Rear Window (1954)

RearWindow_USLC6

Rear Window

colour, thriller/mystery

released: 1954

rated: PG – “for Some Mild Sensuality and Thematic Elements”

length: 1 hr, 52 min

age: 11 +

interests: mystery, crime, murder, suspense More

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Maniac Magee

maniacmageeNEWBERY MEDAL WINNER – 1991

Maniac Magee

by Jerry Spinelli

Age: 9+

Interests: family, city life, orphans, misfits, homelessness, racial tension

Also by this author: Wringer, Milkweed, Stargirl, Loser, Eggs

Other books about racism in America: One Crazy Summer, The Watsons Go to Birmingham — 1963, Smoky Night, Amos Fortune, Free man More

The Book Thief

The_Book_Thief_by_Markus_Zusak_book_cover

The Book Thief

by Markus Zusak

Age: 11 +

Interests: history, WWII, war, Germany, Jewish history, Holocaust, orphans, strong girls More

The Tale of Despereaux (2008)

tale_of_despereaux_ver2

The Tale of Despereaux

released: 2008

rated: G

length: 93 min.

age: 6+

interests: mice, rats, castles, princesses, cooking, updated fairy tales, adventure

Next: read the book!

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Holes (2003)

Holes

Holes

released: 2003

rated: PG for violence, mild language and some thematic elements

length: 117 min.

age: 10+

scary factor: suspenseful scenes with rattlesnake, deadly lizards – nothing a 10 yr old couldn’t handle

violence: two boys fight; one boy whacks a provoking guard in the head with his shovel, knocking him out; in flashback a man is shot (in extreme wide shot – no closeups); Kate then shoots the sheriff in revenge; guards in work camp have guns, but only a lizard is actually shot

language: authentic but rather mild, for teenage boys: damn, hell, crap, Oh, my God… that kind of thing. (According to imdb.com there is one “jackass” but I didn’t even notice it.)

other: flashbacks depict scenes of racial hatred (burning down the school) and vague threat of sexual violence (drunken sheriff tries to force Kate to kiss him)

interests: mystery, desert, prison work camps, bad luck, family history, curses, cowboys, crime and punishment, buried treasure

next: read the book if you haven’t! Holes by Louis Sachar

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Film Club and Cultural Literacy

Here’s a TED talk about visual literacy through watching old movies, similar to what Martin Scorsese talks about here.

What do you think? I’m a big fan of showing old movies to kids, and I think showing them movies that are radically different from current offerings (ie. historical settings, foreign stories, subtitles, art films, experimental narratives, silent movies, etc.) serves to broaden their experience and knowledge of film and of the world.

So many movies today, especially ones made for kids, are such formulaic, pandering pieces of junk that I can’t help but worry that we’re limiting the very scope of their imaginations. As well as shredding their attention spans and ability to concentrate for long periods of time. Too fast, too loud, too violent. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again – watching old movies is a wonderful way of slowing down the frenetic pace of our lives and opening up a window to other times and places.

Related posts:

Watching Old Movies

Click on “Old Movies” in Categories over there on the right, to see all the old movies I’ve reviewed.

The Incredible Journey (1963)

The Incredible Journey (film)

The Incredible Journey

Released: 1963

Rated: G

Length: 80 min

Age: 3+

Scary Factor: various dangerous situations for animals are rather tamely presented, not disturbing at all, and no notable injuries are sustained; cat is swept away in river but later rescued; a man shoots at dog rummaging in garbage can, but mainly to scare him away; cat is chased by a lynx but escapes

Interests: pets, cats, dogs, wilderness, nature, Canada, adventure

Next: read the book The Incredible Journey

More

Fantasia (1940)

Fantasia (film)

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Released: 1940

Rated: G

Length: 120 – 124 min. (varies depending on what version you have)

Age: some parts 3+, others 5+ (see below)  Commonsense Media sez: 6 +

Scary Factor: Mickey attacks renegade broom with an axe and savagely chops it to bits; battle to the death between two dinosaurs; a gigantic devil rises over a mountain commanding a host of demons, the dead rise from their graves

Also: some modest (dare I say artful) nudity among fairies and mythological creatures; much wine drunk by very tipsy god Bacchus

Interests: classical music, fairies, mythology, dinosaurs, ballet

Next: the movie Fantasia 2000; live symphony concerts for children; Nutcracker ballet live or movie version
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Martin Scorsese on Visual Literacy

Here’s a great 2006 interview with the director, in which he makes the case for teaching young people visual literacy by watching and making movies. (courtesy of Edutopia)

With the increasing dominance of media imagery in our daily landscape, it’s important that our children learn how messages are put together, how their eyes are being directed, how their emotions are being played, and maybe even how to craft images themselves. After all, the rise of digital media has made image collection and manipulation available and affordable for everyone. The next generations are increasingly going to be confronted, pummelled, swayed and played by the media-makers, and basic visual literacy will help them negotiate this new landscape.

Family Christmas Movies – a List

Commonsense Media is my go-to source for checking out the age appropriateness of movies, and here is their list of the most well-known holiday movies, and some not so well known.

Scrooge's third visitor, from Charles Dickens:...

Scrooge’s third visitor, from Charles Dickens: A Christmas Carol. In Prose. Being a Ghost Story of Christmas. With Illustrations by John Leech. London: Chapman & Hall, 1843. First edition. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

My 6 1/2 yr old and I are definitely going to watch A Christmas Carol, but a different version – I’ve got the Alastair Sim version from 1951 on VHS. I think the Dickens classic is a terrific choice, not just for the Christmas theme but also as an introduction to other Dickens works, and a great period piece drama as well… nice for the young ones to see something from another time period. (Unbeknownst to my daughter, this is early training for watching the 6 vol. version of Pride and Prejudice with me some day!)

NB. Commonsense rates my 1951 version a little older (age 7), and says it’s darker than the 1938 film.

One thing I particularly like about A Christmas Carol is that it’s kind of a conceptual bridge for kids. They see so many black-and-white bad guy-good guy stories that it’s interesting to see what they think about a bad guy who is not only the main character, but becomes a sympathetic figure and eventually turns good. Very good. And the triumphant, warm ending is a great payoff for viewers of any age.

Related Posts:

On Dickens and school reading

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All writings posted here are © Kim Thompson, unless otherwise indicated. For all artwork on this site, copyright is retained by the artist.