Tag Archives: Tim Burton

Where Johnny Depp’s Career Is Now

 

Dark Shadows

by Gabriel Valdez

Is Johnny Depp still Johnny Depp? Did everything he touch once turn to artistic gold, and has he lost that now? Has he sold out? This reaction is to an argument I’ve heard many times, but was most recently written up by Stephanie Merry’s Washington Post article “What happened to Johnny Depp? How ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’ made him, and ruined him.”

You can read her article or go straight on, because I’m sure you’ve heard the Johnny Depp argument before – he’s sold out. He sucks now. He broke your heart.

I haven’t seen Mortdecai, but even if it is the worst piece of schlock ever made, it wouldn’t be the first time Depp makes it. The argument is that he’s making worse films now than he used to, and he’s relying on bigger budgets to do so. One of those things is true.

Let’s make one thing clear: any successful artist is going to start getting more money eventually. This does not equate to selling out. Nor does praising Depp for sticking by Tim Burton’s side when Burton could do no wrong, and shellacking Depp for Alice in Wonderland, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and Dark Shadows. Either Depp deserves credit for sticking by Burton, or criticism for it. If Depp stopped supporting Burton once Burton’s career fell off, that would be selling out.

People are also quick to criticize The Lone Ranger, but if you look at how the Native American and other minority communities reacted to the messages inside the film, you might begin to look at it a little differently. Read my review for one take on how The Lone Ranger uses sight gags and film references to present and criticize America’s long history of genocide.

No one bothers to mention Rango either. It’s animated, critics, say. It doesn’t really count. These same critics will fight tooth-and-nail for Andy Serkis to get nominated for his motion capture performances in The Lord of the Rings and Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. But Rango, which is a fully motion-captured film, doesn’t count because it’s animated. That’s some logic for you.

No one bothers to mention how Depp and other actors stepped in, after the death of Heath Ledger, to help Terry Gilliam finish The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus.

Depp is further blamed for the Pirates of the Caribbean movies, which he was once lauded for. So, his performance is still good, we’re just upset there’s too much of it? I get that people don’t like sequels – except for all the sequels that they like – and think they’re some new evil we’ve never faced before (the first American sequel that was a true event movie was 1916’s The Fall of a Nation, and that was before we got to making 80,000 Sherlock Holmes movies). But, whatever, fine, sequels are evil, and every actor who’s ever participated in one has sold out. And everyone from Homer to Arthur Conan Doyle should be strung up for making the concept viable before film was even invented. Have fun watching that paint dry.

Seriously, do the same critics who go gaga for every new Marvel trailer really want to tell me about how Depp has sold out? We’re employing some very different standards here. I’ve given you the insane logic that Depp’s sticking by Burton is “selling out,” I’ve taken The Lone Ranger out of the equation, I’ll even remove Rango and Doctor Parnassus for you. Public Enemies wasn’t great, but Depp was very good in it. Screw it, let’s take that out, too.

So we take everything out and the argument is still that Depp has sold out because now he participates in sequels. He shouldn’t be able to. Even though everyone else does. As long as we’re consistent and decide we hate Daniel Radcliffe and Emma Watson, Chris Hemsworth and Robert Downey Jr, that The Empire Strikes Back and The Godfather: Part II are abominations that should never have been. Aliens, Lord of the Rings, Toy Story 2 and 3, chuck it all in the trash. You know what, if you’re that consistent, you win. I concede the argument.

If you’re not, then what are we even talking about?

Look, Depp used to make as many bad movies as good. Nick of Time. The Brave. Secret Window. The Man Who Cried. The Astronaut’s Wife. Fricking The Ninth Gate.

Seriously, have you tried watching The Ninth Gate? Don’t. Just don’t. Or do, because then it’ll completely make my point.

But Depp’s more ridiculous now than he used to be! He overacts!

Really? Have you seen Once Upon a Time in Mexico? Cause his eyes get gouged out at one point and if you’ve lasted until then, you’ll understand the feeling.

Johnny Depp hasn’t changed. His core as an artist hasn’t turned on its head. He’s not being lazy. He’s not more prone to flops than he was before. Producers are simply putting more money into his projects, and when they don’t turn out now, people notice because they cost more. That’s it.

Nobody notices or cares when a Lawrence Dunmore project flops. They do when a Gore Verbinski movie does. I’m hardly a fan of every modern Johnny Depp role. But if you look closely, you’ll probably find you’re not a fan of every Johnny Depp role from the 90s either.

Go Watch “Face Off” While Every Episode is Free

Aphrodite by Dina Cimarusti

by Gabriel Valdez

If you’re anything like me, you’ve got about 40 feet of snow outside your door right now. You’re not sure if anyone is coming to get you. You’ve torn through your canned goods and you’re considering eating the cat while you’re still strong enough to take him.

Need something to while away the hours? Let me recommend Face Off. No, not the terrible Nic Cage/John Travolta movie where they toss doves at each other in slow motion. I mean the SyFy Channel competition where special effects makeup artists design new creatures and characters every week. They’re offering every episode free on the show’s homepage, and you should give it a try. I’ll give you three reasons why:

First off, many of the designs are incredible but more than any other competition show I’ve seen, Face Off delves into how they’re actually made. They make the design process accessible to laypeople and give you a sense of everything that can go right or wrong in the design, sculpting, molding, application, and painting phases. It’s an exciting look into the artistic process that shows like Star Trek and movies ranging from Beetlejuice to Guardians of the Galaxy employ.

Season 1 Conor

Secondly, there’s no drama. Let me repeat that, because it’s so utterly rare in competition shows: there’s no drama. The show regularly focuses on artists helping each other save a design or a mold, even though they’re in direct competition with each other. Where shows like Project Runway and America’s Next Top Model focus on (artificial) cattiness and petty sniping, Face Off just focuses on the creative process. There are occasional differences when artists work together, but Face Off presents those differences, shows how the artists work them out or fail to in relation to the design, and then moves on. It’s a big reason why I’m calling Face Off a competition show instead of a “reality” show. It’s a show about the artistic process of artists. If you’re looking for Real Housewives material, this is not the show for you.

Thirdly, the judges are people who make their living on their own designs. Glenn Hetrick has a practical TV makeup background including Angel and CSI. Neville Page is a creature designer and concept artist who’s worked on Prometheus and the recent Star Trek reboot. But they’re the appetizers. You really came for Ve Neill, who’s been nominated for 8 Oscars and won three: Beetlejuice, Mrs. Doubtfire, and Ed Wood. She lost on Edward Scissorhands, Hoffa, Batman Returns, and two Pirates of the Caribbean movies. Somehow, she hasn’t been nominated for The Hunger Games franchise. Maybe the Academy fell asleep. They don’t judge off personality, but focus on the artistry and screen-readiness of makeups, pointing out what they look for when designing for TV and film.

But the designs. I could tell you about them, or I can just share a handful of my favorites. If this is a subject that interests you at all, if you’ve ever watched a sci-fi or fantasy movie and wondered how they create characters, check out Face Off while they’re offering all 7 seasons of the show for free. Jump in anywhere, you won’t be disappointed. It is, arguably, the best competition show on TV right now.

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