Didactic Unit Across the Universe

July 24, 2017 | Author: misspattykas | Category: English As A Second Or Foreign Language, Rock Music, Languages, Entertainment (General)
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Descripción: an ELT didactic unit based on the movie Across the universe...



ACROSS THE UNIVERSE A pretext to approach American and British issues during the second half of 20th century Patricia Rivera September 18th, 2009

General objectives: •

To approach some of the issues the US and the UK during the second half of 20th century through the movie Across the Universe

To practice the 4 skills through the movie and the topics to be treated

Characteristics of the group •

17 to 20 year- old (young adults)

Level B2 CEFR

EFL students

Length •

4 two-hour session, once a week


The Didactic Unit I present here hopes to become a tool for B2 students and teachers that are eager to work with the four skills in an integrated way. To do this, the main resource that is going to be used is the movie Across the Universe plus readings related with the historical issues and characters that have a part in the movie. The classroom then, should become a place where the students can spontaneously share, either speaking or writing essays, what their thoughts and opinions are using English in a meaningful way, not only to do correct things with it but also to communicate something that the others can find interesting. This is what we do all the time in “real life” outside the classroom: we use the four skills, we read, listen or watch something (reading and listening) and we talk or write about that something (speaking and writing). The main purpose of this didactic unit is to reproduce that “real” environment inside the class, so students can start using the language in a “real” way. The movie Across the Universe is a musical that only uses The Beatles songs (highly likeable by the young students) and tries to build the story with the lyrics of these songs. Also, the movie deals with issues that were (are) very important in American history like wars, drugs, young people problems, familiar problems in American Society, freedom, political ideas, among other topics that students will probably feel connected with. The methodology that is going to be used is one where students will be stimulated to understand discourse in the movie beyond words through interaction of the whole class. Students will participate actively firstly by talking about some of these issues so they can later see the movie not only as a work of art, but also as a sum of statements and opinions where they will find those issues among others they have to discover. I think that introducing films in a EFL setting is a great way to approach and to study in depth history and culture of the Foreign Language community. A film, since it is more visual, can also be more didactic. This specific movie has an advantage and it is music that calls the attention of young learners.


SESSION 2 110’

SESSION 3 110’

SESSION 4 110’

Eliciting students to talk about American history in the second half of the 20th century, with some topics the teacher will prepare beforehand. Speaking about The Beatles and the impact of this band in music, history, etc, starting with the title of the movie. Watching the first part of the movie (70’) telling students to take into account the topics that were approached. Talking about the part of the movie they watched asking them how they liked it Watching the second part of the movie (70’) Telling students about the essay they should write for the next session (Connectors) Discussion around the movie and how it deals with the topics that were treated before Handing the essay in and share its content with the class

METHODOLOGY The practice of the four skills will be stressed during all the activities, especially those skills that are productive for the students which are speaking and writing. That is why students will be motivated to participate in discussions and to write an essay from those discussions. Because the movie is 133’ long, I have decided to watch it in two sessions. It will allow students to ask what they did not understand of it or to try to uncover the ending and not to miss the second session. Since the students are now in an advanced level, they are supposed to understand most of the discussion and topics related

to the movie, but anyway they will be prepared beforehand about the topics with readings and group work.

RESOURCES 1. Short paragraphs with information about the topics to be discussed: -

Vietnam war


Usage of drugs in that time


Hippism in that time


What is a musical?


The Beatles

2. Julie Taymor’s Across the Universe movie (DVD) 3. A TV set, a DVD player, a room where to see the movie, access to internet 4. A Movie review from The New York Times from September 17,2009 5. All other material that students would like to bring to class related to the movie or related to the Beatles. ASSESMENT Students will be assessed first, by the essay they are going to write on any or all the topics dealt with in class, and second, by the level of participation in class. Teacher will assess the quality of the whole didactic unit by a form the students will fill out and the comments the teacher hears in the classroom.

ANNEXES 1. The Vietnam War was a military conflict that occurred in Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia from 1959 to 30 April 1975. The war was fought between the communist North Vietnam, supported by its communist allies, and the government of South Vietnam, supported by the United States and other nations. The United States entered the war to prevent a communist takeover of South Vietnam as part of their wider strategy of containment. Military advisors arrived beginning in 1950. U.S. involvement escalated in the early 1960s and combat units were deployed beginning in 1965. Involvement peaked in 1968 at the time of the Tet Offensive. The Beatles' influence on rock music and popular culture was—and remains— immense. Their commercial success started an almost immediate wave of changes—including a shift from US global dominance of rock and roll to UK acts, from soloists to groups, from professional songwriters to self-penned songs, and to changes in fashion.

"Sex, drugs, rock 'n' roll …and drugs" could have easily been the slogan for the 60's. The abuse of drugs was one of focal concerns of life at that time, and it is one of the first things people think of when they remember that decade. Most popular of the recreational drugs was marijuana. Though used by some as a culinary surprise, marijuana was ingested by most in the form of smoke.

The hippie subculture was originally a youth movement that began in the United States during the early 1960s and spread around the world. These people inherited the countercultural values of the Beat Generation, created their own communities, listened to psychedelic rock, embraced the sexual revolution, and used drugs such as cannabis, also known as marijuana, and LSD to explore alternative states of consciousness.

The musical, in all its various forms, is very much a living art form. Our goal in these history essays is to see how the musical has developed over the last few centuries on stage and screen, to assess where it currently stands, and to finally make some educated guesses as to where it may be headed in years to come. Let's start with a basic definition – musical (noun): a stage, television or film production utilizing popular-style songs - dialogue optional - to either tell a story (book musicals) or showcase the talents of the writers and/or performers (revues).

2. Movie Review Across the Universe (2007) NYT Critics' Pick This movie has been designated a Critic's Pick by the film reviewers of The Times. Abbot Genser/Revolution Studios.Evan Rachel Wood is Lucy, and Jim Sturgess plays Jude in Julie Taymor’s “Across the Universe.” September 14, 2007 From its first moments, when a solitary dreamer on a beach turns to the camera and sings, unaccompanied, the opening lines of the Beatles’ song “Girl,” Julie Taymor’s ’60s musical fantasia, “Across the Universe,” reveals its intention to use the Beatles’ catalog to tell two stories at once, one personal, the other generational. That young man, Jude (Jim Sturgess), is a cheeky Liverpool dockworker with a twinkle in his eye. He quickly emerges as a winsome vocal

composite of John Lennon and Paul McCartney, with a personality to match. From here the movie only gets better. Somewhere around its midpoint, “Across the Universe” captured my heart, and I realized that falling in love with a movie is like falling in love with another person. Imperfections, however glaring, become endearing quirks once you’ve tumbled. That surrender is the kind of commitment that Ms. Taymor, a true believer in the magic of art, asks of an audience. And as the movie intensifies, and she brings in a fantastic array of puppets, masks and synergistic effects, you may find yourself in a heightened emotional state, even as you realize that what you’re seeing is unadulterated white, middle-class baby boomer nostalgia.

This risky hybrid of long-form music video and movie musical with clearly drawn characters tells the story of Jude’s star-crossed love affair with Lucy (Evan Rachel Wood), a girl from upper-crust East Coast suburbia. It follows the couple as they are swept up and come apart in the evolving counterculture of left-wing politics, sex, drugs and rock ’n’ roll. The story, briefly: Jude, visiting the United States in search of his long-lost father, meets Lucy through her brother, Max (Joe Anderson), a student at Princeton, where the father is discovered working as a janitor. Max takes Jude home to his stuffy family for Thanksgiving, during which Max shocks his parents by announcing that he is dropping out of college. He and Jude drive to New York and settle in a sprawling East Village tenement and are soon joined by Lucy. Their landlady, Sadie (Dana Fuchs, who played Janis Joplin in the Off Broadway show “Love, Janis”), is the movie’s resident earth mother. An aspiring rock singer, she sounds like a warmer, more controlled Joplin. Her triumphal “Why Don’t We Do It in the Road?” announces Lucy’s arrival in New York, and later in the movie, her voice hoarsely shouting “Helter Skelter” rises above the mob during a Columbia University riot at which Jude is arrested. Rounding out the bohemian household are Jo-Jo (Martin Luther McCoy), a guitarist who arrives from Detroit by Greyhound after his younger brother’s death in the Detroit riots, and Prudence (T.V.

Carpio), an Asian-American lesbian cheerleader who hitchhikes to New York from Dayton, Ohio, and (in a joke on a Beatles song title) crashes into the house through the bathroom window. Jo-Jo, who suggests a softened Jimi Hendrix, becomes Sadie’s onagain-off-again boyfriend and sometime lead guitarist. Prudence, who early in the film sings “I Want to Hold Your Hand” while gazing wistfully from afar at a blond cheerleader, develops a secret crush on Sadie. While Jude embraces art, Lucy, who lost her first boyfriend in Vietnam, gravitates toward antiwar activism after Max receives his draft notice and reluctantly leaves to fight in the war. If the young lovers are familiar ’60s archetypes, the actors’ natural performances and the easy, colloquial dialogue by Dick Clement and Ian La Frenais (“The Commitments”) allow the characters to transcend the generic. When Lucy, gazing at Jude, sings “If I Fell” very slowly, in a sweet, trembling voice, she is one girl worriedly fantasizing about one boy. Most of the historical events are lightly fictionalized in a movie that maintains only the fuzziest of timelines. Its 33 Beatles songs (two without words) have been rerecorded and sung by the actors. Yet “Across the Universe” feels emotionally true both to the Beatles, whose music today seems to exist outside of time, and to the decade it remembers. Smart, uncluttered musical arrangements help reposition the songs to address the situation at hand. As

a result, music that has congealed in collective memory — especially the clever, breezy early Beatles songs — emerges refreshed. A visceral peak arrives with “Strawberry Fields Forever.” In this gorgeous production number, an artwork by Jude in which rows of bleeding strawberries are pinned to a white surface transmutes into a hallucination of strawberry bombs raining over Southeast Asia. Then the artist, in an anguished frenzy, begins smashing strawberries on the walls and floors and destroys his work. This happens around the time that Lucy, who works for a militant antiwar organization, angrily dismisses Jude’s art as “doodles and cartoons.” He charges into her office, snarls the song “Revolution” and instigates a brawl. It is one of several moments in which “Across the Universe” grasps a central emotional duality of a culture in which rage and ecstatic idealism clashed and played into each other at the same time. Another extraordinary scene follows Joe to a United States Army induction center at which an Uncle Sam poster comes to animated life, leans down, points a giant finger and growls, “I Want You (She’s So Heavy).” Inside the center a choreographed sequence finds inductees in their underwear sliding involuntarily along the floor through lines of Army officers in grim Expressionistic masks, marching in robotic formation. The new recruits are next shown, still in their underwear, lugging a giant replica of the Statue of Liberty through the Vietnamese jungle.

The dreamiest reverie, set to “Because,” begins with a tableau of nine friends blissfully lying on their backs in the grass in a mandala pattern. The circle disperses as Jude and Lucy find themselves in a watery blue sky where clouds melt into liquid, and the entwined lovers are themselves floating underwater. Most fanciful of all is a largely animated sequence in which Eddie Izzard is Mr. Kite, the ringmaster of a psychedelic circus with a dancing chorus line of “the blue people.” Amid the phantasmagoria are several star cameos. As Max recovers from war injuries in a veterans’ hospital, he has a morphine-induced fever dream in which the beds in his ward rear up from the floor to the song “Happiness Is a Warm Gun,” and he is tended by five Salma Hayeks. Bono appears as the acid guru, Dr. Robert, a Ken Kesey-Neal Cassady fusion who sings “I Am the Walrus” at an acid-drenched party and conducts Jude, Lucy and a roiling band of Merry Pranksters on a delirious bus journey through a rainbow-colored countryside. “Across the Universe,” in the spirit of the counterculture, goes with the flow. Its scenes, songs and witty roughhouse choreography, spun off from the Beatles’ movies “A Hard Day’s Night” and “Help!,” dissolve into a stream of consciousness with only occasional punctuation. Because of its oh-wow aesthetic, its refusal to adopt a critical distance from the ’60s drug culture, its tacit approval of the characters’ antiwar activism and its token attention to the

decade’s racial strife, “Across the Universe” leaves itself wide open to derision, complaints and endless nitpicking. But it couldn’t have succeeded any other way. The movie is completely devoid of the protective cynicism that is now a reflexive response to the term “the ’60s.” “Across the Universe” believes wholeheartedly in the quaint, communitarian spirit it exalts. You share the joy of its blissedout hippies in the grass. You feel the deepening friendship between Jude and Max that is sealed in Max’s incandescent performance of “Hey, Jude.” And during the time it lasts, the intoxicating passion of Jude and Lucy, both innocents by today’s standards, convinces, for a moment, that love is all you need.

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