‘I Declare War’, the latest action picture from Drafthouse Films, is likely to please fans of the genre. In what way? Characters in the film are all 12-year-olds. On August 30th, Jason Lapeyre and Robert Wilson are releasing their new film in cinemas (it’s also available on iTunes and VOD). We asked them to share their favorite movies starring kids that don’t pander to young viewers. These are their top ten picks:
There are children’s movies and children’s movies. Because movies aimed at a younger audience tend to be patronizing, we tend to prefer the latter. Perhaps they are even guilty of misreading their audience, assuming kids are nave and uninformed. If you’re looking for a simple way to make a joke about being kicked in the groin or farting, this is it. Children aren’t stupid, at least not in our experience; they simply think in a different way than adults.
We wanted to write a story about how we felt when we were 12 or 13 years old and capture that difference in thinking before we become too jaded and cynical to appreciate it. A moment when life-threatening intensity and permanence collide with social acceptance of unimaginable emotional violence is a reality in our time. Because he used to play war, Jason came up with the idea for the story. For this film, Rob played war in the same woods he used to play in as an infant. It was straightforward for me to get a handle on the content.
To avoid patronizing the characters based on their age was one of the most important decisions we made. When it came to choose a movie for our 13-year-olds, we wanted something that was a little more relatable to what they were going through at the time (or, at the very least, how we remembered it). For some reason, there are fewer and fewer films that suit the bill these days.
Here is a selection of movies that portray young people in a realistic way, with all of their joys and sorrows.
1. Paper Moon
Is it because people assume that young actors’ performances are always bad? “Paper Moon” asks. A certain number of Oscars must be won by people under the age of twelve before the public’s perception of them changes. In this Peter Bogdonavich masterpiece, Tatum O’Neal earned hers at the tender age of ten.
2. The Witches
Seeing Nicolas Roeg’s name on a children’s film tells you there’s more going on than a standard family movie. When you’re a kid, everything is new and frightening, and practically every adult you encounter is a potential danger.
3. Bad News Bears (2005)
Richard Linklater sure knows how to work with children in this sequel to “School Of Rock.” I think we need more films where youngsters swear. They’ve mastered the art. Celebrations are warranted. It’s unfortunate that everyone in the world is so stupid, because this picture was slammed when it came out.
4. Small Change
Truffault is the undisputed king of the genre of films centered on children. Even towards the conclusion of his career he could always be relied upon for a sympathetic celebration and lamentation of all that makes childhood both precious and awful. He never forgot what it was like.”
The power of a child’s imagination is shown in this film: Anna, an 11-year-old girl, drew a house in crayon one day and woke up the next morning inside it. Upon bringing her father inside the house, she gives him an angry expression, which transforms her nightmare into one in which she is being hunted by an enormous version of her father. When you were a kid, you were terrified of your own imagination.
6. E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial
What if I told you? You can’t leave it off the list. Because it’s such a historic site, it’s not the only reason. What stood out to me when I re-watched the film was the representation of Elliot’s family in an honest and difficult light. They’ve had their share of heartbreaks, disappointments, and sacrifices in their partnership. But even though it’s quite scary, there’s no nagging feeling that they might wind up in an episode of “Jerry Springer.” It’s the kind of person that will do anything for their family, no matter the cost, because that’s just the way it is. As a reminder, both the extraterrestrial and the government stormtroopers have a decent amount of dignity. A story with no overtly black and white adversary but still enough conflict to keep things interesting!
7. Pan’s Labyrinth
For the most part, beauty is a fleeting phenomenon yet ugly can be breathtakingly beautiful. At the very least, things might go awry for everyone involved… Regardless, it’s yours. In the absence of anything else, that’s probably enough to make the cut. Both the raw wonder of exploring an unfamiliar place and the raw wonder of taking an unblinking gaze at one that you are intimately familiar with are on display. You don’t have to choose between them, but either of them would have put this on the list. In addition to the amazing performances, there is a slew of tension to go along with it all. While some of this material may be too challenging for a young audience, I believe the most of it is well worth the risk. As well, there are moments when it is beneficial to close your eyes.
This is yet another film that has to be included. During the time this roller coaster was built, we hadn’t seen many of these kinds of edges on the big screen. They were just a little bit more filthy. In reality, there isn’t much ‘gloss’ at all. I wonder if that’s what made it seem so genuine, and what gave it an air of possibility that was so contagious you forgot about it and went along for the ride. After that, you and your buddies broke a lot of your parents’ things seeking for your own lost treasure map—and it truly felt like you may discover one. Afterward.
9. Super 8
It’s a great set-up. It’s modest, yet it packs a punch, and it’s not preachy. It assumes that the people in the audience have come to pay attention and are doing so… and then relies on the images to do the talking. It’s just good movies. I don’t think it’s necessary for me to point this up, but here I am. You have to give the filmmakers (yes, those guys) credit for not dumbing down this film—or perhaps they believed the youngsters would be less engaged if they made it easier? I’m not sure, but there’s a part of me that wishes I did. Because it works, the other portion doesn’t give a hoot. For me, it’s great when the film has clearly defined expectations for the audience and works hard to meet them. To top it all off, you’ve got kids working together to achieve great things, like saving their town and making their own movie—and you’ve got a nice thing going on. I was a little let down by the finale, but I suppose that’s because I’m a little jaded and elderly. This is still a movie my kids and I will watch together.
10. Christmas Story
The letter I submitted to Santa requesting the Millennium Falcon is still in my parents’ possession. I’m 40 years old, but I can still remember the moment I unwrapped it. It’s so surreal that I can vividly recall what I was wearing at the time. Those blue struts on the landing ramp were a little thin, and they ultimately broke—you know, the first ding on your new car? Crazy glue is a godsend. As a result, I hold all other presents to a higher standard because of the Falcon. Only “A Christmas Story” comes close to capturing the dread of Christmas as a child… In this unfinished life, how can I continue on if I don’t get this right? To be fair to Ralphie, this movie shows you that this amount of want (the need) can be dangerous, but gosh do you want him to get that gun! You choose to support the underdog, no matter how much’shoot yer eye out’ nonsense is thrown at you. It’s Christmas, after all. Not to mention that he has two eyes. This film, like so many others on the list, succeeds because it takes you to a complex place (from Ralphie’s point of view) without ever taking away your enjoyment. To add insult to injury, Ralpie’s reality has been depicted in an entirely non-patronizing manner—not he’s just some youngster who’s going to learn some hard feel-good lesson.