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View Full Version : The Best Burton/Depp film

05-14-12, 08:58 AM
Scenario: Burton has a procured a new film project; he makes the call to Johnny Depp on his speed-dial.

--ring' ring'--


"Speak to me"


"D, it's B. We have another film in the works. Drop what you're doing and meet me in Toronto in two weeks for makeup and wardrobe testing."


"Understood, B. It's been over six months since our last project. I was getting really tired of my natural complexion."


"No worries. You know the drill at this point. Pale white makeup for the duration of the shoot, just like the last seven projects."


"Good...very good...I'm getting my bags packed as we speak."


"OK. See you in two weeks."


"May the gods repeatedly polish your glasses..."


The love between Johnny and Timmy

I would venture to guess that each movie collaboration between movie star Johnny Depp and film auteur Tim Burton begins and ends very much like this hypothetical scenario, abiet with slightly altered dialog, but with with same word count--or lower. The call ends, Burton and Depp together close as one tightly-knit tag team and produce, in this case, "Dark Shadows."

The trailer for "Shadows" garnered my attention for because Depp and Burton are at their best when collaborating on films that mix elements of gothic horror and comedy. However, most critics has responded negatively and the murmurs are beginning to suggest that the Depp/Burton magic is waning.

The actor and director have teamed up on eight movies: "Edward Scissorhands", "Ed Wood", "Sleepy Hollow", "Charlie and the Chocalate Factory", "Corpse Bride", "Sweeney Todd", "Alice in Wonderland" and now "Dark Shadows". Out of the lot, "Scissorhands", "Wood", "Hollow" and "Todd" are the only noteworthy features. Almost all of these films were released during their early stages of their careers.

"Shadows" has the elements of another Depp/Burton success story. The cinematography and set pieces revealed in the film trailer showcase Burton's reminiscence of 1940s gothic horror and Depp is once again extraordinarily pale. In fact, Depp is creamy white in every motion picture he did with Burton, even the clay stop-motion character he voiced in "Corpse Bride."

There is no undisputed champion among their eight features the two megastars produced, although I'd wager "Alice in Wonderland" would be near the bottom of the list for most film-goers.

I finally watched the film on television with high reservations along preconceptions based on the Tomatoereader results. "Wonderland" is a petty excuse to give Johnny Depp an eccentric lead in a familiar children's fantasy story. "Wonderland" is pure amalgamation of recent fantasy films that were done much better, specifically "Lord of the Rings". Burton sidesteps Alice's character in favor of Depp as the supposed supporting part of the "Mad Hatter".

"Sweeney Todd" was a fun ride; the music is especially good, as expected, and Depp can carry a tune better than most of the cast of "Mama Mia".

"Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" received praise from critics and audiences back in 2005, but the enthusiasm seems to have deteriorated a bit. Burton claimed that his interpretation was lighter in spirit than the 1971 Gene Wilder film, which is simply not true. There is no denying that "Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory" is traumatic--Wilder's Wonka has a bad acid trip right in front of the children as his boat enters into a scary, dark tunnel. Although my childhood nostalgia clouds my judgement, I would wager that most children would be content to spend the day with Wilder's Wonka and flee in terror from Johnny Depp's.

"Corpse Bride"--sweet movie, good animation, poor songs and completely forgettable.

I personally liked "Sleepy Hollow" due to its amazing set design, creative spin on the original legend (the Headless Horseman is just a puppet for a revenge plot) and Depp's funny spin on Ichabod Crane.

"Edward Scissorhands" was the duos first collaboration and it's still a strong movie. Burton instills a sense of weirdness in the mundane suburban lifestyle; something he hints in the trailers for "Dark Shadows". Edward (Depp) is a weird Frankenstein-like design of a scientist who is adopted by an average American family taken right out of a Norman Rockwell painting. Depp plays the title role with an childlike curiosity (pale as paper, naturally). He soon falls in love with the family's teenaged daughter played by Winona Ryder.

Unfortunately, "Edward Scissorhands" never explores the love story further than the fact that Edward likes her; she's fascinated by him--their love is eternal. The message is sweet, the execution feels tacked on. As a result, "Edward Scissorhands" sits quietly in my Number 2 spot.

So, the process of elimination leaves the Number 1 spot for...

"Ed Wood"

Among all of Tim Burton and Johnny Depp's collaborations, there is only feature that has tickled my emotions to same degree as my imagination...and love for all that is weird. "Ed Wood" was only the second movie the pair made together, and it's their best. It was also their least successful, box-office wise (even compared to the under-performing "Dark Shadows").

Over the years, Ed Wood's reputation has grown considerably. When it was released in 1994, Depp was already a respected actor, but without a giant star hovering over his name. Producing a black-and-white biopic about the worst director of all time was a tough sell for most studios, except for Touchstone Pictures, who produced the film mainly to appease the commercially potent Tim Burton.

Ed Wood was a real movie director who managed to write, direct, produce over a dozen low-budget science fiction-horror films in the 1950s. Wood's modest success were partially attributed to his courtship of Bela Lugosi, the aged, movie has-been, known for his iconic performance as Count Dracula.

Tim Burton's film centers on Wood's friendship with Lugosi. The film begins with Wood, an errand boy for an unnamed studio, is desperate to make his own feature films. After failing to secure a sex-change exploitation picture, a chance meeting brings the two men together.

Lugosi is brought to life to amazing effect by two geniuses, both who won Oscars for the movie: Rick Baker, for his magnificent makeup, and Martin Landau for his funny, deeply touching portrayal. Even though "Ed Wood" was a financial bomb, Landau still enchanted Oscar voters over crowd favorites like Gary Sinise in "Forrest Gump" and Samuel L. Jackson in "Pulp Fiction".

"Ed Wood" was criticized by some (including Bela Lugosi's son) for it's inaccurate portrayals. In fact, some have questioned the genuineness of Ed Wood's intentions. Did Wood actually exploit Lugosi merely to gain financing for his own films?

In order to override these criticisms, it should be reiterated that films are art, not history. I loved "Ed Wood" for its funny, deeply moving story about a genuine, ambitious young man who made his movies, even though he clearly lacked every conceivable skill necessary. I also love the connection that forms between the characters of Wood and Lugosi.

Landau's Lugosi is a sad, disgruntled old man who is desperate for money. He makes no qualms about his situations with Eddie. "This town chews you up and spits you out. I'm just another ex-boogie man." Wood get's Lugosi parts in his movies; trying to convince producers and financiers in the process. One of funniest recurring gags is that Ed constantly has to remind his backers that Lugosi is still alive.

The real Bela Lugosi was facing financial hardship and a addiction to morphine at the time Wood was starting to produce features. Lugosi appeared in three of Wood's films before he passed away: "Glen of Glenda"--Wood's transvestite feature that spawned from his sex-change script; "Bride of the Monster"--Lugosi as a power-hungry mad scientist; and "Plan 9 From Outer Space"--Lugosi's final film, which is regarded by many as the worst film of all time.

Tim Burton was swayed to direct "Ed Wood" based on the script's portrayal of the Lugosi/Wood friendship. It mirrored his own friendship to Vincent Price, who Burton envied since childhood and had recently directed in "Edward Scissorhands", which was his final on-screen performance as well.

Burton was also enticed based on his clear appreciation for outsiders (Batman, Edward Scissorhands) and for portraying their abnormalities with respect. In this case, Ed is a transvestite. To his crew, Ed is just being Ed. To Ed's financiers, they are appalled to find Ed suddenly directing a scene in an angora sweater and high heels. Even Ed's first girlfriend and leading lady, Janice (Sarah Jessica Parker) can't stomach Ed's wardrobe preferences and dumps him. Ed later falls for a lovely young lady, Kathy (Patricia Arquette), and decides to share his secret with her on their first date. "Do this you mean you don't like girls?", she asks. "No I love girls, wearing their closes makes me feel closer to them." She contemplates for a moment and quietly responds with a smile. "OK".

In real life, the two were happily married for 22 years until Ed's death in 1978.

Depp injects his performance of Ed with a great deal of positive energy and optimism. Depp stated in an interview modeled his performance using a blend of Casey Kasem's voice and Ronald Reagan's "aw shucks" demeanor. His performance of Ed so is so rich in idealism that his ragtag cast and crew, even Lugosi himself, are delighted by Ed's "incredible" film-making skills.

However, the real juice of the story is the love and close friendship that builds between Lugosi and Wood. One evening, Lugosi invites Ed over to his modest home watch one of his features on television. Wood stares with fascination and admiration as Lugosi replicates the hand curls he used in Dracula. When Ed discovers that Bela has a drug addiction, he takes him to a rehab center and tries to secure a new film project to help his sickly hero.

"Ed Wood" will be enticing for anyone who ever imagined sitting in the same room with a childhood hero. Ed is given an opportunity to meet "Dracula" himself, direct him in movies and share a father-son bond.

There is a great scene when Bela has been out of rehab, is walking with Ed through the streets of Hollywood reflecting over their recently finished picture. Bela is happy and at peace. He thanks Ed for the opportunity to work and even does an impromptu performance of one of Ed's scenes. Bela pours every ounce into his lines, exclaiming and raising his hands in the air. Once he finishes, the film reveals that a small group of pedestrians have stopped to watch and applaud. They approach Lugosi with delight and request his autograph. Ed is swooning in admiration. The scene resonates better after repeated viewings, after we know that Eddie's career and Bela's life are nearing their end.

"Ed Wood" could have been envisioned a large budget color feature in which the abnormalities of Wood's life are highlighted with a critical eye--almost like a parody. But Burton's film shows a deep respect for Ed's love of film, his desire to make his own features on his own terms. Most films about underdogs reveal some untested skill that only revealed in the third act. Ed's "success" is "Plan 9 From Outer Space", a film so terrible that today's audiences relish every last one of it's glaring problems.

Tim Burton made "Ed Wood" in black-and-white and a straight comedy without the exaggerated fantastic elements he adores in other films. Depp is hyperbolic, but tame when compared to most of his other roles in Burton films. Depp can occasionally place so much emphasis on abnormalities he forgets to make the character feel human. That was certainly the case for his Willie Wanka and Mad Hatter characters, but his Ed Wood becomes grounded and real when necessary, such as when film projects face major obstacles or after he learns the news of Bela Lugosi's death.

"Ed Wood" is also funny as hell, as when Ed displays his lack of patience for details or logic. In his films, Wood reused the same shot, scenes can't decide if they occur during the day or night, or an airplane cockpit is little more than a couple of chairs and a curtain. When Ed discovers that his mechanical octopus is missing the motor to make its legs move, he encourages Lugosi to manually wrap them around his body to mimic the effect of being squeezed to death.

It's also a testament that Johnny Depp and Tim Burton's best collaboration was about an actor and director who develop bond of trust, respect and mutual admiration. If Lugosi had lived past "Plan 9", I have no doubt that duo would have made at least eight features, too.

05-14-12, 09:05 AM
You wrote a lot of stuff that I didn't read but my answer to the original question is Ed Wood.

05-14-12, 09:08 AM
Easily Dark Shadows.

05-14-12, 09:36 AM
What I think is the best: Ed Wood

What I like the best in terms of fun to watch: Sleepy Hollow- that's a movie where everything seems to hit the right note.

No offense to the OP, but this seems more like an excuse to illustrate one's own opinion than an honest question, hence no poll.

05-14-12, 09:38 AM
I'm a big fan of Sweeney Todd.

05-14-12, 09:44 AM
What I think is the best: Ed Wood

What I like the best in terms of fun to watch: Sleepy Hollow- that's a movie where everything seems to hit the right note.

No offense to the OP, but this seems more like an excuse to illustrate one's own opinion than an honest question, hence no poll.

I never intended to start a poll, but open a dialog of discussion about the duo's movies.

05-14-12, 09:47 AM
Easily Ed Wood, which is also Burton's best film.

Dr Mabuse
05-14-12, 09:52 AM
I would probably choose 'Sweeney Todd'.

There's a lot of good things about 'Sleepy Hollow' and 'Ed Wood', and I like them both.

05-14-12, 09:54 AM
My personal favorite is Sleepy Hollow with Edward Scissorhands being a close second.

05-14-12, 09:56 AM
Easily Ed Wood, which is also Burton's best film.


05-14-12, 10:02 AM
Ed Wood

05-14-12, 10:03 AM
What I think is the best: Ed Wood

What I like the best in terms of fun to watch: Sleepy Hollow- that's a movie where everything seems to hit the right note.


Ed Wood is the best movie; Sleepy Hollow is the most entertaining.

05-14-12, 10:18 AM
Ed Wood, Sweeney Todd, Edward Scissorhands. Sleepy Hollow has many good aspects but some stupid stuff too (the witch with the bug-out eyes, what the fuck??).

05-14-12, 10:47 AM
Ed Wood.

05-14-12, 10:52 AM
I'll go against the norm and pick Ed Wood.

Also, OP, tl;dnr

05-14-12, 11:08 AM
Sleepy Hollow. Easily.

05-14-12, 11:13 AM
Edward Scissorhands

05-14-12, 11:26 AM
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

05-14-12, 11:27 AM
Edward Scissorhands is top in my book.

05-14-12, 11:29 AM
I still haven't seen Ed Wood. Have any of the DVD releases colorized it yet?

05-14-12, 11:32 AM
Ed Wood Scissorhands.

Great poll BTW.

05-14-12, 11:48 AM
I couldn't finish reading the OP. But at least the thread title is self explanatory.

Since no one has mentioned it yet, I'm gonna place my vote for Ed Wood. It's un underappreciated gem.

05-14-12, 01:26 PM
Ed Wood, closely followed by Sweeney Todd and Edward Scissorhands.

And I need to re-watch Sleepy Hollow.

05-14-12, 01:28 PM
Ed Wood

05-14-12, 02:01 PM
Can someone list all their collaborations please. My answer is Ed Wood, but maybe I'm forgetting something.

05-14-12, 02:05 PM
Another vote for Ed Wood.

Shannon Nutt
05-14-12, 02:28 PM
Ed Wood IS the correct answer here.

But this gives me a chance to mention how I think Edward Scissorhands is soooooo overrated. Not only do I think it's overrated, I actually don't even think it's a "good" movie.

Solid Snake
05-14-12, 03:57 PM
Ed Wood

also...this needs a poll.

05-14-12, 04:18 PM
Can someone list all their collaborations please. My answer is Ed Wood, but maybe I'm forgetting something.

Edward Scissorhands
Ed Wood
Sleepy Hollow
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
Corpse Bride
Sweeney Todd
Alice In Wonderland
Dark Shadows

Jules Winfield
05-14-12, 04:40 PM
Ed wood gives me wood. Followed by Edward Scissorhands which gets me semi hard.

05-14-12, 04:45 PM
Edward Scissorhands
Ed Wood
Sleepy Hollow
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
Corpse Bride
Sweeney Todd
Alice In Wonderland
Dark ShadowsWith the exception of the bolded titles that reads like a list of Tim Burton's worst films. These two love to work together but their track record is awful.

05-14-12, 05:01 PM
That just reads like a list of all the films Burton has made since 1990 (though it does exclude two of his worst, Mars Attacks and Planet of the Apes.)

(Which is to say that I don't think the problem is Depp, but rather with Burton's general lack of creativity/storytelling abilities over the last 20 years.)

05-14-12, 05:19 PM
man oh man, Mars Attacks gets such hatred here, I thought it was a riot! I do agree though that 'Planet of the Apes' sucked monkey balls.

The Antipodean
05-14-12, 05:28 PM
Planet of the apes. I love how accurately Johnny Depp managed to portray Marky Mark.

05-14-12, 05:59 PM
While I realize it does not star Johnny Depp I will stick up for Mars Attacks! It's probably his best film after Pee-Wee and Beetlejuice.

05-14-12, 06:16 PM
While I realize it does not star Johnny Depp I will stick up for Mars Attacks! It's probably his best film after Pee-Wee and Beetlejuice.Agree completely.

05-14-12, 06:22 PM
I don't much like Pee-Wee or Beetlejuice either - I don't dislike them like I dislike some of his later films, but I won't be unhappy if I never see them again.

I think the early 90s were by far his most artistically successful period, with only two or three decent or good movies since then.

05-14-12, 06:41 PM
While I realize it does not star Johnny Depp I will stick up for Mars Attacks! It's probably his best film after Pee-Wee and Beetlejuice.


05-14-12, 07:06 PM
Sleepy Hollow by a long mile, though I have not seen Dark Shadows yet.

Sleepy Hollow is my wife and I's go to "Scary" Halloween movie.

05-14-12, 07:44 PM
Ed Wood. I used to watch that a lot as a kid, got pissed when it was loaned to family friends and we never got it back!

05-14-12, 07:49 PM
The Ed's get top spot... Ed Wood then Edward Scissorhands. I cherish my re-called first print of that DVD.

05-14-12, 09:09 PM
I think Mars Attacks is vomitously bad. It's only topped by Alice In Wonderland, which has been known to give children rickets.

And my favorite Tim Burton film is still Batman Returns.

05-15-12, 05:46 AM
Edward Scissorhands, then Ed Wood, then Sleepy Hollow. After that, it's all hacky. I remember once when Burton made some joke about the Harry Potter films all being the same - kind of a fair point, but those that live in glass houses...

05-15-12, 07:19 AM
Ed Wood is oddly enough his straightest and most pure film. Sleepy Hollow is a close second.

05-15-12, 09:15 AM
My personal favorite is Sleepy Hollow with Edward Scissorhands being a close second.


I'll also give a shoutout to Mars Attacks, which I find hilarious and quite underrated. :)