Friday, November 29, 2013

Movies for Tweens and Young Teens

When I get together with other mums of tween and young teen girls we sometimes talk about finding movies that are suitable for their age. My kids aren't ready for M rated movies, with some few exceptions. I check out which movies are suitable on imdb website. The parental advisory. section provides details of what happens in the film regarding language, violence, drugs and alcohol and sexual references. I've made a list. These are the films my kids enjoy.

My Family and Other Animals
Some Like it Hot
Singin’ in the Rain
Calamity Jane
Gone With the Wind
All About Eve
National Velvet
Red Dog
Ballet Shoes
Anne of Green Gables
Ramona and Beezus
Little Women
The Parent Trap (1961)
Double Indemnity
Mary Poppins
It's a Wonderful Life 
Marx Bros movies

These are the films I think I'm ready to show them. Some are suitable for younger viewers, and I'd just forgotten about them. I remember watching some of these with my family, presented by Bill Collins.

It Happened One Night
Holiday Inn
To Kill a Mockingbird
A Star is Born (1954)
Adam’s Rib
Woman of the Year
Pat and Mike
Bringing Up Baby
Arsenic and Old Lace
Blossoms in the Dust
Mrs Miniver
The Third Man
The 39 Steps
The Miracle Worker
Sabrina (1954)
West Side Story
Viva Las Vegas
Funny Girl
2001: A Space Odyssey
Girls Just Want to Have Fun
Running on Empty
Life is Beautiful
Bend it Like Beckham
The Man From Snowy River
My Brilliant Career
Picnic at Hanging Rock
The Sting
The Truman Show
Norma Rae
The Secret of Roan Inish
A League of Their Own
Stranger Than Fiction
Indiana Jones
Made in Dagenham
The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas
Moonrise Kingdom
The Help
Now You See It
War Horse
Akeelah and the Bee

If you are looking for ideas you can search by genre and age on the Common Sense Media and Mighty Girl sites.

I have another list of films with more serious or intense themes or scenes that will have to wait until we are all a bit older...

What films do you recommend for tweens and young teens?

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Personal essays and short stories

File this one under ‘thinking in public’ because I’m not sure what my point is here. Feel free to jump in anytime. Together we might find one.

Personal essays are easy to write. Sure, there’s some crafting, but there’s no research and not much imagination. There could be research and imagination. But they aren’t compulsory. I reckon a lot of blog posts, especially blog posts that get republished in online magazines, are personal essays. They are read in one sitting. We read them sitting at the computer while checking social media and reading the newspaper. They are usually about real life situations we can relate to. 
I have more admiration for writers who turn incidents from their own lives into fiction than I do for ones who just write about themselves. How much of yourself do you sell? I felt a bit queasy watching the Salinger documentary recently. I always admired him for not being a celebrity, for being a writer who guarded his privacy, and used his life in his fiction. It doesn’t really matter to me how he used his life in his fiction.

Alice Monro has recently won the Nobel Prize for literature. She is a writer and a mother whose form is the short story. This seems to be a good form for writers who are mothers. Sustainable. Doable. But only for the very clever.

There are lots of classic short stories available online. I read lots of personal essays online, but not short stories.

I’ve realised that there are short stories I've read that have stayed with me for years - The Lottery by Shirley Jackson, For Esme, With Love and Squalor, by Salinger, Poe's The Telltale Heart.

Whilst in my doctor’s waiting room I picked up a book called ‘But I saw the movie’ which is a collection of short stories that films have been based upon. It was published in 1989, so doesn’t include Brokeback Mountain, but it does include the stories that inspired Psycho, Rear Window, 2001 A Space Odyssey, It Happened One Night, All About Eve, The Fly, Blow-Up, Guys and Dolls and It’s a Wonderful Life. You just don’t see collections like this anymore.

There isn’t as big an audience for short stories as there used to be. When I was on prac, teaching a Year 10 English class at a boys school, I encouraged them to read short stories. Short stories are well crafted. For readers, they give a lot of bang for their time investment. They are often memorable.

There aren’t so many avenues for publication for short stories as there used to be. People don’t read short stories online. But there are lots available. For free. Why don’t I read short stories online? When I read short stories, I’m exposed to great writing, memorable stories, and get to read great writers. It’s a quick fix - I can say I’ve read great writer X without having to read a novel. It’s exposure. And I’m not just wanting that because I’m a snob, but because I’m planning to teach English, and need that exposure. I can’t say I particularly remember reading people’s blog posts or personal essays. I don’t expect everyone to be David Sedaris, and they’re not, even though lots of people are trying to be.

Lena Dunham is taking two bites at the cherry. She wrote the show she appears in, Girls, playing a main character who writes personal essays. This is satirised in the show. Writing only about one’s self is mocked. Since her success with Girls Lena Dunham has been given a $3.5 million advance for the publication of her personal essays.

I’m a bit cynical about Lena Dunham. But at the same time I’m telling my children to create their own work. Write songs and stories, paint pictures, and sell them. Make your own work. Good on Lena Dunham. Well done. But if the personal essays are about writing and starring in Girls, I’ll be a bit cross.

For Christmas I’ve bought myself the short stories and writings about family by Shirley Jackson. When you bump into me, ask me if I’ve read any short stories lately. I hope to answer ‘yes’. I might even share links on FB. 

Do you read short stories online?  

What are your favourite short stories?