My Top 5 Tim Burton Movies

Tim Burton has been wowing audiences with his distinct visual and story telling style or years, earning him cult and auteur status amongst his biggest fans. His stories of outsider characters trying to fit into society has touched the many people who also feel like they do not belong. He has become a voice for the freaks, the weirdos, the misfits.

I have been a big fan of Tim Burton’s since I was a kid living in a small village. A distinctly round peg, trying to fit in a very square hole, the stories of skellington men, the scissorhanded, and the plain strange were a great comfort to me, as I knew then that I as not alone in the world. Although perhaps some of his more recent films haven’t quite hit the mark (I’m still not sure what Dark Shadows was all about) his earlier work still endures and is as popular today as they ever were.

With Tim Burton’s latest release, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children right around the corner, I thought I would compile my top 5 favourite films of Tim Burton’s for your reading pleasure.

5) Beetlejuice

beetlejuiceIt’s the ghost with the most. Beetlejuice (Michael Keaton), the vile (but let’s face it, hilarious) human exorcist is employed by the ghostly Adam (Alec Baldwin) and Barbara (Geena Davis) Maitland to get rid of the terrible Deetz’s, who have moved into their home and taking over.

One of his earlier works this is full of that typical Burton style, there’s plenty of stripes, dark humour, wonky angles everywhere (especially in the ghostly government offices) a dark twist on suburbia, there’s even an early appearance from Jack Skellington, albeit it’s just his head on top of the merry go round Beetlejuice turns himself into. It’s a rip roaring comedy with some great set pieces and memorable scenes, not to mention a great calypso soundtrack.

 

4) Big Eyes

big-eyesThe most recent of Tim’s movies to make the list, this is based on the true story of Margaret Keane (Amy Adams). Margaret was an artist in the 60s, who met and married fellow artist, Walter (Christoph Waltz). After realising Margaret’s paintings got far more attention during shows he began to pretend the works were his own, keeping the lie going for years, making Margaret work in secret, even from her own daughter from a previous marriage. Eventually the lies and secrets take their toll on Margaret and she plans to break free from her captor.

Although there are many things that might seem like typical Burton themes, the horrors of suburbia being the biggest, though I would say that visually it is very different from a lot of his other films. It’s all about bright colours, and rather than a fantasy like setting Burton keeps it real and simply for his colour palette, costumes and settings. He also explores the theme of domestic abuse, though I felt that this came secondary to the main story and could have been explored more.

 

3) Pee Wee’s Big Adventure

pee-weeFrom the latest, to the first. Burton’s Debut feature from 1985, might seem like a silly film about a strange man child. Really though it’s a masterclass in taking the absurd reality.

Pee Wee (Paul Reubens) has the best bike in town, it’s red, shiney, and really, really cool. One day as he’s shopping for new bike accessories Pee wee’s bike is stolen! Oh no! As you can imagine he is devastated, and sets off on an adventure of a lifetime to get it back. Along his cross country trek he meets many different people who help him to his destination. Every person is weird in their own unique way. They have a dream of some kind that sets them apart, makes them different in some way.

It might not be a film that will teach you about the human condition, or help you to learn about historical figures that lived 1000 years ago. It will, however make you laugh like a 3 year old mainlining sugar, and will provide an excellent way to spend a couple hours of your life.

 

2) Edward Scissorhands

edward-scissorhandsProbably Burton’s biggest criticism of American suburbia. Though set at the time it was made, in the late 80s/early 90s the small community at the centre of the story often feel like they’re stuck in the 1950s, but in style and attitudes.

Edward (Johnny Depp) lives on his own in a big, creepy castle overlooking a pastel coloured community, one day a lovely lady called Peg Boggs (Dianne Wiest) wanders up to the castle, in the hopes that someone will buy her Avon products. Instead of a makeup starved housewife she find Edward, who she decides to bring down to stay with her and her family in their house. Though initially the new and unusual person is accepted by the community, though the tides turn when he does not want to sleep with one of them, and things begin to turn a little more sinister.

It’s a lesson on how suburbanites can often seem like good people, but the attitudes of the community can often be dictated by one person, and if you are not considered favourable by that one person then you do not have a chance in the community. The additional love story between Edward and Peg’s daughter, Kim (Winona Ryder) makes this a true modern fairy tale. This also marks the first collaboration between Burton and Johnny Depp.

 

1) Ed Wood

ed wood.jpgThis is my favourite Tim Burton Movie to date. It tells the tale of movie director Edward. D. Wood Jr, who was voted the worst director of all time in a 1979 poll thanks to movies such as Plan 9 From Outer Space and Bride of the Monster. If you’re not familiar with those titles, but you loved The Room, I suggest you look them up, they are a classic of the ‘so bad they’re good’ genre.

Starring Johnny Depp as the titular character this is very different from a lot of other Burton movies, there’s no campy, twee, yet twisted setting, there’s not even a Danny Elfman score (they had a minor disagreement at the time). It’s even shot in black and white, which gives it more of an arthouse and realistic feel. A large portion of the story is about how Ed is a transvestite, and about his acceptance from the people around him, this is dealt with with sensitivity and unquestioning acceptance. Most of all this is a story about one man’s passion to get his movies made, his movies are his life and without them he is nothing, yet he is always suffering setbacks and ridicule, but he keeps going, he keeps pursuing his passion no matter the cost, and that is why this is the best Burton movie.

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John Hughes: The Best of the Worst

John Hughes is a bastion of teen movies, he practically invented the modern teen movie.

If you grew up in the 80s and 90s, the chances are John Hughes helped you to get in touch with your acne covered, slightly greasy, hormonal feelings!

john hughes breakfast club.jpg

Hughes gave us some great movie moments. There’s the emotionally charged scene in The Breakfast Club (you know, the one where we found out Emilio Estevez is a person as well as a jock, and The nerd can’t make an elephant lamp). Ferris Bueller somehow getting away with destroying his friend’s Dad’s car. Let’s not forget Kevin McCallister beating a couple of inept burglars with a house of tricks. So sometimes it can be easy to forget just how many duffers he squeezed out the nib of a pen.

john hughes home alone

Ladies and Gentlemen I am here with you today to give you five reasons that John Hughes, should have stuck to capers involving children being abandoned and teenagers coming to terms with growing up.

So, let’s start at the end:

5. Drillbit Taylor (2008, 1hr 50mins, 12A)

john hughes drillbit

The classic tale of little kids getting even with their bullied.

So, take three nerds, some bullies and an older father type figure who helps them to overcome their demons. It’s like the Karate Kid but with a pathetic loser instead of Mr Miyagi. And there’s three of them.

Most of the jokes involve rather terrible slapstick and Owen Wilson (as the eponymous Drillbit Taylor, our Mr Miyagi) pretending to be cool when he clearly isn’t. At least Mr Miyagi was legit.

Hughes used a pseudonym, Edmond Dantes and you can tell why. Maybe he didn’t want people to remember him with this film, the very last before his death in 2009

4. Maid in Manhattan (2002, 1hr 45mins, PG)

john hughes maid in manhatten

Where to begin with this festering, cesspool of a movie? This was a pretty big hit back in the day, grossing $155 million worldwide. It became the go to date movie of late ‘02 and early ‘03, and middle age ladies love watching it on a Saturday afternoon with a bowl of Chunky Monkey.

So, why is this movie so terrible? People clearly like it. Well we’ll start with the acting, Jennifer Lopez as Marisa Ventura is so wooden she could be picked up to stir your favourite cake batter with. Ralph Fiennes as the bajillionaire that rescues Marisa from her terrible life was also pretty bad, but in his defense he does his best with what he’s got. Which isn’t much.

The script is Awful, you can tell that it was heavily influenced by Pretty Woman, as it’s essentially the same story. Only told less well and even more patronising to women. Hey girls! If you want to get away from your life of drudgery and awfulness, just meet a rich, white dude. He’ll be amazed at how novel poor people are and buy you nice thing

3. Curly Sue (1991, 1hr 41mins, PG)

john hughes curly sue

Upon it’s release Curly Sue was a a bit of a flop, and gained a lot of criticism from critics and fans alike.

The story centres around a homeless man with a heart of gold, Bill Dancer (Jim Belushi). Along with his plucky sidekick, Curly sue (Alisan Porter), a young child about the age of 8. They pulls scams, not to get money, because that would be wrong, but to get food to eat, that’s survival, so it’s OK.

Apart from some loose back story revealing Bill knew Curly’s (Or Sue’s?) mother and agreed to look after her once her mother died it’s not really clear why he didn’t just dump this irritating little weasel as soon as he could.

She’s just. So. Annoying! She has a whiney voice and shows a level of cutesy precociousness not witnessed since Shirley Temple sang about her Goodship Lollypop.

Then, one day they try and scam a fancy lawyer. They end up getting invited to stay the night in her house, and in what I am sure will be a shock twist to you all. She ends up falling in love with Bill, the homeless guy that tried to scam her for free food. How adorable.

Most of this film doesn’t make sense, the characters are two dimensional and (as previously stated) really annoying. This film did so badly, Hughes actually dropped out of the business of show for a little bit. Not for long though as the next year he saved himself with Home Alone II

2. She’s Having a Baby (1988, 1hr 46mins, 15)

 john hughes shes baby

Hughes didn’t want to be typecast, over his 30 year career he tried his hand at many genres, from pure kids’ movies (Home Alone), to teen movies,(Pretty in Pink) and Comedy movies (The Vacation series). Some genres he could tap into and others he just couldn’t get the hang of. Adult drama, unfortunately falls into the latter category.

It’s about a newly married couple learning how to be married. An interesting concept, getting married is a pretty big change in people’s lives, you have to learn to adjust and compromise and make big decisions together. Like weather or not to have a baby.  

Like other films on this  list, the catalogue of errors is present, the bad acting, terrible direction. Awful dialogue and a script that doesn’t always make sense. You have zero sympathy for the characters as Kevin Bacon’s character, Jake Briggs drops out of his Master’s degree, seemingly because he got scared of not being good enough. Meanwhile Kirsty Briggs (Ally Sheedy) just randomly stops taking birth control without telling her husband. I’m all for women being in charge of their own bodies, but having a baby affects both of you… At least tell the guy! By the end, when they eventually have the baby they have learnt so little and seem like such terrible people you really wish they hadn’t just procreated.

 

And the winner of worst John Hughes movie is

1. Mr. Mom (1983, 1hr 31mins, PG)

john hughes mr mom

A man has to look after a child. Hilarity ensues. This should be enough to tell you all that you need to know about this movie. That and the poster, just look at it! You know you’re in for a hilarious time when you see a man wearing rubber gloves and carrying a baby.

I know that this film is over 30 years old now, and some allowances must be given for historical context. Even with that in mind, this is really just. Anger inducing.

So, Jack Butler (Michael Keaton) loses his job. So wife, Caroline (a housewife of many years) has to go out to work. After a few japes involving terrible slapstick and pooey nappy jokes Jack starts to get the hang of this child care and cleaning malarky. However, after a while he starts to find this life a little constricting (he’s learning what it’s like to be a woman in the 80s… How very progressive!). Then his neighbours start coming onto him. Let’s face it all housewives are horny and just want to sleep with whoever is going, married or not.

I’m sure at the time it was thought of as being progressive, it was only 4 years later we got Three Men and a Baby (a much better film following a similar theme) but it’s just misguided. Caroline works for an ad executives, and they want to hire her based on her housewife know how, they might as well have patted her on the head and said ‘now now pretty lady, we need someone who knows about these… Women’s things’. Eurgh.