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Wednesday, July 23, 2014

My 40 Favorite Films of the 90's - 15 - Ed Wood (1994)

Ed Wood (1994; Touchstone Pictures)
Director: Tim Burton
Writers: Rudolph Grey, Scott Alexander
Starring: Johnny Depp, Martin Landau, Sarah Jessica Parker, Jeffrey Jones

Edward R. Wood, Jr. is one of the most captivating and bizarre anomalies in the history of filmmaking.  Hardcore movie fans know his name.  He is the legend behind such “disasterpieces” as Plan 9 from Outer Space, Bride of the Monster, and (most notoriously) Glen or Glenda.  Widely-regarded as one of the absolute worst filmmakers in the history of the medium, Ed Wood’s story makes for some great comedy.  This is a funny and heartfelt tribute to a filmmaker whose schlock was once mocked, but is now considered an inspiration to many hopeful artists.

Ed Wood chronicles the rocky career of the titular director who, along with a small band of friends, created some of the worst movies ever made.  It explores everything from Wood’s boundless enthusiasm, to the aging Bela Lugosi’s crippling addiction.  The legends and myths about Wood’s less-scrupulous tactics are drawn and highlighted as comical moments of weakness fueled by desperation.  It all comes together to make a bright, cheerful and warmhearted tribute to the storied director and his endless, and very much deluded, optimism.

Johnny Depp gives my favorite performance of his celebrated career here.  He plays Wood as a fast-talking Hollywood man who is crippled by his immense lack of talent, which he always fails to see or admit.  Every touch and idea of Wood’s quirky filmmaking is presented in Depp’s energetic, bright-eyed performance.  Alongside Depp is a cast of supporting performances that just nail their real-life counterparts perfectly for anyone who has seen a film by Wood (I own both Bride and Plan 8 on DVD).  Martin Landau landed a Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his portrayal of the sad and broken Lugosi, the former star of the legendary film Dracula who, by the time Ed Wood came into his life, was a shell of his former self.  It is a heartbreaking and loving piece of acting from a legendary performer.

Tim Burton directs Ed Wood as a black and white picture attempting to recreate some of Wood’s style.  He shows us the ins and outs of Wood’s more infamous moments, all taken from a book that was a first-hand account of the notorious director’s dedication to his art.  This is both a loving tribute and a brutally-honest expose, and is a must-see for anyone who loves film, or is interested in gaining a further understanding the medium.  

Succumbing to cliche, I end with Criswald’s famous line from Plan 9 From Outer Space:  “And remember my friend... future events such as these will affect YOU in the future.”

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