Kid Friendly Black and White Movies

I’ve written previously about the ever-increasing extremes movies are reaching to blow the audience out of their seats – with the nearly ubiquitous recent appearence of 3D, IMAX screenings and mind-blowing CGI animation.

There’s nothing inherently bad about how Hollywood is bringing more to the movie experience except there’s a risk that our children’s threshold for entertainment will be so amped-up they’ll not be able to appreciate less nuclear-powered eye candy. Ultimately the story has to reign supreme.

That was the big ding on Avatar. Despite the off-the-chart never seen before animation and visual experience – the story itself was nothing but a rehash of Pocahontas – which is a really good story in and of itself.

And there are a lot of amazing unforgettable stories collecting dust in the Classics section of Blockbuster (or virtual dust in the catalogs on NetFlix) that deserve to be watched. So what better way to emphasize the importance of really really good story telling than to see them unfold in glorious black and white. No Dolby or THX. No HD. No spine tingling eye-searing computer generated animation… just simple classic stories told in a simple voice and style. 

Here’s a list of ten classics good for any kid over six or seven. We’ve only been through two of them (Casablanca and Pride of the Yankees – which my eight year old loved – partly because it’s about baseball/Lou Gehrig) but I’m committed to getting through them as part of my son’s education.

Safety Last – 1923 w/ Harold Lloyd
Mr. Deeds goes to Town – 1936 w/ Gary Cooper
You Can’t Take it With You – 1938 w/ James Stewart
Boys Town – 1938 w/ Spencer Tracy and Mickey Rooney
Mr. Smith Goes to Washington – 1939 w/ James Stewart
The Pride of the Yankees – 1942 w/ Gary Cooper
Casablanca – 1942 w/ Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman
Bells of St. Marys – 1945 w/ Bing Crosby
Christmas in Connecticut – 1945 w/ Barbara Stanwyck
It’s a Wonderful Life – 1946 w/ James Stewart

Tasty Track: Lovesick by Lindstrom and Christabelle

They’re a Norwegian collaboration laying down some pretty groovy electro disco that I “discovered” after finally Shazam’ing the track from the 2010 Cadillac CTS-V commercial. I had seen it a few times and the music totally hooked me. The vocals are lazy/hazy female sing/talk pacing that “resembles the half-awake sister of Kim Carnes” – that’s a quote from Andy Kellman’s review on eMusic – which is dead on. Anyway – the album Real Life is No Cool is great if you’re into “mixing Balearic beat, space disco, house and new wave”. Enjoy…

Lovesick

6 Degrees of Black Sabbath

I’ve now officially crossed the threshold of being obsessed – here’s another great hack that came out during The San Francisco Music Hack Day back in mid-May. It’s called Six Degrees of Black Sabbath. It’s simple…. just type in the name of two musical artists and see how many “degrees” they’re separated by (just like Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon). For music geeks – it’s a colossally beautiful time waster. Try to see how many degrees you can get with your pairings… the more degrees – the more obscure the connection. I’ve been using it as part of my son’s musical education – want to know how Pete Townsend is related to Black Eyed Peas or how Keith Moon is related to Timbaland? – just punch it in, sit back and let it be revealed.  What’s surprising in messing with this is discovering instances when two totally random and unrelated artists are actually pretty closely connected… here are a few examples:

Paul Anka to Geddy Lee: 6 steps (total surprise on this one)

Jimmy Page to Lady Gaga: 7 steps

MGMT to Juice Newton: 9 steps

Pat Metheny to Colin Moulding (from XTC): 18 steps

Have at it. If you get a connection that’s more than 18 steps – post a comment – I’d be curious to see it!

Trends We Really Like: Personal Music Showers

Just came across this – Japanese Burger Kings are installing what they’re calling “musical showers” that allow customers to plug in their iPods and other MP3 players into jacks built into the walls where the music is played from a cone above the table and it audible only by those under it. No longer do you have to be subjugated to corporate muzak or generic pop music mixes designed to offend (or delight) no one.

Each table can have its own music thing going on without disturbing anybody else. Given that with my iPhone, I constantly have lots of playlists and songs at my finger tips at all times, I’d be up for this being in every restaurant, book store and other retail outlets where one hangs out. Let’s hope this catches fire.

Fantastic Flix for Kids

Been meaning to write a post on Fantastic Mr. Fox – Wes Anderson’s marvelous screen version of the classic children’s book of the same name by Roald Dahl. Although it’s been out for about eight months (Nov 2009), we recently saw it and instantly fell in love. Both my children, one eight the other four, were mesmerized by the colors, characters and overall visual approach – and the storyline kept myself and my wife glued to the screen – which is rare when watching a kids’ flick. It helps greatly when the voice talent includes George Clooney (as Mr. Fox), Meryl Streep,long-time collaborators Bill Murray, Owen Wilson and Jason Schwartzman.  

In the age of CGI-based animated spectacles on IMAX screens in mind-blowing 3D – it was a very nice change of pace to see a movie using stop motion to tell the story. It feels so different and precious (in a good way) – considering the amount of effort and painstaking detail necessary to bring the dolls used in the movie to life. And if you’re familiar with Mr. Anderson’s work – Rushmore, The Royal Tenenbaums, The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou – then you’ll immediately notice the director’s highly recognizable and unique style in this movie.

The other remarkable aspect of the picture is the eclectic and surprising soundtrack with songs ranging from The Beach Boys, The Rolling Stones, The Bobby Fuller Four, Burl Ives and magical original music by Alexandre Desplat – the French film composer who has scored over 100 films including The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Julie and Julia, Syriana, The Golden Compass – to name just a few.

We rented it once but then went out and bought it as this movie will be (and has been) watched many times over. If you’ve got kids of any age – I suggest you do the same.