Movie Alternatives for Kids, Teens, Dads, and even Moms!
Compiled by film critic Phil Boatwright
The Moosehead on the Wall
There was a time when men wore spats, cars had fins, den walls were furnished with moose heads, and the movie studios were governed by a Motion Picture Code. Though most of us don’t miss spats, fins or stuffed animals peering from mountings on the wall, the demise of that production code may be a tragedy. To many members of the entertainment community, the Motion Picture Code was the equivalent of the archaic moose head on the wall, but without this code, there seems to be no self-governing among those who dominate the culture through media.
Between the 1930s and the mid-1960s, studios were regulated by the Motion Picture Code, which was established in order to protect the moral concepts society considered at the time to be the standard to live by. Violent acts had to be filmed in a way that would not jolt the viewer. Actors could not utter “God” or “Jesus” in a profane manner. And nudity and perversity were verboten. This frustrated many a filmmaker who felt it restricted their artistic integrity and prevented them from addressing serious issues. However, when closely examined, films from those periods dealt with the same issues moviemakers address today. The difference: the execution of the subject matter tended to be more profound when handled with discretion. In reality, the Code helped protect us from the dumbingdown or coarsing-up of our culture.
The Motion Picture Code is long gone, a distant memory to some movie buffs, while completely unheard of by two younger generations. Because of its demise, “modern” movie viewers have been so simmered in a stew of moral ambiguity that the innocence of past productions has become un-relatable. It’s not just the clothing, the verbal jargon or the B&W that alienates this generation from entertainment past; present-day moviegoers also have trouble connecting with the social sensibilities of those times. I’ve raised this question before; have we evolved into beings capable of processing any amount of abuse Hollywood puts before our eyes? Evidently, for there seems to be no excess Cineplex patrons are willing to walk out on. But is that what our Creator desires for us?
For years, I have included Video Alternatives (then DVD Alternatives) at the end of my film critiques in order to remind readers that there are films that contain the same theme or style as the new releases, but without the roughhewn or the profane. The trouble with presenting this added service is that one has to now search decades back in order to find films that avoid the excesses of obscene language, graphic sexuality, or intense violence. (Yes, there are exceptions; I’m speaking generally).
I had nearly given up trying to rally Generations X, Y and Twitter behind the cinema’s celluloid classics, believing the battle to be lost. But fate has stepped in. A recent discovery that a young teller at my bank has never seen Casablanca (a movie regarded by most film buffs to be the best of all time) has renewed my dedication to preserve pictures from the past. Perhaps a quote from another not-to-be-forgotten classic, Mr. Smith Goes To Washington, will explain my dedication to film preservation:
“I guess this is just another lost cause, Mr. Paine. All you people don’t know about lost causes. Mr. Paine does. He said once they were the only causes worth fighting for. And he fought for them once, for the only reason any man ever fights for them: because of just one plain, simple rule – love thy neighbor.” James Stewart as freshman senator Jefferson Smith.
Though today’s young people are bombarded by a glut of entertainment venues and an endless stream of movies with II, III, and IV behind their titles, there are motion pictures from every decade (including this one) that not only entertain, but enlighten and enrich. Like the motion picture’s sister art forms of sculpture and music, classic cinema shouldn’t be cast asunder. The most endearing films, like Bible parables, nourish the spirit as well as entertain, and I maintain that if the cinematic art form is to better the culture and the society, it needs to aim up, not just placate our baser instincts.
The moose head on the wall and other expressions of days gone by now seem antiquated, but movie art is timeless. Each generation of filmmakers has made movie moments that reflect both their outer surroundings and the changeless inner spirit of mankind. Below are a few samples of movies that should not be overlooked. They entertain, enrich or educate, and sometimes all three.