‘Tis The Season Cinema: The Muppets Christmas Carol

This week for the ‘Tis The Season Cinema Erin and I watched The Muppets Christmas Carol. I watched it with my kids.

I thought I’d give you a blow-by-blow of our watching experience for something different this week.

After we open with the film being dedicated to Muppets creator Jim Henson, who had died in 1990, two years before the movie was made, we move forward into the movie.

We open up with Gonzo telling us he’s going to tell us the story because he knows it “like the back of his hand.” He also says his name is Charles Dickens.

He gets the story a little bit messed up as he starts out by saying the Marleys are dead.

(illustration by Brianna Ashby)

And then he introduces Scrooge.

Oh, a song. I forgot this was a musical. Okay. I’m ready for that.

This starts a debate between The Boy and I about how many of these A Christmas Carol renditions are musicals featuring songs about how mean and miserly Scrooge is. I said there aren’t many and he says there are a ton, like every remake that has been released lately. I still disagree.

Seeing Michael Cain  as Scrooge makes me think of this hilarious story he told on The Graham Norton Show one time about how he was at a Hollywood party and Katherine Hepburn asked him why everyone kept calling him “my cocaine.”

The Boy must have thought of it too because we call out “My Cocaine!” at the same time when we see him.

Wow, he was young in this movie. Well, he would be since it was made in 1992.

That poor little rat was just used to clean a window.

Oh Kermit. There he is. Sigh. I love Kermit.

Dude. Michael Cain is bald in this movie. Is that a hair piece? Or is it a hair piece when he wears in other movies?

Kermit is so cute in his little suit.

The Boy and I read A Christmas Carol two years ago and actually enjoyed it.

Who is playing the nephew? Hmmm…some British actor I’ve never heard of – Steven McIntosh. I’m not going to look up what he’s been in before. I’m not going to do it. Not this time. No.

Okay. According to Wikipedia:  “He is perhaps best known for his role as Andreas Tanis in the action horror films Underworld: Evolution and Underworld: Rise of the Lycans.” Never heard of it. That was a waste of a search.


More singing. Now it is Kermit’s turn. Also, those rats are really clean for … well, rats.

I always think it is interesting they mix humans in with animals. I don’t know why I find that interesting. My life is just a little sad, I guess.

This movie must have cost quite a bit to make.

Google says $12 million and that it made 27.2 million. Now you know.

Ha. Jacob Marley is one of the old men that usually complain during the show.

In case you were curious, this is what Michael Caine told GQ Magazine about being in the movie: “To start, my daughter, who is the mother of my grandchildren, was then seven, and she had never seen me in a movie. I had never made a movie that a 7-year-old can see. And so a man mentioned the Muppets and I said, “That’s it! I’ll do that!” And it’s A Christmas Carol, it’s a fabulous tale! You’ll be old Scrooge, it’ll be marvelous! And it was absolutely perfect at that time for what I wanted. I could make it, and my daughter could see it. That’s why I did it. And it was lovely.”

Scrooge just beat his dressing gown. That dude is a bit on edge, I’d say.

I have to be honest, I haven’t seen this one in years and forgot it was a little darker than other Muppets movies. I was hoping for a little more goofiness in it, but yet it’s so well done I can’t help liking it.

The angles of the camera are very nice indeed. Scrooge should be eating more than bread, though. He’s an old man and needs more nutrients in his diet.

Oh good. The old guys. A bit more silliness now and now I know why Gonzo said the Marleys were dead. Because there were two.

This first ghost? Yikes.

Imma gonna have nightmares tonight.

Seriously. What is that? It is bad 90s special effects is what it is. She’s sort of like a digital cabbage patch doll. Shudder.

Ah. Now we are getting to the Muppet goodness. We are singing and dancing and just being downright silly at the dance where Scrooge meets Belle.

 “Oh please, do not show me that Christmas,” Scrooge says.

Yes, because you were a JERK during that Christmas, Scrooge! It’s why you are totally alone now.

We’ve gone through a couple more songs and another ghost and now here is Miss Piggy.

Aw and Kermit and his nephew playing Bob Cratchit and Tiny Tim.

The Husband walks in and brings up an awkward point: “He’s a frog. She’s a pig. How did they have children?”

We tell him we don’t want to think about it and to go back to working on his stories for the paper and be quiet.

Now the nephew and Kermit are singing a sweet song and I ask The Husband what the nephew’s name is.

“That’s a great question. They introduced him in –”

I tune TV Trivia Man out by Googling and finding out his name is Robin.

Little Miss looks up and sees Miss Piggy and says, “That hair doesn’t work for her.”

Now The Boy and The Husband are arguing about what happens to the ghost of Christmas Present at the end of the night. The Boy says he dies because it is the end of the day and the end of the present. He pointed out that his hair gets grayer each time we see him, which means he dies at the end. He’s a ghost, though, so I don’t think he can die.

The Husband says he lives on because he is in the present and the present is always there.

Who knows. I’ll let them have that debate. I have a movie and blog post to finish.

Oh dear, poor Miss Piggy. She’s crying. Tiny Tim has died.

Now Michael Caine is crying with her. Now I want to cry.

Little Miss is finding the movie a little scary so now she’s watching The Muppets Now show on her phone.

The Spirit of The Future is…um…ominous.

Ah. We’ve reached the scene where Scrooge is joyously celebrating being alive and being able to celebrate Christmas. Now he’s giving money to all the creatures around, ordering a turkey, etc. This is my favorite part.

Now Michael Caine is singing and The Boy says, “Who knew My Cocaine could sing.”

He’s doing a pretty good job. Not really. I’m just trying to be nice.

Singing is not really his thing. He reminds me of Rex Harrison in – well, anything he tries to sing in. He sort of sing-talks, but it works.

This was such a nice cozy movie to watch together and now that our Christmas tree is up it is making Christmas movies even nicer and relaxing to watch together.

Overall we agreed that it was a nice movie.

Except for The Boy who said, “Yeah. It was alright.” But then he added. “I enjoyed that.”

To see what Erin thought of the movie hop on over to her blog and to read Kajta at Breath of Hallelujah click over to her blog. If you joined in with us, leave a link to your blog post in the comments so we can link to yours as well.

Up next in our feature is Holiday Inn. We post our impressions on Thursdays.

After that we are posting our impressions of the following movies:                                                                           

Dec. 15: It’s A Wonderful Life

Dec. 22: Charlie Brown Christmas and Emmett Otter’s Jug-Band Christmas

‘Tis The Season Cinema: White Christmas

This week for the ‘Tis The Season Cinema Erin from Still Life, With Cracker Crumbs and I watched White Christmas. We pushed off our blog posts for it until today since we were both busy with family events for Thanksgiving, though Erin had a lot more going on than I did.

If this is your first time here, Erin and I have been watching Christmas movies since the beginning of November to get into the holiday spirit.

If you haven’t watched the movie White Christmas here is a little background without giving away the story:

The movie begins in December of 1944, during World War II, with Danny Kaye and Bing Crosby entertaining fellow soldiers at war.

The movie moves forward after that to Kaye and Crosby becoming an entertainment powerhouse duo who tour for years, have a fight, realize they’ve been working too hard and too long, and then later meet a couple of lovely ladies who are also singers/entertainers. To make a long story short, the four of them travel to Vermont to have a white Christmas and while there learn that the owner of the inn they are staying at is their old commander from the war. They then learn that the inn isn’t doing well financially and work to bring the inn back for their commander by holding their show at the inn.

While this movie is a Christmas movie, it isn’t all Christmas all the time and there is an actual plot instead of just one Christmas song to the next.

For those who don’t know, White Christmas was originally written by Irving Berlin for the 1942 movie Holiday Inn (which is on our list to watch in December). Holiday Inn also starred Bing Crosby. The song was first publicly performed by Crosby after the movie and later recorded by him, though he wasn’t that bowled over by the song to begin with (and probably hated it by the end of his life when he had to keep singing it).

(Off the subject a bit but I often get Holiday Inn and White Christmas mixed up in my head since there are two male leads in both movies and Crosby is in both movies.)

Wikipedia writes this about when the song was written: “Accounts vary as to when and where Berlin wrote the song.  One story is that he wrote it in 1940, in warm La Quinta, California while staying at the La Quinta Hotel, a frequent Hollywood retreat also favored by writer-director-producer Frank Capra, although the Arizona Biltmore also claims the song was written there. He often stayed up all night writing. One day he told his secretary, “I want you to take down a song I wrote over the weekend. Not only is it the best song I ever wrote, it’s the best song anybody ever wrote.”

I don’t know that I agree the song is the best ever written, but it is one of the most popular Christmas songs ever, and also very sweet.

As for the movie, which was released in 1954 we kick right off with the song about seven minutes into the movie, setting the tone for a sentimental and sweet ride, with a little bitter mixed in as you are forced to think about our soldiers and how they had to fight or be stationed overseas during Christmas and other holidays. As always, the singing of the song, while American soldiers look heartbroken in the audience, made me tear up again this year.

According to that same Wikipedia article (yes, I was lazy and looked things up on Wikipedia which isn’t always the most accurate site), Bing Crosby once told his nephew that the hardest thing he ever did was perform White Christmas in December of 1944 in a USO show with Bob Hope and the Andrew Sisters in front of 100,000 GIs without breaking down. Many of those men were killed two days later in the Battle of the Bulge.

There are many happy moments in the movie, though, even if some of the background is a bit tear-inducing. I would definitely call this one a feel-good movie, but not so feel-good there isn’t some depth in it. It’s, of course, a musical with plenty of impromptu songs and dance routines, especially as they rehearse for the big show to be held at the inn.

Kaye and lead actress Vera-Ellen were well-known dancers and actors at the time. They sizzle up the screen with their moves. Vera-Ellen always fascinated me because she looks like a real life Barbie doll. The cynical side of me wonders if she ate properly but I’m guessing her thin stature was from all the dancing.

I read in an article on Good Housekeeping that interestingly, Rosemary Clooney played Vera-Ellen’s older sister, but Vera-Ellen was actually seven years older at the age of 33. Bing played Rosemary’s love interest and was actually 25 years older than her, which is a bit creepy when you think about it. Rosemary did look a lot older than 26, though.

Another piece of trivia from that article was that one of the most famous scenes, when Crosby and Kaye dress up as Rosemary and Vera-Ellen, was actually not in the script. Crosby and Kaye were goofing off and it was written into the script because the director thought it was hilarious. Crosby and Kaye also thought the scene was hilarious because they kept laughing throughout.  

White Christmas is not only sung at the beginning of the movie but also in a large routine at the end, which produced the classic image of the singers in their white suits with the red trim (Santa suits in other words).

I would say this movie is the number one reason that people all over the world think they have to have snow on Christmas. It was hard for me to accept as a kid when we traveled to North Carolina and didn’t end up with snow for Christmas day, except for one year when they had a freak snowstorm.

Luckily, living in the North, we have White Christmases more often than not. Of course, it is nowhere near as romantic as the crooners make it sound when they are singing along about it on the train on their way to Vermont. When we are shoveling out our driveways we don’t sing, “Snow! Snow! Snow!” in perfect harmony. We more often mumble the words and follow them with some other choice words while flinging our shovels back in the garage.

I made a cup of cocoa to sip while I watched the movie, which I watched alone this year since we’ve seen it as a family several times and I was sure the family would want a break from it this year.

I might make my husband suffer through It’s A Wonderful Life again when we watch that one, which is a movie I like, but he doesn’t. Too bad for him. Ha.

To read Erin’s thoughts about the movie, see her post on her blog.

Up next for our ‘Tis The Season Cinema is Muppets Christmas Carol, if you’d like to join and blog with us about it.

The finishing list for the feature is:

Dec. 8: Holiday Inn                                                                           

Dec. 15: It’s A Wonderful Life

Dec. 22: Charlie Brown Christmas and Emmett Otter’s Jug-Band Christmas

‘Tis The Season Cinema: A Christmas Carol Goes Wrong

Shortly after we moved to our current house, my son and I were looking for a show to watch late at night and found a show called The Goes Wrong Show on BritBox. We clicked on it and were, quite frankly, bewildered by it.

It was a group of about seven people acting out a play and completely messing up lines, tripping off props, and being all-out insanely weird.

We weren’t sure if these people were really messing up their plays or if they were pretending to mess up a play, or  . . .what was going on.

We watched the first episode and laughed so hard that our sides hurt. Obviously, we eventually caught on that the whole show was meant to be a joke and that the actors were real actors playing fake actors on a show about actors.

Later we watched the episodes with The Husband and he laughed so hard I thought he was going to burst a blood vessel.

We watched the whole season and I have to say the Christmas episode was my favorite that first season. Flash forward to last year and we discovered this group — which we had since found out was called Mischief Theatre — had been featured in a special called A Christmas Carol Goes Wrong on the BBC.

Moving us up in the timeline to a couple of weeks ago and we arrive at the moment I suggested to Erin at Still Life, With Cracker Crumbs that we include A Christmas Carol Goes Wrong in our list of Christmas movies to watch for our ‘Tis The Season Cinema.  Comedy is featuring heavily on our movie watching list over the next couple of months because Erin and I both need heartwarming and funny in our lives right now.

With A Christmas Carol Goes Wrong we are getting more than just funny but also pure ridiculousness.

For a little background on the actor troupe who takes part in this Christmas special, according to Wikipedia, “Mischief Theatre is a British theatre company founded in 2008 by a group of students from The London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art in West London, and directed by Henry Lewis, Jonathan Sayer, and Henry Shields. The group originally began by doing improvised comedy shows, but by 2012 they expanded into comedic theatrical performances that include choreographed routines, jokes, and stunts.

The company is best known for its performances as the fictional theatre company, The Cornley Polytechnic Drama Society, who attempt several amateur performances that comedically go wrong.”

If you look up Mischief Theatre online, as I did after we became hooked on their television show, you’ll see that the cast are very accomplished stage actors, some of them having won Olivier’s and other prestigious writing and acting awards. Most of their work, incidentally, is performed live and is often improv as they interact with the audience during their performances.

On the surface, the entire performance of any of their shows seems simple and fairly stupid but when you think about the talent needed to recite the lines of the original play they are putting on (in this case A Christmas Carol) while also having to pretend to mess up their lines and other aspects of the play, you realize what talent these actors actually have.

The fact they only have seven cast members playing all the parts and remembering all the lines and where the various pratfalls need to happen make it even more amazing. Then there is the focus they need to keep acting, even with the chaos going on around them.

There are also storylines going on between cast members behind the scenes that carry on throughout the various episodes and specials.

In this particular special, the comedy group has taken over the BBC’s production of A Christmas Carol by kidnapping and dragging out the main stars, including Derek Jacobi, a famous British actor.  Actress Diana Rigg plays the narrator part of the time but literally has to “phone it in” because she is stuck in traffic.

Things, of course, go completely haywire and become even crazier when one of the actors believes he should be the lead actor and tries to knock out the director (Chris) to take over the lead as Scrooge. While trying to take out Chris, though, he injures other cast members or ends up destroying various sets.

Another pair of cast members are in a romantic relationship and things may, or may not, be on the rocks throughout the entire night, making the show even more entertaining. There is also a cast member who can’t remember any of his lines for most of the shows and in this one they think of a creative way to help him with that issue.

You can watch A Christmas Carol Goes Wrong in its entirety for free on YouTube:

Don’t blame me if you end up looking up their show and their production of Peter Pan Goes Wrong.

You can read up on Erin’s impression of this silly show on her blog.

Up next for our Christmas special features (the dates are when we are sharing our specials):

Nov. 24: White Christmas

Dec. 1: Muppets Christmas Carol

Dec. 8: Holiday Inn                                                                           

Dec. 15: It’s A Wonderful Life

Dec. 22: Charlie Brown Christmas and Emmett Otter’s Jug-Band Christmas

Classic movie impressions: Breakfast at Tiffany’s (with spoilers)

I have been exchanging classic movie suggestions with Erin from Still Life, With Cracker Crumbs this summer and I think we are going to continue doing it into the fall because it has been a lot of fun and a nice distraction from life stressors.

Today I am discussing Breakfast At Tiffany’s and Erin is discussing my suggestion of The Philadelphia Story.

You can find Erin’s post HERE.

On to my impressions of Breakfast At Tiffany’s:

I think this is the first movie I watched at Erin’s suggestion that I really didn’t enjoy as much as I hoped I would. I didn’t completely hate it by any means. In fact, there were aspects of it I liked very much, but I did not love this movie and I think it was because of one very specific reason — Audrey Hepburn’s accent.

I feel awful saying that, since I have never actually had an issue with her accent, but in this movie, she was supposedly a girl from the South running away from her problems but he had some odd European accent the entire movie. I mean, she couldn’t at least fake a Southern accent? Isn’t that what actresses are supposed to do? Except for Kevin Costner in Robin Hood, of course. Har. Har. In all the reviews of this movie I saw, not one of them seemed to have an issue with her accent for this character, so I’m pretty sure this is just a “me problem.”

The whole back story for Audrey’s character in this movie just wasn’t believable at all because of her accent, but I am sure it was more believable in the book by Truman Capote that it was based on. He released the book in 1958.

The idea behind this movie is that Audrey is a free-spirited young woman living alone in New York City when she meets Paul, played by George Peppard (who would later star in the A-Team), a gigolo who gets paid to sleep with a married socialite, living in her apartment the next floor up from Audrey.  He is supposed to be a writer, but that avenue has dried up so he’s earning money by selling his body. I think we, as movie watchers, are supposed to see this as normal behavior in some ways, but also see that it isn’t what he wants for his life — to be used and dragged along with the promise of a publishing career someday.

Audrey has reinvented herself as Holly Golightly, changing her name from Lulamae and leaving behind an extremely odd and rather inappropriate upbringing.

The entire movie is essentially about her making a number of bad decisions in an effort to be on her own, yet at the same time not having to support herself. She is always looking for a situation where an older, richer man will take care of her and let her live her laid-back life where she imagines going to Tiffany’s jewelry store and buying whatever she wants for her breakfast, so to speak.

Honestly, I think Audrey’s character is a horrible brat, yet I don’t blame her for wanting to get away from the terrible situation she grew up in and I think that’s the point of the movie. She acts like a spoiled, selfish brat because she’s been traumatized. She’s not tied down to anything and she’s afraid to be because when she was tied down, she was told what to do at a very young age.

I really loved the end of the movie, but I won’t share it here in case someone reading this has never seen the movie  . . . . then again the movie is 61 years old this year and I did write a disclaimer in my headline that there would be spoilers so — [SPOILER ALERT ABOUT THE ENDING OF THE MOVIE AHEAD!!]

I love that at the end Holly realizes that Cat (which is her name for her cat, that she never really named because naming the cat would mean she has to commit to something and that is a very frightening idea for her based on her past childhood issues) is the one constant in her very unstable life. When she goes back to look for the cat – after she tosses him from a cab and tells him to get lost in the city – she also realizes that Paul is her other constant and she is ready to open herself up to at least a couple constants in her life.

This ending is not how the novel ends, however. In the book the reader is left with not actually knowing whatever happened with Holly

So it doesn’t sound like I totally hated Audrey’s portrayal of Holly, I do want to say that I loved how Audrey was so laissez-faire about life, even if that attitude was leading her into a life void of real love.

She reminded me a lot of a friend I had in college, except my friend wasn’t trying to run away from anything in her life, she was simply extremely laid back and casual about things. She was also a little bit ditzy and that could make her both aggravating and a blast to be friends with.

One quick warning too — this movie does contain an absolutely racist portrayal of an Asian person by Mickey Rooney. I didn’t even believe it was Mickey Rooney when my husband told me it was him.

The bottom line on Breakfast At Tiffany’s is that I do recommend it, even if I didn’t like that Audrey’s accent was not authentic.

Classic Movie Impressions: Blue Hawaii

I have been trading classic movie suggestions this summer with Erin from Still Life, With Cracker Crumbs.

The movies we have given our impressions of so far have been

A Streetcar Named Desire

Cat on A Hot Tin Roof

The Thin Man

Double Indemnity

On her blog today, Erin is discussing To Catch A Thief, a favorite Hitchcock film of mine. I am going to be discussing Blue Hawaii, as the blog post title suggests.

When Erin suggested this movie, I was fine with it because I was sure it would be fun and if nothing else, the music would be good. Because my mom was always a huge fan of Elvis I knew quite a bit about him from a music stand point but I’ve only seen clips of his acting.

I do believe I saw part of this movie years ago. I expected it be a pretty big Cheese Fest, but I didn’t mind. With the way the world’s been lately, watching something light and cheesy is fine with me.

And yeah, there was some cheese to it, but it was also much better than I expected. Plus, Elvis’ voice on Can’t Help Falling in Love With You totally reminded me why so many people loved his singing and not just those swinging hips.

My mom was a huge Elvis fan when she was a teenager. She was raised by a strict, stereotypical Southern father who declared he would not have any of his daughters screaming about some boy swinging his hips. So one night when my mom and her sisters and their aunt (who is only a year older than my mom) were watching him on The Ed Sullivan Show, my mom said they tried to be very calm and not scream when he came on screen.

The bad thing was that her aunt grabbed my mom’s knee, and my mom can’t stand anyone to touch her knee because she’s very ticklish. She screamed when my aunt grabbed her knee, which brought my grandfather’s stern response of, “I will not have anyone screaming for that boy in my house!” My mom did her best to explain to him what had happened, but I’m not sure he believed her.

He must not have been too upset by my mom’s scream, though, because he took my mom and her sisters to see Elvis at a local high school at some point after he was on The Ed Sullivan Show. If you knew how my grandfather was back then, this would surprise you. I know it surprised me.

Anyhow, I digress. Blue Hawaii is a simple film about Elvis who returns to the island of Hawaii after serving in the military. His parents want him to work for his father in the pineapple business, but he wants to make it on his own, which, of course, causes tension. His quest for independence allows several opportunities for him to croon 14 different songs throughout the 1 hr 41 minute movie.

I wasn’t expecting Elvis to be a very good actor and he wasn’t stellar, but he also wasn’t that bad. He was certainly better than many of the actors of today. His long, dark eyelashes and pouty lips certainly didn’t hurt his appearance on screen.

This movie also stars Angela Lansbury as his mother. She portrays an over-the-top Southern mother who likes to remind everyone how rich they are. She’s also fairly racist, which is illuded to but not explicitly shown. She’s not a huge fan of her son’s girlfriend, a native girl who is bi-racial — part Hawaiian and part French. The suggestion is that one reason she’s not impressed with the girl is her background, but that’s only subtly suggested because the movie is very light for the most part. Plus, all of that is put aside as the movie moves on and the attitude of Elvis’ mother changes toward the girlfriend and his effort to make a way on his own.

Speaking of  his girlfriend in the movie (Joan Blackman), according to Express, which is a UK publication, Elvis fell in love with her and asked her to marry him. He met her in 1958, before they filmed Blue Hawaii, and chased her and begged her to be in the movie with him.

Joan said: When we first set eyes on each other (in 1957), there was a spark, a magic in the air… There was just that special something between us, sometimes so warm and wonderful you could almost reach out and touch it.”

In 1977 she told a magazine that she and Elvis had adjoining hotel rooms during the filming of the movie and essentially lived together for weeks. Of course Elvis was dating Priscilla at the time and she and Joan looked a lot alike.

I should add that this Express magazine site looks a bit like a gossip site, so take all of this with a grain of salt.

Back to the movie, because I have digressed again.

I loved the music and scenery in this movie. I wouldn’t say the movie is a super accurate portrayal of what Hawaii is really like, but it doesn’t mock the natives of the islands and instead brings the viewers attention to some of the more interesting aspects of the islands’ diverse cultures.

I will say that according to this movie, Hawaii is a place where bare-chested men always ride the seas in little boats with a guitar so they can sing. I’ve never been there before so for those of you who have — is this true?!

If you are looking for a deep plot, this movie is definitely not what you want to watch. It’s essentially one big concert movie with very little plot. That, however, is exactly what I needed last week when I watched it.

Have you ever seen Blue Hawaii? What did you think of it?