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COVID-19 Film Festival: The Little Prince

COVID-19 Film Festival: The Little Prince

4 Bears (out of 5) for COVID-19 Film Festival Selection: The Little Prince

This addition to the COVID-19 Film Festival review is a little snobby, but in short – your soul will be filled, the kids might lose focus, but screw ’em – they have the TV on, don’t they? And it’ll make them better little people.

The Little Prince (available on Netflix) is a unique take on the children’s classic, The Little Prince, simultaneously re-telling the tale while reflecting the messages of the book through a modern story of an unexpected friendship between a little girl and an old man.

The entire movie has a certain Netflix-filtered-through-European-sensibility that makes it less aggressively upbeat as American animated blockbusters. There’s more silence, more profundity, more sadness, and more time.


Your kids might fidget a bit, but once they get into the story, they should stay enthralled.

This is a movie that elevates children and expands their vision and appreciation for artistic themes and story-telling, not to mention movies a bit off the conventional path. Give it a try. You won’t be wasting your time.

Our entire focus in our family film festival is to watch things that won’t make me want to tear my hair out and won’t make the kids immediately wish they were dissolving their brains watching crappy YouTube content. This one definitely foots the bill.

And while you’re at it, supplement your COVID-19 film festival viewing by buying the book. It’s also one of those that elevates us with profound stories that children understand so inherently and adults forget with age.

One sees clearly only with the heart. Anything essential is invisible to the eyes.” – Anthone de Saint-Exupéry, The Little Prince

Now ain’t profound sentences like that the kind of advice we could all absorb during these COVID-19 times?

Trust – there’s lots more where that comes from in this movie. Served up by an all-start cast, at that.

Please share with us YOUR additions to some quality COVID-19 viewing!

Little Girl/Gay Music

Little Girl/Gay Music

Driving up the Merritt Parkway and listening to Disney Pandora with my kids a few weeks ago, I found myself jamming to “When Will My Life Begin?” from Tangled. I’m definitely out of the closet and love pop music.

I canNOT resist that song.

I know. I’m a grown man bopping my head to princess music. But trust me: it is so catchy. I felt silly, I admit. I’m a musician and enjoy all types of music. But the pint-sized dictators in my life demanding “ABC’s” or “Princesses” when we drive make a lot of the tuneful decisions when driving. And I’ve become an unknowing participant.

What has my life come to? I actually like Pandora’s “Kid’s Pop” station.

But don’t we all secretly like Katy Perry? Just a little bit? I mean, when she was on that awkward firework-spewing contraption a few years ago at the Super Bowl, didn’t we all feel a little thrill?

Well, I did.

I’ve always had a penchant for catchy pop music, within reason. Pop radio stations are awful for more than 15 minutes. Everything’s interchangeable. Too much is even too superficial for me.

But those summer anthems and one-hit wonders are delicious candy. Catchy songs by Pharrel Williams, Justin Bieber, and Justin Timberlake get plenty of play on my phone.

But somehow, the male musicians’ music isn’t embarrassing. And what’s up with that? It’s all cheesy pop, isn’t it? I suppose we can dissect why pop music by women is emasculating while pop music by men is still “pretty cool”. But that’s for another time.

Or not.

While belting Rapunzel’s song, I was reminded of Bill Maher’s “New Rule” from a ahilwe ago: “Science has to figure out why little girls and gay men like the same music.”

It’s funny (cuz it’s true). And I couldn’t help but dissect his joke (cuz I’m me…and defensive).

I’d say little girls and gays like music that’s catchy, up-beat, and up-lifting. Maybe Bill Maher needs to come out of the closet and love pop music.

Isn’t it amazing that music and dance are both art forms shared by every culture around the world? Kids and adults around the world love to dance. At least the world outside of the US. In large part, we Americans are afriad of looking stupid or unsexy. People might jam a little at a wedding, but we are nothing like the rest of the world that loves to crowd a dance floor. We Americans are too caught up in looking, well…in control and poised and cool and, frankly…masculine. Especially men…like Bill Maher.

But aren’t kids universally entertained by sunshiney music that inspires them to wiggle? And then what happens? We reach adolescence and rebel. Sunshiney music is no longer socially acceptable. And that’s fine. “Mature” music lends itself to emotional introspection and artistic expression.

But what’s wrong with still appreciating “little girl/gay” music?

Our cult of cool trumps pleasure.

It seems to me Bill Maher and his fellow sticks-in-the-mud squelch their inner child by criticizing “little girl/gay” music. They repress their inner child who enjoys fun music. And heaven forbid their Spotify list seem remotely “feminine” (read: gay.)

Bill Maher, do you really protest “Call Me Maybe” when it comes on at a wedding? You never smile (even internally) when you hear Taylor Swift’s “Shake it Off”?

Is it too gay for you? Rather than be seen to enjoy yourself (like a kid), you’d sit and sulk in the corner?

Well, dude, real men know how to enjoy some bubble gum pop, too.

You’re missing out.

10 Best of COVID-19 Film Festival for Families

10 Best of COVID-19 Film Festival for Families

Our 10 best of COVID-19 Film Festival for families includes movies that entertain parents and expand the kids’ world. That’s the E.C.Knox standard.

(And Disney need not apply.)

When venturing beyond the Disney/Minions/blockbuster realm, movies get more nuanced and profound. They’re frequently calmer and quieter, which might not cater to our current, fast-paced, frenetic society.

But in the midst of a pandemic, we’ve all got time to slow down and let our attention spans adapt, right? That might be most important for our kids.

The following are a top-ten in our personal “COVID-19 Film Festival”. And even if kids say “this is old-fashioned”, nine times out of ten they’re catatonic when a screen is illuminated, anyway, amiright?

So go ahead: stretch their limits and encourage them to see classics that deal with more mature topics that aren’t Disney-fied and simplified.

Consider it part of their cultural expansion during this hell of online learning and homeschooling.

Our 10 best of COVID-19 Film Festival for families should actually count as “online learning”.

You’re welcome.

The Black Stallion (full review)

is a high quality movie for the entire family…a Coppola film from the 70’s that doesn’t look or feel like that. It will enthrall your kids, provide the excitement that only horse-racing movies can inspire, and bring stunning visuals less dialogue that will leave you appreciating the silence. Further – you can cash in on the equally interesting sequel, The Black Stallion Returns. Watch on Amazon and Hoopla through your local library. WATCH THE TRAILER.

A Dog’s Purpose (full review)

What particularly moved me was the provocative questions the movie inspired: thoughts about reincarnation, mortality, kindness and mindfulness that are beautifully posed for young viewers. Watch on Amazon and Netflix.

The Little Prince (Full Review)

In short – your soul will be filled, the kids might lose focus, but screw ’em – they have the TV on, don’t they? And it’ll make them better little people. Watch on Amazon and Netflix.

The Red Balloon

A classic French tale with rapturous views of Paris in the 1960’s. Very little dialogue (luckily…since young kids won’t be interested in scanning subtitles over French speakers). But the simple relationship story of a little boy and his new favorite pet is universal (not to mention the heart-break of bullying) will be thought-provoking for your kiddos. A must-see. Watch here.

Coraline

One of the few animated movies I wanted to include. Just quirky and bizarre enough with lots of child-appropriate darkness. Remind your kids that Disney isn’t the end-all/be-all for animation. Watch here and on Netflix.

Heidi

This isn’t the Shirley Temple version, don’t you worry. So you won’t suffer from saccharine perspective of a hard life in the 19th century Alps (pre-Swiss bank accounts and highest global standard of living.) If you’ve never actually read the book (for reals: who has?) you’ll be surprised at some of the twists and turns of this movie. It’s also an excellent bit of exposure to “life in different eras and locales” for the kiddos. Watch on Amazon and Hoopla.

Matilda

This version of the classic Roald Dahl children’s story is hilariously quirky (directed by Danny Devito, after all). It lacks some of the actual darkness of the book, but it’s still just off-beat enough your kids will see “oh, that’s a fun way of telling a kids’ story.” Buy on Amazon or stream on Netflix.

Sound of Music

You know it’s been too long since you watched this with your own family on Thanksgiving. It’s long, it has Nazis, it might not seem like pre-school viewing. But didn’t you watch it in preschool? Exactly. It’s a classic. Re-familiarize yourself with the most classic of American movie musicals. Stream on Amazon.

Babe

In that charming way that foreign movies just don’t feel, well…American, Babe is heart-warming and adorable without feeling nauseatingly sappy. Once again, it opens your mind and heart with just the right amount of cheeky humor to delight the parents. Find it here and all the other places you should google. 🙂

Chicken Run

Why not show your kids the hilarity of stop-motion animation? It’s an entirely different art form that brings such different expression to stories and characters. And Chicken Run sends enough jokes over the kids’ heads to make you howl. Everyone can learn more from chickens. Stream on Amazon.

Yellow Submarine

Go ahead. Take your kids on a 1960’s head trip. It’s incomprehensible to the non-imbibers of edibles, but the incomprehensibility is also full of dated hilarity. Go ahead. Take the kids on a yellow submarine head trip. They’ll look at you like your crazy, but also it’ll make them the coolest kids on the playground…or at least serve their cool factor amongst the intelligent elite at college.

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang

The lesser-known of the 1960’s family classics like Mary Poppins, this is still a classic movie musical that you won’t hate and the kids will this is cool. Just indulge your inner child, again, and go along for the ride. Hollywood movie musicals at their 1960’s best. Stream on Amazon, free on Hoopla, or on Netflix.

And some honorable, self-evident choices that are must-sees in life:

Please add to our list! We need to grow beyond 10 best of COVID-19 Film Festival for families.

10 Best Children’s Books about Sexuality

10 Best Children’s Books about Sexuality

Sooner than later we need to talk about sex with our kids – and by that I mean sexuality – and for that I have the 10 best children’s books about sexuality.

Nope, not talking about sexual intercourse, don’t worry. (Although all these conversations should start earlier than later.)

Nor am I referencing gender. Gender is separate from sexuality. Don’t forget: sexuality is the object of your attraction. Gender identity is how you identify inside.

I have a list of books about gender identity over here that can help you navigate this important topic with your young children (preschool through early elementary.)

My 10 best children’s books about sexuality deals with same-sex attraction.

These are surprisingly rare, especially given how society thinks of “gay” as being the umbrella term for most topics about unconventional identities.

Further, most children’s books are about another kid’s family looking different with two mommies or two daddies. Those are great ice-breakers.

But let’s talk about the protagonist of the book actually being the gay one, shall we?

THAT’S the rub…to have a central character be the gay character and therefore relatable, sympathetic and inspiring.

The following books have a gay character as the central hero who can inspire your kids regardless their own sexual identity.

Marlon Bundo

By Jill Twiss. Leaving aside the fact that John Oliver’s joyful and touching book was meant as a parody mocking Karen Pence’s “A Day in the Life of the Vice-President”, Marlon Bundo is a rollicking book about a rabbit, his love for another bunny, and their struggle to overcome the crabby man with whom they live. It’s not about sex, it’s about love. And justice.

And Tango Makes Three

by Justin Richardson, Peter Parnell, illustrated by Henry Cole One of the pioneering children’s books about gay love based on the true story of two male penguins at New York’s Central Park Zoo who nested together, tried to hatch a rock, and were given an egg to foster (which they did successfully.) Seen as an excellent introduction for children to learn who families differ and love is love.

Who Am I?

Brook Pessin-Wedbee & Naomi Bardoff. Not a fiction book, but an interesting sociological study and beautifully illustrated book for children to analyze all the different ways they might identify, helping lay out the difference between sexuality and gender. (Possibly an excellent primer for confused parents, as well.)

Sometimes the Spoon Runs Away with the Spoon

by Jacinta Bunnell & Nat Kusinitz

By adapting classic nursery rhymes and melding them with true children’s accounts of their non-conforming identities, this book allows little boys and girls know that convention is passe and there’s lots of ways to be themselves.

Prince & Knight

by Daniel Haack A modern fairy tale in which a prince and knight team up to fight a monster and end up finding love in the process. Can’t wait for the Disney adaptation.

King & King

By Linda deHaan and Stern Nijland This fractured fairy tale takes readers on a journey down the wedding aisle of a prince and prince. A predictable fractured fairy tale that turns convention upside down. The illustrations are often confusing, but it adds another queer protagonist to your kid’s collection.

Jack & Jim

A parable celebrating a friendhsip (that borders on love) and celebrating diversity in many forms – be it race, interests, backgrounds, and socioeconomics. It’s an ambiguous book that doesn’t smack readers over the head with messaging, leaving lots to young imaginations.

Worm & Worm

by J.J. Austrian and Mike Curato

When two worms fall in love, their friends don’t necessarily understand as they wonder who will wear the dress or the tux? Such details don’t matter when a worm just loves a worm.

Princess Princess Ever After


By Katie O’Neill

This graphic novel by an award-winning authro is for emerging readers. It breaks gender norms, embraces same-sex love, takes readers on fractured fairy tale adventures, and is thrillingly unconventional. Even the stereotoypes of the prissy princess and the tom boy are manipulated.

This Day in June

By Gayle Pitman and Kristyna Litten

A non-fiction primer on Pride Month and the history and celebrations that make all the rainbows worth it after the struggles of acceptance and and rights.

That was 10, but another author always deserves a special mention for his clear embracing of all children and all differences and all ways to love one another:

It’s Okay to be Different

By Todd Parr

Almost anything by Todd Parr is going to empower children to be who they are, love who they want, and celebrate differences. With simple, beautiful illustrations and simple, beautiful messages, Parr shows us all the most profound lessons are easy for children to understand.

Selfies with Royals – Meghan and Harry and Archie and Me

Selfies with Royals – Meghan and Harry and Archie and Me

So I’m soon to be royal-adjacent and I’m counting on taking selfies with Royals.

Last January, I received an email saying, “We’d like to schedule a five minute private call with you about the upcoming royal birth.”

Just: lolz.

My first thought was “Is this my long-lost cousin writing from a jail in Nairobi and needing $38,000 to get out?”

But, hey – I’m game. “I’m all ears.”

The woman explained she was calling from St. Jame’s House, a London Publishing Company, that publishes fancy coffee table books highlighting big British events like the Queen’s Golden Jubilee, royal weddings, and the 100th anniversary of Rolls Royce.

They were in the process of gathering “patrons” to be featured in the upcoming book, Our Royal Baby, to be launched after the christening of as-yet-unborn Archie, the child of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle. And they wanted to feature, well…the best and/or coolest diaper bag for men.

As a “patron”, I’d be featured in this book as an “exciting new company on-brand with this Modern Royal Couple.”

In the words of my deceased grandfather, “If I had dentures, I’d have lost them.”

Mr. Robert Jobson, “the godfather of royal reporting” and official biographer to Prince Charles, would interview me and write the feature on my company.

In addition, I’d receive an invitation to the royal christening and an invitation to attend the book launch in London at the Ritz Hotel.

(Non sequitor: should I be capitalizing “Royal” and “Christening”? Golly gee whiz I’m such an American un-versed in R/royal etiquette.)

After picking up my jaw (or dentures) from the ground, I asked, “Well, this is astounding. How on earth did you find me? And will I be able to take selfies with Royals?”

The woman laughed and said “We have researchers constantly seeking innovative and stylish companies appealing to a royal sensibility.”

Aw, shucks. I’m blushing. I mean – I may not be selling tons of bags, but…

…apparently I’m doing something right? (Notice my desperation.)

“I mean, this is crazy. I can say the ultimate dream would be for Prince Harry to carry my bag.”

“Well, we can make that happen,” my contact said, “though there’s no guarantee he would be photographed with it. But Mr. Jobson can personally give a bag to the Prince.”

Yo – Sign. Me. Dafuq. Up.

So, skipping over lots of banal details about contracts, I became part of the Our Royal Baby team.

As weeks and months passed trading messages about new photography and editing copy, I felt like the people in the charming novel, 84 Charing Cross Road, in which an informal American book collector strikes up a written friendship with a formal British antique book seller. His Britishisms contrast hilariously with the American’s, well…American-ness.

Point being – I’m the crazy, informal American and I’m certain my new British friend, Dhruti, must look at my emails and think, “This chap is off his rocker.”

Notice I improved upon the official photo.

Moving along, over the summer, Megs and Harry held the christening of wee Archie with zero fanfare. (I guess St. James’s House hoped to invite me to London around that time. Did I harbor illusions of taking that desired selfie with Royals? Absolutely. But I suppose an “invitation” meant a literal paper document for framing.)

So St. James scheduled our book launch at the Ritz for just after Labor Day – because that’s convenient (except for un-cultured Americans. Eye roll.)

Borrowed baby bored by paparazzi.

In the spring – several photo shoots took place. I was going for a uniquely New York scene in which I’m carrying the diaper bag and holding a (borrowed) baby. (Shout out to Adam’s photographic genius and Ashley loaning me her baby.)

See the green pipe behind the borrowed baby? Legit drug drop.

Charmingly, before taking this picture (at left), I noticed a guy pause at the green pipe over my shoulder and stick something inside. Minutes later, as I was posing with little “borrowed baby”, another dude lingered down the road. I could sense we were in his way. It wasn’t hard to realize he was waiting to pick up from the green pipe behind us.

So…pretty much we did a fashion shoot in the midst of a drug deal.

(Ultimately, Dhruti passed on that pict. Clearly it wasn’t “on brand” for the royal couple. Oh, well. It was on brand for NYC.)

Dhruti and I settled on this one.

In other news, I had dubbed the bag The Frenchie” because the blue/red racing stripes reminded me of the French flag. But then I figured “Frenchie” probably was not on brand with the Royals, so it was re-dubbed “The Windsor.”

Months passed, designs and wording of the editorial page were finalized, and I spent the summer hemming and hawing over whether to attend the party at the Ritz.

Finally, I figured, “I’m most likely going to come back utterly empty-handed. But I’ve invested this much, and I have the AmEx miles for a free trip. This seems like exactly the right frivolous trip on which to cash in.”

So: I’m here. In London. Ready to be Royal-adjacent.

Not holding my breath for taking selfies with Royals, Megs and Harry.

But a daddy can dream…