Ed Wood (1994; directed by Tim Burton)

This is, in a way, a fairly standard Hollywood bio-pic, and it includes all the usual elements. The hero who believes in himself when nobody else does, the scenes where he creates or discovers, usually in ridiculously oversimplified fashion, the elements of whatever made him successful, and his eventual victory over the skeptics, surrounded by his closest and most faithful supporters.

The main reason it's not just like, for example, The Glenn Miller Story, is that the subject of this biography is Edward D. Wood, Jr., widely regarded as the worst director ever in Hollywood. Plus, in addition to being wildly untalented, he was also a transvestite. And his closest supporters included Vampira, a television horror show hostess, the mentalist Criswell, and an over-the-hill, drug-addicted Bela Lugosi.

Johnny Depp is electrifying as Ed Wood, convinced of his talent when nobody else is ("The worst movie you ever saw? Well, my next one will be better!"), but what keeps this movie from being enjoyable but two-dimensional is Martin Landau's performance as Lugosi. Bela Lugosi is far past his prime here, reduced to cameo appearances on television shows making fun of himself, but to Ed Wood he's a huge star who just needs the right picture to make a comeback. And, of course, Ed Wood is the last person to resurrect anybody's career.

But the two men develop a really moving relationship, and Landau definitely deserved his Oscar. Johnny Depp may never break your heart, but he's a perfect foil for somebody who will. If you've got a shot at the basket, he'll get you the ball. He works wonderfully with Landau here, as he does with Darlene Cates in What's Eating Gilbert Grape and Al Pacino in Donnie Brasco.

Also Recommended:

With Johnny Depp: Dead Man, Donnie Brasco, What's Eating Gilbert Grape, and Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas


Best of 1999 / Best of the Decade

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