Tue Feb 26 2008
The Museum of the Moving Image in Astoria, Queens, has always excelled in its programming. Within the last two years alone, TONY has covered series as varied as the Anna May Wong retrospective, the French New Wave cinema of Jacques Rivette, the horror flicks of the "Splat Pack" and the B-movie masterpieces of Sam Fuller. Sadly, the museum is set to close its doors for renovations, and will not reopen until 2009. Tomoko Kawamoto, a publicist for the museum, said that the planned renovations were extensive and that the physical space of the galleries will be more than doubled over the next 18 months.
The last movie screenings were on Sunday, February 24, and the projector cooled down just as stars began their annual traipse up the red carpet in Hollywood. The museum's galleries, however, will stay open until the middle of March, and are worth checking out now; you won't get another chance until next year.
There are two floors of exhibits, including various cinematic props and costumes. Highlights include Cher's wig from The Witches of Eastwick (shockingly, that wasn't her own hair); De Niro's mohawk from Taxi Driver; Yoda (he's in a glass case); Freddy from Nightmare on Elm Street's screaming, multifacial chest piece; Glenn Close's frock from Dangerous Liaisons; and a mechanical figure of Linda Blair (see above) from The Exorcist (used in the scene where her head does a 360 and scares the pants off the priest).
Interspersed among the exhibits are interactive booths, where visitors can add their own soundtrack to Romeo + Juliet, Independence Day, Vertigo and Twister. Over the weekend, a family from Brooklyn was trying to decide which of four musical options best fitted the scene in Romeo + Juliet where DiCaprio's and Danes's eyes meet across a crowded fish tank. Des'ree won, of course.
Visitors can also loop their own dialogue into Glory ("I ain't fighting this war for you, sir"), My Fair Lady ("The rain in Spain falls mainly on the plain"), The Wizard of Oz ("Toto...") and To Have and Have Not (sadly, no option to record the "you just put your lips together and blow" line—didn't pass the museum's G-rated standard, apparently). Judging by one woman's reaction, there's nothing quite as unsettling as hearing your own voice emanating out of Audrey Hepburn's mouth.
Staff are also on hand to demonstrate a kinetoscope (an early peepshow device invented by Thomas Edison) and show how film-editing, both celluloid and digital, works. Sarah Feuquay, a soon-to-be-out-of-a-job museum employee, showed how one independent filmmaker had managed to edit his film sufficiently to prove that putting a chicken's head in your mouth will, in fact, calm it. The unedited version showed that—unfortunately for the actor—this was not the case.
This past weekend marked the last screenings in the museum's two movie theaters. One, Tut's Fever Movie Palace, a re-creation of a 1940s cinema decked out like an Egyptian tomb, had been showing Captain Marvel episodes, while the other, the Riklis Theater, showed a bunch of John Ford movies and, on Saturday night, a screening of The Axe in the Attic, a documentary about Hurricane Katrina. Axe premiered at the New York Film Festival last year but has yet to find distribution. One of the film's makers, Lucia Small, was present at the screening and answered questions afterward.
According to Small, her film is among a handful of Katrina documentaries currently doing the rounds. In Axe, Small and codirector Ed Pincus are seen squabbling about whether to give money to the victims of Katrina they were filming; Small called it "breaking the fourth wall." An interesting dilemma to journalists and ethicists in the audience, but not necessarily anyone else; it was about as relevant, and about as pleasant, as the prospect of seeing Tim Burton pop up in the middle of Sweeney Todd and snog Helena Bonham Carter.
The Museum of the Moving Image, 35th Ave at 36th St, Astoria, Queens