Review: ‘Chasing Childhood’ is essential viewing for parents and policymakers, alike.

CHASING CHILDHOOD

Overprotected and over directed, American children are wilting under the weight of well-meaning parents. In the pursuit of keeping them safe and creating an impressive resumé of extracurricular activities to wow admissions boards, over-parenting smothers children across socioeconomic classes. This thoughtful film follows education professionals and reformed helicopter parents who seek and offer solutions for developing more confident, independent young people while restoring some joy and freedom to childhood.

I grew up in Simsbury, Connecticut. Getting less than an “A” on an assignment my entire childhood was, shall we say, frowned upon. When I struggled with pre-Algebra in 7th grade, my parents got me a math tutor. I loathed it. To be clear, this was triggered because I had a “B+” grade point average. That pretty much sums up the pressure I felt to excel. I was in dance classes 5 days a week until I aged out of the studio, performing En Pointe at age 9 with girls 4+ years my senior. I was an overachiever born and, most definitely, bred. Once high school began, my anxiety hit new heights. Silently struggling with dyslexia, believing that my peers would hear the millisecond long pause when I had to read a date out loud was panic-inducing. Starring in every school play, managing boys Cross-Country & Track, maintaining a social life, and prepping for college were all-consuming. This was in the late 90s. That disquieting grew exponentially over the years. I used to be fearless, attending a performing arts conservatory in Manhattan, moving across the country to audition for Disneyland on a whim. But social pressure from my parents for not following the “traditional” educational path weighed on me like an elephant on my chest. I never felt like any of my success was enough. I’m 41 now, and that sense of inadequacy remains. Despite the incredible stories I have from living abroad, making movies, writing, teaching, creating a small business, the list is obnoxious, I have been trained to think I can be better.

Chasing Childhood is a film that could not have arrived at a better time. After the year we’ve had in lockdown, it’s time to confront some harsh realities. Chasing Childhood is tailor-made for parents, educators, and policymakers of every age. I have a 4 and 5-year-old living in an apartment we own on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. By all measures, life is great. What you don’t see is the aura of tension that surrounds the admissions process when applying to preschool. Now, we’re entering Kindergarten with my son. The questions of, “Where are you all applying?” have been swirling around me since he was 2. The idea that the school we picked for our 2-year-old would somehow determine what tax brackets my children would fall under in 20 years is exhausting. Filmmakers Margaret Munzer Loeb and Eden Wurmfeld clearly explain how we’re stifling kids. They are exhausted. This trend of micromanaging their futures kills their present joy. The doc talks to parents, teachers, experts, and kids about how we can change this negative trend. With stats about recess and play Vs. standardized testing will undoubtedly move your needle in terms of curriculum and quality of life. Wilton, Connecticut is featured quite heavily, alongside Patchogue, NY, and of course, Manhattan. Wilton is actually one of the towns we’ve considered in making our city exodus. The irony of how I stumbled upon Wilton should not be surprising. I googled, “Top School Districts in Connecticut.” Simsbury was always in the Top 5. I should have guessed that any town along what Connecticut calls “The Gold Coast” would be the other top districts. After watching, Wilton is looking better and better. What makes Chasing Childhood so successful is the film’s honesty. The interviews with every participant are authentic. The implementation of more play is key to a well-balanced life. The film is not preachy. It does not judge. It does explain how we’ve become wired this way. How seemingly small societal shifts went from ripples to tidal waves in policy and parenting. It’s nothing short of fascinating.

I have a greater understanding of my own parents now. We all want better for our kids. I try to keep this in mind when signing up my littles for activities. They are few and far between on purpose. Besides the logistical and monetary commitments involved, it’s because I vividly remember the years before high school. Playing outside until it got dark, riding my bike across town, exploring the woods, jumping off things that most definitely should have broken my bones. I retain the joy and excitement and calm from those moments. If nothing else, Chasing Childhood is a perfect reminder to stop, take a breath, and realize that success in life doesn’t come from the longest resume. It’s time and memories. Let’s step back and honor childhood. Let the kids be kids. Happiness comes first.

Virtual Live Premiere on June 24, 2021, and

Nationwide Watch Now @ Home Cinema Release on June 25, 2021

Directed by: Margaret Munzer Loeb, Eden Wurmfeld

Produced by: Lisa Eisenpresser, Eden Wurmfeld

FeaturingGenevieve Eason, Savannah Eason, Julie Lythcott-Haims, Peter Gray, Lenore Skenazy, Dr. Michael Hynes

 

World Premiere in the American Perspectives section at the 2020 DOC NYC Film Festival 

Official Selection of the 2020 Annapolis Film Festival

Official Selection of the 2021 Portland International Film Festival

Official Selection of the 2021 Cleveland International Film Festival

Official Selection of the 2021 Julien Dubuque International Film Festival

Official Selection of the 2021 Sonoma International Film Festival

Review: ‘EGG’ one of our Top 5 from Tribeca 2018 (hatches) in theaters today.

In provocateur Marianna Palka’s sharp and unflinching satire, two couples and a surrogate lay bare the complications, contradictions, heartbreak, and absurdities implicit in how we think about motherhood.

Mariana Palka’s follow-up to last year’s Bitch, is just as powerful in delving into “the phases of a woman’s life”, to use a phrase directly from EGG. With an incredibly theatrical feel, as if it could play in an Off-Broadway theater with a unit set, EGG confronts art, politics, and the patriarchal structure that surround the idea of having a baby. The entire ensemble cast is phenomenal, each playing their role in a game of vapid versus broken. The writing is good, honest, and brave. There are no filters on these characters making them completely loathsome and fantastic all at once.

Egg
Feature Narrative
Country: USA
Director: Marianna Palka
Writer: Risa Mickenberg
Starring: Gbenga Akinnagbe, David Alan Basche, Alysia Reiner, Anna Camp, Christina Hendricks

Review: ‘COOTIES’ is infectiously delicious.

Cooties poster“Circle, Circle, Dot, Dot, Now you have your cootie shot!” Let’s be real. We’ve all had our cootie shot at some point in elementary school. It was necessary  to survive the playground territory wars and/or avoid a horrible disease ridden classmate. Oh wait, that’s not what it was used for back then. The disease ridden classmate part, I mean. That’s the premise of the new horror-comedy COOTIES. Well, sort of.Cooties_image

Quick run down. Kid eats infected chicken nugget and becomes a cannibalistic zombie, infects other children, trapping a band of misfit teachers inside the school. Cooties‘ cast in kind of unreal. Elijah Wood, Rainn Wilson, Alison Pill, Jack McBrayer, Leigh Whannell, Nasim Pedrad, Ian Brennan and Jorgé Garcia. Wood plays Clint, a summer school teacher and aspiring writer of horror (from a fanboy’s influence). Wilson plays testosterone, jockhead gym teacher and I have to say, kinda of a badass. Pill is the ultra upbeat, former classmate of Clint and present 4th grade teacher. Pedrad kills it as the faculty bitch with a cutting sense of humor and lack of filter. Garcia, while we don’t see a whole lot of him, his presence always make me smile. He lights up the screen. McBrayer, plays a “confused” teacher with a gentle heart and a scaredy cat head. Brennan is Vice Principal Simms, a lovable weirdo. Finally, Leigh Whannnell, is what I can only assume is a science teacher, due to his lack of social skills and knowledge of things that you just have to accept as cannon as the plot rolls along. Totally forgiven as it adds to the absurdity of the storyline. Great casting choices… Mayhaps a sequel is in order? Please?Cooties 2nd image

The dialogue is hilarious and I am betting that at least 50%  of some of the best lines were improvised. I am really looking forward to a DVD release already, in hopes that there is a huge outtake reel. The practical effects are downright disgusting, even for a horror fan such as myself. Bravo for grossing me out. Even the opening title sequence shows the actual creation of a nugget from chicken to child’s mouth. It’s pretty vomit inducing, so you’re already set up for what is about to play out. The editing, both in picture and in sound are top notch. This film is wrought with catch phrases that I will admittedly be stealing. Besides all of these factors, Cooties makes some great statements about what we’re feeding our kids in school and at home. But even greater is the comment on parenting, or  lack there of. Once again, as a former teacher, kids these days can be real dicks. Sorry, but it’s true. Cooties calls out what’s wrong with our youth and throws it into our faces while being completely gross and damn funny all at once. If you’re already a fan of films like Shaun of the Dead, then you’ll love this flick. Cooties is hands down laugh out loud funny start to finish. Go see this film, but just a little advice, maybe don’t eat right beforehand.

COOTIES will be one of the debut releases of the newly-launched Lionsgate Premiere label, which will release the film on September 18th in select theaters and on demand.