Movie Mom: Movie Tips

"I know 'Cliffhanger' is rated R, but it's only for violence, not for sex, Dad!" The boy in the video store added that all of his friends had seen it and said it was no worse than several other gruesome titles he had already seen. His father sighed and gave in. The technology that has enabled new generations to have a range of entertainments broader than anyone could have imagined has created tough challenges for families. Too often we end up grabbing videos from the "Just Released" shelf or watching the same things, over and over. This electronic baby-sitting is like the Star Trek characters who "set their lasers on 'stun,'" a numbing cavalcade of explosions and jump-cuts. Its messages are never consciously considered, yet they somehow sink in.

That same technology makes it possible to find videos that exercise the mind and spirit, and bring families closer together. Classic movies that once were available only on scratchy prints in art-houses or shot through with commercials on the "Late Late Show" now appear in video stores, public libraries, and mail- order houses -- pristine new prints, as timeless as a Rembrandt. Films that enchant, inspire, thrill, even teach, are there for parents who know where to look.

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But it can be a challenge, once you have found them, to get kids to watch them. Children love the familiar. That's why they want to hear the same books over and over when they are small and see the same videos over and over (or almost-carbon-copy sequels) when they are bigger. Mental exercise, like physical exercise, is not as easy as watching a movie that is, in Frank Lloyd Wright's words, "chewing gum for the mind." Furthermore, the style of movie-making has changed, so that older movies can seem at first unfamiliar and slow-moving. Kids used to movies like "X-Men" and "Finding Nemo" or even TV shows like "Sesame Street" are used to kaleidoscopic images and non-stop action, even a bit numbed by it all. But be patient -- and persistent. Just as important as their exposure to wonderful stories, beautifully presented, is the stretching they have had to do to adjust to quieter, subtler story-telling. While introducing these movies to today's children can be a challenge, it can be done, and it is worth the effort. These hints will help:

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