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Thanks to the Online Film Critics Society for including my thoughts in their round-up of commentaries about what movie critics are for. The question was “Do critics do anything nowadays except give out awards? What is the purpose of a film critic in today’s entertainment industry?” Here is what I said:

The film critic is not a part of the entertainment industry. The film critic is a part of the journalism industry. We are there to report on, assess, and illuminate the entertainment industry and its products. We are there to guide audiences away from the over-marketed and under-produced products of that industry and to encourage them to try movies they might not have heard of, even those without big stars and in other languages. We are there to challenge their thinking, provide context, and provoke discussion. And we are there to set an example with the diligence of our study and the excellence of our writing to engage them in our passionate attention to stories, characters, meaning, and even entertainment.

All of the entries are provocative, well-written, and worth reading. Take a look.

On February 7, the Saints will take on the Colts in Super Bowl XLIV. And the ads are as high-profile as the game. Companies and groups must pay CBS more than $2 million in addition to the cost of producing the ad, which can be as much per-minute as a feature film.
A lot of people want to reach the Super Bowl audience and some want to sell ideas, not products. CBS, which has refused some “advocacy” ads in the past, this year has said they will permit those that are “responsibly produced.” They have already been criticized for agreeing to run an ad from Focus on the Family that features college football player Tim Tebow and his mother. She explains that though she was advised to get an abortion after she became ill, she continued the pregnancy and gave birth to Tebow. The Women’s Media Center and a group of organizations dedicated to reproductive rights, tolerance, and social justice have protested.
CBS is also getting complaints about what it is not showing. The Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation has called on CBS to explain why it is refusing to run an ad for a gay dating site called Mancrunch during the Super Bowl. CBS issued a statement but did not explain their concerns: “After reviewing the ad — which is entirely commercial in nature — our Standards and Practices department decided not to accept this particular spot. As always, we are open to working with the client on alternative submissions.”
The Washington Post has a thoughtful op-ed by Frances Kissling, the former president of Catholics for Choice and Kate Michelman, former president of Naral Pro-Choice America, on “what Tim Tebow’s Super Bowl ad can teach the pro-choice movement.”

For abortion rights supporters, picking on Tim Tebow and his mom is not the way to go. Instead of trying to block or criticize the Focus on the Family ad, the pro-choice movement needs its own Super Bowl strategy….We’d go with a 30-second spot, too. The camera focuses on one woman after another, posed in the situations of daily life: rushing out the door in the morning for work, flipping through a magazine, washing dishes, teaching a class of sixth-graders, wheeling a baby stroller. Each woman looks calmly into the camera and describes her different and successful choice: having a baby and giving it up for adoption, having an abortion, having a baby and raising it lovingly. Each one being clear that making choices isn’t easy, but that life without tough choices doesn’t exist.

I think CBS should be open to “responsibly produced” advocacy ads on any issue of public concern. I doubt that the Focus on the Family will change anyone’s mind, and I support the right of Tenbow and his mother to tell their story and explain their views. I can imagine gay dating site ads that would and would not be appropriate. And I share the concerns of parents who are uncomfortable with the ads for ED and prostate medication, sexual pleasure aids and other highly personal items during telecasts of sporting events. What do you think?

The New York Times has a good discussion of the Kaiser M2 Report about kids and (multi) media. “As parents, we’ve spent nearly 50 years trying to keep children away from media, and look where they are now: swimming in it.”
Some of the highlights include:

As concerned parents, perhaps the best we can do is to carve out time for our children to experience the old ways — of communicating, playing and sharing information — as well as the new. Psychology professor Georgene Troseth, who advocates delaying the introduction of media to younger kids and imposing restrictions on older ones

Yet many parents are telling me that modern media acts like a drug because their child now has an addictive relationship to small and larger screens. They seem to act as a comfort blanket for older kids who can certainly “lose it” like a toddler if their social prop gets lost or confiscated for misuse. I would therefore say parents are being shortsighted and possibly selfish, rather than negligent in allowing children apparently unfettered access. Negligent means willfully ignoring the obvious, which isn’t yet there. Child development specialist and author of a book on encouraging childhood friendships Elizabeth Hartley-Brewer

Media are arguably children’s leading educator about the world and about how they should behave in it. The question we have to ask now is what, exactly, they’re learning. Michael Rich of the Center on Media and Child Health

I have also found that this consumption of media was predictive of psychological and behavioral problems, after accounting for parent and child characteristics and poor eating habits. What’s more, parenting style was directly related to healthy online behavior: Parents who set clear limits and boundaries but did so with warmth and consultation with their children, had children who were less consumed with media, possessed higher self-esteem, were less depressed and had better relationships with their parents. Psychology professor Larry Rosen

Many thanks to Total Film for including me in their list of 600 film sites you might have missed! Many of my favorites are on there and some promising sites I plan to visit as well. It’s fun to read the list just to enjoy the names.