ED WOOD (Tim Burton)
Ed Wood’s status as the bizarro cult movie director of the 50’s was firmly established by 1994. His PLANET 9 FROM OUTER SPACE (1956) was the top contender for the worst movie ever made; meaning of course, that it was so intriguingly bad that it became mesmerizing. Wood’s personal life and his unwavering commitment to his dubious artistic vision within the depths of Hollywood’s poverty row ensured him a place among the endearingly obscure. But nobody expected a movie to be made about his life and films, certainly not with major studio backing. But that was before Tim Burton and Johnny Depp.
With all the skill and savvy that he possesses, Burton delivers a breezy tribute to a wacko who, if nothing else, was a true believer. Burton’s partner-in-crime, Johnny Depp gives us one more in his growing roster of signature roles. His approach to playing the title character was, according to him, inspired by two Ronalds: McDonald and Reagan.
And let’s not forget Oscar-winner Martin Landau, with his perceptive and tragicomic take on Bela Lugosi. Lugosi must surely be the next to get the big-screen treatment.
PULP FICTION (Quentin Tarentino)
After the confidence-builder of RESERVOIR DOGS, Tarentino attempted something a little more ambitious. The results were titanic. PULP FICTION catapulted Tarentino into the ranks of the most admired and most talked-about directors of all time, a position that he has solidified and relished in ever since. The sheer scope and complexity of the narrative demands attention, like it or not. PULP FICTION is in a class with the likes of LA DOLCE VITA, THE GODFATHER, LAWRENCE OF ARABIA and other epics. It is almost like its own universe. It broke some rules, and created new ones. And it’s so damn watchable.
FOUR WEDDINGS AND A FUNERAL (Mike Newell)
Only the British seem to be able to come up with these surprise delights. Mike Newell was predominantly a TV director before this one. Fortunately, British TV has a history of letting stories (and scenes) unfold in an unhurried manner. FOUR WEDDINGS benefits greatly from this tradition. It allows its charms to be discovered and its wit to be subtle. Oh, there are jokes, to be sure. But a lot of them are unexpected, all the better for them to land. The poster boy for all this is Hugh Grant whose delivery and natural appeal made him a star.