I Still Believe in Tim Burton

I am crazy excited for Dark Shadows. You can be too. It's okay.

Mar 28, 2012 at 5:30pm | Leave a comment

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If you're a Tim Burton fan, and you saw the new "Dark Shadows" trailer, are you maybe just the teensiest, tinest bit excited?

Yes, it's early to say, and yes, I have been less than mega-dazzled in the past. I've heard a lot of talk that Burton movies aren’t what they used to be."Alice in Wonderland" was too effing weird, "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" didn't really need to be made, and "Planet of the Apes" was... what it was.

Even the most dedicated "Beetlejuice" fans have kvetched at the overabundance of Johnny Depp in pancake makeup. I say unto ye: Stop hating. Tim hasn’t gone stale; he is continuously pushing the visual envelope of the film medium and his movies make me happy and are reminders of the kooky films of my childhood.

Yes, it's been a while since anything really hit us culturally on the level of "Edward Scissorhands" or the OG "Batman" films. But while everything is a matter of taste, every film he's ever made has been interesting to watch -- masterfully acted and visuallly without parallel. The costumes, set design and Danny Elfman scores are worth the price of admission.

And what’s wrong with using the same company of actors? Directors as diverse as Nicole Holofcener and Alfred Hitchcock drew from the same group of thespians, because it works. What’s wrong with working with the same company of actors? As my favorite animated clock Cogsworth said in "Beauty and the Beast," "If it ain’t baroque, don’t fix it."

And while, yes, it is yet another Johnny Depp in Some Goth Kid's Next Halloween Costume movie, "Dark Shadows" looks hilarious. It's based an homage to the soap opera about a vampire who is buried and he wakes up in 1972 to help his descendants get back the family fortune. That alone, plus the reappearance of Burton vet Michelle Pfeiffer (Hello, again!) mean that, whether it gets panned by critics or lauded with praise, I’ll buy my IMAX ticket and munch popcorn in May.

I don’t care if he adapts "Hamlet" with Johnny as White Chocolate Face Paint Hamlet, Helena as Gertrude, and Walken as his father’s Ghost. I’d see that. I’m loyal.

For the unconvinced, here's a short rundown of reasons to love Tim. 

"Batman"
If there is a better comic book film adaptation, I defy you to identify it and convince me. This movie came out when I was 8 and it changed me. Jack Nicholson, Michael Keaton as the best Bruce Wayne EVER (yeah, I said it!), a song by Prince…I could wax philosophical all the ways this movie is brilliant and inspired and not bested in the comic to screen universe. But you probably know this already.

"Big Fish"
A complete departure in some ways for Burton, “Big Fish” is at its heart, a movie about the complicated relationships between fathers and sons (in this case, Albert Finney and Billy Crudup). But add Burton’s imagination, romantic sensibilities and Elfman’s beautiful musical score and get out a box of tissues. It’s one of my favorite films. Beautiful, unexpected and relatable. Irish folks are all tellers of tall tales. It’s science.

"Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure"
My siblings and I can basically recite the dialogue from this masterpiece (co-written by SNL great Phil Hartman), start to finish. Pee-Wee’s beloved bike is stolen and we are taken on a trippy odyssey to the basement of the Alamo to find it. I grew up in Southern California as a kid and the whole movie screams 1986-1989 to me. It’s like reel-to-reel nostalgia.

"Batman Returns"
Most sequels cannot compare to their predecessors. I personally don’t prefer “Batman Returns” to “Batman”, but I know many film buffs will disagree with me here. “Batman Returns” is lush, gothic, and terrifying. Michelle Pfeiffer as Catwoman…never better, foxier or creepier. Danny DeVito as the Penguin still gives me the shivers. Fantastic!

"Sleepy Hollow"
I love, love, love this film. It is gray and spooky; Miranda Richardson and Walken are amazing villains. I’ve always been a fan of the Washington Irving story, upon which it’s based, and the Disney version is a guilty pleasure, as well. I watch this every Halloween.

"Nightmare Before Christmas"
Stop motion triumph. Musical. Danny Elfman sings as Jack Skellington. Still holds up almost 20 years later. So good. Burton only produced this one, but the original story and characters are all his.

"Beetlejuice"
Again: Michael Keaton. The man is a comic genius. Winona Ryder is resplendent as a goth teenage outcast haunted by a dead yuppie couple in her attic. I can never hear Harry Bellafonte’s “Day-O” without doing the choreography from the dinner scene. I prefer to be Otho.

These my favorite Burton classics. What are yours? Are you pumped for "Dark Shadows" like me or are you feeling disenfranchised? It's okay -- Tim and I can take it.