The Muppets

In an age of dumbed-down action overblown Hollywood busts that should make the average American enraged, there is a soft glow of nostalgia and self-deprecating campy humor.  Oh Jason Segel, I love you.  True story: Jason Segel pitched the idea for the Muppets to Disney immediately after the success of Forgetting Sarah Marshall.  Their reaction: Hell No!  Disney was not excited about having a dude in his 20s who just exposed a full frontal of his long schlong to all of America helm a project about the resurgence of a beloved troupe of talking puppets.  However, he came back and somehow convinced them, through his passion of the Muppets, that he was the right guy for the job.  Pretty damn amazing if I say so myself.

But enough about the backstory, what about the movie itself?  Adorable, witty, charismatic and thoroughly enjoyable.  The film plot begs a question I oftentimes think of myself on nights that I find myself unable to sleep, tossing and turning, staring at the ceiling: Where are the Muppets now?  Turns out, Kermit is living a lonely bachelor life in a huge Bel Air mansion, Gonzo is making millions off of toilet manufacturing, or was it doorknobs?, Animal is at an insane asylum with none other than Jack Black, Miss Piggy is off being the Devil Wears Prada in Paris (with Emily Blunt reprising the same role as the aforesaid film), and Fozzy Bear, poor old Fozzy, is performing with Muppet knock offs in some tawdry casino in Reno.  Enter plot twist: an evil Rich Guy is trying to buy up the Muppets stage for the cache of oil beneath it.  And so begins the journey to try to reunite the Muppets once again, get money back in order to buy back the old venerable Muppets stage.

Besides the talented cast (Jason Segel wrote the screenplay and stars with his co-star Amy Adams, Jack Black) there’s a generous dose of random well-placed cameos (Sarah Silverman, Emily Blunt, her husband John Krasinski, Whoopi Goldberg, Serena Gomez, Zach Galifianakis, Donald Glover, Dave Grohl, Ken Jeong, Neil Patrick Harris, that Columbian kid from Modern family).  With the lovely backup musicals provided by Brett MacKenzie of Flight of the Conchords, you can imagine that this is a film that you wouldn’t want to miss.   I even stayed through the credits.  The Muppets are Back! $9

If you heart the Muppets

Recommendations by …
Toy Story 3
The Muppets in Manhattan

p.s.  brilliant

Li’l Fatass’s Top 5 of 2011: Michel Hazanavicius’s The Artist

#1: The top fifteen grossing films of 2011 were all fairy tales. This makes sense as life has become so utterly complicated so as to be considered magical. Everywhere we operate machines that are powered by invisible forces. The Interwebs – invisible. Satellites and televisions – invisible. Cell phones – invisible. Air travel – invisible. Vending machines? I mean, how does the food get in there? Fucking magical.

Also we’ve never been in proximity (temporally or geographically) to more undeniably villainous creatures than right now. Serial killers. Priestly child molesters. Osama bin Laden. Bernie Madoff stole eighteen billion dollars. Eighteen billion. Can you even fathom what that means? It means that if he stole that amount in $100 bills he’d have thrown his back out trying to lift the three hundred and ninety-six thousand pounds of cash (a hundred and ninety-eight tons) into his getaway van. Supervillainous forces are upon us. It is a reasonable response for us to become desperate for superheroes.

The obsession with fairly tales also makes sense since we now live in a godless America. I do not judge Americans for denouncing their various gods. The church has lost so much footing given that 2.6 billion dollars they’ve spent in molestation-related costs. But now our trust has gone out aimlessly. Our spiritual energy has gone out in search of magic, omniscience, predetermination, and moral authority. And it has apparently found Harry Potter and Edward and the Pirates of the Caribbean.

I believe magic can exist at the cinema – but in general I believe it does not exist at the top of the American box office. For me, one of the best markers for good art is surprise. Unforeseen delight. The least surprising artistic pieces are oddly the most profitable and accessible – those showing at your local movie theater. And probably involving Shia LeBeouf. There is an incredible tolerance by American audiences to be consistently disappointed by the movies they go see. I’m not sure if this is courageous or borderline-retarded behavior.

How many films can you list that didn’t waste a single opportunity? I thought so. Michel Hazanavicius created the only truly ingenious picture of the year. He made ten times the film of the any other and he did it using one-tenth the money, one-tenth the technology. Still, the magic got in there  . . . $14

If you heart The Artist:

Recommendations by Li’l Fatass:
Campbell Scott’s & Stanley Tucci’s Big Night
Paul Thomas Anderson’s Boogie Nights
Darren Aronofsky’s The Wrestler

Li’l Fatass’s Top 5 of 2011: Cary Joji Fukunaga’s Jane Eyre

#2: Do you believe in ghosts?

What is a ghost?

Is it a spirit? Is it a spirit that seems to be caught in bed sheet? And it hacks in the night and often is sort of hovering?

A ghost can be many things. For example when you have a mentally-unstable wife that you chain up in your attic. Chain her up non-sexually I mean. Chain her up so you can kind of go downstairs and forget about her. When you chain her up, chain her real good so she won’t get away and maybe set the house on fire. That is sort of like a ghost.

When you have someone you do not love. When you suspect there is someone who loves you and you think you should love them. But you are always thinking, “She has kind of a little rat face.” And so you do not love them or envision them sexually. Sometimes you imagine a rat face on Fergie’s body but that is more hilarious than anything. But there is a lot of pressure riding on your love. When there is so much pressure and your friends are often trying to get both of you to the same party but you keep saying you have the flu. That is sort of like a ghost.

When someone loves you. When they love you but they are blind so they cannot see your beautiful face. They are deprived of your beauty and so that love is so sad and dependent on smell. And they have a gangly beard or overgrown eyebrows because it is now too dangerous to shave with an actual sharp edge. That is sort of like a ghost.

When you are in love. When you love a man but they do not live in the same city. They live in a different city from where they write letters. They write letters saying they are setting aside money so as visit soon. So every night they just sprawl out in bed and imagine your body. They imagine they have not just one penis but five to match your equally-magical five vaginas. And when you have sex it is like a puzzle piece being penetrated on all sides – a perfect alignment. They are saving and soon they will be flying and checking into a nearby hotel room. But there are so many bills that get in their way. Like last month they were getting behind on paying the installments for their dog’s chemotherapy. But it is worth it. He is looking better all the time, old Rex, he is a fighter. But then another setback. Last week Rex escaped from the backyard and got raped. And now he is traumatized. Now there are psychotherapy bills to pay. But still, little by little, they are getting closer to the cost of the plane and the hotel suite. A suite! So do not betray their love! That is sort of like a ghost.

Cary Fukunaga believes in ghosts. Moira Buffini believes in ghosts. Mia Wasikowska believes in ghosts. Michael Fassbender believes in ghosts . . . $13

If you heart Cary Fukunaga’s Jane Eyre:

Recommendations by Li’l Fatass
John Patrick Shanley’s Doubt
Wong Kar-wai’s In the Mood for Love
Pedro Almodovar’s Hable Con Ella

Li’l Fatass’s Top 5 of 2011: John Michael McDonagh’s The Guard

#3: The problem with Western cinema is it’s difficult to say retard or homo anymore without the audience using that slur to characterize the speaker. Yes, the SPEAKER not the SUBJECT. The audience member thinks, “Oh that Chinese woman just called her Jewish neighbor a money-grubbing kike. I guess they are trying to tell me she is a racist bigot.” While it COULD be the case it is NOT NECESSARILY so. That Chinese woman could totally be a very nice lady. She probably recycles and gives her leftovers to homeless people. Her neighbor might be Bernie Madoff.

Let’s say we have a character with a shaved head and wearing an army uniform. If he calls one of his bunkmates a “faggot” does it necessarily mean that character is a redneck? No. That character could be a Black or a Mexican for all we know. The use of pejorative slurs rarely gives a good indication of background or education or grooming. I myself went to a private university (cum laude) and I call my friends “queers” and “fairies” all the time. This is not because I am a bigot or even that my friends are homosexuals. It is because they like it. We laugh about it! They sometimes call me a “cocksucker” even though I’ve never even touched an erect penis when it wasn’t a dare in High School (and even then it was just with a tree branch and not my actual mouth). Sometimes slurs are just good for producing confusion. Like the time someone on the street asked me for spare change and I said, “No I hate stupid Chinks.” The homeless guy was Black!

My point is INSENSITIVITY does not just have a single function. But it is rarely used for purposes other than characterization. The Guard is changing all that. The Guard is changing a lot of things. The very idea of A HERO for one. Brendan Gleeson, too busy fucking around, too busy getting fucked-up at the moment. Or villains. When was the last time you saw the antagonists of a film given equally sharp, snappy lines as the protagonists? It is an unfair world where the most morally righteous (usually played by the most famous actors) are also in possession of the sharpest wits, the keenest intuitions, the cleverest comebacks. Did no one ever question why Humphrey Bogart coveted all the best lines? You think this is actually how it works in real life? Take a look at Mother Teresa; does she look like a woman that could make you laugh? Give me a fucking break.

The only brothers who rival the Coens for their strange, brutal and aggressively humorous renditions of film noirs are Martin and John McDonagh . . . $13

If you heart The Guard:

Recommendations by Li’l Fatass
Beat Takeshi’s Sonatine
Wong Kar-wai’s Fallen Angels
Park Chan-wook’s Oldboy

Li’l Fatass’s Top 5 of 2011: Paul Feig & Kristen Wiig’s Bridesmaids

#4: It is hard seeing your friends growing older. Not keeping old friends. But literally SEEING them. Looking into their fat faces. Pretending not to notice their coarse, gray hairs jangling around up there. You think, God they are so disgusting. How can they live with themselves? Why aren’t they crying? I am crying for you! You think, am I really such a piece of garbage to them they don’t even put on decent clothes when they answer their door? Look, he’s wearing the same sweatpants he wore three days ago when we went to Cold Stone Creamery and he ate enough cake-batter ice cream to fill up a sleeping bag.

Then of course there’s the other side to it. Where it’s hard for your friends to see you. Hard for them to say your name without wincing. Hard for them because you won’t eat anywhere you don’t have a coupon for. Hard for them because the last time you stayed over at their house you got drunk and suggested an orgy. And when they wouldn’t take their clothes off you got belligerent and told them to get you a gauntlet so you could slap them in the face with it.

Kristen Wiig is getting older. There is no denying she is getting older and will someday be dead. But before that happens she is going to make a little noise. She is bringing her Jets with her and her Jets are making a little noise. Do you think Tina Fey hates Kristen Wiig’s guts? Because they are both funny and oddly pretty in the same way? There is such fierce competition out there between smart but awkward, Jewy women. But I like to dream they are pals. I like to dream Tina Fey and Kristen Wiig and Maya Rudolph and Amy Poehler are great pals with each other. And they go to lunches together and eat yogurt or whatever funny women eat. And they say, we are really just as good as men at being friends. At being friends and at being funny. And even though everyone knows that is not true – we let them believe it is true. In that moment. Over a lunch of yogurts and possibly some grapefruit. Friendships are worth fighting for. Fighting for it until you are rolling on the floor, throwing fistfuls of sand in your enemy’s eyes! That is what this movie and every movie is about. Except Walt Disney’s African Cats. That movie is about lions. And rape . . . $13

Li’l Fatass’s Top 5 of 2011: Richard Ayoade’s Submarine

#5: You remember what it was to be young. To be cherishing your young blood like it was a temple. A tiny temple to the executor of your unrequited loves. To be young and to have only kissed one girl. And when that girl became floppy and terrifying. You remember pushing that girl into a pond. You remember how she shook that pond water off like a dog. You remember how that pond water stung upon your face, the scum getting in your hair. You remember the fat face of your first kisser.

You remember taking long walks on the beach by yourself. And narrating your life to yourself as though you were someone more important. But you were never important. Even to your mom you were just one character in the story about her life. And how she went from being an optimistic young woman into your mom and now no one watches the story of her life anymore.

Richard Ayoade remembers you. He was behind a rock, taking notes. He was stashing away notes to use for the movie about your life. Of course he had to change a few things. He made you Welsh, for one. He made your parents into Jews. He gave them the noses of Jews and also the hypochondrias. But so much of your life is there. Your attempted suicides. Your girlfriend’s mother’s brain tumors. The handjob your mother gave to that neighbor with all that leather and a ponytail.

Do you want to watch a movie about your own life? On one hand it recapitulates all the humiliations you endured during your adolescent (i.e. prime masturbatory) years. On the other hand it affirms the importance of those humiliations. Maybe they will help you to own those humiliations. You will own them and then they will empower you. Or maybe they will smash you into a jelly like a very pressurized atmosphere. Either way you are old now and not very important. Your life is not worth very much. Very much money or very much to the earth. If a coyote were to find your meat he would say it is not very much meat to write home about. Make your meat work for you. Make your meat take a few more risks in this life . . . $11

If you heart Submarine:

Recommendations by Li’l Fatass
Wes Anderson’s Rushmore
Nicholas Jasenovec’s Paper Heart
The Hess Family’s Napoleon Dynamite

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