Wednesday, 11 November 2015

Kay's Top 10 Tim Burton Films

I've been a fan of Tim Burton since I was a kid, growing up with The Nightmare Before Christmas, Beetlejuice and Edward Scissorhands to name a few. 

The 'strange and unusual' auteur truly has a unique style in each of his films, blending gothic cinematography with underdog, misunderstood characters. 

Reading his book 'Burton On Burton', you soon realise that he puts a little bit of himself in each of his films. The pasty Gothic kid living in a pastel coloured suburban street who would rather hole up inside with monster movies and Vincent Price horrors- a polar opposite to the other kids down his street. Edward Scissorhands is a prime example of this.

I'm sure everyone can relate to these feelings of being misunderstood and isolated at one point in their lives, but even with that I fell in love with his films as a whole. Aesthetically pleasing with truly unique storytelling, Burton may have lost his stride a little in recent years (I'm looking at you Dark Shadows and Planet of the Apes), but I will always have fond memories of his previous films. So join me as I share my ten favourite films by Tim Burton.

10. Corpse Bride

Although it was not as well received as expected, Corpse Bride was, at least in my opinion, a delightful return to Burton's stop-motion film making (after producing The Nightmare Before Christmas and James & The Giant Peach). Set in the late 1800s, Corpse Bride follows Victor, a shy young groom who practices his wedding vows unknowingly in the presence of a deceased young woman. The 'Corpse Bride' soon rises from her grave assuming he has married her.

And so, the film gets significantly more interesting at this point on. Burton swaps the dull black and grey tones previously seen until this moment for a vibrant palette designed for the film's underworld. This is where, rather ironically, the film truly comes to life. Filled with catchy songs, fun characters and a somewhat darkly cute premise, it's worth checking out Corpse Bride.

 9. Frankenweenie

A feature length version of Burton's 1984 short of the same name (a live action version starring The Shining's Shelley Duvall), Frankenweenie follows the original by being shot entirely in black and white. It also marks another return to stop motion film making, the first of the four stop motion films that is not a musical. 

In Frankenweenie, young filmmaker and scientist Victor Frankenstein is devastated when his canine best friend Sparky dies after being hit by a car. After learning about the effect of electricity on dead frogs in a science lesson at school, Victor is inspired. After countless experiments, this budding inventor has successfully brought his dog back from the dead. Soon enough, Victor has inspired the whole town to revive their dead pets, but to dire consequences. The town is soon filled with monsters, and Victor must fight for a resolution.

The film is pretty much a spin on the classic Mary Shelley Frankenstein story, combined with Burton's very apparant love of monster movies. The stop motion is lovely, and Sparky is so damn cute!

8. Vincent

Vincent is definitely one of the oddest on this list. A short film released with The Nightmare Before Christmas at the cinema, it is a stark contrast to the tale of Jack Skellington and Halloween Town shown directly after it. Another black and white stop motion piece, Vincent follows the tale of a young boy who, rather than enjoy the sunshine outside, prefers to thrive in the darkness and pretend he is Vincent Price.

Narrated in poem form by Hammer Horror veteran Vincent Price himself, Vincent allows us to explore the overactive imagination of this quirky kid. We see him quote Edgar Allen Poe and imagine experiments on his aunt. If you were to read up on Burton, it becomes pretty clear that Vincent is Tim Burton himself-he loves Vincent Price movies and often felt like an outsider.

7. Sleepy Hollow

Tim Burton's main man Johnny Depp takes centre stage in the director's reimagining of the classic horror tale of the Headless Horseman of Sleepy Hollow. Starring alongside Christina Ricci, Depp stars as Ichabod Crane, a police constable sent to the quaint village of Sleepy Hollow to investigate a series of grim murders. Each victim has been decapitated, but their heads are nowhere to be seen. Things soon take an even grimmer turn when Crane comes face to face with the Headless Horseman, realising the town is truly in danger. Alongside Katrina (Ricci), Crane must discover the motives behind the Horseman's killings, and put a stop for it before the village is ruined once and for all. 

Now personally, I am not one for horror films normally (I admit it, I am a wuss), but I loved Sleepy Hollow. The mixture of comedy, romance and horror is perfect here, and it's just the level of horror that I can manage. 

6. Mars Attacks!

Mars Attacks! was definitely a 'Marmite' film-people either loved it or hated it, there wasn't really that middle ground. Based on the Topps trading cards of the same name, the film brought together an eclectic ensemble of actors (Michael J Fox, Jack Nicholson, Jack Black, Pierce Brosnan and...Tom Jones, for starters) along with a memorable alien design. 

Mars Attacks! is an enjoyable but silly adventure through a martian invasion, starting with the death of the President of the United States, and ending with (spoiler) the martian's demise thanks to...awful country music. 

5. Batman Returns

Yes, the revamped Batman films are undeniably brilliant, but before the days of the Christopher Nolan trilogy came Tim Burton's Batman adaptations. Whilst the first Batman is great, 1992's Batman Returns is a vast improvement, made in part by the introduction of the Penguin (a creepy turn by Danny DeVito) and Catwoman (Michelle Pfieffer). Burton really is at home here-the set pieces and script are also tweaked, and Michael Keaton was a fantastic Batman.

4. Sweeney Todd

An adaptation of Stephen Sondheim's 1979 Broadway musical of the same name, the film tells the Victorian melodramatic tale of Sweeney Todd, an English barber and serial killer who murders his customers with a cut-throat razor whilst his accomplice Mrs Lovett disposes of the bodies by processing them into meat pies to sell in her shop. 

A revenge story at heart, Sweeney Todd is the alias of Benjamin Barker, a man transported to Australia for a crime he didn't commit whilst the scheming Judge Turpin moved in on his family. As Sweeney, Barker will slit anyones throat on his way to capturing his greatest enemy. Set to the original musical score, the film is perfect Burton material-truly macabre, bloody and yet the songs are somewhat beautiful.

3. Edward Scissorhands 

Burton's recurring leading man Johnny Depp made his debut in the directors' filmography in Edward Scissorhands, playing the misunderstood, unfinished creation Edward. With scissors in place for hands, Edward is discovered by a friendly Avon lady when she makes a visit to his abandoned home to sell her cosmetics. Taking pity on the lonely young man, she brings him home to live with her family, including her daughter Kim, where a romance slowly begins to blossom.

Originally accepted by the locals in this pastel surburbia, Edward is hunted by the his neighbours after mistakenly causing harm with his sharp scissored fingers. A tragic tale that is also somewhat beautiful (especially the snow scenes shared with Kim), this is truly one of Burton's finest works to date.

2. The Nightmare Before Christmas

Tim Burton did not actually direct The Nightmare Before Christmas (this falls to Henry Selick, director of Coraline), but he had a significant role in the film. For starters, he envisioned the character designs and story. One of the only films I can think of that can easily be watched on both Halloween and Christmas. 

The Nightmare Before Christmas follows Jack Skellington, Halloween Town's local celebrity that wows the crowds every Halloween as the Pumpkin King. Growing tired of doing the same thing every year, Jack is inspired when he stumbles upon Christmas Town. He quickly brings Christmas to his own town and vows to help Santa in Christmas Town, but things do not run smoothly. Soon he is rushing to resolve Christmas and rescue Santa from the sneaky Oogie Boogie before Christmas is ruined.

 1. Beetlejuice

And now for number one, Beetlejuice! Released in 1988, Michael Keaton stars as the 'Ghost with the Most' who is contacted by Adam and Barbara Maitland, a newly deseased couple who enlist Beetlejuice to help them scare the new occupants of their home away. However, they soon meet Lydia, a 'strange and unusual' Goth teen who is the only living member of the house that can see the dead. Soon they realise that speaking Beetlejuice's name three times may not have been the best idea after the sleazy ghost sets his sights on marrying the families daughter, of course against her will. With Lydia's help, the Maitlands must banish Beetlejuice before he ruins everything.

The film uses fantastic stop motion, is truly unique and Burton's style shines through. Beetlejuice 2 is in the works now, and let's hope it's as good as the first...

Honourable mentions: Ed Wood, Pee-wee's Big Adventure, Alice in Wonderland, Batman.

What is your favourite Tim Burton film? 
Let us know below!

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