Family Movies for Martin Luther King Day

Posted on January 15, 2021 at 10:40 am

As we celebrate the birthday of Martin Luther King, every family should take time to talk about this great American leader and hero of the Civil Rights Movement. There are outstanding films and other resources for all ages.

New this week is “MLK/FBI” with newly released material about the government’s surveillance, of Dr. King, including informants and wiretaps.

I highly recommend the magnificent movie Boycott, starring Jeffrey Wright as Dr. King. And every family should study the history of the Montgomery bus boycott that changed the world.

It is humbling to remember that the boycotters never demanded complete desegregation of the public transit; that seemed too unrealistic a goal. This website has video interviews with the people who were there. This newspaper article describes Dr. King’s meeting with the bus line officials. And excellent teaching materials about the Montgomery bus boycott are available, including the modest and deeply moving reminder to the boycotters once segregation had been ruled unconstitutional that they should “demonstrate calm dignity,” “pray for guidance,” and refrain from boasting or bragging.

Families should also read They Walked To Freedom 1955-1956: The Story of the Montgomery Bus Boycott. Paul Winfield has the lead in King, a brilliant and meticulously researched NBC miniseries co-starring Cecily Tyson that covers Dr. King’s entire career.

The brilliant film Selma tells the story of the fight for voting rights.

The Long Walk Home, starring Whoopi Goldberg and Sissy Spacek, makes clear that the boycott was a reminder to black and white women of their rights and opportunities — and risk of change.

Citizen King is a PBS documentary with archival footage of Dr. King and his colleagues. Martin Luther King Jr. – I Have a Dream has his famous speech in full, still one of the most powerful moments in the history of oratory and one of the most meaningful moments in the history of freedom.

For children, Our Friend, Martin and Martin’s Big Words are a good introduction to Dr. King and the Civil Rights movement.

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Movie for Homebound Families VIII: Adventure

Posted on May 6, 2020 at 3:39 pm

Copyright WB 1985

These movies are about kids having an adventure, mostly for older kids, 10 and up.

The Last Action Hero:  Arnold Schwarzenegger stars as an action hero and as the actor who plays him in this PG-13 film that is a satire of and an affectionate love letter to action films. A young fan gets pulled inside his favorite film series and then he and the hero are catapulted into the real world. It’s smart, funny, and exciting.

Bad Hair Day: We’ve all been there. Somehow while we slept something truly awful happened to our hair. In this delightful Disney channel movie a high school senior’s bad hair leads to an adventure about a necklace that is being sought by a jewel thief and a FBI agent.

The Goonies: This 80’s classic may be the most popular film for the generation of today’s parents. A group of kids go on an amazing adventure and find a treasure, with a lot of goofy fun along the way.

Big-time Goonies fan Josh Gad got the cast together on Zoom, with some surprise appearances.

James and the Giant Peach: Roald Dahl’s book about the boy who goes for a remarkable ride with Grasshopper, Centipede, Ladybug, and more, all the way to the top of the Empire State Building.

Spy Kids: This wonderfully imaginative and reassuringly low-violence story has a lot of heart and humor. Two kids find out that their parents are spies when they have to rescue them, leading to quite an adventure.

Time Bandits: A boy goes on a gorgeously imaginative magic journey when some mischevious little people steal a map that shows the time holes in the universe, which they plan to use to steal all kinds of treasure.

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Based on a book Stories About Kids

Movies for the Homebound VIII: Stories of Real Children

Posted on April 27, 2020 at 8:00 am

Copyright Thinkfilm 2002

 

There are some delightful documentaries about real kids that are ideal family viewing.

Spellbound: Middle schoolers compete in in the annual Scripps-Howard Spelling Bee, with feats of astonishing mastery of shockingly difficult words. This exciting competition is also a heartwarming story of America, its diversity of families and its astonishing young people of such dedication and curiosity.

Batkid Begins: An entire city unites to give a sick child his dream of being Batman.

Mad Hot Ballroom: New York City schoolchildren participate in a program that teaches them ballroom dancing — and teamwork, discipline, and the joy of mastering movement.

Jump: Five teams of kids get ready for a jump rope competition of astonishing athleticism and skill.

Brooklyn Castle: The story of a middle school’s championship chess team — and it’s biggest challenge, budget cuts.

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Documentary Stories About Kids

Family Movies for the Homebound VII: Kids and Music

Posted on April 20, 2020 at 8:00 am

Copyright Alcon Entertainment 2012

Some of my favorite movies are about kids and teenagers making music. Maybe some of these will inspire you to make some of your own.

Bandslam: The focus is on the manager of the high school band here, named after a line from absurdist literary giant Samuel Beckett. An exceptionally smart script and some rocking songs plus a supporting cast that includes Lisa Kudrow and a surprise cameo from one of the biggest rock stars of all time make this one you’ll want to watch more than once.

A Joyful Noise:  Pure cinematic sunshine with comedy, romance, drama, and gorgeous music featuring Queen Latifah and Doily Parton as competing singers in a gospel choir. Most of the members are adults, but the sweet relationship — and sweet duet — from teens played by Keke Palmer and Broadway star Jeremy Jordan is a highlight.

The Sound of Music:  One of the most popular family films of all time is based on the story of the real-life von Trapp family, who escaped from Nazi-controlled Austria and performed as singers in the United States before they settled in Vermont.

Sing Street: This is the rare movie that not only recognizes and portrays the  experience of finding music that introduces you to yourself; it goes farther than that. It is as close to re-creating the experience as it is possible for a movie to be. Watching this movie is not like remembering what it is like to be 14 and have your soul restored through rock and roll. It is like being there, but having it all work out the way better than you could have wished.

Selena: Jennifer Lopez is as vibrant as the star she plays in a biopic about the popular singer who was killed by her former assistant.

Almost Angels: Disney’s 1962 film is based on the real-life Vienna Boys Choir. They may sing like angels, but they get into mischief like kids.

Coco: A young boy loves music, but his family does not want him to play. He goes on a journey to the afterlife and learns important lessons about music, family, and he man he thought was his hero.

High School Musical: Even Disney was surprised by how popular this movie became. It deserved every bit of it; I love this sweet story and it was so much fun to see the cast reunited and singing with the kids from the DisneyPlus series sort of-sequel on the terrific Disney Family Sing-Along special. This is my favorite song from the original.

School of Rock: Just try to watch this movie without wanting to form you own rock band. Jack Black plays a substitute teacher who tells the students of a posh private school that all they need to learn is music that sticks it to the man.

The Rocker: This neglected gem features an astonishing cast of soon-to-be movie stars including Bradley Cooper, Emma Stone, and Josh Gad (plus future hit-maker Teddy Geiger) in the story of a former rock drummer (Rainn Wilson) who joins a high school band. The cast also features comedy all-stars Christina Applegate, Jeff Garlin, Will Arnett, Fred Armisen, Jane Lynch, and Jason Sudeikis.

Imba Means Sing: The Grammy nominated African Children’s Choir is the subject of a documentary.

Boychoir: Dustin Hoffman and Eddie Izzard star in a film about a young boy who joins a choir.

Girl Crazy/Strike Up the Band/Babes in Arms: Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland made a series of “let’s put on a show” musicals that are still a lot of fun, especially Girl Crazy, with irresistible Gershwin songs like Embraceable You, Bidin’ My Time, But Not For Me, and Fascinating Rhythm.

Lemonade Mouth/Camp Rock/Cheetah Girls: Disney Channel’s movies about kids forming music groups are not great cinema but they are tuneful treats.

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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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