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The Kids Stay in the Picture: E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, by Aaron Pinkston

27 Apr

filmz.ru

Though comedian W.C. Fields famously said “Never work with animals or children,” the cinema is full of wonderful stories told through the eyes of the young. Films with child protagonists span every genre, generation, and film movement. “The Kids Stay in the Picture” surveys this interesting subgenre, following the School of the Art Institute and Gene Siskel Film Center film series “The Child in Cinema.” The series will cover the many historical and social contexts around why films centered on children are so integral to the landscape of world cinema.

One of the most important mainstream Hollywood filmmakers since the refocus towards directors as the artistic leaders of film production in the 1970s, Steven Spielberg has built his legacy on films with child protagonists. Aside from his most family friendly fare (E.T. certainly included there), films like Jaws, Empire of the Sun, Jurassic Park, A.I. Artificial Intelligence, and War of the Worlds have serious themes and genre elements while featuring and sometimes centering on child characters. A deeper dive into his work as a producer of Poltergeist, The Goonies, Back to the Future, the Transformers series, True Grit, and Real Steel further showcases his interest in the stories of kids and teens. Considering all of these films, Spielberg has become synonymous with themes of suburban families, unconventional parent-child relationships, and larger-than-life adventure. His 1982 film E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial is one of his most beloved and sentimental. The story of an awkward, lonely child and his relationship with an alien left behind on earth is a perfect encapsulation of Spielberg’s narrative style and themes.

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The Kids Stay in the Picture: Paper Moon, by Aaron Pinkston

25 Apr

papermoon

Though comedian W.C. Fields famously said “Never work with animals or children,” the cinema is full of wonderful stories told through the eyes of the young. Films with child protagonists span every genre, generation, and film movement. “The Kids Stay in the Picture” surveys this interesting subgenre, following the School of the Art Institute and Gene Siskel Film Center film series “The Child in Cinema.” The series will cover the many historical and social contexts around why films centered on children are so integral to the landscape of world cinema.

Peter Bogdanovich’s Paper Moon sits in a particular middle-ground of relevance, neither an obvious staple of the New Hollywood movement of the 1970s nor a buried treasure, one which somehow passed me by over the years. Given this, I was particularly interested in seeing it during this series. Bogdanovich is a key, if overlooked, member of the director-driven era, and Paper Moon is a fantastic showcase as a blend of 1970s sensibilities and 1930s nostalgia. And, as a film with a child protagonist, it’s tough to find a cooler child character or better performance.

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The Kids Stay in the Picture: The Cool World, by Aaron Pinkston

6 Apr

coolworld

Though comedian W.C. Fields famously said “Never work with animals or children,” the cinema is full of wonderful stories told through the eyes of the young. Films with child protagonists span every genre, generation, and film movement. “The Kids Stay in the Picture” surveys this interesting subgenre, following the School of the Art Institute and Gene Siskel Film Center film series “The Child in Cinema.” The series will cover the many historical and social contexts around why films centered on children are so integral to the landscape of world cinema.

Most likely the least seen film of this series, The Cool World is a unique film. Directed by undersung filmmaker Shirley Clarke (Portrait of Jason) and produced by legendary documentarian Frederick Wiseman, The Cool World is a Harlem-set coming-of-age story from the Film-Makers’ Cooperative (also known as the New American Cinema Group), a new generation of loosely-connected New York filmmakers who worked with tiny budgets and made films utilized both avant-garde and realist styles. Aside from Clarke, the major members in the 1960s were Jonas Mekas, John Cassavetes, Albert Maysles, D.A. Pennebaker, and Stan Brakhage, all filmmakers known for making films with documentary influences, regardless of whether or not they could strictly be called documentaries. Based on nine original principles including film production and distribution, the Film-Makers’ Cooperative sought to fight a Hollywood machine they found “morally corrupt, esthetically obsolete, thematically superficial, temperamentally boring.”[1] The Cool World comes directly out of this criteria – a brash, energetic, political film about an African-American teenage experience.

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The Kids Stay in the Picture: Ivan’s Childhood, by Aaron Pinkston

30 Mar

Ivan

Though comedian W.C. Fields famously said “Never work with animals or children,” the cinema is full of wonderful stories told through the eyes of the young. Films with child protagonists span every genre, generation, and film movement. “The Kids Stay in the Picture” surveys this interesting subgenre, following the School of the Art Institute and Gene Siskel Film Center film series “The Child in Cinema.” The series will cover the many historical and social contexts around why films centered on children are so integral to the landscape of world cinema.

Like all of the great Andrei Tarkovsky’s work, Ivan’s Childhood is a complex work that is difficult to confidently grasp, especially when viewed at the end of a long day of work. I don’t know if I could even recite much of a detailed plot—about 24 hours after watching the film, much of it feels like a dream (which may be by design). Based on a short story, the film takes place during World War II, where an orphaned boy briefly lives and works with a group of soldiers on a dangerous scouting mission. Like much of Tarkovsky’s work, the film is filled with narrative flourishes of dreams and flashbacks, here mostly shown to contrast Ivan’s life before and during the war.

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The Kids Stay in the Picture: The 400 Blows, by Aaron Pinkston

23 Mar

400-blows-1

Though comedian W.C. Fields famously said, “Never work with animals or children,” the cinema is full of wonderful stories told through the eyes of the young. Films with child protagonists span every genre, generation, and film movement. “The Kids Stay in the Picture” surveys this interesting subgenre, following the School of the Art Institute and Gene Siskel Film Center film series “The Child in Cinema.” The series will cover the many historical and social contexts around why films centered on children are so integral to the landscape of world cinema.

This series is going in chronological order but any discussion about the child in cinema can begin and end with François Truffaut’s The 400 Blows. Maybe I should hold my opinion until seeing all of the films in the series, but to me, The 400 Blows best expresses the experience of being a child through the medium. The film is the first in a series of five starring French New Wave star Jean-Pierre Léaud as Antoine Doinel—watching a child grow up before our eyes decades before Boyhood. In The 400 Blows, Antoine is a troubled adolescent, twelve or so years old, who is bogged down by family and school. He’s a dreamer, most interested in Bazin and the cinema. Writer Patrick E. White sees Antoine in transition from child to artist, with his mischievous behavior (eavesdropping on adults’ conversations, constant lying) and difficult family life feeding into this.[1] Eventually, after his childhood mischievousness escalates into more serious transgressions, Antoine is sent away to an observation school, leading to the film’s ultimate escape and famous final sequence.

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The Kids Stay in the Picture: Bicycle Thieves, by Aaron Pinkston

17 Mar

bicycle_thieves

Though comedian W.C. Fields famously said “Never work with animals or children,” the cinema is full of wonderful stories told through the eyes of the young. Films with child protagonists span every genre, generation, and film movement. “The Kids Stay in the Picture” surveys this interesting subgenre, following the School of the Art Institute and Gene Siskel Film Center film series “The Child in Cinema.” The series will cover the many historical and social contexts around why films centered on children are so integral to the landscape of world cinema.

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The Kids Stay in the Picture: Little Miss Marker, by Aaron Pinkston

9 Mar

Little-Miss-Marker

Though comedian W.C. Fields famously said “Never work with animals or children,” the cinema is full of wonderful stories told through the eyes of the young. Films with child protagonists span every genre, generation, and film movement. “The Kids Stay in the Picture” surveys this interesting subgenre, following the School of the Art Institute and Gene Siskel Film Center film series “The Child in Cinema.” The series will cover the many historical and social contexts around why films centered on children are so integral to the landscape of world cinema.

Shirley Temple might be the most recognizable child star in Hollywood’s history, but unlike Jackie Coogan, she doesn’t really have an identified classic film role. Whereas The Kid is regarded as one of the great silent comedies, directed by one of Hollywood’s greatest filmmakers, Temple isn’t connected to any particular film. Saying it another way, none of her films are particularly notable for any reason other than being a Shirley Temple vehicle. An exception may be Fort Apache (1948), though that is a relatively minor work from director John Ford, and Temple was 20 when it was released. Heidi (1937) is her most recognizable role, but that’s not a film or franchise that has had much cultural cache, other than the infamous “Heidi Game” [1] (and that wasn’t even the Temple version). This is really a peculiar and remarkable feat—I can’t think of any other major film star who isn’t tied to at least one all-time sort of film. Because of this, I wonder if she’ll continue to sustain her cultural impact for future generations of film fans.

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The Kids Stay in the Picture: Choo-Choo! and The Kid, by Aaron Pinkston

2 Mar

choo-choo___icon1_

Though comedian W.C. Fields famously said “Never work with animals or children,” the cinema is full of wonderful stories told through the eyes of the young. Films with child protagonists span every genre, generation, and film movement. Furthermore, many of cinema’s most integral films deal with children – would the French New Wave have been the same with The 400 Blows, Italian Neo-Realism without Bicycle Thieves, J-horror without Ringu, and so on? In the upcoming weeks, I will survey this interesting subgenre, following the School of the Art Institute and Gene Siskel Film Center film series, “The Child in Cinema.” Over the course of this series, I will (hopefully) cover the many historical and social contexts around why films centered on children have been so integral. This journey starts with The Kid, one of Chaplin’s most complete films featuring one of the first legitimate child stars, and a short film from the “Our Gang” series – two films working in a similar space but with very different sensibilities.

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