House Logo
Explore categories +

Tim Burton (#110 of 18)

The Bat, the Cat, and the Penguin Batman Returns at 25

Comments Comments (...)

The Bat, the Cat, and the Penguin: Batman Returns at 25

Warner Bros.

The Bat, the Cat, and the Penguin: Batman Returns at 25

The current draft of film history states that the DayGlo abomination that is Batman & Robin is directly responsible for not just putting Batman on film into an eight-year coma, but poisoning the idea of comic-book film adaptations altogether, to the point where the X-Men movie that followed three years later felt like a cowed, fearful gamble. Time, distance, and no small amount of insider stories have since provided some measure of vindication. Batman & Robin was simply a life-threatening complication stemming from a malignant fear struck into the hearts of Warner Bros. execs by letting a completely unshackled Tim Burton make Batman Returns.

Big Eyes Interview with Screenwriters Larry Karaszewski and Scott Alexander

Comments Comments (...)

Big Eyes Interview with Screenwriters Larry Karaszewski and Scott Alexander
Big Eyes Interview with Screenwriters Larry Karaszewski and Scott Alexander

Pressure mounts on all sides to declare Tim Burton’s sweet and understated Big Eyes either a return to form or a turned corner, but for screenwriters Larry Karaszewski and Scott Alexander it’s just an exemplary marriage of maker and material. The film is a dramatization of the struggle of 1960s artist Margaret Keane (Amy Adams), whose paintings of crying children were as ubiquitous, for a time, as their decidedly less gothic successors in the Precious Moments franchise are today. But Keane’s husband, Walter (Christoph Waltz), took credit for her explosive success, and despite toying with a few loftier notions (alcoholism, gimcrack curios versus capital-A art), Big Eyes is an essentially spare, straightforward celebration of Margaret’s successful campaign to reclaim credit for the paintings. The film is as over-the-moon for postwar modernism as it is a painstaking character study, and, like the pair’s last collaboration with Burton, Ed Wood, strikes a lovely balance between laughing at and with its eccentric protagonist. On the day of the film’s New York premiere, I met with the duo over coffee to try extracting their secret recipe for the modern anti-biopic.

Holy Moly! Batman TV Series Now on Blu-ray and DVD

Comments Comments (...)

Holy Moly! Batman TV Series Now on Blu-ray and DVD
Holy Moly! Batman TV Series Now on Blu-ray and DVD

It’s easy to forget that there was actually a time when Batman was fun. That time was 50 years ago, when the ripples of Fredric Wertham’s despicable anti-comic diatribe Seduction of the Innocent were still being felt. His book claimed that comics were sinful trash that converted the children—by God, the children!—into homosexual deviants. The television series Batman, which ran from 1966 to ’68 on ABC, knowingly acknowledged and lampooned Wertham’s seething, masturbatory harangue in a way that defied the era’s TV standards. Starring Adam West and Burt Ward, two unknowns cast largely for their affable faces, the series (now available for the first time on DVD and Blu-ray in a snazzy, wallet-purging boxed set from Warner Home Video) remains one of the format’s great cultural touchstones. Replete with double entendres for the parents and giddy inanity for the kids, it’s everything Susan Sontag loved and loathed about camp amalgamated into a half-hour lark.

Summer of ‘89: Batman

Comments Comments (...)

Summer of ‘89: <em>Batman</em>
Summer of ‘89: <em>Batman</em>

Returning to Tim Burton’s 1989 Batman in light of Christopher Nolan’s recent, remarkably successful Batman trilogy turns out to be quite a fascinating experience—though, surprisingly, as much for their convergences in vision as for their divergences. Certainly, the stylistic differences are almost blindingly obvious: Burton the playfully macabre merry prankster, Nolan the deeply serious philosopher. And yet, both visions unmistakably flow from the same unsettling bedrocks: a world drowning in moral rot, one in which a self-appointed hero who takes the form of a human bat is, at heart, as deeply disturbed as the more overtly screwed-up villains he takes it upon himself to defeat. It’s just that these two artists view these characters and this physical and emotional world through different lenses.

The contrast is immediately apparent in the music. In stark contrast to James Newton Howard and Hans Zimmer’s loudly generic bombast for the Nolan films, Burton opens his Batman with the operatic strains of Danny Elfman’s full-orchestra heroism, slyly suggesting the unabashedly heroic way Batman sees himself. After its opening-credit sequence, during which Roger Pratt’s camera roams around what is eventually revealed to be a metal Bat-Signal, Burton establishes his vision of Gotham City: an unabashedly surreal environment that owes more to the dystopian sci-fi visions of Metropolis and Blade Runner than to any of the notions of noir-ish realism that underpins Nolan’s films. Then there are the differing acting styles, with Burton’s actors generally eschewing the internal brooding that Nolan’s performers exhibit in favor of archetypal broadness. This style doesn’t just extend to Jack Nicholson’s galvanizing hamminess as the Joker, but also trickles down to its supporting players (William Hootkins’s wearily deep-voiced Lt. Eckhardt, Robert Wuhl’s enthusiastically pushy journalist, and so on).

Oscar 2014 Winner Predictions: Production Design

Comments Comments (...)

Oscar 2014 Winner Predictions: Production Design
Oscar 2014 Winner Predictions: Production Design

In 2010, we asked, “How do you solve a problem like Avatar? How do you hold a fluorescent, floating anemone in your hand? Well, you can’t. Because it exists in hexadecimal code on a hard drive somewhere in Silicon (or is it Uncanny?) Valley.” So we threw our vote to Sherlock Holmes and shook our heads on Oscar night when James Cameron’s Epcot Center diorama was awarded. The lesson? That Gravity, even though it’s the Mission: SPACE to Avatar’s more elaborately designed Universe of Energy: Ellen’s Energy Adventure, shouldn’t be too quickly discounted. Two years earlier, we thought the category would break toward Paul Thomas Anderson’s There Will Be Blood’s Wild West City attraction only to see it (rightfully) lose to Tim Burton’s Broadway-ed Dickens funhouse Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street. Meaning that the benefits of being a Best Picture frontrunner in this category are negligible. And so we put our money on Joe Wright’s Anna Karenina last year only to see it toppled by the Lincoln Logs of Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln. Meaning that being a politely revered or disliked Best Picture nominee is also negligible.

A Charming Imperfection: Big Fish at the Neil Simon Theatre

Comments Comments (...)

A Charming Imperfection: <em>Big Fish</em> at the Neil Simon Theatre
A Charming Imperfection: <em>Big Fish</em> at the Neil Simon Theatre

It’s not hard to see the motivation for turning Big Fish, the 2003 film by Tim Burton (based on the 1998 novel by Daniel Wallace) into a Broadway musical. Its story, of a grown son who learns to appreciate the fantastic and adventurous tales with which his dying father peppered his childhood, offers the intimacy of an American family story with the spectacle of a Disney mega-musical. The fluid combination of the two is therefore the measure of the show’s success, and bookwriter John August, who wrote the film’s screenplay, has difficulty managing them deftly. It’s a credit to the original story that the musical still manages to be emotionally stirring, even though the production now playing at the Neil Simon Theatre looks and feels a bit like an elephant with a parakeet’s head.

Summer of ‘88: Clean and Sober

Comments Comments (...)

Summer of ‘88: <em>Clean and Sober</em>
Summer of ‘88: <em>Clean and Sober</em>

Michael Keaton was probably put on this Earth to deliver dialogue like “Put it in park, you little pecker”—a line simultaneously irritating and freakishly clever, epitomizing the actor’s brand of bogus machismo. Keaton’s range—which veers so far into comedy that it subverts any expectation of real dramatic weight, only to swing back around to potentially devastating effect—is the key reason Clean and Sober works as well as it does. By today’s standards, this is an uncommonly intelligent, meticulously written adult drama about addiction as a pathology, so graceful and procedural that it’s too square to ever leap off the rental shelf. Keaton appears as an abandoned prototype for a leading man, somewhere between Jack Nicholson’s ’70s self-hatred and Tom Cruise’s you-gotta-be-kidding-me ’90s moxie. For fans, Clean and Sober is just as essential as the similarly rooted in the real world Mr. Mom, Tim Burton’s Batman films, or Johnny Dangerously.

Keaton’s Daryl isn’t a good guy stricken with he usual Jekyll-and-Hyde treatment one finds in movies about alcoholism dramas, but an overall bad guy trying to pass himself off as good, a process of continual deception of both self and others. After a pretty blonde has a coke-fuelled heart attack in Daryl’s bed, the cops tell him not to leave town; he squeaks to a colleague, “They’re gonna say I did a John Belushi on her!” But since he’s also embezzled $92,000 from his real-estate firm and lost every penny in the stock market, Daryl checks himself into a rehab facility. He sobers up, eventually, but that’s no spoiler: The second half of the film concerns his relationship to Charlie (Kathy Baker), a fellow patient who helps Daryl to steady himself in making moves (albeit preliminary) toward a better life.

Oscar 2013 Winner Predictions: Animated Feature

Comments Comments (...)

Oscar 2013 Winner Predictions: Animated Feature
Oscar 2013 Winner Predictions: Animated Feature

With Pixar Animation Studios having won this award six out of eight times since the category’s inception back in 2001, conventional wisdom would suggest that Brave is a favorite to take this year’s prize. But Pixar’s reputation ostensibly took a major hit last year, when Cars 2 failed to even secure a nomination. And given how modestly the studio’s latest nominated feature has performed on the awards circuit up to this point, this year’s race may lend credence to the notion that the Pixar pedigree has seriously weakened. Though Brave is notable for being the only film in the Pixar canon with a female protagonist, offering a different take on the well-worn princess tale than we’re accustomed to from a Walt Disney property, the generally well-received film did take some slack upon release for its surprisingly conventional storytelling.