New York Times Essential Library: Children's Movies: A Critic's Guide to the Best Films Available on Video and DVD [NOOK Book]


An indispensable guide for parents from a leading expert on children's film

For years Peter M. Nichols has been offering vital advice and information for parents about current movies in his regular "Taking the Children" column. But parents need the same kind of guidance when renting or buying videos and DVDs for their family. They may know that movies such as Toy Story and Chicken Run are good choices for their children, but Nichols helps ...
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New York Times Essential Library: Children's Movies: A Critic's Guide to the Best Films Available on Video and DVD

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An indispensable guide for parents from a leading expert on children's film

For years Peter M. Nichols has been offering vital advice and information for parents about current movies in his regular "Taking the Children" column. But parents need the same kind of guidance when renting or buying videos and DVDs for their family. They may know that movies such as Toy Story and Chicken Run are good choices for their children, but Nichols helps parents go beyond the obvious choices to more unconventional movies like The African Queen and Some Like It Hot. From the classics of animation to a host of great comedies and dramas, Nichols provides a knowing and illuminating guide to one hundred great cinematic works.

Each brief original essay not only explains why the children will enjoy the film but also allows Nichols to offer timely bits of film history and to discuss certain films in a larger cultural context. Nichols's knowledge and understanding of films is broad and deep, and many of his choices-especially of films that we might not have thought of as "children's films"-will surprise and delight readers.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
As a veteran New York Times film and video critic and author of that paper's "Taking the Children" column since 1994, Nichols helps parents decide what films are most suitable for their children. For this work, "children's movie" is defined much more broadly than one might expect. Nichols selects 100 films that are entertaining and "generally suitable for children," but he also tries for some historical perspective. From The Gold Rush (1925) to Lilo & Stitch (2002), all of these films are excellent for at least adolescent and adult audiences, but whether films such as Emma (1996) and Rear Window (1954) will interest younger children is questionable. However, each three-page entry critiques the film in terms of its relevance for young audience members, and Nichols's arguments are basically sound. Another useful feature throughout notes the levels of violence, profanity, and other matters of concern to parents. If nothing else, Nichols brings to the table films that should receive continued attention by film lovers of all ages. Comparable to Jeffrey Lyons's 101 Great Movies for Kids, which also features intriguing choices for children; recommended for public libraries.-Anthony J. Adam, Prairie View A&M Univ., TX Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781429934732
  • Publisher: Holt, Henry & Company, Inc.
  • Publication date: 11/6/2003
  • Sold by: Macmillan
  • Format: eBook
  • Edition description: First Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 352
  • File size: 2 MB

Meet the Author

Peter M. Nichols has written about film and video for The New York Times since 1988, and for the column "Taking the Children" since 1994. He has also written and edited articles on the subject for numerous publications. He lives in New York.

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Read an Excerpt

New York Times Essential Library: Children's Movies
1. ABBOTT AND COSTELLO MEET FRANKENSTEINBud Abbott, Lou Costello, Bela Lugosi, Lon Chaney Jr., Glenn Strange, Lenore Aubert, Jane RandolphDIRECTED BY CHARLES T. BARTON 1948. 83 minutes. Black and white. No rating 
That title needs a little expanding upon. Chick (Bud Abbott) and Wilbur (Lou Costello) meet Frankenstein all right (more accurately, Frankenstein's monster), but their main challenge is Dracula, played to the hilt by that Dracula of movie Draculas, Bela Lugosi. Wolfman, portrayed by Lon Chaney Jr., is also a threat. Frankenstein's creation does put in an appearance, of course. Boris Karloff declined the role in this film (he was sick of it), but there is little falloff with Glenn Strange, a huge man and by all accounts one of the sweetest people ever to disappear under monster makeup.When the film opened in Australia, the three creatures proved so upsetting that they were cut out of it almost entirely--which must have left very little movie. Kids today will love them all, and that includes little kids, once they realize it's all a spoof. Abbott and Costello should please them, too, though some of their patter, honed over years of vaudeville and radio routines, could confuse them. Costello: "I work sixteen hours a day." Abbott: "A union man only works eight hours a day." Costello: "I belong to two unions." You have to be at least seven to follow that.In this scenario both Dracula and Frankenstein have been brought from Europe to the McDougal House of Horrors, run by the obnoxiously curt McDougal (rousingly played by Frank Ferguson, an extremely busy character actor who reportedly appeared in thirteen movies in 1948 alone). One day Wilbur, a McDougal shipping clerk, gets a call from a man named Talbot (Chaney) who warns them thatDracula and the monster are on the way and must be stopped. Talbot would stop them himself, but he turns into Wolfman when the full moon comes out, which in this flick is every night.It seems that Dracula wants the simplest of human brains (Wilbur's) to install in the monster. In true Abbott and Costello fashion, only Wilbur lays eyes on Dracula, the monster, and Wolfman. Chick, the straight man, always arrives seconds too late to see anything. The kids will be amused by the old pivoting dungeon wall trick with Wilbur spinning in and out of perils that Chick just misses.Wild chases ensue through some impressive sets at Universal. Prior to 1946 the studio was churning out a movie a week--Abbott and Costello comedies, Deanna Durbin musicals, Maria Montez exotica, horror movies, serials, shorts, cartoons--but later the studio decided to go highbrow with films like Hamlet, with Laurence Olivier, which won the Oscar in 1948. By then, though, Universal needed money and again turned to Bud and Lou.On the set Costello liked to spray seltzer, start food fights, and set fire to things. The production is said to have laid out $3,800 for pies to throw. In the view of some on the film crew, the real monsters were Abbott and Costello. The movie was directed by Charles T. Barton, a former vaudeville performer himself who made almost every kind of movie imaginable. His recollections of Costello, passed along on the DVD, are of a hotheaded tyrant. Abbott had epilepsy and a drinking problem that often incapacitated him by 4 P.M. Otherwise, they were pros who got the job done.Lugosi was already famous, but he had grave money problems and badly needed the work. On the set, the constant clowning irritated him, but he worked hard, seemed to enjoy himself, and lent good support and tutelage to the rest of a cast not accustomed to working with vampires. Chaney was renowned himself. His father, the silent star Lon Chaney, had played the hunchback of Notre Dame and the deformed creature in Phantom of the Opera, among many roles, but he died before he might have portrayed Dracula in Tod Browning's talkie in 1931. (The role went to Lugosi.)Chaney Jr. played about every name monster, including Frankenstein's and the Mummy, during a career that ran some 150 films. His drinking reportedly far exceeded Abbott's, though he always ralliedon the set. Being Wolfman was an ordeal, requiring staying stock-still during hours of time-lapse photography as the transformation from man to monster progressed. "I didn't relish putting glue all over his face when he was a little high," a makeup woman says on the disc.After the huge success of this movie in 1948, Bud and Lou went on to "meet" about everybody: the Killer (played by Karloff, who didn't object to appearing with the boys as long as it wasn't as Frankenstein), the Invisible Man, Captain Kidd, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, the Mummy, the Keystone Kops.In 1948 the monster horror tradition of Dracula and the like was about to give way to the atomic age and the giant bugs and aliens of the 1950s. Meet Frankenstein was described as a cross between American folklore and Transylvanian burlesque. Chaney said that good horror involves thought and feeling, and that Abbott and Costello ruined it by making it funny. Perhaps, but horror is no more immune to parody than anything else, and here a good, silly time dresses up in not a bad-looking production. 
Dracula and the rest are hardly threatening to even the very small ones. To make sure, brief them beforehand and while you're at it tell them where all this fits in the monster parade over the decades.Copyright © 2003 by The New York Times Company
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Table of Contents

1 Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948) 1
2 The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938) 3
3 The African Queen (1951) 6
4 Apollo 13 (1995) 10
5 Babe (1995) 13
6 Back to the Future (1985) 16
7 The Bad News Bears (1976) 20
8 The Bear (1988) 23
9 Beauty and the Beast (1991) 27
10 Beetlejuice (1988) 30
11 Big (1988) 33
12 The Black Stallion (1979) 36
13 Bound for Glory (1976) 40
14 Breaking Away (1979) 42
15 Bringing Up Baby (1938) 45
16 The Buddy Holly Story (1978) 48
17 Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969) 51
18 Casablanca (1942) 54
19 Cat Ballou (1965) 57
20 Chariots of Fire (1981) 59
21 Chicken Run (2000) 63
22 Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977) 66
23 The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951) 69
24 Dick Tracy (1990) 72
25 Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964) 75
26 Duck Soup (1933) 78
27 Edward Scissorhands (1990) 81
28 Emma (1996) 85
29 E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial (1982) 88
30 Fiddler on the Roof (1971) 91
31 Field of Dreams (1989) 93
32 Fly Away Home (1996) 96
33 Gandhi (1982) 99
34 Ghostbusters (1984) 102
35 The Gold Rush (1925) 105
36 The Great Escape (1963) 108
37 Great Expectations (1946) 112
38 Groundhog Day (1993) 115
39 A Hard Day's Night (1964) 118
40 Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (2001) 121
41 High Noon (1952) 124
42 The Iron Giant (1999) 127
43 It Happened One Night (1934) 130
44 James and the Giant Peach (1996) 134
45 Jurassic Park (1993) 137
46 The King and I (1956) 139
47 King Kong (1933) 142
48 Lawrence of Arabia (1962) 146
49 A League of Their Own (1992) 149
50 Lilo & Stitch (2002) 151
51 The Lion King (1994) 155
52 Little Fugitive (1953) 158
53 Little Man Tate (1991) 161
54 The Little Mermaid (1989) 164
55 A Little Princess (1995) 167
56 Little Women (1994) 170
57 The Longest Day (1962) 173
58 The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001) 176
59 Lost Horizon (1937) 179
60 The Magnificent Seven (1960) 182
61 Mary Poppins (1964) 185
62 Monsters, Inc. (2001) 188
63 Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939) 191
64 Mrs. Doubtfire (1993) 194
65 The Music Man (1962) 197
66 My Fair Lady (1964) 200
67 National Velvet (1944) 204
68 Never Cry Wolf (1983) 206
69 North by Northwest (1959) 210
70 Peter Pan (1953) 212
71 Pinocchio (1940) 215
72 The Princess Bride (1987) 218
73 Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981) 222
74 Rear Window (1954) 225
75 Rocky (1976) 228
76 The Rookie (2002) 231
77 The Secret Garden (1993) 234
78 The Secret of Roan Inish (1994) 238
79 Shane (1953) 241
80 Shrek (2001) 243
81 Singin' in the Rain (1952) 246
82 Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937) 249
83 Some Like It Hot (1959) 252
84 The Sound of Music (1965) 256
85 Spirited Away (2001) 259
86 Star Wars (1977) 262
87 Steamboat Bill, Jr. (1928) 265
88 Sullivan's Travels (1941) 269
89 Superman (1978) 272
90 Swiss Family Robinson (1960) 275
91 The Three Musketeers and The Four Musketeers (1974 and 1975) 278
92 To Kill a Mockingbird (1962) 281
93 Toy Story and Toy Story 2 (1995 and 1999) 284
94 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (1954) 287
95 Walkabout (1971) 290
96 West Side Story (1961) 293
97 Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988) 296
98 The Winslow Boy (1999) 299
99 The Wizard of Oz (1939) 302
100 Yellow Submarine (1968) 305
Another 100: More Movies Your Family Should View Together 309
Index 319
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