Oscars Potpourri – a selection of ideas

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The 94th Academy Awards ceremony will take place on March 27. Again a little later than its pre-pandemic February date. If you like to learn more about the award itself, wikipedia is the place to go.

This year’s nomination ceremony has already taken place and can be watched on youtube.

I always like going through the Oscar nomination ballot sheet that lists all categories and films. It offers great general vocabulary practice, not just specifically film related. Going through the titles, finding out if anyone has already watched some of the nominated films, looking at trailers and synopsies of the films – all this I always find quite enjoyable even if – in most cases – we haven’t seen so many of the films.

In case of last year’s winner and this year’s top nominee: both are based on novels that I downloaded onto my kindle – Nomadland and the Power of the Dog.

Following the principle described by McLuhan of How to Read a Novel to find out if it is worth your time, I sometimes copy one or two pages, or – nowadays – share them via Teams to check if the language level is okay for my learners. I like to provide them with interesting additional reading material, and never give up trying to convince them to read the original instead of a translation. Below you find pages 69 from both novels.

Stuart Heritage wrote a little opinion piece on the actor Sam Elliot’s reaction in an interview when asked what he thought about the movie adaptation of Power of the Dog titled Can someone explain to Sam Elliott what The Power of the Dog is about – and what movies are?

The interview Stuart Heritage refers to is between Sam Elliot and Marc Maron, whose podcasts you can find here.

The Oscar topic can be added to or supplemented by my Guess the Movie quiz.


by Jessica Bruder

FACING AN INSURMOUNTABLE PROBLEM—her low Social Security benefit—Linda did what anyone would: consulted the internet. She came across a website with the following words: Maybe you were a gypsy, vagabond or hobo in a past life, but you think you could never afford to live the life of freedom you long for? Perhaps you are just sick of the rat race and want to simplify your life. We have good news for you, you can, and we are here to show you how! Linda had discovered CheapRVLiving.com, the creation of a former Safeway shelf stocker from Alaska named Bob Wells. Imagine an anti-consumerist doctrine preached with the zeal of the prosperity gospel—that was Bob’s message. He evangelized living happily with less. One principle underscored all his writings—the best way to find freedom, he suggested, was by becoming what mainstream society would consider homeless. “The key is eliminating the single highest expense most of us have, our housing,” Bob wrote. He urged readers to eschew traditional homes and apartments in favor of what some nomads call “wheel estate”: a van, car, or RV. He noted that there were vandwellers subsisting on $500 a month or less—a sum that made immediate sense to Linda—and drafted a sample budget stretching that pittance across life’s necessities, including allowances for food, car insurance, gas, cell service, and a small emergency fund. Bob’s own vandwelling odyssey had started nearly two decades earlier, with considerably less enthusiasm. In 1995 he was struggling through a bitter divorce with his wife of thirteen years, the mother of his two young sons. And he was what he calls a “debt addict,” with $30,000 on maxed-out credit cards. He was getting ready to declare bankruptcy. When the time came for Bob to move out of his family’s crowded trailer in Anchorage, he decamped to Wasilla, where years earlier he’d bought a couple of acres with plans to build a house there. So far he only had a foundation and a floor. Undeterred, he stayed in a tent, using the place as a base camp from which he could travel the fifty miles into Anchorage for work.

Bruder, Jessica. Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century (S.69). W. W. Norton & Company. Kindle-Version.

The Power of the Dog

by Thomas Salvage

Although George was slow to learn, once he learned, he never forgot anything, kept it locked inside him. You could say, George, how many benches of hay did we stack in 1916? and he’d tell you, and you could check with the figures he kept in the roll-top in the office. He never used a bookmark or turned down the page of a book because he could remember the number of the page he stopped on, a curious mechanical knowledge, a mechanical memory that many such people are said to have. Phil thought it was because George’s mind was slower than his own that George could remember so. George didn’t think about so many things, and riveted his entire brain on those few things. Thus George never forgot to pull up the weights of the big clock that stood by the front door in the living room. Every Sunday afternoon at exactly four, George rose from his chair, walked to the clock, looked it straight in the face, reached up on top where the key was hidden, inserted the key in the long narrow glass door, turned it, opened the door, reached in with his thick, soft hands, carefully that he might not disturb the heavy brass pendulum that caught a pattern of light, two wedges, their points kissing at the center; then George pulled on first one and then the other chain, hand over hand, as if climbing a rope, slowly, strongly, surely. Having closed the little door and hidden away the little key, George would again look straight into the face of the clock, and then at his accurate pocket watch. And that was that! But wonderful to watch. It was more than watching a man wind a fool clock. It was watching a man seeing to it that things went on as they had, and always would. When the Old Lady and the Old Gent had run off to Salt Lake City to live in the fancy hotel in the middle of a winter week after a sort of set-to between them and Phil, the clock was briefly left an orphan, for the Old Gent had always wound it. Phil wondered what would happen when four o’clock came without the Old Gent, and made opportunity to be in the living room at three, and read Asia awhile so it wouldn’t be obvious he wanted to know what would happen at four. He hated tipping his hand. He had begun reading the same line over and over after the clock struck the three-quarter hour. Suppose at four that George made no move, just sat there with the Saturday Evening Post? Should he prompt George, or should he wind the clock himself? No, it was not the sort of responsibility he himself wanted nor thought he should have to shoulder. There was a little click, tiny gears meshing; then a small interval of time. Then came the chimes announcing the hour. BONG.

Savage, Thomas. The Power of the Dog (S.69,70). Random House. Kindle-Version.

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