One of the main things I think ought to be done in order to give the United States the push it needs to make it out of the Middle Ages is allow synagogues, churches, mosques and other places of worship to be made financially responsible for "acts of God." Think about it. How loud will these evangelist charlatans be in proclaiming themselves mouthpieces of some Almighty figure when they can get hit with a $20 million lawsuit for consistently lousy weather?
"Really? Worst film you ever saw. Well, my next one will be better.
Because it was Easter Sunday, I had nothing to do so I was able to finish up The Office special and turn my attentions to the DVD of Ed Wood, which I had purchased last week. This is a really nifty package, featuring a great transfer of the film, a couple of short pieces on different aspects of the production and an illuminating commentary track.
I find many of Tim Burton's commentaries annoying because he tends to trail off a lot if he's alone, but if he has somebody to play off of, there can be a lot more gleaned; this one has not only his own comments, but those of screenwriters Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski (recorded together) and Martin Landau, who amiably hosts the track in his Bela Lugosi voice. This is clearly a project that everybody involved had a lot of affection for, and so even though the film didn't do well it is one that is clearly something to be proud of. One of the documentaries concentrate on the portrayal of Bela Lugosi, featuring interviews with Martin Landau and make-up artist Rick Baker, both of whom won Oscars for their work on this film. There's also a nice piece on the theremin, which is played by moving one's hands around a field generated by the instrument. It had a very unique flavor that was used in many science-fiction scores of the period (most notably in Bernard Herrmann's The Day the Earth Stood Still).
This is my favorite Tim Burton film, and the one that I often point at as being proof that he can produce art, Planet of the Apes notwithstanding. It is clearly one of his most personal projects, and it is one that speaks to artists world over. Burton addresses this in the commentary track, where he comments that when one is working on a project that one must convince oneself that it is the most important project in history, or one runs the risk of not giving it their all. There is that nagging feeling that one gets that they are laboring on drek, and that all of one's bravado is nothing more than those attributes of Edward D. Wood Jr. himself: an unkillable enthusiasm combined with a singular lack of talent.
suitboyskin brought to my attention the disturbing fact that there are people out there who have never come into contact with an Ed Wood picture, and are only familiar with him from this movie... Apparently, Burton's influence on the Goth scene has caused there to be a misconception there about the quality of his work. While Wood's incompetence is quite clear in the movie, the idea that Burton would make a biopic out of the life of somebody whose work was complete and utter crap is a strange one, so many Goths apparently assume that Wood was a maverick filmmaker who was being kept down by The Man. That's really interesting. Suit says the best thing to do in a case like that is to show one of them an actual Ed Wood movie, and that the reaction is very funny.
Stefan Czapsky's black and white photography was a practical choice that works wonderfully aesthetically, giving the flavor, if not the actual retardedness, of an actual Ed Wood picture. Howard Shore's bubbly score is great fun, combining the tropes of science-fiction scoring of the period, the blustery sound of the library tracks Wood would score his films with, Tchaikovsky's Swan Lake as a theme for Bela (Swan Lake was used as the title music in 1931's Dracula) and the Cuban rhythms that were such a large part of the popular music of the period.
When one watches the film, one can't help but feel touched by this band of incompetent losers. Eddie (Johnny Depp) can't do a damn thing right, but he forges on anyway, convinced that he's being true to his vision. The film's most blatant license is a chance meeting between Wood and his idol, Orson Welles, and while it is clearly a work of fiction, it is thematically perfect (if anybody reading this is planning on making another film with Welles as a character, they should definitely cast Vincent D'Onofrio, who nails Welles in a way that Liev Shrieber's game attempt in RKO 281 really didn't). Wood's enthusiasm was infectious, and so he managed to collect a ragtag group of misfits such as Tor Johnson (George "The Animal" Steele), Vampira (Lisa Marie), Criswell (Jeffrey Jones) and Bunny Beckinridge (Bill Murray), all of whom cling in some way, shape or form to the "can-do" spirit that Wood radiates. Of course, he couldn't do, and perhaps there is a warning there as well.
But the soul of the film is the relationship between Wood and Bela Lugosi (Landau). By the time Wood met Lugosi, the actor's career was long since over as he succumbed to morphine. The relationship that the two of them struck up is touching as portrayed in the film. Lugosi is sad and alone, having driven away his friends and family. Landau does a fantastic job of conveying that this was a man of great dignity whose star has long since faded into obscurity and the muddle of drug addiction. Wood comes into his life and gives him that one last touch of celebrity. Of course, in the end the joke was on Lugosi, but for the last few years of his life he at least had some sense of human connection.
Juliette Landau, Drusilla on Buffy and Angel and daughter of Martin, is also featured as ingenue Loretta King. Speaking of Buffyverse actors and the other characters they have played, I made the mental connection a few weeks ago that Mercedes McNab had appeared in the two Addams Family movies, albiet in different roles. She's the Girl Scout selling cookies in the first, and she's Wednesday's archnemesis at Camp Chippewa in the second. I knew she looked familiar.