Catholic Diocese of Spokane, Washington

From the

Official News Magazine of the Diocese of Spokane

Deacon Eric Meisfjord, Editor
P.O. Box 48, Spokane WA 99210
(509) 358-7340; FAX: (509) 358-7302

Media Watch:
Movie guide a great resource for parents, film buffs alike

by Father Tom Caswell, for the Inland Register

(From the Aug. 23, 2007 edition of the Inland Register)

Book Review

A new book on movies for families at home has appeared by the Boston Globe’s film critic, himself the father of two. The Best of Old Movies for Families by Ty Burr was published this year by Anchor Books, New York, in softcover at $16.95. This is an enjoyable book – first of all for parents looking for good Hollywood movies to show to young people at home on their DVD. Second, this book is a treasure trove for anyone who is even slightly addicted to Turner Classic Movies, no matter what their age.

The Best of Old Movies for Families came out of Burr’s practical research, steering his two daughters to movies that they would enjoy and want to see over and over again. His nine-year-old daughter, Eliza, asked to have the 1938 black-and-white film Bringing Up Baby, starring Katharine Hepburn and Gary Grant, for her birthday party with her friends. Mom and Dad were very surprised that 18 young people were totally mesmerized and giggling at a screwball comedy that somehow spoke to 21st-Century children.

The surprise for me is that Burr writes so well with interesting facts from Hollywood history and legend. His pieces on the individual films he has chosen are fascinating for anyone interested in film. It is a practical guide for parents, but also a tremendous resource for the movie viewer of any age. Personally, I totally enjoyed reading the book straight through.

Burr divides films according to type such as comedy, drama, musical, and westerns. Each title section gives the basic information about the film, including a short synopsis of the plot and why he has chosen the film. Then there is some interesting movie trivia and suggestions for future films if the child (or you) enjoy that particular film.

Right at the beginning of the book he has five films that he suggests even for four-year-olds. They include The Adventures of Robin Hood and Bringing Up Baby, both from 1938; Meet Me in St. Louis (1944), Singin’ in the Rain (1952), and Stagecoach (1939). Most of the later movies are for children age nine and up, or for teens. He often has a “Pause-button explanation” section that invites the parent to stop the DVD for a few minutes, to bring the child up to speed on history or cultural questions. He also includes a “Why it’s here” section, explaining why he thinks this particular film will work with the age group he is suggesting.

I don’t think there is a guarantee that the age and interest is there with all children. So parents would need to experiment a few times with his suggestions and see if they work with their own children. But The Best of Old Movies for Families is sure a great tool to begin the enjoyable journey with children and those old Hollywood classics. Let the fun begin.

DVD review

There is a wonderful DVD out to add to your list of films to see. The heartfelt documentary Paper Clips tells the story of middle school students in Whitwell, Tenn., who began studying the Holocaust in the 8th grade, over a five-year period beginning in the late 1990s.

Five different eighth grade classes were involved in the project. Early on, one of the students said she could not comprehend the number six million, referring to the number of Jewish men, women, and children who died in the Nazi period. Another student found out that the paper clip, invented by a Norwegian, was a symbol of resistance during the Nazi occupation of Norway.

So the students decided to collect six million paper clips. It was slow going at first, but publicity by a German couple in the media of Germany and a major story in the Washington Post newspaper increased the number of paper clips being sent to the school. Eventually, over 29 million paper clips were received.

The school welcomed a visit from a number of Holocaust survivors from New York City who told their stories amid tears to the students, teachers, and community members of Whitwell.

Then the principal suggested obtaining an actual railroad car that was used to transport Jewish people to the concentration camps. In 2001 a railway car arrived at the school, where volunteers built a memorial in and around the car. Eleven million paper clips for the six million Jews and five million other victims were placed in the railway car.

The film ends with the dedication of the memorial in the fall of 2001, with thousands of students and guests present.

Paper Clips is an inspiring film that deserves to be seen widely. This a true story of what one small group of young people with adult leaders can do to change the world.

(Father Caswell is Ecumenical Relations officer and archivist for the Diocese of Spokane, and a frequent contributor to this publication.)

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