16 January, 2011

Movies, Babies, and Balloons

So, finally, after seven years of waiting, my sister finally decides to show her kids Raiders of the Lost Ark.

She worried a lot about it and-- Oh, wait, don't worry, this isn't really a blog post about how funny kids are at that age, am I right?-- I'm glad she finally got around to showing them it. I can understand the trepidation. You worry about whether a kid is ready to watch such and such a movie at such and such a time, which is a concept almost utterly foreign to me-- when I was five (two years younger than they are now) I had watched the Terminator movies, Predator, Alien, Aliens, and Total Recall, but, for whatever reason, had to beg-- BEG-- to see Jurassic Park in the theater. Showing kids something like Nazis melting is hard to gauge.

What is more frightening, and this is the fear I share, is that they aren't going to like it or that they aren't going to Love it. My sisters Anne and Amy share a lot of movies together-- Star Wars, Aliens, and Indiana Jones. It hurts if the kids don't get those movies, because they're so close to our heart. Getting rejected sucks and what is more is that you want other people to have these great experiences that you had.

I'm like a lot of people where I blanch when I hear that they've "Never seen Star Wars," because, first of all, they're probably fucking liars and I should wear their tongue as a necklace. What frightens us, though, when we hear mad bullshit like that is that they've gone their whole lives without understanding what the it's like to run through the Death Star's trench or to watch Obi Wan get cut down or to watch Greedo get shot or to watch Old Man Kenobi use his Force powers to trick that stormtrooper. It's unimaginable. All of that is a part of our childhoods. It's a part of what makes us US.

The Indiana Jones movies-- with the exception of the fourth movie-- holds the same place in my heart. What is it like to not have seen those movies? I imagine it's on par with being molested-- you're simply a lesser person for it.

Getting back to me and my sister, she held off on the movies because she wanted the time to be right. It's a noble endeavor, but it comes from fear. That fear is always going to be there, though. Kids not liking Indiana Jones or Star Wars is on par with your children enjoying the speech of the National Socialist Party. It's awful to think about.

We finally watched it though and despite a few hiccups with popcorn and drinks and forts and imagined maladies and attention, we had a good time. It was fun to experience that movie for the first time again, if only tangentially. I haven't seen that movie in far too long and it was fun to go through it again with someone who had never seen it-- even if we had to answer retarded questions every five minutes.

The funniest thing and probably the most surprising thing was having to explain to these kids who the Nazis were.

Think about that. Have you ever lived a day in your life that you can remember where you didn't know what Nazis were? Where, when you thought about that side of things, you weren't bothered by it? How amazing, how strange must that be to not know about what the Nazis were and what they did. When my niece asked me who they were, I just told them that they were bad guys-- bullies-- and that they were German and left it at that. She took it well enough, but later on in the movie, she wanted to know-- serious, this time-- if they were actually real. There isn't anything too profound I'm trying to say with this, I mean, this kid can barely read, let's not run away with ourselves here, but it's just funny that something as important as World War II and the Nazis is a whole other frontier for them. It's as amazing as not ever having seen Indiana Jones, I guess.

When I got back home PBS was showing on their Classic Art Showcase The Red Balloon. I've never watched this movie (and I realize that makes me a poorer person, sorry). In the ten minutes of it that I watched I was pretty impressed. My first impression was that my niece and nephew need to watch this and this would be a cool experience for them to have, this weird, French short film. My second thought, which is a thought that has only occurred to me upon writing this is that maybe kids need to be imbued with the basic concepts of film grammar and film theory. Not Lacon and not Arnheim or Godard or Ebert or whoever, but basic films so that they understand it. That can't be that crazy, right?

I'm reminded of an anecdote I heard during my Latin American Film class, which was that there was this South American director who wanted to make films for and about South American Indians. In order to show them what film was-- after all, the concept of running water to these people was a river-- he showed them film around him and that he liked. They didn't get it. They had no exposure to that kind of story telling. They had no exposure to that medium, this flat, probably black and white, dreamscape that was cinema. And he realized that if he wanted to make a movie about these people, it would have to use the same grammar and ideologies that they had. I don't know if he ever succeeded, I assume he did if I had ever heard about him, but maybe the same is true for children. Kids are probably more sophisticated media-wise than Indio-Americans, but they're being fed nothing but junk. Milie Cyrus (which is a name I refuse to know how to spell), the Jonas Brothers, Nick Toons, and all of this other meaningless crap. I can't imagine that adds to their cultural point of view.

So, maybe the difficulty with showing them movies is that they don't speak the same language. It's this foreign thing. They're used to simple, easy to follow, meaningless pap. They aren't used to submarines and Nazis and black people. Maybe that's my job in this case. Showing movies to children is important, because it's as big a part of our culture as, I don't know, liberty and voting and freedom. Not to put to grand of a point on the end of this stick, but art is as big of a part of what makes Americans who we are as anything else-- Hell, it's as big of a part of what makes us HUMAN as anything else.

So there's that.