January 5, 2007

Tony Scott Lives In A Movie Fantasyland

The NY Times film critic tries to buck the imagination-stifling money machines that are "family films":

I cringe at the sight of strollers at “Apocalypto” or “Saw III.” But I also cringe at the timidity and cautiousness — the hypersensitivity — that confines family viewing to movies with a plush toy or fast food advertising tie-in.

At their best, movies not only offer glimpses of fantastic imaginary worlds, but also inklings of what is, for children, the most intriguing and enigmatic world of all: the world of adulthood.

For the last six months or so, in the guise of a civilian moviegoer, I have been conducting (with the sometimes unwitting assistance of my wife) a cautious, intermittent experiment. Ignoring the advice of the Motion Picture Association of America and the studio marketing departments about what my children, who are 10 and 7, should see, I have taken them to revival houses and museums as well as to multiplexes; to musicals and subtitled films as well as to risqué action blockbusters and not-too-explicit love stories.

This experiment has proceeded along two tracks, with two distinct but complementary intentions. I want them to learn to appreciate the varieties of this incomparably rich art form, which means learning to endure and even enjoy being occasionally bored, confused or scared. I also hope they will develop a taste for the act of moviegoing.

Now, I'm all for it, in theory. The kid's first movie was Cassavetes' Shadows. But trying this stunt in public with anyone who can't sit quietly for two hours, guaranteed, will bring the wrath of your fellow filmlovers down on your head so fast, it'll make your Bugaboo tires spin. Can you imagine taking a baby to see a movie at MoMA? Those geezers'll "sshhh" you if you think too loud.

No, I think for the first couple of years anyway, the little cineastes should be homeschooled, where, if anything, they can develop a taste for lots of bright red envelopes in the mail. [That said, I'd go GreenCine a hundred times before doing Netflix again.]

And You'll Be A Moviegoer, My Son


Taking a 10 and 7 year old to see movies with "not-too-explicit love scenes" Um, no thanks. I'd rather not traumatize my children for the sake of an experiment.

I can't help but think that perhaps the violence of "risque action blockbusters" could be more traumatic to a sensitive young mind than a love scene or two. The latter is more likely to traumatize (read: embarrass) parents. I am continually dismayed at parents who won't bat an eye as the body count mounts on-screen but who balk at non-sexual nudity or mild love scenes. While I agree that children should watch films at home until they are old enough to remain silent in a theater, I applaud the idea of choosing films with an eye toward enrichment as well as entertainment.

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