Super Quick Review: Ladies in Black

Based on the book “The Ladies in Black” by Madeleine St.John

Director: Bruce Beresford

Cast:

Juila Ormond: Magda

Rachael Taylor: Fay

Angourie Rice: Lisa

Summary (source): 

Ladies in Black is set in Sydney in the summer of 1959, against the backdrop of Australia’s cultural awakening, breakdown of class structures, and liberation of women. It tells the coming-of-age story of suburban schoolgirl Lisa, who while waiting for her final high school exam results with dreams of going to the University of Sydney, takes a summer job at a large department store. Here she works side-by-side with a group of saleswomen who open her eyes to a world beyond her sheltered existence, and foster her metamorphosis.

Adapted from the bestselling novel by Madeleine St John, Ladies in Black is an alluring and tender-hearted comedy drama about the lives of a group of department store employees in 1959 Sydney.

As an Australian, you’d think I’d be more aware of the goings on in my local film industry, but Aussie produced films have never captured my imagination the way I feel they should. That’s not to mean I’ve never come across some films I generally liked. Red Dog, Rabbit Proof Fence, The Sapphires, Ten Canoes and Bran Nue Dae were all very enjoyable and in their own way, told the stories of those who sadly are deprived of their individual voices in the reality of Australian society.

Which is why I had a slight conundrum with Ladies in Black. The theme of femininity in the Australian suburbs of the 1950’s is explored quite well and it goes hand-in-hand with the romanticised, idealistic way in which Sydney is painted, constantly sunny, which makes sense since the film is placed in late December into early January.

It’s not so much a major problem as it is a small issue I have with the film because I was left with a nagging feeling there were things being unsaid that should’ve been brought to light. The 1950’s was a revolutionary time for Australian immigration, specifically from the areas of Europe struggling with political disputes, or something along the lines of a food shortage. Many immigrants came here because Australia was (and still is) a safe haven in which to start again. The already established Caucasian population was wary of the new arrivals, which as you can imagine, lead to racial tension and suspicion.

Through the characters of Magda and Rudi, we do get some of the perspectives of the new immigrants and the reactions from the “white” population, but it never goes deeper than teasing and whispering behind hands. I’ve never read the book, but I can’t help but wonder if this theme was brushed aside in the film adaptation to focus more on the trials of womanhood.

Aside from this, I did in fact enjoy Ladies in Black. It was well-paced, the humour was light and enjoyable, the music was relevant to the era and set the tone nicely and it was fun to see different depictions of an Aussie Christmas. The most pleasant thing about it was the lack of any antagonist. These were all just normal people, living normal lives, making normal mistakes and working through them as a normal person would. The trials are believable and the triumphs are small, but well-earned.

So if you’re looking for a down-to-earth film that’s relaxing to watch and might bring hints of nostalgia, then I feel comfortable about recommending Ladies in Black to you. Grab a bottle of wine and chill for a couple of hours.

3.5 coat-hangers out of 5

 

 

 

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A Very Brief Update

I’ve very nearly completed my Bachelor of Arts degree! Yay!

I’ve also found myself a new place to live, not too far away from my workplace (also yay!) so that will be taking up a little bit of my time once my final assignments have been submitted. I’ll be spending my birthday packing, cleaning and disassembling my room, which is fine by me as I won’t be able to see my family until that weekend anyway.

So what does this mean for the Halibut? Honestly, I can’t tell you. I’ve learnt my lesson about making huge promises and not following through with them like I did at the start of the year. The only things I can guarantee are a spoiler-review of Happytime Murders once it is released on Blu-ray and perhaps a post about everything Muppet-related I’ll end-up encountering during my two weeks in America.

It’s going to be weird having so much free-time aside from my work in the catering department of the local hospital. I’ve been questioned a lot about what I’m going to do about my career as a writer after graduation and quite honestly, I don’t have much of an answer. I have a feeling not many people do after three years of full-time study.

I’m honestly quite happy to just keep working in hospitality for a few years. I’ll be twenty-two next month, not exactly an age in which to panic about not having a set-career yet. Most of my friends are still studying, so I’m not in much of a hurry to catch up. I do have plans to submit my creative pieces to publishing journals and perhaps give writing a novella another crack now that I don’t have essays waiting to be written.

I have time now. That’s all that matters to me and I can use it to discover who I am and what kind of life I can maintain for myself.

I’ll try to post a film review next week. Until then, have a great time of it

Marni

 

The Happytime Murders: Spoiler-Free Review

Remember when some people freaked out because the 2015 Muppet show was going to be more “adult” and we didn’t exactly know what that meant?

Those same people may be in danger of having a conniption after watching The Happytime Murders.

Back when we were all panicking/celebrating the upcoming Muppet show, there was an argument I made in regards to how the adult aspects could be handled by discussing the idea of ‘clever funny’. Basically, I said that this angle could be useful for giving the characters a chance to regain some dimension after years of recasting and being thrown around from project to project. I’ve always called Jim Henson’s brand of humour for the Muppets ‘clever funny’, because along with all the zaniness, music and explosions, there was a deeper meaning that ran through everything that gave the characters a sense of realism and life they wouldn’t have had otherwise.

Am I going to compare The Happytime Murders to the Muppets? No.

Am I going to judge it as a Henson production? Hell yes. Henson Alternative may just be that: alternative, but it still falls under the umbrella of The Jim Henson Company and therefore I will treat it the same way I have for The Dark Crystal and Labyrinth- with a grain of salt.

Right off the bat, one positive thing about the film is that the puppetry is outstanding and no featured puppeteer fell flat in their performance. I’ve never seen so many full-body shots and walking puppets before in any production similar and all of it is flawless. It caught me off guard a couple of times and I could’ve sworn that Phil Phillips was a short guy in a costume, ala how they did Jen the Gelfing, as Phil ran down a hallway or across the tarmac.

Nope! Just extraordinarily coordinated puppeteers doing what they do best.

Bill Barretta was right on form in the lead role and while I feared it was going to be a waste of his talents, there were a few moments where it was refreshing to see him step outside of the PG-rated sphere of his Muppet characters. It makes me hope to see more of him going solo in the spotlight more often in the future. Phil Phillips is a very stocky, solid puppet to work with, so the variety of expression which Bill got out of him was a fantastic effort. The fact that Phil also happens to be a free-handed puppet would have helped sustain a more off-the-cuff performance as well (not to mention probably helpful when it came to toting a gun or two).

Surprisingly, I must admit I enjoyed the chemistry between Phil Phillips and Melissa McCarthy as Connie Edwards. The audience is given just enough history to understand their dynamic and once you find out what broke them up, you’re kind of eager to see them resolve their differences. I’m not in the business of spoiling this movie for anyone who has a genuine interest in watching it, despite my reservations against it, so I won’t say much more other than for all the movie’s flaws, the two main characters are rather well conceived.

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It’s the rest of the film that has me banging my head against the wall.

The whole reason I brought up the concept of ‘clever funny’ is because that, apart from a few rare moments, that is what this movie has a severe lack of. You come to expect it from the trailer alone, that the blue humour will take up the majority of the run-time, but there was still a tiny glimmer of hope in my funny bone that we’d end up with something risque, but with a strong moral undertones and values the audience could relate to and process as the story went along.

The story is there, but barely scratches the surface of having any true depth. There is the racial issue of puppets being treated like second-class citizens, reduced to becoming society’s drug addicts, prostitutes and day-to-day criminals because there is no other options for them in a world full of bigoted, prejudiced humans. That alone could have been a movie in itself, but it’s wasted on jokes and half-hearted inner-conflicts from the two leads.  Gender roles, substance abuse, sexuality, the tragedy of fallen stardom, all very enticing subjects which get brushed off for silly-string cum-shots and carrot-shaped dildos.

Both of which, by the way, would actually be funny if they weren’t just small bits in a never-ending string of gags which scream ‘Wowie! Bet you’ve never seen a puppet do that before! Have you? I bet you haven’t! Shocking, isn’t it? Are you shocked? Are you? Is it funny? It’s funny isn’t it? Are you laughing? I bet you’re laughing!’

Crude jokes for laughs is just like eating chilli if you have a weak stomach; far more effective in moderation and less likely to end up on the crapper in the aftermath.

I suppose I could talk about the cinematography and soundtrack, but there’s not much more to say than the music was bland and typical of a buddy-cop film and the cinematography is pretty much the same as you would get from any Muppet or Sesame-based production.

In fear of going into a tangent, I will end this review with the following thought: the biggest disappointment is not that this movie exists, but that a far greater and more respectable movie could have existed in its place. The Jim Henson Company has delivered some incredible productions over the years and while I respect Brian Henson’s decision to try a new angle, perhaps this wasn’t the wisest direction to go in.

Perhaps someday we’ll get the amazing and intelligently funny, film noir puppet thriller I know a lot of us were truly hoping for.

On another note: 

IGN actually has an interesting take on the film I hadn’t considered. Perhaps you’ll find it as thought-provoking as I did. I don’t particularly agree that this was the angle Henson was going for, but check it out anyway.

Adam Hills is a Muppet Nutcase and I Couldn’t Be Happier

Okay so, I am in the middle of reading Aussie comedian Adam Hills’ autobiography Best Foot Forward and I just had the biggest fangirl moment.

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Adam Hills is not only my favourite comedian, but also my all-time favourite talent to come from Australia, so to hear that one of my heroes has the same obsession as I do about my other long-time heroes is both mind-blowing and incredibly gratifying.

In the same chapter Adam squees over meeting the Dalai-Lama, Adam talks about his appearance on the back in 2012. If you haven’t seen it, the clip is right here:

In this clip, Adam talks a little bit about what happened backstage after his set, but this new book reveals a lot more. For example:

  • Not only did Adam get a picture with Kermit, but he asked Steve Whitmire if he’d be willing to make a quick video for Adam’s daughter. Steve, being the nice guy he is, was happy to oblige.
  • Apparently the video they did together was ruined by the background noise, so Steve took them to a more quiet corner and did the video again.
  • Adam hanged around with Bill and Dave after the show and had a few drinks.
  • Some of Adam’s friends lost their collective shit when they realised who Adam was talking to.
  • Dave and Bill kept in contact with Adam after that and invited him to the set of Muppets Most Wanted.

So, the next time you watch MMW and get to the scene with Fozzie and Walter in the train compartment realising that Kermit has been switched out for Constantine, you’ll know that right beneath the camera, an extremely giddy Adam Hills was sitting in between Eric and Peter!!! Apparently Fozzie even wanted his opinion on stage directions!

In addition to that, Adam based a huge portion on his stand-up show, Happyism, on this experience and the cast of Puppet Up, including Brian Henson, attended one of these shows and invited him to perform with them one night!

I also had the pleasure of  seeing Happyism when it came to Melbourne and have watched the DVD version at least a hundred times. A few years later, Adam did another show called Clownheart. On the night I went to see it, I got to meet Adam after the show and fangirl over his interaction with the Swedish Chef for a few moments.

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I’m extremely happy to say that I’ll be seeing Adam again next month for a special show dedicated to this new book! If there happens to be a Q&A, you can bet your boots I’ll be asking about his experience at The Muppets Take the O2!

I’ll let you know how that goes when the time comes! For now, here’s a video of the sketch Adam and the Swedish Chef did together at the O2!

And be sure to check out Best Foot Forward ! It’s a brilliant book about a great guy and his story should be shared as widely as possible!

Is It Okay to Be Picky About Film Choices?

At the beginning of this year, I gave myself the challenge to expand my horizons past the Muppets, anything Jim Henson-related, Disney and the Marvel Cinematic Universe. This was the year to live up to the stereotype embodied by my fellow Literature and Film Studies students by making myself more “cultured”.

…It’s been 7 months and I have failed spectacularly. Is that such a bad thing though?

I have in fact been leaving my comfort zone, however, it’s been obligatory, fulfilling a requirement for my courses to read certain books or watch certain films. I didn’t ever expect to find myself watching a movie like The Pianist, but here we are. Films that are deliberately sad are films that I tend to avoid like the plague. Although I must admit, there have been times when I have been caught off guard (I still haven’t forgiven the Russo brothers for making me watch Peter Parker disintegrate right in front of my eyes).

Take today as an example of why I’ve been lazy in achieving my New Years resolution. Thursdays are generally quite slow for me, so I took a look to see what was on at the cinema to waste a few hours. Amongst run-by-the-numbers action films like Skyscraper and the Jurassic World sequel was a New Zealand based film called The Breaker-Upperers. Over the years there have been a few NZ films I have generally enjoyed, Whale Rider, Hunt for the Wilder-People and The Piano (not to be confused with the afore-mentioned The Pianist), among them. The title itself wasn’t enough to entice me, but then, looking at the provided information, I saw that Taika Watiti had been involved as Executive Producer.

Click. Off to the cinema, I go! Surely something produced by the director of Thor: Ragnarok, by far my favourite MCU film, would be something I could enjoy, right?

The resulting answer is: Meh.

It was by no means a bad film, it just wasn’t to my sense of humour. Just because a comedy doesn’t make me laugh doesn’t mean it won’t make others let out a few guffaws. It’s odd though because the same, blunt, deadpan, obvious-route form of humour was used religiously by Taika in his take on Thor and I laughed to the point that I was wheezing and clapping like a seal. Perhaps it was the level of crudeness to which The Breaker-Upperers went that completely disconnected me from the film. Isn’t that the most important part of the relationship between the film and its audience? The connection?

Connection means everything to me when it comes to film. I connect to The Muppets because they were my gateway drug to comedy and my passion for the production aspect of the film industry. Furthermore, they are my connection to my inner-child; it’s whenever I watch one of their productions that I feel the most comfortable within my own being, something I have explained more comprehensively in a previous article. I connect to animated films due to my astonishment at how wonderfully the technology allows art to imitate life, just getting even better as the years go on.

The MCU caters perfectly to my love for complex stories that take place over several films/ various mediums. However, even in this, I am still quite selective. I didn’t even like superheroes until I fell in fangirl-love with Tony Stark upon my initial watching of The Avengers. He’s proven to be an awesome character to keep track of, his character arc over several movies staying consistent and making for great pay-offs when he finds himself in life-altering positions. I could never get that if I were to pursue a franchise like The Maze Runner series. The premise, settings and whole angsty-teenagers-against-the-dystopian-society thing just does not do it for me.

When I get hounded by my Film Studies tutors to try and watch all types of genres from all points of history from all over the world, I wholeheartedly agree. There are certain films I will need to be acquainted with, whether for their historical importance or influence upon the industry. It is within my ambitions to become a paid film-critic; to not know film history and recognise the game-changers would be to leave myself at a poor disadvantage in what is a highly charged field of work.

But at the same time, I reserve the right to be as picky as I want. If I happen to write a million articles about the benefits of living by Jim Henson’s philosophy in his films, then I will do just that. It’s not a bad topic, after all, Jim was a very thoughtful and wise man, much to learn. We all have our preferences in a variety of areas in our lives. Our film tastes shouldn’t be treated any differently.

So the next time someone asks if you’ve seen a film and you say no because it didn’t interest you, and they respond with, “WHAT?!?! How can you not be interested, you’re insane!!!” Ignore them. Seriously, just wave it off and change the subject. If it doesn’t catch your fancy, then so be it.

You never know, it might do so at a different stage in your life. The beautiful thing about a film is that it can bring you in by digging into your core, connecting itself to what makes you who you are and resonating with you through its themes, narrative and mise-en-scene, among other things. Just do you. The right films will be there, waiting for you to discover their brilliance in your own time.

A Short Message About A Year Since the “Ker-fuffle”

The fact that I didn’t post anything on the actual day should give you an indication about how I feel about it. To be honest, I completely forgot about it until I got the notification for a blog post from my friend Mary.

It’s been like that for at least the last six months. I’ll hear news about Steve doing Cons and merely think, “That’s nice. I’m glad he’s getting out and about.” Entire Con panels have been filmed and placed on YouTube. I used to crave content that contained Steve just being himself, but now, I see the videos and save them for another time.

Don’t get me wrong, I still adore the man with all my heart, but I think the title of “Whitmire Fan #1” applies to someone else and that is something I am perfectly okay with. I’d like to think the past 12 months have passed with me gaining a better sense of maturity. I’m not the same preachy, ‘down with Disney, boo the Henson’s’ fangirl I took such pride in being before.

Another transition I’ve made in the aftermath of the “Ker-fuffle” is from referring to myself as a ‘Muppet Fan’, to a more general ‘Jim Henson Fan’. Muppets are obviously apart of that, but in the absence of decent Muppet content (AKA content that I can enjoy from this side of the world), I’ve taken the opportunity to dive into other areas of Henson lore. You’re far more likely to find me down in a Fraggle Cave then the Muppet Theatre for the time being.

As I’ve mentioned many times before, all I have for Steve Whitmire is the hope that he is happy, healthy and enjoying whatever he is getting up to these days. He has mentioned new characters and personal projects during his Con panels, something I look forward to seeing for myself.

For those who were asking, I hope this satisfied your craving for my thoughts.

-Marni

P.S: Oh and while I’m here, I should mention that any permanent return to the Halibut won’t occur until at least October 5th. I have one last trimester at university until I can apply to graduate, so my focus over the last few months has been there.

‘Muppet Guys Talking’ is Like Coming Home

If you’re looking for an in-depth review of the documentary, I’ll happily send you in the direction of Tough Pigs and the Muppet Mindset because this is definitely not one of those.

No, this is something extremely personal that I finally feel comfortable sharing with you. You see, since the whole “Kermit Thing”, I’ve felt extremely disconnected from Muppetdom. It was a painful experience to have that safe happy-go-lucky illusion shattered and replaced with bitter arguing and general nastiness. The Muppets weren’t the Muppets anymore; they were something to analyse and scrutinise over. To defend and have my hackles rise up when people didn’t agree with my opinion.

I was a hypocrite; I preached about what was right and who was right for the Muppets while simultaneously becoming someone who should never be associated with them at all. And for that, I apologise. I’m sorry for being someone Jim Henson would be disappointed in.

And really at the end of the day, it always comes back to Jim and this documentary just reminded me of that fact. Watching these old friends gathered in such a relaxed environment, ignoring the cameras and crew around them, laughing and joking and remembering the wonderful things to remember….Jim did that. He started it and the people he left behind are continuing it because to them, it’s so natural and integral to who they are, as individuals and as a collective.

And I’m quite happy to say that it wound up transferring from them, through the computer screen straight into me. For the first time in months, I could just relax and enjoy the Muppet Performers for who they are and the characters they have brought to life. It’s a breath of fresh air. I can breathe because it feels right again. Frank, Dave, Jerry, Fran and Bill are (and my Frog is this corny to say!!!) the spotlights in the distance that showed me the way home.

Sure, I could happily go on and on about the great stories the Performers told, how great it was to see Jerry again (it truly was), how hard I laughed when Dave was mockingly impersonating Frank and Frank didn’t have a leg to stand on while defending himself, but right now, in the aftermath, I just want to reflect on the experience. It’s a bit like the first time I read Jim Henson: The Biography. If I remember correctly, in my review of the book, I remarked on how it was like I could feel Jim’s presence in the room as I read, like an old friend simply being there for comfort. This documentary felt exactly like that.

It’s a pretty good feeling.

I’m not saying I’m going to re-enter the fandom to the tune of exploding penguins and boomerang fish smacking people in the face as I saunter in. I think the best way back to the way things were is the quiet, reflective approach. Start with Sam and Friends and work my way through the timeline. I’ll catch up to how things are now eventually. I just need some time and a bucket load of Jim Henson’s patented Ridiculous Optimism.

A huge thank you to Frank Oz, Dave Goelz, Bill Barretta, Fran Brill and the late, great Jerry Nelson for reminding me why the Muppets mean so much to me: the people who created them.

Also, much love and gratitude goes to Victoria Lablame for conceiving the idea for the doco. And of course much love for the production staff. Awesome work guys!

Well, that’s enough late-night rambling for me! There’s only so much laughing and crying one can do before it’s time for some decent shut-eye!

Catch ya next time!

Marni

Steve Whitmire’s Steppin’ Out in Knoxville

So, it was announced a few hours ago that Steve Whitmire (you know, that guy this blogger just can’t seem to shut up about), is going to be making an appearance at Fanboy Expo’s Knoxville Comic Con this coming June.

From the Fanboy Expo Facebook page:

It’s not easy being green! Fanboy Expo is thrilled to announce that Steve Whitmire will be joining us for Knoxville Comic Con June 29-July 1st. Steve is known for voicing and puppeteering some of our favorite Muppet characters like: Kermit the Frog, Ernie from Sesame Street, Rizzo the Rat, Wembley Fraggle, and Beaker. Steve is brand new to conventions and is anxious to get out and meet fans. Get your tickets to Knoxville Comic Con www.fanboyexpo.com

As someone who’s been missing his almost weekly Muppet Pundit posts, I’m glad to see Steve taking another step in embracing the Muppet fandom. This certainly does seem to be the ‘Year of the Muppet Performer’ (I honestly apologise for not remembering whether ToughPigs or The Muppet Mindset coined that phrase first), with Frank Oz taking over Twitter with his adorableness and the Muppet Guys Talking documentary getting a decent amount of hype.

There’s really not a lot more to say about it for now until much closer to the date, but hey, now you have plenty of time to get planning for a great few days of fun stories and quite a few laughs!

If there’s anything to update, I promise you I’ll be on top of it!

Catch Up Post: A Late Start to the New Year

Hey folks, did you miss me?

No?…..Yeah, fair enough.

I do apologise for the unannounced break. I ended up becoming extremely distracted between my summer classes, Christmas, New Years, travelling to see family, and of course, working at the hospital. It was not my intention to leave the blog for this long, but hey, I’m back so let’s get going!

Tonight I’m just going to catch you guys up on a few things. Administration and all that fun stuff!

First, I should point out that my hiatus from the Jim Henson fandom is now over and I have every intention on writing about the Muppets without any controversial topics attached to the posts. My New Years resolution is to keep it as lighthearted as possible.

As we get closer to the release of The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance on Netflix, I’m hoping there will be updates and special previews that I can use to create some fun theories for the plot. This is a practice I’m coming to enjoy doing.

Fraggle Rock reviews will be a plenty this year.

There will be a heap of Marvel Cinematic Universe related posts added to my range of topics as I have become quite invested in that particular Studio. Get ready for some Avengers: Infinity War hype!

Last year, I had a heap of fun with the posts where I just rant and swear a lot, so maybe I’ll find a good reason to have a healthy bitch session or two.

I wish I could give you a definite time of day to expect more content, but with how busy I’ll be with finishing my degree and working nights once March comes around. All I can guarantee is that there will be one post a week unless I indicate otherwise.

And finally some good news: I could finally afford to have my puppet character built. When she’s finally completed, I’ll probably film a little something to introduce her. Get ready for some sub par puppetry!

That’s about it for now. See you next week!

P.S: Guys, I wish you could hear the thunder going on outside right now as I’m writing this. It’s awesomely creepy!

 

30 Years of A Muppet Family Christmas

Michael Wermuth, Jr

A Muppet Family Christmas was first broadcast in 1987 and is one of the greatest Muppet specials, if not one of the greatest Muppet productions, of all-time. The special brings together the casts of the Muppets, Sesame Street, Fraggle Rock, and even a scene involving the Muppet Babies. It’s perfect for fans of the Muppets, Christmas, or both. And today we take a little look back at this awesome special.

 

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For those who haven’t seen it, Fozzie Bear decides to take his Muppet friends to his mothers farm house for Christmas, deciding to make it a surprise, unaware that she had planned to spend the holiday in California and had rented it out to Doc and Sprocket. Ma Bear ends up staying and having to make room for all the unexpected guests (and gets more and more unexpected guests) while Doc warms up to sharing the farm house with the Muppets. There’s several songs, running gags, and multiple plotlines – such as the Turkey who was invited by the Swedish Chef diverting the chef’s attention to others, Gonzo and the turkey fighting over Camilla’s affections (which doesn’t really resolve much – he meets her, then they feud but quickly get stopped, then they all sit together during the carol sing), Fozzie builds a snowman who comes to life and becomes his partner, but the biggest plot involves Miss Piggy, who didn’t show up with the others due to scheduling a photo shoot and shopping, getting lost in a terrible snowstorm while on the way to the farm house.

There may not be much plot focus (though I feel it has a lot more plot focus than previous specials starring the cast of The Muppet Show), but it doesn’t need a real plot. There’s so many memorable scenes and numbers included. Compiling a list of the top ten scenes from this special would be really hard because EVERY scene is very memorable. It’d probably be easier to make a list of the LEAST memorable stuff – and even a lot of that is memorable to me (let’s see, what’s least memorable…. How about Kermit sending the rats and chickens away from the kitchen and into the Swedish Chef’s bedroom? No, too memorable…. How about Dr. Teeth expressing how proud he is for being one of Fozzie’s weirdo friends? No, that’s too memorable… How about the way that one background rabbit moves his lips when sing… No, that’s too memorable…). But the greatest scene in this special must be the carol sing at the end, with a crowd of Muppets singing a medley of great Christmas songs – Kermit and Piggy sing “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas”, Fozzie and his mom sing “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas”, Floyd and Janice sing “The Holly and the Ivy”, and so on. And this awesome sequence lasts almost ten full minutes.

MFCStocking

While Fozzie’s mother had made a couple of appearances on The Muppet Show, this is the first time that she had a big part, and would continue to appear in a handful of productions following this. This special was the first time I remember seeing Lips (while my earliest memory of seeing the Muppets is The Great Muppet Caper, at the time my young mind could only remember a few scenes), the character stuck out to me, and as I was used to The Electric Mayhem having five members, I thought it was odd that they suddenly had his wild yellow guy with them (and he seems to show up a LOT in the background, probably more so than other characters). It was also my first exposure to Doc and Sprocket, and would take a number of years before I realized they were on Fraggle Rock (ignoring Doc’s brief line about Fraggles which I didn’t fully understand at the time). Now it may seem like every Muppet is included, but there’s plenty who are not. For a number of years I thought it would have been great if the special had long-unseen characters (like characters who barely made it past the first season of The Muppet Show or hadn’t been seen on Sesame Street since the 1970s) until I realized that this special wasn’t really a celebration of the works of Jim Henson, just a fun special combining the casts of the three main Muppet franchises.

One of the big deals of this special is that it’s perhaps the biggest crossover between Henson franchises (almost tied with The Muppets: A Celebration of 30 Years). This special has not had an official release or broadcast since Disney bought the Muppets in 2004, but is the lack of release or broadcast due to the heavy use of characters owned by Disney, Henson, and Sesame Workshop? The three companies seem to be good at cooperating when needed, and while Kermit used to have to be cut from a few Henson specials (hopefully Kermit’s re-inclusion in Emmet Otter’s Jug-Band Christmas means he can be re-included in The Christmas Toy soon), a handful of other Henson productions with Disney-owned characters have been released uncut, Sesame Workshop doesn’t seem to have any problems releasing Kermit the Frog segments from Sesame Street, and Disney has released a few Muppet productions with uncut appearances by Sesame Street characters. Hopefully Henson wouldn’t provide issues with the inclusion of Fraggle Rock characters (though Sprocket wasn’t cut from post-2004 releases of The Muppet Christmas Carol). Enough songs have had to be cut from the video releases – let’s not have to cut more stuff. But I have a feeling it just hasn’t been released for the last reason the majority of other old Muppet content hasn’t been released – and I haven’t a clue why. It also would have been great if there was a soundtrack album to this special.

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In terms of crossover, I feel they missed out on a great opportunity with the Fraggle Rock scene. They could have had more characters visit Fraggle Rock, it’d have been great to have had some of the Sesame Street Muppets visit, but instead, we only get Kermit and Robin visiting the place. It’s still a great scene, but it’d have been awesome if a large number of characters met the Fraggles. For years I’ve also thought it’d be great if the Sesame Street humans appeared and interacted with Doc (I also used to wonder if they worried about the fact that Doc was played by a different actor in certain countries – without wondering the same about Sesame Street characters).

Anyway, if you can only see one Muppet Christmas production, see A Muppet Family Christmas. If you can only see one Muppet production that’s not The Muppet Show or any of the movies, see this special. If you’ve already seen the special, you know you want to see it again. So here’s to 30 years of one of the best Christmas specials of all-time!

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