Braggin on muh wife

This is kind of old, but one thing (Halloween) or another (Christmas) got in the way of my saying anything about it earlier. I’ve mentioned before that my wife is an artist, but it’s really cool to see her get some attention for her work, like in this piece the Saint Paul Pioneer Press ran on her. She’s been very involved in our neighborhood since we moved here about 12 years ago, so letting that spill into her art is a natural progression.

She was also recently recognized by the Saint Paul’s East Side Area Business Association as the Top Emerging Small Business. So proud of her.

[Updated: Totally forgot to link to her Facebook page, which is where she posts most of her art.]

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Christmas Carol figurines by Tim Bruckner

One last Christmas Carol post before we’re done for the season. This one’s not about an adaptation of the entire story; just four characters. Tim Bruckner has created a set of figures for Scrooge, Marley, Tiny Tim, and the Ghost of Christmas Present. Check out his post on the Muddy Colors blog for details of each figure as well as his thought processes in creating them.

You can’t see it in the image above, but the open books that form each base also have art on the back side (the books’ covers). There’s also a variant head for Marley with his jaw untied. They’re really amazing pieces and they’ll be available to buy in 2013. I’m already saving up.

‘Merry Christmas, Uncle!’ | Graphic Classics, Volume 19: Christmas Classics (2010)

Like with the opening scene, Graphic Classics‘ version of Fred’s introduction is surprisingly short. It’s only a page long, plus change, and whittles the heck out of Scrooge and Fred’s interaction.

It does the same thing Campfire does with Fred’s entrance, having the nephew call out to Scrooge while still in the doorway. Micah Farritor is a much better storyteller than the Campfire artist though and gives the characters a lot of personality. Fred’s younger in this version than most, suggesting that maybe he’s not been rejected as much as some of the other Freds we’ve encountered. He has some worry lines on his forehead as he enters, so it’s obviously not his first visit with his uncle, but he looks calm and confident in subsequent panels. He knows enough to be nervous when he enters, but after the first “humbug” he’s okay and not at all worn down by Scrooge.

It’s too bad that page limits necessitate chopping up the scene so much, because I’d like to see more of these two characters’ interacting. Fred’s entire speech is gone, taking Cratchit’s applause with it. We get a good look at Cratchit’s miserable-looking face as he closes the door behind Fred, so there’s a little characterization for you, but this version of the scene doesn’t reveal much else than that Scrooge is an unpleasant person who hates Christmas. There’s no discussion of Fred’s marriage, but that’s an expected cut for an adaptation of this size.

Although this version cheats Fred of some of the elements that make him my favorite character, if I’m objective I can admit that they aren’t bad cuts. With their limited page count, Alex Burrows and Farritor are getting through the introductions quickly. We know everything we need to know about Scrooge and how he feels about Christmas. In the next scene, we’ll add to that knowledge by seeing how he feels about the rest of humanity. Burrows and Farritor will spend a little more room on that.

‘Merry Christmas, Uncle!’ | Campfire’s A Christmas Carol (2010)

Last year, my biggest issue with this adaptation was the art. Naresh Kumar is capable enough at drawing, but he’s not a strong storyteller and that problem continues into this year’s scene. He does draw Fred coming through the door as he greets his uncle (giving his entrance a proper, abrupt feel), but that could be in the script. There’s only one panel where any real acting is done with the characters: a close up of Scrooge’s eyes as he talks about the stake of holly through the heart. His eyes are asymmetrical – one’s squinting more than the other – so it looks like Scrooge is coming unhinged in his anger. I’ll give Kumar the benefit of the doubt that that’s what he intended.

Other than that though, Scrooge and Fred go through the scene with no real expression. Occasionally, they look like they’re smiling cordially at each other. There’s no tension in the artwork and we get no insight to these characters from looking at them.

The script is serviceable for the most part. Scott McCullar continues to update the language some and makes the expected trims to the dialogue. There’s only one change that’s noteworthy, but unfortunately, not in a good way. During Fred’s speech, McCullar changes “the only time I know of […] when men and women […] think of people below them” to “Christmas is the only time I know of when men and women can think of others.” I hate that he adds that “can” to it. In McCullar’s version, Fred is saying that the only possible time for people to open their hearts to others is at Christmas, which is a) patently untrue, and b) not at all Fred’s point in Dickens. It’s not the only time that we can think of others; it’s just – sadly – often the only time that we do. That’s a huge, important difference.

Cratchit’s applause after Fred’s speech isn’t noteworthy. There’s no humor to it at all and we don’t even see Cratchit’s face during the scene to get a feel for how he reacts to Scrooge’s threats.

Scrooge’s line about seeing Fred in hell before joining him for dinner is replaced with a simple “bah,” and the conversation about Fred’s marriage is so passionless (again, mostly a problem with the art) that there’s no feel whatsoever about what’s really going on in Fred and Scrooge’s relationship.

There is one last bit of interest though as the scene transitions to the next one. Like Scrooge’s eyes above, I don’t know if this is intentional or not, but let’s imagine that it is. As Fred leaves and exchanges greetings with Cratchit, Scrooge makes fun of Cratchit as he does in Dickens. Rather than muttering it to himself though, he says it out loud and the word balloons spill into the panel in which the charity solicitors are entering the room.  Scrooge is also smiling welcomingly at the solicitors (not knowing yet that they aren’t there for business) as he says it, so it looks like he’s putting down Cratchit in front of potential customers. Intentional on the storytellers’ part or not, it’s the jerkiest thing Scrooge has done so far and I like it.

‘Merry Christmas, Uncle!’ | Jim Carrey (2009)

I don’t like how Fred looks exactly like Colin Firth in Disney’s Christmas Carol, but I don’t find much else to dislike about this version of the character. He bursts in merrily and seems genuinely excited to visit Scrooge, which is how I like Fred to act. I get tired of the Freds who see their visits as a chore, and I admire the ones who are relentless in their optimism that maybe this will be the year that Scrooge comes to dinner. Firth’s is one of those Freds.

He tries to keep his spirits up, but Scrooge takes a lot out of him and ends up getting his goat a couple of times. He’s horrified by the “stake of holly” comment and his big speech is impassioned and just a little bit angry. He keeps trying to smile though and I respect the hell out of him.

Cratchit comes out of his room for the speech and claps at the end, but there’s nothing new to that bit. It’s not particularly funny when Scrooge yells at Cratchit and threatens his job. Cratchit looks like a scolded puppy as he makes his way back to his desk.He’s not really frightened for his position, but he’s embarrassed and humbled.

Surprisingly, Disney’s is one of the few adaptations that goes for Scrooge’s full “I’ll see you in hell first” as a response to Fred’s dinner invitation. He gets in Fred’s face as he says it too, and it kicks off a nice bit of acting by both Carrey and Firth as they discuss Fred’s marriage.

Scrooge pauses before he asks why Fred got married. Some of the other versions have him whip out “why did you get married” as if it’s been on his mind the entire scene. In this one, he has to think about it for a second. Or maybe he’s reluctant to bring it up for some reason. I tend to think it’s the latter explanation. As I’ll discuss in a minute, this is a sore subject for Scrooge and not one he should be overly eager to get into.

Fred also pauses before “Because I fell in love” as if he genuinely doesn’t understand the question. He’s not condescending in his answer, but very sincere. He realizes that he and Scrooge are on completely different pages and he wants to use the opportunity to hopefully help his uncle see the light.

Scrooge’s response is complicated and layered. Like I said last year, I have several problems with this version, but Carrey’s performance isn’t one of them. He sneers a little at Fred’s answer, but his tone’s not mocking as he repeats his nephew’s words. He looks genuinely disbelieving. Not so much that Fred fell in love, but that he would actually try to use that as an excuse to Scrooge. In Scrooge’s mind, love has nothing to do with anything.

I don’t know if I’ve said this out loud before (I think I was going to save the observation for a later scene), but since this is the last film adaptation we’ll look at this year, it’s a good time to mention that Scrooge’s disagreement about Fred’s marriage comes from a very personal place. We’ve seen that hinted at in a couple of adaptations and this one does it too. The relationship between love and marriage isn’t just an intellectual exercise for Scrooge, it’s something that he made a definite decision about as a young man, and that decision affected the rest of his life.

In the better versions of this scene, there’s all kinds of foreshadowing about why Scrooge reacts the way he does to Fred’s marriage. At a crucial moment, Scrooge chose to follow traditional, Victorian mores about making one’s fortune before getting married. Fred has made the opposite choice and adaptations like this one (and George C. Scott’s and Patrick Stewart’s and Alastair Sim’s) emphasize how much it pains Scrooge to see his nephew so happy in his penniless marriage. It’s a painful reminder that Scrooge made a horrible, horrible mistake once upon a time.