Now that I've more or less recovered from the odd, sleepless zigzag experience that is two weeks in Cannes, I'm taking a vacation this week. The column will be back in business on Monday, June 9.
It's an extremely busy week at the movies, predictably enough. I'll have a post later in the week that at least lists all the films opening this week, but no new reviews, interviews or news reports until Monday. I'll be spending the next several days with my family in various outdoor-related beauty spots of the Northeast. I'll be less concerned with Palme d'Or winners than with the incursions of the dreaded forest tent caterpillar (which seem especially dire this year). I suspect the only movies I'll be watching will be "Dumbo," "The Red Balloon," a nature video called "Animals Among Us" and probably "Dumbo" again. That's where you come in.
With summer upon us, I want to accumulate an absolutely killer list of DVDs for grown-ups and kids (say, ages 4 to 12) to watch together when the beach day gets rained out, or just before bed, or just for the hell of it. What I'm mainly looking for are non-obvious, non-recent and non-computer-animated choices; classics that our generation has partly forgotten, or odder, older stuff that might broaden the kids' horizons a little and intrigue even the snobbish, film-buff adults in the audience. Obviously it's got to be entertaining to a broad viewing spectrum, or no dice. Perhaps you believe that small children should watch "Sansho the Bailiff" or "The Marriage of Maria Braun," and I won't argue the point. (I myself was 9 when I saw Hiroshi Inagaki's three-hour samurai classic "Chushingura.") But few and far between are the kids who will follow you down that lonely path.
I'm not on some anti-Disney campaign, by the way. I've got nothing against "Cars" or "Finding Nemo" (my 4-year-old son is a passionate admirer of Lightning McQueen) and at least a few older Disney films will definitely make the list. But we all know about the recent big-budget animated films, and I will speak for every parent in America and declare that we yearn for something more.
I've already got a decent list of classics and obscure surprises stored up. I've been hoarding DVDs and tapes collected from publicists, the public library and eBay. I've been interviewing friends, e-mailing parent lists, and grilling my kids about what they like, what's too boring and what's too scary. (Both my son and daughter can now deliver concise capsule reviews, although they share the tendency of many adult critics to focus on peculiar technical details.) But the missing ingredient is you. Do your nieces, nephews, sons, daughters or neighbors' offspring love to watch something offbeat, something that's not yet been swallowed by the voracious collective maw of parent-centric consumer culture? It's time to let the world know.
Respond in the letters section below, or just drop me a line if you prefer. Naturally, I'll be sharing the results of all this research in an upcoming column. But right now I've got to go. It's time to scrape caterpillars off the screen door and watch Dumbo's mommy give him a bath with her trunk. Again.