Last week, I had the privilege of being the “Mystery Guest” in my son’s second‐grade classroom. Every Friday, a surprise visitor comes in to talk to the 7‐ and 8‐year‐olds about their career, a hobby, a cool place they’ve been to, or really anything they think the kids would like. Not to toot my own horn, but who’s got a cooler job than the mom who’s a film critic and movie blogger for Redbox?

I told the kids about how I came to be a writer, how I think about movies when I watch them for fun versus for work, and how it’s important for a critic to explain why they do or do not recommend a certain movie. We projected the Unscripted blog onto a big screen and I walked them through some of my recent posts about Spider‐Man, neat things other kids their age were doing to pay it forward at the Box, and my favorite Disney songs, which inspired a lot of discussion and debate.

And then we went around the room and had each student declare what their favorite movie was and, most importantly, why.

Here were some of the responses:

“Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
, because of how cool the magic looked.”

Detective Pikachu, because it was so funny.”

How to Train Your Dragon 3, because of the animation.”

The Sandlot, because it’s about baseball and I love baseball.” (That was my son’s, by the way. He has that movie memorized!)

But you don’t need to be a film critic to get your kids more engaged in the experience of watching, thinking about or discussing a movie. All you need to do is introduce them to a few simple concepts below to get those gears whirring in their heads and make them more conscious of what kinds of movies they do and do not tend to gravitate toward, and why.

Acting: Do you believe the people in the movie are really those characters? Did they make you laugh, or cry, or feel sorry for them or excited for them? If so, that’s great acting. But if they didn’t say their lines with much emotion or didn’t seem convincing, that’s probably an example of some not‐so‐strong acting.

Soundtrack: Did your kids notice any of the music used in the movie? Did it have words, was it a song they knew, or was it just all instrumental?

Special effects: Were there scenes in the movie that your kids don’t think could really happen in real life? Or maybe there were even characters in the movie who couldn’t possibly exist in our world. Those scenes and characters were likely created with special effects, and whether or not the effects look real — versus looking like something your kids might’ve create with materials in the basement — can make or break a movie. Do your kids think the effects in the movie you watched looked convincing?

Directing: To wrap up your conversation, you can explain that there is one person who is in charge of everything for any given movie, and that person is the director. You can ask your kids about what decisions you think the director had to make for the movie you watched, and whether or not they were the right decisions, or if your kids would’ve done something differently.

Before you close the books on movie night, you must have everyone in your crew give their final take on whether or not they would recommend the movie to their friends, and why. Then you’ve taken your first step to getting your kids to think a little bit more about the art of movie-making.

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