Posts Tagged ‘Jim Henson’

Big Bird

December 9, 2019

Obviously, I am a huge Muppets fan and I wholeheartedly love everything they have ever done pre-Disney and post-Disney. The Muppets will always be a part of myself and definitely part of the font of creativity in my soul. I have spoken at length about how Jim Henson was a personal hero of mine. I know his personal life was not perfect but his creativity and willingness to collaborate have definitely carried me through difficult parts of my creative, personal, and professional lives. One of the early things that Henson created while he was struggling creatively and financially was Sesame Street. While I was more of a fan of The Muppets and Fraggle Rock, when I was little I definitely watched some Sesame Street. It, along with Mr. Rogers’ neighborhood, definitely encouraged my little imagination.

I think my favorite back in the day was actually Bert. As an introvert, I definitely felt a kinship with a guy who wanted things just right and was always trying to counter his introvert roommate’s energy. He was intelligent and underappreciated. However, through my teen and college years, I identified most with was Oscar the Grouch. I definitely went through a cynical period where I struggled with my anger and I have only recently begun to come out from under that cloud. Still, even during those darker days, I had a lot of love for those who I was loyal to. Of course, Oscar the Grouch was voiced by the most iconic character of Sesame Street. Of course, I am talking about Big Bird, the one character who never really had a name of his own. He was a shining symbol of childlike wonder and often seemed to embody that awkwardness we all feel in our own bodies.

Most of you must know that I am talking about this because the man behind Oscar and Big Bird (and others), Carroll Spinney, has died. It is indeed very sad but we had so many years and three generations got to enjoy Big Bird and all of his friends. I have been thinking back to some of his best moments. One that was not very televised was Carroll’s appearance at Jim Henson’s funeral in character as Big Bird. It was a beautiful moment that felt more beautiful to me since Henson had parted ways with Sesame Street long before. They were still all friends. I remember when Big Bird finally proved the existence of Mr. Snuffleupagus. It was a moment that showed kids that they should be believed when they are telling adults the truth. The moment was intended to give power to kids suffering from sexual and physical abuse.

In a moment from the year of my birth (and in fact 37 years and two days ago) Mr. Hooper died and Sesame Street used that to teach kids about death through Big Bird. It was such an interesting and meaningful moment that they could have explained away or covered for but they wanted to use it to teach. They confronted the hard truth. That moment makes me wonder how they are going to proceed with Sesame Street. Will they mention or acknowledge Carroll’s death on screen. I think it is obvious that Big Bird will not die. Jim Henson died and Kermit did not follow suit. Muppets cannot die. Humans can and do. Mr. Hooper was a different case but I wonder if they might do something subtle or outside of the show to honor Spinney.

The beauty of all creative endeavors is that the show will go on because it must go on. Carroll’s spirit will not be forgotten just as everybody who ever contributed will not be forgotten. Big Bird will continue to be that childlike influence on the kids (and their parents). Oscar will still grumble and gripe from his trash can. They have been so good at casting in the past years that you can barely tell when a new performer takes over. All of the Muppets feel like living characters and, honestly, I feel that they really are in their own way. The muppeteers have often said as much. I am interested to see where the story goes next. I wish that Sesame Street could break free from the corporate paywall it is now behind but if people are still benefitting from it, it is what it is. Hopefully, they can continue to make Jim and Carroll and everyone proud and make us learn and laugh.

Media Update 7/11/19

July 11, 2019


Defunctland

I am one of the biggest fans of amusement parks who also does not really like going on rides. I did not like them as a kid and I have shied away from them ever since. However, I am a huge nerd when it comes to the construction and design of amusement park rides, attractions, and haunted houses. Recently, I discovered this YouTube documentary series which charts the rise and fall of amusement park elements and whole parks. It explores the creation and destruction of rides and attractions that range from the nostalgic to the super obscure. The show tackles all of the creative, bureaucratic, and logistical decisions that led to each subject and their demise. For example, the series charts the entire career of Michael Eisner, a household name from my childhood. While the series is largely Disney-based so far, it also covers Six Flags, Cedar Fair, and some more obscure independent parks and attractions. There are also two companion series in the form of DefunctTV and podcasts. The podcasts are often hour-long interviews with people like puppeteers, Imagineers, urban explorers, cultural historians, and many other experts in their fields. DefunctTV is a series of deep dives on now-defunct television shows, usually involving puppets. They are currently telling the entire history of the Jim Henson Company from Sam and Friends currently up to the Wubbulous World of Dr. Seuss and everything in between. I definitely recommend this series.


Slasher

I love horror movies and the slasher movie is part of the popularity and longevity of the horror genre by giving the genre a boost in the seventies. This show is a tribute to that subgenre with each season exploring a different story about a costumed serial killer. Each season also has to do with the main characters having to deal with the buried past and what happens when that past comes back to haunt you. I am currently on the first season which concerns The Executioner and it definitely feels like a comfortable tribute to horror. There are elements of The Silence of the Lambs, Scream, Halloween, Sleepaway Camp, and Prom Night. The show definitely has both horror and mystery elements as the main characters try to figure out who the killer is and who will be targeted next. As a horror buff, I do not find the show to be very scary as the jump scares are not frequent. However, there is definitely quite a bit of gore in some of the kills. Not insane amounts but a few so far have surprised me a bit. The show has a great ensemble cast but a special shout out to star Katie McGrath who struggles between playing detective and running from her past believably. I definitely recommend this one too.


Agatha and the Truth of Murder

It took me a long time to do so but recently I finally read some Agatha Christie books and now I see why she is so iconic. While not all of her books are for me, I recognize that she is one of the true giants who helped grow the Mystery genre. A while ago I discovered the famous tale about 11 days that were missing from Agatha Christie’s life. She had apparently blacked out and could not remember where she had been for nearly two weeks. This urban legend has now been proven false by historians. The truth is that Christie checked into a spa for that time while trying to mentally deal with her failing marriage. This movie tells a story trying to fill in those 11 days by sending Christie on a real-life murder case. The story dips into the real reasons behind her disappearance but in a more fanciful, positive way. The movie starts slowly with a lot of nods toward Christie’s early career. I was about ready to give up on the movie but then it kicked into gear and I ended up really liking it. It plays with a lot of Agatha Christie tropes and archetypes but also real-life criminal investigations. Ruth Bradley is a great, spirited Agatha Christie who learns how to turn things around in her darkest hour. I recommend it.

Music of the Week:
Billie Eilish – ilomilo

Logic – 1-800-273-8255 ft. Alessia Cara, Khalid

Blue October – How to Dance in Time

Chloe x Halle – The Kids Are Alright

Ed Sheeran – BLOW (with Chris Stapleton & Bruno Mars)

Weekly Update:
– This week’s theme is “Digging Up the Past”
– I watched more Game of Thrones Season 3
– I watched more Arrow Season 7
– I watched more How to Get Away With Murder Season 1
– I watched more Losers Season 1
– I watched more The Flash Season 5
– I finished Legends of Tomorrow Season 4
– I started watching Star Trek: Voyager Season 3
– I started watching Designated Survivor Season 3

Media Update 5/16/19

May 16, 2019


The Dark Crystal

This is one of those movies that I felt like I had seen but as soon as it started rolling, I knew that I had not. This is a shame as I am a huge fan of both Jim Henson and Frank Oz. However, while the concept was created by Jim Henson, a lot of credit also goes to Brian Froud and David Odell. From what I have read, Henson and his wife came up with the story while snowed in an airport hotel. He brought that to Odell who was able to put it all into a screenplay. Meanwhile, Henson had fed his early concepts to Froud who acted as the designer for the movie. Everything in the world of the movie sprung from the conceptual drawings of Froud. His visionary artwork created unique characters and a wonderful new world. The story is about two young creatures called Gelflings who must prevent the Skeksis from conquering and possibly destroying the world. The work he did here is what he would later do with Labyrinth. The difference here, in my opinion, is that this is a simpler and more beautiful story. This is a complete world of fantasy with no humans in a world foreign to us. It is a world of two people adopted into different cultures, using their different learned skills to save the day. I definitely recommend it unless I am the last person alive who had not seen the movie.


The Lego Movie Part 2

When the first Lego Movie came out, nobody expected it to be any good. It sounded like a cheap movie created to cash in on something most of us were nostalgic about. When the movie actually came out, it surprised a lot of us. It definitely surprised me in that it was so good and original and yet did reference a lot of things that I grew up loving. This movie continues in that vein, allowing the characters to grow a bit and explore their world more. This time equal time is given to both Lucy (played by Elizabeth Banks) and Emmet (played by Chris Pratt). Since the two are separated, they are allowed to be the heroes of their separate (yet intertwined) stories. Their story is about how sometimes we should change but also sometimes we should not lose the good parts of ourselves. Will Arnett is back as Batman, a minor but hilarious part. Alison Brie, Charlie Day, and Nick Offerman all return with smaller roles but just as funny as the first one. We get the new appearance of Stephanie Beatriz who adds a lot of dry humor to the movie. What really makes this movie feel new, though is the addition of Tiffany Haddish who infuses the movie with a different vibe which is important to the story. It also has more upbeat pop songs. I definitely recommend this one too.


Goosebumps 2: Haunted Halloween

I remember reading the Goosebumps books when they first came out as they were all the rage at one point. That is part of the reason why I watched the first Goosebumps movie because it looked like a nostalgic walk through the world of the book series. It definitely was and I liked it a lot mostly because of Jack Black’s performance as Slappy the Dummy and RL Stine himself. They created a world where all of the books could exist in our world by literally bringing all of the old books alive. This movie instead more or less pulled the characters into a Goosebumps book. This movie actually felt more focused than the first film because it more or less had a central villain. It felt more like the Goosebumps books that I read long ago. Instead of following Jack Black, it followed a new cast of kids who had to combat Halloween itself. I am also kind of a sucker for stories where Halloween magically becomes real. Mick Wingert takes over as Slappy and, if you do not recognize the name, he is famous for taking over for Jack Black as he also took over the role of Ping from Kung Fu Panda. The movie stars Madison Iseman as the older sister who stands up for her little brother and the whole town. Jeremy Ray Taylor is the little brother (who also appeared in IT Part 1). Finally, there’s the fast-talking friend played by Caleel Harris. There are also great small roles from Wendi Mclendon-Covey, Ken Jeong, Chris Parnell and a cameo from Jack Black which connects this movie with the first one. Besides being more focused, I felt like this movie was creepier than the first one. It definitely had some creepy moments that stuck with me while still keeping things fairly light and family friendly. I definitely recommend it.

Music of the Week:
Vic Mensa – Rollin’ Like A Stoner

Bebe Rexha – Last Hurrah

FLETCHER – Undrunk

Hunt the Dinosaur – Destructo

Vampire Weekend – Harmony Hall

 

Weekly Update:
– This week’s theme is “Nostalgia”
– I finished Lucifer Season 3
– I watched more Doctor Who Season 10
– I watched more Supernatural Season 14
– I watched more Star Trek: Voyager Season 2
– I watched more Ash vs. The Evil Dead Season 3
– I watched more Losers


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