Film Forum, Jr.

Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy. Courtesy Film Forum. Playing Sunda

Film Forum, Jr. presented four restored Laurel and Hardy shorts on November 27, 2016.

November 30, 2016.  This past Sunday, with the holiday weekend allowing me a break from my normal Sunday college teaching obligations, I finally made my way to Film Forum, Jr. Film Forum, Jr. is a film series for kids and their families which plays every Sunday at 11:00 am at Film Forum. The idea is to introduce a new generation to films, not necessarily what might be termed “kids” films, but great movies that kids would like. The program has a reduced admission price of eight-dollars per ticket.

The idea behind Film Forum, Jr. is a very important one to me, as a teacher. While I use movies extensively in my college sociology classes, I also use films in my work as a substitute teacher in the public schools. I show movies to students as young as Pre-K and as old as fifth grade – my preferred teaching range. I find that kids can use their intuitive intelligence to understand and appreciate so called “grown-up” films.

The Film Forum, Jr. program which I attended consisted of four Laurel and Hardy shorts, which had been beautifully restored. In other words the films had been made from the best surviving elements available and helped along by both photochemical and digital restoration efforts. Jeff Joseph, who was involved with the restorations along with UCLA, the Library of Congress as well as the Hal Roach Laurel and Hardy Library, introduced the films explaining that the restorations have made these films look even better than when they were first shown in the 1930s. He explained that producer Hal Roach was known to not always use the best labs for the creation of his prints, in order to save money. The four films were “Help Mates” (1932), “Towed in a Hole” (1932), “Twice Two” (1933) and “Busy Bodies” (1933).

Jeff did not disappoint. The four films looked absolutely stunning, as if they had just been shot. More important though, were the reactions of the young audience members.

The program was introduced by letter perfect Laurel and Hardy impersonators Jonathan Smith (as Laurel) and Bob Greenberg (as Hardy). The kids were immediately engaged and stayed that way during the films. As Laurel and Hardy got themselves into one scrape after another, I heard the child next to me humorously confess to her father, playfully hiding her eyes, that she could not watch anymore. While the films certainly elevated slapstick to an art form, one of the films, “Twice Two” (1933) was actually a gender bender. In this film, not only did the duo play two men married to each other’s sisters…they also played the sisters!

I have to admit to being inspired by this program. When I returned home I searched through my vast, and not always well organized, DVD collection and found a Laurel and Hardy compilation DVD which featured “Busy Bodies” (1933). The next day I showed it to two first grades classes for which I was the substitute teacher. While the picture quality on the DVD was not nearly as good as that of the version shown at Film Forum, the kids did not care. They took to the movie immediately, laughing at each and every slapstick gag. They also enjoyed the film’s surreal aspects which included a record player under the hood of a car providing music for its passengers (even though they really did not know about vinyl records), Hardy being sucked, Chaplin like, into a pneumatic tube in a factory, and a car cut in half by a buzz saw. “Busy Bodies” also led to a intelligent and animated discussion of why we laugh at other people’s misfortunes.

After the screenings, Bruce Goldstein, Director of Repertory Programming at Film Forum, said that hearing the kids reactions made him feel as if he were back in the 1930s. For more information on Film Forum, Jr. and Film Forum visit http://www.filmforum.com.

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About unpaidfilmcritic

Up until 2009 Seth Shire spent nearly two decades in the New York film industry as a post production supervisor of feature films. Highlights include working on the films of Martin Scorsese, James Toback and Spike Lee. Since leaving the film industry Seth has expanded into new and varied areas where he has found a great deal of satisfaction. Seth currently teaches in the Sociology Department of CUNY Queens College. His courses include "Mass Media and Popular Culture," "Introduction to Sociology," and "Sociology of Cinema" where he is a very popular teacher. Seth is also the film critic for "Town & Village," a Manhattan weekly newspaper, a position he has held for the past six years. Seth gives back to his community through volunteer teaching at Manhattan's "The Caring Community," a center for senior citizens, where he teaches a very popular course on documentaries called "The Golden Age of the Documentary. In the fall of 2010 Seth taught "Critical Reading and Writing" at Parsons School of Design. He has also taught "Cinema Studies" at the New York Film Academy. Seth lives in Stuyvesant Town, in Manhattan.

Posted on November 30, 2016, in Uncategorized, Film Forum and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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