Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Cinemawesomeness 101: Cultured Kids

In honor of the fact that my son just made his first short film and a movie about guinea pigs with guns (groan) just topped the box office, I present: How to get your kids to watch good movies.

If you're trying to filter the junk that you watch, why not do the same for the young impressionables in your family? Granted, even parents with the most discerning taste in film have been known to sit through mindless movies where animals make fart jokes through their computer-generated mouths. Forget culture, you just want them to sit still long enough to justify the 20 bucks you spent on tickets. Well, friends, a trip to your local library's video section is fun, costs nothing and is a thousand times more rewarding. (Ok, Netflix works too.) Some microwave popcorn, maybe a tent made out of chairs and a sheet and you're in for a movie-watching experience that will do your kids some serious good.

There are also children's film festivals in practically every city, and I encourage everyone to attend. It's an enriching, unique experience and will make your kids feel really special... but I'm getting ahead of myself. Let's start with some that are universal, timeless, beautiful and easy to get your hands on.

1. The Red Balloon (Lamorisse, 1956)
Timeless, wordless, magical, short. What you don't see below is the iconic, giant red balloon, but I like this shot. Comes from Netflix with other classic children's short, White Mane, which I didn't mention because #2 is similar but full length.

2. The Black Stallion (Ballard, 1979, G)
My son watched it daily (literally) when he was a toddler and still loves it. Captivating, quiet, exciting and tender. A brave child's ability not only to survive in peril but to communicate with another creature in a way that adults can't understand.

3. Spirited Away (Miyazaki, 2001, PG)
Miyazaki's unique children's films are strange, fantastical and beautiful. This is my favorite about a sad little girl who finds herself in an enchanted world. Recommended for older kids, Miyazaki can be scary.
4. Spellbound (Blitz, 2002, G)
Documentary about the hyper-intense world of spelling bees. Educational, hilarious, makes smart kids look awesome. Great example of working hard and accomplishing something you can be proud of.
5. Toy Story (Lasseter, 1995, G)
Every Disney/Pixar film is a masterpiece. There is no going wrong with any of them and they keep getting better, but why not bring it back to the original? It came out before your little ones were born and revoluntionzed animation. This film is the definition of childhood.
6. Pixar Short Films
Deserves mention because this is where these amazing animators get to experiment. My favorite is One Man Band. B's is Geri's Game, below.
7. The Secret Garden (Holland, 1993, G)
A dreamland of nature, exotic sights and mystery. I love when children's films aren't afraid to be a little dark and heavy but maintain innocence.
8. The Adventures of Robin Hood (Flynn, 1938)
Classic tale of romance and bravery from the days when actors learned to sword fight and cameras knew how to capture it.
Hopefully this is a nice little mix that will take you beyond the classics that you already know and love and far, far beyond the sequels that we're flooded with these days.


  1. The Secret Garden! I haven't seen that in way too long. I must get my hands on a it.

  2. Toy Story is at the top of the Pixar lot, in my opinion. The others just cannot compete.

    A great kids movie is The Goonies. Sure, they won't get much culturey stuff out of it, but it's just the best best best. 80's treasure-hunting movie, battling bad guys and pirate booby traps and doing everything you can to help your friends and family. It doesn't get any better than that :)

  3. I love The Secret Garden, pretty sure I still have it on VHS somewhere. I swear, I am never getting rid of my VCR, even if it's stuck in a closet somewhere. After all, how else am I going to watch my original Star Wars? None of that special edition stuff.