Review: ‘Dear…’ Apple Tv+ new series is coming this Friday!

Dear…

One person’s story can change the world. From Emmy-winning filmmaker R.J. Cutler, this ten-part docuseries profiles game-changing icons and the people whose lives they’ve inspired.

 

Dear… is a brand new docuseries featuring letters to some of the most influential people of our time. These fan letters affect the reader as profoundly as the author. ‘DEAR…’ explores the histories of our subjects, what inspired them to be artistic, brave, and to step into the unknown. Like each letter illustrated, the series is one of a kind.

Episode 2:

Lin-Manuel Miranda understood that if you don’t tell your story, someone will do it for you in a way that might not be as authentic. He talks about creating In The Heights and literally changing the face and sound of musical theatre. He learned how to say, “No”, and how to wait for the right opportunity. Finally, Latinos were able to see themselves onstage. His fans’ letters speak to the ability to celebrate their heritage. Wait until you see how and where he shares the first 16 bars from Hamilton. Through this show and his subsequent speech at the Tony Awards, he gave renew voice to the LGBTQA+ community. Love is love is love is love is love.

Episode 6:

Jane Goodall is a huge figure for someone so small in real life. What she has done for research and extinction awareness is a gift to the Earth. In her Dear… episode, her letters tell the stories of other people and their journey to protect the planet and its creatures. Jane’s love of animals and Tarzan inspired her to study Africa. Footage of Goodall in 1960 in Tanzania in search of chimpanzees is gorgeous. Thus began her life’s work. Her fans span generations, creating foundations, becoming conservation activists and journalists, mentors, and environmentally progressive teens. Her message through Roots and Shoots is about encouraging each child to be part of the solution and have the courage to raise awareness to those who don’t understand the effect humans have on climate.

Episode 7:

Big Bird, yes our giant 8-foot tall Sesame Street herald, has his very own episode of Dear… Big Bird is technically only 6 years old, but he’s been around since the incarnation of Jim Henson and PBS’ children’s series in 1969. Children follow the social-emotional growth of someone just like them. In 1982, the actor who played Mr. Hooper passed away, and Sesame Street used it as an opportunity to teach young kids about death. Whenever major events happen in the world, Sesame Street deals with them head-on using Big Bird as their universal child. He shows the same vulnerability that a viewer would. His letters are from the adults that grew up with him. With 2 toddlers of my own, we watch Big Bird learn new lessons every day. He teaches them how to be a good friend, how it’s ok to make mistakes, and how to be accepting of those who are different from us. Now that Sesame Street has Julia, a character with autism, my connection with Big Bird is stronger than ever. I am a Mom with a child on the spectrum. He has taught us that being yourself is the best way to be, that would celebrate how special and unique each of us truly is. In a way, this review is my very own letter saying Thank You for continuing to teach us all.

DEAR… also showcases the lives and letters of Spike Lee, Aly Raisman, Misty Copeland, Oprah Winfrey, Yara Shahidi, Jane Goodall, Stevie Wonder, and Gloria Steinem. The beautiful juxtaposition of the authors’ letters dramatized while reading them is stunning. You’ll have chills. The show is hopeful and real. It’s incredibly well done. It’s a series we need right now, in this moment of history. DEAR… can be seen beginning June 5th in its entirety on Apple TV+.

‘I AM BIG BIRD’ hugs your heart and soul. Liz talks childhood flashbacks and this touching documentary.

I am big bird posterWhen I was a very small child, my mother would set me up each morning on my little wooden and plastic potty with a tray of cheerios and Sesame Street. Every night, I listened to the likes of Bert and Ernie, Telly and Grover, but I as I think back to a voice that was so distinct, I always think of one in particular. A tall, endearing, yellow fellow named Big Bird. When I was a preschool teacher I played my students the songs of my past and I fully intend to share the same memories with my own children. Chad Walker and Dave LaMattina bring us the joyous new documentary about the man inside the bird, Caroll Spinney. I AM BIG BIRD is a fascinating look into how this beloved character came to fruition.

Caroll Spinney in I AM BIG BIRD: THE CAROLL SPINNEY STORY a Tribeca Film release.

Caroll Spinney in I AM BIG BIRD: THE CAROLL SPINNEY STORY a Tribeca Film release.

From humble beginnings, a volatile relationship with his father, and a supportive mother, Caroll fell in love with puppetry early on. As a young boy this did not necessarily make school an easy environment, but he soldiered on in his passion. Caroll was discovered at a 1969 Puppet Festival by none other than Jim Henson and fate. The two had a very special  relationship, with Jim being a less of a boss and more of a friend and mentor to Caroll. Navigating through bouts of depression and low self worth, work was his saving grace as was his second wife Debra. Her love brought him back to life and has sustained the magic both on screen and behind the scenes ever since. The Big Bird we know now what not always this childlike. Initially, he was a very skinny yokel type. Thankfully, with more self confidence and encouragement from the entire Sesame Street family, Caroll gave us the magical creature we adore today.

Caroll Spinney and Debra Spinney in I AM BIG BIRD: THE CAROLL SPINNEY STORY a Tribeca Film release.

Caroll Spinney and Debra Spinney in I AM BIG BIRD: THE CAROLL SPINNEY STORY a Tribeca Film release.

Walker and LaMattina had a gold mine of footage from Sesame Workshop but the jackpot came from Caroll and Deb’s years of home video footage. Mixed with Caroll’s own art work, intimate sit down interviews with his children, Sesame cast members, and even Jim’s daughter, we are privileged as an audience to see how moments of time came to be. From Follow The Bird to Big Bird in China and many other Muppet specials, we see the good and the bad. There are no kid gloves when it comes to talking about Caroll and company. One of innumerable interesting things we learn is that Caroll also plays Oscar the Grouch. You learn how this has become the perfect counter balance to our big yellow friend and Caroll alike. Their memories become your own and tear at your heartstrings. You feel so special as you see past the feather into Caroll’s soul.

Caroll Spinney and Jim Henson in I AM BIG BIRD: THE CAROLL SPINNEY STORY a Tribeca Film release.

Caroll Spinney and Jim Henson in I AM BIG BIRD: THE CAROLL SPINNEY STORY a Tribeca Film release.

We all have an innate love for Kermit and Big Bird. The Muppets and Sesame Street have molded millions of minds all over the globe since their inception. You will watch this film with tears in your eyes and laughter in your heart. There is no escaping the love that engulfs this movie. This is a timeless classic you will want to show your children down the line. I AM BIG BIRD is nothing short of extraordinary.

Caroll Spinney in I AM BIG BIRD: THE CAROLL SPINNEY STORY a Tribeca Film release.

Caroll Spinney in I AM BIG BIRD: THE CAROLL SPINNEY STORY a Tribeca Film release.

Stay tuned for an interview with directors Chad Walker and Dave LaMattina in the next few days!

Release Date

VOD: Available on iTunes & VOD: May 5, 2015
Theatrical: Select theatrical release beginning May 6, 2015
New York: IFC Center – opens May 6, 2015
May 15:
Boston: Brattle Theater – opens May 15, 2015
Chicago: Gene Siskel Film Center – opens May 15, 2015
Columbus: Gateway Film Center – opens May 15, 2015
Detroit: Cinema Detroit – opens May 15, 2015
Los Angeles area:
– Los Angeles: Royal – opens May 15, 2015
– Santa Ana, CA: South Coast Village – opens May 15, 2015
Minneapolis: St Anthony Main – opens May 15, 2015
New Orleans: Zeitgeist Theater – opens May 15, 2015
Philadelphia: PFS at Roxy Theater – opens May 15, 2015
Portland: Living Room Theaters – opens May 15, 2015
San Diego: Digital Cinema – opens May 15, 2015
Santa Fe: CCA – opens May 15, 2015
San Francisco area:
– Berkeley: Rialto Cinemas Elmwood – opens May 15, 2015
– San Francisco: Balboa Theater – opens May 15, 2015
– Sonoma: Sebastopol Rialto Cinemas – opens May 15, 2015
Scottsdale: Shea 14 – opens May 15, 2015
May 22:
Eugene, OR: Metro Cinemas – opens May 22, 2015
Gainesville, FL: The Wooly – opens May 22, 2015
Louisville: Village 7 – opens May 22, 2015
Miami area:
– Coral Gables: Cosford Cinema – May 22,2015
– Miami: O-Cinema – opens May 22,2015
Palm Springs: Camelot – opens May 22, 2015
Pittsburgh: Hollywood Theater – opens May 22, 2015
Sedona, AZ: Mary Fischer Theater – opens May 22, 2015
May 29:
Denver: Sie Film Center – opens May 29, 2015
June 10:
Boulder, CO: Boedicker Theater – opens June 10, 2015
June 12:
Seattle: SIFF Cinema – opens June 12, 2015
Bellingham, WA: Pickford – opens June 12, 2015
Pelham, NY: Picturehouse – opens June 12, 2015

Director

Dave LaMattina and Chad N. Walker

Screenwriter

Dave LaMattina

Producer(s)

Dave LaMattina and Chad N. Walker

Cast

Caroll Spinney

Runtime

87 minutes

SYNOPSIS

For 45 years, Caroll Spinney has been beloved by generations of children as the man behind Sesame Street’s Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch – and at 80 years old, he has no intention of stopping. A loving portrait of the man in the yellow suit, I Am Big Bird features extraordinary footage of Spinney’s earliest collaborations with Jim Henson as it traces his journey from bullied child to childhood icon. And as the yellow feathers give way to grey hair, it is the man, not the puppet, who will steal your heart.