NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS (1993, Selick)
Whether or not I had a shot for The Nightmare Before Christmas, I had to post it this October. I’ve seen this movie too many times to count. Its such a perfectly formed concept – I can’t imagine how excited Tim Burton must have been just coming up with the title. Burton says the idea came to him when he happened to spy a store window display being swapped out from a Halloween to Christmas. He wrote a poem, in the style of “The Night Before Christmas” and then went about dreaming up and doodling the iconic characters that would inhabit his indelible world.
Here’s that poem, illustrated with artwork inspired by Burton’s and narrated by Christopher Lee!
Now it’s interesting that neither Oogie Boogie (if you ask me, the tedious villain in the film) nor love-interest Sally are ever mentioned in the poem, which presents the bare bones of the story. The addition of these 2 characters in its development I think was both disastrous and inspired. I think Sally’s inclusion is wonderful – what story isn’t usually improved by a romantic layer. Sally’s struggle to find happiness and love exactly mirrors Jack’s and their ending up together seems destined and satisfying.
In a rare gripe at Shot4Shot, I have to ask: is anybody with me that Oogie Boogie’s role is superfluous and boring? I’ll come right out and say it, I hate Oogie Boogie. And not in a good way. After quite a few viewings, I finally asked myself, why am I getting so bored & irritated with the 2nd half of this movie? (The irritation was proportionate to how much I loved everything else.) Then it occurred to me – you could cut out Boogie entirely and it makes NO difference to the flow of the story – in fact, it ONLY IMPROVES IT. Also in fact, whenever he’s on screen it stops the story dead cold. How could they not have seen that?
So I have developed this patented method of skipping the chapters in which Boogie appears (and a little fast-forwarding just after Jack crashes and realizes he was wrong, to when Santa says he can still set things right). What an improvement! It makes it a perfect experience, though one that’s only about 65 minutes. I watch the movie usually off bluray on a 1080 HD projector. Dreamy, let me tell you. Someday, I’ll have the means to recut the film in that format, omitting editorially that offending offender Boogie. Good riddance, I’ll say.
Tim Burton, McDowell or Caroline Thompson?
Someday I’ll ask Caroline Thompson (who wrote most of Burton’s classic stuff like Edward Scissorhands and Ed Wood) just how hard she fought to omit Boogie. (It’s just a hope and theory of mine that the person who crafted such solid scripts as the two Eds couldn’t possibly have made such a fundamental mistake in Nightmare.) Did Boogie come from Burton or story-adaptor Michael McDowell or a studio demand?
But back to all the things there is to love, and there are so many. Nothing is more thrilling nor Halloweeny than the opening. I recently saw the Tim Burton exhibit at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, and there’s no better way to appreciate or prep yourself for a viewing of this film’s world. Take a little peek at it here! Here’s the opening –
And, if I had to pick a favorite shot — though this movie is not really about “the shots” so much as the imagination of the world, the design, the characters, and Danny Elfman’s wickedly clever & infectious score — I’d say this one at the very end of “What’s this?” gets me every time. When Jack hears Santa and quickly looks over, the camera whip-pans to Santa’s silhouette in his doorway. They achieve so much sense of motion – whether it be Jack’s open jaw and snap of the head, the blurred Christmas lights of the swish pan, or the warm and fuzzy effect of the classically imagined and rendered North Pole when Santa opens his door. Happiness. It’s here –