Tag: Jim Henson

April 16, 2015 / / Main Slate

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Early in Jim Henson’s LABYRINTH (1986)before Sarah (Jennifer Connelly) witnesses her baby brother kidnapped by goblins—and well before she matches wits with David Bowie’s Goblin King to win him back—we follow a tracking shot through her bedroom, as it takes stock of books and belongings. It’s a veritable “Who’s Who” of the fantasy form: Hardback copies of Grimm’s fairy tales, the saga of Oz, Alice in Wonderland, Where the Wild Things Are … there’s even a print of Escher’s Relativity hanging on the wall. Henson is paying tribute to his forefathers. And in this, the last film he ever directed personally, he translates the language of those influences into his own Muppet tongue.

April 14, 2014 / / Main Slate

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THE GREAT MUPPET CAPER was released in the summer of 1981.  This was five years after The Muppet Show started, and just a few months after it ended.  Given that The Muppet Show ended at the height of its popularity (Jim Henson wanted it to end on a high note rather than watch it inevitably fall from grace) the film was a welcome visit with old friends to contemporary audiences.  It also solidified the Muppets’ transition from television to film.  No longer was their popularity due solely to having a weekly variety show; they were movie stars.

April 15, 2011 / / Main Slate

Labyrinth – 1986 – dir. Jim Henson

“Through dangers untold and hardships unnumbered, I have fought my way to the castle beyond the Goblin City to take back the child that you have stolen. For my will is as strong as yours and my kingdom is as great. You have no power over me.”

The speech is intriguing mostly because of the foreshadowing it does; much like “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” did for Dorothy in the film version of The Wizard of Oz, an inspiration for Labyrinth. Sarah (Jennifer Connelly), a teenager who is trapped within a self-created fantasy world, accidentally wishes her younger brother away to the Goblin King Jareth (David Bowie). When the clock strikes thirteen, the baby will become a goblin—unless Sarah can solve the labyrinth, fight her way to the castle through the Goblin City and save him.

August 7, 2009 / / Main Slate

By Amy Tetreault

The Muppets Take Manhattan – 1984 – dir. Frank Oz

Muppets Take Manhattan is the third in a series of live-action musical feature films with Jim Henson’s loveable Muppets. Released in 1984, this is also the final film before Jim Henson’s sudden death in 1990. In 1992, Henson was posthumously awarded the Courage of Conscience Award for being a “Humanitarian, muppeteer, producer and director of films for children that encourage tolerance, interracial values, equality and fair play.” Muppets Take Manhattan is a great example of Henson’s renowned work for both kids and adults. In fact, at times, I thought the Muppets were better geared for adults than kids. Besides the fact that the Muppets are made of cloth, their story in Muppets Take Manhattan is totally relate-able. Especially right now.

April 4, 2007 / / Film Notes

When sitting down to watch The Dark Crystal, a labor of love directed by legendary puppeteer Jim Henson and his frequent collaborator Frank Oz, you know you’re in for something unique in the truest sense of the word: not merely unusual, but one-of-a-kind. There really hasn’t been another film quite like it before or since. A “digitally enhanced” sequel titled The Power of the Dark Crystal is rumored to be in the works, but even that film won’t match its predecessor for sheer daring and ambition. Released in 1982 after being in production for five years, The Dark Crystal was conceptualized by Henson and British artist Brian Froud as the first live action film to feature only puppets and not a single human actor. This was a dream project for Henson, an attempt to explore new territory and push his art further.

April 4, 2007 / / Film Notes

“Times of transition are always magic,” the late Jim Henson is quoted as saying in Jim Henson: The Works, a hefty coffee table book chronicling the career of the visionary creator of the Muppets. “Twilight is a magic time and dawn is magic – the times during which it’s not day and it’s not night but something in between. Also the time between sleeping and dreaming. There are a lot of mystical qualities to that, and to me this is what the film is about.” Henson was referring to Labyrinth, the 1986 film that he described as being “about a person at the point of changing from being a child to being a woman.” Labyrinth indeed falls into a tradition of coming of age stories that straddle the line between the real and the fantastic, from family- friendly fare like the 1939 classic The Wizard of Oz (one of Henson’s inspirations), to Neil Jordan’s grownup 1984 horror film In The Company of Wolves. It makes sense that this is so. Adolescence is certainly a liminal time in one’s life: neither childhood nor adulthood but a confusing in-between, and a film like Labyrinth populated by fantastic characters and possessed of an uncertain sense of time, place, and space perhaps more aptly conveys the outsized anxieties of adolescence than many realist films about young adults.

August 14, 2006 / / Film Notes

Written by Jason Haas

U.S.A., 1979. 97 min. Henson Associates. Cast: Jim Henson, Frank Oz, Milton Berle, Mel Brooks, James Coburn, Dom Deluise, Elliot Goud, Bob Hope, Madeline Kahn, Steve Martin, Richard Pryor, Mel Brooks, Orson Welles; Music: Paul Williams; Produced by: Jim Henson; Written by: Jack Burns, Jerry Juhl; Directed by: James Frawley

The Muppet Movie is a timeless family film for a number of reasons, but it is also a product of its times. The film rejects much of the cinematic aesthetic of the 1970s, an era that began with pornography enjoying widespread mainstream success and ended in the birth of the blockbuster, which reveled in auteurloving “look-at-me” filmmaking and/or special effects. Throughout the decade, cinema was fighting with television for its audience, so it is odd to find that a production staff that came mostly from television created a movie bursting with a deeply innocent love for the movies and for a time when movies provided a more cheerful joy. It seems as if Henson and his collaborators (most notably Frank Oz) were dedicated to creating a film that reflected a love of all that made the golden age of cinema so fantastic. Simultaneously, Henson and company, not unlike their big budget and pornographer contemporaries, make clear that their movie offers something that cannot be had in the comfort of one’s living room: more Muppet action than viewers could get out of TV’s The Muppet Show.