With the Academy Awards on Sunday, I decided this was the perfect weekend to visit The Museum of the Moving Image.
This is one of New York’s smaller, niche museums. It’s located a short subway ride from Manhattan in Astoria, Queens. This makes it slightly intimidating to the average tourist. Tourist or not, if you are a movie buff you will love this museum. It’s location gives it an advantage: unlike the Met or the MoMA this museum is not overwhelmingly crowded on weekends or awash with school groups during the week.
The core exhibit is titled “Behind the Screen” and explores all elements of moving picture history.
It’s staggering to see how recently moving pictures came into being and the awesome advances that occurred in 100 years. The exhibit takes you through all the different elements required to assemble a film on both creative and technical sides.
Actors, directors, set design, costumes, make-up, composers, and screenwriters each get their own section of the 2nd floor. On the 3rd floor things get technical with lights, mics, cameras dating back to the early 1900s, and special effects.
The special effects are especially fun to see because ground breaking techniques become obsolete so fast. Computer animation has all but done away with animatronic puppets. Here we have a great assortment on display. The animatronics from the Exorcist (creepy!) and Yoda from Star Wars.
A permanent Jim Henson Exhibit will open in late 2015. Which is so exciting! Currently they show many nods to The Muppets and Henson’s work. In addition to Yoda, there’s an awesome model from the original set design of The Muppets Take Manhattan.
I’m smiling from the miniature front, it’s maybe 1 foot high. when I notice the back. My heart melts. I love The Muppets.
The museum also has frequent screenings from Jim Henson’s World. All screenings of any film are included with your $12 admission price which is an awesome bonus! Click for the list of upcoming films they are showing.
Of course there are opportunities to see moving images at any time in this museum, not just at scheduled screenings.
We were treated to “Plymptoons: Short Films by Bill Plympton”, apparently an extended showing of hilarious hand drawn cartoons. There is also the awesome Tut’s Fever Movie Palace which was created as an homage to the ornate movie palaces of the pre-depression era. It’s a trip to just walk in. That they show different short movie serials everyday makes it even better!
But wait! There’s more! One of the most fun parts of the museum is their interactive features. There’s an exhibit on stop motion animation and then an opportunity to try out stop motion techniques yourself! Look guys, I made a film! Okay, “film” is a huge exaggeration. I took 12 pictures, moving around these different paper props. Looped together it looks like it’s moving!
Here’s my interactive master piece. A “film” (this one’s a little longer!) of me punching my friend Henry. It’s totally epic (and we could’ve used another take to coordinate slow-motion pace. Oh well, there wasn’t budget for that!)
There was one huge disappointment from this trip to the Museum of the Moving Image? Matthew Weiner’s Mad Men exhibit is opening March 14th, running through June 14th!
I was 3 weeks too early to see it! Oh well, I guess I’ll just have to come back! The current special exhibit is about Astoria Studios which is located in the neighborhood. That runs through March 29th. It was interesting, but I wouldn’t recommend a special trip to see it unless you’re as obsessed with NYC as I am.
But wait, there’s more! Incredible artifact film cameras, history of the very first moving images (we’re talking a flip-book level), old TVs. How sound came to be added to films- with the interactive element of making your own voice over. This museum is really fun, chock full of information you likely didn’t know, well-worth the trip to Queens. It’ll give you an appreciation for the next time you watch Netflix.
Visit their website for more info http://www.movingimage.us/visit/ and let me know if you’re going to check out the Mad Men exhibit!