Tag Archives: Tim Burton

Greatest Films of Christmas #17 Edward Scissorhands

 

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“Sometimes you can still catch me dancing in it.”

Yes, it’s a little odd to have a movie that is equal parts Frankenstein and Hunchback of Notre Dame on a Christmas movie list…but like I said, there’s this odd crossover of Halloween and Christmas in movies…and this movie is simply too touching to be in the Halloween list (oh admit it, you cry when watching Winnona Ryder dance in the snow too).

Tim Burton (who despite his prominence on these lists is not by a long shot my favorite director) has a way of showing that special hell that is suburbia…one of those ways is perhaps the most atrocious color scheme for painting houses you could ever imagine. And I could probably go for quite a long time on the darker side of this film with it rather vicious, though accurate, critique of the failings of human beings and society.

But this story is bookended by scenes of a grandmother telling her granddaughter why it always snows at Christmas…and amazingly enough these rather short moments are enough to wash away all the cynicism and darkness from the movie.

You don’t realize how important the first scene with town covered in snow is until the second time you’ve watched this film, but it is subtle beauty is outdone only by the scenes of Kim dancing in the snow (I miss good actress Ryder, can we return crazy lady Ryder and get the good actress back?)

And while the vast majority of the cast is a living embodiment of the worst in humanity, symbolic of a myriad of sins ranging from lust, envy, greed, apathy, and indifference.  But there are some bright spots.

Peg, unconditionally loving, not too bright, but a wonderful mother who sees the best in people, even when there is almost nothing there to see.

The nameless Cop, who like Edward is an outsider (it’s pretty clear that is was a conscious choice by Burton that this is the only non-white actor in the cast, even among extras in the background) and is one of the few who shows true concern for Edward, first in going above and beyond in looking out for him and being the only person to ask if he was going to be all right…and again when he tried to let him escape from the society he would not be all right in.

Who wants an angel on a tree when you can have…

Kim who in many ways is the only true human of the story. Not perfect, but capable of improvement. But not a caricature of a vice or virtue. She shows us that power of love and redemption being tied together.

And of course Edward. A Quasimodo who is shown the beauty and power of love who is able to dedicate his whole life to giving the woman he loves something she enjoyed.

This group shows us some very wonderful things about the beauty of the human soul and it’s potential.

And then there’s just something about Danny Elfman’s soundtrack. Usually Elfman is good, but this soundtrack, especially at those moment meant to pull at your heart, is great.

And that is why this is one of the greatest Christmas films…

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The Best Movies of Christmas– #21 The Nightmare Before Christmas

“And in my bones I feel the warmth that’s coming from inside.”

I’ll be honest I can’t figure out why there is such a crossover of Christmas and Halloween films, but there is. When looking for films for the top Halloween films there is a disturbing number of horror movies that take place at Christmas and there is a bizarre number of Christmas stories with horror elements (think about it, the most famous Christmas story is the story of a guy being haunted by ghosts). I’m at a bit of a loss to explain why this is. However, the fact remains that there is this odd Venn diagram between Christmas and Halloween films, and as such I should probably admit it with at least one of the films on this list. And so we go to The Nightmare Before Christmas.

Why this film? I mean, I personally only need to see it once a decade (if that). But it mainly gets on the list because it seems to be the most in line with the spirit of wonder and happiness. For all of its flaws (and I will understand perfectly if Burton’s love for unusual animation isn’t your thing) it seems to understand Christmas better than Halloween. Just the song “What’s This” when Jack discovers Christmas Town alone allows us to look at all the small parts of Christmas—the lights, the snow, the mistletoe, the food, which we may all do but only in a mechanical way, that’s the way we’ve always done it–with a new found wonder. It allows you to find the wonder of all those elements we have long since forgotten.

And in some ways, and I realize I may be pushing it with this, but Jack’s problems with his own holiday of Halloween, finding it dull and repetitive and pointless is the problem many of us find as we grow up. We stop looking at all holidays (okay most of them, there was never wonder in the communist tripe that was Labor Day) with the wonder that they should have. And it’s utterly refreshing to see, how if we let it, the Christmas season can brighten even the darkest recesses of our lives.

And, I think this ties into one of the more subtle themes of this story that Christmas offers us a chance to see the best in ourselves and what we like most about ourselves. Who we really are: the best and most lovable within us that make us happy with ourselves. Which is in part what Christmas is all about, a new beginning in life even if your life stays the same–a promise of new beginnings and wonder. And it this new found wonder at his own life that Jack finds because he discovered Christmas.

That, more than any other reason is why this is a good Christmas film.

Jack discovers his first snowflake

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The Best Halloween Movies #17 Beetlejuice

Is this what happens when you die?”

Luckily for us it isn’t. But it makes a very funny experience.

The movie starts off with a seemingly giant spider climbing over a house…yeah we learn in a second that it’s only a model, but that’s still an image that does not bode well.

Monsters, demons, ghosts, exercised souls… clearly belongs in the horror category. But the mad cap insanity of director Tim Burton creates a truly bizarre comedy with a truly bizarre cast. And in the middle is our as average and boring as can be couple of ghosts played by Geena Davis and Alec Baldwin. They play a not exceedingly bright (not an acting stretch for Baldwin) but very likable (a major feat of acting for Baldwin) young couple in love who are taken out just a little too early in life.

Why does a madcap comedy make it so much higher on this list than other films which are arguably better done? Well once again the fear of death. This movie deals with the idea of what the afterlife is like. And it’s not a pleasant idea. It’s a perverse bureaucracy that has no sense or rhyme or reason. The only guide is a book that reads like technical instructions. It’s worse than oblivion or even Hell, because at least one is an end and the other is a least theoretically just. No this is all the little insanities of life taken to an exponential degree with seemingly none of the good parts carried over. It’s almost worse than anything Dante envisioned. And if this were accurate, the fear of death would be valid…thank God it’s not.

And of course I have to bring up this scene (even though Belafonte is a poor excuse for a human being)

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Best Halloween Movies #27 Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street

“And life is for the alive my dear, so let’s keep living it.”

This movie can best be described as delightfully macabre. One could also call it a goddamn Greek tragedy. The obscene amount of blood in this film, even in that cartoonish shade of red, easily qualifies this as a Halloween film. Add the cannibalism, and how bad the meat pies were before the secret ingredient, the ick factor alone qualifies this movie for a place on this list.

Since this movie is a little more recent (and most people aren’t familiar with Broadway shows) a little plot summary won’t hurt. Spoiler Warning! Benjamin Barker framed for a crime by Judge Turpin so that the judge could make advances on Barker’s wife, returns after many years in prison under the name Sweeney Todd. Todd, mentally unhinged by from his suffering, comes back with revenge in his heart against Turpin and his henchman the Beadle Bamford. Taking up residence once again over Mrs. Lovett’s Meat Pie shop he plans his vengeance. Todd takes up his old profession as a barber, and after he blows his first chance to kill Turpin he decides to take his rage out on all of humanity. Worse, Mrs. Lovett, possibly the worst character in the story, comes up with the most revolting way imaginable to dispose of the corpses that will soon be piling up—use the corpses as the main ingredient in her meat pie shop. Quiet revoltingly, long pig appears to be quite popular. The whole thing ends with Todd killing Lovett, Bamford, Turpin…and at the time unknowingly his wife whom he thought dead. This last point is what makes it a tragedy. Had he had but one piece of knowledge at the beginning, that his wife was alive, he might have found her and just killed Turpin, he does deserve it, saved his daughter (one of the few characters to make it out alive, also one of the few main characters innocent in the whole story). And finally realizing the level of his sin, Todd himself is killed.

It is a story only of victims and only of villains.

And yet, being a musical it has a strangely delightful quality. Especially in how the characters revel in their atrocities…and since it’s taken to the point of farce you can enjoy their evil without being morally revolted. The offbeat performance of Depp and Bonham Carter help to a great deal as well.

Halloween is a time to reflect on our darker side, and this movie only looks at that side of human nature. The jealous, the envious, the vengeful, the avaricious (we’ll hold off on discussion of the whole septet for a later film…yeah that one). Someone told me once that it was ironic that I should like Sweeney Todd as the film clearly advocated a communist philosophy. And they were partly right, Todd and Lovett do seem to have a very Marxist view of society, they use as justification for their villainy the statement “How gratifying for once to know that those above will serve those down below.“ However since they’re the villains and receive their all too just rewards in the end, I don’t see this film endorsing communism…if anything, (and I really don’t think Burton or Sondheim and Wheeler meant this) this would show that communists are vicious people who justify their viciousness with their petty ideas.

But for all of its gore and focus on the villains, like almost all horror, it is a morality tale where all the evil are struck down.

We’re still not into the realm of movies that are great in and of themselves outside a Halloween list, but it is a delightfully macabre movie.

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