Monday, August 15, 2011

Museum of the Moving Image (Queens): 35th Ave & 37th St

I am a little ashamed to say that I dismissed this little museum because it was in Astoria, Queens.  It is marvelous, especially for T.V. addicts, movie buffs, or video game aficionados.  The Museum of the Moving Image has so much to offer and seems well endowed by the industry with one-of-a-kind items that you might never have the chance to see in person if you fail to make the trek by car or on the N, Q, R or M subway lines.

What really drew me to the museum was their current exhibit on Jim Henson.  While I was never a big fan of Sesame Street, I really thought the Muppets were wonderful, and I had heard that Jim Henson was an innovative advertising creative genius.  I was not disappointed.  They had what seemed like hundreds of sketches, planning boards, and, of course, puppets (including, among others, an early Kermit (made from Henson's mother's coat and a ping pong ball for the eyes), a full Miss Piggy in wedding gown, and, one of my favorites, Rowlf).  The collection, which will be on exhibit until January 16, 2012 is a fantastic representation of Jim Henson's work, from his early days in film making on the experimental "Time Piece" to his later work in fantasy on "The Dark Crystal."  While photographs were not permitted in the Jim Henson area upstairs, I thought I would include the puppet of Mayor Bloomberg that was in the lobby (see right).  It is a magical world, and I had fun walking through and realizing that for all the successes he had, Jim Henson had many failures and unrealized creative visions that led him to his huge body of work.  It was quite inspiring.

There is so much that was nostalgic in the games room that I didn't know where to turn.  There was a working original Pong game (see left--do you remember those old "graphics?").  There were also other classics like Donkey Kong, Ms. Pac-Man, Galaga, and Frogger.  Just a little farther in, there were also T.V. show inspired board games and action figures.  Games like the Lawrence Welk Show music maker, coloring books based on celebrities like Our Gang (aka The Little Rascals) and Debbie Reynolds, and action figures like those from Star Trek and all of the Star Wars (see the figures from Episode IV at right).  I was mesmerized, but kept myself moving along for the sake of being able to write this blog post in a balanced way.

There were sections that were also dedicated to each main function in movie making.  From make up (see Chewbaca base form and mask at left) to costume design like Glenn Close's gown from "Dangerous Liaisons," the Savage Huns gang uniform from "The Warriors," and Robin William's body suit and clothing from "Mrs. Doubtfire" the museum has an amazing unique collection.

There were whole areas dedicated to main and supporting actors, directors and producers, but the part that caused my jaw to drop was the special effects areas.  I mean, how can you put a price on getting to see the possessed Regan MacNeil (Linda Blair's character in "The Exorcist") (see right)?  I think I was traumatized for years with the image of Regan's head turning completely around on her body.

There were also first run model televisions (where the apparatus was as big as a large bureau but the screen was about 4 inches), camera lights, motion picture film cameras, and pre-film rotary crank arcades like those with shorts of Charlie Chaplin (see left).  I felt like I was walking among key pieces of movie and television making history.  There are also really neat interactive areas where you can change the musical score to famous scenes in the "Wizard of Oz," change the voices in an episode of "The Simpsons," or see an example of "live" editing of a sporting event, taking shots on the fly from about a dozen cameras.  It is all really cool for kids, adults, techno-geeks, well, for everyone.

I will be checking the museum's calendar routinely and hoping to catch their special showings, like their recent exhibitions of Frank Sinatra films and the award-winning Korean film "I saw the Devil."  They have family events too.  Just check it out (Fridays after 4 pm are free).  You won't be disappointed.

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