An Education

So last week we were in America, and sure, Disney was fun and everything, but you know what was the best thing?

Our hotel got Turner Classic Movies. AWESOME.

It’s a TV station totally devoted to showing old movies, and if we got this channel here at our house, I would literally do nothing else. The house would devolve into a slovenly pigsty, the kids would have to make their own food and get to and from school by themselves (if they felt like going), because I would be BUSY. I adore old movies, I’ll never be able to watch everything on my “want to see” list in my lifetime, and TCM would basically be like crack to my fake-film-student brain.

We did the Disney parks from early morning to late afternoon, and were home in time for dinner and bedtime each day, which left me free to run to the TV and watch delightful old movies each night. I saw There’s No Business Like Show Business (Ethel Merman is 12 kinds of fabulous), Wait Until Dark (Alan Arkin! A bad guy!), and Top Hat (instantly one of my all-time favourite movies, ever – Fred Astaire is THE MAN, sorry Gene Kelly). I was in heaven.

It got me thinking about my kids’ movie-based education. A while back I started keeping a list of book classics that I wanted to share with my kids, both books that are cultural touchstones and books that I just loved when I was a youth. It’s an ongoing work in progress but every time a birthday rolls around, or we’re down to the last few books on the bedside table and off to the library to refuel, I pull out the list and pick out a few titles. We’re building a great library here and it’s a real thrill to me when my kids love a book the same way I did when I was their age. (I should probably post this legendary list, shouldn’t I? Note to self.)

So I’ve been thinking, I should start a similar list for movies. When I was growing up, my mom was also into old movies and I saw dozens upon dozens of classics at home, either rentals or on Saturday Night At the Movies on TVO. When the American Film Institute came out with their list of the top 100 movies of all time, I took it very seriously, and started working my way through – I’m still not done, but I’ve seen 3/4 of the list and the remaining ones keep getting bumped for other stuff I want to see more.

A year or so ago, I showed the kids The Wizard of Oz because it happened to be on TV. Little Miss Sunshine fell in love with it, and likes to dress up as Dorothy, and now reads the book version we bought her on a regular basis. But just as importantly, we’re all surprised at how many references to that film still exist in modern pop culture – Phineas and Ferb, one of the kids’ favourite Disney animated shows, even had a whole episode that was an Oz take-off. The kids were SO exicted at the Phineas and Ferb episode, because they got all the in-jokes, and actually understood the theme, and man, did they ever feel so so smart. It was a great pop culture junkie moment for me, let me tell you.

So all this is to say, I’m going to start a classic movies list and keep it alongside my classic books list. My books list is dividied by age suitability, and the movie list will be too. Comment with your suggestions, and I’ll add my own, and I’ll post the results soon.

(Along with that book list. Note to self.)

9 thoughts on “An Education

  1. CapnPlanet

    I’d especially be interested in a list of classic movies suitable for kids. For some time now we’ve had a Friday “popcorn and a movie night” tradition explicitly for the kids (now 3 and 5) and they love it, but I’d appreciate some fresh ideas. We’ve done a lot of the Disney animated features (though there are more to be sure) and especially the Pixar ones. They’re typically less enthralled by live action but I’m sure that will gradually change.

    And I really liked your observation about The Wizard of Oz and Phineas and Ferb (I don’t think we’ve seen that one yet, oddly enough). I’ve said this before: pop culture is culture, and there are many reasons beyond being able to understand an episode of Phineas and Ferb why it’s important to be knowledgeable about it.

  2. Eileen

    Lynn: there are tons of old movies available on YouTube. I’ve been watching them for the past three years. Originally, they were posted in 10-minute segments, but lately the full movies are shown in one post. To avoid being caught infringing copyright some of the titles are disguised so they can be a little hard to find.

  3. Not sure if you’d class these as “classic” but we’ve recently watched Ghostbusters and Ghostbusters II with our boys (eight and nine). I was worried they’d be too scary in parts but actually the most dodgy part were the occasional sexual references. My husband and I were raising our eyebrows at each other but it seemed to go right over the boys’ heads (also, I don’t remember these parts from watching the movies as a kid so they must have gone right over my head too).

    The kids ADORED these movies and they were a real pleasure for my husband and I to watch as well (especially as I have a little bit of a thing for Bill Murray – Lost in Translation – sigh…).

  4. sinnick

    So I looked at some lists of movies labelled “family”, and picked out the ones that I figured could both be labeled classic, and which I also recommend:

    Most of the Studio Gibli films, but in particular I think your kids would love “My Neighbour Totoro”. My personal favourite is “Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind”, which might be great for The Captain if he likes fantasy. “Princess Mononoke” might be too adult for them, but “Kiki’s Delivery Service” is good, and so are “Spirited Away and Ponyo”.

    The Princess Bride is a no brainer as are all the Pixar stuff. Babe and Disney stuff of course, but I’m sure your family has already seen all of those. But have they see The Iron Giant?

    A Christmas Story of course.

    The Muppet Movie still holds up, I’d say, and I like The Muppets Take Manhattan too.

    Live action musicals from the fifties and sixties that our family enjoyed: Mary Poppins, Bedknobs and Broomsticks, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, Hans Christian Anderson and The Court Jester. The Incredible Journey was good too.

    The Last Unicorn was a terrific animated favourite of ours. Watership Down has some scary parts, but overall we loved it as kids.

    Eighties, let’s see. The Black Stallion is still wonderful and great for kids. I saw it very young. E.T. The Extra Terrestrial is a classic. What about the original Superman? It’s got a surprising amount of comedy in it, more than I remembered. And we also enjoyed “The Bear”.

    The Karate Kid is a classic, right? 😉

    The one classic that everyone always recommends, but I haven’t personally seen is National Velvet.

  5. THE WIZARD OF OZ! That movie gives me the heebs. I’m not sure I’ve ever watched it all the way through. There are just so many things that freak me out about it. Aieeee. Flying monkeys.

  6. Yes! Post that list. I’ve been planning on getting some of my classic favourites – which are unfortunately all in paperback – re-bound in hard cover. Just $8.95 a pop (but $40 minimum) – got one done for DH for Christmas – and the result is beautiful!

  7. I think Ramona and Beezus should become a classic. We all loved that one, even DH. As for older movies, Sound of Music, Fly Away Home, Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (the old one with Gene Wilder), Babe, and Anne of Green Gables (do made for TV movies count?) are all great.

    And I was watching Phineus and Ferb lately and one of them used Toodle Pip, so I am now a fan of that show too.

    Please post the book list!

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