Tony Paley’s Five More Films for the Family

‘Like George Foreman channelling Clark Gable’: Rex Ingram as the Djinni in The Thief of Bagdad (Powell, Berger & Whelan, 1940)
‘Like George Foreman channelling Clark Gable’: Rex Ingram as the Djinni in The Thief of Bagdad (Powell, Berger & Whelan, 1940)

Keeping up the ones to watch with the kids theme, this week we have Guardian film blogger (and racing editor), Tony Paley, back with an eclectic bunch of cinematic gems both old and new, to enjoy with the family. Fantasy, sport and screwball – he’s got the bases covered. Take it away Mr Paley…

All of the films I’ve included in the list I’ve seen at the cinema at one time or other. I’ve seen two of the five with my family at home but I would urge anyone getting their children interested in the medium of film to take them to the cinema if at all possible. There’s a qualitative difference to the experience. And children can’t go on their phones, let their mind wander to the same degree or walk out.

The Thief of Bagdad  (Powell, Berger, Whelan, 1940)

I took my eldest to see this wondrous fantasy at the Barbican about a decade ago (he’s 18 now) and introduced his 12-year-old brother to it (at home) last year. The latter told me last week this was now his favourite film of ALL-TIME!

The special effects are clunky, the acting from a bygone age but it has a vibrancy and a genuinely scary edge to it that modern films could learn a lot from. I plan to take the 12-year-old to see it at the cinema the next time it turns up as that is where ideally I want us to see movies – whether he will watch the famous spider sequence is another matter. He hasn’t so far!

The King and the Mockingbird (Grimault, 1980)

The joys of just taking a chance on a film are highlighted by this discovery. This French animation classic was being shown on re-release at the Rio Cinema in Hackney. It was a miserable holiday week and so I thought I would take a chance. Neither of us went expecting much but discovered a proper classic of the genre. Big characters, surreal imagery and life lessons galore. We discussed it for days.

Big Hero 6 (Hall, Williams, 2014)

We also caught this one at The Rio, a cinema which crops up again and again in my life and my movie-going with the family. It’s the local independent cinema where the programming and the atmosphere combine perfectly to induce repeated visits.

This film got some lukewarm reviews. I can’t help think that those critics are stone-hearted as this was one of those movies that truly moved me and my youngest. Reader, I got something in my eye. We sit down and watch it every time it appears on the telly now.

What’s Up Doc? (Bogdanovich, 1972)

I went to see this film twice in one week on release and so sat down with some trepidation to watch it with the family, as this is a movie I love so much that it would have hit me hard had it been rejected.

I needn’t have worried. Essentially, it’s a modern screwball comedy with a silly plot. Barbara Streisand and Ryan O’Neal as the leads might not seem all that appealing on paper but the supporting characters are richly drawn and the various gags mapped out with love for the medium and precision timing. There’s great fun here for movie buffs too, spotting all the references. Plus it has the great Kenneth Mars and the unforgettable Madeline Khan as “THE Eunice Burns”.

Downhill Racer (Ritchie, 1969)

My boys are sports fanatics and this was voted No1 sports film of all-time by the Time Out Film staff. Roger Ebert called it “the best movie ever made about sports—without really being about sports at all.”

I wanted my boys to see it because it contains some of the most exciting shots of any sport in any film but it’s largely about the costs involved with an obsession with sport and the price of success. It’s also bloody gripping, has Robert Redford at the peak of his powers and one of the best film posters of any I know. I saw it at the ABC in Preston back in the day and it’s a film that demands to be seen on the big screen. I can’t wait to see it there again one day.

And that’s Tony Paley’s latest five. Thanks mate. The next instalment in our five to watch with the family series comes from ‘the UK’s foremost guitar-wielding, loop-layering stand-up comedian’ and film blogger, Mr Rob Deering. Watch this space.

(Stuck for something to watch this evening in London? Visit Tony Paley’s blog Capital Celluloid for an up-to-date guide to all the latest, juiciest film screenings in the city.)

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