You get what you pay for.

I may have found a true anomaly, even for Fort Wayne — a 50-cent movie house. The holiday snuck up on us, and the forecast threatened rain off and on all day, so we decided to bag a trip to the overcrowded lake and stay in the Fort for our nation’s birthday. Isn’t that what Independence Day is all about? Doing something different? It’s what I always say, anyway.

So off we went to the movies, something we haven’t done for a while. I can’t wait until I can take Kate to “Godfather” film festivals and the like, but for now I have to sit through “Ella Enchanted.” Which, I reminded myself, at least isn’t “Garfield.” And at $10.50 for two admissions, a large popcorn and two drinks, you can’t say the price isn’t right.

What to say about “Ella Enchanted”? How about this: Sometimes Roger Ebert is too kind. And this: If they gave an Oscar for Best Rip-Off, it’d be a shoo-in. Any more would be a waste of words, but it did get me to thinking about when you start telling kids that stuff stinks. I had a neighbor who believed, strongly, that it’s wrong to express value judgments to children on things like movies, TV shows and books. He thought you had to respect children’s opinions, and if they thought “Dragonball Z” was art, well, then that’s what it is.

Not surprisingly, I disagree. “How are they supposed to develop standards of taste?” I asked. The conversation went nowhere. But it’s something I’ve wondered about ever since, because I’ve loudly and frequently shared my opinions about TV and books and movies with Kate since she was big enough to listen. I tell her she can watch Mary-Kate and Ashley TV shows and movies, but we’re not buying book versions of the same stories, because they’re for dull-witted children who can’t be persuaded to read otherwise, so check out this Narnia story instead. This is going to blow up in my face one of these days, I know; her teenage rebellion will probably take the form of writing novelizations for Strawberry Shortcake cartoons, or at the very least I’ll insult someone’s mother. But I don’t care. I remember my mom scowling when a second-grade birthday-party entertainment included seeing “It’s a Mad Mad Mad Mad World.” But she took me to see “The Godfather” when I was in seventh grade, something lots of parents would have found equally inappropriate. I got the message: ’70s cinema rules.

But for today, I told her I thought “Ella Enchanted” was OK, but “Shrek” was better. We’ll leave the rougher film criticism for a few years down the road.

I did a little traveling last week. There’s nothing like flying into Fort Wayne, especially from O’Hare, to convince yourself you live in a first-class city. How long has it been since you boarded a plane from a major airport and didn’t use a jetway to do it? At O’Hare, you get to Fort Wayne by passing through gate F1, going down some stairs, crossing a long stretch of tarmac past three or four small, idling jets in whatever cursed airline feeder service has the contract at the moment. Then you board your own Fort-bound aircraft by climbing the steep stairs the fold out of the main door. Where are we going? you think. East Methane? No, East Methane probably has a bigger airport.

Advantages: 1) You don’t have to wear roller skates to get from one gate to another, because there are only eight. 2) Free wi-fi in the airport.

And now the sun is setting on the Fourth of July, so it’s off to the fireworks. Which are already going on in our neighborhood at the moment — the illegal stuff sold on every corner for a month previous are now exploding right outside. You have to sign a form saying you plan to take these illegal fireworks out of state to detonate them; astonishingly, these documents are ignored! We stopped at one of these models of modern capitalism today, to buy sparklers (legal). The clerk sat smoking under the “no smoking” sign, but she let us pet her pit bull puppy. Somehow, I think this says everything there is to say about it.

So happy Fourth of July! Set off some rockets’ red glare, or the terrorists have won!

Posted at 8:59 pm in Uncategorized |

8 responses to “You get what you pay for.”

  1. alex said on July 5, 2004 at 11:11 am

    My mom never hesitated to offer frank, vitriolic opinions about children’s programming. I seem to recall that’s how “tacky” and “fit for imbeciles” crept into my vocabulary when I was a preschooler, words that I mimicked to great effect in the homes of others. So maybe your neighbor has a good point.

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  2. Paul said on July 5, 2004 at 11:39 am

    Evansville’s airport is the same.

    In fairness, however, the jetway phenomenon seems to be mainly an American thing, with exceptions for truly large international airports like Gatwick, Narita, Pudong, etc. Most European airports, and the smaller Chinese airport, I’ve flown in to also do not use jetways.

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  3. Lance Mannion said on July 6, 2004 at 9:45 pm

    I am forever indebted to my wife for letting me beg off of Ella Enchanted and taking the kids by her lonesome. Our guys enjoyed it, but it doesn’t seem to have earned a special place on the trophy shelves of their memories. Not up there with Hell Boy and Garfield anyway.

    I’m not sure what the right answer to the question of how best to nuture good taste. I want to scream every time Yu Gi Oh or Pokemon comes on. On the other hand, without my pushing them at them the boys have become fans of MASH, Monk, Sherlock Holmes, and Rumpole.

    But does having geeks and freaks as their heroes mean they know what’s good for ’em? In the immortal words of Robert Preston in the classic Blake Edwards’ comedy SOB—much better than Ella Enchanted, kids. Ask Mom and Dad to rent it, in about 12 years, when you can get the jokes and handle the sight of Julie Andrews’ boobies—Is Batman a transvestite? Who knows? Kids get different things out of their art than we do. What looks like complete trash to us may be the making of them morally, spiritually, and intellectually. I loved The Lone Ranger. Our guys seem to know that Spider-man is a lot cooler than Mega Man, but do they know that Holmes is cooler than either? Should I tell them. Would it do any good? Am I even right? (Before anyone from The Better Parenting Through Enforced Puritanism yelps in complaint, our kids read a lot, and stuff La Nall would approve of too. The 8 year old is deep into The Thief Lord, and the 11 year old has read all the Narnia books, big chunks of Lord of the Rings, and history books by the sackful. But he also likes to read those Star Wars novelizations, most of which are horribly written and moronic.) I figure that if we keep handing them the good along with whatever trash they enjoy they’ll learn as they go. The 11 year old likes the Narnia series. The 8 year old can take it or leave it, though he likes Roald Dahl and his big brother just shrugs at Charlie, Mr Wonka, and the Vermicious Knids. They both enjoy Captain Underpants though, and I think the author, Dav Pilkey, needs to be locked up in a looney bin with an entire department of psychiatrists sitting on his head.

    Still, I say, let them develop their own tastes, just put the right stuff in their way. If we all had to have good taste drilled into us by our parents and mentors that means at some point way back in human history there was an ancestor just making the stuff up and good taste is an arbitrary and artificial construct and therefore relative.

    Meanwhile, some of the right stuff circulating through our house of late:

    Ramona, of course, and Henry Huggins.

    The Freddy the Pig series by Walter R. Brooks.

    Chet Gecko, the only lizard detective in the fourth grade at Emerson Hickey Elementary, by Bruce Hale.

    The Harry Potter books, really.

    The Indian in the Cupboard and its sequels.

    The Thief Lord.

    Artemis Fowl.

    Dahl’s stuff.

    The Hardy Boys.

    Anybody got some recommendations? Btw, the book Ella Enchanted, which is not a novelization but the book the movie’s based on, is not just bad, it’s annoying and morally suspect to boot.

    And if you’ve got movies too? Besides The Godfather?

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  4. Bob said on July 6, 2004 at 10:04 pm

    Ray Bradbury’s books are good for imagery. I especially like Dandelion Wine. Some of the elements of the setting, a small town in 1928, might be lost on kids whose grasp of the world is constrained by electronic games and air-conditioned homes and being driven everywhere in a car, but for anyone with imagination the story is a series of adventures, some full of wonder and some full of tension and suspense.

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  5. deb said on July 7, 2004 at 11:38 am

    a great movie for kids, and the whole family: “october sky.” it’s about a kid whose dad is a supervisor in the coal mines — a fate the kid seems destined for, despite his obsession with setting off rockets. excellent movie. and the rocket-obsessed boy is played by jake gyllenhal (sp?), a treat for female viewers of any age.

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  6. deb said on July 7, 2004 at 12:38 pm

    book ideas:

    “because of winn-dixie,” by kate dicamillo. i read this to my son’s fourth-grade class over a period of weeks. the kids were riveted. when i read the last page, they cried, “oh, no…it’s OVER? did she write any other books? can you read it again?” now both fourth-grade teachers read this book to their classes every year. highly recommended.

    also check out the richard peck books, particularly “a long way from chicago,” and janet taylor lisle’s “the art of keeping cool.” these are all juvenile fiction, but they’re so well-written that i recommend them for adults without reservation.

    and for just plain snicks, the lemony snicket “series of unfortunate events” books are a hoot. you’ve gotta love it when a kids’ book has a few jokes for grownups, like characters named “claus” and “sunny.”

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  7. Dave Reilly said on July 8, 2004 at 8:27 am


    October Sky’s an excellant recommendation! We watched it for family movie night a couple years back, but it might be time for a second look. Great opening. All the older folks, hearing about the launching of Sputnik, looking up at the night sky with worried, despairing faces, and the kids, the generation that’s going to put us on the moon, in their cars, listening to Elvis.

    I can’t get our guys to try the Series of Unfortunate Events. But I enjoy it, particularly Tim Curry’s performances on the books on tape. In Hostile Hospital the narrator refers to a friend of his, a butterfly collector, named Sirin.

    Sirin is the pseudonym Vladimir Nabokov used when he first started out as a writer. I don’t want to meet the little kid who gets that joke.

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  8. alex said on July 8, 2004 at 2:38 pm

    A snarky piece about kid lit:

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