Month: October 2012

Farewell and Good Luck

And so, the time has come where I must bid a fond adieu to you, the students extroadinaire of my first year at Haileybury.

Words cannot express how proud I am of you. It is a grand achievement to have journeyed through 13 years of school, and arrive at this final moment with such enthusiasm and camaraderie.

In saying goodbye, I’ll let the words of Maurice Sendak, author/illustrator of Where the Wild Things Are, speak for me:

“But the wild things cried, “Oh please don’t go – we’ll eat you up – we love you so!”
And Max said, “No!”
The wild things roared their terrible roars and gnashed their terrible teeth and rolled their terrible eyes and showed their terrible claws but Max stepped into his private boat and waved goodbye.” 

And for those who don’t get the metaphor – I’m the wild things and you are Max.

And for those of you who have never read  it, here are two versions. Watch both. The second might make you giggle.


On the Waterfront and how it constructs meaning

As you are all aware by now, you must consider the constructed nature of the film when writing your essay.

Here are some links that might provide a last minute surge of inpiration. – This blog has pages on characters, themes, metalanguage and setting. – Roger Stitson explores the way Kazan uses the costumes and images of the characters to convey his ideas. – This is the introduction and first paragraph of an essay for sale. I think it provides some nice clues on how to write about the film. I’m not suggesting you buy it.

OTW+film+techs – A powerpoint presentation that explores some film techniques and examples. – Something more sophisticated for those looking for that little bit more that you know you know, but just can’t put your finger on it.

The importance of transition words and phrases

I’ve often suggested that the use of transition phrases will make your essays more fluent, and lessen the jarring effect created by simply switching from one idea to the next.

The following statement, from Smart Words (and you have to love any website that has a page titled “How to write good”!), highlights the ability of these words to enhance your essays:

“English transition words are essential, since they not only connect ideas, but also can introduce a certain shift,  contrast or opposition, emphasis or agreement, purpose, result or conclusion, etc. in the line of argument.”

I encourage you to print out this PDF ready-reckoner of transition words and phrases, and take some time over the next few days to learn at least one or two from each category: transition-words-phrases

Essay writing tips for ‘On the Waterfront’

Whenever you approach an essay topic you need to work out how you can answer it and show that you’ve got an individual interpretation of the film. So, what does this actually mean? Can you answer this question: what is the film On the Waterfront about? Standing up for one’s rights? Making good in an environment that offers no hope? Little guy against big guy? Good versus evil? Loyalty? Looking after oneself in order to survive? Ultimately, you can only answer this question if you know the film, and if you are willing to think about the message(s) it’s trying to convey.

Next, have you done any extra reading to help establish what the film might be trying to do/achieve? On one of the page tabs above I have a list of extra reading (not that I ever expected you to read it all – but some might help). Here is the link:

Third, keep in mind that you’re writing about a film. You can’t just write about characters and themes and events and actions. You must write about how the film is constructed – you must show that you understand how the characters, themes, events, and actions are constructed by the director and why. In this way, analysing a film can be like analysing an opinion piece for the Language Analysis essay. It can be useful to remember the What, How, Why? of language analysis when writing about On the Waterfront. What does Kazan do? How does he do it? And why does he do it?

Fourth, practise taking apart essay topics – really consider the ins and outs of what you’re being asked to write about. And above all else, have something to say. Not what you think we want you say, but what you truly believe about the topic and the film. If you feel you can’t do this, then I would suggest you don’t know the film well enough.

Quotes. Go through the script (here it is: and highlight key quotes. What are key quotes? Those that are good enough to be used over a number of different essay topics. They are generally about themes, characters, ideologies, symbols, etc. This means that in order to be able to pick out key quotes you need to establish what the themes, ideologies and symbols of the film are. I would aim to get a list of about 25-30 quotes. Yes, really.

And practise. I’ve been told that one Old Haileyburian wrote an essay a day in the lead up to the exam. That would certainly make a difference!