All I want to do when the holidays come around is smush everyone together on the couch and watch movies and TV. Before the days of television binge-watching, I would make my family and friends watch two movies back-to-back with me. So, as people are gathering together for multi-generational hangs, I want to recommend a double feature. Two gothic children’s movies from the ’90s that blend darkness and sweetness in a way that I really, really love — Babe: Pig in the City, and City of Lost Children. Not only can you smush together on the couch, you can smush the titles together: Pig in the City of Lost Children.
You don’t need to have seen the first Babe movie to enjoy the sequel of Babe: Pig in the City all on its own. I know this is true because that’s what my experience was. I walked into a vintage, single-screen movie theater one summer afternoon while I was on a meandering trip through Berkeley, California, and this was the only film playing. I went in knowing nothing, and I walked out absolutely charmed and thrilled by it. It’s an adventure movie, and along with adorable talking animals, it has real stakes, and real grit. Which shouldn’t surprise you once you realize that it was written and directed by George Miller, the guy who made the Mad Max movies. Despite that, it’s rated G, and I think you can safely watch it with any child.
City of Lost Children mainly centers on the story of a 9-year old girl, but it’s definitely darker and scarier of the two movies. It was made by the French directing duo of Jeunet & Caro, who first made the very, very dark surrealist comedy Delicatessen; Jeunet went on to make the massive international hit Amélie. Somewhere between the sensibility of those two lies City of Lost Children. I love this film so much. It’s in French, but there’s a dubbed version. It was rated R, but I don’t think it’s a fair assessment of the movie, especially by today’s rating standards. The score is by Angelo Badalamenti (Twin Peaks), and if you’re with a mature kid who can handle some creepy aesthetics, it’s wonderful.
My favorite stories when I was a kid were always the creepier, sadder ones, like The Last Unicorn, and The Dark Crystal, and everything that Tim Burton made. Grimms’ Fairy Tales cast a long shadow, and I wanted to hang out within it. I still do, especially within the coziness of a family holiday.
- Coming up in a couple weeks! I’m teaching a 3-part podcast course in December, virtually, on how to interview people, and turn those interviews into podcast episodes. You can sign up for the class here: “Podcasting & the Art of the Interview With Hrishikesh Hirway of Song Exploder.”
- I have a Spotify playlist of some of my favorite gentle songs I've collected over the years, called NapCaviar.