Thursday, December 25, 2014

Sick Weekend and Holiday Special Recommendation

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Hey all, just recovering from a mild virus here, but thrilled to have reached the end of finals. I did my best and studied my hardest, so that this month is going to be "professional writer" month. At least, it will be once I kick this block.

The virus isn't terrible, but I definitely am glad to be getting better. Lesson learned from classes: try not to inhale secondhand smoke. It will mess with your health for the next couple of days. I fortunately had a round of antibiotics and have been taking strong probiotics to compensate and recover, as well as several cups of herbal tea a day.

Never underestimate the power of a good yogurt
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Now, since tonight is Christmas Eve, I want to recommend one particular movie that keeps us happy during the holidays. My brother and I know the lyrics to most of the songs, and when I got it one year we sang along.

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 The Muppet Christmas Carol was the first actual version of A Christmas Carol that I saw, and it remains the best in my mind. The Muppets treat Ebeneezer Scrooge like the miserly sourpuss he is, blending genuine contempt with typical, wry humor. Despite such humor, the film stays faithful to the story and its meaning about how you can affect the people around you for good or evil.

"Even the vegetables don't like him"
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I also encountered Michael Caine for the first time in this role, playing the grumpy miser that earns our sympathy. Scrooge dislikes Christmas, for various reasons, and has witty remarks to make on those who demand to spread the cheer. (I can't help but feel sympathy for you there, Scrooge.) Caine plays him with enough charisma so that we don't dislike Scrooge; we follow him to his draft home, where he encounters the Christmas spirits that may or may not save his soul. The music from the Marleys, as well as the Muppet spirits, draw us in with their humor and tragedy. Christmas Past shows us what brought Scrooge's spirits down on Christmas, especially his workaholic ways driving away his fiancee. Christmas Present offers hope that the man can change, while Christmas Yet to Come shows what will happen if Scrooge remains a bitter miser.

Seriously, we watch this film mainly for the Michael Caine dance here. It's awkward and adorable at the same time
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Caine not only displays the ability to play Scrooge with wit and sympathy; he also shows an old man wanting to change, and to be happy, but facing the consequences of his callousness. Even better, the movie takes care to humanize him, to show that the danger of becoming connected with people is that they can hurt you, but if you give them a chance you can make their lives better, and improve your own as a positive consequence. Scrooge's stakes don't involve him burning in hell for his crimes, but to see how he's missing out on life. 

To be honest, I think that Charles Dickens told A Christmas Carol best because he wrote it first; most of the adaptations and parodies exaggerate Scrooge's miserliness and Bob Cratchett's good nature. The second adaptation I saw was a Disney one, Mickey's Christmas Carol, which put Scrooge McDuck in the (predictable) role of Scrooge and Mickey Mouse as Bob Cratchett. Unlike the Muppets, they kept emphasizing that Scrooge was a miser and robbing the poor to feed himself, making Bob Cratchett do his laundry, and pretty much scared Scrooge into becoming a better person.

They cast Goofy as Jacob Marley. That should be a pretty big hint of how messed up this special was.
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In other words, this adaptation showed no respect for the original material's delicate approach to Scrooge, or for the Disney characters that they used to portray Dickens's timeless personas. They borrowed animals from The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad, to put characters in the background. Duck Tales and the original Donald Duck comics had Scrooge McDuck toeing the line between greed and care for his nephews, while pursuing adventure. And don't get me started on some of the Disney television shows that went for the Christmas Carol adaptations for their characters, ranging from the tongue in cheek to the melodramatic.

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The Muppet Christmas Carol represents not just respect for characters, both belonging to Dickens and to Jim Henson (who passed away before this film was made), but also respect for the original meaning, without beating us over the head. It also represents a calmer time in my life, when the Muppets could fix any emotional upset.

Have a merry Christmas, and take care of the people in your life! 2015 is only a few days away.


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