During the Great Depression people fell in love with movies. They could sneak in at noon and watch one feature after the other for little money, and sometimes, even for free. During the World War, America supported its actors that went to war and that sold bonds to keep the country going: John Wayne, Robert Taylor, Lee Marvin, Carole Lombard, to mention just a few. In the face of adversity, we band together.
The coming of television has brought movies into our homes. There are some theatres conscious enough to offer one day a week FREE (The Coolidge Theatre in Brookline does this on Tuesdays) for those that are unemployed. They don’t ask for ID, everyone is welcome, and the offerings are serious and new films. So thumbs up for the Coolidge. There are other programs in Boston, but, that I know, Coolidge is the only one totally FREE.
When Nicole was 2 years old, she started going to the Sunday matinees with her grandmother (just as her mother and uncle had done) to enjoy the Walt Disney fare that was always available. As she grew, decisions had to be made about to which films she would be exposed, and there were so many to choose from, but not really. The rest of the family questioned why the grandmother continued the Sunday routine for so many years. And as more grandchildren arrived, they were included in the outing.
It wasn’t about popcorn and Coke, or about the treat after the movies.. It was, and is, about exposing children to arts and entertainment with some inspirational and instructional value. To the music, and the technical assessment of the film. So it follows that on the way out, the questions (with time to answer them) followed: What did you think of the movie? Did you like the music? Did you learn something? Was there a bad character? Why was he or she bad? Of course the first few times, the answers to such unexpected questions were a few reluctant one-syllale words. But after doing this several times, they went in the movie theatre paying attention to everything, so they could have an opinion to contribute afterwards. The grandmother was creating movie watchers and arts lovers of some worth when she repeated the routine at museums and theatres with live shows.
The first thing they have to learn is that in matters of act there is never good or bad. You can only know whether you enjoyed it or not and why. The intrinsic value of a work of art is established by time and different generations finding its message. That is how we still have Shakespeare, Austen, Marvel Books, and Harry Potter. Because they are great as written words, sometimes better than others on celluloid, and every single time with a fresh message.
Many people will never get to read Margaret Mitchell’s enormous Gone With The Wind, while at the same time, crowds all around the world have enjoyed the film and its message of determination in the face of adversity and the class struggles that tend to bring down whole civilizations throughout history, enchanting and adorable as the American Southern States were and still are.
So we take our children to the movies so afterwards we can tell them, ‘and if you think the movie was good, wait until you read the book!’ Or prepare them for going to the movies by asking them to read a book first, even if it is a comic book.
This will create a knowledgeable consumer, an arts aficionado, someone that enjoys the movies and knows why. That will know the tricks about going to the matinee that costs so much less and seeing the films about the books they have read so they can compare the art expressions and their accomplishments translating from one to the other.
What kind of films will children that know about movies go to see? You name the genre, they like most of them, and they also know the names of directors, cinematographers, writers and editors as well as the actors and actresses (yes, there is a feminine word for actor!) that make them so special. Oh, and if they belong to a screening group, they will also enjoy their occasional visits to the openings.
They will not happily sit through a bad sequel after another. Better still, they will not pay to get into that theatre.
Why complain that there is too much violence, gore, nudity, or silliness in a film that our children will see when we can, in the first place, teach them to be discriminative about which ticket they buy? Teach them correctly so you can hope that they will have learned to do it correctly, edify their minds, and then pass along to future generations how it is learned.
It has been my pleasure to enjoy movies over the years with my 2 children and 8 grandchildren, and am looking forward to initiate my greatgrandson into my world as soon as he is old enough, and probably wait for one of the worthwhile animated features out there, so many from which to choose.
From Beautiful Beantown on the banks of the Mighty Chuckie, hoping to see you with your children at the movies soon, for The Examiner, this is Lily.