Lovefool 10.31.11 | This Is Halloween

Lovefool takes a break from romance comics to take part in her annual viewing a movie that's "like a comic book gone supernova": The Nightmare Before Christmas.




Happy Halloween, nerdlings! As I write this, it is post-trip to the zoo for the Omaha version of Boo at the Zoo (we were not, I add, the only people there without kids), post-debating dressing up in a handy cosplay to give out candy, post-being relieved that I didn't dress up because the only trick or treaters we got were some people in their street clothes who were pretty much going straight to the bar after this. In their defense, I was sitting out on the porch with my neighbor drinking a beer, which means that I am officially Old on Halloween. But it also meant that I drank a delicious winter beer while the temperature and the leaves slowly dropped and it was pretty delightful.

It's also time for me to have one of my favorite holiday rituals: watching The Nightmare Before Christmas while fall melts into winter. Any day now, I'm going to have my own Nightmare In About Mid-November because it's going to be dark when I go to work and dark when I leave work and I won't have bought a single effing Christmas present or bought a parka and some boots, but real boots, not cute ones, and I'll realize I'm completely unprepared for the winter season. But The Nightmare Before Christmas, viewed each crisp Halloween before the novelty of scarf weather wears off, always makes me think that this is the year not a single event will mar my serenity this holiday season. I will own Thanksgiving through my birthday this year by letting it be. The days will begin to get longer and warmer and I will shed my scarf again and realize that I have survived and, not only that, I have thrived.

“But, silly Lovefool,” I hear you saying, “The Nightmare Before Christmas is not a comic book and you write about comic books and no one wants to hear about your seasonal anxiety and lack of organization skills.” Yeah, well, I'm going to try to sneak it past Jason Green, Fearless Editor, because I've always felt like The Nightmare Before Christmas has far more in common with comic books than animated movies. The style is too splashy, too Seussical, too 3-D made into 2-D and then animated to look like 3-D again for it to pass as a real movie in my mind. It looks like someone's grand flipbook that's spiraled out of control and was the first movie I'd ever seen like that in my life. It's like a comic book gone supernova. I suppose one could argue that that's the point of animated movies but The Nightmare Before Christmas is something that could've come straight off of my shelves and it's something I would've worn down the ink on the corners of from reading again and again. Maybe, perhaps, that's the sort of thing that inspired what ended up on my shelves.

I remember my dad taking me to see it when it was in theaters and I was still a wee girl, and I was delighted. I got the seat next to my dad, which meant I had easy access to the popcorn all night, and I remember staring up wide-eyed at the screen the whole time. My entire experience with this sort of thing had been Disney movies of an entirely different caliber. While I do have a certain fondness for The Little Mermaid, here was a movie that blurred the lines between all sorts of things I was interested in—art and stories and cartoons and movies and love and holidays and, despite the fact that I wasn't quite old enough to get it at the time, right and wrong. The story is big and ambitious and features some of the decision-making we've come to see in modern comic books and none of the results. Jack Skellington is the hero we've seen get great power in lots of comic books but, unlike most of them, he completely blows his big chance. There is no moment of redemption for Jack until he accepts that he has failed, his reach was too far, and it doesn't come until after he's been blasted out of the sky by the very people whose lives he was trying to improve. But when his redemption does come, it's in the form of deciding to be the very best Jack Skellington, Pumpkin King, that he can be.

Despite this unlikely story arc, unlike every comic book character, or most of them even, he ends up getting the girl. Sally is so unbearably poignant in this movie, so perfect. Unlike most of the heroines I find in comics, she is so undeniably who she is and who she is happens to be completely likeable. She does back down fairly quickly when Jack doesn't take her concerns seriously but she's clever, our Sally, and works around him to attempt to stop what she knows is a bad idea. Of everyone in the town, Sally is the only one who is going into making Christmas with her eyes wide open and she's not afraid to risk her relationship with Jack, which she doesn't even think is going to happen, to try to do the right thing for him and the town. It's just unfortunate that Jack happens to have a dog with a glowing nose and so he sets off despite her best efforts. When she realizes everything's gone south in the Real World, she doesn't stop to be smug about it, she simply sets out to free the one person who can fix it all. And when she gets captured by the bad guy, she's brave about it. Like the rest of the movie, there are no tears from Sally, just action.

When Jack does arrive, newly rejuvenated, he finishes the job and saves the man who can save the day, gets scolded for his troubles and realizes, in a light bulb moment that maybe, just maybe, Sally likes him. Likes likes him. It's a big few hours for Jack. In the meantime, while Jack is off at Clue Mart, Sally is just accepting that she's going to spend the rest of her unlife sad and alone because her would-be beau is just too oblivious to see how she feels. It's a little awkward and endearing, Sally and Jack's courtship. It's Sally's courtship, really, because Jack doesn't realize what's happening or make a move until the last minute of the move. And, because of this, he never, for a single second, takes Sally for granted romantically, which is quite unlike most of the funnybook men in his shoes. He does give her some of the Them Wimmins Are So Silly With Their Worrying And Ideas treatment, which was unkind of him, but he never, not once, assumes anything of her other than that. Part of that can even be excused by the fact that Jack is, essentially, a manager and Sally, like the rest of the town, is an employee of sorts. His cavalier dismissal of her concerns can almost be labeled as poor management since he has no idea she's in love with him.

In the end, when everything is resolved and snow falls over Halloween Town, showing our kinda-hero is forgiven and delighting the goblin children, Jack and Sally talk it out in a moonlight-drenched graveyard. Jack asks Sally to stand side by side with him as partners. He calls her his friend while he's pitching the woo. And, since this is a movie and not a comic book, they work it out for keeps and somewhere, as I write this on a dwindling Halloween night as the space between the worlds grows thinner, Jack and Sally are frantically working through the last-minute details of a good Halloween and this will be their night, forever.

(Once again, we here at Lovefool, Inc, wish you the happiest of Halloweens, nerdlings. I hope you've enjoyed this departure from our regular horizons, despite the fact that JG,FE tells me I write about movies all the time and that this isn't any different. We shall return to our regularly scheduled programming next week.) | Erin Jameson 

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