Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas to all! Happy Holidays if you prefer – I just have nice wishes for all at this time of year…well, all year, but who’s counting? If you end up having to travel today or run out for groceries, a meal out, or the movies, please be especially nice to those who have to work today.

Black Adder's Christmas Carol

Netflix has a rather ridiculous number of Christmas specials available. For the somewhat irreverent, may I heartily recommend Black Adder’s A Christmas Carol. For the whimsical, there’s The Nightmare Before Christmas. For the kids, try The Muppet Christmas Carol. For the traditional, there is Irving Berlin’s White Christmas.

The Nightmare Before Christmas

Tim Burton is one of the most unique directors working these days. His visual style and sense of whimsy are so wonderful that many people who don’t follow movies and know no other directors can spot a Tim Burton film. Of course it helps to have top-billing above the title and the uber-talented Danny Elfman and Johnny Depp to work consistently with. Tim Burton wrote the poem, The Nightmare Before Christmas while working as an animator for Disney. While he invented the story and characters and helped produce The Nightmare Before Christmas, he did not however direct as he was busy on Batman Returns.

The Nightmare Before Christmas

WATCH: Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993) – “Tired of scaring humans every October 31 with the same old bag of tricks, Jack Skellington, the spindly king of Halloween Town, kidnaps Santa Claus and plans to deliver shrunken heads and other ghoulish gifts to children on Christmas morning. But as Christmas approaches, Jack’s rag-doll girlfriend, Sally, tries to foil his misguided plans. This music-filled, stop motion-animated delight springs from the gleefully twisted mind of Tim Burton.”

Henry Selick does a wonderful job of directing this stop-motion animation film. He later went on to direct James and the Giant Peach amd Coraline. Frequent Tim Burton collaborator, Danny (Oingo Boingo) Elfman not only co-produces and provides the music and 10 songs, he also voices Barrel and Clown and sings Jack’s parts – he is splendid at each task and deserves much of the credit for the final product. Chris Sarandon does a nice job with Jack’s non-singing dialogue as does Catherine O’Hara with Sally and William Hickey is simply marvelous as Dr. Finkelstein. Edward Ivory does a fine job voicing Santa Claus but it does seem a shame that none of Vincent Price’s tracks could be used owing to his failing health. This is one of those rare films that almost require repeat viewings – there is so much going on in nearly every scene and background that it’s impossible to take it all in. While Disney initially felt that this was too dark to release under its own label, my two young daughters not only loved the film but practically wore out our copy of the VHS tape.

People watchers: look for a character based on Tor (Plan 9 from Outer Space) Johnson.