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0802 Talking About Movies

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Welcome to English as a Second Language Podcast number 802: Talking About Movies.

This is English as a Second Language Podcast episode 802. I’m your host, Dr. Jeff McQuillan, coming to you from the Center for Educational Development in beautiful Los Angeles, California.

Our website is eslpod.com. Go there to download a Learning Guide. Well first, become a member, and then you can download the Learning Guide.

This episode is all about the movies. Let’s get started.

[start of dialogue]

Martin: What did you think of that movie?

Joanna: It was okay, but I’m not really into big-budget movies with a lot of special effects and big-name stars.

Martin: Oh, you’re a film snob. I bet you only watch indie films made on a shoestring budget with low production values.

Joanna: No, that’s not true. I just don’t like crowd-pleasers that are predictable. I like movies that stretch the imagination and have some artistic value.

Martin: You mean you like those weird movies with no plot and a lot of strange characters. They’re artsy, but leave you totally confused.

Joanna: I don’t mind some ambiguity, if that’s what you mean.

Martin: Well, I’m going to see the new Spiderboy movie next week. I don’t suppose you want to come?

Joanna: Spiderboy? I’ve been looking forward to seeing that movie.

Martin: But it’s a big-budget blockbuster.

Joanna: I can’t watch artsy films all the time. Variety is the spice of life, don’t you think?

[end of dialogue]

Martin begins our dialogue by asking Joanna, “What did you think of that movie?” What was your opinion of that movie? Joanna says, “It was okay, but I’m not really into big-budget movies.” “To be into (something)” is to like it, to find it enjoyable or pleasurable. Joanna says she’s not really into big-budget movies. A “budget” (budget) is the amount of money that you spend on something, usually it’s a plan of how much you’re going to spend on something. A “big budget movie” would be a movie that was very expensive to make; it cost millions and millions of dollars. Well, Joanna doesn’t like big budget movies with a lot of special effects and big-name stars. “Special effects” in a movie or a television show are things that nowadays are created by computers – special computer graphics programs. In the old days, they just used to be very creative about doing things that aren’t real. You’re not actually seeing something that is real, you may think it’s real. You may think that a real car is blowing up. Well actually, sometimes they do blow up cars. But, you may see a building that is being blown up. Or, when they made Titanic, the movie, they didn’t actually take a real ship and put it into the ocean – I don’t think. They used special effects; they used special tricks of the camera and of technology to make it look like that’s what you were seeing. “Big-name stars” are famous stars; a “star” here means a well-known actor or actress. “Star” has other meanings in English as well; find some of those in your Learning Guide – and in the sky!

Martin says, “Oh, you’re a film snob.” Yeah Joanna, you’re a film snob! What’s a “snob”? A “snob” (snob) – don’t you love the way that word sounds? “Snob, snob.” I love the sound of the word! Anyway, Joanna’s a film snob. A “snob” is a person who thinks that their opinion, their tastes are superior or better than other people, especially things that have to do with artistic style or money. Someone who’s a snob may say, “Oh, I never eat at McDonald’s, that’s where poor people eat. That’s where people who don’t have very good taste eat.” That might be something of a snobbish attitude; we may call you a “food snob.” Martin is calling Joanna a “film snob,” a movie snob; “film” is just another word for movie.

Martin says, “I bet you only watch indie films made on a shoestring budget with low production values.” “Indie” (indie) stands for “independent.” It usually refers to music or a movie that is made by a small company or a group of individuals, not a big, large corporation, not one of the what we would call “major studios” when it comes to movies. It’s not made by one of the large record companies when it comes to music. Instead, it’s made often with a lot less money by a much smaller company or group of people. They’re independent of the big film and movie companies. A “shoestring budget” is a low budget, something that doesn’t cost very much money. “Production values” are the qualities of the movie itself. It refers to the techniques that are used in the movie: the lighting, the sound, the music, the special effects. Something that has a low production value looks like it was made with not very much money. Maybe it doesn’t look as professional as the movies where they spent millions and millions of dollars on. That’s a low production value movie. Martin is saying that Joanna only likes movies that are indie films, made on a shoestring budget, with low production values.

Joanna says, “that’s not true. I just don’t like crowd-pleasers that are predictable.” A “crowd-pleaser” is something that many or most people like but that is perhaps not very sophisticated or not very artistic, especially when it comes to movies. “Predictable” is something that you can anticipate; you know what’s going to happen, there are no surprises. If you are watching a romantic comedy, you know that the man and the women are going to get together at the end of the movie. That’s predictable; we know that’s going to happen. Joanna doesn’t like movies that are predictable. She says, “I like movies that stretch the imagination and have some artistic value.” “To stretch the imagination” means to make you think of things you might not have thought of before, and to do so in an exciting and artistic way. By “artistic” I mean something that you would consider quality, something that is unique or interesting or beautiful, something that is not just normal or common or predictable.

Martin says, “You mean you like those weird movies with no plot (no story) and a lot of strange characters (a lot of strange people). They’re artsy, but leave you totally confused.” When we say a movie is “artsy” (artsy) we mean that it tries to be artistic. Sometimes this can be a criticism; it sometimes is used to describe a movie that perhaps tries to be artistic, maybe tries a little bit too hard so that other parts of the movie, the plot, or the characters are not as important as making the movie seem like it is an artistic one. Well, that’s what Martin says Joanna likes. She likes weird movies with no plot – no story, and have a lot of strange characters. “They’re artsy, but leave you totally (or completely) confused.” You’re unclear, you’re uncertain, you don’t know exactly what happened in movie. That’s how I felt about Forrest Gump. I don’t know, I – maybe I just wasn’t paying attention, maybe I didn’t have enough Coca-Cola that day that I saw the movie. Kind of – kind of confused by the whole thing. Don’t – don’t really get it. Didn’t – didn’t really understand why everyone liked that movie so much, I don’t know. I mean I don’t hate Tom Hanks. You know what I’m saying? I just – just didn’t like the movie very much. Anyway, Martin thinks that the movies that Joanna likes would leave you totally confused.

Joanna says, “I don’t mind some ambiguity, if that’s what you mean.” “I don’t mind” means it doesn’t bother me, it’s okay when I have some ambiguity in the movie. “Ambiguity” (ambiguity) means that it isn’t exactly certain, you’re not sure what exactly has happened. Having ambiguity is having uncertainty.

Martin says, “Well, I’m going to see the new Spiderboy movie next week. I don’t suppose you want to come?” That expression, “I don’t suppose” (suppose), is very common. It’s a phrase used to ask someone something when you think the answer will be “no,” or you expect the answer to be “no.” You go up to a beautiful woman and you say, “I don’t suppose you want to dance with me?” And she says, “Here, on the subway? Probably not.” So the lesson is don’t ask a beautiful woman to dance with you when you’re riding on the subway! A bar, a dance club might be a good place to ask that question.

Joanna says, “Spiderboy? I’ve been looking forward to seeing that movie.” I want to see that movie. Martin says, “But it’s a big-budget blockbuster.” A “blockbuster movie” is a movie that’s very popular and makes a lot of money. The – oh, that movie, uh, the one where the kids kill each other. What’s that called? It’s a new one; this is 2012 if you’re listening to this in the future. And if you’re listing to this in the past, buy Apple and Google stock! If you’re listening to this in like 2005-2006, something like that, trust me, you’ll thank me. Anyway, um, that movie Hunger Games, that’s a blockbuster; that’s a movie that is going to make, you know, a billion dollars. Well, Martin says that the new movie he wants to see, Spiderboy, not a real movie, is a blockbuster.

Joanna says, “I can’t watch artsy films all the time.” Martin is surprised Joanna wants to go and see the movie. She says, “Variety is the spice of life, don’t you think?” That expression, “variety is the spice of life,” means trying new things or doing new things, different things is good for you; it’s interesting, it makes your life more interesting.

Now let’s listen to the dialogue, this time at a normal speed.

[start of dialogue]

Martin: What did you think of that movie?

Joanna: It was okay, but I’m not really into big-budget movies with a lot of special effects and big-name stars.

Martin: Oh, you’re a film snob. I bet you only watch indie films made on a shoestring budget with low production values.

Joanna: No, that’s not true. I just don’t like crowd-pleasers that are predictable. I like movies that stretch the imagination and have some artistic value.

Martin: You mean you like those weird movies with no plot and a lot of strange characters. They’re artsy, but leave you totally confused.

Joanna: I don’t mind some ambiguity, if that’s what you mean.

Martin: Well, I’m going to see the new Spiderboy movie next week. I don’t suppose you want to come?

Joanna: Spiderboy? I’ve been looking forward to seeing that movie.

Martin: But it’s a big-budget blockbuster.

Joanna: I can’t watch artsy films all the time. Variety is the spice of life, don’t you think?

[end of dialogue]

I’d like to thank our big-name scriptwriter, Dr. Lucy Tse, for her wonderful work.

From Los Angeles, California, I’m Jeff McQuillan. Thank you for listening. Come back and listen to us again here on ESL Podcast.

English as a Second Language Podcast is written and produced by Dr. Lucy Tse, hosted by Dr. Jeff McQuillan, copyright 2012 by the Center for Educational Development.

Glossary
big-budget – very expensive; with a lot of money available for a particular purpose

* The annual awards ceremony is a big-budget event.

special effects – the interesting or unusual things seen in movies or on TV shows, usually created by using computer graphics and/or special cameras

* Did they really blow up that building, or was it just special effects?

big-name star – a very well-known celebrity, especially an actor or actress

* We’ve encountered a few big-name stars at nice restaurants around Los Angeles.

snob – a person who is stuck up; a person who believes he or she is superior to other people and better than them in some way, especially due to money or class

* Gordon is such a snob! He thinks he’s better than the rest of us just because he drives a Porsche.

indie – independent, used to refer to music or movies produced without the financial support of a large production company

* Shanae prefers indie music over pop music or hip hop.

shoestring budget – with a very small amount of money to spend on something, just enough to make something possible

* Is it possible to go to Europe on a shoestring budget and still have a good time?

production value – the quality of a movie, especially referring to techniques like lighting, sound, music, and special effects

* The story is great, but the movie had such a low production value that it wasn’t very enjoyable to watch.

crowd-pleaser – something that many or most people like, but that is not very sophisticated or artistic

* The comic always starts with a few standard crowd-pleasers before testing out her new jokes.

predictable – referring to something that one can anticipate and knows what will happen next and there are no surprises

* Seungyung wants a predictable career in a law firm where he can start as an associate and eventually become a partner.

to stretch the imagination – to be exciting and artistic and to make one start to believe things that are or seem impossible

* Some of the concepts in high-level math stretch the imagination.

artistic value – a measure of how unique, interesting, beautiful, or impressive something is, especially something that is different from more common objects or ideas

* Her landscape paintings are pretty, but there really isn’t much artistic value. Anyone could paint similar scenes.

artsy – artistic; showing others that one is interested in the arts

* Gillian has always been artsy, creating things that no one else understands.

confused – feeling unclear or uncertain; not able to make a decision or form an opinion; unable to understand something fully

* I’m confused about my bill. Could you please explain what all these charges are for?

ambiguity – uncertainty; a lack of precision or definition

* Political candidates often speak with ambiguity when answering reporters’ questions.

I don’t suppose – a phrase used to ask someone something when one believes the answer will be “no”

* I don’t suppose you want to help me move next weekend instead of going to see that concert?

blockbuster – a movie that is very popular and makes a lot of money in the theaters

* How much money did the new blockbuster make last weekend?

variety is the spice of life – a phrase meaning that trying new things or doing many different things is interesting and good, and the doing or having the same thing all the time would be boring and uninteresting

* Lyle never orders the same thing twice, because he thinks variety is the spice of life.

Comprehension Questions
1. Why didn’t Joanna like the movie very much?
a) Because it was too loud.
b) Because it was too expensive.
c) Because it was easy to guess what would happen.

2. Why doesn’t Martin like artsy films?
a) Because he doesn’t understand the stories.
b) Because he likes to see more special effects.
c) Because he doesn’t like to read subtitles.

Answers at bottom.

What Else Does It Mean?
stars

The word “star,” in this podcast, means a celebrity or a person who is very famous, especially an actor, actress, singer, or athlete: “Ilya dreams of becoming a movie star.” The phrase “to see stars” means to see flashes of light that aren’t really there, usually because one has been hit in the head: “Wallace saw stars after that football hit him in the head.” The phrase “to be written in the stars” describes something that will happen because it is fate or destiny: “The day they met each other was written in the stars. They fell in love immediately.” Finally, the phrase “to reach for the stars” means to try to achieve or accomplish something that is very difficult: “Dynee knows it will be difficult to become an astronaut, but she is determined to reach for the stars.”

production value

In this podcast, the phrase “production value” means the quality of a movie, especially referring to techniques like lighting, sound, music, and special effects: “Unless we can find more money, this film is going to have a really low production value.” Normally, “production” refers to the process of making or manufacturing something: “The costs of food production are increasing.” The phrase “to go out of production” means for a company to stop making something: “This model will go out of production in the fall when we introduce a new model.” “To make a production out of (something)” means to create more problems or trouble than is necessary: “Don’t make a production out of Dan’s birthday. He just wants a simple celebration.”

Culture Note
Lesser-Known Film Festivals

“Film festivals” are events where many movies are shown to share ideas and introduce “rising” (becoming more important and gaining popularity) producers. Some of them, like the Sundance Film Festival we talked about in English Café 8, are very well known. Other film festivals are more unusual and less well known.

The Slamdance Film Festival was created by a group of “filmmakers” (people who make movies) who were not accepted into the Sundance Film Festival, so they created their own event, which “has since” (since then has) become an annual festival that encourages filmmakers working on unusual projects.

Some film festivals “feature” (show) films in a particular “genre” (type of movie). For example, there are film festivals that specialize in “horror” (films intended to scare or frighten audiences). Each year, the Terror Film Festival and the Eerie Horror Film Festival are held in Philadelphia, and the Screamfest Horror Film Festival is held in California. These film festivals give “screenwriters” (people who write scripts for movies) and producers working in the horror genre an opportunity to “get greater exposure” (to have one’s work seen by more people).

Other film festivals specialize in particular topics. For example, Frameline is an international “LGBT” (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgenedered) film festival.

The Boston Irish Film Festival promotes Irish films. “Still other” (additional) film festivals recognize the work of particular groups of producers and screenwriters. The American Black Film Festival focuses on the work of African American artists and the San Diego Asian Film Foundation focuses on the work of Asian American and Asian artists.

Comprehension Answers
1 - c

2 - a