Movie Night: Watching Classic Flicks with Your Young Adult

My eleven-year-old has become more reclusive and immersed in her own activities and projects. She heads up to her room after school and apart from a hastily eaten dinner, I don’t see her again until I have to start bugging her about bedtime.

Okay, so I’ve been feeling a little lonely.

imagesI wanted to reclaim at least one evening a week for us to spend time together, so I announced that from now on Saturday night is Movie Night. We are going to sit down every Saturday night and watch a movie together. No ifs, ands, or buts.

Oh, and we’re going to watch Old Movies.

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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.

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.

Free Chaplin films online

Man oh man I wish I had more time to explore free movies online! Here’s a terrific source of Charlie Chaplin films, thanks to the good people at opensource.com.

Many shorts listed, as well as feature-length films. On this blog I have reviewed City Lights (1931, good for 6+), and The Gold Rush(1925, good for 5+).

Introduce your child to a genius of the silent screen!

City Lights (1931)

City Lights

Black & white, Silent

Released: 1931

Rated: G

Length: 87 min.

Age:  6+           commonsense.org sez:  8

Scary factor:  Guns are brandished, especially during burglary, but more for comedic effect – no harm is done.

Violence:  General slapstick knock-about humour. The Tramp is (cleanly) knocked unconscious in the boxing ring.

Questionable behaviour: drinking and drunken behaviour (including reckless driving) for humour; smoking cigars; wealthy drunk friend is suicidal in several instances

Interests: silent movies, history, city life, love story, money and class

Next: The Gold Rush, Modern Times, Buster Keaton’s Sherlock Junior

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Top 5: Old Comedy Clips

Oh boy do I have a treat for you today! Sometimes it takes a little digging around, but there’s a wealth of great stuff on youtube to share with your kids. I’ve discovered some classic old movie moments from the comedy masters for you. If you’re wondering about how to introduce your children to the look and the style of silent movies and early talkies, short clips are fantastic.

Enjoy!

1. Charlie Chaplin – “Dance of the Dinner Rolls” from The Gold Rush (1925)

Sweet and simple. Entry level viewing for the brilliance that is Chaplin.

 

2. Marx Bros. – Mirror Scene from Duck Soup (1933)

This has been copied a thousand times since, and it’s likely even Groucho and company were borrowing this routine from someone else, in the old vaudeville tradition, but nobody does it better.

 

3. Buster Keaton – Chase Scene from Seven Chances (1925)

Ah, there was a time when people did their own stunts! Buster Keaton never ceases to astonish me.

 

4. Laurel & Hardy – Pie Fight

I’ve never been a huge fan of the pie-in-the-face gag myself, but this is a pretty epic example of the genre. And it all starts with a banana peel!

 

5. Abbott and Costello – “Who’s On First?” from The Naughty Nineties (1945)

And finally, something a little more ‘talkie’… This routine delighted my 5-year-old and my 9-year-old nephew this summer. The writing, the delivery, the timing… perfection.

The Gold Rush (1925)

The Gold Rush  (1925)

Written, directed by, starring: Charlie Chaplin

Rated:  — (unrated)

Length:  95 min. 1925 release / 72 min. 1942 re-release

Age: 5 and up          Commonsense Media sez: 8 +

Scary Factor: Little Tramp menaced periodically for comedic effect; two men struggle over a shotgun which is always pointing at the Tramp; he is also chased by starving, hallucinating miner with a gun and then an axe; cabin tipped precariously on edge of precipice; all threats are treated comically and violence is bloodless and kept at a distance

Intense Scenes: a wanted criminal shoots and kills two police officers before perishing in an avalanche

Other: a bear is shot offscreen for food; some smoking and drinking

Interests: old movies, silent movies, arctic adventure, history

Versions: restored 1925 print is 95 minutes long, with piano music and title cards; 1942 sound release is 69 minutes long, has an orchestral score, no title cards, narration written and performed by Charlie Chaplin

Next: other Chaplin – Modern Times, City Lights

See also: Top 5 Silent Movies for Preschoolers
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Top 5: Silent Movies for Preschoolers

It’s often hard to find silent movies on DVD, but the classics are out there, as well as collections of short subjects. Be aware of how your child might react to real knock-down slapstick humour – some may find it a little upsetting. (I tried a few Chaplin shorts on my 3-year-old and they were a little too much for her!)

Of course you’ll have to read the title cards… though a version of The Gold Rush is available that’s narrated by Charlie Chaplin himself!

Here are five brilliant and funny silent movies for the whole family.

1. Sherlock Jr. (1924) – Buster Keaton – 4+

Meek projectionist dreams of being a world-famous detective. Visual effects and stunt tour de force. See full review.

2. Safety Last (1923) – Harold Lloyd – 4+

A department store clerk arranges for a stuntman to climb the building as a publicity stunt, but then finds he must make the daring climb himself. (You all know the famous clock-hanging shot!)

3. The Gold Rush (1925) – Charlie Chaplin – 5+

Charlie’s Tramp goes to the Klondike in search of gold, goes through hard times, falls in love. Some menacing with rifles, a bad guy shoots Mounties, then dies in avalanche. A bear is shot (offscreen) for food.

4. Steamboat Bill Jr. (1928) – Buster Keaton – 6+

Bill Jr., a puny and delicate lad, tries desperately to impress his burly steamboat captain dad.

5. Modern Times (1936) – Charlie Chaplin – 6+

The Tramp struggles to survive in the modern world, undergoes a stint in jail and another in a factory. Some gunplay, usual slapstick stuff, plus smoking, accidental drunkenness, and accidental ingestion of “nose powder”, resulting in crazy behaviour.

Watching Old Movies

Wouldn’t it be pleasant to sit down and watch a movie with your kids that wasn’t presold on sequels and Happy Meals? Or take them to an action movie that didn’t either freak them out or weigh down their little bones with premature irony? – Ty Burr, The Best Old Movies for Families

When I talk about Old Movies I don’t mean going back to Toy Story 1, or even aaall the way back to the first Star Wars (though 1977 does seem long, long ago in a galaxy far far away)… I’m talking about Oooooold movies here.

You may not have any interest in old movies, indeed, I realize not everyone has spent a lifetime loving them like I have. But if you are old enough to be a parent, you are certainly aware of how much movies have changed since the flicks you watched as a kid. They’ve changed for the better, in terms of technology. The complex visual and sound effects of modern movies absolutely boggles the mind. (Just compare a Harryhausen Sinbad movie to Avatar!) And they’ve also changed for the worse… can you even imagine a world in which there were no teen slasher horror films?

Whether or not you know much about old movies, when it comes to picking films for family movie nights, there are many good reasons to turn to the oldies…

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Sherlock Jr. (1924)

Black and White, Silent Movie
Rated: unrated
Length: 45 min.
Age: 4 and up.

Scary Factor: nothing to speak of. A little uneasiness perhaps regarding an explosive billiard ball that never quite gets hit… more suspenseful than scary.

Interests: detectives, mysteries, history, silent movies

Next: other silent movies: The Gold Rush, Safety Last! ; more Buster Keaton: Steamboat Bill Jr. (6+), The General (7+), shorts

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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.