Category Archives: Movies & Entertainment

What’s Past Is Prologue

Old TV

“They’re bringing back all of the old stuff because none of the new stuff is any good.” –My Mother (circa 1975)

My son is almost 10 years old.  When I was around his age, the ’50s had returned in the form of American Graffiti, Happy Days, and Grease.  My mother–high school class of 1958–would frequently tell us that “they” were bringing  back everything from the ’50s because it was so much better than anything current.  Setting aside that it was the 1970s….possibly not the strongest decade in the history of western culture….my mother was convinced the entertainment and trends of her youth were far superior to anything available when I was a kid.

Here we are 35+ years later, and I find myself thinking–and occasionally even uttering–almost the exact claim my mother made–Only instead of the ’50s, the ’80s are my golden age (with a careful sprinkling of the ’70s….very careful, and only a sprinkling).  And as I look around, the entertainment industry seems to be helping.

So, Who Shot J.R.?

I don’t know–They won’t reveal the truth about that for at least a few more weeks.  You see, since Jack Bauer made his final run for it a few years ago, I have actively avoided becoming an appointment viewer of anything new–until I happened by the rebooted Dallas.  So while I’m guessing the answer will not be Kristen this time around, I have to admit that I am enjoying this re-launched series.

That’s not to say that every revival of the ’80s has worked.  Most of the movies based upon ’80s TV shows have not resonated with me….or, based upon their limited commercial success, with many other people.  But that having been said, we have spent a few evenings watching a variety of these.  The A-Team had its moments, and my family enjoyed The Smurfs (although I have to admit the little blue guys originally came out when I was a little older).

Tapes & DVDs & All That Comes Next

Classic Looney Tunes, Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood, and a few other key pieces of my childhood have always been part of my kids’ lives.  Lines from my after-school cartoons in the ’70s, such as “Pen-gu-ins is prac-tic-ally chickens” and “I knight thee, Sir Loin-of-Beef,” are part of the cultural literacy of our family.  My son even has a DVD of a few Speed Racer episodes that he enjoyed when he was 5 or 6.  Now that they are older, we are working through the Star Trek episodes I started watching in 3rd grade, back when there was no need to label them TOS.  And of course they have seen all kinds of films I would rate as worthy, from Disney classics to Star Wars and E.T.  No need to wait years for a studio re-release for this generation.

So when I tell my kids that “When I was little, we had to watch the Charlie Brown Christmas special the one night it was on TV.  If we missed it, we couldn’t see it again until next year,” they think I grew up in the stone age.  They live in an era of entertainment-on-the-shelf….or in-the-mailbox….or even on-demand….and favorite TV shows are on whenever we want to fire up the DVR.  Of course, my parents grew up pre-TV, and when I was little I thought that sounded as incredible as “We walked to school, in the snow, uphill–both ways.”  So I understand their point of view.

I don’t live in the past, but I do like to relax there once in a while.  And I have to wonder:  Will my own kids be so nostalgic about today’s film and TV?  They may not need to be, because it seems everything is–and always will be?–available to them.  And, to be honest, they watch a lot less than we did–all 5 of us do.  So there’s no telling how my grandchildren will see my kids’ childhood as ancient history–but they will.

Meanwhile, just wait until later this month:  Johnny Sokko & His Flying Robot will be landing in my mailbox….Sweet.

“‘Can’t repeat the past,’ he cried incredulously.  ‘Why of course you can!'”–F. Scott Fitzgerald

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Thumbs Up Or Down? Sifting Film Ratings

Assemble?!

I can be as (over)protective as just about anyone, but when it comes to deciding which movies my kids can watch, I worry far less about a rating itself than the REASONS for that rating.  PG-13 can mean many things, and the rating has been given to films that I would gladly allow my 9 year old to watch and to other films that I would not want my 13 year old to see.  Likewise, there are a few R films that I have allowed my 16 year old to watch, while there are many others that will have to wait.

Rude language and sex are the touchy issues that give a movie ‘thumbs down’ quickly in my house…at least until the kids are in bed.  If cursing or nudity are the main reasons for a PG-13 rating, that movie is off the list for my elementary and middle school kids.  For example, Austin Powers?  Not for the kids, Baby.  The same goes for Rated R:  As a former-English-teacher-dad of a book-loving high school student, I would like to share Shakespeare In Love with my daughter…but for all its strengths, the movie crosses a few too many lines along the way–for now.

In fact, from my point of view, the entertainment industry lets down families when they salt movies and programs with coarse material that adds little but makes responsible parents think twice about their kids watching.  For example, the Transformers films feature the Witwicky parents making repeated sexual remarks that do nothing to help the Autobots take down the Decepticons.  On the TV front, my son heard the Rock was going to return to wrestling a few weeks ago; he knew the Rock from several family films.  But along the way we discovered that wrestling on TV now includes obscene   between-match dialogue that would have drawn a lecture from the Hulkster in the ’80s when he encouraged the Hulkamaniacs to be good and take their vitamins.  So we will have to pass.

But what about violence?  There has been a lot of talk in the media about film violence desensitizing kids, maybe even leading them to be more violent themselves.  But for me, there is a vast difference between realistic violence and what I consider ‘cartoon’ violence.  To be clear:  I don’t want my kids on brain detail with Jules in Pulp Fiction.  And the first rule of Fight Club?  Don’t let my kids watch Fight Club. 

On the other hand, by ‘cartoon’ violence, I don’t necessarily mean ‘animated’….although Wile E. Coyote and an A.C.M.E. catapult would also fit. I’m talking about violence that moves the story along but that even my elementary age son can understand as pretend fun.  Blowing up an enemy starship?  Fine.  Release the Kracken!?  Bring it.  Pirates that turn into skeletons at night?  En garde.

So this spring we will be heading out to see the new Avengers film, with confidence that it’s a healthy, good time–the modern equivalent to Ultraman and Star Wars from my own childhood.

 

Note:  Dad Knows Better has enjoyed all of the films/shows/etc. mentioned above, but the point here is about when they would be age-appropriate, and Dad happens to be an adult.  Also, Dad has not received any compensation related to mentioning any of the titles in this (or any other) post…unfortunately.

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