Being Elmo: A Puppeteer’s Journey – Review

Growing up Kevin Clash only wanted one thing; to be a puppeteer like Jim Henson from Sesame Street. After years spent making his own puppets and decades working his way through the world of puppetry Clash is living his dream. Kevin Clash is Elmo.

Told through interviews with Clash, his family and colleagues, bizarrely detailed archive footage and new footage of Clash at work on Sesame Street, making live appearances and throwing one hell of a Sweet Sixteen for his daughter, Being Elmo is a documentary lacking in sensationalism and shock revelations. Being Elmo tells a simple story of a man following his dreams and tells it well.

The resulting film is possibly one of the most heart-warming documentaries I have ever seen, I dare you not to cry at least once. Kevin Clash is a humble man who has succeeded through sheer talent and drive, putting his career ahead of everything else in his life. In Elmo he created a character who simply wants to love and you can see that reflected in the children Clash insists on meeting as Elmo personally, not letting a second puppeteer share the responsibility.

Being Elmo isn’t perfect. Throughout there are hints that not everything was perfect in Clash’s life as he references a divorce and we briefly hear how he regrets spending so much time with other people’s children when he has his own daughter at home. This is definitely the glossy Muppet version of Kevin Clash with any imperfection sewn up with invisible seams.

Being Elmo is all about following your dreams no matter what. What could be wrong with that?

Out Now – 27th April 2012

African Cats (limited release)
With the week’s sole big release already out in cinemas today is an odd collection of films including this documentary with a self-explanatory title.

Outside Bet (limited release)
80s set British comedy about a group of friends who spend their redundancy money on buying a racehorse in the hopes of making it rich.

Buck (limited release)
Documentary about acclaimed ‘horse whisperer’ Buck Brannaman. This really is an odd crop of films.

Damsels in Distress (limited release)
Whit Stillman hasn’t had a film released since 1998 and returns with a comedy about three women who change the male-dominated environment of the Seven Oaks college campus. I feel as though I should know who Whit Stillman is and as a result care more about this film and his return to film-making. Sadly this is not the case. It’s hard to get excited about any film not involving Elmo today.

The Monk (limited release)
In 17th century Madrid a monk becomes an acclaimed preacher before finding himself tested by temptation. Includes more nudity and violence that you might expect.

Strippers vs Werewolves (limited release)
Set in Essex of all places this film presumably includes exactly as much nudity and violence as you’d expect. Can it possibly be as fun as Zombie Strippers? No, nothing ever will be.

Albert Nobbs (limited release)
Amusingly titled period drama about a woman who is forced to pose as a man in order to be independent. This could well be a fantastic film but I find the image of Glenn Close as a man genuinely terrifying.

Being Elmo (limited release)
What looks to be an incredibly adorable and moving documentary focusses on Kevin Clash the man who created, portrays, and is Elmo. Check here for details of screenings across the UK.

388 Arletta Avenue (limited release)
Creepy stalker films a couple at home and at work before moving in for the kill…

Sundance Sales

Martha Marcy May Marlene

We didn’t spend the whole ten days of Sundance jealously scrounging for news while stuck in an airless office in grey London. Not at all. But now that the only thing Park City has to look forward to is sub-zero temperatures and a whole lot of snow (ha! Take that, Utah!), Mild Concern sorts through the film sales and picks out the ones to watch out for when some studio exec decides they can see the light of day. (We’re still waiting for Hesher from last year’s Sundance.)

Sundance was a strong festival for Mild Concern favourites. First up (and previously teased): Like Crazy – the long distance relationship drama starring Anton Yelchin and, more importantly, Felicity Jones. We do like to see all this buzz around our fellow East London resident. Don’t forget us when you’re a Hollywood starlet, Felicity.

Having already peeked at the next tip due to this blog’s stalking casual interest in the roles of Ms. Deschanel, My Idiot Brother stars Paul Rudd as a pot-dealing idealist who disrupts the lives of his three sisters in what is hopefully a non-bromance film. At last!

Tired of seeing Paul Bettany wasted in bad films? Or period dramas? Or as English villains? Or as a disembodied voice at the beck and call of Robert Downey Jr? Well how about seeing how he does as a banker? Or at least, Margin Call is set in an investment bank during 24 hours in the financial crisis so we might be extrapolating a bit. It’s a thriller, really! Also looking to enthrall you with numbers and graphs is writer-director newcomer, J.C. Chandor and the combined acting force of Kevin Spacey, Jeremy Irons, Stanley Tucci and President of the Earth, Mary McDonnell.

From an established cast of big names to Homework. Billed as a ‘coming-of-age romantic comedy’, it can only be filled with actors that make me show my age when I ask, “Wait – aren’t they 10 years old?” Case in point: little Charlie of Chocolate Factory fame (Freddie Highmore) and blonde starlet, Emma Roberts, who I haven’t seen in anything since she was 10. It’s got a lot of buzz and has an indie poster. It even has music from The Shins.

Does having celebrity older siblings who have demonstrated how to have a car crash of a youth acting career make you more likely to go about having a similar career in a more sensible manner? That’s probably a question that requires more research (and better editing) but if we take a sample size of one and make that one person Elizabeth Olsen, then the answer is yes. I am weirdly excited about Martha Marcy May Marlene, which stars Olsen as an escapee from a cult and tracks between her time there and her failing attempts to re-assimilate back into her life. Sounds like the girl has made some good choices; just make sure you finish that Psychology degree, Elizabeth – hey, it worked for Portman.

Every time we hear about good stuff that the UK Film Council has done, we get a little sinking feeling because we worry for its future. The Guard, starring Don Cheadle and Brendan Gleeson, inspires that sinking feeling. Drug smuggling, FBI agents and reluctant Irish village police. It’s either a crime thriller or a farcical comedy! (It’s a thriller.)

I’m rounding this section off with The Details – Elizabeth Banks, Tobey Maguire and Laura Linney. Apparently it’s about the ridiculousness of the every day, involves a raccoon-ruined lawn and is a comedy that isn’t going to provide obvious jokes for a trailer. Got to be worth a look, just for that.

Films about real stuff!

We like a good documentary, we do.

Being Elmo

  • Project Nim opened Sundance and looked at the chimp who was brought up as a human in the 70s. A BBC production, hopefully it’ll go on wider distribution somehow over here. Insert some sort of rambling about the license fee.
  • The advertising world pays the collective rent of Mild Concern, so we’ve got a bit of a vested interest in how marketing works. Morgan Spurlock, creator of Super Size Me, made a film entirely financed by product placement and advertising: Pom Wonderful Presents: The Greatest Movie Ever Sold.
  • Seeing as penguins have already been covered, Being Elmo: A Puppeteer’s Journey will probably be the second cutest thing you can get in a feature-length documentary. As far as I can tell (my sketchy research could easily be wrong), it’s not been sold yet but it’s all about the fuzzy red one and pretty much guarantees a cinema full of “awwww”s. How could it not be picked up soon?
  • The New York Times has a movie – Page One: A Year Inside the New York Times, which presumably does what it says on the tin. I am geekily intrigued.
  • Life in a Day was put together after YouTube users were encouraged to record their day on 24th July 2010, which the film-makers mixed together. Sounds like a marvel of editing.