“And Now Let’s Get Things Started”
“It’s time to play the music It’s time to light the lights”
I saw The Muppets yesterday.
I love the Muppets. I loved the movie. I’m loving it more by the minute as I think about it, read about it, listen to the music for it, and write about it.
Last night I noticed Merlin Man had tweeted about it:
“Around minute 50, my daughter announced that we should leave The Muppets. I could only love her more if she’d said it 51 minutes earlier.” —@hotdogsladies
Which provoked me to @reply, “And I thought you were only pretending to have a cold black heart.”
He further provoked me into writing this post.
It’s not that I was offended. It was a funny coincidence because my five-year-old daughter wanted to leave at the same time in the movie. I can’t be sure what he even meant by his comment. Merlin says a lot of outrageous and unintelligible things in his Twitter feed, which I mostly enjoy. And I’ll always be grateful to him for his post, “Making the Clackity-Noise.” (I quoted some of it while writing this, but it became instantly disruptive. I’ll save it for another day.)
Whether Merlin liked the movie or not, he was simply playing the role of Statler and Waldorf. And that’s okay. I love those guys, too. I’m “loving” a lot of things in this post; the movie has put me in an effusive mood.
This was the first non-animated movie we’ve taken our daughter to. We don’t go out to a lot of movies, but she’s made it through previous ones without asking to leave. She enjoyed the first part, but grew tired of sitting in there. Maybe she’s wanted to leave during slow times in other movies, too, but she’s more vocal about her desires now. “I want to go home.” Request denied. I was having too much fun.
Spoiler Warning? I don’t know if any of the following qualifies as a spoiler. I don’t think so, but if you don’t want to know anything about the movie before seeing it, you can skip ahead. (You’ll miss a big chunk of post, but you can come back for it later today or tomorrow, after seeing the movie. Go on now. Go watch it. Run quick like a bunny.)
She recovered, eventually. She laughed along with the rest of us when Sheldon from Big Bang Theory appeared, and then the closing with Mah Na Mah Na was right on for her. We have happy memories of her sitting on my lap watching that classic clip on YouTube before copyright claims took it away.
I felt so good at the end that I was glad when my daughter and other people began clapping so I could clap also. It felt right to clap, as if in a live theater, and just because I felt like clapping in appreciation.
Maybe I was in just the right mood for the movie. I had wanted to feel good about the Muppets, and life, and it was so unabashedly uplifting. If some of the jokes and devices were “obvious” or well worn, that didn’t matter one bit. I was completely willing to let myself be used however the filmmakers wanted to use me, as long as they were the least bit competent about it. And they were. They were skillful. I so enjoyed feeling good and sentimental.
And it was the Muppets. Come on! Singing and dancing and wacky antics! Wokka wokka! Receiving gentle massages and getting bludgeoned on the head. Wonderful.
I learned later about another factor in my enjoyment. I had been completely unaware of the involvement of James Bobin and Bret McKenzie with this thing, but a couple of the songs seemed Flight of the Conchords-ish to me while watching the show. First “Let’s Talk About Me” and then “Man or Muppet.” More of a subconscious recognition — I didn’t think of it in so many words or verbalize it to Kathy. But it turns out that McKenzie wrote three of the new songs and the rap part on “Let’s Talk About Me.” Bobin directed the movie. He was a co-creator of FOTC.
I love Flight of the Conchords, so it was exactly like mixing peanut butter and chocolate for me. I found interesting articles about Bret’s part in the movie at New York Magazine and the New York Times, including this bit which perfectly links the two shows:
The Conchords were the stars of a self-titled HBO series from 2007 to 2009, which followed McKenzie and Clement, playing even-further-slackerized versions of themselves, as they ambled about the Lower East Side, failing, looking for musical gigs, failing some more, and every so often bursting into song. Which, come to think of it, McKenzie says now, is not so different from how the Muppets operate. “Conchords is definitely very Muppety,” he says. “It’s like a mixture of the Muppets and ‘Curb Your Enthusiasm.’”
And now I’ll (almost) unashamedly tell you about how I ate up the inspirational part at the end of the movie. (Maybe this part is more spoilerish. There is still the option to skip ahead.)
I loved Walter — the new Muppet and star of the movie — and his relationship with Gary (Jason Segel). Everything in the movie built up so well to Gary’s speech to Walter near the end. I wish I could find more of it online, but one key part is, “It is easy to believe in other people. Believing in yourself is the hard part. Believing in yourself means you are growing up.” This had to do with Walter finding his talent and becoming a Muppet and performing in the big show. It didn’t bring me to tears in the theater, but it almost does now as I write this while listening to “Rainbow Connection.” I heard the message for myself, addressing all my own doubts and fears and my desperate longing to better use my own talents.
I said I would “almost unashamedly” tell you that, but now I see I wasn’t truthful. I’m feeling extremely sheepish. It’s hard to admit to something so raw and so sappy. But now as I listen to Walter’s “Whistling Caruso,” I know I must confess it.
And then we move on to the “Life’s a Happy Song” finale, and I know it’s going to be okay.
And in the silliness of the “Mah Na Mah Na” epilog, I think I can resolve to leave all of this in here, minimally edited, filtered, or censored.
After the Movie, After the Potential Spoilers, After the Pimento
Looks like I’m ending up with a long post to close out Low Blow Pimento. That wasn’t my plan. I thought I might post something short early this morning and let that be that. I’ve felt better since “Becoming Inhumane,” and didn’t feel any pressure to end this in any particular grandiose way.
I “ended up” choosing the contrary title for this ending post because it felt just right:
“And now let’s get things started.”
It is time to play the music and light the lights.
You can probably see what I’m getting at with those snippets — this isn’t the end, it’s just the beginning, yada yada — but what of the image attached to the post? What does that have to do with the Muppets, or anything?
I had first looked for a puppet but didn’t see one I liked. Then, thinking of Miss Piggy and Link Hogthrob, I tried for a pig that might seem marginally relevant to a Muppet post. High in the results were illustrations of the three little pigs and the big bad wolf from L. Leslie Brook’s book.
That was close enough for me. And now I can retrofit the connection by pointing out there was once a Muppet sketch of the three little pigs. (It’s available today on YouTube. I won’t link to it because of the depressing tendency for these things to disappear in a smog of filthy copyright.)
But now that the big bad wolf is here, and the hapless pig, we can talk about them. About the wolf, snarling and howling at our door and threatening to destroy us. The pig might be us, squealing at the results of our bad decisions.
I have this fear that I’m trading in my brick house for one made of straw, and the wolf is out there, waiting to finally get me.
But I’ll try looking at it in a more Muppety way. I want to put on the big show, knowing it may only turn out to be a small show. I’ll share what I can of my talents. I’ll try telling the truth as I see it, even if I risk being sappy and syrupy, or snarky and sarcastic, or grim and dismal. I’ll try to believe in myself.
How about you?
“Life’s a Happy Song…”