Like turkeys, mince pies, and mulled wine, Christmas movies are essential each and every December.
However, everyone you ask, when discussing the best ever festive movie, will offer a different opinion.
So when it comes to defining to greatest ever Christmas film there’s every chance you’ll annoy a lot of people.
And to that, I say, I do not care.
For every person declaring Home Alone or Die Hard or It’s A Wonderful Life as their number-one Chrimbo classic, there are others who’ll argue how incomparable they are to Fred Claus.
Each year I’ve my to-go titles to get me in the mood, as a warm-up.
For starters, and previously mentioned, Home Alone is an annual certainty: it’s great; it’s daft; it’s iconic; it’s funny; it’s an undisputed classic.
Then there’s Gremlins – an 80s sizzler I was only recently introduced to but makes for great festive viewing.
And of course, you cannot endure the festivities without The Muppet Christmas Carol.
While the above are all very different kinds of films, one title stands out.
The Nightmare Before Christmas is simply a joy.
It’s hard to pigeonhole precisely what makes this so darn exceptional; it’s a film I don’t instantly define as a musical, either, despite its collection of catchy, fantastically conceived songs from Danny Elfman.
Immediately, I think ‘Christmas film’.
Then follows the brilliantly composed tunes, its endearing stop-motion animation, and the animated icon that is Jack Skellington.
Some even debate when it’s best watched: at Halloween or Christmas?
I’ve a rule never to watch a Christmas flick outside of November and December, but my firm belief is it works for October scares and Christmas nostalgia.
Yet it is predominantly suited to Christmas.
But back to its soundtrack, because it is simply inescapable. This Is Halloween, Making Christmas, What’s This?, and Sally’s Song are so lovingly composed, written and performed as they effortlessly weave into the feature, which is an often cold and creepy tale on the exterior, masking a much warmer human story about loneliness and finding one’s place in life.
That leads into what is essentially a love story between Jack and Sally.
The former’s a popular, influencing figure of Halloween Town who leads the annual scares each and every year.
He’s the best at what he does and is virtually untouchable; the equivalent of a star quarterback in a high school comedy-drama.
Only Jack isn’t a douchebag; he’s a gentle and curious chap that has a much softer, tender side to scaring the bejesus out of everyone.
In contrast, Sally’s a controlled, repressed slave to her male owner.
She longs to be free and to explore the world outside of her prison.
She notices Jack every day but it seems she doesn’t register on his radar.
Amid the chaos and adventure we go on with Jack, his and Sally’s relationship slowly bubbles, but there’s an onus on Christmas that makes for some of the most glorious moments of the film: a memorable introduction to Sandy Claws and the sublime rendition of quite literally landing in Christmas Town is a show-stopper.
Once you’ve embraced the entertainment, romantic tendencies, and musical extravaganza, it’s easy to fall in love with its dark and twisted Christmas story.
To say The Nightmare Before Christmas is an acquired taste is perhaps an understatement – like any movie out there, it’s not for everybody, but it bears an unquestionable whimsy and aesthetic charm any film lover can appreciate.
Having grown up with it, since finding the VHS buried in my stocking from jolly old Saint Nick circa 1994, I certainly bear a strong connection and sense of nostalgia towards it.
But for someone watching it for the first time over Christmas 2017, its 24-year old achievement and stop-motion spectacle should impress even the most sceptical CGI or animation enthusiast, that’s for sure.
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