Monday, April 17, 2017

My Neighbor Totoro

The Film: My Neighbor Totoro, Directed by Hayao Miyazaki, 1988, Japan

The Plot: A sweet film about sisters adjusting to difficult life changes with a little help from friendly wood spirit Totoro.

In Short: Light on plot but big on charm, Totoro is a lovely slice-of-life film focusing on the relationship between sisters Satsuki and Mei. The lack of an antagonist and the gentle pacing offer a welcome change from the usual 'kid' fare. A sick mother and missing child, which provide the main conflicts in the film, may be intense for some (parents as well!). Overall, a happy ending and cute creatures make this a feel-good film that is truly for everyone. An animated classic.

Rating/Age Range Guide: Rated G, Ages 4+ 

Where to Find it: Not currently streaming, Buy on DVD here or check local library for a copy

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Welcome to Family Film Buff!

Hello, readers!

Allow me to introduce myself. I’m a mom to a wonderful toddler, a former elementary school teacher, and a hopeless lover of film.

Welcome to the blog where I will share my ramblings on everything having to do with Family Films. I will be writing in-depth movie reviews of a wide variety of family films, as well as sharing my opinions on topics where film, childhood, parenting, and education intersect.

And how would I define a Family Film exactly? Well, my bare-bones criteria is that it is simply a movie that can be enjoyed by adults and kids: a movie that "the whole family can enjoy" (you imagined that phrase being said in a movie trailer voice, didn't you?).
The Wizard of Oz (1939)

I don’t know about you guys, but I started compiling a list of all the wonderful films I would show my child someday, even before my son was conceived; films I loved watching as a kid and still love today. Classics such as The Wizard of Oz and Singin' in the Rain. Animated masterpieces such as Pinocchio and Toy Story. Even hidden gems that nobody one else seemed to have grown up watching, like Help! and Jason and the Argonauts
And now I'm here to channel all my obsessive movie watching, researching, analyzing, and list-making into a resource for YOU.

In the process of reviewing as many family films as I can, I hope to showcase some truly great films that qualify for my 'Great Family Film' seal of approval. 

A truly Great Family Film will have the qualities of:


I don't mind a trendy reference or two, but a film built entirely on trends probably won't stand the test of time. Strong themes, rich characters, and quality filmmaking will.

Artistic Value

The artistry of beautiful cinematography, an airtight screenplay, or a perfectly composed shot won't always be consciously noticed. Ultimately a great film is great because it's well-crafted. 

Positive Themes

In a world saturated with media, it's easy for a parent to feel lost, overwhelmed, and even a little bit cynical. Films won't do the parenting for you, but they can be a powerful way to introduce age-appropriate topics (even some tough ones), strong themes, positive role models, and important historical events. 


Whether or not a film is re-watchable is highly personal, but there are some movies that get better with repeat viewings. Whether it's watching How the Grinch Stole Christmas every holiday season, or popping in a cheesy 80's action movie on a lazy Saturday afternoon, these are the movies that we return to over and over again to become your family classics.

Emotional Power

Ultimately, any list of great family films is subjective. Your own family may even be divided on which films are great and which ones aren't. That's okay. I'm a firm believer that a truly great film should make you FEEL something. What that something is, and the extent to which you feel it, will be entirely unique to you. Whether the movie elicits the warmth of sentimentality, the devastation of loss, or the eruption of uncontrollable laughter

Having said all that, the most important criteria is a film that you enjoy. I'm excited to share some of my favorite films and to hear about the wonderful films that you enjoy with your family. 

-Family Film Buff