci-Fi channel and now available on DVD. I rented the DVD over this weekend because it’s about 255 minutes of running time broken into 3 episodes. This is a very original take on the Bermuda Triangle and time travel discrepancies.

You will enjoy this DVD if you enjoy other current science fiction series like The 4400 or Heroes. The producers include Bryan Singer, director of first two X-Men films and Superman Returns as well as Dean Devlin, producer of Stargate and Independence Day. The cast is exceptional with Eric Stoltz, Sam Neill, Lou Diamond Phillips, Catherine Bell, Bruce Davidson (twice in X-Men as Senator Robert Kelly), and Michael E. Rodgers. There is also two South African actors in the series with brief roles: Marius Weyers, still with a thick South African accent after all these years and Hakeem Kae-Kazim, originally from Nigeria but primarily based in South Africa. I’ve met Hakeem a few times and he has awesome energy about him.

The plot is simple – it seems. A very rich shipping magnate Eric Benirall (Sam Neill) recruits a group of misfits that include a journalist for a tabloid, a deep ocean resource engineer, a man with genuine psychic abilities and Meteorology professor. They band together in desperate times as they find weird coincidences or as Freud called them uncanny happenings. On the surface it seems straightforward, Benirall’s company controls about 1/5th of all ships on the sea at any given time through his cargo company and has lost 6 ships in a short space of time. Later on more deeper reasons emerge as it turns out Benirall lost a brother in the Bermuda Triangle. Each one of the main cast have personal circumstances which adds depth to their characters. The navy it turns out is building a huge machine to counter the effects of the infamous Philadelphia Experiment, in which a ship allegedly disappeared in a scientific experiment in 1943. It has been an integral part of many conspiracy theories over the decades.

In summary this is a great action packed, sci-fi thriller. It’s also reminiscent of the X-Files in many ways and pays homage to mixing hard core scientists, with sceptics, with soothsayers. This is a highly recommended DVD to all those who enjoy suspense, unusual events mixed with great science fiction and excellent performances by the cast. Just a final note – I was really chuffed this mini series was shoot mostly in Cape Town.

 

TEDGlobal 2007: Session 1: Carol Pineau

Carol PineauCarol Pineau was the 3rd speaker for the first session of TEDGlobal. She is best known for her documentary Africa Open For Business. She told some of the stories from her inspiring documentary. The first was the story of Ruff ‘n Tumble a very successful clothing designer from Nigeria. Another one was the great success of Vodacom Congo founded by Alieu Conteh, also a speaker at TEDGlobal. And maybe someone who could be considered in the future as Africa’s answer to Richard Branson: Mohammed Yassin Olad, who started a private airline when the Somali government collapsed and with it the national airline shut down. This is what true entrepreneurship is about – realising opportunities in the most dire circumstances.

She further explained that there is a unusually high perception of risk in Africa. However, China is one country that is striking up alliances, partnerships and investing at a rate like no Western country is doing. And in a way this is almost like a Marshall Plan for Africa.

You can purchase the documentary Africa: Open for Business directly from her website here. And here is a great article summarising the message on the official South Africa website.

 

TEDGlobal 2007: Session 1: Andrew Dosunmu

Andrew DosunmuContinuing on the theme of the Africa you don’t know was Andrew Dosunmu, most famous in South Africa as being the director of the hit television show Yizo Yizo. While growing up in Lagos, Nigeria, he experienced very different images of Africa compared to when he moved to London. Andrew has directed several music videos including one for the song Birima by Youssou N’Dour and Wyclef Jean. Andrew is filled with a passion for telling real stories especially about young people and how they experience living in Africa. So he travels widely collecting stories about youth culture and portraying positive images in his work.

Make sure you checkout Andrew Dosunmu’s website for more information this extraordinary African film maker.

 

How to identify good and bad role models for men

There is a debate that crops up every now and then, trying to explain the behaviour of human beings. It’s called the nature vs nurture debate and speaks about how our overall behaviour patterns is determined by our genes (nature) or how we are raised by our parents (nurture). It’s clear that both play a role but more and more of my own thinking is leaning toward nurture in a big way, especially when you consider the revolutionary work on the Biology of Belief by Dr Bruce Lipton.

The short answer is not to be devided in your thinking and you being. Your message must be clear, must be short and when in doubt show the opposite to be wrong and ergo makes your message right. Remember we live in a world of duality. For every wrong there is always a right, for every bad there’s always a good, for every forward there’s always a backward.

Just a short overview of two movies that demonstrate the right and the wrong way to approach your life as a man:

The Groomsmen Edward Burns

  1. The Groomsmen: A film written, directed and starred in by Edward Burns. I liked most of his previous films because they seemed real and down to earth. However, after this one I realised how he often plays the most self-pittying characters. In many ways he symbolises what is wrong with the modern man. And as Tom Leykis and comedian George Carlin calls the continued pussification of America (and the rest of the world). And in this particular movie he is so distracted and divided in himself. He can’t decide to get married or not to get married. His girlfriend is pregnant and he feels like he needs to do the right thing. This is the worst roll model I’ve seen on screen in a long while for what a confident, mature man needs to be like. Women will likely enjoy this move more because of the cliche “happy ending.”
  2. Thank You For Smoking starring Aaron Eckhart and Katie Holmes

  3. Thank You For Smoking: Aaron Eckhart in this satire is a real powerhouse because he is so raw and so authentic it feels like a slap in the face for a wake-up call. As a tabacco lobbyist he has one of the most notorious jobs in the world. Trying to spin the research, the complaints, the victims, the media, and still come out on top. There’s a great rapport between him and his son (who also featured in Nicole Kidman’s Birth). Nick Naylor, the main character is cunnning lingust and more so a superb spokesman, cool, calm, collected and knows how to duck and dive the questions, giving answers or responses in a way that focussed the audience on what’s wrong with the person trying to debate with him. And he’s always able to turn things around to fit his worldview. In the seduction community this would be called having a strong frame. The only way to survive and thrive is by having a stronger frame then the other people around you.

So the secret to success for a man is not being divided. People are easily swayed by opinions of others. And you must stand your ground and believe yourself first before you expect other people to believe in you.

 

Mel Gibson Breaks Hollywood's 10 Commandments

Mel Gibson has always been an iconic actor ever since he emerged from Australia’s deserts with the Mad Max trilogy of movies. He became a bonafide action star with the Lethal Weapon series and Braveheart.

I’m a big movie fan and always keep track of how movies are created, marketed and how they perform. With the craze that was the Passion of the Christ in 2004 there was a brilliant piece written on the approach that Mel Gibson took called, Mel Gibson Breaks Hollywood’s 10 Commandments.

And today I came across another brilliant example of how the movie industry is leveraging, sometimes by accident, the power of the Internet and word-of-mouth: Why Will ‘Snakes on a Plane’ Be a Hit? It’s the Internet, Stupid.

 

Valentine’s Day 2006 Movie Recommendations

One of the best things to do is get together with your girlfriend or boyfriend and watch a movie. DVDs are just so commonplace and as you know you can get those pirate copies even while movies are in cinemas. I personally prefer watching them at the cinema the first time around. As Valentine’s Day is approaching I recommend some of my favourite romantic movies from the last two years…

1. 50 First Dates (2004)

50 First Dates With generous amounts of good luck and good timing, 50 First Dates set an all-time box-office record for the opening weekend of a romantic comedy; whether it deserved such a bonanza is another issue altogether. It’s a sweet-natured vehicle for sweet-natured stars Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore, and their track record with The Wedding Singer no doubt factors in its lowbrow appeal. But while the well-matched lovebirds wrestle with a gimmicky plot (she has no short-term memory, so he has to treat every encounter as their first), director Peter Segal (who directed Sandler in Anger Management) ignores the intriguing potential of their predicament (think Memento meets Groundhog Day) and peppers the proceedings with the kind of juvenile humor that Sandler fans have come to expect. The movie sneaks in a few heartfelt moments amidst its inviting Hawaiian locations, and that trained walrus is charmingly impressive, but you can’t quite shake the feeling that too many good opportunities were squandered in favor of easy laughs. Like Barrymore’s character, you might find yourself forgetting this movie shortly after you’ve seen it.

2. The Notebook (2004)

When you consider that old-fashioned tearjerkers are an endangered species in Hollywood, a movie like The Notebook can be embraced without apology. Yes, it’s syrupy sweet and clogged with clichés, and one can only marvel at the irony of Nick Cassavetes directing a weeper that his late father John–whose own films were devoid of saccharine sentiment–would have sneered at. Still, this touchingly impassioned and great-looking adaptation of the popular Nicholas Sparks novel has much to recommend, including appealing young costars (Ryan Gosling and Rachel McAdams) and appealing old costars (James Garner and Gena Rowlands, the director’s mother) playing the same loving couple in (respectively) early 1940s and present-day North Carolina. He was poor, she was rich, and you can guess the rest; decades later, he’s unabashedly devoted, and she’s drifting into the memory-loss of senile dementia. How their love endured is the story preserved in the titular notebook that he reads to her in their twilight years. The movie’s open to ridicule, but as a delicate tearjerker it works just fine. Message in a Bottle and A Walk to Remember were also based on Sparks novels, suggesting a triple-feature that hopeless romantics will cherish.

3. Bride and Prejudice (2004)

Bride and PrejudiceThe exotic sounds, vibrant colors, and ecstatic dancing of Bollywood collide with the cunning storytelling of Jane Austen in Bride & Prejudice (from the writer/director of previous East/West hybrid Bend It Like Beckham). When smart, outspoken Lalita Bakshi (Indian beauty Aishwarya Rai) meets Will Darcy (Martin Henderson, The Ring), she finds this American businessman arrogant and conceited–but because his best friend is falling in love with her sister, Lalita agrees to travel around India with Darcy. On the trip, a childhood friend of Darcy’s named Johnny (Daniel Gillies, Spider-Man 2) both tickles Lalita’s fancy and confirms her worst suspicions about Darcy. But as events unfold, Lalita wonders if she hasn’t misjudged Darcy–and Johnny. Austen fans will be find much to criticize; Bride & Prejudice transplants the basic plot of Pride & Prejudice to modern India, but not much of Austen’s sly wit or her insights about character and society have survived the translation. Henderson, though handsome, lacks the intimidating charisma of previous Mr. Darcys (including Laurence Olivier and Colin Firth). Thank goodness for the delightful Rai, here making her first all-English-language movie. She commands the screen like a true star (unsurprisingly, she’s hugely popular in India, and previously starred in a more homegrown Austen adaptation: I Have Found It, based on Sense & Sensibility). For Western audiences unfamiliar with the freewheeling exuberance of Indian movies–wild musical numbers can break out at almost any moment–Bride & Prejudice offers an engaging taste of this fantastic cinematic style.

4. Spanglish (2004)

SpanglishAnyone familiar with writer/director James L. Brooks (As Good As It Gets) knows the man has a real feel for interesting women and a disarming way with a one-liner. The main women in Spanglish are Deborah Clasky (Téa Leoni), a moneyed SoCal mom, and non-English speaking Flor Moreno (Paz Vega), the beautiful Latina whom Deborah hires as a housekeeper. The one-liners, some of them amusing, are everywhere. Brooks provides an intriguing set-up for the two women to butt heads–Deborah’s pudgy daughter Bernice (Sarah Steele) needs the affection at which Flor excels, while Flor’s clever, bi-lingual daughter Cristina (Shelbie Bruce) is enamored of the financial advantages Deborah can provide–then proceeds to make Deborah so hatefully ignorant you can’t imagine why her neuroses are the main thrust of the film. And Deborah’s celebrated chef husband John (Adam Sandler, way over his head) is such a perfect parent he doesn’t seem human–what happened to the Brooks who had Terms of Endearment mom Debra Winger turn to her scowling little boy and grunt “Don’t make me hit you in the street”? Cloris Leachman has a nifty supporting role as Deborah’s boozy, ex-jazz singer mother, but it’s only one offbeat chord in an earnest film that hits all the wrong notes.

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