"The Nightmare Before Christmas," and some kind of Star Wars movie

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The new Star Wars (Episode VII: The Force Awakens) needs no review from me, but I might as well get a few things on the record: it's the best Star Wars movie in 30 years, and it's about nothing, and it's probably good enough.

I read a claim in the last few days that at least The Phantom Menace had a coherent argument, however bad it was, but I'll suggest that when a poleconomic theory is as bad as the one expressed in TPM, it's better to have no argument at all. TFA is the best fanfic ever put on a big screen, which is its blessing and curse. It won't have its long-term reputation made until we see if it sets up interesting subsequent movies.

To be sure, I don't regret seeing it in the theatre one bit, and I'll watch it again on my TV at some point, but "Mad Max: Fury Road" was in almost all ways a better action movie.

But "A Nightmare Before Christmas"... TLO is a special fan of this, so we watched it last night. I had seen it before, but had forgotten how good it was. The animation was great, the character designs were imaginative, and you could probably carry the first half of the movie on the opening song ("This is Halloween"). But you don't have to, there's lots of other fun things to see.

What I really loved on second viewing is that "Nightmare" is about how projects fail. Jack Skellington is incredibly competent in his domain, but he is bored by that success. He looks for a new challenge, and then commits every mistake possible: he doesn't understand the new problem, which is outside of his area of expertise, and he doesn't understand that he doesn't understand. He grants too much authority and too little oversight to key underlings. He doesn't listen to critical voices, even within his inner circle. Only a Christmas miracle saves him from himself in the end. (but of course, Christmas miracles do tend to happen, so this is realistic, too).

You could even simplistically say the morals of the movie are incredibly conservative: if you summed up the tale as "stick to your knitting," or a Chestertonian exhortation about not tearing down a wall if you have no idea why it was put up, you'd be right, but the deeper interest isn't in the morals, it's in the themes of failure.

I will watch "Nightmare" again soon. It is of course a Ring 0 Christmas movie, and I feel it deserves mention as one of the great ones. (Two of my very favorite Christmas movies are both Ring 2, so it's nice to find a Ring 0 story I can really get behind; this ring nonsense is fully explained in my seminal essay from 2010).