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Monday
Feb202012

Painful Movies are Out, Class is in Session! #school #monday #meme #amblogging

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It’s all about alphabet blocks and reading circles this week, as Dale at Smurfin the Web’s son starts nursery school. This week’s Monday Movie Meme makes me want to take a fun trip to the local parent/teacher store and buy some Thomas The Engine puzzles for my nephew. Dale says to share some of your favorite movies where the story is set in a school or a classroom. Here are my selections, not in any particular order, for the classroom theme.

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Bad Teacher
Cameron Diaz stars in this comedy about a gold-digging middle school teacher named Elizabeth who really should not be able to step within five miles of anybody’s child. Elizabeth’s idea of a lesson plan is playing movies during the entire classroom session, while she sleeps and does drugs.

She is also verbally abusive to students, yet never gets fired for her inappropriate behavior and manages to exploit an academic incentive, in pursuit of breast enlargements. Yes, I am aware that this movie may seem absurd based on the description, but it IS funny -- so long as she isn’t teaching any of your kids!

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Mona Lisa Smile
Oh, how I love this movie, starring Julia Roberts, Maggie Gyllenhal, Julia Stiles and several additional leading ladies in Hollywood! Set in the 1950s, “Mona Lisa Smile” is about an art history teacher who causes a lot of ruckus at an all-women’s college, when she challenges her students to go against the grain of what society expects of their future and strive for more than the role “wife” and “mother.”

Damn, I feel like watching this movie right now! -- If only I had a working DVD player. The computer just won’t do my “Mona Lisa Smile” DVD the justice that it deserves.

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Lean on Me
What I find most interesting about “Lean on Me” is not the fights, teen pregnancies, drug use nor funny politics that plague an inner-city school -- it’s the soundtrack. This movie has one of the most unforgettable soundtracks ever, featuring soulful voices combined with some smooth R&B melodies that make you forget that the Eastside High School principal named Joe Clark almost got himself stabbed to death while trying to encourage students to work toward a better future for themselves.

Still, it is a classic drama film that shows the dangers of what happens not only when adults give up on children but also when children give up on themselves. Morgan Freeman gives an excellent performance as the principal, demanding excellence from teachers and parents, in an effort to show how while it does takes a village to raise a child -- that village must be able to lay a positive and solid foundation first, in order to make a difference.

“Lean on Me” also has some of the best movie quotes ever, I mean, who can forget those crazy Joe Clark one-liners -- “Get the chains off the doors...the enemy is here!” and “They used to call me ‘crazy Joe.’ Now, they can call me ‘Batman’!”

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Higher Learning
To sum it up, racism and social inequalities collide on campus! Tyra Banks, Lawrence Fishburne, Jennifer Connelly, Michael Rapaport -- and the list goes on and on -- all star in this film about three University students who are trying to find their way but get tangled up in racial, political and social tension at their school -- As if freshman year isn’t already hard enough without all of this extra drama!

I have “Higher Learning” on VHS somewhere in my movie collection and am not sure if I’m going to buy the movie on DVD but I liked it when I watched it several years ago. Still, the explosive ending can easily make anyone disappointed in how we all fail to view our fellow man as just another human being like ourselves. No less, no more, no better, no worse -- just different.

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Finding Forrester
Ok, half of this movie takes place in a school and the other half takes place in an apartment, so does it still count? I mean, Jamal was being taught in both places, so maybe Willam’s apartment could serve as some sorta homeschool for the purpose of this list. Yeah, I like that -- “Finding Forrester” representing for all of the private school and homeschooling folks out there! This is a great movie about a teenager who finds guidance in an unlikely source, to hone his writing talents. Sean Connery did well. All you Gus Van Sant fans will love this.

And an Honorable Mention, because it is on my Rental List:

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Half Nelson
There’s nothing like a high school teacher with a drug habit!

Do you find the fact that the main character in “Bad Teacher” plays movies in her classroom, quite a coincidence for this week’s Monday Movie meme?

What are your favorite Classroom/School Movies?

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Sunday
Feb192012

3 Lessons on Failure from Oscar Winning Actor Denzel Washington #motivation #king #life #lessons

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Actor Denzel Washington says nothing in life is worthwhile unless you take risks.

In May 2011, he shared this message with the graduates of The University of Pennsylvania during a commencement speech. Washington also stresses risk-taking because “every failed experiment is one step closer to success,” as illustrated by this fine actor.

“If I’m going to fall, I don’t want to fall back on anything, except my faith. I want to fall… forward -- At least I figure that way I’ll see what I’m about to hit.”

Thanks to The University of Pennsylvania, a replay of Denzel Washington’s address to the Class of 2011 is viewable in video and text. After reading his speech a few times over and watching it online, I believe that the Penn graduates were very lucky to receive some wisdom from a man whose high-caliber offerings to the masses stretch far beyond his good looks. Here is my little cliff notes version of life lessons from Denzel Washington that can be put to good use, regardless of whether you hold a degree in any field or not.

Denzel Washington says that there are three reasons why it is important for you to take risks:

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#1 “You will fail at some point in your life. Accept it. You will lose. You will embarrass yourself. You will suck at something. There is no doubt about it.”

Washington recalls auditioning for a Broadway musical despite the fact that he cannot sing and faced stiff competition among actors who had the vocal chops. He did the best he could with his rendition of “Just My Imagination” by The Temptations but did not land the role.

Rather than quit and fall backward, Washington continued to audition for parts and finally caught a break after failing again and again. In 2010, he won a Tony Award for Best Actor in Play, honoring his performance in the Broadway revival of August Wilson’s “Fences.” Interesting enough, “Fences” was showcased in the same theater where his first audition was a bust.

Denzel Washington’s takeaway: You may have the training and talent to succeed, but do you have the guts to fail?

#2 “If you don’t fail… you’re not even trying.”

Denzel Washington credits his wife for telling him “To get something you never had, you have to do something you never did” and references motivational speaker Les Brown’s analogy about ghosts around your deathbed, representing unfulfilled potential -- in an effort to remind you that the world needs your talents.

The Oscar winning actor wants you to give the world everything you’ve got -- time, talent, prayers, kindness, love, patience, etc. because you can’t take it with you - or- as Washington so cleverly put it: “You will never see a U-haul behind a hearse.”

Denzel Washington’s takeaway: What are you going to do with the gifts that you have?

#3 “Sometimes it’s the best way to figure out where you’re going.”

The “Safe House” star reminds us that life will never be a straight path, by explaining how he went from a pre-med student who could not pronounce one of his courses to a journalism major with failing grades in college before pursuing an acting career.

It is this change in direction that put Denzel Washington in a position to speak to millions of people through his films including “Philadelphia,” one of which he says illustrates exactly what he wants you all to understand. In the film, Washington plays a homophobic personal injury lawyer who takes on a wrongful termination case to defend an corporate attorney living with AIDS.

Watching “Philadelphia” will show you just how taking risks and being willing to fail is about more than getting a job, according to Washington. It’s about knowing what you know and what you don’t know, being open to people, ideas and new opinions; accepting new views -- being open to life.

Denzel Washington's Takeaway: While being willing to fail may be frightening, it is also rewarding because your life will be defined by the chances you take, people you meet, people you love and the faith that you have.

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The Mission from Denzel Washington:
“Never be discouraged. Never hold back. Give everything you’ve got.”

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Wednesday
Feb152012

Parties, Playlists and Moving Pictures from A to Z #atozchallenge #amblogging #2012

Parties, Playlists and Moving Pictures, From Flickr, posted by Editor B aka Bart Everson: http://www.flickr.com/photos/editor/3775630400/
Photo by Bart Everson, whose mom made this Rated-R birthday cake for his 17th Birthday!

On Friday, April 15, 2011, I showed you all what my movie collection pretty much looks like while sharing a list of my top 10 independent films. That post marked the 18th day of Arlee Bird’s 2011 Blogging from A to Z Challenge, an online event where participants blog daily for 26 days straight during the month of April, excluding Sundays. The catch is that each blog post has to coincide with a letter of the alphabet, so April 1st would be “A,” April 2nd would be “B” and so forth.

Today, if I showed any of you what my workspace looks like, complete with all notebook paper and index cards filled with unfinished screenplay outlines, character breakdowns and movie ideas, it would make my collection of DVDs and VHS tapes look like they were organized by June Cleaver (which it's clearly not) – that’s how messy I have allowed some of my most treasured blueprints for future works to become.

I have maybe two finished feature length screenplays, one partially completed first-draft of a short film script that is currently a work-in-progress and LOTS of movie treatments sitting around my apartment that have one thing in common, if any – they were all inspired in one way or another by songs that I have listened to on mixtapes, albums of my favorite artists or online radio stations such as Pandora and the now defunct Yahoo Launchcast.

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A combination of one old Mariah Carey tune with a popular R. Kelly song aided in my first draft of a short film about a delivery person who takes his attempts to provide customer service way too far – that one is laying somewhere in the notebook paper pile. As I gear up to participate in the 2012 Blogging from A to Z Challenge this year, winging it is not going to be part of the plan, at least for as much as I can help it.

This April, daily blogs at the Madlab Post are each based on a different song that has either been playing in my CD player, on the iPod touch that I no longer have or on my computer at one time or another.

Once upon a time, many of these songs may have also become part of one or several online playlists that I listen to when I’m writing, blogging or working on a new script or video of some sort. In each blog post, these songs will accompany a party planning spin on movies that the tunes remind me of and what they both could represent in the grand scheme of things during this journey that we call life.

Think of it as "Quotes from Music Tribute Movies" meets "5 Harry Potter Cocktail Recipes for Ron Weasley Fans". As if all of this won’t keep my busy enough, I am tinkering with plans to create a video component to my A to Z schedule. The verdict is still out on that but I will post an update about it if anything changes between now and then.

In the meantime, those of you who might want to take on the task of posting something every day can sign up for the Blogging from A to Z Challenge between now and April 1st. The only difference this year is that the challenge will include one Sunday since the beginning of April falls on that day. The A to Z website is well worth checking out, even if you plan to sit this one out and just visit the blogs of A to Z participants….such as The Madlab Post, of course!

Just last month, I attended a masquerade party for my cousin's 30th birthday and that whole theme now reminds me of the costumes people wore in "Man in the Iron Mask" starring Leonardo DiCaprio.

Have you ever been to or hosted any movie themed parties before?

If so, how did they turn out?

What would it take for you to want to RSVP for one today?

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