Good films at the Oscars and Books on screen

Oscars time – the winners are out. Winners and nominees:


Books on screen

Book Depository has a very interesting list of books that have been made into films – Books on screen. It includes book tie-ins for this year’s Oscar nominees and other titles made into films. 105 titles – children’s literature, young adult, adult fiction and non fiction.


The Oscars – Best Picture nominations

Some of these films would be useful resources for history, psychology, sociology, biography, film, media, civil rights…

Check the ratings – some MA are quite graphic.


Theory of Everything – PG – Directed by James Marsh. Biographical romantic drama adapted from Travelling to infinity: my life with Stephen by Jane Wilde Hawking. Deals with her relationship with her ex-husband, his diagnosis with motor neuron disease and his success in physics. Stars Felicity Jones and Eddie Redmayne – Winner – Best Actor Oscar.


Imitation Game – M – Directed by Morten Tyldum. Historical thriller based on the biography Alan Turing: the enigma by Andrew Hodges, the story of how Turing helped solve the Nazi’s Enigma code during WW2 and how he was prosecuted for homosexuality. Stars Benedict Cumberbatch. Great film!


Selma – M – Directed by Ava DuVernay. Historical drama based on the 1965 Selma to Montgomery voting rights marches led by Martin Luther King and others.


Boyhood – M – Directed by Richard Linklater. Coming-of-age drama filmed from 2002 to 2013. A young boy grows up in Texas with divorced parents. Stars Patricia Arquette – Winner – Best Supporting Actress Oscar.


Citizenfour – M – Directed by Laura Poitras. Winner of Best Documentary Oscar. Examines Edward Snowden and the NSA illegal wiretapping of US citizens. Snowden (Citizen Four) secretly emailed Poitras who then interviewed him.


Big Hero 6 – PG – Animated superhero action comedy, based on Marvel comics story. A young robotics prodigy forms a superhero team to combat a masked villain. Winner – Best Animated Film Oscar.


Birdman – MA – Winner – Best Picture Oscar. Directed by Alejandro Inarritu. Black comedy-drama. A faded superhero actor struggles to mount a Broadway play. Stars Michael Keaton.


Grand Budapest Hotel – M – Directed by Wes Anderson. Comedy film inspired by the writings of Stefan Zweig. A concierge teams up with an employee to prove his innocence after he is framed for murder.


Whiplash – MA – Directed by Damien Chazelle. Drama film based on his experiences in the Princeton High School Studio Band. A student jazz drummer seeks the respect of an abusive teacher. Stars J.K. Simmons – Winner – Best Actor Oscar.


American Sniper – MA – Directed by Clint Eastwood. Biographical war drama based on the book American sniper: the autobiography of the most lethal sniper in US military history by Chris Kyle. Stars Bradley Cooper.


Other Best Actor/Actress nominations

Still Alice – M – Directed by Richard Glatzer, based on the novel by Lisa Genova. A linguistics professor is diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s disease. Stars Julianne Moore – Winner – Best Actress Oscar.

Wild – MA – Directed by Jean-Marc Vallee. Biographical drama based on the memoir Wild: from lost to found on the Pacific Crest trail by Cheryl Strayed. A young woman hikes a thousand miles, healing herself after the death of her mother and years of reckless behaviour. Stars Reese Witherspoon. Some graphic scenes.

Foxcatcher – M – Directed by Bennett Miller. Dramatic true crime thriller. Two Olympic wrestlers are recruited by a multimillionaire to help coach wrestlers for competitions. Stars Steve Carell.

Gone Girl – MA – Directed by David Fincher. Psychological thriller about a married couple and what happens after the disappearance of the wife. Stars Rosamund Pike. Some graphic scenes.


Best Song

Glory (from Selma) – by John Legend and Common – very powerful. Their acceptance speech referenced the ongoing struggle for justice and the incarceration of black men in the US.


YouTube for kids and ICT news

YouTube for kids launching 23 Feb 2015

Free new app YouTube Kids – currently for Android only. The app will be separate to the main YouTube service. The homescreen will have 8 options including choices from US kids’ TV; popular song videos; educational programs; links to top videos. Searches can be typed or spoken and the site will be free of comments with a timer for parents to shut down the app. No announcements yet about a similar Australian roll-out – maybe it will happen at the same time.


Google to revamp products with 12-and-younger focus

Google processes 40 000 search queries per second and many users are children, so it is planning to create child-specific versions of its most popular products –YouTube, Search and Chrome. Children of Google employees use the Kids Studio room at Google HQ where they are encouraged to tinker with prototype projects.


The end may be nigh for keyboard, mouse and monitor

Microsoft’s Windows 10 will incorporate voice, gestures and holograms. “When people can talk to their tech, see 3D representations in the air and interact with media or docs by waving their hands, the long-term survival for the keyboard, mouse and monitor suddenly seems precarious” – Adriana Lee. Microsoft’s voice feature, Cortana will be part of Windows 10 and people will be able to talk to their computers, maybe en masse. Windows Holographic will also be available, via HoloLens goggles. Currently 90% of personal computers run Windows. Windows 10 will be released mid-year and upgrades will be free this year.

Windows 10 Hologram trailer – impressive:


Google boss warns of “forgotten century” with emails and photos at risk

Google VP Vint Cerf (co-founder of the internet) warns that huge amounts of digitised material – images, videos, blogs, tweets, emails and official documents – may be lost forever because the programs needed to view them will become defunct. We face “a forgotten generation, or even a forgotten century” through “bit rot”. Cerf hopes that “digital vellum” can be used to preserve old software and hardware so that old files can be recovered. He says “if there are photos you really care about, print them out”.


Words of the Year

Here are some words that dominated popular culture in Australia, the US and UK during the last year. Interesting for English, sociology, psychology, popular culture….


Macquarie Dictionary’s 2014 Word of the Year

Announced 5 Feb 2015. The winner: Mansplain (verb) – a man explaining something to a woman, in a way that is patronising because it assumes that a woman will be ignorant of the subject matter (Man + [ex]plain with “s” inserted to create a pronunciation link with explain). Runners-up: lifehacking, binge watching and bamboo ceiling.

People’s Choice: share plate –  a serving in a restaurant designed as multiple small portions so that several diners can share the same dish.


Category winners:

  • Agriculture: crash grazing
  • Arts: binge watching
  • Business: drip pricing
  • Colloquial: mansplain
  • Communications: emoji
  • Eating and drinking: share plate
  • Environment: green electricity
  • Fashion: loom band
  • General Interest: decision fatigue
  • Health: ambulance ramping
  • Internet: typosquatting
  • Politics: defund
  • Social Interest: lifehacking – the application of strategies or shortcuts used to simplify or improve any aspect of one’s life
  • Sport: urban exploration
  • Technology: selfie stick

Complete list:


Australian National Dictionary Centre 2014 Word of the Year

Shirtfront – to challenge or confront a person. Other popular phrases: Team Australia; man-bun; Ned Kelly beard; coward punch.


Global Language Monitor Top Word 2014

Analyses the English language globally – internet, social media, print, e-news. Emoji and other emoticons (pictographs) are becoming ingrained into the world’s vocabulary. The heart emoji was the most used character worldwide in 2014 and also won top “word” for 2014 – the first time a pictograph has won. There are currently 722 characters, with 250 more due this year (approved by Unicode Consortium, official keepers of internet code). Other top words: hashtag; vape; blood moon; nano; bae; bash tag; white privilege. Some top phrases: Hands up, don’t shoot; cosmic inflation; Big Data. Top names: ebola; Pope Francis; WW1; Medecins Sans Frontiers.


Oxford Dictionaries 2014 Word of the Year

Vape – to smoke an e-cigarettes via vaporised nicotine. Runners-up: normcore (unisex fashion with unpretentious clothing); contactless (card-hovering payments); slacktivism; bae (term of endearment for a romantic partner).

Chambers Dictionary: overshare; Collins Dictionary – photobomb.


Merriam-Webster (US) 2014 Word of the Year

The most lookups online: 1.culture 2. nostalgia 3. insidious 4. legacy 5. feminism 6. Je ne sais quoi 7. innovation 8. surreptitious 9. autonomy 10. morbidity


American Dialect Society 2014 Word of the Year

#blacklivesmatter – protest over black men killed at the hands of police (actually a hashtag sentence).


Words of the Year from around the globe

Good novels for high school: Choices for English

Helen Sykes and Deb McPherson present regularly at conferences and are the authors of the popular book Choices for English: books, films and other texts that work (Cengage, 2009). An English teacher friend attended their presentation last November at the English Teachers Association of NSW Conference. They provided an excellent list of books for high school English classes – including plays, narrative apps, Shakespeare, picture books, graphic novels, poetry, historical fiction, alternative futures, thriller and fantasy, cross-curricular perspectives and stories of WW1.


Friend’s recommendations:

Man made boy by Jon Skovron – inventive and original offbeat romance and coming-of-age story about Boy, the child of Frankenstein’s Monster and the Bride, who lives with his parents in a secret enclave in New York populated by other well-known monsters and freaks who perform for the public. Boy is also a hacker extraordinaire who lets loose his own monster. Exciting and humorous with many intertextual references. This book has great reviews – I want to read it!


We were liars by E. Lockhart – Yr 10+; unreliable teenage narrator; set in the wealthy US summer playground of Martha’s Vineyard. High interest for Yrs 9-10 with a clever plot and shock ending.


Shellshock by Justin Fleming – a play involving a turtle smuggled from Gallipoli that lives for 100 years. Good for Yrs 7-10.


Patient 12 by Kevin Summers –  comatose WW1 patient; a powerful examination of war and its effects on people (only 36 p.)


Book by John Agard – the history of written communications in autobiographical form, told by a book. Good as a Biography/Autobiography text.


Recommended class sets

The First Voyage by Allan Baillie. Penguin, 2014.

Joyous and Moonbeam by Richard Yaxley. Omnibus Books, 2013.

Loyal Creatures by Morris Gleitzman. Viking, 2014.

The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman. Headline, 2014. (I really enjoyed this; great for Year 9+).

Razorhurst by Justine Larbalestier. Allen & Unwin, 2014.

Refuge by Jackie French. HarperCollins, 2013.

The Ship Kings series by Andrew McGahan. Allen & Unwin.

The Wall: A Modern Fable by William Sutcliffe. Bloomsbury Publishing, 2014.

We Were Liars by E. Lockhart. Allen & Unwin, 2014.

Wildlife by Fiona Wood. Pan Macmillan, 2013.


All the recommendations with detailed reviews:


Choices for English – Part 1:


Choices for English – Part 2:


NSW HSC Area of Study: Discovery – some related texts: