“Why are there so many songs about rainbows, and what’s on the other side?”
In 1979, the Muppets were at the peak of their popularity. The Muppet Show had been running since 1976, and children and adults both regularly tuned in to watch the silly, surreal antics of Kermit the Frog and his cast of performers attempt to put on a show every week. The time was ripe for Jim Henson, Frank Oz, and the rest of the Muppet performers to take the characters to the next level, to produce a movie: The Muppet Movie. The feature-length format allowed them to tell a complete story, the story of how the Muppets first came together. “Well, it’s sort of approximately how it happened,” as Kermit tells his nephew Robin. The movie starts out with the Muppets attending the private screening of their own film, and that subversive meta-humor peppers the entirety of the movie. The movie is filled with lots of other kinds of humor as well, from character humor, pop culture references, situational irony, running gags and hilariously bad puns. It also throws in some sentimentality, some excitement, some music, and a whole herd of guest stars. Continue reading →
Hard Times is a film set in 1933, in the midst of the Depression, but despite the title, this isn’t a tale about crawling back from the brink of starvation, or of serving time in jail, though main character Chaney is implied to have done both of those things. Rather, it’s about the underground world of bare-knuckle street-fighting, and the characters that inhabit that world. The film stars Charles Bronson, just a year after 1974′s Death Wish, and a few years before he found himself permanently typecast as a vigilante as a result of Death Wish. Here Bronson plays Chaney, a drifter who hops out of a boxcar at the beginning of the film, witnesses a street-fight play out and more importantly pay out, and approaches one of the promoters for his own shot at the action. The promoter, Spencer “Speed” Weed (played masterfully by James Coburn), takes him on, and after witnessing him knock out an opponent with one punch, takes him down to New Orleans in the hopes that they can win some serious money down there. Strother Martin rounds out the main trio as Poe, a medical school drop-out who has an opium addiction and makes his living by patching up fighters.