8 Random Thoughts on “Ed Wood”


I’m slowly re-watching one of my favorite movies, and I’m naturally having thoughts:

1.) Johnny Depp does not have a modern acting style. He’s more of a performer than an actor. That’s not to say he’s not good, or that he’s not great. It’s to say that his acting style pre-dates Marlon Brando and the modern age, more like Edward G. Robinson than Sean Penn. He really shows this in “Ed Wood,” where he’s kind of doing an impression, but an impression of someone we don’t really know. But at the same time, it’s believable because he believes it. And the charm comes thru because of his abilities as a performer.

2.) This film may represent the high point of Sarah Jessica Parker’s career. There’s even that semi-in-joke in the beginning about the critic saying she looks like a horse.

3.) “Ed Wood” came out in what may be my favorite film year, 1994. Not coincidentally, that was the year I graduated high school and started college. I was becoming an adult, and forming my own opinions, and the movies of that time became very important to me. I don’t know how important all of them were, but they meant something to me.

4.) One thing that makes “Ed Wood” so interesting is how it is, basically, a very Hollywood movie. The underdog hero gets a very happy ending. That’s very Hollywood. Only this hero is a transvestite. And he makes horrible movies. And he doesn’t know how horrible the movies are. The structure is Hollywood. The angle is subversive.

5.) I’ve been invited to a Christmas gift exchange where you are supposed to bring your favorite movie or album as the grab bag gift, and I’m bringing “Ed Wood”… not really thinking about it as a possibly weird message. Knowing what I know about this crowd and the nervous humor that seems to emerge at such events, I’m positive someone is going to make a joke about how loving this movie means I’m admitting to cross-dressing. Let me be perfectly clear: I admit nothing.

6.) There’s a shot 3/4′s of the way through — during Bela’s funeral — where the coffin is lowered to reveal all the living characters in mourning, and it may be one of the best shots in any Tim Burton movie. It’s got motion, emotion, dark blacks, depth and an interesting angle, with just a little flair of Burton in Vampira/Lisa Marie’s pointy hat. The characters standing there are all vivid without saying a thing. They are clear, realistic, but different and differentiated. It was in seeing this shot during this revisit that I realized…

7.) This is one of the only times Tim Burton truly focused his “weird” through the character, rather than upon the character. Most Tim Burton movies look like funhouse times, with big production values and weird trees all around. And while it’s all pretty and cool looking, his general neglect of story usually ends up knocking the production off a bit in the end. “Batman Return” may be one of his most beautiful movies he’s ever done, but its story is a mess. With “Ed Wood,” the focus on character centers the movie in a believable, emotional place, focusing the movie beyond anything Burton’s impulses may have felt. And on THAT note…

8.) The cinematographer for “Ed Wood” was Stefan Czapsky, who only worked with Burton three times: here, “Edward Scissorhands” and the aforementioned beautiful-looking “Batman Returns.” I wonder why Burton never used him again. Same with Howard Shore, who did the score for “Ed Wood” — the only Burton movie to NOT feature Danny Elfman.

I’ll probably think of some more, but I’ll stop here for now. I really love it.


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