Nightmare Before Christmas is a Halloween Movie

Apparently there is some debate about whether or not The Nightmare Before Christmas is a Halloween Movie. Well, I am here to tell you that it is. How do I know? Well, Danny Elfman said so. But even if he hadn’t, I would maintain that this stop motion animated masterpiece is for the spooky season.

The image shows Jack Skellington, the Pumpkin King, from The Nightmare Before Christmas, which is a Halloween movie.

Despite the focus on the Yuletide, and the appearance of Christmas Town and Sanit Nick himself, NBX screams Halloween. It begins in a town full of ghosts, goblins, vampires, werewolves, and other beasties. Jack Skellington rules the town as the Pumpkin King. He’s not the Mistletoe King, nor his he the Tannenbaum King. No, Jack’s title is Pumpkin King. And aside from pies featuring that fruit, there’s not much Christmasy about pumpkins.

Nightmare Before Christmas is full of Tricks, Making it a Halloween Movie

Okay, so we’ve established one reason why Nightmare Before Christmas is a Halloween movie. But don’t worry, there are others. The movie is all about tricks and treats. Are those a feature of the Yuletide season?

Jack first tricks the townsfolk by pretending to be into his holiday when he isn’t. No, Jack is tired of scares and spookiness, but he can’t let the others know that. Soon, he finds himself in Christmas Town, where he gets the idea to steal the holiday and replace Santa.

Upon his return to Halloween Town, Jack has to trick his friends. He first tries to sincerely sell them on the idea of Christmas, but they’re not buying it. Or at least, not getting it. They don’t understand the concept of Christmas, and how could they? They’ve never visited it and only have Jack’s description. Plus, they’re monsters so they naturally focus on the scary stuff. And then Jack gives them what they want by telling them of the monster Santa Clause, painting the kindly old gent as a ferocious creature.

Soon, Jack decides to steal Christmas, and begins plotting. This involves yet another trick. Kidnap Santa Clause. And how does he implement this plan? Well, he hires Oogie’s Boys (costumed trick or treates) to kidnap the “The Big Red Lobster Man,” which they do, after accidentally snatching the Easter Bunny. So much trickery.

And then of course, there’s Sally. Sally is the heart and soul of the film, and even she gets in on the trickery. She tricks her creator Doctor Finklestein several times, and even plays a trick on Jack when she makes the fog because she knows what he’s doing is wrong and a disaster.

Far too many tricks in this movie happen to make it a Christmas movie.

Yuletide Elements Can’t Be Ignored

Of course, people who deny The Nightmare Before Christmas is a Halloween movie point to the title. It has Christmas in it, so how can it not be a Yuletide movie? Admittedly, this looks like a good point, but it really isn’t a strong one. Yes, there are X-Mas elements in the movie. And yes, it mirrors It’s a Wonderful Life in the sense that Jack learns to appreciate the life he has rather than pine for a different one. There’s even a little but of How the Grinch Stole Christmas in there thanks to Zero, and the residents of Halloween learning what Christmas is all about.

Still, a word in the title and a few connections to Christmas stories are not enough to make this a Christmas movie.

However, that doesn’t mean you can’t watch it during the Christmas season. In fact, it’s a good choice because it does remind us of the power of friendship and loved ones. It just does so with zombies and mummies and skeletons instead of family and angels and such.

I say the Nightmare Before Christmas is a Halloween movie that you can watch any time of the year. What do you think? Let me know in the comments.

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Alien Nation Ahead of Its Time and Of Its Time

I re-watched Alien Nation last night, and that movie was ahead of its time. Well, maybe that’s not quite the right way of looking or thinking about it. Maybe it is better to say that for as much progress we as a society have made, we haven’t moved much beyond a lot of the issues the movie addresses. So, in that sense, it was very much of its time, and that time is still now. Or something. I don’t feel great today, but I wanted to write this while thoughts are still fresh.

The picture shows a poster of Alien Nation, a movie that still resonates with its message welcoming immigrants.

The movie is a buddy-cop in the 1980s tradition with aliens as the twist. Matthey Sykes (James Caan) is a grizzled detective who loses his long time partner and friend during a shootout with some Newcomers (aliens). In one of the most movie things ever, he’s on the job the next day and volunteers to work with the LAPD’s first plain clothes Newcomer detective: Sam Francisco (Mandy Patinkin). Sykes laughs at that name, refuses to call him Sam, instead naming him George. So far, except for the aliens, things are pretty standard.

Alien Nation Poses Questions About Immigration We’re Still Answering

But, that’s the thing that makes Alien Nation both ahead of its time and a product of its time. The film makers present the Newcomers, and humans’ reactions to them as multi-faceted. Yes, there is a lot of bigotry and fear of the aliens. Sykes identifies himself as a bigot. And in a movie trope that has gone by the wayside–the man on the street exposition interview–a college student laments having to compete with Newcomers, who are smarter and generally more talented than humans. To some degree, this fear is understandable. The Newcomers aren’t just from another country; they’re from another world. It’s hard not to miss the immigration allegory because it’s not really an allegory.

What amazed me as I watched it this time (I’ve seen the movie quite a few times) is how similar its language is to today’s conversation concerning immigration. You’d think that in the 31 years since this movie hit theaters , we’d have found a way to move the conversation forward. However, the difference is, the movie makes a statement that while there may be some bad apples, overall we should welcome the aliens.

One of the most interesting statements concerning immigration the movie makes is that we all have things in our past we are ashamed of. Before coming to Earth, the Newcomers lived as slaves. To keep them strong and productive, their masters gave them a drug called Jabroka. Jabroka is analogous to PCP, and it is bad news. All of the Newcomers were on the drug, and it is their secret shame.

More Commentary on Immigrants and Immigration

George expresses this when he tells Sykes about the drug, which a cadre of rich and powerful Newcomers, are now attempting to produce on Earth. George tells Sykes that if humans knew about the drug and what it does to Newcomers, they would be afraid and turn against their planet’s new inhabitants.

I like that it’s the rich and powerful Newcomers–the best and brightest of the bunch–who are the criminals. This isn’t a street gang operation with thugs. This is methodically planned and requires resources. Plus, Terrance Stamp plays the main villain, and he’s always a treat.

Something else that struck me about how Alien Nation was both ahead of its time as well as of its time was this speech from George to Sykes:

“You humans are very curious to us. You invite us to live among you in an atmosphere of equality that we’ve never known before. You give us ownership of our own lives for the first time, and you ask no more of us than you do of yourselves.I hope you understand how special your world is; how unique a people you humans are. Which is why it is all the more painful and confusing to us that so few of you seem capable of living up to the ideals you set for yourselves.”

That right there says it all, and makes this movie as relevant to today’s conversation concerning immigrants as it was in 1988.

So, there’s some of my thoughts about Alien Nation. I hope you enjoyed reading them. Let me know what you think of the movie, its message, or this post in the comments.

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Finding a Way Out When Depression Strikes

I haven’t been doing so great lately. I’ve been depressed, and indulging too much in unhealthy habits. Also, I’ve been slacking on work, and giving into the urge to just lie in bed too much. When life gets like this, I often have trouble finding a way out, and I know I’m not the only one.

Depression is a funny beast in that you never know when it’s going to strike. This recent episode is a great example; I was doing fine until I wasn’t. What happened? I wish I could tell you. All I can say is that things were going swimmingly, and then one afternoon I went shopping and everything started falling apart. Standing in line, listening to the excellent Flight Risk Podcast, a feeling of dread overtook me. My stomach dropped and my eyes flooded with tears, which I quickly wiped away. Crying in a Chinese supermarket is nothing to be ashamed of, but it’s also not great.

After paying for my goods, I walked home and crawled into bed. At least, I put my groceries away first, a small thing, but something to be proud of nonetheless. For the next two and a half weeks, at least, my days consisted of work, junk-food, booze, and bed. These are not winning way of finding a way out of depression.

The image shows several wine bottles, which hinders finding a way out of depression
A collection of all the wine I drank last week. 7 bottles in 7 days. Not good for my health in any way.

How I am Finding a Way Out

I’ve taken some measures over the past few days in an attempt to break out of this deep darkness. I’ve started eating better, cutting out most of the junk-food in place of fruits and veggies. I love fruits and veggies, but when depression strikes, I find them difficult to eat. When the soul aches, I crave unhealthy junk, which is always a bad idea. Sure, greasy fast food burgers may taste good (they don’t, really), but they just add to the sadness.

In addition to attempting to change my eating habits, I have cut out the booze this week. I love to drink, but when finding a way out of depression, alcohol is not a good guide. Aside from being a depressant, it makes for sluggish mornings and unclear thinking. Furthermore, it is full of calories, which leads to weight gain, which can lead to more awful thoughts. It’s a vicious and terrible cycle.

I’ve also been trying to go for walks more. I haven’t necessarily been too successful on this front because of low energy levels, and it’s really hot here. But, I have at least made some effort, which is more than I’ve done recently. Walking has always been good for me. It gives me time and space to turn my mind off and clear the cobwebs. Of course, it also provides me time to overthink, something that is not always a benefit when dealing with depression. Still, it offers a way to get moving, gets me out of bed, and those have to be good things.

Moving Forward

The methods I am using for finding a way out of this funk I am in seem to be helping, but it’s still really early in the process. Almost anyone who’s suffered from depression can tell you there is no easy fix. Exercising and eating a proper diet can help, but they are not miracle cures. However, if we keep at them, and continue to build good habits, we can reinforce our defenses against this beast that drags us down. They can help us say no to the terrible and dangerous thoughts that rush through our minds.

By keeping our efforts up, we can show ourselves that we have worth, that we can accomplish things, and that we are not the scum depression calls us. To that end, I am going to keep my alcohol consumption to a minimum for a while, and I am going to keep eating fresh food. And, I am going to start writing more. I’ve already done this by starting a short story a couple days ago, and now by writing this blog post.

Battling depression is not easy, and it takes time, but I will continue to fight it. This battle is one I’ve been engaged in for most of my life, and I am not going to stop now.

Mental Health America link for those looking for help and resources for their depression.

Thank you for reading.

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