Hi! It’s Annie!
I just got back from the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures, and it was a long but very fun day. I think the idea of going to museums has become more and more popular over quarantine, with people fantasizing about places to go that were closed at the time. And this museum was actually set to open in 2020, which meant that the crowds got pushed back mostly until this year. It’s definitely getting crowds in now with the opening of the Hayao Miyazaki exhibit that puts his work from his Studio Ghibli films on display. Though this extremely worthy exhibit was the main reason for my stop here, there were also several other things that I wasn’t expecting that absolutely blew my mind and stole my attention. This museum definitely has more than meets the eye! So, I’m going to go over some of my favorite parts of the museum. Though whether or not you want to go is totally up to you, I’m honestly not going to tell you to give the Academy money. I personally don’t support any award shows.
The Hayao Miyazaki exhibit was the best. From walking through greenery with one of my favorite Totoro music pieces in the background, to viewing his early stage sketches, to seeing how it was eventually brought to life with large screens. One of my favorite areas of the entire exhibit was a large stylized tree that lit up a bright green, while the forest sprites from ‘Princess Mononoke’ appeared and disappeared on the walls. Another favorite space of mine in the exhibit was definitely the very end of the exhibit that payed homage to ‘Spirited Away’. This space had the statue that sits in the entryway to the spirit world. The one where Chihiro must not look back in order to return to the real world. Which makes this very fitting as it stands between you and the exit to the entire exhibit. These small details (or rather, very large props), make it so that there’s actually a level of immersion to the exhibit. But the real star is definitely the sketches that are presented everywhere. I also especially liked the wall of original Japanese posters and the patch of grass you can lay down on to watch the animated clouds go by in the animated blue sky. It’s difficult to capture the feeling of the exhibit because it changes based on what you’re looking at. Whether it’s the sketch of the multi-colored dirty bathroom from ‘Howl’s Moving Castle’ or the breathtaking under the sea vibes in his ‘Ponyo’ artistry. Just a forewarning if you decide to attend this event which will leave in June; there are no photos or videos allowed while inside the exhibit. Which just means you’ll just have to stay longer inside so that you can drink it all in! Thankfully, it isn’t by any means a small exhibit.
What I wasn’t expecting was an entire area of one of the exhibits to be dedicated to animation. This includes sketches from movies like ‘Frozen’, ‘Up’, and ‘Shrek’. Essentially, any animated movie that’s received an Oscar. This exhibit also has several pieces from Tim Burton’s artist collection for ‘The Nightmare Before Christmas’ which is directed by Henry Selick. Though here’s another reminder to be careful if you do go and decide to take photos in the exhibits that are left more ambiguous. Tim Burton has requested that his sketches are not photographed, so throughout the exhibit there are things that you potentially can or can’t photograph. Most of the time you won’t know until a worker kindly goes up to you and informs you of the difference. When you’re in doubt, just ask someone who works there.
Costuming and Models:
One of my favorite parts of the museum was a portion that had costuming, puppets, and models all on display from a variety of different movies. Here you could see actual prop C3PO and R2D2 from ‘Star Wars’ as well as a host of actual costumes. Such as Okoye’s costume from ‘Black Panther’ or the iconic black with scissors from ‘Edward Scissorhands’. They also had prosthetics of The Penguin from Tim Burton’s ‘Batman’ movies and an entire giant model of the haunted Burton style Wayne Mansion. But I think my favorite was the props and puppeteer work from ‘The Dark Crystal’. I wasn’t expecting to see any of Jim Henson’s and Brian Froud’s work in the museum, and I was absolutely delighted when I found it. I think I’ve mentioned several times by now how big of a fan I am of both of their work. Especially in ‘The Labyrinth’. To see a sculpt of Kira, a full sized Skeksis, and a smaller Mystic was amazing. I literally just sat there and stared at them for a while. Thankfully there was a bench nearby otherwise that might have looked a little weird. I think even if you don’t think you’ll find anything you like at this museum, you’ll probably wind up finding something you didn’t realize would be there. Another example is that they had Marilyn Monroe and Jane Russell’s show costumes from ‘Gentleman Prefer Blondes’. I really like this movie, but I’m one of the few that adores it for Jane Russell rather than Marilyn, and finally being able to see a Jane Russell costume made me so happy!
Other Filmmakers and Stars:
Though they had tributes to many, I think my favorites were the sections dedicated to Spike Lee and Bruce Lee respectively. I loved that they had Bruce Lee’s quotes about martial arts framed as well as one of his costumes. And Spike Lee had an entire room to himself! Including memorabilia such as posters and props from ‘Do the Right Thing’ and a wall of posters signed by other directors that were given to Spike Lee. There’s just so much to explore and seeing Steven Spielberg sign a ‘Jurassic Park’ poster with “ROARRR” was hilarious.
The Oscars and the Academy:
This is where the museum dropped off for me a bit, because I’m not a huge fan of the Academy. And I’m definitely not a huge fan of any award shows, which is a sentiment I’ve expressed in almost all of the posts I’ve made addressing BTS and the Grammys. Most award shows are pretty meaningless to me. The people who vote are mostly old white men who vote for whoever’s company or agency bribed them the best. It all feels political to me and I highly doubt any of these award shows ever even take talent or hard work into consideration. That aside, there was an Oscar portion of this museum. They had a few Oscars on display and there was a room where they showed historical moments from the Oscars. And this had to be my least favorite part of the entire museum because of how performative it felt. For the brief time I was in there, it was playing Halle Berry’s 2002 acceptance speech for Best Actress. Which feels even worse right now considering only a day ago Halle Berry recalled how disappointing that award ended up being. Considering her entire speech was about how it opened the way for the Black actresses, and she so far has been the first and last Black actress to win that award. In fact, no POC woman has won that award since. I felt kind of disgusting just being in there and speed walked out of the exhibit. I still stand by the fact that the Oscars are meaningless and pretty archaic. I still want all award shows to die. There’s an experience you can pay for that makes you feel like you’ve won an Oscar too. I have no idea who would do this.
Overall, I loved the Hayao Miyazaki exhibit! But I do think that it being there is pretty essential for me going back. Or at least them having an exhibit that I find just as interesting, which would be difficult to do. I can’t imagine myself visiting without the presence of the exhibit. Overall though, I had fun! And I had to watch ‘Howl’s Moving Castle’ as soon as I came home because it gave me a higher respect for Miyazaki and his art than I even had before, which is saying something! I highly recommend giving this exhibit a visit if you can, but I’m not sure I would recommend the Academy museum as a whole without it.
See you across the pond!