A MUPPET CHRISTMAS CAROLWhat better way to start this adventure than with the Muppets? This mixture of muppets and humans, most notably the great Michael Caine, is pitch perfect on so many levels. Sure, there are some Muppet additions (“Having a Heat Wave”, for example), but for the most part this is a very faithful adaptation of the story. They’ve added Dickens (Gonzo) as the narrator, and given him a sidekick in Rizzo the Rat. “Light the lamp, not the rat. Light the lamp, not the rat” and “thank you for making me a part of this” are classic lines not found in Dickens’ original text. And the Ghost of Christmas Present doesn’t have any tough love for Scrooge. But these are quibbles.

The Belle scenes are great, and heartbreaking. Miss Piggy is very funny as Mrs. Cratchit, but she also breaks your heart in the future scene after Tiny Tim has passed. Most of the Muppets are used at some point, which is great for fans. And Fozziwig played by the great Fozzy the Bear. And then there are the musical numbers that add to the whole.

Truly a movie for the whole family, A MUPPET CHRISTMAS CAROL is a great way to start the challenge. What Muppet use do you think is the most inspired? Fozziwig? Sam the Eagle? Emily Cratchit?

A Christmas Carol Challenge

My favorite story of all time is Charles Dickens’ 1843 A CHRISTMAS CAROL. I hear some of you groaning. But hear me out. Have you read the book? While there is sentiment, there is also a brutal portrayal of the times. The themes of selfishness and redemption transcend generations. Dickens balances light and dark beautifully, which helps make the payoff so great.

Because of some overly sentimental versions the story is often dismissed. That is a mistake. Dickens condemns the London of Ebenezer Scrooge as he tells the story of redemption. Some of these scenes are difficult to watch (or read), and they are often cut. I am thinking specifically of the scene that Marley shows Scrooge of the ghosts who have lost the power for good, and are condemned to walk the earth powerless to help. Or the two children (Ignorance and Want) that the Ghost of Christmas Present has under his robe. Or Old Joe…

Knowing that I love this story (and I do) I have set up my own December Challenge. To write about a different version of A CHRISTMAS CAROL every day. Think that is impossible? I have a dozen DVDs sitting here right now that give me a good head start on the project.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on the daily offerings. The Christmas Carol Challenge 2010 begins tomorrow–see you then!

The Joy of Jane

A few years (late 1990's) back my sister and I (roommates at the time) watched Sense and Sensibility on almost a daily basis. The Emma Thompson version. That was before I bought the DVD of Pride and Prejudice, which became a yearly viewing occasion. And we saw Persuasion on PBS. And Gweneth's Emma.

Last year PBS showed a more recent version of Sense and Sensibility. And Persuasion. Never mind the movie version of Pride and Prejudice. There was also a version of Mansfield Park, but I missed it. As I had in novel form.

In fact, I'd missed a lot of Jane in novel form. I'd read P&P in high school, but not since. I'd read Persuasion in grad school, and then again just for the joy of it. I'd long considered Persuasion my favorite of her novels, but who was I to say? I hadn't read the rest, just seen them on TV. Which, lovely as some of the adaptations are (and I will write a blog about that at some point), isn't the same.

So a few friends and I decided to make this the year of Jane. We are reading all of her novels. In the order she wrote them (not the order they were published.) We met last weekend, and talked about Northanger Abbey. Not her best, but not Jane's best is still pretty good. And as a writer, reading her first work was really interesting.

PBS has been kind enough to schedule five weeks of Jane Austen movies (3 of Emma, Northanger Abbey and replay of last year's Persuasion). And the book project will continue as well. Reports on both will be forthcoming.