Monday, March 25, 2013

Ed Wood

I watched Ed Wood by Tim Burton again last night.

I'm writing something that I believe would be well-served by a "Criswell" kind of character, an opening monologue that sort of sets the stage for the impossible or at very least the improbable to happen.

Ed Wood was quite a guy.  A genius in his own way.  A genius at making terrible films, that is to say.  Yet he was extraordinarily passionate about his craft.  He cared about movies.  It was all he ever wanted to do and he would to any lengths to create them.   He was much maligned, I believe.  That is not to defend his work as "high art"exactly, but more in praise of what he did for popular culture.  There are Oscar-winning, so-called "classic" films that no one remembers.  Indeed, they have been relegated to the dustbin of history.  Something like Plan 9 From Outer Space, however, it remains.  It's known in the collective consciousness and continues to entertain...even if much of the entertainment value comes from just how bad it is (I really need to see the Wood documentary, Look Back in Angora.)  It really has me rethink "genius" and what that word is supposed to mean.

At the same time, I've been reflecting on how much I enjoy the films of Tim Burton.  Ed Wood is probably my favorite, but I would be remiss if I discounted Nightmare Before Christmas, Corpse Bride, Sleepy Hollow, and certainly the first Batman ("never rub another man's rhubarb!") from that watershed year, 1989.  And who can forget Edward Scissorhands?

This is not to say that Burton goes without criticism.  I suppose there are those who would argue that he repeatedly returns to the same gothy tropes, the absurdly cartoonish or the ongoing surreal circus.  He has indeed released movies that I disliked, such as the unneeded remake of Planet of the Apes.  I also have next to no interest in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory regardless of its incarnation.  No big deal.  I've yet to come across a writer, director, or musician who doesn't have at least one piece of work I didn't care for.  Hopefully that's the sign of discerning palate.

Still, the disappointments from Burton are relatively few and far between.  As a matter of fact, I just now remembered Mars Attacks and its hilarious poke at 1950s SF sensibilities through a modern lens.  I can see those saucers spinning right now (not unlike they did in Ed Wood) and hear that telltale chorus of "Ack! Ack! Ack!" Yeah, I just don't think a "serious" Mars Attacks would have worked.  Fortunately for us, it becomes fun regardless as Burton takes us on one of his patented wild rides, caring not whether it might be cinema veritae.

Now that I think about it, Wood and Burton aren't so far apart.  I believe Tim Burton would take that as a compliment.

And it is.

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