film

Old School Review: “Ed Wood” (1994)

Written by Larry Karaszewski and Scott Alexander, and directed by Tim Burton, “Ed Wood” is a comedic biopic about the famed cult film director who infamously made the worst film of all time in “Plan 9 from Outer Space”. This film is partly adapted from the book “Nightmare of Ecstasy: The Life and Art of Edward D. Wood Jr.” by Rudolph Grey. Admittedly, this is a film that I hadn’t heard of until I caught an episode of “re:View” on the youtube channel Red Letter Media in which they thoroughly discussed the Tim Burton adaption and the filmmaker Ed Wood himself. This might be my favorite film from Tim Burton, I’ve enjoyed his work before- but since the middling 2000’s Burton has seemed a bit passionless with most of his work, slowly trending towards parody with films like “Dark Shadows” and I wasn’t particularly impressed with his two “Alice in Wonderland” movies if I’m being honest. Here, you can tell that he had a fondness for the atomic-era Z-list filmmaker, and he treated the subject with great care and respect as a fellow filmmaker.

Now, Ed Wood was a very unique character to say the least. Not only did he put out a series of films (unsuccessful as they may have been), he surrounded himself with Hollywood’s rejects, weirdos, and the forgotten to craft together whatever kinds of ramshackle films that he could. He also had a very strange relationship with angora sweaters, only finding comfort and confidence while wearing them and other such women’s clothing. In fact the whole first quarter of the film rests on this strange fetish- but the film never struck me as mockery or slander, but rather towards a more truthful reveal of who Ed Wood was. Granted, this film dances between a heightened and glamorized tone when it comes to some of the performances, most notably with Johnny Depp’s portrayal of the eternally optimistic Ed Wood. However the film also lets dark real world issues creep into it’s plot over the course of the film, especially after Bela Lugosi (Martin Landau) enters the picture. Once Ed scrambles together his small theatrical crew and morphs it into one that can tackle his first feature “Glen or Glenda”, the movie kicks up the pace. Even through every scrap and white lie needed to get in the door, Ed Wood’s journey is an inspiring and relatable one, especially if you have any experience trying to get a movie made. He never gave up- even when all common sense suggests that might have been for the better.

After Ed’s been around the block with a couple small features he ends up crossing paths with veteran monster movie actor Bela Lugosi. Ed Wood’s relationship with the former Count Dracula actor is the emotional crux of the film, and its an excellent pairing between the pre and post war remnants of Hollywood. Lugosi’s an aging and out of work actor when Ed meets him, starstruck, Ed can’t believe that the original Vampire himself isn’t being signed onto multiple pictures- so he takes every and any opportunity to get Lugosi involved in his movies. After befriending him when the world had forgotten him, Lugosi accepts the adoration from Ed and agrees to work with him on several films. It’s slyly mentioned early on that Lugosi’s a washed up actor, and it isn’t until he’s on set when the make-up artist silently notices the track marks on his arms representing decades of drug abuse. Lugosi only makes eye contact with the make-up artist momentarily, and knowingly, and then they move on without mentioning the obvious.

This film may have been a financial loss for the studio, but it was well received by critics and it won two Oscars; Best Supporting Actor for Landau and Best Makeup for Rick Baker. The cast was excellent, Johnny Depp’s portrayal of Wood meshed 1950’s caricature with genuine earnestness and the film was all the better for it. You also don’t have to twist my arm to get me to watch a movie shot in black and white- but the film’s cinematography was exquisite, there’s a lot of really beautiful compositions throughout the film. “Ed Wood” is a love letter to even the lowliest of filmmakers and it suggests that an unflappable and passionate love of the craft can get you places in life- just maybe not the places you expected.

Final Score: 2 Vampires, 1 wrestler, and 1 motivational speech from Orson Welles

*Check out the re:View that youtube channel Red Letter Media did on Ed Wood for further fun and analysis:

**And, just for fun, check out this episode of the Joe Rogan Podcast where he talks with legendary special effects master and prosthetic make-up artist, Rick Baker:

film

Review: Kevin Smith’s Yoga Hosers

This week filmmaker Kevin Smith’s latest movie hit Netflix, so out of curiosity’s sake and general admiration for the man’s previous works, I figured I’d give it a shot. “Yoga Hosers” is the second film in Smith’s latest creative endeavor, the True North Trilogy, with “Tusk” being the first iteration and concluding with “Moose Jaws” sometime over the next couple of years. This Canadian flavored monster themed series is definitely an odd one, but one where Kevin Smith’s creative flow goes any-which he wants. As someone interested in filmmaing, I can relate. However, I suspect the fans of this film will end up being very niche indeed.

Granted, I am not the target audience for this flick, Smith said as much himself over the course of many interviews, podcasts, and on Twitter as he promoted the film. He is very self aware that this film is not for everybody and he’s okay with that. Be that as it may there is an innate sweetness to this flick, the man did make a movie with his teenage daughter and her best friend after all. What other teenager gets to be one of the leads in a film directed by their father and co-starring their best friend? Between the bad CGI, silly monster make-up/costumes, and litany of Canada based puns (buckle your seat belts, there’s a lot of them) lies a silly shlock fest, albeit with some cringeworthy portions.

The story centers on the two young female leads, Harley Quinn Smith and Lily-Rose Depp as the “Colleen Coalition”, two tenth year highschoolers that sing in their makeshift band while angstily working at the “Eh-2-Zed” convience store seen in “Tusk”. In a convenient History class the two smartphone obsessed girls learn of the few Canadian Nazis that had risen up during World War Two and gleefully awaited Hitler’s takeover of the great white north. When this didn’t happen one particular indoctrinated mad scientist went into hiding. Fast Forward seventy years and you get tiny sausage based Nazis (called “Bratzis” in the film) portrayed by Kevin Smith himself no less, who kill indiscriminately. That’s not even the weirdest part. Anyways-The girls get invited to a party hosted by older students and end up being conscripted into work on that very night to their dismay. From there it gets sillier and sillier, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. In my opinion, if you’re going to be weird, go full weird. Everyone can tell if you only went half weird. So, at least they stuck to that commitment. I won’t spoil the rest of the film, but the third act features Ralph Garman in a super, super, cheesy villainous role. I actually loved his bits, as a fan of the Hollywood Babble-on podcast (Seek out at your own risk), it was a joy seeing some of those shenanigans play out here. Johnny Depp also returns as “Guy Lapointe” in one of his more offbeat roles as a manhunter/detective/Canadian Batman of sorts. It’s a role that’s fittingly just as odd as the rest of the film but his quirks help mold the film further. For fun, keep an eye on his mole/s as they move around his face from scene to scene, it got me, I laughed.

In all honesty, this is not my favorite Smith flick by a longshot (That title goes to “Dogma”), but with the runtime hovering around the hour and a half mark, it does its thing and doesn’t overstay its welcome. This is not a film for everyone, but for the ones that do enjoy it, I’m sure they got a kick out of it. Personally, I’m just waiting out the last entry of the True North Trilogy, “Moose Jaws”.

Final Score: 12 Canadian Puns