Kid Flicks

By way of introduction, besides being Bruce’s wife and mom of Nate and Will, I’m also a film curator. For 17 years I ran the cinematheque at the UCLA Film and Television Archive, meaning I and a small team, created mini-film festivals for Los Angeles film goers 46 weeks of the year and screened the films at the James Bridges Theater and then the Billy Wilder Theater at the Hammer Museum. One of my favorite series was “Kid Flicks.” Once a month we screened a double-bill for families. At intermission we served punch and cookies (probably the kids’ favorite part.) Over the years we screened more than 100 films ranging from silent comedies, to classic animation, to new foreign films. It was a joy to do and it made me realize that children are often patient and enjoy watching films that don’t have necessarily have animation, loud music, bright colors, heartthrob actors, and super-fast editing.

Bruce asked me to choose my top-ten films for kids to list on his blog. I really have more than 10 that I love and love to screen for children, but the following represent a diverse group that I believe are available through Netflix or Amazon. I hope you enjoy them.

Top 10 films for kids (In no real order, subjective and non-inclusive of Disney)

  1. Sherlock Jr. (1924)
  2. The Errand Boy (1961)
  3. The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938)
  4. Where is a Friend’s Home (1987, Iran)
  5. Kirikou and the Sorceress (1998, France)
  6. Spirited Away (2001, Japan)
  7. The Sound of Music (1965)
  8. West Side Story (1961)
  9. Meet Me in St. Louis (1944)
  10. To Kill a Mockingbird (1962)

SHERLOCK JR.

If you haven’t seen a silent comedy with kids, you just haven’t seen silent comedy. The pratfalls, the broadest humor, great silent comedy is raw and hilarious, and in Buster Keaton’s hands, it’s also elegant and intelligent. He just gets it and so will your kids. All of Keaton’s greats (THE GENERAL, THE NAVIGATOR) should be viewed (create your own film festival!), but even the youngest critic would be hard-pressed not declare SHERLOCK, JR. as absolutely brilliant.

THE ERRAND BOY

You love him or you hate him, but either way, give Jerry Lewis a second try. In some ways the antithesis of Keaton—his face won’t stop contorting, he’s loud (LAAADIEEE), and he let’s you know he knows he’s funny. However, inspired by his hero Keaton, he prefers gags over narrative (hence, kids tend to love him) and in this film they lead to perfectly orchestrated, hilarious chaos.

THE ADVENTURES OF ROBIN HOOD

There are times in cinematic history when all the elements in a film meld together perfectly, and so it is with this classic tale of the lad from Sherwood and his tribe of Merry Men. Errol Flynn is the quintessential Robin—dashing, fearless and moralistic, the consummate action hero. This is a good tale, simply told, and that appeals to kids, but it is also exquisite to look at and well played. Get ye to ROBIN HOOD and quick!

WHERE IS A FRIEND’S HOME?

Abbas Kiarostami, Iran’s best known and greatest director, here crafts a deceptively simple tale of a young boy who must venture to a neighboring rural town to return his friend’s notebook. Here is a naturally moralistic child intent on doing the right thing, yet every step of the way he is blocked by adults who condescend or doubt him. Many compare Kiarostami to the Italian Neo-Realists (and may I just say here that BICYCLE THIEF for older children is a must), but I would also add that in seeing this film you and your children will awaken to the beauty of Iran and its history of magnificent story telling.

KIRIKOU AND THE SORCERESS

I took my sons to a screening of this film before it was dubbed into English and I sank low in my seat so my fellow audience members wouldn’t hear me whispering the subtitles to them. In some cases whispering of dialogue to young ones could zap the fun out of the film-going experience, but the words, pictures, story of KIRIKOU were so enchanting it didn’t matter. I believe you can now find the dubbed version. Try to, because this film is one of the best made-for-kids films ever. Not only is Michel Octelot’s animation absolutely exhilarating, the fantastic story of a just-born young boy who must save his tribe and defeat the sorceress (who so beautifully and heart-wrenchingly describes why she went “evil”) is unforgettable. Note: This film, ridiculously, had trouble with U.S. distribution because the African tribal women were shown bare breasted (!)

SPIRITED AWAY

We are big Miyazaki fans and it was hard to choose just one (for younger kids see MY NEIGHBOR TOTORO). If you ever get a chance to see SPIRITED AWAY in a theater, do, as Miyazaki is the premier animator of our time and his films are meant to be seen large. Like Kiarostami, Miyazaki always tells his stories from the child’s point of view, hence complex ideas can be explored in simple ways and this film touches on religious, ethical, ecological and psychological issues. An artistic masterpiece.

THE SOUND OF MUSIC

Of course, everyone knows this film and hopefully you’ve shared it with your children. Julie Andrews is hands-down the best mother-figure ever. Why not regress and just admit you’d love to have her give you a spoon full of sugar (oops, wrong movie). The hills are still alive. The music is still great. Watch it annually.

WEST SIDE STORY

My parents never tired of recounting how dinner guests would often be treated to my rendering of “Officer Krupke” and would bust a gut when I, then 5ish, would yodel, “I’ve got a social disease!” It was my favorite movie then and I think it still is. It’s just so difficult not to shed a tear when I hear “Maria” and not get up and dance when I hear “America.” Through these magnificent songs an indelible story (thanks to Shakespeare) unfolds—passions, hopes and the angst of young adulthood—but also the heartbreaking lesson that even if you see what is absolutely right for you, your true path, you may be stymied and sometimes achingly so.

MEET ME IN ST. LOUIS

This is a fine example of a film that wasn’t necessarily made for kids, yet time has gone by and rendered it so. Don’t hesitate to show your kids films made 50 years ago—many hold up beautifully and are far better for kids, more slow-paced, than contemporary films. This delightful musical serves up a large slice of Americana circa 1903—the year of the St. Louis World’s Fair. Young Margaret O’Brian steals the show as Tootie, whose bliss includes celebrating Halloween, spying on her brothers and sisters and dreaming about the coming fair. The never-more enchanting Judy Garland soothes her little sis with the classics “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” and “The Trolley Song.” Classic they-don’t-make-‘em-like-they-used-to fare.

TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD

It’s a rare instance that a film lives up to a fine novel, but so it is with this adaptation of Harper Lee’s exquisite book.  It’s hard to get Gregory Peck as Atticus out of your mind if you see the film before you read the book, but why should you? In the role of his life, he is Atticus. Some parents are hesitant to bring their kids to the film for fear of the heaviness of plot, but don’t hesitate to show this to your over-10’s. The book deals with the supposed rape more graphically than the film. The book and its adaptation are life-changing.

*

*Thanks, Andy!

So, let’s dedicate today to watching great movies, with our kids if we’ve got kids—but either way in the service of all our collective children.

Namaste, Bruce & Andy

p.s.  Although it has no affiliation with Andy’s Kid Flicks, there’s an organization online that collects and provides movies for kids in hospital.  So, if you have any kid-friendly DVDs laying around that you were thinking to toss out, check out http://www.kidflicks.org/ for a better option.

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5 Responses to “Kid Flicks”

  1. Kristen @ Motherese Says:

    What a tremendous list! Thanks, Andy and Bruce. Husband and I are big Miyazaki fans and we look forward to introducing his films to our sons. Several of the movies on your list are unfamiliar to me, but I look forward to indulging in all of them.

  2. BigLittleWolf Says:

    My kids were hugely fond of Totoro – and I will admit it was one of the few cartoon films that I actually enjoyed as an adult. (I will now admit that throughout the cartoon viewing years, I rarely enjoyed what I was smiling through with my children. Totoro was one of those exceptions.)

    I remember seeing To Kill a Mockingbird when I was quite young. It was eye-opening. I also saw Gentleman’s Agreement very young – which, as an adult, I recommended to a number of other adults who insisted that discrimination was something that was always exaggerated.

    After seeing that particular film, they had a different appreciation for the subtlety of the issue.

    Films are a terrific way to teach – kids and adults. Something we forget at times. Thank you for the reminder, Andy.

  3. Beth B Says:

    “Meet me in St. Louis, Louis, meet me at the fair…”
    These are some of my favorite films even as a big kid. Glad to see they’re on your list too.
    And although it came out when I was already in my 20’s, I adored The Black Stallion and thought it would be a beautiful film for children as well.
    Oh, and we can’t forget Babe!

    Thanks Andy and Bruce,
    Beth

  4. Beth K Says:

    Thanks, Andy and Bruce. We are always on the look-out for movies that are appropriate for children and adults.

  5. Alana Says:

    I’m transferring this list to my blackberry immediately. Thank you!

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