Wednesday, December 7, 2011

25 Days of Christmas Movies, Day 7: This is Halloween (The First Archive Post)

Ok, this isn't really an archive post so much as a repeat of a film from two years ago.  Before I leap in, can I once again reiterate how stressful the month of December can be?  Try this on for size, in a week where I lost sixth period to a sophomore field trip to the vocational school and Friday morning is sacrificed for an assembly, the Good Lord decreed that we needed another interruption this week to keep things exciting.  So there was a non-emergency lockdown for a half an hour at the tail end of 3rd period today (eating up the last 7 minutes of 3rd and taking 23 minutes of 5th), when I have one of my rowdy bunches.  Keeping 27 kids in a dark room away from a door and being able to tell them nothing about the situation (because I honestly didn't and still don't know why we were on lockdown) is like trying to herd cats.  They were up, down, quiet and loud and overall annoying.  The only thing that made it bearable was the fact that I had finished my lesson for today and I do not have a 5th period because I am assigned to hall duty, so I didn't really lose any momentum in class unlike other teachers who had to then rush through the remainder of 5th period in order to cover everything.  Thank heaven for small favors.  It did put me in the mood for Christmas though, because Christmas means two whole weeks of not having any professional cares or worries.  It's nice to get a break from the daily grind, which is what a highly important Christmas figure gets in the film I am revisiting today.  Of course, unlike my break which I am craving, his break is forced on him by the star of the film who desperately wants to understand and be a part of Christmas, but doesn't quite get the difference between it and other holidays.  So without further ado, I bring you one of the best "dark" Christmas films, The Nightmare Before Christmas.

The film begins at the end of October 31st where all the citizens of Halloween Town are celebrating yet another successful years of scares, spooks, and spills...well all the citizens except their Pumpkin King, Jack Skellington.  Jack has slowly grown bored of the Halloween shtick and longs for something more to fill his lonely heart, but he isn't sure what.  He walks through the forest late that night and on into the next morning and is surprised to come across a clearing with strange trees, each with a door corrosponsing to what we know as holidays.  There is a door shaped like a Jack-o-lantern, a heart shaped door, a four leaf clover door, a firework shaped door, and even an egg shaped door.  Jack ignores these other doors and focuses in on the most festive and colorful one, which is shaped like a fully trimmed Christmas tree.  Jack opens the door and finds himself whisked into Christmas Town, a snowy wonderland populated by elves and run by Santa Claus.  Jack is amazed at the bright and cheery world where no ghouls or goblins ever appear to ruin the joy of the eternal Christmas within and he finds himself growing light with joy himself.  Obsessed with recapturing the feeling he feels in Christmas Town, Jack returns to Halloween Town on a mission to recreate the magic.  He finds himself stumped however by not understanding what it all means and finally decides that to really 'get' Christmas, he must take it over and run it himself.  He orders "Sandy Claws" (as they call him) kidnapped and then sets about "Making Christmas" with all the other ghouls of Halloween Town.  Only one citizen, Sally, can forsee that Jack's Christmas is going to be a disaster and with Jack distracted by the preparations and Santa held captive by the evil Oogie-Boogie, it looks like this may be the last Christmas ever.

I've known a lot of people who didn't take to the movie, which isn't surprising. A truly discriminating viewer will notice plot holes here and there.  They might also wonder why the leader of Halloween Town is such an emotional sap rather than being someone fearsome and ghoulish, and they also might be put off by the techniques of stop-motion animation. Whatever the reasons, these people just don't care for this movie. I'm not going to tell them they're wrong...that will be as silly as someone trying to convince me why I shouldn't like it as much as I do. I would like to say that I'm not one of those emo kids who brought it back...no, I liked it way back when I was 9 and it was new. It was something a little different and a little dark, which was nice next to all the bright and happy animated musicals that the Mouse House was producing at that point. Oh yes, this dark little fairy tale is definitely a musical...with wonderfully clever tunes written by (and in several instances) sung by Danny Elfman. The story, I think, is rather ingenious. It first invents the idea that every holiday inhabits its own world where its preparations take place for an entire year, and we are first shown Halloween Town, where everything is dark and spooky and it is run by Jack Skellington...and then we are shown it's antithesis in Christmas Town...where he becomes enamored with the secular trappings of the treasured winter holiday. It is a sweet and sour fairy tale that appeals to many ages, and it still popular today...rightfully so...due to it's excellent design, grand performances, and expert direction by Henry Selick.  Watch it again, or for the first time this Christmas and giggle as holidays collide.

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