Sunday, November 14, 2010

a love letter to Nightmare Before Christmas

This isn't my best work blogging. I'm a big disgruntled today.

I kind of pulled this one out of my ass. When you’re stuck with an unproductive day, what better to fill your time with than blogging? I’ve been deliberating for a while now with changing the title of the blog yet again. I simply haven’t been doing much that celebrates the 90’s (hence 90s rocks). Not that I care much about keeping form (variety is the spice of life after all) but while pouring over pointless google searches trying to wrestle myself from the depths of depression I got in the mood to verbally caress an old childhood favorite. That came out a lot dirtier than I anticipated.

Tim Burton has done a healthy mixture of good and bad, though perhaps my favorite “Burton” film growing up was a little “claymation” movie called The Nightmare Before Christmas. I put Burton’s name in quotes because he didn’t actually direct this movie, Henry Selick did. With the same amount of visual style and pizzazz and the inspiration from a Gaiman book, Selick went on years later to make Coraline, which I loved. Sadly, if Nightmare was made now, the charm and novelty of the stop motion would be lost to a total CGI outing that pixar would never touch and it would most likely fall into the hands of Dreamworks or something. But why even discuss it? This movie would NEVER be made now. Studios have some form of control over Burton at this point when shit piles like Alice in Wonderland rake in the big box office gold. This is something actually for its time, NEW and inspired. There will never be another like it. Anyways, why am I wasting time talking about studios stifling creativity and getting technical about it? This is a movie filled with childlike wonder and creativity that should be given more affectionate terms.

Like every other kid who wasn’t a loser in the 90’s apparently, I grew up with a VHS tape of Nightmare Before Christmas distributed by Touchstone pictures. I’m sure we all remember too well the touch stone animated logo that preceded the opening musical number after the “and now our feature presentation” that most Disney VHS tapes had back in the day. I watched this on a regular basis and sought out toys, Halloween costumes and the assorted, as Jack Skellington calls it, “Brick A brack” to celebrate my undying passion for this movie. Later in life, I realized that I WASN’T the only only person who gave a shit about this movie. Around age 13 or 14 I saw all kinds of goths wearing nightmare crap ranging from tote bags to socks. It had become a cult classic. The cult followers and target audience were kids ranging from age 12 to 18. As we get older, so does Nightmare, and I have a hard time seeing how it can be continued to be spread to future generations with the advent of total CGI films. It’s there for our appreciation. Much like the Toy Story series and Harry Potter…which I feel a personal connection with growing up with them. The main difference is EVERYONE knows Toy Story and Harry Potter. This was MY shit growing up. It was only later that I befriended a bunch of hipsters that I realized a lot of people cared about Nightmare.

So what’s so good about it? If you don’t already know what’s good about Nightmare or if you haven’t found some kind of personal appeal by now, you’re probably not going to. The premise is stupid and I’ll admit that off the bat. It’s pulled off marvelously though, to a point where a child wouldn’t question it for a second. Basically Jack Skellington is an organizer of the holiday of Halloween and he gets bored of doing his job and decides to attempt to recreate Christmas. He fucks it up horribly and the lesson learned is that we should leave Christmas to the professionals, aka Sandy Claws. There’s a lot to love here, from iconic characters to a fantastic musical score provided by Danny Elfman.

Elfman is one of the prime reasons to love Nightmare. The frontman of Oingo Boingo, the 80’s alternative band (and BECAUSE of this film I sought the band out and it became one of my favorite bands of all time) and one of the most well prominent composers of film scores today. The score for this movie is really good, and it’s got some really memorable musical numbers ranging from “This is Halloween” to “What’s This” to the sort of bluesy “Oogie Boogie’s song”. In recent years I’ve come to appreciate two of the less popular tracks in particular, “Poor Jack” and “Jack’s Obsession”. Elfman actually sings the voice of Jack, even though he’s not the speaking voice. If you want something similar to this outside of Oingo Boingo, he uses a similar voice for his character in Corpse Bride for the song “Remains of the Day”.
Nightmare is really a feat in stop motion, and probably the most well known foray into the sub genre of filmmaking. It’s a shame we don’t see too much like this in recent movies, but when we do we’ll complain about it and call it hipster trash. For these reasons, it’s irreplaceable. Now I just need that rubber oogie boogie figure from my childhood that I never got that you can stuff with bugs…
To finish up the entry and prove how passionate I am about the subject I’ll just show off some pics of my Nightmare Merch. Yeah that’s an autograph from the recently passed-away Glenn Shadix, who voiced the mayor.

1 comment:

  1. That is amazing. I myself am a large Tim Burton fan. Every halloween and Christmas my friend and I have a booth where you get to take a picture with Jack and Sally. I myself am sally. And him being 6'4" is jack its lots of fun we meet lots of new people every year and have made new friends. If you are ever in the bakersfield area around that time let me know. My email is don't hesitate to write. It would be awesome meeting another TNBC fan.