Friday, April 1, 2011

Zeezok z-guides to the Movies: Les Miserables

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"We're gonna pick, pick, pick it apart. Open it up to find the tick, tick, tick of a heart. A heart broken down. Do you really need to know? Sit back relax, enjoy the show. Oh no, let it go."
-Joss Whedon, Heart Broken
.


The above quote comes from a clever song* that's part of a musical commentary.  I couldn't resist sharing because this describes my usual reaction to literary and movie analysis.  All of us analyze what we watch, read, etc. but I believe it should come naturally and I prefer to let the book or movie stand all on its own. When our students become high schoolers, this is not always possible.  If we want to design a literature or movies as literature course, sometimes we'd like something tangible, something on paper, to help us along.  This is why I agreed to review one of Zeezok Publishing's new movie guides.  I wanted to see first hand, and share with you, whether or not this was a "pick, pick, pick it apart" guide or one that would simply lead the student to think more deeply about the movie.  I'm happy to say that, for the most part, it was the latter.

Zeezok has a variety of guides available, for both elementary and high school, and the choice was difficult but we decided on Les Miserables.  I have never read the book or seen the movie and looked forward to viewing it with my high school sophomore.  We Netflixed the one the guide referred to (1998 version) and decided to watch the movie before even looking at the guide.  This was a great decision as the movie synopsis appears in the first few pages of the guide and I wanted to avoid spoilers.  If you aren't planning to view the movie with your student, the synopsis would be a great way to refresh your memory so that you are able to join in the discussions. 

We let the movie sit in our minds over night and I handed the printed guide to my son the next day, asking him to work through it on his own.  It was quite easy for him to do independently.  It begins with a topic overview and the movie synopsis.  Then it moves into general movie knowledge questions, such as "How does Jean Valjean take advantage of the bishops kindness?".  These are a good way to determine if the student actually watched the movie.  GRIN.

The next few activities are a bit more creative.  The student is to imagine himself as a famous French psychologist and analyze Inspector Javert.  This kind of analyzing is rather interesting and, in my mind, does not take away from the story but helps the student climb into the characters head.  This is followed by a worksheet entitled, Random Acts of Kindness Have a Ripple Effect.  The student considers the good deeds as seen in the movie and then applies that to themselves by planning a few good deeds of their own.  We then move into discussing parental motivations, socialism in 19th Century France, and Javert's worldview.  There is a crossword puzzle, a hands-on "art" activity, and a family discussion guide.  This is a full study (designed for five days) but you could pick and choose the activities you like or have the student fill out the entire guide without it being overkill.

My take away from this study is 1. I really want to see a musical production of Les Miserables someday and 2. When I find I need a movie guide, I'll be checking Zeezok to see if they carry the one I need.  

Zeezok z-guides to the Movies are available for $12.99 each.  You can buy many of them in either CD or e-book format.  The Les Miserables Guide is available in CD as of right now. 


*Disclosure: The e-book version of this guide was provided at no cost for review purposes.  A positive review was not required, only an honest one.  To see what others thought of this product and more, check out the TOS Crew site.*

*Here's the complete song for your viewing pleasure. Makes me grin.  Zeezok and Joss Whedon have no connection, other than the odd route my brain takes at any given time.

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