Friday, September 7, 2012

The Muppets Take Manhattan

The Muppets Take Manhattan
last seen @ High Line Movies @ The High Line, New York NY

The next time you visit New York, make sure you spend an afternoon on the High Line. The High Line is a totally unique reappropriation of public space that's unlike anything you've ever seen. Located on the far west side of Manhattan, running up Chelsea and into Midtown, it used to be a set of elevated train tracks for freight usage. It fell out of use in 1980 and laid fallow for many years until 1999, when the idea to convert it into a park first gained traction. It went through city channels, designs were made, and construction began in 2006. Three years later, the first section of the new park opened to the public, and slowly but surely, the park expanded further north.

The park, accessible by both stairs and elevators, has a narrow walkway surrounded by a combination of wild-growing flora and cultivated foliage in a wide variety of patterns. Some of it grows so high that it engulfs the walkway, hanging low over it like an natural archway. The way the walkway is built, however, there are areas where one can still see the original train tracks underneath. 

There are benches, including a section with large wooden reclining benches, where you can lie down and spread out. There are areas where the former train tracks run underneath entire buildings, providing shelter from any precipitation. Mostly, though, the surrounding offices and apartment complexes look down on the High Line from above. Original art is often installed in spots. There are food carts all around the park, offering all types of fancy snacks. (Only one set of bathrooms, though. They could really use a second set.)

The view from the High Line is wonderful. To the west, one can look out over the West Side Highway into the Hudson River and New Jersey beyond that. Closer inland, one can see art studios along the streets below. To the east, there are the fashionable restaurants amidst the cobblestone streets of the West Village, and the Empire State Building and similar landmark buildings beyond that.

What makes this place so special is that it's all above street level. It twists and turns through buildings on either side of it, making you see New York in an unusual manner, yet all this concrete and steel mingles with the flowers and grass growing up from the park. The combination seems jarring at first, yet the longer you hang around the more enthralling the mixture becomes. I've only offered you the roughest of outlines; it's something that really needs to be seen to be believed. (If you ever come visit it though, be careful; it can get very crowded on the weekends and evenings during the warmer months.)

Given all this, when I saw that they show movies here too, I was curious as to how it would work. This month they started up a new series of films, beginning with The Muppets Take Manhattan, so I went down there for a look.

What they did was to get one of those giant air-filled projection screens and set it up underneath one of the larger overhangs - a part of the park underneath a building. (I was kinda hoping they might project the film on a wall.) Seats were set up in front of the screen, about 100 at least, and most of them were filled last night. This being a kiddie movie, there were kids, and I ended up next to one who wouldn't shut up. He looked like he was about two or three. He didn't seem to have much interest in the movie at all, even though his mom kept changing his seat. Plus there were a few kids seated on the floor in the front, and one of them kept sticking his hand in front of the projector at one point.

Regardless, I loved seeing this movie again. The songs aren't quite as good as in the original '79 movie, but as a kid, I never made that distinction. And seeing this definitely takes me back to childhood in a big way. I've said it before, but it's true: the Muppets are as real to me as any flesh and blood people, and I'll always cherish them.

The Muppets
The frog prince: The legacy of Jim Henson


  1. Nice post, Rich. "The Muppets Take Manhattan" was the very first film I ever saw in the theater. I was just three. I still recall my book and vinyl record player readalong that I played over-and-over; before and after seeing the actual film. My childhood memories come alive whenever the song "Saying Goodbye" plays (Gosh that was sad). And it also has the best wedding I ever saw--besides my own, of course. :)

  2. I didn't wanna admit it, but "Saying Goodbye" kinda made me sweat through my eyeballs.

  3. I actually play together again on spoons sometimes.

    The setup for movie showing at Highline sounds weird. Doesn't sound like it'll work if they ever do something that would pull in a real seriously crowd.

  4. Define "seriously." I suspect they're aware of the limitations of their space and plan accordingly.


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