The movie experience also held surprises. Although I knew that she would love seeing Henry Selick's labor of love -- yes, I know Tim Burton's name is on the picture, but even he would admit that it's Selick who deserves the honor -- on the big screen, I was struck by how differently she responds to previews than she did a few months back, even ones she has already seen before. She leans over to tell me what interests her and makes witty comments from time to time, just like her parents. After the preview for National Treasure, for example, in which Nicholas Cage explains his plan to kidnap a fictional President, she whispered in my ear that the film promises to be, "the kind of mystery I like," and then added, "I mean, it has to be good: it's about capturing George W. Bush!" Although I suspect that the picture will be mediocre at best, I laughed so hard at that statement that I'm going to have to go see it.For those of you who still have a chance to see The Nightmare Before Christmas in a movie theater, I heartily recommend making the effort to attend. It's visually stunning and features what is by far Danny Elfman's best score. I know that might seem like damning with faint praise, but I'm no fan of his oeuvre, yet still find it fabulous. The music and lyrics do a fine job of transposing the Brecht-Weill aesthetic to a Disney production without dulling its edge. If that's not a major achievement, I don't know what is. I'm especially fond of "Kidnap the Sandy Claws," with its macabre lines -- "Chop him into bits!" -- delivered with gleeful abandon and the minor-key detourning of "Jingle Bells," which performs for that standard something analogous, though less gravely, to what Hans Eisler's treatment of the German national anthem in Night and Fog does.
Both Skylar and I noticed new details in the film this time around, the big screen providing insight into subtleties that are lost on a smallish television. What made me happiest, though, was seeing it so soon after taking her to see the collection at the MOMA in New York. She was able to perceive, to an extent, how the style plays off of Modernist art, especially Expressionism. And I was taken by the degree to which seeing the picture in 3D -- normally an experience I classify somewhere between silly and annoying -- revealed its affinity to the dioramas we'd seen at the museum. Although the film's look comes closest to Expressionist printmaking, its handling of space reminded me of Joseph Cornell's boxes and their Surrealist precursors. On occasion, I felt like I was somewhere between the foreground and the background, being pushed and pulled by the rack focus of which Selick and his collaborators make such effective use. The effect was uncanny and significantly enhanced my cinematic pleasure, which was already bursting the seams of my theatrical decorum. "Wow. Would you look at that?," I'd say, sometimes so loudly that Skylar motioned me to mind my manners.