21 January 2008

Edward Scissorhands

Let me start off by saying that this is one of my favorite movies ever. Probably in my top ten. So if I gush a bit you know why.

Written and directed by Tim Burton in 1990, Edward Scissorhands brings together what is in hindsight an amazing cast and crew who would go on to create many more films together. In fact it feels as though Tim  Burton, Johnny Depp and Danny Elfman are inseparable. Why not? They made a fantastic team in this film and have made many more wonderful movies together. But back to our film. 

Edward Scissorhands is basically a retelling of Frankenstein. Edward was created by a lonely inventor (played by Vincent Price) who died before he was able to finish his work. And so Edward is left with scissors as hands. Furthermore he is left to himself for a long time and is given no moral guidance or any kind of exposure to normal life (which will lead to the difficulties he will have with the local "peasants"). So one day the local Avon Lady, Peg Boggs (played by Diane Wiest) calls. She finds Edward and is initially horrified but then overcome with pity as she sees the cuts covering Edward's face. She decides it would be best to bring Edward home with her. Edward is first seen by the community as a wonderful and mysterious creature. But through a series of events the neighborhood turns on him. In the meantime Edward falls in love with Kim Boggs (Winona Ryder). She is dating Jim (Anthony Michael Hall) but realizes that she no longer loves him and instead is falling in love with Edward. So in the end we find Edward being chased by an angry mob of neighbors back up to his house. There is a confrontation between Edward and Jim which ends in Jim's death. Kim leaves Edward, never to see him again, and convinces the mob that Edward too is dead. 

So let me say why I love this film so much. Tim Burton is perhaps our greatest living Auteur Director. What that means is that any film by that Director is immediately recognized as his. Alfred Hitchcock was a great example. Now with the exception of Planet of the Apes, every Tim Burton film just feels like a Tim Burton film. And none more so that Edward Scissorhands. Tim Burton is huge on visuals and style. So here we have this neighborhood where every house (and car) is painted in pastels. All the cars leave for work at the same time and they all arrive home at exactly the same time. The look really gives this film a timeless quality. You would swear this might be the 50s except that Jim mentions his parents just bought a cd player. So in the backdrop of this town is this huge dark hill with Edward's castle of a house on top of it. Just like something right out of Nightmare Before Christmas. When we see inside the castle in real time and in flashbacks we see all these machines made by the inventor. They all resemble 1940s era conceptions of human looking robots with huge rivets and glowing red eyes. And of course Edward's costume is no different. He looks just strapped and riveted together. Then there is one of my favorite touches of the film. Kim's Christmas dress is basically a white version of Edward's black outfit. A huge strap across the top and buttons that look just like rivets going down the front. It is beautiful. There are also a lot of little things like the bank being this huge white building with only one desk inside but it is right in front of a huge vault. In fact, everything in this film that deals with authority and "reality" is oppressively oversized. Anyway, everything you see in this film is an absolute piece of Tim Burton art at its best. 

Now what would a good Tim Burton film be without a score by Danny Elfman? As many of you know, Danny Elfman was the singer/songwriter for Oingo Boingo and has gone on to have a very successful film career. A few years ago he released a 3 disc collection of highlights from his film scores called Music For a Darkened Theater. In the notes he mentions that Edward Scissorhands is still his favorite. I agree. It is beautiful in it's simplicity, often using very few instruments backed up by a haunting chorus but also full of the kind of dramatic embellishments we expect from Danny Elfman. 

The acting in this film is pretty darn good but my favorite performance is from Alan Arkin as Mr. Boggs. It's his ability to take the most absurd situations as though it were expected and just go with it. A great example is when Edward tells the family that Joyce (the lustfull neighbor who starts Edward's tragic fall from grace) has shown him a salon where he can work cutting hair. He then mentions that she showed him the back room where she took off all her clothes (don't worry mom, no nudity). The whole family just stares at Edward, but Mr. Boggs replies "Well that's great Edward. I suppose you'll be going to the bank next?" Alan Arkin delivers that kind of performance the entire film and really is the sole comedic presence. 

So on to my favorite scene. Can it be anything other than when Edward is doing the ice sculpture in the front yard and Kim comes out to what she thought was falling snow and dances under the falling ice shavings? It is one last moment of perfect happiness and beauty right before it all comes crashing down. Edward accidentally cuts Kim's hand, fast forward to deadly confrontation at the end of the film. But for that one brief scene everything is perfect. This scene also goes on to explain how we know that Edward, to this very day, is still up in the castle. "Before he came down here, it never snowed. And afterwards it did."

So tell me what you thought. I hope you all actually watched it. This is an amazing film. But moving forward. At my wife's request the February movie of the month category is simply Romance. That's pretty broad (anything from Casablanca to Joe Versus the Volcano), so I'm eager to see what kind of movie suggestions you all give me. One request - please don't suggest an 80s High School film as I want to make that a category all its own at a future date. My pick for February is Somewhere in Time. We'll open the poll Feb 1st.

10 comments:

joN. said...

the first time i watched it i thought it was kind of weird that the townspeople accepted him so fast. watching it this last time, i realized that it's probably because they really treat him as a novelty rather than as a living being. their true colors become clearer when they turn on him. i'm guessing that tim burton has something to say about people who congratulate themselves for being open-minded, but are really shallow when it comes right down to it.

J.R. said...

Well put Mr. Jon. Do you have a suggestion for the Feb movie?

joN. said...

yes. i vote for annie hall, or highlander (there's a great love story there!) or perhaps TRON.

Josh said...

Next month I vote for "The World's Greatest Athlete". Don't let the title trick you into believing this is not a love story. The simmering sexual tension between Nanu and Jane is Disney eroticism at it's best.

jamirodana said...

Honestly, I've never seen this movie. Is that weird?

Anonymous said...

Edward is a VERY STRANGE boy. Shame on Vincent Price for leaving him with weed wackers for hands. I think somewhere back in young Tim Burton's life someone must have made fun of his hands and this is his way of releasing all those pent up feelings. Bless his heart.

The McArthur's said...

I love this movie. Johnny Depp is one of my favorite actors and this is the movie that started that. Edward reminds me of a new pet that the people of the town are fascinated with. They watch him and want him around until he shows them he's real. Then the bubble is burst and they turn against him instead of trying to understand and accept him for who he is. Since it didn't fit into their view of black and white, it must be bad.

I also vote for Somewhere in Time also, JR. That is my VERY favorite move EVER!!! The music is incredible for any of you who haven't seen it.

Average Joe said...

hey, so you finally watching the trek, eh? awesome. i thought of a good idea for another podcast. we call it "j.r. watches star trek for the first time." it would consist of us chatting about how your first time with trek is and me reminding you that you promised you'd watch it all despite whatever initial annoyances you may have. think about it.

anyway, two more ideas for romantic movies: i say superman ii. maria says pride and prejudice (the recent keira knightly version).

Average Joe said...

oh, btw, this is jon. i didn't realize that i'm signed in under my friend's blog that i post for him since he has email but no internet at work.

Chapman Family said...

yuck! I thought I commented on a movie for this month but I guess not. (I searched your blog for my contributions) All those movies are blah to me. Where's Notting Hill? You've Got Mail? Wedding Planner? I even would have voted for Sound of Music if it were on the list. This one is a hard one for me to vote on. . .