The Official CELPIP Podcast: Episode 15
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CJ [00:00:00] Hello, everyone, and welcome to the Official CELPIP Podcast, where we aim to help you, our test takers, get the best possible scores you can, and where we help support newcomers building a life in Canada. My name is CJ, and along with my co-host Chris, we talked to a variety of guests, from test takers, language teachers and test raters to employment counselors and immigration consultants, just to name a few. We also bring our in-house staff on the show to get their perspectives, and they’re the people in the company that work behind the scenes to make the CELPIP Test available to you. Hey, Chris, how’s it going? How was your weekend?
Chris [00:00:39] Hey, CJ, it’s going well. I took it pretty easy over the weekend, got in a couple of nice autumn walks, took advantage of those overpriced fall drinks at some coffee shops, and I got in some quality time in front of the screen. I think I watched three movies?
CJ [00:00:57] Oh, nice. You basically just described my three favorite things about this season: nice fall weather, salted caramel mochas, and movies.
Chris [00:01:09] I mean, who isn’t a fan of those things? But wait, what do movies have to do with the fall?
CJ [00:01:14] OK, well, I guess like nothing technically, but it seems like most of the big, exciting releases come out just before the holidays. And then there’s definitely some new films that I’d love to see right now. Plus, there’s just like a lot of independent film festivals at this time of year.
Chris [00:01:31] Huh, I hadn’t thought of that. But now that you mention it, yeah, that makes sense. So some of our listeners have probably clued into this already, but can you guess what we’ll be talking about today?
CJ [00:01:43] Movies? I mean, I mean, it was also in the title of the episode, so our listeners are pretty smart and we probably already tipped them off. And it’s why they’re listening. But movies!
Chris [00:01:55] Oh, right, yeah. So anyway, today’s episode continues our series on media recommendations that can help our listeners strengthen their English and prepare for CELPIP. Last time, on episode 14, we talked about TV shows, so it only makes sense that we give them some movie recommendations as well. All you cinephiles out there, this episode’s for you.
CJ [00:02:20] So cinephile being someone who loves movies. So basically, that’s definitely me. Movies are near and dear to my heart. Like, I actually don’t want to say how many movies I watch lately. It’s a little bit embarrassing. And since so many streaming services seem to release movies so quickly these days, there’s always something new to watch. And then there’s also all the old favorites to go back and watch, and it can be a lot less intimidating than bingeing an entire season of a TV show.
Chris [00:02:52] Yup, that’s a great point. So I’m almost finished watching Modern Family, like we were talking about last—
CJ [00:03:01] Wait, isn’t that show like 10 seasons long? You’ve definitely got some great TV watching skills right there.
Chris [00:03:07] Um, thanks. It’s actually 11 seasons. Anyway, that’s a whole lot of screen time, so I can definitely identify with watching a movie now and then being less time intensive. And of course, you can watch movies not just for entertainment, but also for English practice. As a quick review, in case you didn’t have time to check out the previous episode on TV shows: for starters, we’re not recommending that you just close your textbooks or drop out of English class and watch movies all day long or anything like that.
CJ [00:03:40] Yeah. Not recommending that, although let’s be honest here, that would be a pretty great life, but not what we’re recommending.
Chris [00:03:47] You’re right. That would be amazing. But if you are actively trying to improve your English, watching movies is no replacement for dedicated study, but movies can definitely act as a supplement to your other means of preparation. And whether you’re passively watching them or actively trying to write down new words or expressions that you hear, they can still be beneficial.
CJ [00:04:11] That’s right. And as I think we’ve discussed before, you don’t necessarily need to pause the movie now and then to write things down. Like if I’m watching some intense car chase or action scene or something, I’m not going to pause. There’s no chance. But even if you’re watching the movie all the way through, you’ll still be able to pick up on lots of things, like how the speakers enunciate their words, the pacing, the rhythm of their speech and stuff like that.
Chris [00:04:36] And what you said about pausing there, that’s a good point. Of course, you can’t do any of this at a theater, but whenever you’re watching movies from home, remember that besides pausing, you can also slow down the movie if you’re having trouble understanding everything that’s said. And you can also turn on the subtitles if you want to read what each person is saying. This can be especially useful to check if you understood the wording correctly or if you want to confirm how a certain word is spelled.
CJ [00:05:03] Yeah, it’s the exact same as TV shows, and you can usually find these options on the bottom of the screen somewhere.
Chris [00:05:08] And in any case, movies are just a great way to experience realistic interactions between people using natural English vocabulary and expressions. One small thing to keep in mind, though, is if you’re watching movies from a long time ago, like the 1970s, the type of expressions people might use could be a little bit different than what’s used today. But generally speaking, movies are a great demonstration of authentic language use.
CJ [00:05:34] I love it, and I think that just about covers the basics. So essentially, movies are a great way to experience natural use of English, and there are plenty of ways to help you determine exactly what people are saying if you’re having any trouble. And whether you watch a movie all the way through, or whether you stop and take vocabulary notes from time to time, they can be an awesome way to improve your English.
Chris [00:05:59] Great summary. And with that covered, I think now it’s time to introduce our guests. Today we’ll be chatting with Simon, Brandi and Barry about some of their favorite movies.
CJ [00:06:10] Welcome everyone. Brandi and Simon, it’s so good to have you guys back on the show and welcome, special welcome to Barry, who is our magician producer behind the scenes. So this is your first appearance on the pod. Despite being on pretty much all our recordings, so welcome to Brandi, Simon and Barry.
Brandi [00:06:32] Hello. CJ, Chris. Hello, Simon. Hello, Barry. It’s great to be back on the podcast.
Simon [00:06:36] Hello.
Barry [00:06:37] Hi.
Simon [00:06:38] Hi guys. Thanks for having me back. It’s great to be here.
Barry [00:06:39] Hi, guys. Good to be on the podcast today.
CJ [00:06:42] All right, so let’s get into it. Where do we begin? OK? How about Brandi? Tell us what films you have for us today.
Brandi [00:06:53] Well, a fairly recent movie that I enjoyed is called Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle. This is a fantasy adventure comedy that was filmed mainly in Honolulu, Hawaii. It’s about four high school students who find a mysterious old video game. Once they begin playing, they are magically transported into the game itself, landing in a jungle world called Jumanji. Here they are trapped as their chosen avatars, and the only way that they can return home to the real world is to finish playing the game. This means that they must end a curse on Jumanji. The movie stars Dwayne The Rock Johnson, Jack Black, Kevin Hart and Karen Gillan. Nick Jonas, the American singer, also has a small role. First of all, I absolutely love The Rock. I think I’ve seen just about every movie that he’s ever made. His character is part of what makes this movie so much fun, because the teenagers who entered the game as adult avatars have such different skills and traits and even physical appearances on Jumanji than they do in real life. It’s such a lighthearted comedy with so much action and so many special effects that it will keep us entertained for the two-hour run. And I think that our CELPIP viewers will appreciate the action sequences. They move the plot along, which makes it really easy to follow the storyline even if we don’t catch all of the dialog while listening. The movie is based on a children’s book, by the way, by Chris van Ellsberg. It’s also a sequel. The original Jumanji came out in 1995, starring the late Robin Williams. I guess this is one of the reasons why I enjoyed the sequel so much. It makes references to the first movie and to Robin Williams’ character, and he was such a talented comedian and actor that it’s nice to remember him in this sequel that came out three years after his death in 2014. And it’s also fun seeing how film writers have updated this movie’s premise. In the original Jumanji movie from the 90s, the children played a board game, but in this more modern 2017 version, players enter Jumanji through a video game, which allows for even better special effects.
CJ [00:09:04] Yeah, that one was super fun. Can you tell our listeners if they need to have seen the first movie from the 90s in case they’re younger than we are to understand that the sequel was made more than 20 years later?
Brandi [00:09:20] Yes, very true. This movie was initially put out quite a few years ago, wasn’t it? No, this more modern 2017 version can be viewed all by itself. It’s got the same premise as that first film from the 90s, so viewers who have seen that 1994 movie will definitely understand immediately how this game on Jumanji works. But this sequel sets up the plot so clearly, and it even introduces all new characters to the game, so it can definitely be seen all by itself without having seen the first one.
CJ [00:09:51] Awesome. Okay, thanks. Now, Jumanji has some well-known American actors that you mentioned. Did it win any sort of movie awards—acting, effects, or anything like that?
Brandi [00:10:03] No, it didn’t win any awards, no Oscars or anything like that, but it did earn more than nine hundred and sixty-two million dollars at the box office and was the fifth highest grossing film of 2017. Not bad for a fantasy comedy sequel.
CJ [00:10:18] Yeah, that’s great. I loved that movie, and so thank you for sharing it, and I hope that our listeners enjoy it if they haven’t seen it already, and it’s definitely good for a rewatch anytime. So what is your second movie recommendation?
Brandi [00:10:34] Yes, so for my second movie recommendation, I’ve got a completely different genre. This one is called The Blind Side. It’s a sports drama, and it’s about overcoming life’s challenges to ultimately find success. It centers around Michael, who’s an African-American teenager, and he bounces between foster families. He even struggles to find stability there. His mother is a drug addict, we learn, and gang members live throughout the neighborhood where he grew up. Michael struggles in school, his grades are very poor, and he is homeless when he is noticed by a wealthy, Caucasian family at a high school football game. He has no food to eat. He has no warm clothing to wear. So the family adopts him. The film centers around the relationships that Michael establishes with each of the family members, and on how they help him to overcome his learning difficulties in school to become a star football player. The movie was released in 2009, and it’s based on a true story. I enjoyed it because I admired the strength of character of the teenage Michael. He was constantly surrounded by negative influences as a child, but he accepts the love and the support of this family of strangers to make something very positive of his life. I also admire the tenacity of the wife of this family, LeAnn Tuohy, for taking a chance on Michael and bringing him into their home. By the way, the wife in the movie is played by Sandra Bullock, and she won an Academy Award for Best Actress for her performance. Quinton Aaron plays the role of Michael, and country star Tim McGraw and American actress Kathy Bates round out the cast. I think CELPIP viewers will be captivated by Michael’s story. We root for him from the beginning because we really want him to be successful and loved. Despite his poor upbringing, he has so much to offer. And as the credits roll and the movie’s ending, we get to see photos of the real Tuohy family and of Michael himself. Adding this real life element to the film makes us connect to the story even more.
CJ [00:12:38] Yeah, that was a super heartwarming story. Now will the scenes of like drug use and gang violence like maybe upset some of our listeners who might tune in to watch?
Brandi [00:12:52] Well, the film does establish that Michael was raised as a young child by a drug addicted mother, and he is enticed to join neighborhood gangs at different parts throughout the film. But the movie focuses mainly on Michael’s journey to find happiness and success. It doesn’t dwell on the negative. The movie itself is rated PG, so it should be suitable for most viewers.
CJ [00:13:13] Brandi, thanks so much for those. I think you’ve just inspired me to rewatch them again.
Chris [00:13:18] Yeah, those sound great. I’m definitely adding them to my list. I actually haven’t seen either. How about Simon now? What are your top movie picks?
Simon [00:13:29] Well, that’s a difficult question because I love movies. This is my favorite topic to talk about. So if you want a long podcast, this is going to be very easy for me. But I eventually narrowed it down to two movies that I thought had the best kind of language for test takers. So I love all kinds of movies, but I especially love Disney movies. And so we have a Disney special today, as both of my movies are Disney movies, and the first movie I’ve chosen is an absolutely wonderful movie from 2007 called Enchanted. So if you know your classic hand-drawn animation, Disney movies from the 40s and 50s—Snow White, Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty—you know that they have this classic hand-drawn style, and they’re very bright and very optimistic, and this movie starts in the same way. So there is a character called Giselle, this beautiful forest maiden who lives with the animals and sings to them, and they, when she sings and whistles, they make clothes for her and clean her apartment. And it’s all very bright and airy and over-the-top, but it’s just wonderful. And in a battle with an ogre, she meets the dashing and handsome Prince Edward. And so, of course, they fall in love and they arranged to get married. And the problem is, is that Prince Edward is the son of the queen, obviously, but the Queen is a witch, and she’s very jealous of Giselle. She’s very jealous of how pure and beautiful she is. So the Queen hatches a plan to get rid of Giselle so she can keep her son to herself. So on the night of the wedding, she pushes Giselle into this magical well and Giselle disappears. But it turns out this well is a portal to modern-day New York City. So the animated Giselle falls out of her animated classic optimistic, bright Disney world and into modern day pessimistic, grumpy first New York City, as she transitions from being hand-drawn animation to live action actress played so brilliantly by Amy Adams. And this was her first big role. Before that, she’d been a waitress. And what’s wonderful about this movie is that everyone who comes from the animated world has this style of speaking that’s really bright and light and over-the-top. And there’s a beautiful juxtaposition between the people she meets in New York, including Robert, who is this lawyer who’s had his heart broken. His wife left him. He’s a single dad, and he’s trying to raise his daughter to be a strong woman without emotion because he doesn’t believe in love anymore. So you can imagine that this is a romance movie. It’s also a comedy movie. As Giselle and Robert spend more time together, she learns about the world, the real world, and he learns about being optimistic again—of course, as they fall in love. And there’s singing and there’s dancing, and it’s a wonderful homage to classic Disney musicals. If you know your Disney movies, you’ll see lots and lots of references in this movie. It’s just the most wonderful story. It’s lovely.
Chris [00:16:53] Well, that truly does sound enchanting. That sounds really interesting. Would you say the mix of language styles might be tricky for a test taker to understand.
Simon [00:17:05] Yeah, that’s a really good question, because it is very, very different how they speak. But I thought about this and it occurred to me that we teach our students to learn different kinds of English, to have conversational English and to have more formal English. And this is a really good movie for showing both sides of that because the Disney characters speak in this overblown formal style and the modern New Yorkers speak in this very slang field and phrasal verb field, like grumpy, modern language. So it’s very, very clear, because it’s a Disney movie, the actors and their interaction is always very clear. So students will be able to listen to these two kinds of delivery and see the interpersonal relationships in front of them as well. So it will help them understand the context.
Chris [00:17:58] OK, which parts of the film could the test takers specifically use to help develop their skills?
Simon [00:18:05] Well, advice I always give to my students is that they should sing in English all the time. And so I’m going to repeat the same thing. And the great thing about this movie is that it has some classic style Disney songs written by Alan Menken, who was responsible for classic Disney songs from The Little Mermaid and so on. And he’s written songs, new songs that sound like these Disney classics, and they’re very funny. There’s one song where Giselle is trying to clean an apartment, and so she whistles for her animal friends. But of course, she’s in New York City, so instead of birds and mice, she gets rats and cockroaches to clean her apartment. But the lyrics are very clear, they’re very funny. And if test takers can learn this song and sing this song, it won’t just help them with their pronunciation, but it would really help them with their tone and expression as well. Music is so great for practicing tone because speaking is singing, after all, so it’s a great way to practice that.
Chris [00:19:07] What a wonderful approach to preparation. Sounds great. So I can’t wait to hear what the follow up will be. What is your second pick here?
Simon [00:19:17] Yeah, absolutely. So for my second film, I chose a movie that didn’t quite do as well. This was an animated movie from Disney, and both of these films are on Disney Plus, it’s worth mentioning. This is a movie from 2001 called Atlantis: The Lost Empire. Disney in the mid-to-late 90s and the early 2000s went through this phase of making classic hand-drawn animated movies, but had strong science fiction elements as well. And unfortunately, none of them did that well. But they’re also notable as they’re not musicals either. So they are made as these classic adventure movies, often using classic pieces of literature. And Atlantis is this wonderful adventure story where there is a guy, the main character called Milo. In the early 1900s, America is trying to find the lost city of Atlantis using a local group that’s given him money and people to search for this lost continent. And Milo, by the way, is voiced by local legend Michael J. Fox. And as he goes and finds this lost continent with this diverse group of people, he finds this science fiction dream, and the Disney artists have really used their creativity to draw this most beautiful and ethereal science fiction world for us to explore. And of course, there’s a baddie group trying to come and exploit Atlantis’ power, so you have this great adventure and a fight between good and bad, and it’s a really good movie for test takers to watch because there’s many different styles of speaking. Each of the characters have very unique ways of delivery, and also there’s some elements of foreign language that gets incorporated into the English as well. So it’s, from a listening point of view, it’s a great resource for different delivery styles.
Chris [00:21:19] Hmm. That’s another very interesting choice or recommendation, I should say. So it’s classic hand-drawn animation, but does that make it harder to understand what the characters are saying?
Simon [00:21:31] That’s an interesting point, because of course, in live action, you can see the movement of the mouth to help your listening comprehension. But in animation, that’s very, very different. But what students should remember is that 80 percent of communication is from body language, and with hand-drawn animation, and in this movie in particular, all the body language is emphasized to a higher degree to really bring across the different personalities and characters. So it’s actually a really good resource, even when there’s some language you don’t understand. You’ll be able to look at these characters and see how they’re acting against each other and read from the bodies and the context what’s being said?
Chris [00:22:14] Hmm. Is there like a specific example, like any characters in particular who use a unique way of speaking?
Simon [00:22:21] Yeah, absolutely. When Milo goes through Atlantis, he has a crew of different people and they all have very diverse accents and ways of speaking. But one in particular is Audrey Ramirez, who is the Latina mechanic, and she speaks with a very strong Spanish accent but speaks with really good English, but still with the strong accent. And I have many students who worry too much about the accent, but I think this is a great example of how good pronunciation and a strong accent can go hand-in-hand. So it would be really useful for language learners to listen to how the English is used here, especially from non-native speakers, in a fluid and entertaining way that’s clearly understandable.
CJ [00:23:10] Simon, that’s great. Thanks so much for those recommendations. I’ve got a feeling that we’re all going to be adding some movies to our lists by the end of today. So, Barry, welcome again. Tell our listeners what you’ve been watching or what you recommend.
Barry [00:23:30] Thanks, CJ. So from my first movie, I’m going to follow in Simon’s footsteps and also recommend an animated movie to our listeners. It’s a movie called The Secret of Kells, and it’s a fantasy film about the real-life illuminated manuscripts of the Book of Kells. Set in Ireland during the time of the Vikings, The Secret of Kells tells the story of Brendan, a young boy living in a remote medieval outpost under siege from Viking raids. Brendan is then beckoned forward on an adventure after a master artist arrives with an ancient book, which is filled with secret wisdom and powers. What I liked about this movie is that clearly shows how our ancestors came to learn about the importance of books, and how by documenting and keeping record of great pieces of art and human thought, this can benefit future generations for centuries. Alongside that, The Secret of Kells has a very unique style of animation, which draws from Celtic art history in much the same way anime draws inspiration from Japanese art. I think for any test takers out there, this is a great movie to watch. Alongside a great story and a truly unique animation style, this movie serves as a reminder of the power of books and reading, and how a lot of what we may need to know for the future has already been written down. For anyone who enjoys animated movies or has a keen interest in history, I think The Secret of Kells is a movie which you will get a lot of enjoyment out of.
CJ [00:24:52] Awesome. So that’s so cool. I’ve not seen that one. So do you think that the test takers who are listening may have difficulty understanding what some of the characters might be saying, considering they’re speaking in an accent that they may not be used to.
Barry [00:25:10] Although the characters are all speaking in English and Irish accents, The Secret of Kells is made for an international audience, so I think the creators made an effort to ensure that the movie and its characters could be understood regardless of where in the world the audience is watching.
CJ [00:25:24] Perfect. And our listeners are listening to you right now, so they’ve already got a head start on it. So you mentioned that the story is based on a real-life book. Tell me more about that book and if it’s still around.
Barry [00:25:38] Yes. Although it won’t be something you find in your local bookstore, the actual Book of Kells itself can be viewed in Trinity College in Dublin, Ireland, and is open to tourists all year round.
CJ [00:25:49] Oh wow. OK, cool. Putting that on the list. So, great. Feeling good. What’s your second recommendation to our listeners?
Barry [00:26:00] Sure. So for my second movie, I would like to recommend the documentary Searching for Sugar Man. This documentary tells a fascinating true story of Rodriguez, a musician from the 1970s who never achieved success in the United States with his music, but without ever even knowing it became a rock and roll icon in South Africa. Searching for Sugar Man chronicles the story of two South Africans who begin to search for Rodriguez. What happens when they find their man? What I like most about this movie is how well it shows the life of Rodriguez and how we hear firsthand from his close friends and family, how his music came to be created, and just how it became such a phenomenon in South Africa. I think test takers would really benefit from watching this, as I think the movie explains well the meaning behind the lyrics of some of Rodriguez best known songs. This could help test takers to learn new vocabulary and also offer some explanation behind the meaning of the lyrics, which could be useful for the Reading section of the tests. For anyone who enjoys music, especially older music from the past, this movie is a really interesting insight into just how the music industry used to work in the past. Alongside that, for anyone who just enjoys watching a real live true story, Searching for Sugar Man is a great watch.
CJ [00:27:15] Great. So do viewers need to know a lot about music from the 1970s to enjoy Searching for Sugar Man?
Barry [00:27:22] I don’t think so. Although the movie is about a musician from the 1970s, it is also at its core, a very personal look at one man and how his he has lived his life, both with and without music.
CJ [00:27:34] That’s amazing. Sounds like an interesting story. Can people who enjoy the documentary and music listen to it now?
Barry [00:27:42] Yeah, for sure. So Rodriguez’s music has undergone something of a renaissance since the documentary aired, and it is now easily accessible across most platforms.
CJ [00:27:51] That is great. Thanks so much, Barry. Those are two super interesting recommendations. And I think that about covers it. We’ve discussed so many choices, and I consider myself a pretty big movie fan, but there are a couple of those that I haven’t seen yet, so I’m actually super excited about settling in and watching them.
Chris [00:28:13] Yeah. These are all great suggestions, not only great films, but they’re great chances to expand your English as well.
CJ [00:28:20] Definitely. So I just want to thank Simon, Brandi and Barry once again for joining us. It’s always such a pleasure to use episodes and have our colleagues on.
Brandi [00:28:30] Excellent. Thanks for having me, and Simon and Barry, I must say you both have very good taste in movies. You’ve given me some great ideas for my next selections. Thanks so much.
Simon [00:28:39] Thank you. Great to be here.
Barry [00:28:40] Thanks so much for having me on the podcast, guys. I really enjoyed it.
Chris [00:28:43] Remind me, CJ, what are we talking about in next week’s episode?
CJ [00:28:47] OK, well, I’ll give you a couple of hints. They involve screens, and they’re super fun.
Chris [00:28:54] I mean, we’ve already talked about TV and movies. What else has screens? Ah. YouTube cat videos. It’s cat videos, isn’t it? Definitely. Definitely has to be.
CJ [00:29:07] Uh no no. I love that guess, though, and that could probably be fun, but less useful from a language perspective. But next week, we’ll actually be talking about video games.
Chris [00:29:20] Oh, I knew that. You know, I was just playing games with you there.
CJ [00:29:26] Nice. I see what you did there. In any case, I think that next episode is going to be great and it’ll be a learning experience for all of us. We’ll have some good recommendations, and of course, we’ll talk about just how educational some video games can be. Well, until next time, we hope you have a great study experience and maybe watch a movie or two while you’re at it.
Chris [00:29:47] Bye.
CJ [00:29:48] Bye, everybody.