The Northwest Film Center (NWFC) rarely puts on must-see events—the exception being this week, when the NWFC hosts an evening at the Whitsell Auditorium with local animator Henry Selick (see Movie Times on pg. 55 for details). Selick's created some moving, influential, and flat-out awesome work, and hearing him talk about it will probably make it even better. A primer:
• The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)—Selick, not Tim Burton, directed this contemporary Xmas classic. Sure, it's easy to blow Nightmare off as little more than a merchandise machine for Hot Topic—but rewatch the film, and you'll likely be impressed. Burton-centric visuals create a striking fantasy world, Danny Elfman's music is great, and Selick imbues more pathos and verve into his stop-motion animated characters than most flesh-and-blood actors can express.
• James and the Giant Peach (1996)— Following up Nightmare with this Roald Dahl adaptation, Selick combined a bit of live action with his stop-motion magic. In the dark and clever—but still welcoming and rewarding—Peach, Dahl's bizarre characters and complex themes are done justice, which is a pretty impressive feat.
• Monkeybone (2001)—A coma-bound cartoonist gets stuck with his own creations. Sounds okay, right? But wait: This film not only stars Brendan Fraser, it co-stars the dreaded Chris Kattan. Sure, John Turturro, Dave Foley, and even Bob Odenkirk try to counter the evil, laughter-killing force that is Kattan—but it's to no avail. Kattan is unstoppable in his unfunniness, relentless in his slaughtering of mirth.
• The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou (2004)—Selick created the stop-motion, underwater creatures that populate Wes Anderson's film. The candy-colored crabs? The rhinestone-encrusted fish? The massive "leopard shark"? All of them weird, gorgeous, and amazing.
• Moongirl (2005)—This computer animated short from the Phil Knight-funded studio Laika Entertainment features some pretty animation—but it suffers from obnoxious character design, cheesy music, and a so-so story. Still, it's worth catching a short (and free) peek of it at laika.com/entertainment.