Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Movie Review: The Muppets

I recently saw The Muppets. This decision was a foregone conclusion from the first time I heard rumor that a new Muppet movie was being made, one that was going to bring them "back to form". It certainly helped that the movie is getting glowing reviews from big-name critics and small-name bloggers. The gist of what the reviews are saying are:
  • The Muppets, who seemed completely lost after Muppets From Space, have found their way back into our hearts and imagination.
  • The cornerstone of The Muppets has been, is, and always will be their realness. And this movie cements that cornerstone even more securely.
  • Stars of stage and screen, past and present, will still do the ridiculous to be in a Muppet movie.
  • The Muppets are as sweet, topical, and subversive as ever.
  • The humans aren't too shabby either.
  • There is humor for all ages. And all ages can enjoy this flick without worry.
There are a few misfires ... a "WTF" moment with an ill-advised song, an over-abundance of human actors taking up Muppet screen time, too much breaking the Fourth Wall, too much self-referencing. But there are also some great moments ... David Grohl's brief cameo, Sweetums' introduction (for you who've watched all The Muppet movies), Jack Black's performance, the musical numbers (one touching number, specifically, which references something that actually happened on The Muppet Show). Go watch it; this movie gets a solid 4.5 out of 5.

But this isn't what my movie review is really about. I'm about to go deeper into my impressions and thoughts on the movie. Those of you who want to remain untainted by opinion before seeing it should stop reading now and come back again afterwards.

The plot is a superfan getting the crew together to save a forgotten and decaying relic of the past from destruction and desecration. Basically. There's a lesson about finding one's own way in life, discovering one's true self. But, really, who can pay attention to that when we have to get The Muppets back together again?

Don't be fooled. This movie is about reclaiming and reviving one's childhood. Not reliving it ... resuscitating it, bringing it back to life.

There are many out there, Mr. Segel included (at 1:49), who think that The Muppets had to be brought back from the dusty crates and moth-ridden closets for this newest generation to truly appreciate them. And, you know, for this newest generation, those who presumably have never seen The Muppet Show or any of the first three Muppet movies ... maybe they did need a new movie. Maybe they needed this fresh view to really get what The Muppets are and why the people of my generation cherish them so dearly.

Except these aren't my Muppets. Jim Henson has been long dead. The same is true for Richard Hunt. Frank Oz decided to sit this one out. These were the heart, soul, voices, and operators of at least thirteen of your main Muppets, most of whom are major characters in this movie. The kids won't know. But I do. See, The Muppets aren't like James Bond ... you can't just insert new voice and hand and go along as if nothing's changed. Because everything has changed. These people didn't just operate these characters ... these characters were an extension of their unique personalities. You can't just replace a personality (although Madonna has certainly tried to do that over the course of her career).

No, these aren't my Muppets. They are Muppets playing my Muppets. Acting, if you will. And on that point they succeed. Just like I could accept Roger Moore as James Bond, just like I could accept Michael Gambon as Albus Dumbledore, just like I could accept Brian Johnson as lead singer of AC/DC, I can accept these Muppets as a more than adequate substitute for the Muppets of my youth.

So I went and saw The Muppets and I enjoyed it. The Muppets allowed me to fall in love anew with my felt friends. It allowed me to reminisce on my childhood. But it made me want to go back to my The Muppet Show DVDs and watch the real deal. Because no matter how much we wish we could, we can only relive the past; we can't recreate it.

I do wish this new iteration ... this "reboot", if you will ... all the best. In my opinion, they did the legacy of Jim Henson and all of those original Muppeteers proud. I hope that they can continue to build on this foundation that Jason Segel has built because it's a pretty solid one.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Just a little something I wrote, once upon a time...

Want You

I am not going to say that I want you.
You wouldn't believe me anyway;
Not that I don't appreciate that fact,
I sympathize with your need to have proof
Of such things as: Want... and Love.
Declarations are used all the time by claimants
"I WANT you" "I NEED you" "I LOVE you"
But not me, not today.

I already said, I am not going to say that I want you.
Who would want to deal with the hours? Seriously.
Playing games, listening to music, watching the longest movie EVER.
Talking about things of greater substance than the casual
"How are you?"s "What do you do?"s & the "Oh My God, girl, did you hear?"s
The fluff is so much easier to digest.
And I am sure one trick or another would be pleased to discuss them at great length...
WELL, maybe not GREAT length

Oh and by the way, I am not going to say that I need you, either.
I wouldn't begin to know where to put someone so complex.
It is not because I have so many complexities myself.
Rather, I do not have the experience in peeling an onion.
A layer, a layer, a layer...each more uncertain than the last.
I am sure like an onion, there would be crying with each unraveling.
There has got to be a person less intense...
But, I assume not quite as interesting.

So, what if I did say that I want you?
I have some hours to spare in my life.
Perhaps, I have nothing better to do.
But, if I keep thinking that way, does that make you the best use of my time?
I admit I like the games, I enjoy the music & the videos have been wonderful.
AND, perhaps your complexities and the substantial conversations are welcome.
Maybe there would not be much crying, a few shed tears, more smiles and laughs.
Spending time until the morning sun rises over the city.

Maybe, I do need that in my life.
Maybe, I have not had that kind of real moment.
Maybe, I could hear more about the pains & joys of growth.
Maybe, I need the challenge to my thoughts.
And Just Maybe, you are the one to provide that.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Maximizing Economics Students

I have a class that meets Monday, Wednesday & Friday each week from 12:30p-1:20p. At the beginning of this class there is a quiz of five questions on the readings for that day's lecture (Approximately 30 quizzes for the semester). The lowest 10 quizzes are dropped & there is usually anywhere from 1-2 pt curve per quiz with an additional +1, if you provided a face pic for the professor's seating chart. So, clearly all you have to do is show up for the quiz, get 2-3 questions correct on 20 of them and you have a perfect quiz score for the semester.

Now, add in that the professor also posts his notes for the lectures and the PowerPoint presentations that he uses to teach the class. They are cute slides and help convey the material, but the professor himself is rather monotone.

What would be the expected result of the  combined quiz requirement and the note/PowerPoint benefits in a class full of economic students? The result is that a majority of the class decides to leave after the quiz. This allows them to maximize their time, if they a) value leisure over class time, b) have other class work to complete, or c) any other item that the opportunity cost of missing out on would exceed the benefit of staying in class.

The professor, who is a PhD student, should think about writing research on this subject as he has test subjects in front of him...briefly...daily.

Music Video Friday: Eyes By Kaskade Featuring Mindy Gledhill

Until two years ago, I hadn't really heard of Kaskade. I may have heard a song of his or a remix he had done, but I wouldn't have known it. Over the past two years, my boyfriend has slowly introduced me to the music of Kaskade and I've become a fan.

Today's musical interlude is the first single off his soon-to-be-released album. The instrumental track is soothing, foot-tapping, and hypnotic. In short, it's all the good things that a Kaskade's underlying groove has to offer. Mindy Gledhill's vocals are wispy and dreamlike. She delivers the lyrics with a sweet, naïve (in a good way) aching that pulls you in like a gentle tide.

Eyes may indeed be the windows to the soul but ears are the channel to it.

The Greatness of Accepting Death

"Remembering that I'll be dead soon is the most important tool I've ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything -- all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure - these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart. ... Stay hungry. Stay foolish."--Steve Jobs (Stanford Commencement Speech 2005)

I think, this is a profound statement in the way that it lends insight into how highly successful individuals live their lives. If you want to be successful, eliminate the barriers to success: embarrassment, pride, external expectations and fear of failure. Compact, real, possible.