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Peter O'Toole and the gift of watching classic movies with kids (+video)

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(Read caption) "Lawrence of Arabia" leading man Peter O’Toole died Saturday in a London hospital; he was 81. "Suspicion" actress Joan Fontaine died of natural causes in her home in Carmel, Calif.; she was 96.
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The recent passing of actor Peter O'Toole is one of those bittersweet moments in popular culture – a sad farewell to an actor whose work entertained and informed millions, but also a chance to celebrate the legacy of one of the best-respected actors in the business, whose role as T.E. Lawrence in "Lawrence of Arabia" easily makes most top ten lists for great movie performances.

I own "Lawrence of Arabia" on DVD and it's one of the films I'm looking forward to watching with my son when he's ready for something epic and challenging. I don't have any illusions about the inevitable consumption of cruddy, giant-robot based entertainment that will be some (or, sigh, maybe the bulk) of what he ends up watching. But I'm also excited to try to sit down and watch some classic films with him and enjoy all that they have to offer, including ...

Dialogue: Watch a classic film like "Lawrence of Arabia" (or, among my other favorites, "Judgement at Nuremberg," "Inherit the Wind," or "Twelve Angry Men") and you'll notice that the dialogue is rich, complex, and full of nuance. It twists and turns; it conveys ambiguity and paints pictures of full, well-rounded characters.

Breathing Room: One of the most beautiful aspects of "Lawrence of Arabia" is how the desert itself plays a major role in the film. The immense sense of space and emptiness, the frightful heat, and the loneliness of the desert are all conveyed through pacing, sound, and long, stark shots of the landscape – the movie unfolds at a measured, poetic, expansive pace, not as a breathless series of jump cuts.


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