I have had a book on my shelves entitled The Best Old Movies for Families: A Guide to Watching Together by Ty Burr. It was recommended from somewhere or someone who was suitably trustworthy…NPR or the like. As my daughters ask about watching a movie together or even during the week, they ask what movie do I have for us to watch come Friday or Saturday…I know that I need to enjoy the time with my children before they are not home on the weekends.
The trouble is that I have run out of movies that I know are worth watching and those that are more than just safe, but tell a good story, have good acting, or even just good fun. The Twilight movie series just does not fit that thinking. Also, as I tend to think of movies more and more not in the sense of an artistic criticism, but in terms of the Moral Imagination. One can get lost defining, much less reflecting on what is the moral imagination. My introduction to the term was Russell Kirk and I defer to him here as well.
So last night I was asked what movie do you have for us? I looked through a few new releases on DVD at Redbox and was disappointed. I then turned to my trusty Netflix streaming video app. Looking through the Netflix catalog as I have done many times before, is like looking through a movie studio library without any direction…I was lost. Then I remembered The Best Old Movies for Families. At least now i had some sense of direction looking through the video streaming library that Netflix offers.
Using the Chapter One: “Starter Kits: First Old Movies to Watch”, I par roused two lists: five movies for toddlers and the five movies for “tweeners”. After slimming the list down by what is available for streaming, I had three choices: Meet Me in St. Louis(1944), The Day the Earth Stood Still(1951), and Stagecoach(1939). In short, a musical that had both comedy and drama, an early science fiction that may appear too outdated, or a serious Western by one of the greatest movie directors, John Ford.
Based on last week’s choice, which I only mention here, but do not give any kind of commentary, Carolina, I decided to go with the movie that I consider the “lightest” of the choices, Meet Me in St. Louis. You can never go wrong with Judy Garland…or at least this performance.
The movie was a hit. It takes a while, no matter how many old or even black and white movies my children have watched, they have to adjust themselves that it is not going to be a loud, color filled-flashy movie they are going to watch. One of my daughters immediately recognized the star of the Wizard of Oz. The songs were all over, not just over, season oriented, but really moved the story along and of course Meet Me in St. Louis was catchy enough that some were singing it today. Both boys and girls enjoyed the movie.
As a side note: while popcorn was popping, there were two major questions that were asked and we discussed during the brief intermission: What is the World’s Fair? (do they still happen?) and How did the telephone work back then? (and why were they yelling over the phone?). I can easily get carried away with history lessons, but the questions were definitely thoughtful and I kept my answers brief.
I do not remember ever seeing Meet Me in St. Louis before, so it I consider it my first viewing. Judy Garland was magnificent as an actress and her character was feisty enough to stay within the conformity of society and family, but the earnestness of love was always reaching. The father, played by Leon Ames, has a small but subtle role. As all fathers he is pivotal in the end. All families need a father and likewise, all men naturally are moved to fatherhood.