Random Wednesday

5 Movies

It’s been a while since there was a Listography of some kind here, and I was talking with Eldest about movies the other day.  We got to discussing movies that had really made an impact, really impressed me.  It’s not as easy to come up with them as you might think.

I hated Avatar – a movie Eldest loves – and I will always think of it as “James Cameron’s Pocahontas”.  Google that as a search term and you’ll see what I mean.  It wasn’t even a 2 hour advert for toys, unlike the LEGO movie, and I loved that!  CGI-fests leave me cold.  I still don’t know why George Lucas couldn’t leave well alone and just clean up the original 3 Star Wars movies for their DVD release.  I want the original ones I saw in the cinema, not these new ones.  And no, I’m not particularly excited about the prospect of new Star Wars movies, not at the prices we’re paying for cinema tickets!

The movies that have impressed me most have not been what I was expecting.  They’ve largely come from the days before the Internet and instant-access spoilers for everything.  Usually it’s been word-of-mouth that’s taken me to see them or a trailer so enticing that you’ve just got to see it.

Oh, and on the subject of trailers, there’s this:

I watched this movie, based on the strength of the trailer.  It sounded interesting, there wasn’t much in the way of Urban Fantasy around at the time and I thought it would be good.  At the end of it, I looked at my wife and we both said one of our favourite lines from FRIENDS:  “Well, that’s 2 hours of my life I’ll never get back.”  And the problem is, even knowing that it’s a crap film, every time I see that trailer I still think “That looks like a decent film, maybe I’ll give that a go” before the rational part of my brain gives that thought the kicking it deserves.

Anyway.  The movies.  You see a film, you come out of it thinking “that was OK/Great/Dreadful but so unintentionally funny/a mistake”.  Sometimes a line or two, a scene or two will stick with you for a few days, but it’s a rare film that you come out of thinking “I did not expect that!”  Even rarer, a film that you can quote years later and that does not get old when you see it for the hundredth time.

The Princess Bride

Probably my favourite movie, ever. The most quotable film I’ve ever seen and it will never, ever, get old.  Between us, we’re probably word perfect.  Stardust comes close but it doesn’t quite have the same humour, the same strength of story, and it certainly doesn’t have Miracle Max and a man who’s been mostly dead all morning.

The Matrix

So you get hints of what this movie is going to be from the trailer but they don’t really do it justice.  They tease, they tempt and they entice, just as a good trailer should.  But the movie is better.  It’s one of those occasions where the F/X work with the story, helping it along rather than, like James Cameron’s Pocahontas, where they are the reason the movie was made.


Standard-issue Denzel Washington crime drama.  Big explosions, chases, guns, time travel.  Sorry, what?  Nope, I’m explaining this no further.  Suffice to say that, although there may be holes in this one, I have yet to spot them.  I watched this one twice, back to back, in one session to look for the clues, the foreshadowing, and they’re there – and they’re explained!  Now that’s the mark of a great movie.

Here’s something I love.  That whole “Turn Left” moment when a movie goes in a direction you were not expecting.  Not from the trailer, not from the reviews you’ve read, not from what your friends have told you.  You were not expecting that.  And then you watch the film again and the clues are there.  When you know what’s coming, you see the hints that were planted, the little throwaway lines that seemed perfectly innocuous at the time, a photograph here, a comment there, a spark between two characters.  Absolutely love it.

Groundhog Day

I’m not going to trail this one, you all know it.  And if you don’t then you need to go and see it right now.  I’ll wait.

This could’ve been a standard-issue RomCom.  Bill Murray, the late Harold Ramis, Andie MacDowel.  Small town America comedy about someone who’s life is not what they want it to be.  And then it turns left.


Definitely not the movie I was expecting.  And for that, probably one of the better superhero movies out there.  In fact I’m sat here laughing as I write this.  Must watch this one again soon!

So there you go.  Five of my favourite movies and one that I will hate forever for not being the movie I was expecting – and not in a good way.  What are yours?

Random Wednesday

Curriculum for What?

Excellence is a talent or quality which is unusually good and so surpasses ordinary standards. It is also used as a standard of performance.

Here in Scotland we have an amazing thing.  It is called the “Curriculum for Excellence” and it truly fits that description above.  Oh, no, wait…  I’m talking bollocks.  It is a steaming pile, it stinks and it has so few details it beggars belief.

We have known CfE (as it is more commonly known, since saying it in full each time you need to takes far too long) was coming for some time, we just didn’t know what form it would take.  Now that the information has arrived through the post I can say with some confidence that we still haven’t a bloody clue and it will impact on our Eldest in 2 years.

I’m no stranger to change in education.  GCSEs hit the decks the year before I started studying, so I was the 2nd year to do them instead of O-levels.  My eldest will be in the first year to do whatever the hell the new system brings.

So…  Under CfE there are, apparently, 2 main phases of education – S1-3, the “Broad General Education” and S4-6, the “Senior Phase”.  Where anyone in the normal end of the planet would be studying GCSEs and then A-levels, Scotland just has to be different…  In the Senior Phase, pupils will have the “opportunities to achieve a range of qualifications from National 1 to National 5, Highers, Advanced Highers and the Scottish Baccalaureate.”  So that’s nice and clear for both students, universities and employers, isn’t it?  “Employer:  Do you have GCSE English?  Student: No, but I have National 3 in Languages.  Employer: WTF?”  Likewise when considering a career in, for example, Medicine at an eminent English university, how do you convince the university in question that what you’ve got is a real qualification and not something you’ve made up on the spot?

We have no details about how many subjects pupils will study, what range of subjects can be chosen and to what level.  None.  I know, from a conversation with our head teacher when we raised the subject of studying all 3 sciences, that across Scotland local authorities are deciding whether pupils should study 6, 7 or 8 subjects in the “Senior Phase”.  That’s a lot less than I took at GCSE and if they aim for the lowest, only 2 more than I took at A-level!

We’re now having to search for more details when none appear to be there.  We’re also seriously considering boarding our eldest somewhere where the education system actually makes some sense and hasn’t been arsed around with by committee so badly.  And that brings into question our entire life here in Shetland.

Scotland appears to be aiming to make Scottish pupils unemployable outside of Scotland – imagine the sheer effort of trying to decipher what the qualifications a candidate has.  By changing the systems so much it is effectively trapping this generation of learners in Scotland.  The SNP really don’t like their own people, do they?

I’d love to hear from anyone with experience of how the CfE is being implemented in practice elsewhere in Scotland.  Positive or negative, I’m easy either way.  Hell, I’d love it if someone could lay all these fears to rest and prove to me that my misgivings about this are completely unfounded.  Leave it all in the comments, if you’d be so kind.

Random Wednesday

Kids TV – No, you’re not the only one.

The eloquent and witty SAHDandProud has vented his spleen about the TV he and his kids watch.  He wonders if he’s the only one to loathe and despise the majority of the edutainment out there.

You’re not alone.  Oh, trust me, you’re not alone!

SAHD, you’re only scratching the surface!

The Bad.

In the Night Garden.  Really, who dreamed this stuff up?  And what sort of a contract do they have Sir Derek Jacobi under?  Are they holding his nearest and dearest hostage?  None of the characters can actually speak.  If they can speak, it’s little more than their name.  And there’s the issue of scale.  Let’s get this straight.  In the real world, some things are bigger than others and some things are smaller.  This does not change from one second to the next unless mind-altering chemicals are involved.  But this happens all the time …in the Night Garden.  As an aside, this is the reason behind the shopkeepers in League of Gentlemen.  When the show started on the radio, the character of the shopkeeper changed height frequently for the purposes of whatever joke was involved at the time.  This just wasn’t practical for TV and so the legends were born.

Postman Pat.  If ever anything celebrated the incompetence and general cack-handedness of an individual, it’s this.  For years now, Pat has been delivering the mail …with hilarious consequences.  A typical episode will involve him having a single expensive item to deliver to a certain location by a certain time.  Does your postman do this?  Nope, didn’t think so.  In the course of the episode said item will be dropped, carried away by farm animals, mis-delivered to one or more wrong addresses before finally arriving (miraculously safe and sound) at it’s destination in the nick of time.  And that goes double for Special Delivery Service.  Who thought it was a good idea to trust Pat and his smegging cat with a helicopter, anyway?  It really does put the “special” into special delivery.

The Fimbles.  If ever there was cause for a Doom mod, it’s the Fimbles.

One common thread running through a lot of these programs is that if your name is in the title, you’re going to win.  No matter how stupid it seems, no matter how forced or contrived the victory, you’re the named individual and you’re going to succeed.  Bob the Builder has never had a contract fail despite the best efforts of his machines to screw things up.  Pat has never apologised for losing a parcel.  The Real World (capital R, capital W, if you’re taking notes) DOES NOT WORK LIKE THIS.  If you behave like this in the Real World you will experience life as the Unemployable.

Other things that annoy me.

  • Badly-done CGI updates of puppet/claymation shows.  Bob the Builder.  Thomas the Tank Engine.  You don’t need CGI!  Leave them the hell alone!
  • Things that don’t speak properly.  You’re trying to teach kids to speak, not make noises that are almost but not quite speech.
  • Repetition.
  • Have you got your squiggle sticks ready?  They’re CRAYONS you moron!
  • Tweenies.  Tellytubbies.
  • Repetition.
  • Changing the schedules.  Okay, so this has to be done from time to time, but some of us time our exit from the house based on when a certain show starts/finishes.
  • Repetition.  I know we’re not meant to have the TV on through the whole day, and I don’t!  But if I switch on in the morning and see a particular Show Me, Show Me, why should it have to be the same one again if I happen to switch the TV on again in the afternoon?

The Good.

There is some good stuff out there.  The Dr Who Retirement Home that is Tree-Fu Tom, The Octonauts.  Timmy Time & Shaun the Sheep.  Yes, Tom’s on my hit list as “individual named in the title and therefore can do no wrong” but the animation is well above average.  Peppa Pig – leaving aside the fact that Satan appears to be voicing the elephant, the humour in this is clearly aimed at the grown-ups watching along with their kids.  And that’s the key to making it work for me.  The humour.

If it’s pitched right, the humour will hit both the kids and the adults.  Programs like The Shiny Show, Peppa Pig, Octonauts and their kind have managed this.  And these are the ones we love.

Making it More Bearable

Sometimes you just have to sit down and watch with the smalls.  It’s expected.  So, to keep your mind active, try and link shows together.  There’s a small set of voice actors providing the voices for the majority of the CBeebies shows.  The voice of Scoop on Bob the Builder also crops up in Octonauts.  If you’re not paying close attention, it can get confusing.  I was in another room when Andy Hamilton first appeared on Peppa Pig and wondered why the kids were listening to Old Harry’s Game.  So see how many times a particular voice actor crops up during your viewing time.  It gets even weirder when they crop up in proper TV – Pete vs. Life, for instance…