Saturday, May 27, 2006

Mavericks Part Three: The Nineties

Does this guy belong to the Eighties or the Nineties? No one knows because he seems to exist in a world of his own. His style is immediately recognizable, his stories twisted and dark, his characters, characters, his art direction second to none. Tim Burton has created a look and feel for his films that you can’t miss. His flourished are curled, his shadows cross-hatched and his textures, textured. Beginning with Beetle Juice we see Tim Burton’s unique vision come to life. Who would’ve thunk that Michael Keaton, that zany guy would also make a perfect Batman? And that Tim Burton’s vision of the world would perfectly fit the Dark Knight Detective. In Edward Scissorhands, he practically rewrites the fairy tale. Then, Disney Studios let him go wild. A good thing too because the genius work, Nightmare Before Christmas was the result. I was floored seeing this. He also has his go to actors who trust him implicitly like Michael Keaton, Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter. Good thing too because if they didn’t trust him some of his hits would never have been as successful. Like every director on this list, his hits and flops. This guy’s record is littered with both, but when he hits he hits big. Somehow he gets the Hollywood studios to go along with him.

If the names Zed, Pumpkin and Honey Bunny mean nothing to you then how about, Vinnie Vega and Jules? No? Well then you missed out on the movie event of the Nineties, if not the Century. Like the music group, Nirvana, Pulp Fiction and its director Quentin Tarantino practically remade the tone, look and feel of movies all the while reviving the old girl. Quentin’s dialogue, referential humor and imagery and brutal no-apologies violence infected the movie public. Along with his unique story telling style which jumbled the story up so much that the intertwined subplots only made sense when it was all over and you talked about it over a cup of coffee at a diner with your buddies while planning to make a version of your own. That’s just what happened throughout the 1990s when independent film meant plots that were esoteric, stories about people who occupy the corners of attics pulled from the Seventies and violence to the innocent and guilty alike. Though he’s only made a handful of films his fingerprints are all over his inspirations and imitators, not all of them bad.

If you borrow your story elements from just about every comic book and science fiction staple from all times and then borrow the look and feel of all of the movies mentioned above, have you created something new? I don’t know. I have a hard time with the Matrix Trilogy. Not because the special effects were first rate and blended perfectly with the storyline. Not because Mr. Reeve is my least favorite actor of all time. Not because I heard on of the Wichowski brothers had a sex change. No. Alone those things would make me not want to put this movie on my list. There is something in the way they used the ingredients to whip up a concoction that, while uneven, still managed to impress me and win an Academy Award for Special Effects along the way. It’s like the Harry Potter series. J.K. Rowling may have or may not have intentionally borrowed all her elements from the great books that came before, or she may have been etherally influenced by them. Like being born into a world where you can’t help but think all clocks are digital and all phones portable, is it your fault that the clichés are clichés for a reason?

Honerable mention: Meet Tim Burton’s less prolific and less well known brother. As Goth goes, Alex Proyas has it covered. If you haven’t seen The Crow, you haven’t seen The Crow. Not only does it have a creepy storyline surrounding the real actor, Brandon Lee, but the movie’s pretty creepy too. It helped many NIN fans embrace their inner leather-bound ids on Halloween and look cool to the chicks doing it. Not only is the story, plot, look, feel and characters cool but the soundtrack itself could get you into the Goth hall of fame. I don’t know anyone who didn’t have a copy of this soundtrack in constant rotation circa 1994. Then he made Dark City. It’s the city the Crow inhabited but didn’t know it. This is a sci-fi masterpiece and probably one you never saw. If you did, feel lucky. If not go to your Netflix queue and queue it up! I, Robot was a good film and it had some of the signature urban misery of The Crow and Dark City but it just missed the mark because he succumbed to formula.

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