Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Ed Wood

I selected Ed Wood because NetFlix said I should. I did not know anything about this film and did not remember reading about it previously. However, the preview indicated that this was a Tim Burton film starring Johnny Depp, Sarah Jessica Parker and Bill Murray...all talented at their craft. That, combined with the fact that NetFlix accurately predicted I would like The Station Agent, were enough to convince me to add this to the queue.

Ed Wood tells the true story about the man (Edward Davis Wood, Jr.) who was voted as the Worst Director Of All Time at the 1980 Turkey Awards. Ed Wood fashioned himself as a quasi-Orson Wells. He endeavored to write, direct, produce and star in his own films. I am embarrassed to admit that Wood started his Hollywood career after his service in my beloved Marine Corps. That topic is briefly discussed in Ed Wood, but not accurately portrayed (he tells a film-make that he was a paratrooper). It seems that Wood accomplished a great deal simply because he wouldn't take "no" as an answer...even at times when he should have.

I decided to fact-check the film a bit after watching it. From what I could find on the internet, it appears that Burton did an excellent job keeping the facts very close to reality. I can let that part about the Marines slide...I don't want to claim this loser into that fraternity we call The Corps. But he was indeed one of our own. Wood kicked around Hollywood from 1947 to 1953 before he got his first big break. The film only briefly examines that period, before settling into the meat of the film with Wood's feature titled Glen or Glenda. This exploitation film was followed by Bride of the Monster and Plan 9 From Outer Space. There were other projects in the interim that the film paid passing homage to, but these were the three primary films covered in Ed Wood. The film examined some interesting side-notes, like the funding for Plan 9...the initial investment coming from the Baptist Church, hoping to raise money for future projects. Reports indicate that the cast members were baptised prior to filming...another topic covered in Burton's version (the screenplay was written by Scott Alexander, based on a novel from Rudolph Grey).

The characters in Ed Wood are the type that I like to see. They are a complex and eclectic mix of the fringe-side of society. Strong characters can carry a properly constructed film. The plot was based on Wood's true life, which leaves limited room for interpretation. Because Wood was such an intense, interesting and eccentric person, the writers have plenty of material to work with. The dialogue avoided any tendency to be average or cliche. The dialogue was often sharp and crisp, enhancing the story. The worst part of the writing was the sluggish pacing which threatened to lose me more than once. The film seemed forced at times and adrift at others. The story ends around the apex of Wood's career, to allow viewers a sense of reward for identifying with the strange lead character, with the disappointing true-life endings coming in short written capsules before the final credits role. A decent strategy to give the audience the most without compromising the story.

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