Monday, October 27, 2008

Everybody Was Forcibly Kung Fu Fighting: A 99.9% Barack Obama-Free Post

I know the election is eight days away. That somewhere around 47 bazillion people saw Barack Obama in Albuquerque last Saturday. That somewhere between 8 and 23 people saw John McCain in Albuquerque Saturday. That the stock & commodities markets are collapsing, gyrating at hyper-speed. That the U.S. is evidently invading Syria, Pakistan, and Canada (okay, I made that last one up, I think).

It's a crazy, action-packed time for our city, state, nation, world. And I should probably waste some of your time writing about one or more of these action-packed subjects. In fact, it would be a colossal misuse of the internet airwaves to ignore these fascinating subjects. Only an idiot would avoid touching on these myriad hot button issues this fine morning.

So let's talk Jackie Chan movie.

This week my little school will be the shooting location for the upcoming Jackie Chan movie. As near as I can tell, this Thursday & Friday (and yeah, Halloween is Friday) the halls will be filled with lights, cameras and poorly scripted, kung fu action. Students are being inveigled into becoming "extras" through some hazy selection process involving birth certificates, GPA scores and genetics. Students are supposedly being paid to be "extras". My little school is supposedly going to get a nice, fat check for its inconvenience. My little school is also, supposedly, going to have its school marquee and other distinguishing features appear in the final cut of the film.

Many at the school, particularly my principal and every single student, are thrilled by these developments.

A few of us, horrible curmudgeons incapable of laughter, fun or even a wry smile, are pissed off. Of course we are teachers, and hence quite familiar with being horrible curmudgeons. Still, the gap between the wanton glee of our principal/student-body, and a few of our most curmudgeonly teachers is vast. A not-so-grand canyon, one might say.

I stand at the North Rim of that canyon. The far less-populated, wintry rim. I see the Jackie Chan movie as an example of a school prostituting itself. I see a school throwing its lot, and students, in with morally bankrupt Hollywood. And no, I don't mean "morally bankrupt" in the sense of making dirty movies with unmarried pregnant women. I mean "morally bankrupt" as in Hollywood: makers of vapid, crappy movies that value film quality last and box office first and only.

I am the school's "film teacher". As such, I get the impression I am supposed to embrace the Jackie Chan movie. As if I am to somehow integrate it into my curriculum, revel in this "brush with filmic greatness", tell my students "if you work really hard, maybe you can make a Jackie Chan movie someday".

Pesonally, I would rather my film students smash their DV cameras on the ground, and vow to become anything but Hollywood movie schlubs. I would rather they get careers as politicians or commodity traders over working in a Hollywood film crew, perhaps making claymation movies on the side designed for nothing more than obscure YouTube viewing and maybe, just maybe a one-time-only showing at the Guild during a "stopmotion festival".

But I'm, as I mentioned above, a curmudgeon. I'm the outlier. I'm the "get off my lawn" old guy screaming at a sea of gleeful, Hollywood-laced zombies. I'm an old stick-in-the-mud. I'm the crazed shirtless guy with the "The End is Near" sign standing at Harvard and Central, while passersby try to determine whether to throw pennies at me or not.

That's okay though. I'm a teacher. I'm used to it.

Have a good work week everybody. Jackie Chan included.


Anonymous said...

Wow, talk about interruptions of the instructional day.

what hypocrisy

Amber in Albuquerque said...

Take breath there big fella. An old hippie friend of mine (well she was my boss) once told me I needed to read less Kafka and more Charles Schultz. Sounds like you could use a little more Jackie Chan and a little less Ingmar Bergman. Relax, it'll all be over soon and things will be back to "normal" at your school. Seriously, is that any better?

Anonymous said...

"Wow, talk about interruptions of the instructional day."

I'd bet my last dime that we will not have the persistant intercom interuptions during the actual filming! After all, "Quiet on the set" is mandatory, right?

Evan said...

You could just send them on their way with the kung-fu movies we made in film club. Solves everyone's problem!

@anonymous #2:
at Albuquerque High we now have a supposed "no tolerance" policy for people being in the halls without passes and teachers not locking their doors when the last bell rings (as in students should be literally locked out of an education). We also have the constant annoyance of intercom interruptions during class. So, my solution is this: tell the administration that no teachers will issue passes or lock their doors until they agree to stop interrupting class with announcements the could have easily replaced with an aide and a note.

Abuelita2 said...

I so completely agree with you. With your annoyance, aggravation, and actually, thoughtful focus on what really counts. I know it's a lonely place a lot of the time, but god, how we need more of you!

Steve said...

One of the things that students should look for in life is some variety of experience. You've made up your mind, why not let them determine for themselves if this was a valuable/vapid experience. It is important to air your point of view, but just as important they should be exposed to this learning opportunity.
About a dozen years ago an incident at my school resulted in the "opportunity" for several students to appear on the Jerry Springer Show. The whole premise was absurd, but the kids got the red-carpet treatment in Chicago along with a brief brush with fame for their shameful behaviors. My perspective was similar to yours, but for them it was a life shaping learning experience to be a part of the media circus and one I'm sure they wouldn't trade. Nothing I could teach would compare to such an experience, and in the long-run they are probably the better for it.
It seems like what is needed now is more meaningful discussion. Your point of view should be part of a larger discussion about the value and purpose of media and what is worthwhile use of time, resources and creativity. This seems like the (DREADED) teachable moment to me.

anonymous said...

Sounds like an opportunity to talk about the filmmaking biz, and careers therein and lighting and cameras and how they relate to science and art. The best thing about the industry is the amazing number of types of talent required to make a film, artists, writers, actors, the kids who like spreadsheets and want to organize things, there's a place for all of them.
Besides, Jackie Chan is awesome.

Anonymous said...

This could have been a teachable moment. Who knows who might want to grow up to be a director.

But we can't feel good about because our educational system has no way of counting the learning.

NCLB is responsible for few electives and for the fact that we can let the kids have some fun one day.

jscotkey said...

Thanks for all the comments. I've been thinking about it, and believe I have identified the difference in thinking (always appreciated) between those who believe the filming on campus is good and a "teachable moment", and those, like me, who don't.

For me anyway it boils down to this:

I love film. I hate the film industry. Despise it. Loath and loathe it.

If I get a chance early tomorrow, I might have a bit more piffle expanding on the above sentiment. Right now, I'm just going to take the evening off.

Abuelita2 said...

I still say we need more with your perspective in our schools. Many more. And who will speak up.