It's back-to-school time and as you fall back into the rhythms of the school year, don't fall into the trap that watching films and being on the internet is all a waste of time. The key is what you choose to do on the net, what you watch. So share some viewing time with your kids. In fact, why not make one day in the week a film-viewing day?
Here's a selection from the major online sites to help you. Happy watching!
Stories from middle America find their way to us in this funny, warm and layered series. The family in The Middle is middle in every sense – geography, class, aspiration, popularity – and they have an endearing awareness and acceptance of this.
Their lives are not those led in the glossy big city images of Suits or the gritty underbelly of The Wire. This is white America, but a white America that struggles with everyday bills, food, schooling, being a family. It's refreshing to watch precisely for those struggles and for the candour with which the three kids in the family negotiate different kinds of "failure".
Little Witch Academia
Think Harry Potter with a female protagonist and add anime to the mix. That's Little Witch Academia in which a young girl sets out to follow in the footsteps of a legendary witch. The series explores the usual coming-of-age themes like loyalty, courage, friendship, belonging and believing in yourself. Fast-paced action scenes, mythical creatures and fantasy worlds are woven into stories with a strong emotional content. Definitely worth a watch.
You can stream the show on Netflix here
If you ignore the plug for vegetarianism and the complete obliviousness with which feudal and caste hierarchies of rural Tamil Nadu are overlooked, this is a charming film about a little girl and her love for animals. It has a narrative arc that stays interesting despite being a little predictable, mainly because of skilled acting, appealing side characters and side plots, good pacing and a controlled use of music.
Of course, there's a big happy family in the end – vegetarian to boot – but hey, we warned you about that!
You can stream the film on Hotstar here
3rd and Bird
Edutainment for toddlers that can handle the education part with subtlety is not always easy to find. British television has a long tradition of success with this genre and 3rd and Bird is one such example. Friendly, anthropomorphised bird-characters encounter everyday challenges in the forest that they live in, mirroring human toddlers' lives. The easy-listening music and the repetition of key words allow children to remember and build their vocabularies even as they absorb ways of negotiating everyday life.
This one has roots in a magical book and in the magic of cinema. Brian Selznick's stunning The Invention of Hugo Cabret is a work of art and it takes the passion and skill of Martin Scorsese to translate that to film. It is, perhaps, his tribute to George Méliès' contribution to cinema and special effects. The film was made in 3D but if you missed it in theatres, it is visually spectacular even in 2D online.
You can stream the film on Netflix here