Family Movies for the Homebound V: Dogs, Cats, and Other Pets

Posted on April 6, 2020 at 8:00 am

Copyright 1979 MGM

More movies for families to share, these are all stories of children and teens and their pets:

Because of Winn-Dixie: Kate DiCamillo’s book about a girl and her dog in a small southern town is filled with atmosphere.

Lssie Come Home: The first film featuring the most famous dog in movies stars Roddy McDowell and Elizabeth Taylor in a story set in Yorkshire. Joe (McDowell) and Lassie are devoted to one another, but Joe’s father falls on hard times and has to sell Lassie to a wealthy duke (Nigel Bruce). The duke’s granddaughter (Taylor) lets her go, and Lassie has to find her way home.

The Three Lives of Thomasina: A little girl’s beloved cat dies, euthanized by her stern veterinarian father, who believes the cat is critically ill. But cats have nine lives. With the help of a mysterious woman who lives in the woods, the cat returns, first without a memory of her previous life but then she recalls her past and is reunited with the girl who loves her.

Dreamer: Inspired by a true story, this film stars Dakota Fanning as a little girl who believes an injured horse can race again. SEE ALSO: “National Velvet,” included in List I.

The Black Stallion: One of the most cinematically stunning films ever made, this story of a boy and a horse who are shipwrecked together, then rescued, and then the horse enters a race. Mickey Rooney co-stars as the wise horse trainer.

Fly Away Home: Goslings imprint on the first thing they see, which is how a batch of baby geese think that a young girl is their mother. To keep them safe, she has to find a way to lead them to a sanctuary — by flying there.

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Our Costume Designer Daughter — Profiled in The Credits

Posted on April 1, 2020 at 6:44 am

Copyright Rachel Apatoff 2020
We are so proud of our daughter, Rachel Apatoff, profiled on the Motion Picture Association’s website about the industry, The Credits. She talks about her first job as a costume designer on a low-budget upcoming feature film, and about how all production has stopped due to COVID-19.

It wasn’t just the flow of costumer jobs that stopped. It was a halt in momentum for her dream agenda: to be a fully dedicated costume designer. Last fall, that momentum had begun when she was hired for her first feature film as a designer. Operating with “a quarter of the money it should have had,” it was a challenging shoot. But for Apatoff, the experience was “was astonishing, exhilarating, thrilling, even in the most frustrating and hair-tearing moments. You’re working 100 hours a week, you’re not getting paid anything, and your project is impossible and it’s still the most fun to be able to say, ‘Okay, this character feels sad and lonely in this scene and we’re going to show that by having her wear her dead dad’s old sweatshirt because, you know, she wants to feel more loved and safe.” You get to dive so deep into the little nitty-gritty details of how people feel about their situation and about themselves, and how they present themselves as a result.”

We are very, very proud of our brilliant, beautiful, accomplished, and kind-hearted daughter.

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Family Movies for the Homebound IV: Movies Based on Great Books

Posted on March 30, 2020 at 8:13 pm

Copyright MGM 1939
More wonderful movies for families to share — these are all based on books that are all-time classics.

The Secret Garden: Agnieszka Holland’s 1993 version of the classic by Frances Hodgson Burnett is my favorite, but the others are good, too. When I first read the book, I loved the heroine because she was so cross, a delightful change from all of the earnest girls in other books. When he parents die in India, Mary must go to the creepy, mysterious home of her absent uncle. The secret garden she discovers there is not even the most remarkable surprise. Also see: A Little Princess (1995 version)

Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory: Stick with the first version of Roald Dahl’s classic, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, about the poor boy who finds a golden ticket in a chocolate bar and gets a tour of the candy factory, along with some other children who are spoiled and obnoxious. You will also enjoy some of the other movies basked on Dahl’s books, “James and the Giant Peach,” “The BFG,” and “Matilda.”

The Wizard of Oz: The most-loved family movie of all time is the Judy Garland, Ray Bolger, Frank Morgan, Bert Lahr, Margaret Hamilton, and Jack Haley version of the story of the Kansas girl who is whisked away to a magical land in a tornado, meets a scarecrow, a tin man, a lion, and a witch, and learns that there’s no place like home. Every time you watch it, you’ll marvel at something new. Also see: “The Wiz” a remix starring Diana Ross and Michael Jackson

The Chronicles of Narnia: Four children entered a wardrobe and found themselves in a magic land, gorgeously brought to life in a series of films.

Harry Potter: J.K. Rowling’s saga about the boy wizard is one of the most successful book adaptations of all time. Read them all and then see the films.

Also see: Family Movies for the Homebound I, II, and III (Chess).

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Family Movies for the Homebound: Part III — A Special List of Movies About Kids Playing Chess

Posted on March 28, 2020 at 6:53 pm

Copyright hugrakka 2008

If you have some extra time at home together, it’s a good time to teach kids to play chess. It teaches patience, sportsmanship, and strategy. As is often said, chess is a pool in which a mosquito may sip and an elephant may bathe. So even a young child can learn and even an experienced player can learn more. Plus there are some great movies about real-life children and teenage chess players.

Brooklyn Castle: P.S. 318 is a below-the-poverty-line inner city junior high school. And its students have won more national chess championships than any other in the country. So this is a touching and inspiring story of triumph and what can be accomplished in spite of the most daunting of obstacles if there is someone who believes in you. And it is a story of the joys of intellectual passion and a game that goes back centuries, even in an era of saturation in digital media. There is much of what you expect — gifted kids, dedicated teacher, tense anticipation, thrilling victories. The characters are endearing and their stories are stirring.

The Queen of Katwe: An illiterate girl from the slums of Uganda became an internationally ranked chess champion. So of course there is a Disney movie. But director Mira Nair has not made the usual feel-good underdog story. It is a wonderfully rich depiction of a family and a culture, as complex in its way as a master-level chess game with intricate moves by many pieces with different strengths and vulnerabilities.

The Dark Horse: It would be so easy — and so wrong — to make this true story of a Maori chess champion who struggles with mental illness as he teaches underprivileged kids into a safe, simple, saccharine, uplifting story. But writer/director James Napier Robertson, who himself played hundreds of chess games with real-life speed chess champion Genesis Potini, trusts his story and his audience enough to give us a film that is refreshingly messy, even grungy, and therefore much more powerful.

Endgame: “Modern Family’s” Rico Rodriguez stars in this story of the grandson of a chess champion who joins his school team as they prepare for the state finals.

Searching for Bobby Fischer: Based on the real-life story of chess prodigy Josh Waitzkin (real life chess player Max Pomeranc), this is a very thoughtful exploration of choices and parenting and what it means to have a full life, with a powerhouse cast including Joan Allen, Ben Kingsley, Laurence Fishburne, and Joe Mantegna, along with William H. Macy, David Paymer, and Laura Linney.

This blog post is dedicated to our wonderful son, who used to teach chess in the New York city schools.

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More Movies to Watch at Home: Recommendations from The Washington Post, AWFJ, and Rogerebert.com

Posted on March 24, 2020 at 10:57 am

Great recommendations for movies to watch at home from my friends and colleagues:

The Washington Post:

This is a great list, with Martin Scorsese’s quirky comedy “After Hours,” my favorite film of last year, “The Last Black Man in San Francisco,” and the under-seen documentary that is a powerful reminder of what connects all humans, “Life in a Day.”

The Alliance of Women Film Journalists:

This is a wildly varied assortment, reflecting the wide range of the AWFJ’s members. It includes Drew Barrymore’s roller derby film “Whip It,” the Ruth Bader Ginsburg documentary “RBG,” the zombie comedy “Shaun of the Dead,” and Barbra Streisand’s Oscar-winning performance in “Funny Girl.”

Rogerebert.com editor Brian Tallerico has put together all of the resources for watching the films that Roger Ebert certified as “great.” Try “Diva,” “M,” “A Hard Day’s Night,” “Mr. Hulot’s Holiday,” and “On the Waterfront.”

And the contributors to rogerebert.com have also suggested some of our favorites, including one of the craziest movies of all time, “Madame Satan,” which we showed here in Washington as a part of our pre-Code series.

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