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Monday
Oct072019

Remembering "Ed Wood" on its 25th

Ed Wood opened nationwide on this very day, 25 years ago. 

by Anna

There’s an admirable irony in that a biopic on the worst director of all time ended up being one of the best-reviewed movies of 1994. The added fact that it ended up being largely ignored by mainstream audiences at the time seems almost fitting. As the second of Burton and Depp’s repeat collaborations, it further set the precedent for all their future collaborations exploring the odd man (in every sense of the term) amid everyday life. But instead of the Frankenstein pastiche that defined their previous film, this one is about someone who has endless stories to tell… even though he doesn’t have the talent to tell them.

Screenwriters Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski have an affinity for the unconventional real-life story

In the years following Ed Wood, they would write the scripts for The People vs. Larry Flynt, Man on the Moon, Big Eyes (also directed by Burton), several episodes of The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story, and more recently Dolemite Is My Name, as well as producing Auto Focus. That’s not to say they’ve been pigeonholed with such material, rather to praise them for telling such stories with their own take (One can handle the usual cookie cutter biopic for only so long.)

Of course, there are the standard liberties taken in Ed Wood. It ignores the fact that Bela Lugosi (Martin Landau in a justly-deserved Oscar-winning role) was in fact not completely alone in life by the time Ed started casting him in his pictures (it was his soon-to-be-ex-wife Lillian Arch who compelled him to accept Glen or Glenda – for a higher asking fee, and he had re-married following his stint in rehab), and Lugosi’s son wasn’t fond of how the film depicted his father as foul-mouthed. Dolores Fuller (played by Sarah Jessica Parker) in turn didn’t like how the film diminished her role in Wood’s filmmaking, how Wood’s alcoholism was glossed over, and she really didn’t take well to being depicted as a smoker. (That all being said, both Lugosi and Fuller did praise the film.)

In a weird twist of fate, the careers of several cast members suffered in the years that followed the release of Ed Wood.

Depp’s once-shining reputation was thoroughly tarnished by accusations of domestic abuse by ex-wife Amber Heard (and that’s all that shall be said about that). In 2002, Jeffrey Jones was required to register as a sex offender after pleading no contest to charges of soliciting an underaged boy for nude photographs (and thus making any and all subsequent Ferris Bueller’s Day Off re-watches extremely uncomfortable). Still, there are those amongst the cast whose careers flourished after Ed Wood; Parker would be on Sex and the City within five years, Patricia Arquette would become an Oscar winner for Boyhood, and Bill Murray would become a Wes Anderson staple after appearing in Rushmore (as well as earning an Oscar nomination for Lost in Translation).

In the quarter-century since its release, Ed Wood brought its subject back to the forefront amongst movie lovers. Granted, more towards those who prefer the “so bad it’s good” subset of classic but hey, Wood himself would be happy that people remember him at all. And that’s something the film captures best: even when the odds are very much against him and doors start slamming in his face, Ed always remains positive about what he’s doing.


 

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Reader Comments (10)

The film is melancholic, self-deprecating and sensitive, with Burton's camera really interested in its characters. You want to know more about these people when the movie ends. And whatta cinematography, art direction and costumes! For me the only flaw of the movie is Depp. He's not Mastroianni or Lemmon, who had long partnerships with their respective masters, like Depp and Burton. He's not able to play any role.

October 7, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterSamuel

@Samuel Well, as I said, this was only the second film between Burton and Depp. Maybe they were still becoming familiar with how the other worked.

October 7, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterAnna

Best American film of 1994

October 7, 2019 | Unregistered Commenterken s.

What a GREAT film! I just realised Burton used Bill Murray in his new melancholic, understated mode four years before Wes Anderson in Rushmore. Another great detail is how it depicts a group of friends where not everything has to be related to the leader: Murray tells his sad story not to Depp but to the strong man!

October 7, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterWimsey

It captured the 50's to me,that any1 can give it a try attitude,Landau is fantastic but i'd still give the supporting award to Jackson.

October 7, 2019 | Unregistered Commentermarkgordonuk

I LOVED this movie and every one in it!!!

October 7, 2019 | Unregistered Commenterrdf

For me, Martin Landau's performance here belongs to the summit of all Best Supporting Actor winners along with Walter Huston, Walter Matthau, Gig Young, Jack Nicholson (83), Christoph Waltz (09). He's almost too good for an Oscar.

October 7, 2019 | Unregistered Commenterken s.

In the 2008 Oscars In memoriam, the one with Queen Latifah singing "I'll be seeing you", they included Maila Numri and she got a "Vampira" subtitle, which made me really happy.

October 7, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterWimsey

Martin Landau's win for Best Supporting Actor is hands down my all time favorite win in the category.

October 7, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterEli

One of the best films ever made about Hollywood

October 7, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterJaragon

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