Balancing painting, parenting, crafting and book loving one day at a time...

Balancing painting, parenting, crafting and book loving one day at a time...

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

An Education through Film

A few years ago I read a book whose premise looked interesting.  The book was called The Film Club: A Memoir by David Gilmour.  When his teenage son started to lose interest in school and started a downward spiral, he tried an unconventional approach to his schooling.  He told his son that he could drop out of school if he promised to watch 3 movies a week (of the dad's choosing), as a sort of education through film.  The book was not that great, but the idea was interesting and so were the films.

I picked up 1001 Film You Must See Before You Die at the library tonight and thought of that book.  My son turns 12 next month, and he is finally old enough for us to start showing him some of the great movies we grew up with. 

Unlike my generation, where great amounts of time were wasted watching whatever they decided to show on TV, our own children can pick and choose with VCR's, DVD's and TiVO. 

So I went through the book and made a list with my husband (a real film buff).  We were great film goers before we had kids, we went to film festivals, and watched obscure films, art films and regular old popular films.  My husband even wrote movie reviews for a while. 

Here are a couple of "film series" I think any self-respecting tween/teen should have under their belt, to properly understand their parent's era of the 70's, 80's and 90's.  Some people feel that the 70's were the "golden age" of film, and unfortunately, most of the most lauded films are rated R.   What follows are PG or PG-13 films, with a few R rated ones whose only fault is bad language (no sex or graphic violence).

Political Films that can help a kid understand the pulse of the era:

Mr. Smith Goes to Washington- 1939- Jimmy Stewart - swell honest guy fights the corrupt government.  A Frank Capra classic.  Classic Jimmy Stewart.

The Manchurian Candidate- 1962 - political thriller from the Cold War era worthy of McCarthy-Angela Lansbury as the evil mother and Frank Sinatra and Janet Leigh are all oddly cast.  A little surreal, but unforgettable.

All the President's Men- 1976- Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman as Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward, reporters from the Washington Post breaking the Watergate Story.  Oscar winning acting and a great cast captures the Nixon era perfectly.  Rated R for language only. 

JFK- 1991- Oliver Stone's docudrama tells the story from the point of view of a reporter telling the story.  Documentary footage helps tell the story for those who weren't around to remember it.  Kevin Costner stars.  Rated R for graphic violence of the actual shooting.

Coming of Age Films:

1950's-early 60's- American Grafitti- made in the 70's but perfectly captures the sense of the time.  Francis Ford Coppola and George Lucas produced and directed.  It became the inspiration for the popular sitcom, Happy Days and Laverne and Shirley.  It tells the story of a group of high school graduates one summer's day in 1962.  Cast members included Richard Dreyfuss, Ron Howard, Cindy Williams, Wolfman Jack (the famous DJ), Suzanne Somers, and Harrison Ford in his first role.  Nostalgic but not sappy.

1970's- Breaking Away-A coming of age story about a cyclist from small town Indiana.  A sweet, memorable movie about a rag tag group of young men with not much to look forward to breaking away for a brief moment of glory.  Daniel Stern (of Diner and Home Alone fame) stars.

1980's - Ferris Bueller's Day Off- This movie just screams high school in the 1980's.  Ferris (Matthew Broderick) fakes being sick, skips school and drives to Chicago with his pals because "life moves pretty fast.  If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it."  A classic John Hughes movie, the director who defined the teenage film of the 1980s.

Another 1980's coming of age film not to miss:  Say Anything- 1989 with John Cusack.

1990's- Rushmore- 1998 by Wes Anderson.  Typifies the indie comedy of the 1990's.  Jason Schwartzman plays a intellectual geek at Rushmore Academy who is very unpopular.  He falls for his teacher and finds an unusual mentor (Bill Murray).  Soundtrack is mostly 1960's rock music, but the style is very 1990s.

Another good high school film of the 90's:  Election with Matthew Broderick (as the teacher) and Reese Witherspoon (as the student running for class president) is bitingly satirical.

Films that so much a part of the culture, your kid has to see them:

Besides Star Wars and Indiana Jones, the top ones that come to mind are:

Rocky (1976)- Boxing movie, Sylvester Stallone, Philly.  Underdog beats champion boxer.
Kramer Vs. Kramer (1980)- classic movie about divorced family
Blade Runner (1982)- classic futuristic dystopian society.  Harrison Ford.
Big (1988)- Tom Hanks as the boy who grows up too soon. 
Forrest Gump (1994)- Tom Hanks again.  This covers the 1950's through the 1990s and all the trends over the years.
Dances With Wolves (1990)-Kevin Costner's Oscar winning movie about a frontier man who becomes captivated by the Native Americans in South Dakota.

So, go to the library or Netflix or the video store (if they are still around) and check out some of these movies to watch with your tween or teen.

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