The Nightmare Before Christmas in 3-D

Why the best film composer since Bernard Herrmann ought to take a break from films

You know what Danny Elfman should be doing instead of writing film scores for seemingly everyone who’ll buy him coffee and a doughnut? (The Family Man? Come on. Pleasant little movie, but it did not need a Danny Elfman.) He should be writing musicals, because his songs for the 1993 The Nightmare Before Christmas were lovelier, wittier, and more thrilling than just about any stage score I’ve heard since—like the tour-de-force patter song “What’s This,” written for himself as the singing voice of Jack Skellington, and the lyrical “Sally’s Song,” an intoxicatingly bittersweet 90 seconds as performed by Catherine O’Hara. (Last time NBC played here, director Henry Selick, who was present, said he wasn’t entirely happy with the songs—they took you out of the story a bit, he thought. Can’t agree.) Last year’s CD of catchy orchestral pieces, Serenada Schizophrana, was an interesting new direction for Elfman, but it’d be great to see him build a dramatic project around his harmonically twisty, richly tuneful, atmospherically moody, word-caressing music, rather than continue to water it down for mainstream pictures. Anyway, a 3-D version of this stop-motion classic is playing at Pacific Place this week.

Wed., Oct. 31; Thu., Nov. 1, 2007

 
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