Introducing... The Bigger Picture!
Family movie recommendations for discerning parents and sponge-brained kids. Subscribe to get the first edition on Tuesday, June 15.
Four years ago, I traded my high-powered New York City job and standing appointment at the hair blowout chain for an idyllic country life in a fixer upper amid fruit orchards and rolling hills. Despite some plumbing and roof problems, I soon fell in love with the sexy, screwy-toothed town veterinarian and stumbled into starting a gourmet baby food juggernaut that allowed me to HAVE IT ALL.
If at this point you are wondering if you’ve seen this movie before, well, maybe you have: It’s the plot of 1987’s Baby Boom, which featured Diane Keaton giving one of her funniest performances in a wardrobe that The Row is definitely ripping off today. I did leave my big city job as the culture editor at Elle magazine, but for Charlottesville, Virginia, not Vermont, where I have yet to develop any interest in canning. What I do in my free time instead is obsessively unearth movies that I, my two stepkids, now 10 and 14, and my husband, James, now 45, will all enjoy together. At this point, we’ve watched hundreds of films. There have been some misses (Forrest Gump really has not aged well). But there have been many more hits. “That was actually really good!” is a common review—and the equivalent of 100% Fresh at our house—even for movies made way before the kids were born.
My parent-friends and I have long lamented that there’s no resource for generations-spanning movies that are aligned with our tastes and child-rearing styles, which is to say, responsible but not puritanical. (The one big family movie website basically says kids can’t watch anything until they can rent a car.) Finally, I’ve decided to be the change. Which is why I’m launching The Bigger Picture newsletter, and asking you to consider signing up.
Family movie night has become a sacred ritual for us, as it maybe has for you, and it’s one we are eager to maintain even as the pandemic eases. We put the baby to bed (yes, amid all this media consumption we’ve also got a 7-month-old!), cuddle up together with our cats, or at least the less standoffish one, and maybe even leave our phones in the kitchen like we all said we would. Occasionally a grownup will have to fast-forward through an unexpected racy scene, or press pause for a PSA clarifying that some on-screen action or attitude is not acceptable IRL, but that’s part of the magic of family movie night, too.
After the credits roll, we talk about what we liked, and didn’t. The kids offer questions and smart observations; James and I offer context (I am literally scratching my chin as I type these words). Sometimes we’re still talking about a movie days or weeks later; sometimes we’re even lucky enough to have a genuine debate about it! Family movie night has also been a great vehicle for discussing topics that can feel awkward to bring up with kids out of the blue, like puberty, consent, self-confidence, and adolescent risk-taking. And that was just the first hour of Teen Wolf!
As someone who got her parents to drive her to an after-school gig at Video Library (best job ever—Clerks meets Empire Records) and spent the ’90s obsessing over Entertainment Weekly and gutting my way through the entire AFI100 (Forrest Gump made the cut, which shows you what those guys know), I find it fun to scroll through the ever-expanding buffet of streaming services in search of forgotten gems to add to our family watch list. I also realize that this is NOT fun for a lot of people. And that’s how I came to wonder whether there might be an audience for a newsletter that guides parents to the treasures buried down those Roku rabbit holes.
Sign up and The Bigger Picture will land in your inbox weekly, recommending movies that will justify the screen time for all involved. My friend, the brilliant artist Mara Sprafkin, will illustrate each edition as an added treat for readers; the mother of a 4-year-old and a 6-year-old, Mara gets kids and just as importantly, she has great taste in all things culture. Subscribers will also receive bonus content to expand your watch list options, get you through a rainy weekend, and, hopefully, stir up some lively online conversations among Bigger Picture fans.
A note about the picks I’ll be sharing: Some of these movies, despite their virtues, don’t hold up perfectly in the clearer light of 2021. This, friends, is where the whole parenting opportunity comes in! During our own family movie night postmortems, one of us frequently ends up saying something along the lines of, “Well, back in the XXXX decade, people wrongly didn’t understand YYYY. But now we as a culture are working to ZZZZ!” If you are looking for movies with air-tight, of-the-moment values that require no interjections and/or follow-up conversations, this may not be the newsletter for you! The Netflix algorithm will happily suggest more cheeseball dreck for your brood to zone out to, if that’s more your speed—for the rest of you, I think you’ll like my recommendations better.
Start ’em young,
Subscribe now so you don’t miss the first issue on Tuesday, June 15. And please: Tell all of your friends!