Puppetry in the cinema

We’ve been thinking about puppets recently. As you know, we’ve got a screening of The Muppet Christmas Carol coming up on 17th December at the International Lawn Tennis Centre in Eastbourne (full details in our previous blog post, and booking details below), and 2011 would have been the 75th birthday of the puppet pioneer, and one of Filmspot‘s cinema heros, Jim Henson. So, we thought we’d present some of our favourite cinema puppetry!

We’ve has to impose a few rules on ourselves here, though – the world of puppetry is so vast, we’re talking live action puppetry this time (we’ll save stop motion for another day!)

5. Gremlins 

Here’s a particularly rousing clip from Gremlins 2

Gremlins used a range of puppetry to bring the innocent little mogwai, Gizmo, and it’s sinister offspring to life, including animatronics and marionettes. Directed by Joe Dante, Gremlins was the first and best of a batch of comedy-horror films about nasty little beasties that surfaced in the 80s. Dishonourable mentions include Critters, Ghoulies, Hobgoblins and Munchies.

4. Where the Wild Things Are

Spike Jonze’s rendering of ‘Where the Wild Things Are’ breathed life into Maurice Sendak‘s beautiful book illustrations through the very effective combination of animatronic, costumes and CGI.

3 . Gainsbourg: A Heroic Life

Although only in the film for short clips, the grotesque animatronic puppet version of Gainsbourg is what sets this wonderful biopic apart from most. Wonderfully acted and stylishly shot, the puppetry element represents Gainsbourg’s personal demons – yes, it’s an obvious trick, but it does add a great dose of quirkiness into something that could otherwise be fairly straight forward. After all, I think Gainsbourg’s philandering and rock and roll life style has been fairly well documented before!

2. Kooky (Kuky se vrací)

This is a recent discovery, about a teddy bear who ends out in landfill when his asthmatic owner is forced to throw him away. Directed by the award-winning Jan Svěrák, this film certain takes much inspiration from the marionette puppetry of the Czech Republic, where it was made. The film features a cast of beautifully detailed characters, designed by games designer Jakub Dvorský, including the antagonist Nightshade, who looks slightly reminiscent of Little Otik, the titlular ‘character’ tree stump baby from the film by Jan Švankmajer…

1. Of course, the anything that the Henson Company goes near

Yes, well – we could have made a list of ‘the best Henson related films’, but there are too many to list. Here’s a clip from Labyrinth, featuring a very helpful worm…

Jim Henson, and his creature workshop, have had a profound influence on film over the past few decades, by making the impossibly feel tangible and bringing fantastic and fun characters to life. Not only did Henson bring us The Muppets, but also fantasy films such as The Dark Crystal and Labyrinth – and they worked on creatures and effects for countless others including the Dennis Potter version of Alice in Wonderland, called Dreamchild.

You can, of course, see Kermit, Jim Henson’s most famous creation, strutting his stuff in our next Filmspot event on 17 December, ‘The Muppet Christmas Carol’. Doors will be at 2pm, for a 2.30pm start.

Tickets
Tickets for The Muppet Christmas Carol (or White Christmas, which we are also presenting on 17 December at 7pm) cost £6.50 (£5 concessions and children) each
Please contact the Events Office at Eastbourne Borough Council
tel 01323 415442 or purchase on line at <http://www.visiteastbourne.com/eshop/default.aspx?dms=71&shop=11&sct=323

Here’s Kermit, duetting with Tiny Tim, just to get you all in the mood!

Christmas events in Eastbourne: tickets now on sale!

Hi there Filmspotters!

The big news is that we’ve got a couple of great Christmas events in the pipeline for this December, both on 17 December 2011 at the International Lawn Tennis Centre, Devonshire Park, Eastbourne.

Filmspot are teaming up with Eastbourne Borough Council to present two special film events this Christmas. With performers, festive music, vintage trailers and B-movies, and themed catering to set the atmosphere, this will be a perfect start to the Christmas season!

Muppet Christmas Carol (1992), 2.30pm

Fans of the Muppets will probably be aware that 2011 would have been the 75th birthday of puppeteer and muppet creator, Jim Henson. In celebration of this puppet-pioneer, we will present a special screening of The Muppet Christmas Carol, with a few festive touches!

Gonzo the Great takes the place of Charles Dickens to narrate this fun, musical adaptation of A Christmas Carol. It stars Michael Caine as Ebenezer Scrooge, and an entire cast of creatures from Henson’s workshop, including many familiar faces, such as Kermit the frog and Miss Piggy as Bob and Emily Cratchett.

White Christmas (1954), 7.00pm


Featuring a treasury of the evocative songs of Irving Berlin, and a cast of real icons of the golden age of cinema, White Christmas oozes Hollywood glamour – just the thing to start the festive season!

Bob Wallace (Bing Crosby) and Phil Paris (Danny Kaye) meet while serving in the second World War. After being de-mobbed, they team up to become a highly successful song and dance double act. After a five year run, they take a well earned break in a skiing resort in Vermont, accompanied by two sisters, Betty (Rosemary Clooney) and Vera (Vera-Ellen). They find the resort, owned by their old army boss, on the verge of bankruptcy, due to lack of snow. They swiftly step in to organise a benefit concert – but can they save the resort?

This Christmas classic features the songs Sisters, Count Your Blessings Instead of Sheep, Snow and, of course, the titular White Christmas, amongst many others.

Tickets
Tickets for either film cost £6.50 (£5 concessions and children) each
Please contact the Events Office at Eastbourne Borough Council
tel 01323 415442 or purchase on line at <http://www.visiteastbourne.com/eshop/default.aspx?dms=71&shop=11&sct=323

The International Lawn Tennis Centre, Devonshire Park is situated in the heart of Eastbourne, surrounded by trees and gardens. The courts play host to 6 tournaments in the summer including the pre – Wimbledon Aegon International which attracts international players. The courts have also been a venue for Team GB Davis Cup ties and are often referred to as the best grass courts in the world.

…and in other news…
They Clapped and She Bowed Once More on 4th December was a great success. The Filmspot team were assisting artist Amy Cunningham with her performance of On Standby, a composition which involved live singing, recorded sound and video, at St James’s Church Piccadilly.

Photograph: Samuel Herbert