Blog Classic: Wednesday Movie Conversations

Movies are the twentieth century’s contribution to the field of literature. As important as a good education in reading is, film gives us another way to experience the elements of plot and story that make us more human. I’m passionate about bringing education into the 21st century. One way to do that is to value film.

I was asked years ago how our family talks about movies and wrote the following blog entry to answer that question. Hope it helps you too!

When we sit down as a family to watch a movie, a few comments immediately precede pushing the play button.

There’s the usual:

“Scoot over, I want the corner with the pillow,”

and the ever present

“Hey I was holding the ‘click’ first!” (click=remote control).

But once we’ve settled seating disputes and have conferred the privilege of the “click” on the most deserving, we hit the play button and watch the movie du jour.

Movies are great for unpacking plot, theme, characterization, and setting—all in a short two hours! The following tips drawn from our years of family-movie-time may help you expand the value of your movie-viewing experience. Hope so, anyway!

First and foremost: Enjoy watching the film! Pop some corn, cuddle some blankets, and enjoy a true break from the usual routine. The value of movie-viewing will occur naturally, over time, if you enjoy the experience (rather than turning it into some kind of “school-plan” or “lesson”).

Once you have resolved to enjoy the film experience, you can enhance the take-away value by asking good questions.

What do you think is going to happen next?

Wasn’t (actress’ name) in…..? I like her better in this. What about you? I like her here because…. I didn’t like her in that because….

Stop the movie.

Let’s guess how the story is going to end. (Everyone suggests possible endings including our favorite funny one: the helicopter comes and rescues, assaults, crashes or defends… whomever we want to save or vilify.)

Why does it make sense that the story could end that way? (Some kids will cite other movies with similar story lines, will identify the movie as comedy or tragedy, will guess based on “foreshadowed” events in the story.)

You can point out those foreshadowing moments (if you recognize them) to help your kids notice them on their own in other movies. Usually foreshadowing in a movie is conveyed by lines of dialog or the mood created by the style of filming or the inclusion of a specific event that anticipates a fulfillment later in the plot. Musical score can also foreshadow.

Identify the climax. See if you can recognize the moment on which the resolution of the story hinges. That’s the climax. In most movies, it comes towards the end and it’s the point of no return. After the climax, either the boy gets the girl or he doesn’t, Dorothy is either going home or will be stuck in Oz forever. One way to help your children recognize the climax is to ask the following question:

What do we hope will happen by the end of the story? Did it? When did it happen (or not)?

The climax is the moment where everything comes together and we are left with a verdict about whether or not all that effort has been worth it.

How does the setting help you know what kind of movie this is? The setting will establish a context: like fantasy or realism, comedy or tragedy, romance or epic battle. Talk about how the film maker uses the setting to heighten suspense or to create a feeling a safety. You’ll look at lighting, the close ups of the face or the big panoramic vision of the landscape and then ask yourself how these contribute to the overall mood of the plot.

And finally, the best question to end a movie viewing time is: What do you want to see next?

3 Responses to “Blog Classic: Wednesday Movie Conversations”

  1. Christine says:

    Thanks so much for this, Julie! This is really helpful…and I am inspired to do more of this with my guys!

    Thank you for bringing language arts back down to earth!

  2. Kika says:

    Some kids do this more naturally than others. My son loves to dissect movies after the fact (he can go on and on) and has high standards while my second child and myself really just watch for entertainment and aren’t too upset by plot holes… or whatever. It is fun to listen to him, though, because I see his passion and believe he will end up working in the arts/media in some manner.

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