Sep. 13th, 2012

innocent_man: (abyssal)
Ed Wood is a 1994 biopic of Edward D. Wood, Jr., one of the worst screenwriters and filmmakers ever. The movie stars Johnny Depp as Wood and is directed by Tim Burton; it's not their first collaboration, but it's one of the best ones.

Wood starts off as a struggling director/filmmaker, working as an errand boy for a studio, and then discovers that a smaller (and trashier) studio has plans to make a movie about Christine Jorgensen. He explains to the director that he should make the movie because he's a transvestite (and therefore knows what it's like to live with an embarrassing secret). His passion, and the fact that he meets and befriends an aging Bela Lugosi (Martin Landau, in easily the best performance of the movie - won him an Oscar), lands him the job. He proceeds to fuck it up, writing an autobiographical screenplay, using completely nonsensical dialog and ignoring all the tedious, nonglamorous but completely essential bits of moviemaking.

This kind of continues throughout the movie; Ed kind of bumbling his way through making Bride of the Monster and finally Plan 9 from Outer Space (we'll get to Ps). Along the way, his girlfriend Dolores (Sarah Jessica Parker, who, in the movie, actually says the line "Do I really have a face like a horse?") leaves him, and he takes up with a nice young lady (Patrica Arquette) he meets in the hospital when Bela is committed for drug abuse.

No matter how much of a fuck-up Wood is, he's presented as so amazingly positive, friendly and cheerful that it's impossible to dislike him. That said, he's completely oblivious to reality, and one wonders how much of Wood lives in Burton (whose movies are often good, but do display a kind of "ah, fuck it" towards the real world that works in some better than others). The biopic is also inaccurate on a number of points, as many are. They ignore that Lugosi was married at the time of his death, that he had a son, and various other little details. All of that said, you really do get a sense of their friendship, and how tragic Lugosi's addiction was. You also get hints of the alcoholism that would eventually ruin Wood, but the movie is just so darned positive that they don't dwell on it, which is probably for the best.

Generally, the movie is a lot of fun (much more so than any of Wood's actual movies, which, MST3K potential aside, are pretty dismal).

My grade: B+
Rewatch value: Medium-high

Next up: Edward Scissorhands
innocent_man: (centimani)
Edward Scissorhands is a faerie tale directed by Tim Burton and starring Johnny Depp (you'll be seeing that sentence again). Depp plays the title role, an Unfleshed Promethean created by a mad but kindly demiurge (Vincent Price) who comes to a small suburban town and is subsequently driven out as the townsfolk succumb to Disquiet.

I'm kidding, of course, but honestly it's amazing how well the movie fits the game's paradigm. Edward is, at first, fascinating to the bored housewives of the pastel hell that is the suburb. He can create hedge animals and avant-garde hairstyle for dog and woman alike. He's polite and softspoken and pale and ageless (no one thinks it odd that 40-year-old women are hot for him, and no one thinks it odd when he starts mooning over a high school student). He's a much-needed breath of life into the community...

...but he's got scissors for hands. Despite numerous mentions of "a doctor friend who could maybe help you," no one follows up on that, and Edward, naive and trusting, gets roped into committing larceny on his guardian's daughter's boyfriend's parents (Diane Wiest, Winona Ryder, Anthony Michael Hall, respectively). About this point the townsfolk turn on him (Disquiet crests level 2 and we pass from fascination and obsession to spite and fear), and Edward, facing a sudden influx of jealousy over Kim (Ryder) and constant fear and suspicion from the other townsfolk, lashes out, which just perpetuates the cycle. The townsfolk don't exactly pursue him with torches and pitchforks, but close enough.

All Promethean references aside, the movie works precisely because it's a fable. It's framed as the story an old woman tells her granddaughter to explain snow (which makes no goddamn sense), and within the movie itself, it starts to fray around the edges when we see things like police and banks and other "outside the neighborhood" things. And I think that's fine; if the movie tried to take itself more seriously, it would fall apart. As it is, it holds up just well enough that we buy that Kim's father (Alan Arkin) is a bowling champion and that the town hot-pants (Kathy Baker) wants to bang every male in the immediate vicinity, but we don't feel the need to ask questions like "where the hell did that ice come from?" and "doe Edward actually need to eat?" and "where did the Inventor's body go?" and so on.

I can't help feel like this is Burton's way to explain Burton. "Look at me, tortured, an outsider, trapped among the sheeple," but if that's the case, it's handled deftly enough by Depp that it doesn't feel wanky. I hadn't watched this movie in a good long while, but I still enjoy it.

My grade: B
Rewatch value: Medium

Next up: Eight-Legged Freaks

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