GE|Adults|Advanced|9. Inaccuracies in movies

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Speculate about the pictures

  1. What might have led to these situations: revolution, rebellion, coup?
  2. What are the ways to declare war?
  3. What kind of weapons do you see in the pictures? Defend the necessity of developing and creating new kinds of weapon.

Related videos

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Complete the sentences with the right word

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Princess Isabella of France

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William Wallace

Look at the images from Braveheart and answer the questions

  • Are there any films or TV series you’ve seen which you thought were historically accurate, and which you felt taught you something about the period or event?
  • Are there any films or TV series you’ve seen which you were aware were historically inaccurate? Did it bother you? Why (not)?
  • Have you ever checked whether a film or TV series was accurate either during or after seeing it?
  • Do you think big studios care whether the historical films they make are accurate or not?

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Read and listen to the extract from a film blog and answer the questions

Listen to the audio and do the exercise

Did you know…?

One of the films that has been most criticized for historical inaccuracy is Braveheart. Some scenes actually had to be reshot because the extras were wearing watches and sunglasses! Other films frequently included in the top ten most historically inaccurate films are JFK, Pearl Harbor, Shakespeare in Love, and Pocahontas.
Historical films that have been voted both excellent and historically accurate on numerous websites include Downfall, the German film about Hitler’s last days, Clint Eastwood’s Letters from Iwo Jima, Chariots of Fire, and Saving Private Ryan.
Hollywood studios are recruiting academics as «history assassins» to help them undermine rival studios’ Oscar-contending films. A Harvard professor says he was paid a $10,000 fee by an Oscar marketing consultant to look for factual errors in the current wave of historical films that boast that they are «based on a true story».
The concept of doing something else while watching a film or TV only used to stretch to eating popcorn or having a TV dinner. But since the arrival of smartphones, we have become a society of «two-screeners», that is, people who watch a film or TV while using their smartphone. Things people do with their phones include tweeting or posting comments about what they’re watching, or checking the accuracy in historical or period dramas.


Did you know…?

One of the films that has been most criticized for historical inaccuracy is Braveheart. Some scenes actually had to be reshot because the extras were wearing watches and sunglasses! Other films frequently included in the top ten most historically inaccurate films are JFK, Pearl Harbor, Shakespeare in Love, and Pocahontas.

Historical films that have been voted both excellent and historically accurate on numerous websites include Downfall, the German film about Hitler’s last days, Clint Eastwood’s Letters from Iwo Jima, Chariots of Fire, and Saving Private Ryan.

Hollywood studios are recruiting academics as «history assassins» to help them undermine rival studios’ Oscar-contending films. A Harvard professor says he was paid a $10,000 fee by an Oscar marketing consultant to look for factual errors in the current wave of historical films that boast that they are «based on a true story».

The concept of doing something else while watching a film or TV only used to stretch to eating popcorn or having a TV dinner. But since the arrival of smartphones, we have become a society of «two-screeners», that is, people who watch a film or TV while using their smartphone. Things people do with their phones include tweeting or posting comments about what they’re watching, or checking the accuracy in historical or period dramas.


  1. Did the blog mention any of the films you talked about in the previous step? Do you agree about the ones that are mentioned?
  2. Do you think the professor’s research affected the films’ success?
  3. Have you seen people «two-screening» in the cinema? How did you feel about it?

Listen to the interview and choose the best option

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Adrian Hodges

Glossary

Macbeth /mək’beθ/ — a play by Shakespeare about a king of Scotland.

William the Conqueror, Charles II, Victoria — English monarchs from the 11th, 17th, and 19th centuries

to play fast and loose with sth — to treat something without enough care or attention


Part 1

Interviewer: How important is historical accuracy in a historical film?
Adrian: The notion of accuracy in history is a really difficult one in drama because you know, it’s like saying, well, «Was Macbeth accurate? Was- is Shakespearean drama accurate?», the iro- the thing is, it’s not about historical accuracy, it’s about whether you can make a drama work from history that means something to an audience now. So I tend to take the view that, in a way, accuracy isn’t the issue when it comes to the drama, if you’re writing a drama you, you have the right as a writer to create the drama that works for you, so you can certainly change details. The truth is nobody really knows how people spoke in Rome or how people spoke in the courts of Charles II or William the Conqueror or Victoria, or whoever, you have an idea from writing, from books, plays, and so on. We know when certain things happened, what sort of dates happened. I think it’s really a question of judgement, if you make history ridiculous, if you change detail to the point where history is an absurdity then obviously things become more difficult. The truth is, the, the more recent history is, the more difficult it is not to be authentic to it. In a way it’s much easier to play fast and loose with the details of what happened in Rome than it is to play fast and loose with the details of what happened in the Iraq War, say, you know. So it, it, it’s all a matter of perspective in some ways. It, it, it’s something that you have to be aware of and which you try to be faithful to, but you can’t ultimately say a drama has to be bound by the rules of history, because that’s not what drama is.
Interviewer: Do you think that the writer has a responsibility to represent any kind of historical truth?
Adrian: Not unless that’s his intention. If it’s your intention to be truthful to history and you, and you put a piece out saying «This is the true story of, say, the murder of Julius Caesar exactly as the historical record has it, » then of course, you do have an obligation, because if you then deliberately tell lies about it, you are, you know, you’re deceiving your audience. If, however, you say you’re writing a drama about the assassination of Julius Caesar purely from your own perspective and entirely in a fictional context then you have the right to tell the story however you like. I don’t think you have any obligation except to the, to the story that you are telling. What you can’t be is deliberately dishonest, you can’t say «This is true,» when you know full well it isn’t.



Listen again and choose the points Adrian makes

Part 1

Interviewer: How important is historical accuracy in a historical film?
Adrian: The notion of accuracy in history is a really difficult one in drama because you know, it’s like saying, well, «Was Macbeth accurate? Was- is Shakespearean drama accurate?», the iro- the thing is, it’s not about historical accuracy, it’s about whether you can make a drama work from history that means something to an audience now. So I tend to take the view that, in a way, accuracy isn’t the issue when it comes to the drama, if you’re writing a drama you, you have the right as a writer to create the drama that works for you, so you can certainly change details. The truth is nobody really knows how people spoke in Rome or how people spoke in the courts of Charles II or William the Conqueror or Victoria, or whoever, you have an idea from writing, from books, plays, and so on. We know when certain things happened, what sort of dates happened. I think it’s really a question of judgement, if you make history ridiculous, if you change detail to the point where history is an absurdity then obviously things become more difficult. The truth is, the, the more recent history is, the more difficult it is not to be authentic to it. In a way it’s much easier to play fast and loose with the details of what happened in Rome than it is to play fast and loose with the details of what happened in the Iraq War, say, you know. So it, it, it’s all a matter of perspective in some ways. It, it, it’s something that you have to be aware of and which you try to be faithful to, but you can’t ultimately say a drama has to be bound by the rules of history, because that’s not what drama is.
Interviewer: Do you think that the writer has a responsibility to represent any kind of historical truth?
Adrian: Not unless that’s his intention. If it’s your intention to be truthful to history and you, and you put a piece out saying «This is the true story of, say, the murder of Julius Caesar exactly as the historical record has it, » then of course, you do have an obligation, because if you then deliberately tell lies about it, you are, you know, you’re deceiving your audience. If, however, you say you’re writing a drama about the assassination of Julius Caesar purely from your own perspective and entirely in a fictional context then you have the right to tell the story however you like. I don’t think you have any obligation except to the, to the story that you are telling. What you can’t be is deliberately dishonest, you can’t say «This is true,» when you know full well it isn’t.


Listen to Part 2 of the interview and do the task below

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Poster of ‘Spartacus’, about a gladiator who led a slave rebellion against the Romans in the 1st century BC.

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Poster of ‘Braveheart’, about William Wallace, one of the main leaders in the 13th and 14th century Wars of Scottish Independence.

Part 2

Interviewer: Can you think of any examples where you feel the facts have been twisted too far?
Adrian: Well, I think the notion of whether a film, a historical film has gone too far in presenting a dramatized fictional version of the truth, is really a matter of personal taste. The danger is with any historical film that if that becomes the only thing that the audience sees on that subject, if it becomes the received version of the truth, as it were, because people don’t always make the distinction between movies and reality and history, then obviously if that film is grossly irresponsible or grossly fantastic in its, in its presentation of the truth, that could, I suppose, become controversial. I mean if you, you know, I think that the only thing anybody is ever likely to know about Spartacus, for example, the movie, is Kirk Douglas and all his friends standing up and saying ‘I am Spartacus, I am Spartacus’, which is a wonderful moment and it stands for the notion of freedom of individual choice and so on. So Spartacus the film, made in 1962, I think, if memory serves, has become, I think, for nearly everybody who knows anything about Spartacus, the only version of the truth. Now in fact we don’t know if any of that is true really. There are some accounts of the historical Spartacus, but very very few and what, virtually the only thing that’s known about is that there was a man called Spartacus and there was a rebellion and many people were, you know, were crucified at the end of it, as in the film. Whether that’s irresponsible I don’t know, I, I can’t say that I think it is, I think in a way it’s, it’s, it’s a, Spartacus is a film that had a resonance in the modern era. There are other examples, you know, a lot of people felt that the version of William Wallace that was presented in Braveheart was really pushing the limits of what history could stand, the whole, in effect, his whole career was invented in the film, or at least built on to such a degree that some people felt that perhaps it was more about the notion of Scotland as an independent country than it was about history as an authentic spectacle. But you know, again, these things are a matter of purely personal taste, I mean, I enjoyed Braveheart immensely.


What does Adrian mean by saying these phrases?

  1. «it becomes the received version of the truth»
  2. «grossly irresponsible»
  3. «the notion of freedom of individual choice»
  4. «a resonance in the modern era»
  5. «pushing the limits of what history could stand»
  6. «a matter of purely personal taste»

Listen again and answer the questions

Part 2

Interviewer: Can you think of any examples where you feel the facts have been twisted too far?
Adrian: Well, I think the notion of whether a film, a historical film has gone too far in presenting a dramatized fictional version of the truth, is really a matter of personal taste. The danger is with any historical film that if that becomes the only thing that the audience sees on that subject, if it becomes the received version of the truth, as it were, because people don’t always make the distinction between movies and reality and history, then obviously if that film is grossly irresponsible or grossly fantastic in its, in its presentation of the truth, that could, I suppose, become controversial. I mean if you, you know, I think that the only thing anybody is ever likely to know about Spartacus, for example, the movie, is Kirk Douglas and all his friends standing up and saying ‘I am Spartacus, I am Spartacus’, which is a wonderful moment and it stands for the notion of freedom of individual choice and so on. So Spartacus the film, made in 1962, I think, if memory serves, has become, I think, for nearly everybody who knows anything about Spartacus, the only version of the truth. Now in fact we don’t know if any of that is true really. There are some accounts of the historical Spartacus, but very very few and what, virtually the only thing that’s known about is that there was a man called Spartacus and there was a rebellion and many people were, you know, were crucified at the end of it, as in the film. Whether that’s irresponsible I don’t know, I, I can’t say that I think it is, I think in a way it’s, it’s, it’s a, Spartacus is a film that had a resonance in the modern era. There are other examples, you know, a lot of people felt that the version of William Wallace that was presented in Braveheart was really pushing the limits of what history could stand, the whole, in effect, his whole career was invented in the film, or at least built on to such a degree that some people felt that perhaps it was more about the notion of Scotland as an independent country than it was about history as an authentic spectacle. But you know, again, these things are a matter of purely personal taste, I mean, I enjoyed Braveheart immensely.


  1. What is the most famous scene in the film Spartacus?
  2. Why is it an example of a film becoming the «received version of the truth»?
  3. What does he say about the portrayal of William Wallace’s life in the film Braveheart?
  4. What did some people think Braveheart was really about?

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Match the discourse markers in quotes to what they are used for

Read the rules

Discourse Markers

Advanced

To begin with, I’d like to ensure that you are going to have a great time during your English lessons. Speaking of English lessons, Have I told you about Discourse markers?

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Examples

On the one hand, discourse markers might be challenging to use without experience. On the other hand, they make your speech more structured and logical. After all, they connect the information, making it flow smoothly. Besides, you can easily use them after just a bit of practice. What’s more, they look good in the writing part of any English exam. All in all, discourse markers are definitely worth spending your time on.

Forms

Usage Example
To open the text/speech
  • To start/begin with, let me introduce our new Managing Director
  • For a start, we have never tried changing our policies before.
  • For starters, this is our goal for next month.

To close the text/speech;
to summarise

  • In conclusion, if we plan the event correctly, we might not have any significant drawback.
  • To sum up, there are too many aspects to this problem.
  • In summary, I’m glad to see so many people are willing to help our cause.
To change the subject (sometimes may be connected to what you said before)
  • By the way, what happened to the book you borrowed from me last week?
  • That was a very productive meeting. Incidentally, what time is it?
To introduce information that might be surprising or unexpected
  • He has a reputation of a couch potato, but actually he’s a very prolific writer.
  • I don’t eat mushrooms. In fact, I’ve never eaten mushrooms in my life.

— «Would you like some coconut water?»
— «No, thank you. As a matter of fact, I’m allergic to coconuts.»

To point to other parts of the text As mentioned/shown above/below, there are multiple ways to reduce your carbon footprint.
To connect new topic to the previous one I saw Matt today. Speaking of/Talking of Matt, did you know he and Stephanie got engaged?
To introduce a comparison
  • Our sales have increased in the last year. Likewise, there has been an increase in our advertising budget.
  • When you read a letter from someone, you can imagine their face and voice. Similarly, when you read a book, you can hear the narrator’s voice in your head.
  • China celebrates their New Year at the end of January. In the same way, Nepal celebrates New Year according to their own calendar.
To return to an earlier subject
  • It’s not so unusual for us to forget to buy something. Anyway, we returned to the store…
  • As I was saying, we arrived at the airport without any problems.
  • The park isn’t very crowded on weekdays. In any case, after we got to the bus stop…
To add a more important reason for what you are saying
  • I don’t feel like cooking tonight. Besides, we don’t even have groceries to cook from.
  • Having a dog is a lot of responsibility. In any case, my husband is allergic to them.
  • I’m afraid we can’t afford it at the moment. Anyway, it’s not like we really need it.
To introduce additional points to what you have just said
  • I know him better than you do; after all, he is my brother.
  • Scientists have found traces of water on Mars. What’s more, they believe it’s not the only thing they are going to find.
To introduce positive information after negative It was a horrible accident, but at least nobody died.
To make something less certain or definite He’s worked with children many times before; or, at least, that’s what he says.
To say that you are taking everything into consideration There were some mistakes, but all in all you did a pretty good job.
To generalise On the whole, men avoid talking about their feelings.
To introduce a fact that’s easy to see or understand Obviously, it’s hard to get your first job without work experience or high qualifications.
To introduce the most important point Basically, what we need now is more people to work on this project.
To paraphrase
  • Max said we need to see other people; in other words, he broke up with me.
  • The best thing about VR is immersiveness. That is to say, you can feel like you’re actually walking in someone’s shoes.
To clarify or give more details This is pointless. I mean, it’s not like we get any get any progress by doing this.
To say what the result will be if the situation were different I’m glad we live close to the city centre. Otherwise, we would spend a lot of time commuting.
To change the subject or introduce a new topic
  • Regarding the party, we’ll have to decide on the date.
  • As regards to Tom, he has informed us of his decision to retire.
  • As far as money is concerned, all cost will be covered by our sponsors.
To balance contrasting points (On the one hand is optional)
  • On the one hand, running is good for your health.
  • On the other hand, early morning runners are easy targets for muggers and murderers.

Usage

We use discourse markers to structure our speech or text, to connect the sentences and ideas in a meaningful and logical way.

Common mistakes

Alex is the rudest person I’ve ever met.
   Actually, he doesn’t even say «hello»!

✔️ Alex is the rudest person I’ve ever met.
   I mean, he doesn’t even say «hello»!

Choose the right option

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Man | Woman

M: What a great movie! I really loved it. Didn't you?

W: (Actually/Incidentally) I didn't like it very much.

M: Why not?

W: , I thought the plot was completely unbelievable.

M: I wouldn't call it unbelievable. it wasn't supposed to be a true story.

W: I know, but it was set in a specific historical period. you can't expect the dialogue to be totally authentic, , nobody knows exactly how people spoke in Roman times, but the details should be right. There were cannons in the battle scene and they weren't invented till a thousand years later! , I thought it was a pretty awful film.

M: We'll have to agree to disagree then. , do you know what time the last bus leaves? I don't want to miss it. I'll have to get a taxi home.

W: 11.40. Don't worry, we've got plenty of time. I think we've even got time to have something to eat. There's a good Italian restaurant just round the corner.

M: Good idea. Italian food, I made a wonderful mushroom risotto last night...


 

Complete the situations with suitable discourse markers. Sometimes more than one option may be possible. Some of the given phrases are odd and some can be used several times

Example: The film was a box office disaster. That is to say, it cost more to produce than it made in receipts.


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Do the quiz

Complete the mini-dialogues with a discourse marker

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Complete the extracts from the presentation with the discourse markers from the list

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Read the descriptions of three famous scenes from the films. Complete each text with the words from the list

Quickly read a part of the preface of the book History Goes to the Movies by US author Joseph Roquemore and answer the question


History Goes to the Movies

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When asked in 1993 to comment on accusations that the movie In the Name of the Father grossly distorts contemporary British and Irish history, female lead Emma Thompson famously responded «I don’t give a damn». Ever since the premiere in 1915 of The Birth of a Nation, film-makers have rewritten history to create top-dollar entertainment.

The films are very persuasive: well-made movies hold your interest continuously, riveting your attention on «what happens next», and pulling you forward with no time to reflect on individual scenes until the final credits roll.

The result: you don’t remember much about a film after watching it for the first time. Very few people can recall even half the plot in reasonable sequence, and still fewer can remember facial expressions or voice intonation associated with specific dialogue sequences (including politically and morally loaded conversations). For this reason, films have extraordinary power — unmatched by any other medium — to leave you with a strong sense of what is right and what is wrong, who is bad and who is good, even though critical details presented in the movies may be biased or false.

Well, so what? They’re just movies. In fact they’re not just movies. Millions of Americans are fanatical history lovers, and they pack theaters every time new films on historical figures or events come to town. Saving Private Ryan and Titanic raked in viewers and cash for months. One of the History Channel’s most popular programs, Movies in Time, is shown twice daily. Many high school teachers screen movies in the classroom. Clearly countless Americans get most of their history from television and the big screen.

Some of the industry’s finest historical and period films premiered during the past decades. But the 1960s also triggered a flurry of politically charged history-based movies full of factual distortions and, occasionally, outright lies. Today the trend continues on a larger scale: many films released in the 1990s and the first decade of the 21st century reflect blatant disdain, at least as intense as Ms Thompson’s, for solid reliable history.

History Goes to the Movies is a source of information and, it is hoped, entertainment for everyone interested in the actual history behind a wide selection of movies grouped into twelve sections — 11 covering historical periods and events and a twelfth containing biographies and period films. Each film review includes an essay on the history covered in one or more movies, and a brief plot summary.

Star ratings (five stars: don’t miss it) reflect each movie’s historical accuracy and — to a far lesser degree — its power to amuse.

Obviously expecting textbook accuracy from films would be ridiculous — and producers have delivered a remarkable number of historically faithful movies. But some of them get too much of their history wrong. History Goes to the Movies is a guide, however imperfect, for readers and viewers aiming to get it right.

Now read the text again carefully and choose the right option

History Goes to the Movies

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When asked in 1993 to comment on accusations that the movie In the Name of the Father grossly distorts contemporary British and Irish history, female lead Emma Thompson famously responded «I don’t give a damn». Ever since the premiere in 1915 of The Birth of a Nation, film-makers have rewritten history to create top-dollar entertainment.

The films are very persuasive: well-made movies hold your interest continuously, riveting your attention on «what happens next», and pulling you forward with no time to reflect on individual scenes until the final credits roll.

The result: you don’t remember much about a film after watching it for the first time. Very few people can recall even half the plot in reasonable sequence, and still fewer can remember facial expressions or voice intonation associated with specific dialogue sequences (including politically and morally loaded conversations). For this reason, films have extraordinary power — unmatched by any other medium — to leave you with a strong sense of what is right and what is wrong, who is bad and who is good, even though critical details presented in the movies may be biased or false.

Well, so what? They’re just movies. In fact they’re not just movies. Millions of Americans are fanatical history lovers, and they pack theaters every time new films on historical figures or events come to town. Saving Private Ryan and Titanic raked in viewers and cash for months. One of the History Channel’s most popular programs, Movies in Time, is shown twice daily. Many high school teachers screen movies in the classroom. Clearly countless Americans get most of their history from television and the big screen.

Some of the industry’s finest historical and period films premiered during the past decades. But the 1960s also triggered a flurry of politically charged history-based movies full of factual distortions and, occasionally, outright lies. Today the trend continues on a larger scale: many films released in the 1990s and the first decade of the 21st century reflect blatant disdain, at least as intense as Ms Thompson’s, for solid reliable history.

History Goes to the Movies is a source of information and, it is hoped, entertainment for everyone interested in the actual history behind a wide selection of movies grouped into twelve sections — 11 covering historical periods and events and a twelfth containing biographies and period films. Each film review includes an essay on the history covered in one or more movies, and a brief plot summary.

Star ratings (five stars: don’t miss it) reflect each movie’s historical accuracy and — to a far lesser degree — its power to amuse.

Obviously expecting textbook accuracy from films would be ridiculous — and producers have delivered a remarkable number of historically faithful movies. But some of them get too much of their history wrong. History Goes to the Movies is a guide, however imperfect, for readers and viewers aiming to get it right.



Complete the sentences with a word or expression from the text

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Read the example below

12 Years a Slave is based on the memoir by Solomon Northup in which he describes how, despite being free-born, he was kidnapped in Washington D.C. in 1841 and sold as a slave. Northup worked on plantations in Louisiana for 12 years before his release.

One of the most famous scenes is the hanging scene. It comes after Solomon (Chiwetel Ejiofor) gets pushed too far by his slave master and attacks him. He is punished by being hanged from a tree in such a way that the rope around his neck is always choking him, but his toes can touch the ground just enough to keep him from being strangled. As it goes on you start to realize that all the other slaves have gone back to their normal lives. Work starts up again, children go back to playing, and you realize how common excruciating experiences like this must have been for slaves, and how thoroughly they must have been separated from their own sense of humanity.


Instructions

  1. Read the task carefully.
  2. Plan what you are going to write about.
  3. Write a short description of your favourite movie scene using between 120-140 words according to your plan.
  4. Check your writing before sending it for evaluation.
  5. Learn the rules and see the sample here.
  6. Please use Grammarly to avoid spelling and some grammar mistakes.

Урок Homework Курс
  • Warm-up
  • Military terms
  • Historical accuracy
  • Film blog
  • Adrian Hodges
  • Spartacus and Braveheart
  • Discourse markers
  • Adverbs
  • Adverbs in use
  • That is to say
  • Historical film quiz
  • Discourse markers
  • Presentations
  • Unforgettable scenes
  • History in movies
  • History and fiction
  • Scene description