Wednesday, December 17, 2008

The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)

What better way to celebrate the completion of my Armenian art paper and last German test than to view my favourite stop motion musical? The Nightmare Before Christmas is set in the fantastical town of Halloween, where every kind of frightening being resides. They spend most of their days planning the next Halloween celebration until the day arrives, after which they start planning again for next year. Jack Skellington, generally held to be the scariest, most wonderful resident, feels tired of doing the same thing every day and wishes for a way to escape his routine. One Halloween night he walks deep into the woods and discovers a grove of trees with oddly-shaped doors. He opens the one shaped like a Christmas tree and plunges into a new world of snow, smiles, joy, and presents.

Amazed and exhilarated by the prospect of a different kind of life, he brings back various objects he finds there and tries to scientifically understand "this Christmas thing" until ultimately deciding to take on the holiday himself and make some Halloweeny improvements. He plans to don the suit of "Sandy Claws" and travel into the human world delivering terrifying presents forged by the monsters, witches, and ghouls of Halloweentown. Sally, a sewn-together mad scientist's creation and the only sensible person in the entire populace, fears Jack's plan will end in grief and does her best to sabotage the Christmas preparations. Unfortunately, Jack is pretty clueless, so he kidnaps Sandy, who ends up locked up with the Oogie Boogie Man, and flies into the real world with his deadly toys only to face the consequences of human weaponry. Will Jack learn his lesson and save Christmas?!

This is a funny, incredibly imaginative, and really beautiful film. I looove Danny Elfman's score, and am ready to sing along to any of it at any time (especially "Kidnap the Sandy Claws"). The story and characters are interesting and really well-designed. Mostly I am completely engaged by the animation- so detailed, so gorgeous, so ahhhh! Director Henry Selick has created an easily believable landscape of rolling hills and tipsy buildings reminiscent of a gloomy Dr. Seuss painting. The figures and settings are intricate and thought-out to the point of obsession- I'm captivated by these myriad little moments: the uncurling of the hill as Jack walks down, the snap of the thread as Sally bites it, water streaming down the fountain. It's inspiring, really, and makes me more and more excited for the animation in Selick's upcoming Coraline.

In the end this is a great, dark fantasy for children, teenagers, adults, or whoever. The story is creative, especially compared to a lot of other schlock out there in crappy "family" films. I'm unsure if part of the reason I love it is due to experiencing it first as a kid, giving it that nostalgia factor of many Disney movies. I'd like to think any grown person could enjoy it too even if they hadn't seen it as a kid, but I can't be certain. Watch it and decide for yourself! I haven't seen the new 3-D version (I'm still living off the VHS version I got a decade ago) but I guess it's good, too?

4.5/5

"What's This?"
"Kidnap the Sandy Claws"
"Sally's Song"

"Sally's Song"- Fiona Apple version from the special edition soundtrack, which mostly has sucky covers and this good one

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