20th Century Fox via Everett Collection
Think of the most iconic Christmas movies. A Christmas Story, The Muppet Christmas Carol, Love Actually and Home Alone are probably coming to mind, along with classics like White Christmas and It’s A Wonderful Life. But another film that many movie fans include in the list of Christmas classics is Die Hard, the 1988 action film takes place in Los Angeles during an office Christmas party attended by John McClane (Bruce Willis).
It’s not your typical holiday movie, but every December the debate about whether Die Hard can be considered a Christmas movie is rekindled. The Frisky and Buzzfeed recently argued that there’s no way Die Hard is a Christmas movie. Holiday movies don’t have terrorists/burglars (false — Home Alone) and taking place near Christmas doesn’t qualify a film as a holiday movie by nature.
They’re right, but think about those typical holiday films, what makes them Christmas-y? A Christmas soundtrack and/or holiday decorations? Check. The morals of Christmas: peace on earth and goodwill toward men? Check. The importance of family? Check. A romance plot? Check.
Sure, the fact that John is fighting greedy Christmas-ruining burglars with machine guns and C-4 might be a bit ostentatious for a holiday flick, but the message of the movie is that good will triumph over evil. Besides, Hans Gruber (Alan Rickman) is like a scarier version of Scrooge, who also has a gun.
Whether you like Die Hard or not, there are plenty of arguments for and against it being considered a Christmas movie, but can we all as a society agree it’s a holiday film and be done with it?
One joy of having children is having the opportunity to force-feed them the entertainment that you grew up with. And, in that way, the offspring of '80s babies are lucky. It was the decade for the family Christmas special. Every beloved character got one. Here are four that you simply must dredge up on YouTube and pass along to the next generation
A Garfield Christmas (1987)
While Garfield's usual grumpiness is a true comfort to those of us who have difficulty tolerating the Odies of the world, a holiday special demands he soften up a bit. Garfield, Jon, and Odie trek out to Jon's family farm where Garfield bros out with Jon's feisty grandma and Odie constructs his frenemy the best present ever: the ultimate backscratcher. Adults should keep tissues handy for the unexpectedly poignant discovery of a pack of love letters from Grandma's deceased husband.
Mickey's Christmas Carol (1983)
Your family could do worse than this Academy Award-nominated short, which was also the first theatrical Mickey Mouse cartoon produced in 30 years. Mickey plays Bob Cratchit, of course, and Scrooge McDuck, since he co-opted his whole game anyway, is his miserly boss. All well and good, but casting Daisy Duck as Bob's fiance Isabella seems a little uncool. What would Donald think?
A Muppet Family Christmas (1987)
Jim Henson himself cameos in this Muppet adventure, which is just as essential as any other. A childhood without Muppets shouldn't be allowed, so don't even try it.
He-Man & She-Ra: A Christmas Special (1985)
Christmas comes to Eternia via two suitably diverse Earth kids, Miguel and Alisha. And the attempt to shoe-horn a Christian holiday into a alien world of god-like princes and flying unicorns is so '80s that it hurts. Even Skeletor can't escape the Christmas spirit, though he's relieved that he still gets to be a bad guy for the rest of the year.
Walt Disney via Everett Collection
Although the next Muppets movie, Muppets Most Wanted, doesn’t come out until March 21, our favorite gang of felted celebs is getting in the holiday spirit. Since the day after Thanksgiving, Muppet Central Radio has played Muppet Christmas carols around the clock.
You can tune in to the 13th Annual Muppet Christmas Music Marathon on Radio Terra and Live 365. Muppet Central added 20 new songs this year, increasing their Muppet Christmas carol library to 325 tracks that will lead you dancing and singing into the holidays.
Included in Muppet Central Radio’s playlist are songs from the past 40 years of Muppets. Some songs we’ve heard are “The Man with the Bag,” “All Dressed Up,” and “The Christmas Queen.”
Two tracks we’re hoping to hear on the playlist are “Jingle Bell Rock” from A Muppet Family Christmas and “Fozziwig’s Party” from The Muppet Christmas Carol, which is the best Muppet Christmas movie of all time.
For fans of the Muppets, the gang has starred in plenty of holiday flicks like the television special A Muppet Family Christmas, as well as It’s a Very Merry Muppet Christmas Movie and of course The Muppet Christmas Carol.
Hopefully the Muppet Christmas Music Marathon will make the wait for Muppets Most Wanted just a little bit more bearable.
If you've ever thought that holiday specials were too boring and safe, we have some good news for you: Lady Gaga will host a holiday special this year with the Muppets — presumably in an effort to keep things both festive and family-friendly. Lady Gaga & the Muppets' Holiday Spectacular will feature songs from the singer's latest album, Artpop, as well as some traditional holiday favorites. The hosts will be joined by special guests Elton John, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, and RuPaul, ensuring that it will be the strangest holiday special the world has ever seen.
According to ABC, the show will be an "avant-garde twist" on traditional holiday variety shows, and is apparently a "dream come true" for Gaga, who has always wanted to perform with the Muppets. She is set to duet with Kermit the Frog and have the creatures join her for a new interpretation of her lead single, "Applause." And for those who would rather watch the puppets than the pop star, the Swedish Chef, Beaker, and Animal will be on hand to put a Muppet-y twist on classics like "Deck the Halls" and "Jingle Bells." The special will also feature a sneak preview of the upcoming film Muppets Most Wanted, which will hit theaters in 2014.
Gaga has a long history with the Muppets, having taken Kermit as her date to the 2009 VMAs and used pieces from Jim Henson's Creature Shop on her tours. However, her most famous Muppet-collaboration is the jacket she wore in 2009 that was made entirely of Kermit puppets, and might actually beat out the meat dress as the strangest thing she's ever worn. Hopefully, Gaga will avoid turning her co-hosts into clothing this time around, although we predict there will be some kind of fashion showdown between her and Miss Piggy. Gaga was also supposed to have made a cameo in 2011's The Muppets, but the sequence was cut for time.
This is the second holiday special that the pop star has hosted for ABC, after she headlined A Very Gaga Thanksgiving in 2011. That event featured a duet with Tony Bennett, a sit-down interview with Katie Couric, and a cooking segment with celebrity chef Art Smith, in addition to Gaga performing several tracks from her second album, Born This Way. She even got into the holiday spirit with a performance of White Christmas — although, in true Gaga fashion, she wrote a whole new verse for the song (which you can see below). It's hard to imagine how the superstar will manage to top A Very Gaga Thanksgiving, which was equal parts insane and entertaining, although we're personally hoping it involves an homage to the greatest Christmas movie of all time, The Muppets Christmas Carol.
Lady Gaga & the Muppets' Holiday Spectacular will air on November 28th at 9:30 pm.
I’m sure plenty of you have noticed how these past few days have been unseasonably warm and sunny. Well, there’s a reason for that. No, I don’t mean depletion of the ozone layer. And no, I’m not talking about the approaching effects of Betelgeuse’s supernova (2012 is coming, people). What I’m actually referring to is this past Wednesday’s release of three movies with the power to warm hearts, inspire dreams, and (in one case especially) connect rainbows: Hugo, Arthur Christmas, and The Muppets.
It’s interesting that these three movies all released on the same date, but not surprising that it came at the start of the Christmas season—the annual equivalent of a whimsical love letter. In fact, it seems as though this joint release of these three films was a very carefully crafted statement about the people who might take to seeing any or all of them—and specifically, what they, or rather, we and our world today, have become: cynical.
Hugo, Arthur Christmas and The Muppets all have a good deal in common. They’re all family-friendly: enticing to children due to their imagery and magic, but often even more entertaining to the adults in the audience thanks to the complexity and value of their messages. Further on this thought, they all build from something we’re already familiar (and in love) with. Hugo is a celebration of the art of film itself. Arthur Christmas is, naturally, a proponent of Christmas, and all things related—believing in Santa, the spirit of giving, etc. And, finally, The Muppets. That’s about Muppets.
But there is a fundamental difference that exists between each of these films, and one that’s none too hard to pinpoint: their media. Hugo’s story is delivered by live people. Arthur Christmas’ is done so by animated characters. And The Muppets’ is, primarily, by puppets (I’m including Jack Black in that genus, by the way).
Now, it’s hard to define the exact effect this span of media has on the delivery of the message the three films embody. But at the very least, one can assume that a message delivered by this variety of film will reach a larger audience. Arthur Christmas will beckon all young children of today—I can’t imagine a dystopian future wherein kids have become disinterested in animated movies. Add Christmas into the mix, and you’ve got a winner. The Muppets is appealing on its own, topped with encouragement by younger parents for their kids to enjoy the same characters that they themselves did in childhood. Plus, there were a healthy sum of us childless twenty-somethings camped out in the theater. And Hugo: a movie that is, despite its ostensible appeal to kids, really written for adults. Kids with broad enough attention spans can find entertainment in the dazzling imagery, but the sophistication of the story is unmistakably mature. So, parents of older children, and non-parents alike, will find themselves in the presence of Hugo this season.
If you think about it, it’s actually a brilliant plan. Connect with as many audiences as possible, while not extending the bounds of a genre that is capable of fostering the message of whimsy and idealism. Of course, each media has its own unique way of approaching this message. Animation’s is the most fluid: the entire world on screen is itself a dream. There are no restrictions in an animated world—whimsy can attack you as early as the opening titles.
Live-action is an overly less “magical” medium; we’re watching real people interact instead of caricatured Christmas elves. However, Martin Scorsese builds a magical world in Hugo, exciting us with a dazzling cinematography constructed around the inner-walls of the Parisian train station that is Hugo Cabret’s home. Where animated might be more whimsical on the surface, live action has it a bit easier in the department of authentic emotion. Now, I’m not going to say I don’t cry every single time I watch The Lion King, Toy Stories 1 through 3, or that episode of Futurama about Fry’s dog, but there is often an additional complexity to the emotional substance afforded by the contributions of a real life actor—especially when the actors we’re dealing with are as talented as Asa Butterfield and Ben Kingsley.
And finally, puppetry. It is one of the least-traversed media in this day and age—that mere fact emanates a sense of dreamy nostalgia when we’re graced with a cast of smiling felt characters on screen (in a very full theater, no less). The Muppets, as with the film and television manifestations of Jim Henson’s characters in the past, cements its magic with humor. The silliest, purest, most classic humor imaginable. We are adorned with sight gags, wordplay and self-referential humor none too dissimilar from that in the original Muppet Movie from 1979. The movie isn’t just a celebration of the dreamy days of yore, it feels like it’s actually a product of them.
Each of these three films has a simple but potent theme: times have changed, but that doesn’t mean we can’t hold onto the glory of our younger days. In fact, the message is timeless. Hugo compares the early career of George Méliès, turn-of-the-20th-century French filmmaker, to his later days, after he had given up on the fruition of his dreams. Arthur Christmas places the tech-heavy, impersonal present against the Christmases that Grandsanta (Bill Nighy) oversaw a hundred years ago. And The Muppets examines the differences in the cynical, jaded zeitgeist of today to that of its dreamy, fun-loving 1970s/‘80s counterpart, when the Muppets were universally adored.
Really, it’s not about the passage of time in the world—it’s about the passage of time within each of its audience members. The movies are about growing up, but still wishing to hold onto the magic of which we were comprised as children. The movies are about believing in ourselves, our friends and our dreams—a factor that somehow gets extinguished from our conscious as we age.
Although they couldn’t look any more dissimilar from one another, the movies all celebrate the same theme. They use a mystical imagery, a charming, old-fashioned type of humor and the creation of whole new, magical worlds to do so. They all build on what we know, instilling within something of which we need to be reminded. Each of these films, individually, does a great service to the important ideology of holding onto the magic. And whoever decided to release them all together has done a phenomenal job of making sure this message really hits home, with everyone and anyone, this holiday season.
It doesn’t matter what you cherish and believe in. For a live action George Méliès in Hugo, it’s the majesty that is cinema. For the animated title character in Arthur Christmas, it’s the spirit and magic of the holiday season. And for the bobbly felt stars of The Muppets, it’s the sharing of pure, good-natured, unadulterated joy. But when today’s audiences, young and old, are graced with these films, it is simply that universal message that gets delivered. There is something magical in each of us, and we are meant to hold onto that—for, that’s when really glorious things happen. So, whether it rings most true to you coming from Ben Kingsley, an animated Santa, or Kermit the Frog, it’s a message for all of us: the lovers, the dreamers, and me.
A Christmas special featuring Kermit, Fozzie, Miss Piggy, Big Bird and all the other Muppets as they go off to the country to spend a good old-fashioned holiday with Fozzie's mother and encounter many adventures along the way.