Lowest Recommended Age: Kindergarten - 3rd Grade
MPAA Rating: Rated PG for some mild language and rude humor
Release Date: December 19, 2014
The Maze Runner
Lowest Recommended Age: High School
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13 for thematic elements and intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action, including some disturbing images
Release Date: September 19, 2014
Magic in the Moonlight
Lowest Recommended Age: High School
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13 for a brief suggestive comment, and smoking throughout
Release Date: August 1, 2014
The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies
Lowest Recommended Age: Middle School
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13 for extended sequences of intense fantasy action violence, and frightening images
Release Date: December 19, 2014
This sugarplum of a movie is held together with good intentions and paperclips, but its appealing cast and seasonal sweetness make it — if not the perfect holiday treat, a pleasantly enjoyable one, especially welcome because there are so few Christmas stories about African-American families.
Those specials–at least the big three: the Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas shows that were recently released in a “deluxe holiday collection” by Warner Bros.–have a mood unlike any animated film for children made before or since. For one thing, they’re really, really slow–slow not just by our ADD-addled contemporary standards but also next to the programming of their own time. Just compare the meandering pace of A Charlie Brown Christmas
(in which Charlie tries, and fails, to direct a single rehearsal of a Christmas play) with the generation-spanning epic crammed into Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer
(1964). But what really sets the Peanuts specials apart is their sadness. Even digitally remastered, with the background colors restored to their original vivid crispness, the Peanuts holiday specials have a faded quality, like artifacts from a lost civilization. As Linus observes of the wan, drooping pine sprig Charlie Brown eventually rescues from a huge lot of pink aluminum Christmas trees, “This doesn’t seem to fit the modern spirit.”
My favorite is this beautiful scene with the children skating to the bittersweet music of Vince Guaraldi.
Stevens talks about the insights from the extras on the new DVD set, which reveal that it was Schultz who insisted that there be no laugh track and that real children provide the voices. But the highlight of the piece is her lyrical descriptions of what made those early specials so, well, special.
Here I could write an epic poem detailing the multiple felicities of the Peanuts specials: the van Gogh-esque night sky that dwarfs Linus and Sally as they wait in the pumpkin patch for the Great Pumpkin, Linus’ stirring reading from the Gospel of Luke at the end of A Charlie Brown Christmas, the impossibly hip “Little Birdie” song that plays in the background as Snoopy and Woodstock prep for their Thanksgiving feast.
The Washington Post reports on the first study to link teen pregnancies to sexual content on television. The study is being published today in the journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics. The authors found a “strong association” between teen pregnancy and watching sexual activity in television programs. Teenagers who watch a lot of television featuring flirting, necking, discussion of sex and sex scenes are much more likely than their peers to get pregnant or get a partner pregnant, according to the first study to directly link steamy programming to teen pregnancy. The study, which tracked more than 700 12-to-17-year-olds for three years, found that those who viewed the most sexual content on TV were about twice as likely to be involved in a pregnancy as those who saw the least…. Studies have found a link between watching television shows with sexual content and becoming sexually active earlier, and between sexually explicit music videos and an increased risk of sexually transmitted diseases. And many studies have shown that TV violence seems to make children more aggressive. But the new research is the first to show an association between TV watching and pregnancy among teens.
The problem with these studies is always cause and effect. Do teenagers who are already sexually active or considering becoming sexually active tend to watch more of these programs or do these programs promote unprotected sexual activity?
It is stupid to suggest that media does not affect behavior, especially of teenagers who are just beginning to look beyond the home and school for guidance on behavior. There is a billion-dollar industry devoted to the impact of media on behavior — it is called advertising. Television programming may not be selling clothes or toothpaste, but it is always selling a notion of what is — and is not — cool. And that does affect the choices made by viewers.
A beautiful tribute to book, television, and movie critic John Leonard in Salon has this lovely quote from him about the books he loved: My whole life I have been waving the names of writers. From these writers, for almost 50 years, I have received narrative, witness, companionship, sanctuary, shock, and steely strangeness; good advice, bad news, deep chords, hurtful discrepancy, and amazing grace…The books we love, love us back. In gratitude, we should promise not to cheat on them — not to pretend we’re better than they are; not to use them as target practice, agitprop, trampolines, photo ops or stalking horses; not to sell out scruple to that scratch-and-sniff infotainment racket in which we posture in front of experience instead of engaging it, and fidget in our cynical opportunism for an angle, a spin, or a take, instead of consulting compass points of principle, and strike attitudes like matches, to admire our wiseguy profiles in the mirrors of the slicks. We are reading for our lives, not performing like seals for some fresh fish.
Smile of the Week: A Boy and a Penguin This reminds me a little of the depiction of a child's world in The Complete Calvin and Hobbes and Barnaby.
Many thanks to Slate for this and the others on its list of the year's best ads.
What Happened to All the Great Quotable Movie Lines? Michael Cieply has a fascinating piece in the New York Times about the movie lines we love to quote and why there don't seem to be any new ones. Look through all of the top ten lists of the year, and see if you can think of one quotable line from any of them. That doesn't mean they aren't well wri
George Clooney and the Cast of Downton Abbey You don't have to be a fan of "Downton Abbey" (or "Mr. Selfridge") to love this hilarious spoof, with guest appearances by Jeremy Piven, George Clooney and the Absolutely Fabulous Joanna Lumley.
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Ask Amy Says: A Book on Every Bed I love to remind people about Amy Dickinson's wonderful "Book on Every Bed" proposal:
Here’s how it happens: You take a book (it can be new or a favorite from your own childhood).
You wrap it. On Christmas Eve (or whatever holiday you celebrate), you leave the book in a place where Santa is
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