Muppet Treasure Island

Over Under: A New Perspective on Films New and Old

After cutting his puppetry teeth on short films and episodes of Sesame Street in the late 60s and early 70s, legendary puppeteer Jim Henson finally got a chance to give his felt faced creations a spotlight show of their own in the mid 70s. That show was The Muppet Show, and it was awesome. So awesome that it eventually spawned a series of feature films. While there’s always room for conflicting opinions, some consensuses (consensii?) about these movies have popped up over the years. It seems that all Muppets are not created equal. Generally everyone agrees that the original film, The Muppet Movie, was the best. And it’s also largely agreed that the first three movies, the ones that still had Jim Henson involvement, are better than the ones that came after. While there’s some general truthiness to these beliefs, I can’t say that I think those divisions hold up as absolute truths. Thank God, this column would have been a wreck otherwise.

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There’s a musical quality when Hans Zimmer speaks. Sometimes stammering his way through sentences, the native German sounds equal parts Rudolf Klein-Rogge and Jeremy Irons in Die Hard with a Vengeance. All of that is lifted by a sunshine sense of humor that seems to get out in front of him and lead the way. Over a three decade career, Zimmer has built a reputation for quality in film scoring. It could easily be said that he’s had the privilege of working with some of the best directors in the business, but it could just as easily be said that it is they who have had the privilege of working with him. His most recent work can be heard through the booms, haunting piano keys, and ever-present synth modulations that support Leonardo Dicaprio as he steals around the dreams of Inception. Yesterday, it was I who had the privilege of speaking with the composer about the fear inherent in every new job, the connective tissue between Japanese electropop and Russian choirs, and what he’s trying to say with his music.

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