Tuesday, April 29, 2014

the Directors: Tim Burton

To this day, it’s damn difficult to compare Tim Burton’s films to any other films but his own. Burton is rare in that way; he’s created such a unique body of work, all rooted in his macabre sensibilities. At their best, Burton’s films are genre defining explorations into the odd. They brilliantly capture the isolation of man through a juxtaposition of American Goth and suburban boredom. At their worst, they are dull, self-reflective exercises that carry little weight.

Burton has had it rough in the 21st century, delivering an occasional minor hit, accompanied by many misses. This year, he returns to isolated drama with Big Eyes, a biopic about Margaret Keane starring Amy Adams. While I eagerly await that film, I thought I’d take a look back through Burton’s career. Here’s what worked and what didn’t, all within the confines of Burton’s distinctively obscure area of the sandbox.

Vincent (Short, 1982)
Tim Burton directed a handful of short films early in his career (Stalk of the Celery Monster, his thesis film at Cal Arts, is the short that landed him a job at Disney), but two in particular deserve specific mention. First is Vincent, a 6 minute stop-motion animated short about a boy with a vivid imagination who idolizes Vincent Price. Price himself narrates the short, itself a promising display of artistic expression. Price was Burton’s cinematic hero, and I simply can’t imagine the joy Burton got from working with such a legend. B

Frankenweenie (Short, 1984) 
Burton’s breakout short, Frankenweenie, is about a young boy who brings his recently slain dog back to life through a clever electrical science experiment. Financed by Disney for $1 million, the film stars Shelley Duvall and Daniel Stern as the boy’s parents, and includes an amusing cameo from Sofia Coppola (credited as “Domino”) as a frightened neighborhood girl. For fans of Burton’s work, it is a real pleasure to watch the short today and see the genesis of Burton’s signature style. Burton was just 25 years old when the movie was made, but the short has the confidence of a seasoned pro. B+

Pee-wee’s Big Adventure (1985)
Pee-wee’s Big Adventure is one of those films that defines my childhood. I can’t tell you how many times I watched this movie as a kid – wishing I had Pee-wee’s magic breakfast-making invention(s), laughing at Pee-wee fighting France-Ass in the pool, marveling at the massive Cabazon Dinosaurs, dancing to “Tequila,” loving the inside glimpse of the Warner Bros. back lot. This is the type of film in which quality is not important; all that matters is that it meant a great deal to me at a time in my life when I was looking for anything to mean a great deal to me.

Thankfully, Pee-wee’s Big Adventure actually is a good movie. It’s a strong debut from a filmmaker who boldly asserted his unique vision into every frame of the film. Many movies have somewhat similar plots to this one, but very few look and feel as new as Pee-wee’s Big Adventure. A-

Bettlejuice (1988)
Bettlejuice is Tim Burton at his most endearingly macabre. The film is an ingenious juxtaposition from Leave it to Beaver fantasyland and Hell on Earth, but what makes it particularly great is that the only possible way to classify it is as a Tim Burton film. There’s simply nothing else to compare it to. Tim Burton has always invited us to lovingly observe the dark corner of his world, with Bettlejuice being, inarguably, one of his best invitations yet.

One final thought: as the title character of this film, Michael Keaton gives one of my all-time favorite performances. It’s an actor unhinged, completely void of pretension. Manic, hysterical, and utterly fascinating. I still can’t believe he’s only in the film for 18 minutes. A

Batman (1989)
In terms of unbiased opinions, I’m the ideal person to review a movie like Batman. I know next to nothing about the original comics, and am thereby unburdened with how dedicated the film is to its source material. I’m able to judge Batman (and, really, all other comic book films) as a standalone film. With that noted, I’m happy to say that I’ve always dug Burton’s Batman. There’s Michael Keaton doing a complete 180 from Bettlejuice, Kim Basinger adoringly playing a damsel in distress, Robert Wuhl being Robert Wuhl (a compliment), and, of course, Jack Nicholson creating one of cinema’s most iconic villains.

The film’s signature dark atmosphere, accompanied by Danny Elfman’s thrilling musical score, help sustain the moody tone throughout, but really, the star of this show is Nicholson. Whether he’s bopping around to Prince, or openly mocking Jack Palance, Nicholson’s Joker singlehandedly makes Batman worth revisiting again and again. A-

Edward Scissorhands (1990)
Edward Scissorhands represents the best of everything Tim Burton has to offer. It’s a sardonic critique on American suburbia, an indictment on cultural segregation; it’s dark, twisted, funny and profound. It’s a film about how we’re quick to judge that which we do not understand. A common theme in films, certainly, but because Edward Scissorhands is married to Burton’s distinct style so seamlessly, the film becomes (and remains) something far from ordinary.

I’m not sure if Johnny Depp has been better. In 1990, Depp was riding high off the success of 21 Jump Street, he could’ve had any role he wanted, yet he chose one that required very little speaking and severely altered his physical appearance. In doing this, Depp proved that he was a performer fully willing to give himself to the material. It’s a captivating, star making turn that made a great film even better. From the many splendid performances, to the chic cookie-cutter art direction, to Elfman’s beautiful score, Edward Scissorhands is a masterful vision from a wholly unique mind. A+

Batman Returns (1992)
There was something about Batman Returns that never really did it for me. Perhaps it was Danny DeVito, who, while giving a creepy performance as the Penguin, was a villain I never found remotely intimidating. Or maybe it was Christopher Walken, and how he seemed to be milking the most exaggerated aspects of his personality. Could have been Michael Keaton, who played it curiously safe compared to his other outings with Burton. For whatever reason, I wrote Batman Returns off and didn’t think about it for years.

Then, just for the hell of it, I decided to give the flick a fresh spin a few months ago, and I discovered a very different film than the one I remembered. No, I still don’t find the Penguin menacing, but DeVito is perfectly cast, and owns the character’s grotesqueness throughout. Michelle Pfeiffer, as Catwoman, is also superb, playing innocence lost to great success. Batman Returns isn’t as accomplished as its predecessor, but I was so pleased to discover how well it has aged. B

Ed Wood (1994)
Very few filmmakers could make such a great movie about the worst director of all time. Part of the fun in watching Burton’s Ed Wood is realizing that Wood and Burton aren’t really that dissimilar. They’re both genre filmmakers, passionate about telling unique stories in unique ways. Money matters little, the power of art trumps all. Obviously, Burton has a more honed in vision for his films, but his encapsulation of the young, idealistic Ed Wood remains one of his finest achievements.

Much of this can be credited to Johnny Depp, who gives one of his most mature performances as Wood. Part tortured genius, part unequivocal fool, there’s a specific charm Depp brought to Wood that makes the performance endure. While rewatching the film last week, I found myself appreciating it so much more. Arguably the most sincere movie to spawn from the Burton/Depp collaboration. A

Mars Attacks! (1996)
Mars Attacks! is a completely decent genre picture – big and silly and fun, consistently aware of its own stupidity. It’s one of those old school disaster films: get a hefty budget, pack the flick with stars, throw in some bitchin’ special effects, and let the good times roll. If viewed as parody, Mars Attacks! works quite well. This isn’t to call the film great (don’t be serious), but rather, to call it what it is: a goofy B-movie spoof that owns itself throughout. If Ed Wood were alive in 1996, he would’ve absolutely adored Mars Attacks!, which is meant as a proud endorsement. B-

Sleepy Hollow (1999)
Stepping away from the kitschy sentimentality of Mars Attacks!, Burton delivered a pitch black, hard-R take on Washington Irvin’s “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow.” Sure, the quirkiness of Ichabod Crane (Johnny Depp) and the film’s ghoulish production design (captured expertly through Emmanuel Lubezki’s lens) make it obvious that this is indeed a Tim Burton movie, but overall, Sleepy Hollow is one of the darkest efforts of Burton’s career.

Above all else, I appreciate how unflinching this film is with its violence. Much of the aggression in Burton’s films is purposefully cartoonish, thereby fitting comfortably within a family-friendly rating. But Sleepy Hollow pushes things in a way Burton rarely does. It’s a dangerous film that Burton and his cast (namely Christopher Walken, who plays the Headless Horseman with fiery glee) fully embrace. I always enjoy revisiting the film and admiring its dark world. B+

Planet of the Apes (2001)
This one does nothing for me. It’s a poorly acted, wildly unnecessary remake that does very little to better the careers of anyone involved. Save, notably, makeup guru Rick Baker, whose contribution to the film is admittedly worthy of praise. But otherwise, I saw Planet of the Apes the weekend it was released in theaters, and hadn’t attempted to watch it again before this post. A few days ago, I managed to make it through the first act before turning it off, so I suppose that counts for something. D-

Big Fish (2003)
What I admire most about Big Fish is the way it depicts family separation. When two people who are related decide to stop speaking to one another, rarely is it a conscious decision by either of them. One is usually fed up with the other, and they simply cease making or taking the others’ calls. Months pass, then a year. And one day, you realize you haven’t spoken to your father in three years. Maybe you realized your life was a little easier without him in it. Maybe he was too stubborn to pick up the phone and make amends. That’s what I love about the opening moments of this film, its subtle understanding that separation is gradual, not defined by just one specific moment of deceit.

Sadly, I can’t say that I’m as transfixed by the rest of the film. I appreciate the performances by everyone involved (if only there were more of Billy Crudup and Marion Cotillard), and love that Burton tackled some mature material while injecting it with his unique sensibilities. But ultimately, I grow tired of Big Fish’s gimmick slightly before its exceptional conclusion. Give me just the beginning and end of this film, and we’re all set. B-

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (2005)
My feelings about Charlie and the Chocolate Factory are varied and borderline nonsensical. On one hand, I’m happy to admit that Johnny Depp is hysterical in this film. He gives himself over to Willy Wonka, delightfully inhabiting all of the character’s quirks. Additionally, Freddie Highmore gives a loving performance as Charlie, and David Kelly has a ball as Grandpa Joe. Why then do I have trouble recommending this film? What about Charlie and the Chocolate Factory leaves me with an overall air of indifference?

It isn’t due to my boundless appreciation of Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory, a film I will forever love. I’m fully able to separate the two. I suppose Charlie and the Chocolate Factory doesn’t work for me because it’s simply too much. Too long, too loud, too bright – too much. I can find no real, egregious faults with it, but I have no interest in revisiting it either. Not good or bad, it just is. C+

Tim Burton’s Corpse Bride (2005)
Similarly to Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, I have a generally blasé attitude toward Corpse Bride. An animated musical fantasy isn’t exactly my preferred type of film, yet I give credit to Burton for going back to his animation roots and attempting to break fresh ground. Interestingly, the film was shot on the consumer-grade (barring you’re a wealthy consumer) Canon 1D, making the film pop wonderfully. But beyond its aesthetic charm, Corpse Bride fails to stand out in any sort of memorable way. C

Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (2007)
I’m in the minority concerning my dissenting opinions about Burton’s Sweeney Todd. The film begins well enough, with an innocent barber (Johnny Depp) escaping prison and returning to London with one hell of a vendetta. But once Sweeny Todd has his first taste of blood, the film quickly slides downhill. Stuck in a never ending repetition of slit, spill, crunch, song, slit, spill, crunch song, the film’s violence grows dull and uninteresting, and the fact this is scored to songs that are neither good nor poor only adds to the monotony.

Now, as is often the case with Burton’s films, Sweeny Todd looks fantastic (Dante Ferretti’s art direction justly won an Oscar), and I certainly give the filmmaker credit for going darker than he ever had. But ultimately, my thoughts on Sweeny Todd are identical to many of Burton’s recent films: there is nothing remarkable and nothing awful about it. It’s simply middle brow, lost in a sea of other, better films of its kind. C-

Alice in Wonderland (2010)
Alice in Wonderland, however, is far from middle brow, as it is one of the worst films I’ve seen in the past few years. I remember watching this in the theater a few years ago and being plagued by useless 3D, an incoherent plot, headache-inducing CGI, piercing accents, and God knows what else. I was a newspaper film critic at the time, so I was literally paid to see this movie, and that was barely enough motivation to keep me from walking out. But hey, although Alice in Wonderland wasn’t for me, it did go on to gross more than $1 billion worldwide, so, you know, there’s that. D-

Dark Shadows (2012)
The idea of an ancient vampire waking up in ‘70s London could be gold for Tim Burton and Johnny Depp. It’s a sort of off-kilter take on Edward Scissorhands – the outsider, lost and abandoned on his own. But unfortunately, the two do little to capitalize on the material, letting Dark Shadows drift into half laughs and a muddled narrative. The film’s plot is overly complicated and eventually goes nowhere, and the ensemble cast, while impressive (always great to see Michelle Pfeiffer), is too stacked to make room for standouts. As usual, the film is visually splendid, as captured through the lens of Bruno Delbonnel (Amélie, Inside Llewyn Davis), but as a whole, it doesn’t add up to anything of real significance. C-

Frankenweenie (2012)
Much of my appreciation for Burton’s full length Frankenweenie is the notion of never forgetting where you came from. I find it very noble that Burton revisited the material that helped define his career 30 years earlier. For this full length version, Burton adopts a fully animated narrative, but maintains the style and sense of humor of his original short. The talented cast, including Burton vets Catherine O’Hara, Martin Landau and Winona Ryder, all contribute stellar voice work, maintaining a delightful vibe throughout. If you’re a fan of Burton’s stop-motion film, you’ll undoubtedly enjoy the film. Others may find that, even at 87 minutes long, it runs a tad long. B

Big Eyes (to be released Nov. 2014)
Big Eyes is a drama about famed painter Margaret Keane. The film was penned by Ed Wood screenwriters Scott Alexander & Larry Karaszewski and stars Amy Adams and Keane, and Christoph Waltz as her husband. Here’s to hoping this marks a return to dramatic form for Burton.

In Summation
Edward Scissorhands
Ed Wood

Pee-wee’s Big Adventure
Sleepy Hollow

Vincent (short)
Frankenweenie (short)
Batman Returns
Mars Attacks!
Big Fish

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
Tim Burton’s Corpse Bride
Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street
Dark Shadows

Just Plain Bad
Planet of the Apes
Alice in Wonderland


  1. For me so far...

    1. Beetlejuice
    2. Pee-Wee's Big Adventure
    3. Edward Scissorhands
    4. Ed Wood
    5. Batman
    6. Big Fish
    7. Batman Returns
    8. Sleepy Hollow
    9. Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street
    10. Charlie & the Chocolate Factory (it's kind of a guilty pleasure)
    11. Mars Attacks!
    12. Dark Shadows (that was terrible)
    13. Alice in Wonderland (that sucked too, too much CGI)
    14. Planet of the Apes (the least Burton film of his career and his worst ever)

    I haven't seen the shorts nor the feature film version of Frankenweenie and Corpse Bride. I want the old Tim Burton to return with Bo Welch in the production design and take Burton away from the fucking computers.

    1. Great picks, love that we dig the same Burton flicks. I really want to old Burton back as well. Get rid of the computers and bring back the immaculate production design. Maybe Big Eyes will be his chance to do so...?

  2. I'm glad you made a post about Burton! I haven't seen many of his films, but he has such a cool and unique style that I admire. I really enjoyed his take on Batman and my favorite of his is Chocolate Factory. That was one of my favorite films when I was younger and I just thought it was so fun and dark.

    1. Glad you like the post! I really like his Batman as well. It has such a Burton-meets-'80s vibe to it that is just priceless.

  3. Oh yaay Burton! Burton was probably my first favourite Hollywood filmmaker. I still adore most of his films. The only ones I don't like are Planet of the Apes, which terrified me as a kid and kinda still does, and Dark Shadows, which was just bleh. I find things like Pee Wee (which I saw this year and it *was* a tad annoying watching it as an adult) and Charlie and Alice cute and fun enough. I properly love the rest of his filmography. Edward Scissorhands it my favourite too. It's the perfect blend of the two kinds of narratives I love- on one hand it is hopeful and colourful and romantic and on the other it is dark and twisted. Oh and I LOVE Batman Returns. It's my favourite Batman movie after The Dark Knight. Pfeiffer's Catwoman <3 <3

    Also, I'm sad that the whole Burton-Depp-Carter collaborations have become so, well, boring now. I hope they all take a break from each other and like fix their own careers (mostly just Depp) and then do something again in like 5-10 years.

    And and I have seen all the films here! Except Big Eyes, duh. I hope it's awesome.

    1. I had no idea you were such a fan of his! I can see Pee-wee being too much for an adult, but man, as a kid, films didn't get much better than that. So happy to hear you appreciate Edward Scissorhands, such a unique and endearing film.

      I've given up on Depp. It really is very sad what's become of his career. With the exception of Public Enemies, I haven't really liked him in a film in 10 years. But he's making more money than ever, so, more power to him.

      Really hope Big Eyes is a hit too!

  4. Excellent post, AW. Incredibly well done. While I consider Burton to be one of my favorite directors of all time, his recent misfires have made me whisper that opinion rather than shout it. Batman was the movie that changed everything for me (I was ten) initially...but Edward Scissorhands, to me, is still the dictionary definition of Burton.

    I know you're right, but I can't fathom that Keaton was in Beetlejuice for only 18 minutes. That tidbit knocked me on my ass.

    I'm pretty much onboard with your rankings in full, outside of Big Fish, in my opinion, sitting far too low! That movie wavers in and out of my top ten every time I see it. The final ten minutes are flawless (but I love the rest, too).

    1. Thanks man! I didn't know you were such a fan of his, that's so cool. Scissorhands really is his magnum opus. American films, especially of that time, don't get much better.

      Keaton. 18 minutes. Can you believe it? I heard that stat a few years ago and called bullshit. Then I actually watched the flick and timed it myself. Just shy of 18 minutes. Insane.

      I want to like Big Fish more, I really do. I haven't seen it in a few years though. Maybe I'd appreciate it more now that I'm older. I love when that happens.

  5. Great post! I agree with almost all of these, but I have a soft spot for his 2000's films since I grew up watching them. Still, his films from the 1980s/1990s are still his best.

    Also, I wish the Academy had embraced more performances from Burton's films, especially Depp in Edward Scissorhands & Ed Wood, and, of course, Michael Keaton in Beetlejuice. Well, here's hoping Keaton gets a nod for Birdman!!

    1. I do love that the Academy gave Martin Landau an Oscar for Ed Wood, but I agree, Depp was overlooked for Scissorhands, as was Keaton for Bettlejuice. The Academy doesn't fare too well with unique, oddball films like Burton's. A shame.

      I'm really hoping Birdman is good. It seems like such a risk for everyone involved.

  6. Aw, Alice in Wonderland gets the same grade as Planet of the Apes? That's sad. I didn't hate Alice. :P

    I really need to see Ed Wood. I should start making my Blind Spot list for next year and stick that on there..

    1. Ed Wood is a fantastic little film, clearly made by a guy who adores B movies. Alice... yikes. I just can't do it. Shit hurts my head.

  7. Great choice for this series, Burton is a very interesting film maker and one who continues to intrigue me. Even now that I'm too old to regard Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Alice in Wonderland as good movies. My favorite is by far Sweeney Todd which may be repetitive but I like the things that are repeated a lot. Also love Sleepy Hollow which I've only seen once, as well as the Batman movies and Vincent. So you see I haven't even seen his most acclaimed movies but I will do so soon - and I'm very very excited for Big Eyes.

    1. I'd be really curious to hear your thoughts on Edward Scissorhands and Bettlejuice, and even Pee-wee. Those flicks represent a very, very different style for Burton. If you're a fan of his work, I think you'd really enjoy them!

  8. Burton is among my favorite directors. I really want him to do another film like Ed Wood. Maybe Big Eyes will be that film. (Key word is "maybe".)

    1. A very key word. Everything seems to be in place: great cast, great story... but we shall see.

  9. My list is a little different than yours. I love, love, love Sleepy Hollow - like #1 movie love Sleepy Hollow and I hate Dark Shadows, like zero stars or negative stars even dislike Dark Shadows. I didn't overtly dislike Alice in Wonderland as much as others, I'd actually switch it and Sweeney Todd. Otherwise a pretty grand order. Loved this list. So comprehensive and telling about Burton's career. Cheers.

    PS. A way to tweet your posts on the site would be great if possible.

    1. Hey there, thanks so much for stopping by and commenting. Sleepy Hollow is one of those films I like a little more every time I watch it. A solid film there. Dark Shadows... I dunno, I might've disliked it more had I been paying strict attention throughout, but I wasn't. Oh well.

      And thanks for the push about the Twitter button. I've been meaning to do that for quite some time.

    2. Thanks for the tweet buttons! Yay!

    3. Thank YOU for the push. I've been meaning to do that for a while now. And thanks for tweeting the article!

  10. Love the list. I'm a pretty big fan of his work as a whole, but agree his recent stuff is not nearly as good. I will say, though I rather enjoyed Corpse Bride, Sweeney Todd, and Frankenweenie. Oddly, I've never watched more than 10 minutes here or there of Beetlejuice. I need to change that.

    I also saw Pee Wee's Big Adventure at 14, the weekend it came out in theaters, when I had no clue who Tim Burton was, and...hated it. I think it caught me in that spot where I was both too old and too young to "get it." I know how much everyone loves it, but I've never bothered going back to it. Maybe I will. Maybe.

    Burton's Bat-flicks are interesting to me. I always say the first one is the better movie, but the second is more of a true Burton film. That first one just feels like it's Burton's vision as filtered through the WB big-wigs who had everything riding on it. This makes it a more accessible version of Burton's world. The reins were let loose on Batman Returns and he just went full-blown Burton all over it. It's still a solid movie, but way too bizarre for many of the people just wanting to see a fun, comic-book flick.

    And Michelle Pfeiffer's portrayal of Catwoman is by far the best anyone has ever done with the character.

    1. Okay, first off, I could've written what you just said about his Batman films, because I fully agree with every word. That was a perfect way to put it.

      Beetlejuice: yes, please, do watch it. So zany and great.

      Pee-wee: I get exactly what you're saying. BUT, I would be interested to hear what you think of it today. There are so many obscure film references in it that I think the older you would appreciate. Hopefully.

      Thanks so much for the comment!

  11. I really hope Burton makes a comeback with Big Eyes (which sounds awesome already based on the story and cast involved) because I'm with you more or less in terms of ratings. I think I like Sweeney Todd a bit more than you - and hate Dark Shadows a bit more than you but otherwise we more or less line up. Recently his output has felt like more and more of a parody of the style he created and developed early on, which is sad because films like Beetlejuice and The Nightmare Before Christmas (which he produced and obviously shows a great amount of influence from his style) defined my childhood as well. I so want him to make a comeback by doing something interesting and strange.

    1. His career has turned into a self-reflected parody, hasn't it? Damn shame. Big Eyes... honestly, I'm expecting a sort of nostalgic, warmhearted film in the vein of Big Fish, but who the hell knows. With Burton, you never can tell.

  12. Great post! I really, really love some of his movies - Edward Scissorhands, Sleepy Hollow Sweeney Todd, Big Fish - they are all in my top 50, the last one very high up too. But his recent efforts - Frankenweenie I agree felt a tad too long even for such a short run-time, Alice was filled with such awful CGI and what could have been a great movie was completely soulless and butchered. And Dark Shadows...so bad. I'm really hoping both him and Depp finally stop being so lazy and go for creativity again, instead of using the same formula over and over.

    1. Thanks! I too agree that there's a certain level of laziness that has kicked in for both Burton and Depp. But, at the same time, I understand it, because they're both making more money than they ever have. Just a shame, really. Here's hoping the best for Big Eyes.

  13. "If only there were more of Billy Crudup and Marion Cotillard"... couldn't agree more with that! Both of them are two of my favorite - which reminds me I can’t wait to see them on the film they did directed by Guillaume Canet - so it would have been great to see more of them. I pretty much agree on all your rates. I still can't believe how Alice was such a disaster. I love Wasikowska, such a pity the movie didn't work having her on the lead.

    My all-time favorites from Burton have to be Edward Scissorhands and Sleepy Hollow. I love Edward, but I think Sleepy Hollow would always be my top-favorite from him even if it’s not his best work. It is because it occurs to me the same that happens to you with Pee-wee. I was a big fan of the Sleepy Hollow's Disney version of the story narrated by Bing Crosby. It's funny how the movie scared the shit out of me the first time I saw it, with 7 or 8 years, but I loved the mystery about it, the Headless Horseman, Ichabod, Katrina van Tassel and all the characters were so funny and different to the other Disney characters that I knew. So when this premiered I couldn't wait to watch it, even with them changing some bits it had the scary vibe of the original story and I loved it. Ed Wood is also another personal favorite from Burton. And I liked a lot Frankenweenie's short and the film was quite entertaining. Hope his next projects are as good as his first films.

    1. First off... Blood Ties (the Canet/Crudup/Cotillard film), is a bit of a mess. Strong acting, but the story and plot are all over the place. I didn't hate it, but it didn't compel me to write a review of it or anything. Damn shame. Such a talented cast in there.

      Back to Burton: I LOVED that Disney version of Sleepy Hollow. It used to scare the shit out of me too! Burton's Sleepy Hollow is definitely a film I appreciate more everytime I watch it. For me, it's their last truly great film together. I'm hoping Big Eyes is a hit as well.

  14. It's always the eccentricity of Tim Burton which draws me towards his films. I couldn't agree more about Edward Scissorhands but I'd have to say that I would rate Corpse Bride considerably higher! Like you, I found Dark Shadows to be a huge disappointment. It really had everything going for it, so much potential. It is perhaps my least favourite Tim Burton film. It really was quite flat. I seriously hope he can pull out some of his tricks from his older days this year! Great post once again Alex. A great read.

    1. Thanks Angela! "Flat" that's a great word to describe Dark Shadows. It's a very bland, flat film. Corpse Bride is one I haven't seen since it was first released, so I wouldn't be opposed to revisiting it. So glad you're a fan of Edward Scissorhands. I absolutely adore that film.

  15. For me, Tim Burton has been in an "every other movie sucks" pattern since Mars Attacks (which I hated.) Sleepy Hollow, good, Planet of the Apes really bad. Big Fish excellent, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory not very good. Corpse Bride decent, Sweeney Todd sucked. Alice in Wonderland reasonably entertaining once I adjusted to the concept it wasn't a real Alice in Wonderland story, Dark Shadows wasn't horrible, but it wan't that good, either. Frankenweenie (the new one) decent. I obviously am worried about his newest one that is coming.

    1. I'm worried about his new one too. Damn shame, because there was a stretch there when the man simply couldn't miss. Glad to hear you like Sleepy Hollow, I think that's a solid film as well.

  16. I'm not sure if Burton can top Ed Wood, but I really need to give Edward Scissorhands another look. Big Eyes looks intriguing. Maybe Burton can get his first Directing Oscar nomination.

    1. I'm really hoping Big Eyes is a winner, we shall see. Ed Wood is genius filmmaking.

  17. Tim Burton was probably the first director i really became a fan of. He was definitely the first one i recognize only the style of the movie. All of his early work will have a special place in my heart for that. Sure, his work lately has been far from as good as he used to be. Dark Shadows felt like a bad parody of Tim Burton movies and Alice in Wonderland was probably the first movie i fell asleep to in the theaters since i was a kid. But hopefully Big Eyes can put the man back on track again. I can't believe you didn't like Big Fish though. That is definitely my second favorite Tim Burton movie after Ed Wood.

    1. I might have dozed off in Alice as well, but hell if I even remember. Shitty film there. I think a lot is riding on Big Eyes. He needs a good film, you know?

      And I didn't NOT like Big Fish, it's just never fully done it for me. B- is definitely not a bad grade though.

  18. I like Tim Burton so much, but I saw just a few films: Batman, Batman Returns, Alice in Wonderland, Dark Shadows, Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (In order). And I could say is one of the best directors, before saw the masterpieces of his career (Ed Wood, Frankenweenie, Big Fish, Beetlejuice) after he is my favorite directors and I am very surprised you don't say nothing about The Nightmare Before Christmas. It's the BEST stop-motion movie of all time.

    1. He really is a talented man with such a unique vision. I didn't talk about The Nightmare Before Christmas because I dedicate this column to the films that the subjects have directed, not just produced. If I discuss The Nightmare Before Christmas then I have to discuss James and the Giant Peach, 9, and... you get it. Still, I really appreciate you stopping by and commenting. Glad to hear your a Burton fan.

    2. Or you could write about movies where Burton written the screenplay.

    3. And what grade it gets The Nightmare Before Christmas (is any stop motion animation better)?

    4. I'd go with a B+, but I haven't seen it in years.

  19. The best way Burton should continue his career is to make a prequel of Ed Wood named Bela Lugosi. If he found the best actor to portrayed Bela Lugosi, he can find a new actor much younger to do this job.

    1. That sounds like a great idea for a film. Lugosi's early career was so accomplished. I'd love to see Burton dive into that world again.

  20. So, I have three favorite directors. Tarantino, Burton and Paul Thomas Anderson. I love Tim Burton's films. I first saw Batman (which blow my mind as a kid), Batman Returns(still great), Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (good before to see Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, now Eh), Alice in Wonderland (Which I liked...), Dark Shadows (redeemed by Michelle Pfeiffer and the cinematoghraphy) and then I read your Post. Masterful post. And I saw Big Fish(awesome), Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (a fine Johnny Deep performance and a great score), Bettlejuice (best horror comedy ever made), Ed Wood (I cried a lot, I laugh a lot; my favorite), Sleepy Hollow (cinematoghraphy was great, at the first time the film was just good, but now for my is great) and Frankenweenie(which is great, but not like The Nightmare Before Christmas). I still need to see Pee-wee’s Big Adventure, Mars Attacks!, Corpse Bride, Big Eyes and Edward Scissorhands(!). You recommend to see this films?

    I will never see Planet of the Apes(remake), I first saw a few minutes and then I turned off the TV. My father LOVES this piece of shit, and hates the others Burton's films (good or bad) because of Johnny Deep and the fact this are Fantasy fims.

    1. Thanks man, glad you dig the post. DEFINITELY see Edward Scissorhands. It's my favorite Burton film. So, so good. Really, a work of art. And Pee-wee's Big Adventure is a lot of fun as well. Both are very solid films.