We all love the nerve and passion that led The Envelope‘s Tom O’Neil to declare yesterday that Tim Burton‘s Sweeney Todd “will win Best Picture, Best Director and Best Actor” and is “a good bet to sweep the Oscars.”
I think I know what led Tom to this point — “voices” (not unlike the ones that spoke to Joan of Arc and Howard Beale) have come to him in the middle of the night and said, “Tom…psst, wake up! It’s looking like a Sweeney Todd sweep could happen…seriously!” I know those voices. They came to me last January and said, “Eddie Murphy doesn’t have it locked for Best Supporting Actor.”
Some are doubting Tom’s vision, of course. These are the non-believers, the John Gielguds and Richard Widmarks of the Oscar-handicap world. (Reference: Otto Preminger‘s Saint Joan.) New York magazine’s “Vulture” guys aren’t saying O’Neil needs to be burned at the stake, but they’ve come out against his vision foursquare.
I’ve heard and read the same encouraging buzz everyone else has. The second biggest impression was that recent screening on the Universal lot that led to a Cinefantastique.com review that called Tim Burton‘s film, in part, “a very satisfying musical horror film. Not a gothic London period tragedy but a classic horror flick in the vein of Phantom of the Opera…[that] occasionally morphs into an out-and-out blood bath.”
My strongest impression is still that publicist telling me a few weeks back that “it’s too bloody” to be an Oscar film, along with my own conviction that Tim Burton doesn’t make Oscar-type films because of his skewed taste, temperament and attitude.
I remain convinced that Burton’s peak period was from the mid ’80s to mid ’90s– a time when he could do no wrong and made films like Pee Wee’s Big Adventure, Beetlejuice, Edward Scissorhands, The Nightmare Before Xmas and Ed Wood. The Big Downturn began with Mars Attacks and then bottomed out with Planet of the Apes. Big Fish was going to be the Big Turnaround (David Poland was a big fan) but then the balloon collapsed and then along came Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, which many people regarded as the final nail in the coffin of the man who directed Beetlejuice.
In Sunset Boulevard William Holden said that the shoeshine guy across the street “never asked any questions…he’d just look at your heels and know the score.” With Burton all you have to do is look at his jowly, Orson Welles-ian appearance. He used to be this cool effete thin guy with the odd visions and frizzy hair who was ahead of the curve. What happened?
A damp and bedraggled Tom O’Neil strides into the Los Angeles Times building on Spring Street. A security guard watches him approach the elevator bank. Security guard: “Good evening, Mr. O’Neil.” O’Neil: “I must make my witness!” Security Guard: “Sure thing, Mr. O’Neil.”