For some strange reason, the words "Oscars" and "Tim Burton" are almost verboten from being within a three sentence radius. Yes, there is plenty evidence to suggest that the director's recent work from the past 10 years is arguably inferior to his more creative heyday. However, there seems to have been an exception with buzz around his latest film Big Eyes, which hasn't played any festival nor has it received any other acclaim than that it may be Amy Adams' shot at the Oscar (a move that I am all for). This is a strange concept for a Burton movie as of late. However, what's even more strange is that after the first trailer, it may be his most normal-looking movie since Ed Wood with a lot of his signature surreal visuals missing. From the looks of things, this is a great thing.
Like most people, my relationship with Burton has been on the decline. Even if I admire Sweeney Todd, I remember Alice in Wonderland more for its confusing Best Comedy or Musical (which it is neither) nomination at the Golden Globes than its visuals. I hate Frankenweenie and Dark Shadows is a particularly illogical mess. The man can make pretty gothic pictures that strike an interesting mixture of melancholy and humor, though his edge is decaying. In a sense, I find Big Eyes to be an antithetical approach to this. While it has some elements, it feels toned down and only embraces the surreal nature from a real world perspective, or basically through looking at art on a canvas.
Simultaneously, I have been looking forward to this film since before the Oscar Buzz started emerging. The cast is particularly strong with the absence of Johnny Depp and an appearance by the appealing-in-anything stars Christoph Waltz and Adams. In fact, I have held the theory that Adams is long overdue for her Oscar. While I don't feel like American Hustle was that deal, The Master seemed like a solid selection, even if it became an unnecessarily dark horse the further away from its release that things got. Her charisma seems overshadowed by her other actors, and that is a shame. There's only hope that one day soon, she will win. After all, Anne Hathaway and Jennifer Lawrence both won on their second go-around. However, to avoid redundancy, I will save my Amy Adams adoration for another post another day.
So, there's hope that this will be the surprise film that makes us respect Burton again. For many, that ship has long since sailed. However, considering that he has made surrealism within realism work before in the likes of Big Fish, I am confident that this could be a surprise fix. The pictures alone suggest that this isn't over-the-top with its campy depiction of people in gothic outfits. It feels restrained and with that, I buy into Burton's attempt to do something fresh. In fact, this being a biopic already gives it some levity of appeal.
Here's the trailer:
If I can say so, this does look pretty good in ways that Burton's past few films haven't. His visual style looks good, but in the form of a story, not so much. This one has a more organic and interesting feel to it. Adams and Krysten Ritter interact with each other in an almost human fashion. I find that it even has traces of twee in it that add a sense of personality. I do feel like had the title card "Tim Burton" not appeared, audiences wouldn't have been able to predict that it was him. Save for the paintings, which may be his entryway into this film, this could be almost anyone else's film.
Here's the plot description according to IMDb:
"A drama centered on the awakening of the painter Margaret Keane, her phenomenal success in the 1950s, and the subsequent legal difficulties she had with her husband, who claimed credit for her works in the 1960s."
In all honesty, that's quite an inventive premise for a Burton film. It feels like a dissection of feminism and equal rights through art. With Waltz being reliably sleazy in the trailer, there's hope that Burton will actually attempt to explore these issues with some sincerity. Otherwise, the film still looks really, really good. Of course, it does have traces of American Hustle comparisons due to the art angle, but I really am intrigued by what this trailer holds.
Is this the big turn that Adams needs to finally get that Oscar win? It is a tough debate at this point, though optimistically yes. She will at least be considered. It is hard not to see her after two back-to-back nominations with The Master and American Hustle. Maybe even Waltz could get in on the action. Of course, the real debate will be if the film can manage to get anything else for Burton. With his reliability in the visual department, there are chances of the costume awards going to him, depending on if The Immigrant stands any chance. It also helps that Burton has no involvement with the script by Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski.
However, the real sigh of relief is that this film, which opens during prime Oscar season, actually doesn't look that heavily like an awful Tim Burton film. While it could be deceiving and the footage shown is crazy, there's still the fact that with exception to Jason Schwartzman's facial hair, the footage shown looks great. Here's hoping that things pan out and that it turns out to be his most realistic, appealing film since Ed Wood. That would be thankful, even if it wasn't worth the 20 year wait.
Is Big Eyes Tim Burton's shot at winning the big Oscar awards? Is this Amy Adams' chance at the Best Actress statue? Will we get a Tim Burton like this ever again?