Tuesday, July 19, 2011

The runaway train wreck known as Hollywood is coming, again. Kids, cover your eyes!

Dear reader, I am going to tell you now, the coming rant will have a dose of irony, if not downright hypocrisy. First, the good news! I have enjoyed nearly every part of this summer's offerings from the film industry's latest arsenal of summer distractions. Movies like Sucker Punch, Green Lantern, Thor, Super 8 and Priest. With the final Harry Potter, Cowboys & Aliens and everyone's favorite patriot, Captain America still forthcoming as the time of this post. Like the proverbial kid in a candy store, I am overstimulated and under the spell of each new story. I sit mesmerized by the cavalcade of special effects that assault my senses each week on the silver screen (check out my comic book/Superhero/Sci-Fi movie blog, The Boxed Office for my reviews of said movies). And the kids? They are right along with me (minus Sucker Punch & Priest).

The dark side to this flurry feature films is the effects these movies have on our kids.

Yup, I'm gonna go there.

Over the past 8 - 10 years, many movie trailers have begun following the same flash-cut formula. A slow, mostly dialogue-laden intro to the story, then a gradual increase in action-scenes and increase in both sound and music, not to mention the pacing – until things are moving so fast, I actually have to look away to avoid vertigo or an all-out migraine. Like our kid's generation (my kids are between the ages of 11 to 15), there is NO attention span to these previews whatsoever.

A few years ago, I was mortified when the kid's grandfather took my twins – then eight years old – to see 300, the movie adaptation to Frank Miller's ground-breaking graphic novel. The movie was one-third cheese ball acting and narrative, one-third over-the-top special effects and one-third blood, guts and gore. NONE of it appropriate for the age group. Now, Grandpa does NOT get a pass on this but he too was sucked up into the frosting-covered glitz of the movie's previews and promise. After all the movie's historical context meant it was based on actual events. How harmful could it be, right?

Well anyone who saw that movie, love it or hate it, you know the answer to that question.

I remember in 1999, being horrified while attending the midnight movie premiere of Stanley Kubrick's Eyes Wide Shut (Tom Hanks & Nicole Kidman's weirdo film-noir trist). There was a couple there – with a newborn. Are you fricking kidding me? C'mon folks, I paid for a babysitter so I could hear the dang movie, not listen to your baby wail through have the film. Hey can't get a babysitter? Then stay home. "Make a Blockbuster Night!" Look there are tons of clinical studies that demonstrate the harmful effects violent media has on young minds. It doesn't take a clinical psychologist to figure that one out. But a newborn? At THAT movie? At midnight? Isn't there a line?

I suppose when each movie looks cooler than the last, how can we hope to convince them to consider alternate activities – or alternative film watching experiences? How about the film adaptation of To Kill a Mockingbird? Maybe my favorite John Wayne movie, Stagecoach or my all time favorite Alfred Hitchcock thriller, North By Northwest? I realize all of these movies are from a different generation but they are all great films and – certainly not irrelevant. Look I understand we're talking movies here, folks. I know there are many more important, relevant topics to consider (and I will!) but what the kids and I do in our free time, helps mold experiences and expertise in their coming years and the conversation bears merit. At least to me.

So here's the grand experiment. Once a month, the four kids and I will sit down and watch a movie of Dad's choosing. No flash cuts, slick CGI/SFX or big budgets. Just some family time and a discussion directly after the movie on what we just watched. And I will throw some popcorn in for good measure. I am banking that experience will matter a great deal more than movies offer today.

Even though I love movies – like 300 – there is no way my kids need to be exposed to that kind of content. The cost is just too great. And maybe learning about the 300 hundred and the epic Battle of Thermopylae is a lesson we should learn from the history books, not the box office.

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