- Associated Press - Saturday, June 14, 2014

JACKSONVILLE, N.C. (AP) - For one father living in Jacksonville, the movies have way more to offer than cool special effects.

Christopher Arnold and his daughter Julianna Messer, 11, have recently started on a journey to teach her more about the value in classic films, books, music and how they relate to the past.

“It’s kind of constant, I’ll reference a movie and I’ll have to explain it,” Arnold, a self-professed cinephile and “pop culture junkie,” said.

However, their new project started one day when Messer was talking about The World’s End, a film released in 2013 in which robots play a huge role.

That’s when Arnold asked Messer if she knew the three laws of robotics. When she had no idea what he was talking about, he sent her off to find the answer.

And so was born Dad’s Pop Culture University.

“I said, ‘I’m going to give you a classical education in film,’” Arnold said. “Her thing is if it’s not new, it’s bad.”

Arnold and Messer are having so much fun with the process, they decided to make a page on Facebook and share the “assignments” Arnold has given Messer.

The plan is to post them once a week.

Arnold began on a “sci-fi bent,” as he calls it, but hopes to move into more mature films with deeper themes such as Casablanca and Invasion of the Body Snatchers, which directly correlates to the Cold War and themes of not knowing if your next door neighbor is a fan of Communist red.

The lessons are not long, usually four of five questions, and Arnold asks questions that require critical thinking, rather than summarizing information.

The most recent lesson is on a special effects expert involved in classic films such as the original Clash of the Titans and Jason and the Argonauts.

“I said old movies had bad graphics,” Messer said.

As she and her step-father sat at a table, they began to goodnaturedly debate the topic.

“They weren’t bad for back then, that’s the point,” Arnold said.

Arnold plans to compare old and new films in his lessons with Messer. For example, he’s considering a lesson on Godzilla where they watch the 1950s version and the 2014 adaptation and pivot the lesson around that - talking about the effects but also the themes of nuclear holocaust.

A passion for films, classic and contemporary, isn’t the only thing Arnold is hoping to instill in Messer.

“I was an avid reader when I was a kid,” he said. If Messer reads a book that’s coming to theaters, such as Orson Scott Card’s Ender’s Game, Arnold said he will take her to go see the movie.

Messer, 11, who will be going to middle school next year, said, “I enjoy it.”

After each assignment, Arnold gives her a list of movies that correlate to the assignment, and she gets to choose which one to watch.

After the robotics lesson, she chose I, Robot with an early 2000s Will Smith.

Not only is it fun, Messer is learning research skills and keeping her mind active, something Arnold said he was aiming for to keep her academically stimulated.

Arnold, a firm believer in parents taking an active role in their kids’ lives, also said he started the Facebook page so he could share this with other parents who are interested.

“This is better than having her sitting at home, and just (playing video games),” he said.

Messer said she has been telling a lot of her friends about the project, and she is excited to see how many films she hasn’t been exposed to yet.

Messer said she would like to keep doing this for a long time.

So does Arnold.

“It’s less about what she learns from it, and more about making her want to learn more,” he said.


Information from: The Daily News, https://www.jdnews.com

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