FATHER’S DAY SPECIAL:
THE MOVIES THAT SHAPED OUR CHILDHOOD
Having children and becoming a parent is such an exciting time in life. Not only do you get to pass on your wisdom to this tiny new human, but you get to share all your favourite things with them too. Your cherished music collection, well-thumbed books, your sports team and of course the movies that changed you!
In my previous blog I described my experience as an ambassador for the film education charity Into Film. Every week I indulge in the pleasure of sharing a great film with a bunch of children. Recently, Into Film published their list of 50 films to see before you are a grown up and I was proud to see that we have watched almost all of them. In this post, and to coincide with Father’s Day, I have asked a few male friends and colleagues in the film/TV industries to reveal their favourite childhood films and the films they can’t wait to pass on to their children.
The result is an inspired list of childhood gems from Hollywood to rural England. Here are the choices of an eclectic bunch of dads.
Twice Oscar-nominated Director of Photography Seamus McGarvey has a huge body of work to his name ranging from blockbusters like Godzilla and The Avengers to period drama like Atonement or more art house films such as We Need to Talk About Kevin. Not forgetting my daughter’s personal favourite: Charlotte’s Web!
I asked him which were the films that influenced his childhood and which ones he has passed on to his children:
“I love The Red Balloon and Fantastic Voyage but my top two films are The Spirit of the Beehive and Kes. Kes is my and my children’s touchstone. I love it because it doesn’t patronise the child. Apparently it is naturalistic but actually it isn’t, it artfully inhabits a child’s perspective, Ozu style, with an innocent, curious gaze. It is so honed and with perspective. I love the vividness of the photography and the time spent with the boy in wonder with the Kestrel.
It is the film every parent should show their child to wean them off the close focus blindness of an iPad and set their sight upward and forward to the natural world.”
Local dad Chris Addison is an actor who starred as Ollie in the hugely popular TV series The Thick Of It. He has now moved on to directing and has won two Emmy’s and a DGA Award for his work on the political satire Veep.
“Cor. What a good question. I guess the first one would have to be Disney’s CINDERELLA because that was the first film I ever saw in a cinema. My gran took us to see it when we visited her. Of course I’d seen cartoons on television and in those days every bank holiday the BBC would broadcast DISNEY TIME, a clip show filled with plenty of songs from the films, but seeing these drawings come to life up there on that huge, vision-filling screen was overwhelming. The colour, the vast movements, the larger-than-life, well, life — it was glorious, brain-boggling! That is the first time I discovered what cinema is really supposed to be.
The second would maybe be RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK. I went to see that at Urmston Cinema with my brother and our friends. I had no idea what it was going to be before the film came on; our friend Chris had told us there was a new movie by the guy who did Star Wars (and indeed Spielberg may have directed but George Lucas did produce so he was kind of right) and so we all went, excited to see another slice of space opera. The guy in the hat with the whip turning up in some South American cave was highly unexpected but we were gripped from the first. I don’t think I’d ever seen anything that was pure adventure before. Not at that pace on that scale. I remember that the things we were gabbling about as we left the picture house were the melting Nazis — of course — and the scene where Indy shoots the scimitar-wielding assassin. That joke was so bold and unexpected we re-enacted it in the playground for days.
And then there was the magnificent GREGORY’S GIRL. This remains in my top ten, all these years later. I could Karaoke along to it so well do I know it, in the style of Wade in READY PLAYER ONE. I’m not sure what about a geeky, awkward teenage boy with an unhealthy crush on a girl impossibly out of his league spoke to me exactly but it did. It combines all my favourite things: it’s a bittersweet movie about coming of age that enjoys making comedy out of the way people speak as well as allowing itself a tiny absurdist edge.
STRICTLY BALLROOM: My daughter adores Strictly Come Dancing and I wanted to show her and her less enthusiastic brother where the title came from. It may not be generally accepted to say that this, his earliest work, is Baz Luhrmann’s best movie but it’s a hill I’m prepared to die on. Another of my favourite genres: the slightly skewed RomCom. They loved it — the dancing and the stylised jokes. It was one of those days when you feel like a good parent.
THE RETURN OF THE PINK PANTHER: I’ve been helpless with laughter at Inspector Clouseau. I remember looking forward to these being shown on the telly, as they were semi-regularly in the 70s and 80s. But you know, it just didn’t do it for my kids. When you watch them now they seem so ve-e-e-ry slow and oddly clunky in their visual construction of jokes, at least for kids used to the Pixar-slick world of modern comedy. Still makes me laugh like a drain, though.
STAR WARS: Sorry to be so obvious. And I’m not calling it ‘A New Hope’, it’s Star Wars. Like all boys under 55 years of age I was very excited to share this with my kids but I include it here as an example of a film where you don’t get to decide when it’s introduced to your progeny. I’d always intended to show it to my son (he being the elder child) when he was seven. Then one day, when he was four, he came into the living room and announced in what passes in a pre-schooler for a stentorian voice, “I am Darth Vader!”
“Oh!” I said, “Hello, Darth Vader.”
“You are Luke Skywalker!”
“Yes, Darth Vader?”
“Would you like a cup of coffee?”
And it was at that point that I realised I was going to have to sit him down and let him see the relationship between those two characters for himself.
My friend Ed Clarke works in the film industry and has credits such as Locke, Salmon Fishing in the Yemen and Brighton Rock to his name. He also has a side-line as a children’s author — his first novel ‘Rowan Oakwing: a London Fairytale’ came out earlier this year and he is currently writing the sequel.
“With regards to childhood films it depends how young you mean — but the first film I really fell for was Return of the Jedi which for me was the gateway drug into the Star Wars trilogy. I loved Disney’s Robin Hood too, and would listen to the soundtrack endlessly on long road trips. And lastly: ‘Back to the Future’.
In terms of films I can’t wait to share — Spirit of the Beehive is a great shout for a father of two girls; Mary Poppins is a bit of a cheat, as it was the first film that really moved my eldest emotionally, but we haven’t shown it to the youngest yet so I’m looking forward to that! And lastly I think probably ET — which we haven’t shown either of them yet… “
Of course in these days of instant gratification it is extremely hard for us parents to wait until our children are old enough to appreciate our choices. And even if they are old enough the appeal may be lost on them: ‘How can you not like The Shawshank Redemption?’ We say incredulously, clutching the DVD to our chest. We certainly made the mistake of showing our daughter E.T. when she was only eight and were punished for it with many interrupted nights.
Special effects supervisor Dave Houghton is one of our oldest friends and earned a BAFTA for his work on Dr. Who. He takes no prisoners with his choices:
“The first films I remember going to see at the cinema with my dad that inspired me were the films of Kevin Connor starring the late great Doug McClure. Films like ‘The Land That Time Forgot’ and ‘At the Earth’s Core’. I also had a very unhealthy appetite for war films and westerns, like ‘Where Eagles Dare’ and ‘The Guns Of Navarone’. One of the first Westerns that really got to me was Paul Newman in ‘The Left Handed Gun’, I still remember the very disturbing ending when Newman character, Billy The Kid, is finally tracked down and killed by the law.
I would devour anything Science Fiction too, all the old 50’s and 60’s films such as It Came From Outer Space to Silent Running. The biggest single obsession with film was inspired by the obvious; ‘Star Wars’ which I saw when it came out, I was 8 at the time. I was an addict and watched any films on TV I could. The nature of TV has changed now, kids can pick their channels so they don’t necessarily get exposed to new films whereas we had only 3 channels and any repeated films were lapped up whatever they were about. My obsession grew from this to what it is now.
I have shown my children some of the above mentioned films: Star Wars and The Land That Time Forgot, Where Eagles Dare, A Shot in the Dark and Return of the Pink Panther. My girls are fairly disinterested in the sci-fi but my youngest son loves them. They all loved Calamity Jane. They really seem to like old musicals above and beyond all the other old films.”
Mark Solomon is a celebrated film editor who now runs his own company: Northern Creative Studio. His credits include some of my all time favourite films: Frankenweenie, Chicken Run, Shark Tale, Space Jam and many more. His daughter is older now but he recollects his choices for me:
“The early film I was keen to pass on to our daughter was Mary Poppins, that afternoon tea with the penguins is still a happy place for me. My Neighbour Totoro holds a special place in my heart that I wanted to share with her. Later, it was Seven Samurai and The Bicycle Thief for their humanism and deep feeling. Somehow the girl turned out OK!”
I’d love to hear which films inspired you in significant ways and which ones you would like to pass on to the next generation. You can add your suggestions below or post them on our Facebook/Twitter: @BromleyFilmClub.
And if you want to share a special film with your child why not come to our free film festival at Beckenham Place Mansion on the 2nd of September 2017. The Bromley Family Film Club is organising a one-day film festival celebrating the magic of cinema catering for the whole family. We will be screening at least one of the films mentioned above, namely The Red Balloon, but there will be plenty to enjoy for everyone including short films from around the world, archive footage of what childhood looked like in our Borough, animation workshops and culminating in an outdoor bicycle powered film screening! Visit our website for more information or email: email@example.com #FilmsBetterShared
Saskia van Roomen Follow
Film Club leader at the Bromley Family Film Club. Follow me on Facebook and Twitter @BromleyFilmClub