Ed Wood (1994)
Directed by Tim Burton
Written by Scott Alexander & Larry Karaszewski

The words that usually come forth when critics describe Tim Burton are ones like "weird," "Gothic," "twisted," and "dark." But beneath his "dark" exterior (which is about as genuinely "dark" as a Disney villain) beats a big cheesy heart. The "twisted/weird/dark" part makes enjoyable films, sure (Beetlejuice, Sleepy Hollow, even Batman), but it's the heart that brought us Edward Scissorhands, Pee-Wee's Big Adventure and his best of all, Ed Wood.

This film was made with about as much love as any film I can think of … Burton's affection for his subject fills every frame, capturing a sad but somehow hopeful story in an utterly uncompromising way. It doesn't look like most of his other films … the humor is different, the performances more truly wonderful instead of "over the top." It's black and white. The characters are as atypical as can be, but in a more down-to-earth way than Burton usually gets at.

I find myself using a lot of words to justify what is really a simple statement: I love this movie. Absolutely, unconditionally, through and through.

Based on the life of the man some consider to be the worst director ever, the film plays loose with the facts, but in the process serves up a story that means more than Wood's life ever did.

Watching Johnny Depp bound from scene to scene, almost never losing his "Let's make a film!" spirit, almost never losing his cool, no matter what obstacles present themselves, you may even miss the fact that Ed Wood is not on par with Orson Welles. The more you know of Wood and his films, the more you'll get out of it, but even if you're a total neophyte, you still get a slew of sweet relationships and hilarious/sad situations.

Front and center is Wood's relationship with Bela Lugosi (Martin Landau in an astonishing performance). Burton, I think, had a similar relationship with Vincent Price in the later years of that "ex-boogeyman's" life, so I can't help but think this is what makes Ed Wood, improbably, such an intimate experience.

There's also Wood's relationship with his first wife (Sarah Jessica Parker, in her one really glorious moment), who gradually disconnects with Eddie's bubble-world the weirder it gets. The tension of this relationship is relieved by the appearance of Wood's more accepting second wife (Patricia Arquette, barely speaking above a whisper, perfect, perfect) later in the film.

In between you get Criswell (Jeffrey Jones), Bunny Breckinridge (Bill Murray in one of his top two or three performances), Tor Johnson (George "The Animal" Steele), Vampira (Lisa Marie), Welles himself (Vincent D'Onofrio, morphologist extraordinaire) and a whole slew of "freaks and weirdos" that keep things moving along in an endlessly entertaining spectacle.

Depp is spellbinding, but, you know, he always is. The deep, deep heart of the movie belongs to Landau, who infuses his dialogue, much of it intentionally ridiculous, with a real sense of loss and surrender. His Lugosi is a man enslaved to drug addiction and regret, but most of all: a man. After seeing Ed Wood you will never see Bela the same again, no matter what kind of shit-ass monster movie you might watch him in.

I could go on and on and on and on and on … take this much away: there were few movies made in the 90s that even remotely hold a candle to the brilliance of Ed Wood. Warm, wistful, inspiring, and very, very funny, it is a film that glorifies its subject, giving both Wood and Lugosi a beautiful eulogy. Neither one could have made this film, but thank God Burton did.

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Loud Bassoon rating scale

Review by Orly Patel