Fun Friday – Bill Murray on David Letterman

It’s the Friday before a three day weekend which means that though I am one of the few people who came into the office today, I’m already in vacation mode. I’m getting ready to head out of town (again), but I wanted to kick your Labor Day weekend of with a little fun. So before you enjoy the last real weekend of the summer, check out Bill Murray’s legendary appearance last night on Late Night with David Letterman. Bill was Dave’s first ever guest on his NBC show and then returned to be his first guest when Letterman jumped networks to CBS. To honor the 20th anniversary of his tenure at the Tiffany network, Murray dropped by his friend’s show and pulled out all the stops:

First, he channels Liberace for his entrance:


Murray didn’t arrive empty handed, but had a special anniversary gift for Dave:


He looked for a time capsule he buried:


And then he brought it all home by serenading Dave with a song that you may have heard once or twice:


Doesn’t get much better than that. THAT is how to be a fun late night talk show guest. Happy Anniversary to David Letterman and the rest of you enjoy the holiday weekend!


Breaking Bad Exhibit, Museum of the Moving Image, Astoria, NY

While part of the reason that I went to New York last weekend was to see that awesome LEGO exhibit, the reason I was in a hurry to get back to the City after so many recent trips was to see the Breaking Bad exhibit at The Museum of the Moving Image. The display of props from the show was only going to be at the Museum through October and my Fall schedule is already filling up on the weekends, so I thought it best that I make the trek sooner rather than later. I’d also been meaning to go check out this museum in general, since its focus on “the art, history, technique, and technology of film, television, and digital media” sounded pretty in line with my interests.

Visiting The Museum of the Moving Image also meant I was expanding my on-going geography lesson of New York as it would require me going to Queens. I hadn’t been to that part of the City in well over a decade, so it was time for me to discovery some new territory. The subway didn’t drop me off in the most promising of stops – it was a very residential/blue collar neighborhood – but as I followed my Google map walking directions and hoped for the best, I eventually entered a slightly more developed and upscale section. Once I see a Starbucks, I know I’m good, and the Museum of the Moving Image is located just across the street from a franchise. I’ve never seen a Starbucks in a sketchy neighborhood.

The Breaking Bad exhibit was my main focus, though as I took the stairs to the second floor I noticed all sorts of things of interest that I would have to double back for. When I finally made my way to where the props were located, I was disappointed on two accounts: the exhibit is extraordinarily small and unlike the rest of the museum, there was no photography. This is not to say that what was featured in the display wasn’t interesting or awesome, but that I was glad that this was not the only reason I had come to New York for the day. I could look at Breaking Bad related materials all day, but the space was so small and crowded that I was in and out of there in fifteen minutes (and that was with reading all the placards and watching a little of the behind the scenes video).

Now we all know that I am a rule follower, but that doesn’t mean that because I was prohibited from taking pictures that photos don’t exist. Business Insider did a short article on the exhibition and their photographer did a nice job of capturing everything:

This is probably the closest I'll ever get to a bag of blue meth.

This is probably the closest I’ll ever get to a bag of blue meth.

The exhibition also featured a graph of the changing color palettes of the characters. A similar infographic (pictured here) is from

The exhibition also featured a graph of the changing color palettes of the characters’ wardrobes. A similar infographic (pictured here) is from

Some other various props from the show, including a potentially deadly pack of cigarettes.

Some other various props from the show, including a potentially deadly pack of cigarettes.

Not pictured but also in the exhibition: Walt’s copy of Leaves of Grass and Gale’s notebook.

With my mission now complete, I was free to wander around the rest of the museum in a leisurely fashion.  The core exhibition is called Behind the Screen and features costumes, set designs and models, make-up and old film and television cameras, as well as a collection of licensed merchandise (dolls, lunch boxes, toys, etc.) connected to cinema and television.

Prosthetics from Mrs. Doubtfire - kind of creepy

Prosthetic from Mrs. Doubtfire – kind of creepy to have that looking at you

Mork's outfit from Mork & Mindy

Mork’s outfit from Mork & Mindy

Costumes from Miami Vice

Costumes from Miami Vice

J.R. Ewing's hat from Dallas. R.I.P Larry Hagman.

J.R. Ewing’s hat from Dallas. R.I.P Larry Hagman.

A Cosby sweater, live and in person!

A Cosby sweater, live and in person!

Costume from The Warriors ("Come out to Plaaaaayyyyyy")

Costume from The Warriors (“Come out to Plaaaaayyyyyy”)

Set design model for The Muppet Movie

Set design model for The Muppets Take Manhattan

I was also delighted to find that the Museum also has a small collection of vintage video games. The collection is not as large as the one at the Museum of Play and didn’t include any pinball machines, but I did buy a few tokens to try my hand at Frogger and Pac Man. I was once again disappointed that Space Invaders game was broken, but that was probably for the best as I would have spent way too much time and money on it. Space Invaders was my jam back in the day.

I also discovered that on the first floor that one of their visiting exhibitions, Cut Up , was devoted to mashups, supercuts, political parodies and the like. If you read my biweekly Pop Culture Odds and Ends roundups, you are well aware of how much I enjoy a good mashup. The clips that they selected were fun to watch, though some of them I was already familiar with from my Internet surfing.  All of the clips that are featured are also available on line at the exhibition’s page on the Museum of the Moving Image’s website. You can peruse them yourself to see what strikes your fancy, but I particularly enjoyed the “Fargo Yeah” supercut,  the “Kramer’s Entrance Supercut,” the recut trailer that creates “Brokeback to the Future,” “Walt Disney’s Taxi Driver” and the mashup  of MC Hammer and the Black Eyed Peas, “Would you Like To Touch My Boom Boom Humps?”

Though the Breaking Bad exhibition didn’t quite live up to my lofty expectations, I’m still glad that I went to The Museum of the Moving Image. If I hadn’t gone to the exhibition, I would have wondered if I missed anything truly awesome. And while the scale of the exhibition was much more limited than I would have hoped, there were still some pretty cool things to check out. Seeing Heisenberg’s outfit and the poor pink bear was something that I’m glad I was able to do. I don’t know when another opportunity to see props from the show will come around, so I’m glad that I grabbed the proverbial brass ring. I’d go back to The Museum of the Moving Image for another exhibition; the $12 admittance fee was very fair and I didn’t check out any of the screenings that are included in the ticket price. So while I am ultimately very glad that I paired this trip with the LEGO exhibition in Times Square, it was worth the journey to Astoria to pay the Museum a visit. Besides, how many people can say that they have seen a pair of Walter White’s tighty whities in person?

The exhibition, From Mr. Chips to Scarface:  Walter White’s Transformation in Breaking Bad, runs until October 27th.

Elysium – A Review

Last Friday night, my friends Art and Angela invited me to dinner and to go see the new Matt Damon movie Elysium. I had kind of been on the fence about going to see the film; I was initially excited when I saw the trailers for the film earlier in the summer, but after a relatively lukewarm opening weekend and not a lot of buzz surrounding the film my anticipation cooled somewhat. I don’t know that I necessarily would have gone to see Elysium in the theaters if it hadn’t been for their invitation. But the promise of good company (and two hours of Matt Damon) was enough to get me over my initial tepid interest.

My quick cooling to Elysium was somewhat surprising as I was a big fan of director Neill Blomkamp’s first feature film, District 9. I thought it was interesting and innovative and showed great promise for a first time director. The film, about the segregation of aliens that served as a metaphor for apartheid in South Africa, even garnered a best picture nomination in 2010 (probably thanks in large part to the newly expanded number of nominees). I generally like Damon in just about everything; even if he is in a crappy movie, I like his performance. On paper, I should have been more excited about Elysium. While the sci-fi angle could be a potential problem for me, depending on how much they doubled down on the hard core stuff, the film had enough going for it that I shouldn’t have been writing it off so quickly. Sure, some critics that I like and whose tastes generally align with mine were a bit underwhelmed, but they didn’t hate it. So I don’t know what exactly contributed to my complete chilling on the film, but it happened.

It turned out that my pessimism wasn’t 100% warranted; while Elysium wasn’t perfect, it was generally entertaining while I was in the theater. However, the film failed to make much of an impact on me; shortly after leaving the cinema, I kind of forgot all about it. It just didn’t make an impression. If I was writing a tag line for Elysium it would be “mildly entertaining, a little ham-handed, but ultimately forgettable.”

The world of Elysium takes place in the not too distant future; most of the natural resources of Earth have been depleted and the planet is a desolate mess. The wealthy have fled the planet and now reside on Elysium, a space station that is climate controlled and where technology has advanced to the point where they have a cure for cancer and health care for all. The poor people of Earth are ruled by robots in an authoritarian regime and live in squalor. Those who are desperate for health care often turn to local smuggler Spider, who runs renegade ships to Elysium (with apparently limited success). Elysium is protected by a ruthless Secretary of Defense (Jodi Foster) who is willing to do anything to keep Elysium, including disobeying the President and killing civilians. Max (Damon), a former criminal turned factory worker, has always dreamed of gaining access to Elysium. He is trying to leave his life of crime behind him, but when an accident at the factory leads to his exposure to a fatal dose of radiation, he teams up with Spider in a desperate attempt to reach Elysium to cure himself. There’s also a woman from Max’s past with a sick kid, but frankly I found that subplot pretty boring and think the movie would have been better off without it. Facing your own mortality should be motivation enough.

Elysium has a lot of potential, but ultimately is a fairly predictable movie. While the film is visually pretty stunning, Blomkamp’s ability to tell a story doesn’t live up to that same standard. I could have predicted most of the story of the film from the beginning; I knew how it would end and most of the plot points in-between. Blomkamp starts to create an interesting world, but doesn’t quite finish the project. Elysium has a lot of things to say about health care access and class, but it doesn’t do so in a particularly subtle or nuanced way. The rich in the film are all painted with the same broad stokes; I find it hard to believe that there aren’t any wealthy people who are concerned about the well-being of those on Earth. Foster, in particular, is the same as pretty much every thinly drawn villain in cinematic history; the only new thing that she is bringing to this role is a weird accent and some ovaries.

Blomkamp does a better job with the action sequences, which are definitely the best part of the film. Elysium had some surprising brutality; I wasn’t expecting some of the gore and violence that I witnessed. That wasn’t an issue for me, but may be something to keep in mind if you have kids. It’s not throughout the film, but there are a few scenes where the ick factor is turned up to 11. Damon has the bonafides as an action star that he really makes those scenes come alive with the help of the visual choices that Blomkamp makes. It is when the film slows down and tries to do drama that Elysium is at its weakest and most boring. The flashback device is overused, in my opinion and doesn’t add much to the story. They are only really necessary to justify the presence of Max’s childhood friend Frey (Alice Braga), which as I mentioned earlier I found to be a waste and a distraction. The time spent on that silly story line could have been used to create a world with a bit more depth.

Some other thoughts:

  • Damon is solid as always; it’s a shame that Max becomes so sullen in the film, since he has a lot of personality when the story begins. He doesn’t have to be cracking jokes – he is, after all, dying – but he loses any of the spark that he had earlier.
  • Maybe it’s just me, but it seems equipping Damon with a crazy exoskeleton isn’t the most subtle way to infiltrate Elysium. I get why they think he needs it (I’m guessing because they thought it looked cool and then came up with a justification for it), but the dude sticks out like a sore thumb. Couldn’t have crafted something a little less conspicuous; I’m guessing people would remember a guy with that contraption melded to him, which doesn’t lend itself to an uncover mission.
  • I have no idea the direction that they gave Foster for this role, but I’d put even money on the word “steely” being used. She is ice cold in this film.
  • For a space colony that is all about keeping people out, they are doing a piss poor job of it. The people of Elysium may want to step up their game, since it seems pretty easy to breach their defenses, at least temporarily. You people found a cure for cancer – maybe it’s time to invest in some force fields.
  • The film goes to the “woman running with sick child” well once too often; one time is a moving and effective scene, but more than that and it becomes a cliché.
  • You know, just once I’d like to see a movie set in the future when things are going well. It’s always doom and gloom and vast wastelands. I know that fits better for storytelling and makes for a more interesting landscape, but once in a while it would be nice for a movie to say “the future is pretty awesome” not “nothing awaits us but a bleak and miserable experience.”

While I did find parts of Elysium on the boring side, I did genuinely enjoy most of it while it was happening. It was, however, fleeting entertainment; for all of its social commentary and a fine performance by Damon, it was ultimately disposable entertainment for me. One of the reasons it took me so long to write this review is because I couldn’t really think of much to say about it. It was perfectly mediocre, which isn’t a ringing endorsement but also isn’t a condemnation. I still think Blonkamp has potential, but he may be better equipped to direct smaller films. I’d also be interested in seeing him direct something that he didn’t write; Elysium proves that his screenwriting is not quite up to his talents behind the camera. The more you are into sci-fi, the more you may enjoy this film. I can’t say that it’s a must see, but I wouldn’t advise against seeing it either. It is definitely flawed, but it has some cool moments and sequences. It is a decent attempt, but fails to totally hit the mark.

Elysium opened nationwide on August 9th. I’m a little behind on my movie going.