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  • Writer's pictureShannon Heibler

The Addams Family (1991)

It's a full moon tonight as I reflect on the 20th movie I just watched for this project that I wasn't sure I'd get to 5 on. And that movie is The Addams Family. Life is good.

A thought I had throughout this viewing (besides, thank god I'm getting to watch this) was "this is probably one of my top five favorite movies, but I never acknowledge it as such - why?" Is it because it's one of a whole slate of movies in the 90s that starred Christopher Lloyd and rehashed beloved midcentury intellectual properties? Am I ashamed of that? I think I felt a little embarrassed but there's no reason to be. This movie is perfection and frankly, for me, is the echt (as Gomez would say) Addams Family production. And I love it so much.

I've grown to love the "[versatile actor] always understands the assignment" meme because it almost always features actors I adore. Raul Julia and Anjelica Huston take the assignment to new levels. They give their all to Gomez and Morticia and do it with such compassion and thoughtfulness. There's no horndog irony to it, no smirking condescension. They took these characters, approached them as real humans, and breathed life into them. Their timing, their sincerity, their passion. Disney movies didn't ruin me for romantic relationships, Gomez and Morticia did. (Thank god my dear fella loves this movie as much as I do.) I've given a lot of thought and words to what these characters mean to me in their full embrace of the bizarre. They are so much happier and healthier than the "normal" people around them and THAT'S IT. That's the lesson. They are so busy delighting in the life they have made for themselves, they can't be bothered by others being bothered. They encourage their children and each other. They engage in their community. They honor those that came before them. And you know my witchy self is thrilled to see Morticia acknowledge her dark side and embrace it along with the light. And their sex life must be intimidatingly excellent.

(Actual footage of Ben and I at mediocre theater productions.)

But the perfection of this movie doesn't stop there. This is Barry Sonnenfeld's directorial debut (somehow) but as he is also an absolute beast of cinematography, he makes it look so easy. It bums me out when people think Burton directed this because Sonnenfeld's hand is so much more finessed. The production design creating a beautiful, desaturated palette with practical effects allowed bits of color to sing (Flora and Fauna's dress and little red accessories at the party for example), something color correction in post can't accomplish. The way the camera moves to capture the energy of the characters. The lighting across Morticia and Gomez's eyes.

I'm still forever baffled by the sheer amount of MC Hammer used in the movie (I like thinking of that meeting of the producers - "how can we get 90s kids to care about a movie based on a comic from the 30s and sort of a TV series from the 60s?? RAP MUSIC.") but I adore this score. It's iconic. Marc Shaiman deserves so much more attention for his work. He took a group of characters that are largely defined by their TV theme and gave them a sweeping, haunting, gorgeous score. BUT WHAT CAN I POSSIBLY DO THIS WEEK TO CELEBRATE A MOVIE THAT I WOULD HAPPILY SPEND THE REST OF MY LIFE HONORING!?

Embroidery, wood, paint, foil, hot glue.


-Ohhhh gosh I struggled with this one. I put a lot of pressure on myself in most things and even after a fabulous chat with my wonderful Midwife about being kinder to myself, I spent most of the week beating myself up for not thinking of something "better."

-Everything seemed to go wrong on this, too. The vinegar/steel wool mix I've used many times in the past to age wood just wouldn't take even applying it all week. I finally just painted the damn frame. The fabric was great but smooshy and the pen I use to draw out embroidery (that erases with heat) left little ghost marks everywhere. I redrew the sword/vase/scissors multiple times so ghosts galore and it ended up uncentered. Argh.

-Ultimately, I'm happy with it. I'll be hanging it up in my witchy corner as a reminder of the joie de vivre two of my favorite fictional characters possess. Just about every time Ben and I watch this movie (like once every month or two before the project), one of us says, "I wish I loved life as much as they do." Well, that starts now.

I also feel like I should reflect a little on the project as this is #20(!!?) and that's kind of wonderful! My "style" isn't emerging like I'd hoped but this has become the highlight of my week. Dedicated movie watching time and dedicated making. And both of those things for me, which has never been easy for me to do. I know now that I'm drawn to really clean lines and composition and I'm rediscovering/deepening my love of whimsy. It's been wonderful and I'm so grateful to be doing it. Thanks to all of you for being so supportive. I can't wait to watch a movie with you. And maybe make a little something after.

See you next week for one of my favorite guilty pleasures (and first Brian Blessed appearance!): Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves.

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