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Each of us brings our personal history to the table of writing, revision, editing, and criticism.”  –Roy Peter Clark, HELP! for Writers [Little, Brown, 2011]

. . .

Writing movie reviews and book reviews in a journal or as a blog is an excellent opportunity to write briefly, succinctly, pointedly.  Time, Newsweek, The New Yorker, and the New York Times can serve as good sources and models for their exposition and narration.

Writing reviews is, first, self-expression.  The author is able to use simple critical writing skills and the basics of criticism: to discover PURPOSE; to judge the WORTH; and to criticize the TECHNIQUE.      

Some movie critics remind writers first to enjoy and to realize the entertainment, then to express that enjoyment–or disappointment.

The review is a free form; for in a review virtually everything is relevant: subject matter, technique, social and intellectual background, biographical facts, relationships to other similar works, historical importance, and everything else.  Evaluation is only one of the aims; for there may be other elements of the work under discussion, special difficulties . . . to explain, and special features . . . to note.  –Edgar Roberts, Writing Themes about Literature (1964)

In addition, the reviewer can consider tone, ideas, characters, story, imagery, symbolism, style, music, and other aspects and techniques–and, of course, include a list of favorites, from time to time.

As time passes, the favorites list will change; new films and movies will be produced.  However, one thing for sure, “We’ll always have Paris.” –or we can always “Round up the usual suspects.”  A journal-er or blogger will never be at a loss to find a good movie to watch, and talk about, and think about:  a review.

Some All-Time Favorites: Casablanca  Love Actually  A Room with a View  Singin’ in the Rain  Girl with a Pearl Earring  Moonstruck  West Side Story  Forbidden Planet   Doctor Zhivago  Some Like It Hot  To Kill a Mockingbird  Fargo  One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest  Metropolis

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By: James F. O’Neil

Does spelling ever matter?  Well, does it ever matter after school’s out?  Who cares about spelling as long as there is a spell-checker handy?

I have been reading a charming and fun book that has made me “Listen up!”  Roy Peter Clark at the Poynter Institute in St. Petersburg, Florida, has made me often remember my childhood and school days.  The Glamour of Grammar has a section on words that had me laughing out loud, but taking notice, as I thought back upon spelling and the problems I had.

Using correct spelling is unique to each individual, but sometimes there is no escape from ie or ei:the glamour of grammar

 i before e,

Except after c,

Or when sounded as “a,”

As in neighbor and weigh.

Despite learning this rhyme, we had to learn (our teachers hoped) to be aware of so many exceptions, like seizure, heir, Keira [Knightley], geisha, and, of course, their (not such “big” words, either.)

Should we keep our own lists of MIS-SPELLED words to help us correct our mistakes, as Clark suggests?  (Pink Floyd might suggest otherwise: “We don’t need no education.”)  Clark’s Glamour book gives us “a guide to the magic and mystery of practical English”–including spelling.  We need to know affect and effect, or public and pubic, and cleave (cut) and cleave (cling).  So many words, so little time (eight years in school?).

For what?

So we could out-spell another student, or editor, or journalist, or the boss.  We needed to come out ahead by spelling it right!

For what?  To help me remember Eleanor Wagner.

She was always a better speller than I was.  She always outlasted me in the spelling games we had, those infamous spelling bees of the bad old days.  She always was the last one to sit down, or the last one standing.  I despised her for that, for her mind.

(Sometimes, though, I envision that didn’t I throw it just to be able to sit down and watch her there alone by the board, wearing her blue pleated uniform skirt?)  In addition, she really had quite a body for an eighth grader.  I loved her, too.  (In 8th grade?)  She was my girlfriend for a while‑‑until she discovered big boys, those high-school types, those typecasts.

Eleanor also introduced me to From Here to Eternity, with the sexy beach scene all marked in her worn copy of the book which she passed along the row of desks to each of us lustful adolescents.  We read it under the desks, on our laps, of course.  Ah, a sexy beach scene from a sexy speller.

And the spelling books?  Remember those spellers that listed words, fill-in-the-blanks, exercises that demanded much busy homework?  I remember unfortunate.  More than anything else, I remember the “tuna” in the word, the tuna that I “ate.”  What happened to those spellers?  And where is Eleanor?

Ah, memory!

So, spelling does matter.  Especially, as one student of mine wrote, “In this “Doggy-Dog World we need spelling.”  (That, of course, should be spelled as “dog-eat-dog.”  Right?)

 * * *

Here is a list of must-know words to be spelled correctly:

all right, similar, familiar, marriage, possession, Wednesday, February, separate, misspell, arithmetic, occur, occurrence, similar, villain, cemetery, forty, truly, fourth.

And what about these?

braggadocio (kidding about this braggart word), acquire, inoculate, grammar (put the first letter last, and it spells rammarg, that is, grammar spelled backwards), embarrass, weird, niece, definitely, college, knowledge, sacrilegious, deceive, friendspelling

 © James F. O’Neil  2013

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