In a summer film season filled with duds and needless sequels, the best exception by far has to be Kubo and the Two Strings. This stop-motion animated standout was expertly produced by Laika Studios, released through Focus Features, a subsidiary of Universal, and is currently still in theaters—which is good for you. Kubo could put a nice finish on a lackluster season’s doldrums.

Walter Keane’s paintings of sad, huge-eyed waifs were a 1960s pop culture phenomenon. A former real estate salesman, Keane sold original “Big Eyes” paintings to such movie stars as Natalie Wood, Kim Novak and Joan Crawford, and he sold mass-produced greeting cards and posters of the saucer-eyed kids through Woolworth’s. So what if critics called his art kitschy? He hung out with Picasso and Dalí and appeared on Jack Paar’s Tonight show. He had millions in the bank, and his paintings were hanging in European museums and at the United Nations. There was only one problem: Keane’s wife, Margaret, was the real Big Eyes artist. Painting alone in a basement—“like a prisoner,” she said—Margaret was living a nightmare. Walter threatened to kill her and their two daughters if she told anyone the truth.

As a Nightmare Before Christmas purist (dare I say, originalist), I believe there’s a right time to watch this movie—and it is not Halloween. I know, I know. Disney re-releases it every October, and sales of the soundtrack peak around All Hallows’ Eve. And don’t get me wrong, I was just as excited as everyone else to mark the film’s 20th anniversary this past October. But I prefer to watch Jack Skellington’s holiday misadventures in something approximating real time, and all the action takes place during the 54 days between Halloween and Christmas.