Sunday, March 4, 2012

Being Elmo

Kevin Clash is one of the most influential, powerful and successful people in television history and I have little doubt that the vast majority of you have never heard of him. I bet, however, you’ve heard of his friend, Elmo. Kevin Clash is Elmo and one of the executive producers of Sesame Street. Clash grew up in a poor section of Baltimore and early on in life became obsessed with puppets. This was largely due to falling in love with the work of Jim Henson. He wanted to be just as good and idolized Henson and those Henson worked with. He makes his own puppets and puts way more of himself into it than the average person. He wiles away doing local television and community events when he gets the opportunity to meet Kermit Love, a man who is as close to Henson’s right hand man as possible.

Love created Big Bird for god’s sake and he immediately is impressed by Clash. He puts him to work on Sesame Street and Clash takes to it like a duck to water. He’s not just good, he gets it, gets the Henson message and what Sesame Street is all about. As such, he’s given more and more responsibility. One day a fellow puppeteer on Sesame Street says he’s sick of a puppet he can’t make work and Clash asks to give it a shot. The puppets name is Elmo and Clash’s life and Sesame Street has never been the same.

This doc tells the story of this unique man and his unique puppet and about how Clash went from nothing to creating one of the most recognizable and marketable characters in history. It’s a great trip from humble beginnings to being the man behind a character and a show that influences millions around the globe. It’s an interesting story to say the least and this flick tells it well.


Attack the Block

Attack the Block tells the tale of a group of unlikely comrades who must bind together to stay alive. As Sam is heading home, she is mugged close to home by a group of teenagers. Almost as soon as Sam moves on something falls from the sky right into a nearby car. This ‘something’ turns out to be very nasty, cuts the leader of the gang of teenagers, Moses, and, thereby, incurs his wrath. After beating this thing to death, they head back to the tenement where they live. Once they get there, they celebrate by bringing the body of this thing to the weed dealer, who lives at the top of the building, for a little smoke and advice.

Once they arrive, all hell breaks loose. From then on, they can’t leave the grounds of the tenement, as it is straight up under attack by hoards of aliens. People star dying left and right and the survivors in the building must band together and figure this shit out. Ironically, this group consists of the gang of teenagers, grade-schoolers, teenage girls from the building, a weed dealer and his customers, and Sam, the woman they’d robbed just moments before.

I’m a big fan of sci-fi and horror and, as such, I feel like we’re years into a drought period for these genres. There is basically nothing good being made in this genre and, what this means is, when something good does come out it’s usually good because the filmmaker decided to actually put some focus on story. What I mean is, sci-fi and horror now nothing but eye candy, either full of beautiful, but vapid young actors or nothing more than one series of CGI sequences after another. In this movie, there is almost no CGI, the actors are unknowns who just generally aren’t all that attractive and the story has actual meat to it. The characters develop, the story has meaning and the performances seem natural. It’s not without it’s faults, but it’s a darn good flick and, if you’re a fan of the genre, definitely worth a watch.