5 best nature movies for kids

When looking for great nature films for kids, we focus on five areas:

– Appreciation of nature
– “Just say no to drugs” education
– The science of nature
– Spiritual values
– Family values

Here are the best in each of these important categories:

5. Wet Hot American Summer (2001) – It’s about having fun at a summer camp in a place where it’s quite warm and probably rains a lot.

4. Alice in Wonderland (1951) – Good warnings for kids about the gateway drugs tea and tobacco, as well as hallucinogenic ‘rooms and pills, and gambling, all in a natural setting.

3. Godzilla (1954) – A reminder for kids that there used to be dinosaurs and that they might come back if we just keep fracking around with radiation like we are.

2. 2012 (2009) – What could happen if God gets mad enough.

1. Good Morning… and Goodbye! (1967) – Not strictly for kids, according to Russ Meyer, but it’s full of heavy-breasted women running around naked in the woods, which to me says “Mom.”

Honorable mention: Mega Shark vs Giant Octopus (2009) and AVP (2004).

5 worst kids movies for nature

Only our kids can save the world. What are the top five things that we want to teach them?

1. Stop using plastic.

2. Eat less meat.

3. Plant a tree.

4. Share your car.

5. Have fewer babies.

With that in mind, the worst kids movies for nature:

1. Star Wars (1977): Darth Vader and all his minions? That looks like plastic to me. And the action figures? It’s an outrage!

2. Red River (1948) – Two hours and thirteen minutes about driving cattle to the boxcars, and then on to Chicago and steak dinners for everyone! I say, return the prairies to the buffalo, even if a theory documented in the latest Scientific American suggests that bison crossing the land bridge from Asia caused the demise of North America’s megafauna.

3. Sometimes a Great Notion (1970) – Cutting down trees, spotted owls be darned. Plus Henry Fonda’s dismembered hand, flipping a bird. Plant trees, don’t cut them down; although I guess it’s OK for a kid to go out and start a forest fire every once in a while, due to the overabundance of brush and low cover in many woodsy stands around the nation.

4. The Hitcher (1986) – What kid is going to want to give anybody a ride after watching this travesty?!? This movie should be banned from all countries that don’t at least have a bullet train. And when your kid gets his or her driver’s license, give him or her a 9mm Glock to hide under the front seat or stick in a cup-holder.

5. Yours, Mine, and Ours (1968) – Eighteen kids. Desilu should have kept the original title, “Two Prolapsed Uteruses.” When this movie arrives from Netflix, if you’re under 21, the envelope ought to include a dozen condoms.

Honorable mention: The Mosquito Coast (1986) – A fun way to gets kids thinking about self-sufficiency!

5 worst nature movies for kids

Nature’s hardest organic material is the tooth, which Nature invented a long time ago. My question is, why aren’t we up to our necks in teeth? Do the math: the shark maintains multiple rows of teeth. The teeth push forward as new ones grow in and the front row drops out. The shark has been around for 420 million years, minimum. Let’s say sharks average out at a billion total population at any given time on Earth (in the water) for 400 million years, with each shark growing and ejecting, say, 5,000 diamond-hard teeth in its lifetime. You can pack 1,000 shark teeth into a cube 8 inches on a side. Which all means that that thin, Earth-girdling black schist-like layer of compacted shark teeth 1850 feet down in the stratums, or stratii, is not thick enough, by half. What happened to those missing teeth?!?

And that’s not counting the teeth of the numerous species of Ichthysaurs over the millenia, or millenii.

Ask any school child this missing-tooth question and you’ll get either a blank stare, a reference to the fifth day of God’s creationist activities, or a confused discourse on why separating your waste into buckets of different colors is “green.” My question is, how come children cannot answer the shark-tooth question? Answer: children’s nature films and their demonstrable deficiencies.

The worst offenders:

5. The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie (2004) – Hey, don’t get me wrong. I love SpongeBob.  But how many teeth does a sponge have? Plus, the movie lulls children into a false sense of security with respect to Nature and shark’s teeth. Movie’s message to kids: you won’t drown.

4. Bambi (1942) – Bambi is never shown eating meat, but I have a feeling that there is a subtle message present in the film. I just watched the scene again where Bambi’s mom buys the farm. Funny, I always thought she got roasted in a forest fire. But no. It’s a venison thing. Movie’s message to kids: there’s good eatin on those deer.

3. Deep Throat (1972) – These days, kids are liable to watch anything and then go out and try it. Monkey see, monkey do. Movie’s message to kids: teeth don’t matter.

2. Gone with the Wind (1939) – They burn down a fracking city in this movie. That’s a lot of carbon injected or ejected into the atmosphere. The filmmakers’ excuse? They’re ending slavery. Movie’s message to kids: you can increase your carbon footprint willy-nilly if you just think up a good excuse for it in advance.

1. Nosfertatu (1922) – Forget all those trillions of shark teeth. The teeth you need to worry about are the ones stuck in your neck at night. Confusing movie message to kids: drinking blood is a sex thing.

Honorable mention: Teeth (2007), which puts teeth in their rightful place.

Top 5 Cheese Movies

First, the rules: No mice. No Swiss cheese. Or is it swiss cheese? I never liked it. And with the holes? Been done to death.

No Limburger. I don’t want to show my age.

Who Moved My Cheese? has not been made into a movie yet, as far as I know.

1. I Want Someone to Eat Cheese With (2006) – L.A. and New York are full of folks, mostly young adults, making a living, or trying to, by being funny. This movie includes a number of them, Jeff Garlin and Sarah Silverman at this point having worked their way higher upon the hog, referencing ham and cheese, than most of the others.

2. Little Caesar (1931) – The best Big Cheese? Until “Mother of Mercy! Is this the end of Rico?” de-cheeses him.

3. The Stratton Story (1949) – Maybe Stewart doesn’t have the best big-league cheese. We’ll give Dutch that, in The Winning Team (1952). But Stewart’s got the moxie.

4. Millions (2004) – As the movies prove, again and again, if you come across a lot of cheese that isn’t yours, trouble usually follows.

5. This space is reserved for any unpleasant movie, in honor of cheesy movies in general, and butt-crack cheese, smegma, mother’s-milk cheese, cheesecake, cheesecloth – whoa. There’s nothing wrong with a big bolt of cheesecloth! In fact, I’ll go with Freddy Got Fingered (2001). I liked it, but many found it objectionable for some reason.

Honorable mention: Wallace and Gromit and their love of cheese, from the moon and otherwise.

Top 5 Flea Movies

I’m ruling out movies about cats and dogs. Listing movies about cats and dogs and their fleas would be like making a Top-5 list of movies about, say, breathing. And yes, I’m two days late applying the Advantage this month. I swear I’ll do it tonight.

I’m also ruling out The Seventh Seal and all other plague movies.

And poverty movies. I hate depressing old Top 5 lists about the poor and the flea-bitten.

And please, no cartoon fleas.

1. The D. I. (1957) – In 1957, I was living in Beaufort, S.C., next to Parris Island, where The D.I. (Drill Instructor) transpires. It was #1 in town for weeks, of course. Jack Webb at his best. The central scene: maneuvers on a beach; don’t slap the sand fleas even as they bite. A recruit does slap, the men are made to hold a funeral for the flea and spend the night out on the sand, with the surviving fleas.

2. The Autobiography of a Flea – If no one ever made a movie of this classic of erotica, they ought to have. A friend brought back a copy from Europe in 1960. This was before the word “porn” had been invented, because there wasn’t any, as far as most of us knew. “Hardcore,” if it was used, did not relate to the arts. The book chronicles the non-clerical activities of a collection of monks and nuns. Flea’s-eye view. I wonder if my friend was worried at Customs, as I’m sure that they loved to confiscate this sort of item. I should google him now after 50 years and ask him.

3. The movies wherein a group is hiding from the Nazis and one of them gets bit, but to react would be to expose the group. Nazis and fleas, of course, just naturally go together.

4. No more military or sex movies. This space is reserved for the movies where, at a crucial moment, a flea bites somebody in the ass and they jump forward and knock over the, the, the sacred idol, or cry out before the bride can say I do, or like that.

5. MEMORIAL – This space honors all the drive-ins that have turned into flea markets.

Honorable mention: Movies that combine fleas and ghosts or fleas and vampires, but not fleas and werewolves.

Top 5 Vegetable Movies

I don’t have five, or even one, vegetable movie in mind as I write this. I’m hoping that inspiration will strike as I go.

But first, the rules:

– No movies about vegtables in the shape of phalli.

– No movies named in a spirit of unkinditude or bad taste, such as Talk to Her (2002).

– Herbs don’t count, ruling out that Argentinian movie about the guy who has a heart attack, retires, grows lavender, and, spoiler, has another heart attack.

– Movies about fruits are ok.

– I’m ruling out movies about gourds. It has to be a vegetable or fruit that you can eat.

– No Van Gogh movies on the basis of sunflowers and the fact that you can eat their seeds. This also rules out major-league baseball movies, where ballplayers eat lots of  sunflower seeds these days, instead of chewing tobacco.

– No animated vegetables. This disqualifies It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown (1966).

– No talking vegetables, including Dustin Hoffman as a tomato, regardless of his motivation. Hoffman, back before he moved into his 70s and has to take what Mick LaSalle calls twinkly parts.

– Sadly, cheese isn’t a vegetable.

– I haven’t seen Attack of the Killer Tomatoes (1978), but I’ll bet that if I had, it wouldn’t make my list. I have seen Children of the Corn (1984) (just the first of the many). It doesn’t make it either. And I haven’t seen King Corn (2007).

– No movies where a green alien is a vegetable, like in the original The Thing (1951). You’ve got to eat it; it can’t eat you. This rules out The Little Shop of Horrors (1960).

– No movies that just have vegetables or fruits in the title, like Fried Green Tomatoes (1991) and The Cocoanuts (1929).

– No movies about a big meal, of which there are too many to bother getting specific.

– Soup isn’t a vegetable.

– The vegtable can be cooked or raw.

– Please, no famines.

So, my list:

1. Mr. Majestyk (1974) – It’s about melons. Charles Bronson grows them and he has to break a few of the other kind in the course of the movie. Elmore Leonard wrote it; I hope that you’re enjoying Justifed. The great Al Lettieri is the bad guy in Majestyk; you may recall him from The Getaway (1972), doing his thang thang with Sally Struthers.  Al Lettieri, dead at 47 from a heart attack… There was a time when Bronson was making some fine movies.  The Mechanic (1972), though, not so much, because of the bummer ending and the fact that it made me hate Jan-Michael Vincent after seeing it.

2. The Secret of the Grain (2007)  (Le graine et le mulet) – Old Algerian in Sète, France, wants to open a restaurant selling cous cous and mullet. Cous cous, being pasta, isn’t strictly a vegetable, but I’m giving it a pass. Great movie till it runs out of steam at the end.

3. The movie about the young German woman from Norway who immigrates to… Minnesota? Wisconsin? after the war and meets a guy. The two of them harvest a zillion acres of corn, barehanded, in a couple of days. Or maybe I misremember.

4. Lorenzo’s Oil (1992) – Tell me that the oil was made out of some vegetable or other. I wasn’t that crazy about the movie, but now I only need one more to be done.

5.  Damn. I thought of one and now I’ve forgotten it… Hmm… Oh, yes. The one by a woman, long-time filmmaker, a documentary, about folks who go out after a harvest and scavenge from the fields. French. The somebodyorothers.

Top 5 Worst Jobs

5. Kenny (2006) – If a woman reports to you that she’s dropped her wedding ring in the porta potty, you’ve got to act fast. The ring will lie on the surface briefly, but then begin to settle, at which time you will be unable to retrieve it. Hustle over there. Don’t wear gloves. You cannot wear gloves, because when wearing gloves, you can’t feel the ring with sufficient acuity. Use the bare hand.

4. The Dark Knight (2008) – Your job is supposed to be fun. Satifying. You’re supposed to enjoy it. This guy? With the gruff voice? He’s happy? I don’t think so.

3. Psycho (1960) – It’s hard enough to run a motel, but if you’ve got a bossy mother butting in all the time, it’s  impossible.

2. Alien (the whole franchise) – Once, sure. It could happen to anyone. But to go back, again and again and again. What is wrong with this woman?

1.  Tie: The Ten Commandments (1956) and The Passion of the Christ (2004) – Moses, this guy. 40 years in the wilderness, was it? His beard gets those streaks of white in it. So does he get to the promised land finally? What do you think? And he missed all the parties with the golden calf, so forth. And with whom did he get to lie, or lay? I can’t remember. As for Jesus, no explanation necessary.