This week's theme for my weekly "Movies" segment on the Chris Vernon Show was "kid posses," movies that are built around a group of children (i.e., more than two), based off current box-office leader Super 8, J.J. Abrams' homage to Carter- and Reagan-era Steven Spielberg films:
5. Harry Potter & the Prisoner of Azkaban (2004): Harry Potter and his sidekicks and classmates — particularly Emma Watson's Hermione — are the most prominent "kid posse" in modern movies, and this third installment in the film adaptations, directed by the great Alfonso Cuaron (Y Tu Mama, Tambien, Children of Men), is the best of the series (so far), with an investment in character and an organic filmmaking quality in stark contrast to the amusement-park rides crafted by Christopher Columbus in the first two films.
4. George Washington (2000): This debut indie from filmmaker David Gordon Green fused two rarefied tastes in American cinema, combining the style of Terrence Malick (arty widescreen outdoor cinematography, poetic/philosophical voiceover narration) with the content and perspective of Charles Burnett's Killer of Sheep (the mysterious beauty of childhood idleness via a group of working class African-American kids). In other words, not big box office. But this lyrical, intimate portrait of a group of interconnected kids dealing with a tragic accident in an unnamed, overgrown North Carolina town was one of the best and most memorable American indies of the past decade. My fifth favorite film of 2001 (the year it opened in Memphis).
3. E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial (1982): Steven Spielberg's great film about suburban childhood and divorce, filtered through a sci-fi premise. The three siblings — including a very young Drew Barrymore and a then-unknown Henry Thomas — hiding and caring for their new friend is the core of the movie. The gang of kids busting E.T. lose and fleeing from the authorities on their band of dirt bikes is perhaps the classic "kid posse" scene in movie history. One of Spielberg's very best films, if not his best.
2. To Kill a Mockingbird (1962): Robert Mulligan's good film adaptation of Harper Lee's great book about small-town childhood in a single-parent home, filtered through a story about racial justice. Siblings Scout and Jem and visiting neighbor kid Dill are the posse. Boo Radley (Robert Duvall) is their E.T. — sort of.
1. The Bad News Bears (1976): Michael Ritchie's gloriously unsentimental portrait of a hapless Little League baseball team, coached by a drunk (Walter Matthau) and ultimately saved by the glamorous duo of bad boy Kelly Leak (Jackie Earl Haley) and cannon-armed Amanda Whurlitzer (Tatum O'Neal). Inspirational dialogue: "Hey Yankees, you can take your apology — and your trophy — and shove it straight up your ass."