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In honor of Autism Awareness Month, families can watch Autism – The Musical, about five families dealing with autism as they prepare for a musical performance. The film is illuminating in its depiction of the very different kids with very different abilities, a stark contrast to the one-dimensional portrayal of autism in movies like “Rain Man” or “House of Cards.” It is frank in its portrayal of the strains within the families of the children and between the families as there are clashes between and within the group. And it is deeply moving as we see the children’s courage and their evident joy.

Now that most people’s NCAA brackets are blown up and they’re getting ready to enjoy the final game, it might be a good time to take another look at some fictional college basketball teams in the movies.
1. The Absent Minded Professor Fred MacMurray plays a college professor whose accidental invention of “flubber” (“flying rubber”) gives the school’s basketball team some extra bounce.
2. Tall Story Jane Fonda’s first movie has her co-starring with Anthony Perkins (before “Psycho”) in the story of a basketball star thrown off his game by the attentions of a determined young woman.
3. Glory Road This is the true story of coach Don Haskins (Josh Lucas), who played the first all-black team in the NCAA in 1965 at Texas Western college (now University of Texas at El Paso). Lucas and Derek Luke as one of his players give beautiful performances in this stirring film.
4. Blue Chips stars Nick Nolte in a story of corruption in college recruiting, written by Ron Shelton of “White Men Can’t Jump” and “Bull Durham.”
5. “The Air Up There” A gentler college recruiting story has Kevin Bacon traveling to Africa to persuade the son of a tribal leader who has “the hang time of a helium balloon” to join his team.

I am besotted with the annual Washington Post Peeps contest, where artists and craftspeople and peep-lovers of all kinds are invited to create dioramas featuring the pink and yellow and blue marshmallow bunnies and chicks that are sold every spring for Easter baskets. peepe.jpg
This year, there were more than 1100 entries. Be sure to take a look at the winner, “EEP,” inspired by the Pixar movie, “Up,” a floating house held aloft by peeps. And you will also enjoy the runners-up, especially the ones based on children’s books like “Madeline,” “Goodnight Moon” (with a quiet old peep whispering the peepish equivalent of “Hush”) and “Where the Wild Things Are” as well as peep-or-amas inspired by “Mad Men,” the balloon boy, Shaun White, “Avatar,” the viral video with the wedding party dance down the aisle, and Washington’s historic Snowapalooza. And of course there were entries featuring Washington’s most famous family is represented with peeparific displays of the White House vegetable garden, the President and his dog, Bo, and of course the infamous White House party crashers.
The Washington Post even has an iPhone app to show off the top peep contestants.

I admit to lingering affection for the cheesy after-school specials of the 1970’s. They started on ABC in 1972 and were known for their flimsy production values, cardboard characters, awkward efforts at social relevance, and stilted acting. ABC owned the “after-school special” title, but it is now applied to any issue-oriented, low-budget show directed at teenagers.

The Huffington Post has a list of their so-bad-they’re-sorta-good after-school-special favorites. One thing I love about these films is the chance to see the early work of future Oscar winners like Helen Hunt and Ben Affleck (both featured in the HuffPo’s clips) and Jodie Foster. You can also see future “Sex and the City” Miranda Cynthia Nixon and “Moon’s” Sam Rockwell along with 80’s TV stars Kristy McNichol, Mayim Bialik, and Kirk Cameron. And I love the innocence and sincerity of the films in crusading against such threats and disturbances as sexism, racism, divorce, loss, disability, teen pregnancy, and many, many forms of substance abuse. Wikipedia has a full list of all of the ABC productions.