DVD Sales are Down? Serves ‘Em Right

I see that Hollywood is worried because DVD sales are down. I’m sure the increased popularity of Netflix and other methods of watching movies (including downloading them illegally) account for some of the decrease. But the quality of the movies we’re seeing these days has to take some blame, especially from those of us who have children.

You just never know what objectionable thing will appear in a modern movie. The plot may be interesting, but the f-word keeps popping up for no good reason at all. Or perhaps a movie has a ridiculous amount of nudity that does nothing to further the plot. It’s enough to make a parent very irritable.

This has been going on for quite a while; it’s one of the many reasons why my husband and I have been watching mostly old movies (pre-1980) for years. Even if our kids weren’t actually watching the movie, we never had to worry about what they saw as they passed through the family room. And though our youngest is now 18, he’s a young man with developmental delays and completely normal male hormones, so it’s a good thing we don’t watch more recent movies with all the female nudity, or we’d never get back the tv remote.

Twenty years ago, when our oldest kids were young, I had hopes that watching old movies would help them develop an appreciation for good stories with strong plots. I held that dream until they hit their early teens, when one of them announced that they thought Adam Sandler movies were the best movies ever. I consoled myself with the fact that my taste in movies was pretty unsophisticated at that age too.

That said, today the jury’s still out on whether the influence of old movies had much effect on my kids. I’ve noticed a definite generational difference of opinion, particularly about what’s funny and what’s not, but also about what constitutes good acting, good plot and especially good endings. Not surprisingly, I prefer an ending that makes clear what happened to the main characters. That’s how most old movies were written. When I watch a modern movie and am left hanging, I’m disappointed. But my kids don’t seem to mind that at all.

Now that our kids are grown, and some are out of the nest, my husband and I continue to enjoy old movies. Below are some we’ve watched recently. Got any favorites to add to the list? Please share in the comments; I’m always up for watching a “new” old movie.

Children and Television Viewing

How do you feel about letting your children watch television?

I have to admit, my feelings have changed over the years. When I was a young parent, I only let my kids watch “Sesame Street” and “Mr. Rogers.” The rest of the time they played: in their rooms, in the living room, in the yard and at the park. VCRs were still new and expensive; we rented one once in a while so that we could watch a movie, and we often rented an old Disney movie for the kids.  But that was the limit of our children’s television viewing. We didn’t even buy a color television until 1989; even then we bought a tiny one, hoping its size would keep the kids from becoming addicted.

Then we had more kids. I found that homeschooling the older kids was a lot easier if the little ones had a video to watch. Yes, it was on the tiny television, but it kept them glued in one spot for a while so that I didn’t have to worry too much about someone climbing up the kitchen blinds while we worked on long division in the living room. The rest of the time, however, I limited how much television the kids could watch.

By the time we got a bigger television, Continue reading

Becoming a Parent

In the city we’re living in right now, there’s a fantastic library. As a result, I bring home far too many books. I can’t possibly read them all, so I do a lot of skimming.

Recently I skimmed Craig Ferguson’s book, American on Purpose. It’s been three years since we had access to network tv, but when we did, I liked to watch Ferguson’s monologue on his late-night talk show before going to bed.

The book chronicles the Scottish comedian’s rise to fame, a rocky road that includes a starkly realistic description of the alcohol addiction that nearly ruined his life. Ferguson’s story is not for the squeamish or easily offended, as he can be quite blunt and uses a fair amount of profanity (sometimes the modern writer’s crutch, but in this case it’s probably just what he does).

I came away from the book thinking I would like the man if I met him. He’s proud to have become an American citizen; his patriotism is evident. A humble man with a good heart, Ferguson’s description of his parents, family and even his exes is generous and loving.

I was especially taken by what he wrote about the birth of his first child:

Anyone who has been present at a birth knows how weirdly adrenal the whole event is. As a first-time father, I found myself terrified in a whole new way, not afraid for myself but for my child, who until that moment had been an abstraction. All of a sudden he was real and the world had changed beyond recognition. Now there was someone I would unthinkingly lay down my life for, and I felt a massive, uncontrollable, powerful, feral love.

As I cut the umbilical cord, Milo started to cry and shiver. One of the nurses, a dour Russian woman who had bossed Sascha around a little too much for my liking, said, not unkindly, “Oh, baby, life is hard.”

“Shut up,” I snapped. She looked at me with astonishment.

“He just got here. He doesn’t need that **** yet.”

She looked at me like I was insane, but I didn’t give a toss. I think when you become a parent you go from being a star in the movie of your own life to a supporting player in the movie of someone else’s.

….It was past four a.m. when the mumsy nurse finally placed him in a clear plastic crib, swaddled in his blankie and wearing a tiny white wool cap. When she left us alone, Milo’s eyes were wide open and as deep and dark and blue as the sea on the Scottish coast.

For the first time it was just the two of us. He stared at me for a few minutes and I started back at him. My American son.

After a few moments he let out a long tired sigh, like the whole thing had been such an ordeal.

“I know,” I told him, “but don’t worry. I got your back.”

I particularly like this line: “I think when you become a parent you go from being a star in the movie of your own life to a supporting player in the movie of someone else’s.” How true that is! For most people, becoming a parent for the first time means losing the self-absorption of youth to the overwhelming love and concern for your child.

Many celebrities’ books are actually written by ghostwriters, but I doubt that this book was. Ferguson is an experienced writer whose credits (beyond writing for his show) include a novel and several screenplays. We’ve watched one of his movies, “Saving Grace,” a couple of times as it’s offbeat and funny. I recommend both of these:

Two Great Bogart Movies


I used to have a poster just like this one on my wall, because when I was a teen, my favorite movie star was Humphrey Bogart. The fact that he died the year before I was born made no difference to me. I grew up watching his films on television and thought he was the best actor ever.

Since then, I’ve widened my knowledge of films and the people who appear(ed) in them, but I still enjoy his work. This past week, my husband and I watched two of his films with dd17 in hopes of teaching her how to recognize and appreciate good movies. (Note: we tried this with our older two with mixed results. Hopefully, three’s the charm!)

First up, “Casablanca.” This very famous movie was made during World War II and includes a wonderful cast beyond Bogart, including Ingrid Bergman, Paul Henreid, Claude Raines, Sydney Greenstreet, and Peter Lorre. Romantically bittersweet, it has a theme of personal sacrifice. It’s a terrific film and well-worth watching with your teens.

Next is “Sabrina,” a Billy Wilder film about a chauffeur’s daughter who finds romance in the wealthy family that employs her father. Many believe that Bogart was miscast in this film, and I admit that he often seems uncomfortable. The climax of the film is quite unbelievable. And yet somehow it works.

By the way, “Sabrina” is a showcase for Audrey Hepburn, and a great introduction to her work if you don’t know much about her. My daughter already knew who she was, having seen her recently in “Roman Holiday” (another great movie about personal sacrifice) and “Charade.”

While “Casablanca” would be of interest to both sexes, “Sabrina” is more of a chick flick, although I’m sure someone as poised as Audrey Hepburn would have come up with a more elegant way of describing it.  😉

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Hope you’re spending today with the ones you love! You’ll find one of our family’s Valentine’s Day traditions (along with my recipe for a Giant Heart Cookie…well, actually two) right here.

BTW, another tradition we started a few years ago is our annual viewing of “Some Like It Hot,” a very funny movie which includes Chicago’s infamous St. Valentine’s Day Massacre in its plot. No, I wouldn’t recommend it for kids, but older teens and adults will find it amusing.