(Image c/o Walt Disney Studios)
By Madison Sciba
On October 13, 1993, Jack Skellington made his first appearance on the big screen. Now, thirty years later, Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas has become a cult classic. What people may not know is that Tim Burton did not direct the classic Halloween film. According to the Netflix docuseries, The Movies that Made Us, Burton was too busy filming Batman Returns to direct The Nightmare Before Christmas. Although the film was directed by Henry Selick, it was the brainchild of the infamously creepy and weird director, Burton, while he was still an animator at Walt Disney Studios. However, Burton was one of the producers and kept a firm hand on how the film was being made.
Initially, the film was not a success and it wasn’t until after a few years the film found its popularity. At first Disney chose not to put their name on the film but rather that of Touchstone Pictures, one of their adult-centered production companies. The Nightmare Before Christmas was rated PG which was a big deal for Disney who was churning out G rated movies at this time such as Aladdin.
Made entirely in stop motion, The Nightmare Before Christmas was the first full length stop motion feature film. It set a precedent and began a trend of creepy stop motion films hitting theaters. Films like 2005’s Corpse Bride and 2012’s Frankenweenie followed in The Nightmare Before Christmas’s footsteps and both films were nominated for Academy Awards.
Now, thirty years after the world was first introduced to The Pumpkin King who wanted to become Santa Claus, Disney is still profiting highly off a film that they thought was going to be too creepy for their brand. Every September and October, Disneyland hosts the Oogie Boogie Bash, a Halloween party based on the villain from The Nightmare Before Christmas. So every year, Disney fans from around the world flock to Disneyland to celebrate the spooky holiday with the characters that Tim Burton drew almost forty years ago while he was a lowly animation apprentice at Disney Studios.
(Image c/o Addie Roanhorse/Apple/Paramount)
By Andrew Martinez Cabrera
In the non-fiction book Killers of the Flower Moon, journalist David Grann writes about the time of blossoming flower fields, referred to as the season of the Flower Moon. Starting in May, “taller plants, such as spiderworts and black-eyed Susans, begin to creep over the tinier blooms, stealing their light and water. The necks of the smaller flowers break and their petals flutter away, and before long they are buried underground.” It is an instance where nature acting as metaphor reflects real life, when members of the Osage Nation, some of the wealthiest people in the world per capita, began to die off mysteriously. These murders became the basis for the latest Martin Scorsese picture, Killers of the Flower Moon.
As any self-proclaimed cinephile would know, a Scorsese-helmed western was bound to happen. One of his favorite films is John Ford’s The Searchers, a classic example of cowboys vs. Indians, a simple reduction of a reductive sub-genre. The Searchers, while regarded as one of the greatest American films of all time, is also one that has a troubling racist legacy, something which Scorsese has grappled with. For Scorsese’s longtime collaborator, the late Robbie Robertson, he explained that Scorsese always said to “look at the filmmaking. In these movies, it’s not the message. It’s literally just a trip.”
While it is quite literally a trip, with a 3-hour-long runtime, Killers places its message in the foreground. Following deeply involved consultation from the Osage Nation and an entire rehaul of the story, moving away from the FBI investigation that is the foundation of the book, Scorsese decides to focus on the relationship between Ernest Burkhart (Leonardo DiCaprio), one of the main conspirators to steal the Osage wealth, and his wife Mollie Burkhart (Lily Gladstone), an Osage woman who is the emotional core of the film. While we do see many different Osage perspectives, the core tragedy of the deaths relates to Gladstone’s character and her response to the greater Reign of Terror. Gladstone is monumental; a performance that shifts from restrained and melancholic before transitioning into total heartbreak. She represents the best of our humanity, the antithesis of Burkhart.
Given the opportunity to tackle a Western with a more empathetic lens towards Indigenous Americans, Killers still enters the narrative through Ernest Burkhart. One of our first images of the Osage sees them dressed as wealthy socialites, looking like frequenters of Gatsby’s parties. Their source of wealth is tied to an abundance of oil found on their reservation. The juxtaposing image that follows is of Burkhart, gross-looking and miserable, looking like the human embodiment of a malnourished dog. Before we know it, his goal is outlined to us before the plot even begins because we have seen the allure of wealth.
It is that allure that has excited storytellers like Scorsese, whose filmography has always dealt with America’s obsession with greed. Naturally, it makes sense for Scorsese to approach Killers through one of these killers, a representation of the worst side of human nature. What once used to be the narrative interest for Scorsese – protagonists such as mobsters, God’s lonely men, and Wall Street criminals – is now a terrifying notion that Scorsese reckons with in Killers.
What is the need to tell this story through his eyes - examining evil as something learned or something inherent? It is something that is absolutely tied to his Catholic upbringing, and now in his twilight years, Scorsese is interrogating his fascination with evil by shifting his paradigm. The energies from his other films like The Wolf of Wall Street, whose themes are more in line with Killers of the Flower Moon, are traded for a more subdued and meditative film, akin to Silence.
Killers of the Flower Moon is incredibly reserved and paced like an adagio musical piece, boiling with an anger unparalleled in his other films. When Scorsese previously depicted violence in his youth, it was an ugly spectacle – flashy, scored to period-era songs; the camera constantly moving, the editing flowing in a hectic motion. Killers’ treatment of violence does not revel in its ugliness, it just shows it. It is as simple as it is powerful. These terrible moments carry so much weight because we have to carry that emotional weight when these static scenes unfold in front of us. What Scorsese illustrates best in Killers is that evil is banal. That is the most terrifying realization one can come into contact with.
Scorsese exposes us to some of the dumbest hicks on the planet who mess up almost every single step of their conspiratorial plot and yet they still succeed. While their plan progresses, so does the entire American project situated in the peripheral. All the while, an entire history continues to set like the moon, disappearing below the horizon line, until it is out of our view.
While depressing, Scorsese still reminds us about the beauty of the Osage people, many of whom worked behind the camera or were towering 30 feet in the air while projected on the silver screen. The Indigenous Americans of Scorsese’s youth, people meant to be antagonists, have their voices and faces be the ones we connect to. However, he understands his limitations as a non-Osage to tell this story, and the only way he knows how is through the victors.
The brutally blunt portrayal of America’s original sin is an honest attempt to honor those whose lives were lost and condemn those who benefitted from those deaths. I am hopeful now that those faces and those stories will continue to blossom for years to come on the silver screen; for when the sun sets, the moon will always come, and shine anew.
The Disney film that became a Halloween classic.
By Madison Sciba
On July 16, 1993, Walt Disney Pictures released Hocus Pocus in theaters. Now, over 30 years later, the film has become almost synonymous with Halloween and this spooky time of year. For many, Hocus Pocus was an essential part of Halloweens growing up. Was it really Halloween if you didn’t watch Max light the black flame candle?
As a child, it seemed as though there was nothing scarier than watching Billy Butcherson’s not-so-dead body rise from the grave and cough up moths. Even to this day that scene can give shivers to anyone with a dislike of scary movies. It was one of the films that children were allowed to watch that was considered “scary.” While it still maintains a PG rating, some scenes, like the witches draining Max’s life force, could be really terrifying for kids.
Directed by Kenny Ortega, the film takes place in Salem, Massachusetts, a historically *bewitching* town. Most known for being the site of the infamous Salem witch trials in the early days of American history. As a result of the film’s success, Salem has become not only a destination for those interested in the witch trials, but also for fans of the film. The town welcomes tourists to come during the Halloween season and see the filming locations from the movie. They also host a variety of themed events and fan meet and greets with the cast.
Even though the original has become a classic Halloween film, the 2022 sequel Hocus Pocus 2 was seen as a bit of a disappointment to fans. With very little of the sequel tying it to the original film, audiences did not have those same nostalgic feelings toward it.
Whether you enjoyed the sequel or not, it is hard to deny that Hocus Pocus has become a tried and true classic Halloween film. It has all the essentials of a good movie for the season: takes place over Halloween, in a historically spooky location (Salem), witches, the undead, and magic. It is no wonder that Hocus Pocus has stood the test of time and continues to be watched by future generations when celebrating Halloween.
(Image c/o Disney/20th Century Studios)
By Matthew Colvin
The spookiest month of the year, October, has finally arrived, and with it comes a slew of new horror movies for you to get your annual fix of chills and jump scares. One of the first is A Haunting in Venice, the third in a series of loose adaptations of famed mystery author Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot novels helmed by director, producer, and lead actor Kenneth Branagh. The previous two films, Murder on the Orient Express and Death on the Nile, came out to middling reviews, but A Haunting in Venice does things a little differently, layering supernatural horror elements on top of a good old-fashioned whodunit. So how does this genre smash-up fare? Quite well, all things considered.
The story hook is simple but effective; retired detective Hercule Poirot receives an invitation to attend a séance at the palace of a famous opera singer and skeptically accepts, only for a slew of murders and ghostly appearances to occur, forcing him to come out of retirement for one night to solve the mystery. While the plot itself does not reinvent the wheel, it manages to be suitably entertaining for the film’s hour and forty-minute runtime, carried by a wildly entertaining cast of actors. Branagh does well as the iconic detective Poirot, but it is Michelle Yeoh and Tina Fey in particular who steal the show as a spiritual medium and a crime novelist, respectively. The filmmaking on display is what really makes the experience. It is exceptionally well shot, making use of claustrophobic close-ups, contrasting lighting with deep, brooding shadows and unique angles to constantly keep the tension up and the audience on edge.
The scares themselves are good, at times pushing that PG-13 rating to its limits; not necessarily likely to terrify diehard horror fans, but certainly enough to keep any average moviegoer on the edge of their seats. This feat is especially impressive considering that the film’s source material, the 1969 novel Hallowe’en Party, has no trappings of the horror genre, but is much more of a straightforward detective story. It is these very creative liberties that Branagh takes with the source material that make A Haunting in Venice an improvement on the two films that preceded it, and an enjoyable Halloween flick that demands little from its audience to enjoy. So if you are looking for some decent popcorn entertainment and some solid scares this October, A Haunting in Venice is a good pick.
20th Century Studios, A Haunting in Venice
Agatha Christie, Hallowe’en Party
By Chloe Ourada
American Journalism Student
Pictured: WGA West & WGA East Negotiating Committee
(Image C/O Eric Haywood)
By Andrew Martinez Cabrera
After 148 days of striking, the Writer’s Guild of America (WGA) and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) reached a historic landmark agreement and officially ended the Writer’s strike on September 27, 2023.
On September 14, 2023, the WGA announced publicly that they were getting ready to restart negotiations with the AMPTP after a month of no deliberation from both parties. On Wednesday, September 20, 2023, the WGA met with the AMPTP for the first time and continued meeting with them consecutively for four days. On the fourth and final day of negotiations, the WGA stated on their WGA contracts website, “We have reached a tentative agreement on a new 2023 MBA [Minimum Basic Agreement], which is to say an agreement in principle on all deal points, subject to drafting final contract language.”
Many of the WGA’s key concerns were addressed in the new contract, such as A.I. involvement and regulation in television and film productions, increased residual payments by 76% according to The New York Times, additional streaming and viewership-based bonuses which prior to the strikes was kept under lock and key by streaming companies, and a minimum sized writing staff requirement for certain productions.
In the aftermath of the strikes, many television productions were quick to resume production. An early example includes various Late Night television programs like “Late Night with Seth Meyers” and “Jimmy Kimmel Live!” coming back after a long hiatus, most of which have already aired their returning episodic debuts. Many films whose productions were suspended during the strikes can also resume, whether that is in the preproduction aspects or in the actual making of the project.
Whilst the Writers have gotten their fair deal, the Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA) is still on strike. While picketing for writers was suspended on September 24, the WGA encouraged its 11,000 members to picket alongside SAG-AFTRA members. In the SAG-AFTRA’s congratulatory statement for the WGA, they wrote, “While we look forward to reviewing the WGA and AMPTP’s tentative agreement, we remain committed to achieving the necessary terms for our members.”
Following the AMPTP’s negotiations with the WGA, the AMPTP is currently meeting with SAG-AFTRA negotiators, which started on October 2, 2023. The SAG-AFTRA strike has lasted 80 days.
Madison Sciba '24,