Arrow-right Camera
The Spokesman-Review Newspaper

The Spokesman-Review Newspaper The Spokesman-Review

Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
Cloudy 51° Cloudy
A&E >  Entertainment

Picture Perfect: The king of amazingly awful movies – ‘Ed Wood’ masterfully captures the wonders of filmmaking

UPDATED: Thu., Aug. 19, 2021

By Paul R. Sell For The Spokesman-Review

There is no such thing as an objective “perfect,” especially with movies. Even the greatest movies of all time, like “Citizen Kane” or “The Godfather,” have critics who don’t enjoy it. In fact, I’m not even a big fan of “Vertigo.”

But there is a subjective “perfect” movie. One where you can’t find any faults in the film and enjoy every moment of it. And more often than not, that’s good enough. “Perfect” is often in the eye of the beholder, and in this case, there are many movies that I consider perfect. These range from new to old, from drama to animation, from Hollywood and beyond.

So, if you’re looking for some of the best experiences throughout all of cinema, here are some of my best suggestions. For this first one, I thought it would be fitting to start with the best movie about making movies – Tim Burton’s 1994 film “Ed Wood.”

If you’ve never heard of the name Edward D. Wood Jr., then you’re missing out. Wood was a film director, producer, writer, editor and actor in Hollywood in the 1950s and 1960s who mostly worked independently and made his own movies from the ground up. And there’s a reason why he worked independently – all of his movies were really bad.

In fact, many of Wood’s movies are often in the discussion for worst film ever made, including his magnum opus, “Plan 9 From Outer Space,” about a couple of aliens trying (and failing) to conquer Earth by resurrecting our dead as their loyal army and only manage to bring back three people and bicker among themselves.

It’s got tin-foil plates on strings as UFOs, a chiropractor coming in halfway through production to replace a deceased Bela Lugosi and an airplane cockpit that is made out of a shower curtain and cardboard.

Yet despite Wood’s constant terrible movies, also including “Bride of the Monster” and “Glen or Glenda,” Wood never lost his love of making those movies. He often took just one take of a shot because he was so in love when the camera was rolling that he didn’t want to mess with perfection. Wood was in his own world where his movies were a love letter to cinema, and he didn’t care what others thought of his movies as long as someone enjoyed his films. Mostly him.

Tim Burton’s 1994 film sees Johnny Depp playing Edward D. Wood Jr. during the “height” of his Hollywood career as he struggles to get his movies off the ground, yet never once losing his passion for filmmaking. “Ed Wood” shows the making of Wood’s three most well-known movies, “Glen or Glenda,” “Bride of the Monster” and “Plan 9 From Outer Space.”

At the time, most of this information hadn’t been well-documented, so this was when the world realized the charming “so bad it’s good” career of Ed Wood. Depp gives the most endearing and heartwarming performance of his career in “Ed Wood.” His optimism is so infectious that it could make anyone want to try making their own movie.

And yet that optimism never comes across as hammy or faking it. There is sincerity and honesty in his passion for making films his way. Even moments of him watching stock footage and imagining how it could be used comes across as delightfully charming. It’s easy to get sucked up into viewing the world as Ed Wood does because of Depp’s performance.

But what elevates Depp’s role is Martin Landau as an aging Bela Lugosi, the king of horror movies. Lugosi set the standard for horror performances with his role as Count Dracula in 1931. It is still the gold standard by which all vampires are compared, especially the accent and his unforgettable piercing stare. Landau plays Lugosi at the end of his career, no longer able to get work in Hollywood and often resorting to heroin.

Landau disappears in this role, practically channeling the spirit of Bela Lugosi. His love of acting is just as intoxicating as Wood’s passion for filmmaking, which makes Landau and Depp a great pair as they prop up each other. It is no wonder that Landau won an Academy Award for best supporting actor for his performance in “Ed Wood.”

“Ed Wood” works perfectly because it speaks to the artist in all of us in the most passionate, flamboyant way possible. It serves as a reminder to all artists that you have to enjoy what you do and not pursue art for money or fame, but because you love to create.

And even if someone else doesn’t see your work like you do, that shouldn’t dull your spark. Ed Wood is an endearing filmmaker because he didn’t let anyone stand in the way of his vision of perfection, and this movie feeds on that wonderful energy.

The Spokesman-Review Newspaper

Local journalism is essential.

Give directly to The Spokesman-Review's Northwest Passages community forums series -- which helps to offset the costs of several reporter and editor positions at the newspaper -- by using the easy options below. Gifts processed in this system are not tax deductible, but are predominately used to help meet the local financial requirements needed to receive national matching-grant funds.

Active Person

Subscribe to the Spokane7 email newsletter

Get the day’s top entertainment headlines delivered to your inbox every morning.