Tag Archives: Ed Wood

Strange Characters: The Cinematic Pairings of Tim Burton and Johnny Depp

Photo taken from MTV.com – all rights reserved to same – click through to read an interview with Tim Burton

Photo taken from MTV.com – all rights reserved to same – click through to read an interview with Tim Burton

In anticipation of Tim Burton’s Big Eyes coming out on Christmas Day, I’ve been having my own Burton retrospective and recently watched Edward Scissorhands for the umpteenth time.  With this film, Burton found a kindred spirit in Johnny Depp that has survived over two decades and has resulted in some of Burton’s best-known films. While he isn’t in Big Eyes, Depp has starred in eight of Burton’s seventeen films. That is, when he isn’t busy making drunken appearances at awards shows or getting fossils named after him.

Below is my much mulled-over ranking of those eight Burton/Depp cinematic pairings.

8. Dark Shadows (2012)

This film had the potential to be a hit.  On paper, a film about a dysfunctional family with a vampire patriarch is right in Burton’s wheelhouse. And besides, he and Depp both had a fondness for the soap opera from which the movie was based.   Sadly, that passion is never present on-screen.  While Burton has previously struck a wonderful balance with macabre humor and black comedy, he falters and stumbles here.  Perhaps it was the audience’s vampire fatigue or the overwhelming presence of the juggernaut known as The Avengers, but the film only grossed just over half of its production budget.  This film, along with the next one, really made me question whether or not Burton and Depp’s artistic relationship had grown stagnant.

7. Alice in Wonderland (2010)

The movie that grossed over a billion dollars worldwide also has a 51% rating on Rotten Tomatoes so make of that what you will.  One would think that it would be a visual treat, but it’s apparent the actors are acting against a green screen for most of the film. The backgrounds look flat and lifeless and that’s exactly how I’d summarize the entire film—flat and lifeless.  It’s truly saying something when the scenes that take place before Alice falls down the rabbit hole look more vibrant than the scenes in Wonderland Underland.

Giving a plot to a story that famously had no plot could have worked, but Linda Woolverton concocted the most generic chosen-one-must-fulfill-a-prophecy-and-vanquish-evil plot imaginable.  It was doubly disappointing for me because longtime musical collaborator Danny Elfman’s score was one of the best he’s done in recent years.  I listened to the score before I saw the movie and it conjured up images of fantastical epics.  Sadly, the only thing fantastic about the movie is that someone thought it would be a good idea to commit this to film.

6. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (2005)

I remember freaking out when that trailer came out and loved the movie when I saw it, but have since reassessed my opinion of it.  There’s nothing really technically wrong with it, nor is it a bad film; it’s just an unnecessary remake.  Then again, I don’t have an intense fondness tied to the original, despite Gene Wilder’s wonderful turn as the eccentric chocolate maker.  Still, this interpretation is closer to Roald Dahl‘s book and I actually prefer Elfman’s songs to the ones written by Anthony Newley and Leslie Bricusse.  Wilder’s interpretation was, and still is, iconic, so it was important for Depp to do something completely different in the role.  And, sure enough, he did.  I always felt that it was unfair that Depp’s performance was compared to Michael Jackson.  If you’ll recall, Michael Jackson loved kids.  Willy Wonka hated them and turned them into candy.  Get your facts right, Internet.

What are the top five Burton/Depp movies? Click through to find out!

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Tim Burton: Director Par Excellence

Johnny Depp as Sweeney Todd

Today is the birthday of film auteur Tim Burton, one the finest directors of “mainstream” movies over the last 20 years.  Mr. Burton has many fans here at the library and you may count me among them.  If it’s been a while since you’ve seen some of Burton’s films, or if you haven’t had a chance to see his latest, Alice in Wonderland, here’s a list of which ones libraries throughout the county have for your enjoyment:

Are there some dogs on this list?  You betcha.  But, as with any great artist, what is a dog for me may be a winner for you. 

Whenever I think of this axiom, I always recall Gary Larson’s comic The Far Side. I remember many a morning looking in the paper and thinking, huh, and my partner laughing hysterically and, of course, vice versa,  a certain sign of true genius if ever there was one.  Hate Burton’s remake of Planet of the Apes?  Not me, I thought it was solid.  Love Mars Attacks!? Go soak your head, you must be oxygen deprived.

You get the idea.

Besides Ed Wood (Plan 9, anyone?) and Pee Wee’s Big Adventure (“There’s no basement at the Alamo”),  Tim Burton won my heart with his casting of Vincent Price as the Inventor in Edward Scissorhands, one of Burton’s finest films. During the filming Price was suffering from an illness which deprived him of his magnificent voice and would later claim his life, but Burton managed to convey with great dignity what a true treasure of the American cinema Vincent Price was.  The gleam in Price’s eye, his beautiful visage, and alluring smile  make this one of the finest, most moving homages in popular film, as well as just a plain nifty scene in a sophisticated, entertaining movie.

– Don

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