Posted by Blake
Yesterday began with a trip to the blood bank where I donate platelets and plasma on a regular basis. More often than not, with close to two hours in a chair having my precious bodily fluids sucked from my veins like the Deepwater Horizon, afterwards I am pretty much spent for the rest of the day. So Hannah and I decided to take advantage of my sapped and sleepy state by spending the afternoon seeing a couple of movies at the local all digital-projection theater. You see, the blood bank we go to gives us perk points for donating that can be cashed in for things like t-shirts, free ice cream, and best of all, free movie tickets. As a result we haven’t paid for a movie in about three years. Points build up during that long stretch of lame action “epics”, sequels, and rom-coms known as summer so that by the time the holidays roll around we can see all the award contenders for free. It’s one heck of a reward for something I’d happily do for nothing.
Anyhoo, yesterday we saw Alexander Payne’s The Descendants, and The Muppets. Both films were quite good in their way. The acting in The Descendants was top-notch. George Clooney proves again that he can be a damn fine actor without being showy; Robert Forster and Judy Greer gave strong performances. Even Matthew Lillard managed to show some range now that he’s aged past his goofy buddy phase. The Hawaiian land and cityscapes played a significant role as well, much as California’s wine country did in Payne’s 2004 film Sideways, and Omaha and Interstate 80 did in About Schmidt. We spent our honeymoon in Hawai’i back in May, so we spent a good deal of time pointing out familiar beaches and neighborhoods. I hope that the Baton Rougeians behind us were able to appreciate the significance of the island “paradise” juxtaposed with the grueling emotional burden the characters found themselves under. No need to go into a full synopsis here, just see the movie if you get the chance. We’ll try to see Hugo next weekend.
We actually saw The Decendants second because I didn’t want any sadness sullying my Muppets viewing pleasure. Before I get to the point of this post, let me say that The Muppets is a very good movie, but there are a few nagging issues this long-time Henson-o-phile needs to bring up. First, the film does a great job staying true to the overall feel of the original Muppet movies. It has the goofiness, joy, and the 4th wall-breaking, self-referencing nature that Henson et al. established in the movies and The Muppet Show. However, there are a lot of the original Muppeteers who didn’t sign-on to this re-launch so some of the performances are lackluster. Without Frank Oz in particular, Fozzie and Miss Piggy sound awful. Likewise, a lot of the puppets have received a make-over so they are rounder and sleeker than in the past. This works for some–Gonzo and Animal look good–but not for others, again Fozzie and Rowlf look wrong. I can’t tell you how much I miss master puppet designer Don Sahlin. Sahlin died in 1979 and some of the characters were never quite the same. Once you get past that though it’s a terrific tribute to the old-school Muppet schtick that obviously influenced the film’s writers Jason Segel and Nicholas Stoller. I heard a Fresh Air interview with the two of them recently and they were so reverent to the sweetness and goodness they saw in the Henson Co.’s original material.
Without disagreeing, I must point to some of the sexism and political incorrectness you see from Kermit and the others in the first few seasons of The Muppet Show. They have always meant well, but that’s not to say that Jim Henson and his posse didn’t slip some edgy, socially charged humor into their family fare.
I’m rambling. What I wanted to say was that the best parts of The Muppets were the musical numbers. “Rainbow Connection” always manages to choke me up and the performance during the telethon in the film is no exception. The new songs, written by Flight of the Conchords’ Brett McKenzie are a loving tribute to some of the original Muppet music, but with a few contemporary, ironic twists. Amy Adams and Miss Piggy’s duet “Me Party” also seems to reference Lesley Ann Warren’s performance from the 3rd season of The Muppet Show. Hell, it looks like Adams even worked hard to get Ms. Warren’s legs! See the movie and you’ll see what I mean:
But it’s “Man or Muppet” performed by Jason Segel and the new Muppet Walter, that really gets me. Both Walter and his human brother Gary (Segel) are at a crossroads and must decide to embrace their Muppethood/manhood respectively. I won’t be able to do the song justice here, but let me say that as someone who treads a fine line between man and Muppet I loved it. Take a listen:
It’s better in the theater, go see it.
Finally, so that those of you who don’t know me so well get a flavor of my Muppetdom, I will have Hannah include some photos. Who says you have to choose? I am surely a Muppet of a man!
As Per Blake’s Request, Here are some Photographs:
Blake as THE COUNT, photo by Maureen Iverson. Halloween 2007. We actually hot-glued things to his face for this costume. It was serious business. Don’t worry, I let the glue cool off a bit before I put it on. And yes, he asked me to do it. NO. I didn’t enjoy it. Not too much, anyway. I promise.
More photos of the Yip Yips.
More photos of the COUNT
Blake Acting Like a Muppet: