Saturday, October 21, 2006


Nightmare Before Christmas is playing in 3-D now on the occasion its 13th anniversary, retaining the same lyrical brilliance that left an immovable impression on me when I snuck in a viewing while my folks snoozed during a Jewish holiday. The technological gimmickry that makes the screen pop out doesn't drastically alter the vibe of the movie, but it's sort of like admiring a really great frame around a mind-blowing painting.

Something that I noticed during this screening that hadn't occured to me before is the story's strikingly conservative bend. Since the publicity has always touted it as children's literature, it shouldn't come as a surprise that the central themes embrace holiday tradition, rather than deconstruct it. But what I realize now is that Tim Burton more or less equates the respective towns centered on Christmas and Halloween as consequential outlets for maintaining a cogent society. Jack Skellington doesn't represent a celebration of goth, like all the spookiness of Corpse Bride did with a mixture of elegance and unbridled energy.

Instead, the character's desire to keep his own life worth living (or death worth dying...whatever) represents the trajectory of your standard coming-of-age saga, where settling down and embracing the ways of your own people is always the inevitable conclusion. I can't speak for Burton's intentions, but I bet Batman, Eddie Scissorhands and the rest of the gang would be dismayed about the sentimental edge of this interpretation
. If those outsiders could come home to a warm crowd, spookiness would run out of foot soldiers mighty fast. For Burton's sake, I hope it doesn't.


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