Movies: The Underlying Message in The Muppets Movie*.

Talk about a metatext!

It seems like every two minutes in The Muppets there was a thoroughly enjoyable self-aware reference and celebrity guest appearance. Gary presents Mary with some lacklustre flowers, which were squashed “probably from the dance number I was doing” in one of the opening scenes of the movie. When Mary laments in song Gary’s brother, Walter, joining them on an anniversary trip to Los Angeles, a gardener conveniently sprays water on the window she’s wistfully looking out of. When Statler and Waldorf introduce the “important plot point” involving oil tycoon Tex Richman drilling for oil under the old Muppet Theatre, Walter tries to get the Muppets back together to save it. When this fails to come to fruition midway through, Mary remarks, “This is going to be a really short movie.” And let’s not forget Camilla and the other chickens’ performance of “Forget You”. You can’t get much more meta than that!

As for the cameos, take Jack Black and his School of Rock cast mate Sarah Silverman, for example. Or Dave Grohl on drums for The Muppets cover band, the Moopets, and the later performance by The Muppets Barbershop Quartet of “Smells Like Teen Spirit”. Or Amy Adams as Mary, and her Sunshine Cleaning co-star Emily Blunt in her very Devil Wears Prada-role as Miss Piggy’s secretary. Even Blunt’s real life husband, John Kransinki, makes an appearance. Phew!

But, we’re reminded, celebrities are fair game because they are “not a people”. Makes a poignant comment on our celebrity-saturated society.

That’s the not the only point The Muppets makes. Richman is the personification of the 1% and, like the Moopets, is “a hard, cynical act for a hard, cynical world.”

The film also seeks to promote diversity and acceptance, I thought. Take, for example, the Ebony magazine cover that Kermit fronts, which is traditionally a magazine for African Americans, and how this might represent the Muppets as being beyond racial definition. I also got the feeling that Walter was marketed to be a differently-abled person, which would certainly explain Gary’s reluctance to let Walter go when he is accepted into the Muppet clan and his sheltered existence in Smalltown up til then.

On the first watching of the film, I noticed in particular that Kermit wont tell Miss Piggy he loves her, which is all she asks of him. It reminded me of the Blair and Chuck storyline in Gossip Girl from a few years ago: their back-and-forth love story that depends on Blair needing to hear those words and Chuck never being able to say them. On second watching, I confirmed that, in fact, Kermit never does say “I love you”.

The second time around was more enjoyable. While I originally got to see the film a month before it came out in Australia—and for free!—being in an audience of primarily under 10s wasn’t as good as being in an almost-empty theatre consisting only of Generation X’s who grew up with the Muppets. There was, however, a group of about six teenage fanboys sitting behind me. I was originally annoyed by their chatting in the first ten minutes of the film, but I actually laughed more at them than at the movie when they slid off their seats during the appearances of Neil Patrick Harris and Jim Parsons. But, after watching “Muppet or a Man”, can you really blame them?

*Blanket spoiler alert.

Related: [The Early Bird Catches the Worm] My Month in Pictures.

Images via YouTube, Cover Me Songs.

Movies: Top 11 Films of 2011*.

Scream 4. For my money, which I forked out happily, Scream 4 was not only one of the best films of the year (for me, Bridesmaids was number one, followed closely by the fourth installment of the Woodsboro saga), but the best chapter of the franchise.

Bridesmaids. My other favourite movie of the year. While I’m happy that the rest of the world cottoned on to the brilliance of Bridesmaids, my only regret is that it’s not just my little secret.

Black Swan. It was the buzz of the 2011 Oscars for its lesbian scenes, portrayal of mental illness and the controversial partnership between choreographer Benjamin Millipied and star Natalie Portman.

The Lion King 3D. Who could resist the 3D reboot of one of Disney’s best loved animations? It also harkens back to the hand-drawn animation era, being one of the last before computer animated films like Toy Story and Finding Nemo took over.

The Muppets. Probably one of the most anticipated films of the year (in my household, at least!), I was lucky enough to see it in a preview screening early in December. Technically, it’s released in Australia later in January, however it was a Thanksgiving film in the U.S., so I’m sticking by that. A must see for any child at heart.

The Help. The Help really took me by surprise. In August, I saw a preview screening of the film advertised, and it piqued my interest. A few days later, I realised it was based on a book, and before I even had a chance to express interest in reading Kathryn Stockett’s novel, the movie was out in cinemas. I’m glad I didn’t read the book, because the movie was it for me. And for the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences, apparently!

Breaking Dawn. Breaking Yawn, more like it. While I was sorely disappointed by the first installment of the big screen adaptation of the final book in the Twilight Saga, it was one of the most highly anticipated and grossing films of the year.

X-Men: First Class. I’m not an X-Men fan, so I’m handing it over to my housemate, Eddie, who is:

“For a northern summer blockbuster, it asks a lot of questions about morality of the viewer: should you change or should society change? Is change through force acceptable? Throw in some incredible acting from Michael Fassbender and one of the greatest cameos of all time from Hugh Jackman and you have yourself a very smart popcorn film.”

New Years Eve. In the vein of He’s Just Not That Into You and Valentine’s Day, I’m a sucker for a celebrity-packed movie. While there’s not much of a story, and it’s more of an excuse to perve on the alleged chemistry between Lea Michele and Ashton Kutcher, it’s the perfect mind-numbing holiday movie.

Super 8. As the latest issue of Time magazine (review to come) notes, Super 8 was one of the more hyped movies of the year. While I quite enjoyed it, sadly, Super 8 didn’t live up to its expectations.

Green Lantern. It was the year of green. Kermit’s return in The Muppets, and Ryan Reynolds’ turn as Hal Jordan. Looking back, the film was a bit of a flop in my eyes, but it did set the scene for one of the most talked about hookups of the year: Reynolds and Blake Lively.

What were your top films of 2011?

*Blanket spoiler alert.

Related: [The Early Bird Catches the Worm] Scream 4 Review.

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] Bridesmaids Review.

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] The Help Review.

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] Breaking Dawn: Sex is Bad, Okay? And You Will Be Punished for Having it with a Life-Sucking Vampire Foetus. Sorry, Life-Sucking Vampire BABY!

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] Super 8 Review.

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] Green Lantern Review.

On the (Rest of the) Net.

Julia Gillard is anti-marriage, period:

“After reading all of Gillard’s statements on this issue and after speaking to those who have talked to her about it, I am convinced she doesn’t believe in marriage at all, for anyone.” [ABC Unleashed]

The “Born This Way” versus choice debate continues:

“But I think the most serious problem with this argument is that it reinforces the idea that we need an excuse to be queer. As a result, using this line subtly supports the idea that being queer requires excusing in some way. Don’t use it. Don’t allow straight people to generate an understanding of queer sexuality that sounds like: ‘Well, of course Bob wouldn’t wish to be queer, but he was born this way. I guess we better give him equal rights—poor Bob, he just can’t help it. We shouldn’t punish him for something he didn’t choose!’

“Meanwhile the real reason that you shouldn’t punish Bob for queerness is because there’s nothing wrong with it!” [Social Justice League]

If you’re unfamiliar with the personhood debate, or just unclear on what it all means, this article by Jill Filipovic is a must-read. [Guardian]

Here’s another great article on Personhood and what it means for abortion laws:

“… As the Personhood message penetrates, then society will understand why women need to be punished just as surely as they understand why there can be no exceptions for rape/incest [bolded text mine].” [Salon]

Why Kyle Sandilands is a dickhead. [The Punch]

“Rethinking the Strong Female Character.” [Canonball]

Kelly Osbourne repents for her past “tranny” wrongs. [HuffPo]

And Warren Beatty and Annette Benning’s transgender son thinks Chaz Bono is a misogynist. [Super-Mattachine]

“27 & Unmarried? In China, You’re One of the ‘Leftover Women’.” Gah, only three years left for me! [Jezebel, Ms. Magazine]

What White Ribbon Day means for men. [MamaMia]

The double standards of talking about what goes on down there. [Owning Pink]

Knowing all the evils facing women in our society, would you want to bring a baby girl into the world? [Jezebel]

My, what lovely lady lumps Kristen Wiig has. All the better to be named GQ’s “Bro of the Year” with, my dear. [Jezebel]

“Eve as Literary Hero”. [Imagine Today]

Ms. Piggy as feminist and Kermit as douchefrog. [Jezebel]

Meshel Laurie on the Matthew Newton saga. [MamaMia]

On being single. [Girls Are Made from Pepsi]

Gah! “Pro-Life Feminism is the Future”. [Washington Post]

Images via Jezebel, Lara Croft Tomb Raider Costume Resource.