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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.

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!

Counting Calories for a Healthy Summer

Counting Calories for a Healthy Summer

So I started counting calories for a healthy summer project.

We’re a healthy eating family. My kids will eat just about everything. (Thanks to my insanity early in their early eating lives to become foodies.)

And I’m grateful to say I’m not concerned about my weight. I’m genetically tall and lean-ish, socially programmed to be high-speed, and professionally burdened to worry about appearances (as an actor).

But I’m over forty and wonder, “Will I ever be able to lose this tire around my waist I’ve had since high school? If not now, when?”

So I took on a friend’s challenge of counting calories for a healthy summer. She reminded me when it comes down to it – losing weight is simple: eat fewer calories than you burn throughout the day.

And then you lose.

But I’m not really setting out to lose weight. I don’t feel like sacrificing summertime hamburgers and booze and desserts. So ultimately, I’m getting out of counting calories exactly what I hoped: much more awareness of what and how I eat.

This is mostly gonna be, “Yeah, well, duh, you idiot.” But still – putting it all into math is eye-opening.

What I’ve learned:

1. There’s three categories of calories – 70, 120, and too much.

An vegetables, salad (un-dressed), fruit and eggs are less than 100 calories. Keep it light and abide by Michael Pollan’s 7 Rules for Eating: Eat food, not too much, mostly plants, and we’d all be golden (and always under 100 calories.)

But let’s be real.

So much of everything else is, like – 120-150 calories. A serving of chips or pretzels or even M&M’s is about 150 calories. A slice of bread is 110. A beer is 150, Coke is 140, a cocktail is even about 150. No harm done. And this salad I make multiple times/week loaded with kale, some cheese and toasted hazelnuts is about 120 calories. Nice, even playing field.

And then we get into “everything else”. Sausage? Lots of calories per serving. A single muffins? 300+. Cheeseburger? 550 calories. It’s shocking how much processed foods (and meat) suddenly catapult you over your daily caloric goal.

2. Eat less

Stick to the serving size. It’s not impossible to limit your input of Lay’s potato chips to 13 chips (160 cals). Is it too tedious to count them out? Not as tedious as trying to lose a decade’s worth of over-eating.

It’s eye-opening to know just how many chips are actually part of a healthy serving size. And that can be pretty guilt-free. So, yeah: count the Pretzel Crisps (17 at 165 cals) and Cheez-its (27 for 150 cals). Eat that amount, and then have another serving size, if you want. But teach yourself how it feels to eat a measured serving size. Talk about eye-opening. 

And yo – a ½ cup of ice cream (150+) is a perfectly fine amount. We don’t need to gorge more than that.

3. Slow down

Normally, I grab a handful of peanut M&M’s and mindlessly gobble them. But when I count out a serving size (12 M&M’s, 140 calories) I realize that

  • that’s still about a handful and that should be enough to snack
  • how about savoring each tasty candy instead of devouring them like Cookie Monster? (and hence consuming way more than I actually need?)

4. Alcohol: damn you

It’s really interesting to measure my booze intake. I was actually surprised that booze of all kind (from Moscow Mules to Sauvignon Blanc to Sam Adams) measures fewer calories than I expected. Again: everything’s about 150 calories. Give or take. Let’s not get caught up in the nuances.

But what’s really fascinating (and obvious – I’m well aware) is how quickly one drink leads to three (especially on summer evenings) and how these utterly empty calories increase your daily intake without nutritional value. It’s less the fact of having a drink a more a factor of “holy cow, this builds FAST.”

5. Holy cow processed foods really are the death of us.

My eyes almost exploded after dinner, the other night. I made a pesto pasta (already high in calories, but it’s all good; this isn’t a bowl of ice cream) plus some grilled vegetables (negligible calories…60 for a cup of veggies) and then I added some delicious sweet Italian sausage. Holy SHIT, y’all! We all know sausage is actually awful for us, right? But when you’ve been calculating everything in servings of 150 calories and suddenly sweet sausage doubles the calories? Damn. That’s too much.

6. I want to binge while binging.

What I really want to eat? Ice cream (140+ for 1/2 cup), peanut M&M’s (140 every 12), or my favorite treat: a couple tablespoons of peanut butter mixed with honey and raisins (280 calories for like less than a 1/4 cup) , I want to eat basically after 10pm. We all know it’s not great to gorge yourself just before bed, but worst of all is eating a bunch of these high-caloric, processed foods at the end of the night. They throw you WAY over your goal. It’s not hard to stick to 2,000 calories a day…but when you really want to binge 1,000 calories while binging Killing Eve, you learn rrrrrrreal fast just how you can screw up your daily allotment.

7. Exercise earns treats.

With the calorie-counting apps, you’re able to input exercise. That earns you more calories to use on drinking beer and eating chips. And it’s interesting to gauge how many bonus calories are earned through exercise. Just keeping in mind what you’re burning and what you’re consuming is eye-opening and educational. You can easily earn a serving size of chips or a beer with your lawn mowing. But keep it all in perspective.

To wit:

  • 30 min of running is ABOUT 380 calories;
  • 30 min of lawn-mowing is ABOUT 180 calories
  • 45 min of road-biking is ABOUT 450 calories
  • 30 min of yoga is ABOUT 200 calories.
A real-time blogging picture as I write about health and enjoy a Dunkin' Donuts Boston Creme
Yep – I choose not to be insane about my health. Once in awhile, a Boston Creme from Dunkin’ is just what the dadbod ordered.

Anyway – I highly recommend re-calibrating your relationship and awareness of food with these calorie-counting apps. I use My Fitness Pal which was easy (and free! – meaning they collect information to later sell all my information to some pharmaceutical company that will out me for that Dunkin’ Donuts Boston Creme I happen to be eating at this very moment – 310 cals – and then sell me some other crap, down the line.) But there are plenty of others.

My goal while counting calories for a healthy summer (and I recommend your goal) needn’t be obsessing over weight or developing an eating disorder. Let’s take smaller steps.

We Americans have a toxic relationship with food – eating too much and rushing through to our next activity.

Instead, when counting calories, I recommend educating yourself about portions, calorie counts, and just getting a sense of what everything costs. And then you can “budget” in a more balanced way.

Further, savor your food. Enjoy every one of those peanut M&M’s. And stop gobbling. Take your time and appreciate all 17 of those Lay’s.

And finally, abide by (or at least make note of) the serving sizes all of us have ignored our entire lives.

Taking time to savor, appreciate, experience and think about what we’re ingesting can only make us healthier (and probably lighter).

And that’s delicious.