Thursday, November 28, 2013

Day Three Hundred and Thirty-two - The Nightmare Before Christmas, "Life's no fun without a good scare. :)"

Well, Happy Thanksgiving, Potatoes~

I tried to hold off on holiday films till this very day due to the fact that it seems like the season starts earlier and earlier every year purely for the convenience of retailers... but you're here to read about what's fun on Netflix, not listen to me grouse about the lack of holiday spirit from corporations.

Anyways, to kick off the season, I decided to start with one of my favorite holiday movies of all time, The Nightmare Before Christmas... and boy is it worth it!

Directed by Henry Selick and executive produced by (and based on the unique art style of) Tim Burton, Nightmare follows the turbulent appropriation of the Christmas holiday by the Pumpkin King of Halloweentown, Jack Skellington. It seems that he's grown bored with the same old scares and is looking for something new, which he finds after wandering into an enchanted forest with portals to every major holiday.

Falling into Christmastown and discovering the wonders of toys and elves and tinsel, Jack is enamored by the glittering sights, sounds, and all-around warmth of the holiday and aims to capture some of that magic for himself... eventually deciding to just steal the whole bloody thing for his town's inhabitants of ghouls, ghosts, and goblins. In fact, the meat of the second act is all how he and the other monsters go about trying to create Christmas with their own slant, missing the point entirely, but still with a good heart.

It's only when the world rejects Jack's horror-filled Christmas and the town's villain, Oogey Boogey (the Boogie Man), threatens the captured Santa Claus' life, that Jack realizes what a fool he's been and races to save both Saint Nick and Christmas, itself.

Storywise, it's a simple fable that relies on its unique style and art to prop up what is mostly a series of misunderstandings between human, elf, and beast, but the narrative is really helped by the almost tragic love story between Jack and Sally (the rag-doll-Frankenstein girl), who admires the Pumpkin King from afar and is the only prescient person in town, warned as she is by her visions of disaster and really the only Halloweentown resident comfortable in her stitched skin.

The music, written and produced (and often sung) by Danny Elfman, is a treat that reminds me of the Broadway stage and, despite a few moments of rushed/awkward lyricism, is a tremendously catchy series of tunes. It's worth owning the album just so you can pop it into your car's sound system and sing along on your commute home... and is really great for trips with the kiddos (so much more than any of that Kids Bop crap).

Getting back to the art and style, Tim Burton's quirky horrors and gothic designs, which also come out in his other films like Beetlegeuse and Batman, make Nightmare a really special entry into stop-motion animation. It really is the gold standard after Harryhausen for the pinnacle of the art form and, in my opinion, surpassed him. As I mentioned in this past week's blog, we owe so much debt to Harryhausen, and it shows here, but as much as we probably wouldn't have Nightmare without him, I still prefer it to all of his works combine, Nightmare is just that dear to me.

Now that I think about it, The Nightmare Before Christmas was the first DVD that I ever bought... and I did it before I even had my own player (back in the days when computers only had CD-drives and the Playstation 2 had yet to be released). I purchased it on a mall trip to Albuquerque while I was visiting friends from college. It's kind of amazing how, in just a little over a decade, we've already jumped formats again (to Blu-Ray) and things are starting to push towards completely digital downloads and streaming. But enough about that.

I would be shocked if you haven't seen Nightmare yet, but... if you haven't... I can say with the utmost confidence that it is one of the finest holiday, animated, and musical productions out in the world today and it's a blessing to have it on the Instant Stream. Check it out, alone or with family, and preferably with a warm mug of cocoa top with marshmallows and tucked under a comfy blanket.

Until tomorrow, Potatoes~

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