By John Rocha
In 2007, I discovered a book entitled The Best Old Movies For Families: A Guide to Watching Together by Ty Burr while listening to an interview on NPR. What attracted me to the book was my own background of watching old black and white movies on weekends while in my teens. Perhaps, I had too much freedom in watching television, but this was also the time before 24 hour airwaves, cable television, and streaming on demand. I discovered movie characters like Charlie Chan and Sherlock Holmes, as well as the acting duos of Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis, Bud Abbott and Lou Costello, and even Bing Crosby and Bob Hope. None of these duos make the book, but that is what makes me fond of it, adding movies that I may not have heard of or watched in while.
I have thought about this book often over the last seven years as families search for middle ground between engaging modern culture and keeping their children from being overrun with technology and media. One suggestion to balance the use of media and technology is to explore movies as a family, rather than leaving children to experience the digital world alone. Ty Burr is a professional movie critic for the Boston Globe and has past experience with Entertainment Weekly. What brought him to write the book was his experience in sharing his love of movies with his two young daughters.
Mr. Burr begins the book with two short essays, both of which are based on his expertise as a movie critic and his experience with watching old movies with his daughters, ages 7 and 11. The rest of the book is more like a reference for you to peruse to find just the right movie to watch with the family, categories include: comedy, drama, musicals, action-adventure-westerns, horror-science fiction-fantasy, foreign language classics, and the last chapter is about “The People Who Made Them.”
The first chapter, “Starter Kits: First Old Movies To Watch with Your Toddler, Tweener, Or Teenager,” is a brief essay on how to begin. One may have a fear or hesitation in thinking that your child may not like the movie you picked out. It will surely happen at some point, and possibly even at the beginning, but you need to start somewhere and do not be discouraged when it happens. Comedies are where I started and then moved into musicals and westerns. Children like movies that make them laugh or that they just find silly. Rather than turning on a demeaning cartoon, try the Marx Brothers. Burr recommends Duck Soup or A Night at the Opera for ages 5 and up. Some adults do not get the Marx Brothers, and if you are one of them, then do not watch one of their movies with your children. Pick a movie that you know you will enjoy or appreciate the experience in watching it; your child’s love or indifference will begin with how you share the experience with them.
One last note, we do not have to go out and begin a movie library, but rather public libraries are a place to borrow movies. With technology always progressing, we now have streaming capabilities in our homes via the Internet. Companies like Amazon.com and Netflix are among the largest companies that offer streaming to customers; YouTube is another source to find entire movies, particularly old movies to watch for free. Sometimes the video or sound quality may not be up to our home movie theater standards, but you will be surprised that once the movie begins, you will no longer notice the sound and image quality. My last suggestion to find movies, particularly if you are looking for a physical copy…used bookstores, like Half-Price Bookstore has its VHS tapes for as low as .50 cents. They also have a wide range of dvd and Blu-ray discs you can find for a low price.
As we tell boys and their families visiting Western Academy for the first time, the education at our school is an adventure. Movies can be an adventure, and sometimes you need to just take a leap of faith. This may be one of your safer leaps with the family. And you are not taking it alone, for you have a nice foundation presented by Mr. Burr along with your own experience of movies. So, take the leap…