Early in Being Elmo: a Puppeteer’s Journey, I come to understand why we treasure Elmo. Kevin Clash, the creative genius behind the red furball, is in France to train other puppeteers. They’re doing an exercise where they pantomime without puppets so they can observe their hands. Clash is patient with his students, and wants them to follow his example. Watching his hand without a puppet attached, I realized the magic is in Clash. His graceful movements, not Elmo’s cute eyes, are what give the puppet a soul.
SilverDocs kicked off last night with The Swell Season, which follows Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová as they tour the world on the heels of their Academy Award success. Known for their no-budget musical Once, Glen and Mar (what friends call her) co-wrote songs like “Lies” and “Falling Slowly.” Directors Nick August-Perna, Chris Dapkins, and Carlo Mirabella-Davis use stunning black and white cinematography to portray the real-life couple with tenderness and moments of quiet joy.
J.J. Abrams’ Super 8 is bold, confident entertainment that attempts to recreate the success of early Steven Spielberg. Like Close Encounters of the Third Kind and ET, the suburban setting exudes both familiarity and danger. The story includes family drama, science-fiction, and a touching love story. Abrams does not usurp the movies that inspire him, but then again, how could he? Spielberg was innovating back then, and Abrams’ sense of nostalgia hinders the material from feeling fresh. Unfair comparisons notwithstanding, Super 8 is brimming with enough thrills and heart to make us forget its lack of movie magic.
It is customary for publicists to ask critics what they think of a movie as they leave an early screening. Most of the time, I’m more than happy to give my opinion. “It was really good” or “It was ok” are my customary responses. Unsurprisingly, I had an entirely different reaction afterTerrence Malick’s The Tree of Life. I said, “I don’t know.” Weeks have passed since I saw Malick’s latest and I’m still grappling with what it means. Words like “excellent” and “good” cannot even scrape such an achievement because its ambition is beyond the scope of traditional film.