life lessons from: a muppet christmas carol

Rizzo et al have some important things to teach us…

As we get deeper into the holiday season with each passing day the urge to watch various Christmas and other holiday films grows stronger. Whether it’s an acknowledged classic like A Christmas Story, something more recent like Love Hard or whatever else helps get you in the spirit these movies often contain some important moral lessons for the audience to latch onto and grow as a result of. That might be something as simple as “moving back to your hometown at the first sign of professional setback is the best way to find unexpected romance” or a bit more complex.

One seasonal favorite that has a fair amount of life lessons is A Muppet Christmas Carol, which celebrates its 30th anniversary this year. Directed by Brian Henson, it was the first movie released after the death of creator and performer Jim Henson. Michael Caine stars as Ebenezer Scrooge and is narrated/hosted by Gonzo as Charles Dickens himself with Rizzo the Rat as his foil, the pair providing many of the movie’s greatest moments and most important life lessons all of us can use.

There are two things in this life I hate: heights, and jumping from them.

For when someone asks you to make a prediction based on like one example and that’s not even completely applicable and why am I the one who has to go out on this limb?

The Muppet Christmas Carol GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

It’s good to be heckling again.

For when you finally get in the car after what seemed like an eight hour visit with family that you realize was only about 90 minutes and you have to talk through your feelings because you have a lot of them.

https://giphy.com/explore/the-muppet-christmas-carol

And I am here for the food.

For the beginning of the above-mentioned family visit.

Merry Christmas GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

Even the vegetables don’t like him!

For when you’re reviewing your Christmas card list and come across that one person you know who I’m talking about it’s not that he’s a bad person necessarily but certainly isn’t someone who want to establish any sort of emotional precedent with.

The Muppet Christmas Carol GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

Light the lamp, not the rat, light the lamp, not the rat!

For literally any situation where something goes even slightly sideways or wrong it doesn’t matter you can use this all year at any time and everyone will get it.

life lessons from: the batman movies

Always pack your Bat Shark Repellant

With The Batman – directed by Matt Reeves and starring Robert Pattinson as Bruce Wayne/Batman – coming out this week, it’s as good a time as any to consider how much great advice for living a great life can be found in the various other big-screen Batman adventures.

Justice League Batman GIF by DC Comics - Find & Share on GIPHY

“Never rub another man’s rhubarb.”

For when you remind everyone in the office that your lunch has your name on it so they need to stop taking it.

Dc Comics What GIF by HBO Max - Find & Share on GIPHY

“I’m not wearing hockey pads.”

For when you show up to help a friend move and everyone starts giving you a hard time because they don’t think you have the right equipment and aren’t dressed properly.

“I’m not going to kill you. I want you to do me a favor. I want you to tell all your friends about me.”

For when you need a new, more engaging LinkedIn bio.

Tim Burton Film GIF by hoppip - Find & Share on GIPHY

“Now you wanna get nuts? Come on! Let’s get nuts.”

For when you’re meeting your partner’s parents for the first time and there’s even the slightest lull in the conversation.

“Mistletoe can be deadly if you eat it.”

For when…well…you’ll know when.

Michelle Pfeiffer Kiss GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

“Still… could be worse. My nose could be gushing blood.”

For when you walk out of a pitch meeting that you just know in your gut did not go well.

Tim Burton The Penguin GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

“It’s vichyssoise. It’s *supposed* to be cold.”

For when you’re explaining the simplest of ideas to someone who clearly isn’t getting it.

Bruce Wayne Batman GIF by HBO Max - Find & Share on GIPHY

“What is the point of all those push-ups if you can’t even lift a bloody log?”

For when you’ve been waiting for a return phone call for like two weeks and they finally get back to you.

Work Out Fitness GIF by HBO Max - Find & Share on GIPHY

“I only work in black…and sometimes very very dark gray.”

For when anyone questions why you wear the same basic outfit each day.

Will Arnett Animation GIF by The LEGO Movie - Find & Share on GIPHY

“Tell me. Do you bleed?”

For when you start a new job and are being introduced to your coworkers for the first time.

Henry Cavill Superman GIF by Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice - Find & Share on GIPHY

life lessons from the movies: raiders of the lost ark (40th anniversary)

He’s not the man we knew years ago…

That Raiders of the Lost Ark turns 40 this week feels, as an increasing number of such milestones does recently, like a personal attack. It seems impossible that 40 years have passed since I sat in my grandparents’ basement watching Siskey & Ebert review the movie before going to see it myself a few months later when it came to the local second-run theater.

The anniversary has brought with a number of remembrances and retrospectives, chief among them a very good interview with Karen Allen where she not only talks about the movie, its characters and its legacy but also the personal impact the success of the film had on her mental and emotional health.

Among the many aspects of the film that have made it an enduring classic (it’s perfectly structured to be divided into chapters mirroring the film serials that inspired George Lucas), Lawrence Kasden’s script — elevated by Harrison Ford’s desert dry delivery and great performances from Allen and others — contains a good number of important life lessons we could all benefit from remember.

Harrison Ford Run GIF by Paramount Movies - Find & Share on GIPHY

It’s not the years, honey, it’s the mileage.

For when your body reminds you you’re a good 10 years older than your brain insists you are and a good 20 years older than how you behave in any public setting, including social media.

Indianajones GIF by CBS - Find & Share on GIPHY

I don’t know. I’m making this up as I go.

For when your boss asks how that content strategy presentation is coming along.

Asps… very dangerous. You go first.

For when pandemic-related closures are coming to an end but it’s been a solid 18 months since you last interacted with anyone outside your immediate family.

Indianajones GIF by CBS - Find & Share on GIPHY

You can’t do this to me, I’m an AMERICAN.

For when the barista gets your latte wrong.

Whiskey…

For when you’re asking anyone for literally anything.

Let us hurry. There is nothing to fear here.

For when you throw caution to the wind and decide you’re totally capable of walking from your New York hotel room to the event location without Google Maps.

I take it, I bury it in the sand for a thousand years, it becomes priceless…

For when you’re justifying keeping a childhood memento everyone else thinks is ugly or weird on display in the living room.

I’m your goddamn partner!

For when the wedding is just days away but you haven’t even started writing your vows.

Indianajones GIF by CBS - Find & Share on GIPHY

Uh… there’s a picture of it right here.

For when you insist on showing someone a picture on your camera and you think it’s in one folder but wait it’s not there did I delete it last time I synced my phone with the hard drive but I swear I was looking at it just the other day hold on I’ll find it.

They’re digging in the wrong place!

For when one half of your group leaves early to get there and get things set up but are nowhere to be found when you get to the destination an hour after they should have been there and no one is answering your texts.

Life Lessons From: Defending Your Life

Long coma, Art. Long coma.

To refer to Defending Your Life as one of my favorite movies of all time would be an understatement. Albert Brooks’ script about a man who, after he dies in a car accident, finds himself in a bureaucratic afterlife waystation where he needs to justify his existence to determine if his spirit can “go forward” is as lean and airtight as they come. It ranks right below Much Ado About Nothing as a pure example of how dialogue and character development can move a story forward in lieu of big flashy set pieces or artificial “moments.”

The movie, much to my chagrin, turned 30 earlier this month, prompting retrospectives including this interview with Brooks on how the project developed and how a friendship with Carrie Fisher led to Meryl Streep being cast. If you haven’t seen it or just feel like it’s a good time to rewatch the film (it’s never *not* a good time, btw), it’s currently streaming on HBO Max.

In the meantime, from a script that contains more dryly funny bon mots per pound than nearly any other, here are a handful of quotes you can use in a variety of life situations and circumstances.

(Find more Life Lessons From the Movies here.)

When you use more than 5 percent of your brain, you don’t want to be on earth; believe me.

For when you need to exit a situation – party, job etc – in a hurry but want to leave everyone slightly confused until you have made a clean getaway.

It’s not a car, it’s a battering ram. This is what Patton drove.

For when you request a compact sedan from the car rental place at the airport and they give you keys to a van that could seat 15.

Don’t worry, and don’t kick yourself forever. Just take the opportunities when they come.

For when you realize the half-price Blizzard sale at Dairy Queen ended two days ago but only after you drove there already and ordered one.

Y’know if you really wanna make this place feel like Earth, you should open a few of those mini-malls.

For when you’re sitting in the backyard and really want frozen yogurt but can’t muster the energy to stand upright much less actually go anywhere.

Even though this feels like a trial, it really isn’t. It’s just a process that helps us decide, and as imperfect as it may be, we think it works quite well.

For performance reviews, relationship talks or literally any call with your parents.

Welcome to the Past Lives Pavilion.

For when you make the mistake of looking back at stuff you wrote 10 years ago.

I’m fine.

For when you are absolutely, definitively, unmistakably not fine.

Life Lessons From: National Lampoon’s European Vacation

We’ll be pigs!

It’s not likely many people would call National Lampoon’s European Vacation the best of the Vacation series. Despite solid directing by Amy Heckerling and an all-time great recurring cameo from Eric Idle, the movie was too high concept, trying to horn in a subplot involving international money laundering or something on the story of the Griswalds taking a family vacation around Europe.

Despite this, the movie does have some important life lessons to impart. So, inspired by an HBO Max compilation of travel tips from the film, here are a few of those lessons.

Hey look kids, there’s Big Ben, and there’s Parliament… again.

IFC GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

For when you keep asking your coworker for clarification but keep getting the same extremely unhelpful response.

Those bells haven’t rung in years.

Chevy Chase Dancing GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

For when there’s no way you can explain what’s about to happen but know it’s going to be bad.

Rusty, you don’t want to look like a rooster do you?

For when you are just incredibly confident in how you present yourself to the world and want others to feel likewise.

Clark, why don’t we just forget the “Pig-in-a-Poke” itinerary, and just play it by ear, like normal people?

For when you can no longer manage to operate within the confines of so-called “society” and must break free from all the constraints imposed on you at all costs.

Life Lessons From the Movies: Waiting For Guffman

It’s always 67 degrees with a 40% chance of rain with these important life lessons.

Christopher Guest’s Best In Show has been widely discussed this year, the 20th anniversary of its release. Widely regarded as the best of Guest’s faux-documentaries, BiS is indeed a marvel, featuring some of the finest performances that manage to be both absolutely absurd and also completely grounded.

But if you’re looking for a movie that offers a ton of guidance for how to live your best life and interact with the world around you, Waiting For Guffman is the one to turn to. Released in 1996, this was Guest returning to the format he and Rob Reiner, Michael McKean and Harry Shearer pioneered over a decade prior with This is Spinal Tap. Guffman also introduced us to the cast that would form a kind of troupe, various subsets of which would subsequently return for BiS, A Mighty Wind, For Your Consideration and most recently Mascots.

Here are just a few of the nuggets from the movie that will definitely help you navigate some of life’s more difficult moments.

For When Your Coworker Declines The Third Proposed Calendar Invite In A Row

And I’ll tell you why I can’t put up with you people, because you’re bastard people. That’s what you are, you’re just bastard people and I’m going home and I’m gonna… I’m gonna bite my pillow is what I’m gonna do!

For When You Finally Get Around to Stating Your Thesis In the Fifth Graf Of Your Post

I dream of Genie with the light brown hair. Floating like a vapor on the soft summer air. LOOK OUT!

For When You Tell Your Boss You Have Lots of Options and Don’t Need to Take This

I’ll always have a place at the Dairy Queen.

For When It’s Finally Time to Present That Big Proposal You’ve Been Working On

It’s opening night, y’all.

For That Moment When Things Are Just About to Get Out of Hand

We need to hitch up our panties and RUN.

For When You’re Filling Out That Self-Assessment

I do indeed have talent.

For When You Close Your Office Door and Crank Steely Dan

For When a Random Coworker Suddenly Sends You a Message on Snapchat

Life Lessons From the Movies: Real Genius

For no particular reason, we turn our attention to just how many life lessons there are to be learned from the 1980s Val Kilmer classic.

If you’re not familiar with Real Genius, you need to get right with God immediately. Directed by Martha Coolidge and starring a young Val Kilmer, the movie is a love letter to geeks before geeks were cool. Valmer plays Chris Knight, a hot shot science prodigy at a prestigious college who has been tasked by his professor to help achieve a breakthrough in laser technology. Knight thinks that’s just for the sake of science, but Prof. Hathaway (William Atherton) has other motivations. Assisting Knight is Mitch Taylor (Gabriel Jarret), who isn’t even old enough to graduate high school but is so gifted he’s been accepted into Hathaway’s advanced program.

Between Coolidge’s direction, Neal Israel’s script and the performances by Kilmer and others, the movie breezes along with an endless string of comedic situations and endlessly quotable dialogue. Some of that dialogue offers important lessons that can help you navigate a few of life’s trickier social moments, such as those below.

For When Your Bestie Doesn’t Like Your “Some Personal News” LinkedIn Update

“It’s a moral imperative.”

For When The Side Hustle Becomes The Main Hustle

“It’s yet another in a long series of diversions in an attempt to avoid responsibility.”

Val Kilmer GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

For When You Remember It’s Time to Backup Your Hard Drive

“Would you prepared if gravity reversed itself?”

Val Kilmer 80S GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

For When You Sigh and Decide to Get Nachos at the Movie Theater

“I hate popcorn! I can’t stand popcorn!”

Val Kilmer Popcorn GIF by Alamo Drafthouse - Find & Share on GIPHY

For When You Break the News Someone Else Responded To Your Craigslist Ad First

“A girl’s gotta have her standards.”

For When Your Coworkers Wonder How You Get So Much Done

“I never sleep, I don’t know why. I had a roommate and I drove her nuts, I mean really nuts, they had to take her away in an ambulance and everything. But she’s okay now, but she had to transfer to an easier school, but I don’t know if that had anything to do with being my fault. But listen, if you ever need to talk or you need help studying just let me know, ’cause I’m just a couple doors down from you guys and I never sleep, okay?”

In Praise of Bitzer, A Very Good Dog

The animated patron saint of people who would just like to do their job.

You’d be hard-pressed to find someone who didn’t find Shaun The Sheep utterly charming. Certainly I would count myself among that number as I consider the show – and its movies – just wonderful. They are gentle, sweet, funny, simple and wholly entertaining in a way not many properties are. It never gets too ambitious but always knows exactly what it is and who it’s made for.

While the title sheep gets much of the attention as the focal point of the action, we need to take a moment and consider just how vital a supporting character is to what happens in each episode and how much he has to offer each story.

We Gather Together to Celebrate Bitzer

It may seem at first as if Bitzer, the canine companion of The Farmer, is the antagonist in the world of Shaun The Sheep. He is, after all, the one responsible for making sure the sheep and other animals on the farm are doing what they’re supposed to and not getting into trouble. So he is often doing his best to wrangle the sheep away from whatever shenanigans they’re involved in, whether it’s hanging out with aliens to accidentally starting a pizza delivery service.

But Bitzer is, in this reading, profoundly misunderstood.

He has been given a job – or jobs – by The Farmer. Sometimes that involves herding the sheep for a bath. Sometimes it involves remodeling the barn on the property. Many of these are jobs one wouldn’t expect a dog, even one as anthropomorphized as Bitzer – to be able to perform.

Yet in each case, no matter how crazy the request might be, Bitzer gets to it. He paints, he builds, he signs for packages. He does it all.

More than anything else, though, he relies on his trusty clipboard. It is his foundation, the focal point of all he has in front of him. Checking things off his To Do List on that clipboard is seemingly what brings Bitzer the most joy as he feels the satisfaction of a job done, and done well.

In this way he is among the most relatable characters in popular fiction.

Bitzer just wants to do his job and go home at the end of the day. He would like the approval of his boss. He wants to check his responsibilities off his list and insure everything is lined up as it should with a minimum of hassle.

If that’s not something we can all get behind, I’m not sure what is. How many of us just want the workplace hijinks to calm down so we can get our job done? How many of us just want a single day to be simple and easy instead of filled with terrifying circumstances involving having to dodge the boss, cover up for our less-disciplined coworkers, and do twice as much work as necessary because Carl over there decided to take everyone out for “brainstorming” coffee 30 minutes before the presentation was due?

What’s even more amazing about Bitzer is that while he may growl and make liberal use of his whistle to get the sheep, pigs and chickens back in line he never really works against the others on the farm. Shaun and the others aren’t trying to get Bitzer in trouble, nor are they working actively against him. It’s just that sometimes they’re version of what needs to be done doesn’t jibe with his.

It’s not an antagonistic relationship on the farm, then, just one of competing priorities. And while Bitzer may sometimes seem like the heavy, he shouldn’t be judged solely on his role as the enforcer of the rules. He’s just a very good dog trying to do a very good job who deserves to be praised.

Celebrate Shaun The Sheep GIF by Aardman Animations - Find & Share on GIPHY