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Free for Father’s Day: My Ebook about the Greatest Movie Dads

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In honor of Father’s Day, my eBook, 50 Must-See Movies: Fathers is FREE through Father’s Day, June 19, 2016.

50 must-see fathers smallWhat do “Wall Street” and the “Star Wars” saga and, seemingly, about half the movies ever made have in common? They are about fathers. In “Wall Street,” Charlie Sheen plays the ambitious Bud, who respects the integrity of his blue-collar father, played by his real-life father, Martin Sheen. But Bud is dazzled by the money and power and energy of Gordon Gekko (Michael Douglas). The movie will up the ante with Bud’s father’s heart attack as we see him struggle between the examples and guidance of these two male role models.

In “Star Wars,” Luke (Mark Hamill) does not know until halfway through the original trilogy that (spoiler alert) the evil Darth Vader is his father. He was raised by his aunt and uncle, who are killed very early in the first film, but the father figures who are most meaningful in his life are the Jedi masters Obi-Wan Kenobi and Yoda. Like Bud in “Wall Street,” Luke must choose between the good and bad father figures. Like Luke, Harry Potter is raised by an aunt and uncle, but he finds a true father figure later. For Harry, it is headmaster Albus Dumbledore. In opposition is He Who Must Not Be Named. Like Luke, Harry has the opportunity for great power on the dark side, but he lives up to the example set for him by Dumbledore.

The first stories ever recorded are about fathers. The central human struggle to reconcile the need for a father’s approval and the need to out-do him is reflected in the “hero of a thousand faces” myths that occur in every culture. In Greek mythology, Zeus is the son of a god who swallowed his children to prevent them from besting him. Zeus, hidden by his mother, grows up to defeat his father and become the king of the gods. Ancient Greece also produced the story of Oedipus, who killed his father and married his mother, and The Odyssey, whose narrator tells us “it is a wise man who knows his own father.”

These themes continue to be reflected in contemporary storytelling, including films that explore every aspect of the relationship between fathers and their children. There are kind, understanding fathers whose guidance and example is foundation for the way their children see the world. There are cruel, withholding fathers who leave scars and pain that their children spend the rest of their lives trying to heal. There are movies that reflect the off-screen real-life father-child relationships. Martin Sheen not only played his son’s father in “Wall Street;” he played the father of his other son, Emilio Estevez, in “The Way,” which was written and directed by Estevez, and which is about a father’s loss of his son. Will Smith has appeared with his son Jaden in “The Pursuit of Happyness” and “After Earth.” John Mills appeared with his daughter Hayley in “Tiger Bay,” “The Truth About Spring,” and “The Chalk Garden.” Ryan and Tatum O’Neill memorably appeared together in “Paper Moon.” Jane Fonda produced and starred in “On Golden Pond” and cast her father Henry as the estranged father of her character. Jon Voight played the father of his real-life daughter Angelina Jolie in “Tomb Raider.” And Mario Van Peebles, whose father cast him as the younger version of the character he played in “Sweet Sweetback’s Badasssss Song” made a movie about the making of that film when he grew up. It is called “Badasssss!” In the role of Melvin Van Peebles he cast himself.

Director John Huston deserves some sort of “Father’s Day” award. He directed both his father and his daughter in Oscar-winning performances, Walter Huston in “The Treasure of the Sierra Madre” and Anjelica Huston in “Prizzi’s Honor.”

Some actors known for very non-paternal roles have delivered very touching performances as fathers. Edward G. Robinson is best remembered for playing tough guys, but in “Our Vines Have Tender Grapes” he gave a beautiful performance as a farmer who loves his daughter (Margaret O’Brien) deeply. Cary Grant, known for sophisticated romance, played loving – if often frustrated — fathers in “Houseboat” and “Room for One More.” “Batman” and “Beetlejuice” star Michael Keaton was also “Mr. Mom.” Comedian Albert Brooks is a devoted father in “Finding Nemo.”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2V74rUwMYHE

There are memorable movie fathers in comedies (“Austin Powers,” “A Christmas Story”) and dramas (“To Kill a Mockingbird,” “Boyz N the Hood”), in classics (“Gone With the Wind”), documentaries (“Chimpanzee,” “The Other F Word”), and animation (“The Lion King,” “The Incredibles”). There are great fathers (“Andy Hardy”) and terrible fathers (“The Shining”). There are fathers who take care of us (“John Q”) and fathers we have to take care of (“I Never Sang for My Father”). All of them are ways to try to understand, to reconcile, and to pay tribute to the men who, for better or worse, set our first example of how to decide who we are and what we will mean in the world.

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Julia — Sesame Street’s First Character With Autism

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Sesame Street’s television series has a new character. Her name is Julia, she loves bubbles, and she has autism.

Julia has already been a Sesame Street online character, and it is great to see her on ths whow, letting families see “the amazing in all kids” and learn how to make friends with different kinds of people.

And Sesame Street gets a visit from Sia, who shows a bit of her face for a change as she sings about songs!

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Matt Fagerholm on Julie Andrews’ New Show for Kids About Performing Arts

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My friend and fellow critic Matt Fagerholm has an excellent essay at rogerebert.com about the adorable new Netflix series “Julie’s Greenroom,” starring Julie Andrews, the Muppets, and a dazzling gallery of guest stars.

Andrews has a natural chemistry with her pint-sized students, treating them as she would any human performer, while gently reprimanding her mischievous dog, Toby (John Kennedy), who also happens to be a puppet. The first 13 episodes of “Julie’s Greenroom” debuted on March 17th, and though the series is every bit as delightful as one would expect, it succeeds as far more than a nostalgia-fest.


In fact, there may not be a better defense for saving the National Endowment for the Arts than this program, which has coincidentally arrived during a period in which the President of the United States has proposed cutting it for the first time in history.

The show is a delight for any age.

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Family Movies for Black History Month

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Great choices for Black History Month from Scholastic:

Duke Ellington… and more stories to celebrate great figures in African American history.

The DVD includes gently animated and beautifully narrated versions of four books about important figures in black history.

Duke Ellington Forest Whitaker reads this tribute to one of the 20th century’s most celebrated and influential musicians.

Ellington Was Not a Street Phylicia Rashad reads Ntozake Shange’s story about growing up amidst many of the great figures of African-American history.

Ella Fitzgerald: The Tale of a Vocal Virtuosa She had an exquisite voice and unsurpassed musicianship to use it like a jazz instrument. Billy Dee Williams tells the story of how she got her sound.

John Henry Samuel L. Jackson reads the story based on the famous legend and folk ballad about the hammer-driving man who could beat anyone, even the machine.

March On!… and More Stories About African American History

March On! The Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King’s story is lovingly told by his sister, Christine King Ferris.

Martin’s Big Words  Dr. King’s story shows how big ideas compellingly described change the world.

Rosa A brave woman decides to be the one to lead the fight against segregation in this story of Rosa Parks.

Henry’s Freedom Box Henry “Box” Brown was a slave who mailed himself to freedom in a daring escape.

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New CD: Best of Raffi

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Copyright 2017 Rounder
Copyright 2017 Rounder
There is nothing better for building happy family memories than singing along with Raffi to classics like “Baby Beluga” and “Down by the Bay.” This collection of Raffi favorites, released February 10, 2017, with the best from 40 years of delighting children and their parents is sure to become a family essential. This is the best there is when it comes to music for families — a must-have for car trips and bedtimes. And with this new release, the kids who grew up with Raffi can share these timeless melodies with their own children.

Raffi will also be on tour, with family concerts in California in late January, Minneapolis and Chicago in April, and Philadelphia and Pittsburgh in May.

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