Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Museum of the Moving Image in New York City Reopens: A Review

A display of movie posters
 For sheer, unadulterated fun, there’s no museum in New York City that can beat the Museum of the Moving Image  (35th Ave. at 36th St., Astoria, Queens). The first museum anywhere to look at TV, film, and video games together (a heretical concept when the museum was opened in 1988), it’s not simply an archive of past shows. Instead, it explores the craft and technology behind these arts with startlingly imaginative interactive exhibits, commissioned art works, video sequences and, of course, artifacts. Just how much fun is all this? Well, Citysearch ranked it the best place in the city for a family outing, and Time Out magazine called the museum the #1 place to go when you’re “baked” (and if that doesn’t hit all the bases, I don’t know what does).

On display: Jim Carrey's Mask from the film of the same name

Its been off the radar for the last two years, as it underwent massive construction which nearly doubled its size (making more room for changing exhibits) and seriously upgrading its main theater. The museum now has a very lovely cafe, useful should your morning visit stretch into the afternoon and evening (many folks think they'll just spend a few hours here and end up staying all day).

Start your visit on the third floor with the museum’s core exhibit, “Behind the Screen,” which explores the many technical issues behind moving images, from explanations of how the eye is tricked into seeing movement in rapidly repeating images, to the intricacies of sound and film editing. You’ll have a chance to dub your own voice into such movies as School of Rock, create original computer animation, transmute the musical score of a famous film scene, and more. Several times a day, working editors, animators, and educators give demonstrations of how these techniques are used on actual productions. Across from this exhibition are changing exhibits. Currently, there's a very cool art piece that places the viewer inside a changing landscape. With the help of sensors, as the viewer moves so does the landscape of the piece.

The stunning new theater
On the second floor the focus shifts from technical issues to design issues, with exhibits devoted to the make-up, costumes, sets, and publicity stills that help create the image the director (or studio) is looking for. So you may see the Freddy mask from Nightmare on Elm Street; or the dazzling costumes from the movie Chicago. Walls and walls of marketing ephemera—lunch boxes of the Fonz, cookie tins with the faces of silent film stars, Muppet memorabilia—complete the floor, along with “Tut’s Fever Movie Palace,” a wacky [']30s-style theater, created by artist Red Grooms; the theater screens classic silent serials. My kids' favorite on this floor: a full wall of classic video games (get tokens when you pay your admission).

On the first floor is the museum’s full-sized movie theater, which offers free screenings of feature films from around the world, often followed by discussions with the artists involved.

And if you're worried about trekking out to Queens, don't be! Its just 3 subway stops from Bloomingdales and extremely easy to get to. Hope to see you next time I'm there!

(All photos by Garret Ziegler)

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