Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Underrated Movies: Special Guest Picks #2

Here’s a second helping of our new weekly feature, Special Guest Picks. Today’s guest is Monica Edinger. She picked two movies I'm a fan of (though not equally), and two movies I’ve never even heard of, but they look fascinating:

The Young Visiters (2003)
Director: David Yates
Writer: Patrick Barlow
Stars: Jim Broadbent, Hugh Laurie, Lyndsey Marshal, Bill Nighy

This is the film adaptation of Daisy Ashford's 1919 novella, supposedly written when she was nine years old. The original is great fun and available in various online locations. (From what I know this wikipedia entry seems quite sound.) The film captures the flavor of the quirky original text perfectly, occasionally taking us a little further into the trials of our poor main character, Alf Salteena as played to perfection by Jim Broadbent.

A Series of Unfortunate Events (2004)
Director: Brad Silberling
Writer: Robert Gordon
Stars: Jim Carrey, Meryl Streep, Liam Aiken, Emily Browning, Timothy Spall

May I just say that I am a proud Lemony Snicket fan and eagerly await his forthcoming new series (in which I do hope he will update us on the Baudelaires). This film does justice to the odd story, the language, the nutty bad folk (say Count Olaf as played by Jim Carrey), the three siblings, and more. Many well-known adult actors make witty appearances. And the end-credits are amazing.

Dreamchild (1985)
Director: Gavin Millar
Writer: Dennis Potter
Stars: Coral Browne, Ian Holm, Peter Gallagher

Yeah, I'm an Alice in Wonderland gal, a rather serious fan and collector of all things Alice. This film by Dennis Potter is moving, beautiful, and provoking. Potter took the true story of the real Alice Liddell (on which Carroll based his tale) traveling to New York as an old woman to celebrate Carroll's centenary. She has flashbacks to her childhood in Oxford with Carroll, dreams from the book itself (Jim Henson was involved with these), and various experiences in New York. One of my all-time favorite Alice movies.

The Gold Rush (1925)
Director, Writer, Star: Charlie Chaplin

I'm sure some would be surprised to see this on an underrated list, but how many young people today have seen this movie? Black and white not to mention silent? I suspect that these days Charlie Chaplin is more a vague name, that little guy with a cane and mustache. How many kids, I have to wonder, actually have seen one of his movies? I start showing his shorts to my fourth grade students at the start of the school year, first giving them some background on his fame and the making of movies one hundred years ago. We work our way up to this one, arguably his best feature film.

Monica Edinger fits right in with our theme week, since her next book is about a child on the Amistad. Monica writes the always insightful blog Educating Alice, where she writes about books, movies, and whatever else is on her mind. She also reviews books for the New York Times and teaches 4th grade (and there's a blog for them, too).


Monica Edinger said...

Thanks, Matt. This was great fun to do. And, if you would like to view Dreamchild I would be happy to lend you my VHS copy. I'd love to know what you think.

kittens not kids said...

I LOVE the Snicket movie. It's one of my main examples of an adaptation that is quite different from its source text in terms of plot, but that manages to almost perfectly capture the mood and spirit of the books.

(And I'm ecstatic to know that Snicket's at work on a new series. I loved the Unfortunate Events, and I'm ready for more).

Matt Phelan said...

Dreamchild is a GREAT movie. My VHS copy went missing years ago. It looks like Amazon sells it as an on-demand DVD.(?)

Ian Holm!

Sara O'Leary said...

And how about Ian Holm as Pod in the BBC Borrowers films?

I've never seen that Young Visitors but will go looking for it now ... great cast!

Eric Carpenter said...

Re: Chaplin

I've found my students much enjoy (or at least laugh louder) watching Keaton rather than Chaplin, especially the underwater segments of The Navigator and the boulders rolling down the hill segment of Seven Chances. I know this debate played out ad nauseum in the 70s but i don't think it was done with kids in mind. I'm thinking about digging up some of my old Harry Langdon videos and testing out his genius with my current class.

FYI Sid Fleischman's Chaplin biography comes out at the end of April from Harper.

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The 2004 Lemony Snicket movie is one of the most gorgeous kids movies I’ve ever seen. That almost morphs into something else, because it is not cynical towards its audience like most kids movies are. Emmanuel Lubiski’s cinematography & the set/production design are perfect