Friday, October 29, 2010

FYC Hell: Alice in Uglyland and the Art of Self Editing.

With screeners arriving and campaign parties starting, awards season is raring to go. The Oscar FYC ad pictured below, the first of the season, arrived today in my mailbox from the delightful Guy Lodge with the completely sensible command "Stop. This. Now." As many of you know, I loathe Tim Burton's Mia in Uglyland but I'm not dumb enough to think that it doesn't have a shot at a handful of Oscar nominations. Money, and hundreds of millions of bags worth of it -- each much larger than the Red Queen's oversized noggin -- goes a long way towards warming industry hearts.

The ad starts with the Claudia Puig USA Today quote "The movie should come with a note marked 'Watch me' for its extravagance of whimsy and wonder." and proceeds to list the names of 28 awards hopefuls (some of whom are very talented indeed... but... 'stop. this. now.' indeed)

There are so many things to be concerned with on this page, not least of which is how many optometrist appointments Ms. Puig seems to have cancelled recently.

[more bitching after jump]

Guy notes that you know this is going to end with Johnny Depp getting at least a Comedy Globe nod and my heart died a little from this astute prophesy. See, I love Mr Depp. I thought he absolutely deserved the Oscar for his rich and instantly iconic comic creation in The Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl (2003). Just a couple of weeks back I was caught up in some Edward Scissorhands again and admiring the invention and, this is an important note, sublime simplicity of that early performance.

But Depp, like his preferred auteur Burton, seems to have lost his knack for self-editing. I'm thinking of self-editing because the finale of Project Runway just aired [SPOILER] and self-regarding crunchy bohemian amazon Gretchen won the contest over richly inventive diminutive pattern-freak Mondo. The judges dinged Mondo for his lack of self-editing skills. While I thought Mondo deserved the win (like Burton, he's a uniquely creative fellow), I can't say that they weren't entirely off the mark in this one criticism. Did the clothes really need those pattern ball hats and other accessories... which read cutesy and pulled attention to themselves and their color and pattern repetitions rather than allowing you to just enjoy the great already busy clothes?

Now, one can easily claim that a movie blogger such as myself, examining my own cinematic brain vomit like tea leaves each day of the year, has no business bitching about anyone's lack of self-editing.... and to this I'd say touché but also: different field, different purpose, different budget (none), different cost (free), different team (i.e. none to talk you out of your worst impulses or help you shape your best ones with their own creative expertise)

Anyway... it wouldn't hurt Burton at all to be asked to deliver something on a tiny budget with a team who isn't completely enamored of / dependent on his brand. There needs to be someone to say "Um, that's a lot of garishness in one scene, let's pare down!" or "I get where you're going with this... how about we try it this way which accomplishes the same thing but is less fussy/muddy/ornamental!"

Edward Scissorhands (1990) still looks sensational twenty-years later. For a film which collects avon ladies, gothic castles, daytime talk shows, elaborate hideous hairdos, ice sculptures, scissor handed simpletons, christmas parties, and crazy ass topiary the size of two-story buildings under one broken drafty roof, it's remarkably uncluttered. It's suffused with whimsy and wonder. Someone should deliver it to Mr. Burton and Mr. Depp's offices with a note marked "Watch me." 

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