Ed Wood (1994) – Ace Mini-Review

Ed Wood
Starring: Johnny Depp, Martin Landau
Written by: Scott Alexander, Larry Karaszewski
Directed by: Tim Burton
U.S.A., 1994

How good is this movie?

Gene Siskel called Ed Wood “one of the great movies about movie-making”, and it really is. Right from the opening, the film promises a good time, and it does not disappoint. The script is smart, the directing is deft, and the performances are perfect, especially by Johnny Depp and Martin Landau. Its portrayal of Ed’s guerilla tactics in getting his films made are often hilarious and should resonate with all amateur filmmakers. Admittedly, many of the jokes may mean more to those already familiar with the work of Ed Wood, Bela Lugosi, or Orson Welles (I, for one, am glad I re-watched it after seeing Dracula), but specific knowledge of these films isn’t necessary (I’ve still actually never seen an Ed Wood movie). Instead, the film celebrates the spirit of cinema, and of trying to live one’s artistic passion in a cutthroat industry. It’s the movie for people who love movies.

How ace is this movie?

Like other Tim Burton films, Ed Wood offers a sympathetic portrayal of oddball characters. Although none of them are asexual, Ed’s fondness for cross-dressing puts him in a familiar position: not subject to the same condemnation as many queer people but not quite accepted as normal, either. His making of Glen or Glenda comes off as a well-meaning and deeply personal plea for acceptance. Like many asexuals, his attempt to share his experience is met with bemusement and ridicule. Perhaps because of this, Ed is careful not to judge others. As he says at one point, “If I did, I wouldn’t have any friends.” His companions include queer people, washed up former stars, and drug addicts. These characters support and encourage one another: Ed does what he can to help Bela through his poverty, depression, and drug problems; his film (temporarily) inspires Bunny to get a sex-change operation; and Ed himself receives affirmation when he confesses his secret to Kathy and she doesn’t mind. It’s a group where all kinds of oddness find acceptance.

4 Stars; 3 Aces

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