“Sweeny Todd” review

I went to last night’s screening of Sweeney Todd (Dreamamount, 11.21) with a guarded attitude. Here we go, another flush of the downward Burton swirl, get ready for it. The man has been in a kind of losing-it mode since Planet of the Apes and he’s had his day…live with it. And then it began, and less than two minutes in I knew it was exceptional and perhaps more than that.


Johnny Depp, Helena Bonham Carter

Ten minutes later I was feeling something growing within me. Surprise turned to admiration turned to amazement. I felt filled up, delighted. I couldn’t believe it…a Tim Burton film that reverses the decline! Call me a changed man. Call Burton a changed man. Sweeney Todd is his best film since…Beetlejuice?

I have to leave for LAX and a flight to Boston in less than an hour, but I have to get at least some of this down.

All my life I’ve loved — worshipped — what Stephen Sondheim‘s music can do for the human heart. Blend this with a tragic, grand guignol metaphor about how we’re all caught up with some issue of the past — needing on some level to pay the world back for the hurt and the woundings. Add to this Burton’s exquisite visual panache and precision, the drop-dead beautiful, near monochromatic color, the ravishing production design and…pardon me for sounding like a pushover, but this movie pushes over.

At times it melted me like a candle. I was lifted, moved. I was never not aroused. Every frame is a painting.

Johnny Depp is fantastic as the Demon Barber of Fleet Street — he has to be a Best Actor candidate as of this moment. It grieves me to admit this, but bully-boy David Poland predicted that Depp’s Todd would be a major contender early last year. Helena Bonham Carter can’t sing very well but she’s great anyway. Alan Rickman, Timothy Spall, Jamie Campbell Bower (a major new arrival), Jayne Wisener, Sascha Baron Cohen…everyone fills the bill.

The Envelope‘s Tom O’Neil has been calling this one for weeks and weeks, and if Sweeney Todd hadn’t been this good he would have egg yolk all over his face this morning. But he listened to the voices and somehow just…knew. Sweeney Todd is a locked Best Picture contender at this stage. It’s too beautifully made, too full of feeling, too exquisitely performed to shunt aside. But it won’t win because of the blood.

I was lifted, touched, moved, melted…and also showered and sprayed. And I’m sorry for this. If only Burton had held back and focused harder on the metaphor of a man consumed by bitterness, determined to pay back those who ruined his life…if he’d only elected to turn away and not indulge his B-movie director’s fetish for the gushing red vino, as if from a garden hose or a fire hydrant. The film is its own tragedy, in a way. So near and yet so far.


Jamie Campbell Bower, Johnny Depp

Something very deep-down kicks in when a human being is killed or mutilated or both. It’s horrible and ghastly, and the spirit naturally recoils unless — and this is a very big “unless” — the style and the context turn it around and redefine it in some way.

Al I know for sure is that I was mesmerized. I loved the duets, the look of it, the control, the poise, the ache, the tragedy. This is a major, major film. Way up there. Better, impact-wise than the B’way stage version I saw a couple of years ago with Patti Lupone. The finest big-time movie musical since the under-appreciated Evita, which I feel is Alan Parker‘s best film ever.

So into the top-five slot it goes and let the back-and-forth begin. It almost certainly won’t win the Best Picture Oscar because Burton, intractable mule that he is, allows a gore fetish to override the emotion and the metaphor and the beauty. Okay, perhaps not “override” but he gives too much exposure and power to the plasma. But this is still a masterful work. Heart-stopping, heart-lifting. I came close to tears several times, and I don’t like admitting this stuff because people use it against you later on.

94 thoughts on ““Sweeny Todd” review

  1. “The best big-time movie musical since the under-appreciated Evita”

    DANGER WILL ROBINSON! DANGER!

    Nice review, but at this point, I’ll look in the middle for truth til I see it. Jeff did rave about that wretched PLANET OF THE APES remake then changed his mind. His flip flops are legion and they are usually extreme: X sucks and has lost it forever. Then after X’s new film: X has made a classic. Then later: I was too over-enthused about X at the time…

    Of course, Sondheim leavs my flesh cold.

  2. Jeff is sooooo gonna flip-flop on this one. Hell, he’s telegraphing the out to us– in a month or so, it’ll be “too much blood,” all the time.

    That, and I still have a hard time thinking a lot of people will go nuts to see this movie. Folks will *enjoy* it, I’m sure, but it’s hard to convince the average moviegoer to go see a musical, let alone a murderous one.

    If the audience barely shows up for this one, Jeff will turn on it, quickly, and blame the blood, rather than the genre.

    As for the blood, God, how many times does it have to be said? The Academy gave an Oscar last year to a movie where the entire main cast gets shot in pools of exploding blood. The Academy gave an Oscar to a movie where a man CUTS OFF AND WEARS THE FLESH OF HIS VICTIMS.

    This is 2007, Jeff. TWO THOUSAND AND SEVEN.
    If Sweeney Todd *is* great, the blood won’t matter.

  3. BTW, the best part will be if no one sees this movie, and Jeff finds a way to tie in all the bloodletting as a metaphor for the war in Iraq.

    I’ll take the under on that one.

    (I keed! I keed! Seriously, great review Jeff, I’ll be there.)

  4. “The finest big-time movie musical since the under-appreciated Evita, which I feel is Alan Parker’s best film ever.”

    Just when I was starting to get excited…

    Prediction: ‘Sweeney Todd’ will be huge in LA, and will sink like a stone everywhere else. Like ‘Zodiac’.

    This is not a prediction as to whether the movie will be any good or not. Just that all of the excitement for this movie seems to be coming straight out of that bubble/echo chamber which insulates Hollywood from the rest of the country.

  5. Just yesterday I predicted Wells was going to hate it, so imagine my surprise to see him gushing. I’m almost not even convinced Wells wrote that.

    I’m glad I was wrong. Am I the only one who prefers the ‘excited about movies’ Wells over the jaded crank?

    I don’t see a flip flop coming Dave. Usually he sets those up in advance, but he seems fully committed here.

  6. Finally, some love for “Evita”! One of the best film versions of a modern musical there is. Most of the people who shit on it haven’t seen it because they are too hung up on the Madonna thing. She bugs the crap out of me, too, but she was fantastic in the title role. (I saw the original with Lapone and Patinkin and the movie represents throughout, except for the “Another Suitcase…” song that Madonna stole from the other actress.

    And no, I’m not. I have a girlfriend. A real one, made out of girl.

  7. “And no, I’m not. I have a girlfriend. A real one, made out of girl.”

    Hey, you don’t gotta convince us of your manhood, Walter. I mean, the GOP has a wide stance on…

    Aw come on, I’m just fuckin’ wit’ ya, bro!

  8. If he flip-flops it’ll depend on how the rest of the world receives the movie. Not enough love = ‘it’s great and the mouthbreathers don’t get it’. Too much love = ‘I’m starting to cool off, it’s good but it’s not In the Valley of Elah good’.

  9. “Who cares about the rest of the country.”

    If a movie like this doesn’t do well, it has no chance of getting serious Oscar buzz. I’m not saying that no movie can get nominated without popularity, but a movie like this sure can’t.

    Beyond which, I would say that most filmmakers are *trying* to reach an audience and not just make movies to please people in their echo chamber. (I mean, sure, Richard Kelly is admirable and all, but I bet even he would want his movie to connect with all sorts of audiences, instead of just the people who went into it determined to like it.) Burton seems like he has been flailing for a while, trying to find a hit to make to connect with audiences, so I’m guessing he cares too.

  10. The academy also rewarded the blood maniac Mel Gibson in 95. This might not slow it down.

    I hope Jeff doesn’t flip on this … he always does on something though. (Munich, Chicago, etc.) Wonder what it will be this year?

  11. Jeffrey already posted his pre-release Sweeney Todd flip-flop insurance a couple of weeks ago. But that was more like, “it could go either way so I’ll be right whatever happens.”

    I haven’t seen him this emotionally invested in a movie in a long, long while. When a movie gets past cranky curmudgeonly Jeffrey and hits a bullseye on his inner, movie loving kid, it’s a wonderful thing to behold. Good for him.

  12. I was at one of the screenings last night and I have to say it was one of the best if not the best movie I’ve seen this year. I see a lot of them!

    The past few weeks I said this movie might flop and I am so wrong! There is not one bad performance in the movie. Johnny DEPP is so good that it blows my mind away. Helena Bonham Carter is excellent as well.

    A great looking movie!

  13. My thoughts exactly Rich. Call me an optimist, I think this one might stick.

    As for the movie…I’m glad to hear from so many different people that it’s really something. I was all prepared to set my #1 movie of the year in stone, but now I might have to wait a few weeks.

  14. i don’t remember any film this year that left me so floored….it is just so good in so many ways…i really do think that depp’s got a shot at the win this year…

  15. jeffery, i am glad TODD IS WONDERFUL. However, Alan Parker’s one and only great film is SHOOT THE MOON….THE best movie ever about breaking-up…with the wondeful Albert Finney…& Diane Keaton.

  16. The key to believing in the review is that he admitted to shedding tears. He already acknowledged this could be used against him later, so I think it’s impossible to accuse him of hedging on this one.

    It was a great review though, and now I (longtime, but recently-suffering Burton fan) am extremely fucking excited for this.

  17. “However, Alan Parker’s one and only great film is SHOOT THE MOON.”

    Agreed. Don’t know why it’s so off the radar. The scenes are so real they hurt.

    But Pauline Kael loved this film so much (uh oh, now I get the Sardine connect) that for possibly the only time in her later career she titled her review simply, SHOOT THE MOON.

  18. Tim Burton: the world’s most frustrated production designer. Really, he just wants to make cool sets but they keep making him direct, the poor bastard.

    The truest thing a would-be filmmaker has ever said was in that The Directors series Encore used to show when Burton admits: “I wouldn’t know a good story if it came up and bit me on the face.”

    SWEENEY TODD is an existing property so he didn’t get the chance to muck it up or kill it from benign neglect. The tragedy here is if it’s a hit (which I suspect it will be; there’s a deep reservoir of desire for GOOD musicals in this country) then the conventional wisdom will become “He’s back!” and give him more projects he is ill-suited for.

  19. Christian, why the UH OH? Cheers. Sardine. And by the way, those of who knew and loved Pauline Kael agree she would have championed Sofia Coppola’s 3 movies, V.Suicides, LIT & MA.

  20. Roy, I’m not a huge fan of Tim Burton, but I’m a huge fan of movies, so I don’t really see it as a bad thing for Burton to get more work out of this.

    He’s a unique voice, and a welcome one. More power to the guy.

    RE: Parker. . . what, no love for The Commitments? What a wonderful piece of entertainment.

    Of course, I have to remind myself he made a movie that great, just to get the taste of The Life of David Gale outta my head. . .

  21. Sardine, not even Pauline Kael would have championed Marie Antoinette.

    And I say this as someone who liked Virgin Suicides, and LOVED LOVED LOVED Lost in Translation.

    MA was so awful, it allowed me to end my GF’s movie-choosing privileges for good. Anytime she goes to suggest a movie to see, I get to tell her “Remember that time you made us see Marie Antoinette? Hmmm? I don’t get that time back, and neither do you.”

    That said, we’re off to see No Country for Old Men tonight. . . high hopes, can’t wait.

  22. “Blend this with a tragic, grand guignol metaphor about how we’re all caught up with some issue of the past — needing on some level to pay the world back for the hurt and the woundings.”

    You’ve written exactly what the film COULD have been.

  23. Dave – Then that puts me in the awkward position of being a big fan of Timmy Burton, but he’s films… not so much.

    To me the words “A Tim Burton Film” mean 120 odd minutes of sets designed to within an inch of their life while characters go in search of an equally as interesting plot. If you want proof, forget the easy target of PLANET OF THE APES, how about the disappointment that was SLEEPY HOLLOW? If there was ever a story that matched a director’s proclivities, this was it.

    Yet there it was, a big, boring mess that was nevertheless cool to look at.

  24. Plenty of outlets were fine with MARIE ANTOINETTE, as were many of us. It was fairly perfect for what it was. Challenge the conceit, but it’s execution was impeccable. This idea it was a disaster needs to stop.

  25. I think Ed Wood is Burton’s best film. I just saw it again recently and it holds up very well (Landau is fantastic and the art direction and cinematography are top-notch). I’m really curious to see if Sweeney Todd is superior to even Ed.

  26. I agree that Ed Wood is his best – it’s personal and funny and doesn’t have a lot of cool sets.
    But I think Sleepy Hollow is terrific, form meets function. And we should all know by now that ‘story’ is not a requirement to make a good film.

  27. cj — for me: sweeney todd, no country…, there will be blood, zodiac, kite runner……but i still haven’t seen ‘alvin and the chipmonks’, so the list is subject to change……

  28. SLEEPY HOLOW was non-stop awful, saved only by Chris Lee and a few seconds of Walken. I mean, turning SH into a mystery story — which pasty faced old coot really did it?

    And of course, only in the Burtonverse would the Headless Horseman be turned into the hero.

    ED WOOD is still his masterpiece.

  29. Ok Scooterzz, you passed the test. I’m sold.

    I have to say I will be shocked if it’s better than TWBB or No Country, but it will be one of those “Holy shit, movies kick ass” kind of shocks.

  30. There’s more to Sleepy Hollow than the Scooby-Doo plot. It’s probably his most gorgeous-looking movie, for one thing (Lubezki) and there’s some fun subtext. And how is the Headless Horseman turned into the anti-hero not a good thing?

  31. S T I N K O? Really? I can understand issues with the ending though I certainly don’t sympathize, but regardless, we’re talking about tight, chilling, flawless filmmaking with iconic performances. You nuts always go too far. THE DEPARTED was “laughable” and now NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN is apparently “stinko”. Whatever. Bad taste is the only unforgivable sin.

  32. I agree that Ed Wood is by far Burton’s best film. It’s also the film in which he did not collaborate with Danny Elfman for the music. Elfman is not involved with Todd, so maybe it will be as good as Ed Wood.

  33. Congratulations, the whole top 5 thing is meaningless, because after 100 years, “we” got better at making more good movies, and good movies, better. This is how it’s going to be from now on, so… the antiquated 5 best system is to-ooo precious for our hearty blood, and the situation will only get worse. Overthrow the system now, orderly or in anarchy, before it’s too late to bring sexy, I mean meaning, back to the Awards. Adopt my categories. Vote for me, kneal and yield to me. I shall make you happy, rich and powerful, beyond your wildest dreams.

    comedy-ironic/sardonic
    comedy-gut busting
    musical-song and dance
    musical-music as story
    animated-adult
    animated-kid
    drama-period
    drama-present
    drama-futuristic or fantasy

  34. yes, STINKO. NO COUNTRY is a perfect reflection of the Bush Administration.

    Coming from a family that hunts…the first 15 minutes of the movie is BOGUS. I will explain in a couple of months when everyone has seen the film.

  35. Okay, ignoring the hunting thing: You have to explain “perfect reflection of the Bush administration”. Without elaboration that doesn’t mean anything – it could be a good thing.

  36. wha wha wha whaaaaat?

    Burton fell off after Planet of the Apes you say?

    I forget what the general critical consensus was on it, but I LOVED Big Fish.

  37. “yes, STINKO. NO COUNTRY is a perfect reflection of the Bush Administration.”

    Wow that’s the dumbest thing I’ve read about the film so far. Go back to school. And maybe the first 15 minutes reflect that Moss sucks at hunting? Wait longer than a few months. I doubt anyone serious about film has any interest in your opinion of it.

  38. I’m serious, the numbers of good films have grown exponentionally and we’re locked into a hexed, archaic, baffling, useless system that’s getting more and more lost on people, inside and outside the system, and will eventually implode. I’m a film snob, I want quality, but I want more categories. It’s gonna happen, so get on board.

  39. Count me in with the surprised that Wells loves it so vote. And yeah, it’s 2007 – the blood won’t be its undoing – afterall The Departed had its fair share of blood and it won Best Pic.
    Anyhow, I can’t wait to see this. Sounds like a terrific time. While I do like Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Burton really hasn’t wowed me for some time (Corpse Bride is very good though). It’ll be nice to see him back on his A game.

  40. Nice review, Jeff, but I take issue with the notion that a filmmaker should restrain his/herself in regards to violence to assuage AMPAS. Fuck that, bravo to any filmmaker for not giving a shit about appeasing an expectation for a so-called prestige picture. Sight unseen I”ll still reserve my judgment on the final product, but the very idea that he should have even THOUGHT of what awards bodies might think while making the film is asinine.

  41. I’m so freaking excited to see SWEENEY TODD. I’m a little iffy about Burton at times, because although I feel he’s brilliant visually, there are moments when he gets too lost in the visuals and forgets about the story. His best films are the intimate dramas, the ones which are very human: EDWARD SCISSORHANDS for sure but also his best film, ED WOOD (it seems to be common on the board that this is regarded as his best). He has been in a downward slump lately; I hated PLANET OF THE APES, thought BIG FISH was fine but with bad work from Billy Crudup, and thought that while CHARLIE AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY was respectable in not following the original, the original just did it so much better. However, SWEENEY TODD seems the perfect match of director to material, and I’m a huge fan of the show, so I can’t wait to see what he does with it. I’m probably going to see this one at midnight.

  42. Burton is a stylist with a vision. Everyone’s got their opinion over this or that film sucking ass, but in a system where artists are encouraged to be less inventive, less imaginitve and less interesting, we need more Tim Burtons. I’ll gladly swallow a Planet of the Apes for every Edward Scissorhands, Ed Wood, Beetlejuice and…hopefully…Sweeney Todd.

  43. Dave: “Folks will *enjoy* it, I’m sure, but it’s hard to convince the average moviegoer to go see a musical, let alone a murderous one.”

    What about Chicago? Depp’s prettier than Zellweger, too.

    Sean: “Prediction: ‘Sweeney Todd’ will be huge in LA, and will sink like a stone everywhere else. Like ‘Zodiac’.”

    You mean Moulin Rouge. Anyway, Zodiac did badly, because no one knows who the fuck Jake Gyllenhall is, and no one cares.

    cj: “Just yesterday I predicted Wells was going to hate it, so imagine my surprise to see him gushing. I’m almost not even convinced Wells wrote that.”

    Hell, I thought I’d hate Willy Wonka, but Burton + Depp are clearly an unbeatable duo. (Well, except for maybe in Corpse Bride, but that just seemed recycled, anyway…)

    Mark: ”
    http://www.quickstopentertainment.com/elsewhere/127.html

    I’ve heard that’s a “love it or hate it” kind of film.

  44. Burton is a stylist with a vision. Everyone’s got their opinion over this or that film sucking ass, but in a system where artists are encouraged to be less inventive, less imaginitve and less interesting, we need more Tim Burtons.

    I agree in the abstract, but there was a stretch there (Mars Attacks, Sleepy Hollow, Planet of the Apes, etc.) where I felt like I, or any owner of a coffee house stocked with retro furniture and kitschy decor, could have faked a Tim Burton movie with more conviction than he seemed to be bringing to his work. I look forward to Sweeney Todd reminding me why, from Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure to Ed Wood, he seemed like such a breath of fresh air in 80s/early 90s Hollywood.

  45. Altho I’ll defend MARS ATTACK as nifty subversive satire with a messy script (why have Jack play two different parts for no good reason) and some fun efx and design. I knew it would bomb when the gung ho soldier ready to open fire was instanltly melted. My friends and I couldn’t stop saying “Ack Ack” for a week.

  46. How exactly is Burton working without Elfman a guarantee of quality? Howard Shore’s score for ED WOOD is glorious, but Elfman has often been the sole bright spot of Burton’s films, especially PLANET OF THE APES.

  47. Christian, I agree with you. That was the original movie where Colin Powell was portrayed as a yes-man for his bosses.

    DZ, are we meant to believe that you like the early Burton movies? Remember, as far as most of us know, you hate almost everything.

  48. I’m with you on Mars Attacks, Christian. There is a lot of really assinine stuff in that film, but the aliens destroying all humans while playing the “We come in peace” tape is comic gold.

  49. Well, I’ve probably watched Mars Attacks three times, so out of that bunch it’s the most enjoyable (I thought Sleepy Hollow a total bore and Planet of the Apes completely ineffectual). Still, it’s like a lot of comedies with a big budget and little laughs, you feel like it was kind of a waste of resources or something.

  50. It’s true, Mgmax. There is something especially distracting about a bad big budget comedy. Ishtar and 1941 were more painful because I was thinking about how much they costed while I watched. I’m not even a fan of Mad, Mad, etc. World.

    On the other hand, the first time I saw the Blues Brothers I was thinking about its budget and came out saying, “It was just car crashes and blues music.”

    The second time I saw it, I said, “Just car crashes and blues music, huh.”

    And for some reason, the third time I saw it, I came out saying, “What a great film! Nothing but Car Crashes! And Blues Music! Genius!”

  51. Fair enough Mgmax, but lots of people have fallow periods. The Coens would appear to have just bounced back from one. My faith in Burton was somewhat restored by Big Fish. It’s no No Country For Old Men, but I’m a sucker for father/son stories. Knowing what he’s capable of, to his (or my) dying day, I’ll always be interested in whatever he does.

  52. I used to love Tim Burton (“Ed Wood” is his masterpiece), but “Planet of the Apes” was so awful it made me question everything he had done before. I agree with Mgmax’s take in that from “Pee Wee’s Big Adventure” to “Ed Wood” Burton was untouchable (that includes both “Batman” movies which I think are amazingly weird and wonderful). Still, I couldn’t even look at his stuff anymore after seeing “Planet of the Apes”. I didn’t care much for “Big Fish” and I disliked the old hat, “Corpse Bride”. That said, something about the trailers to “Sweeney Todd” have been rekindling the fire. Ack, ack, ack!

  53. Total threadjack– I finally saw No Country for Old Men last night.

    Wow.

    Just wow.

    Life-changing? No. Best movie I’ve ever seen? No.

    But now I understand the love. I’ve always admired the Coens, although I love their “lesser” works more than their better ones (Fargo and Raising Arizona left me cold, but love Big Lebowski and Intolerable Cruelty).

    But I honestly didn’t think they had this movie in them. Above and beyond anything they’ve done before, just incredible from start to finish.

    BTW, having just had it fresh in my mind, I guess I can talk to the pacing issues: I believe it’s all deliberate. The movie “speeds up” as it goes along– we spend 15 minutes watching Josh Brolin hunt, 10 minutes watching him deal with the money, 10 minutes watching Bardem hunt him, 5 minutes watching him hunt him again, etc. The movie kind of spirals in on itself, become increasingly claustrophobic. Not conventionally– no quick-cutting– but obviously, by the time we get to the end, the Coens are dispensing entirely with conventional exposition.

    SPOILER

    We get fifteen minutes of Brolin hunting, yet his death happens off screen. We get how much time with his wife, yet her death happens off screen. All the “major” events in the movie seem to occur away from our view, and as everyone else has noted, Tommy Lee Jones exists in the movie as the Greek chorus, not an active participant– he’s just there to put the whole story in context, that the world is changing, and life will always be random and cruel and ignorant of what we want, and never more so when we dare life to fight back at us.

    Brilliant film. Wells was right about this one.

  54. I loved MARS ATTACKS!, partially because it had that starring Tony Curtis, Janice Rule, Alan Arkin, Terry Thomas, Sterling Hayden, Natalie Wood, Ursula Andress, Rod Steiger, Anjanette Comer, Sam Sham and the Pharoahs `66 vibe.

  55. Christian,

    I’m pretty sure Jack playing two roles in Mars Attacks was thought to be some sort of Peter Sellers-in-Dr. Strangelove thing. It obviously doesn’t work as well (and falls one character short), but I found it amusing.

  56. Christian:

    If memory serves there are some Strangelove references in Mars Attacks in the same way there are Kane references in Ed Wood. Both Nicholson and Sellers play the president. Jack playing that rednecky real estate developer was similar to the character Slim Pickens played in Strangelove, which was a fourth role Sellers was to have before an injury forced him out of it.

  57. The Sellers roles in STRANGELIVE corresponded to each line of action but in MA there’s no real reason why Jack is playing a redneck and the President — and I thought his prez was great. Especially when he was impaled by the flag. And MA has a terrific Elfman 50′s style sci-fi score.

  58. Nicholson playing two roles was pointless, but making the oompa-loompas into clones was an aggressively stupid decision in a dull, soulless film.

    I may check out Sweeny, though. Comebacks do happen, and all Burton has to do is not screw up the source material.

  59. OMG. The blood is just a way for you to cover yourself for saying its going to win. I mean if the Broadway voters can get over the blood then so can the Academy. I realize its more intense in the film version, but its no more bloody than The Departed, which won.

  60. Say what you will about Burton, but most of his movies have a look and feel so distinctive, I think that “Burtonesque” has probably entered the lexicon.

    And I can’t believe no one has mentioned The Nightmare Before Christmas yet, perhaps Burton and Elfman’s most successful collaboration (at least in terms of its completeness of vision). Henry Sellick of course deserves some of the credit, but anyone who has seen Monkeybone knows where the ideas in Nightmare came from.

  61. Violence and gore has NEVER stopped AMPAS from giving awards. In fact, they relish it, because it is so obvious. Godfather had a horse’s head, Silence of the Lambs had mutilation, etc. It is actually nuance and subtlety that they fail to recognize, most of the best films have lost the Best Picture Oscar because of either politics (e.g., Kane, Brokeback) or slow pace (e.g., Searchers, 2001) or the plain old subtlety of master filmmaking (e.g., Vertigo, Singin’). Heck, most of the best films aren’t even nominated, so who cares. But what I do care about are great movies, so I am hopeful that Sweeney Todd is even half as good as its source material, it is a Broadway masterpiece.

  62. Saw it at a screening tonight hosted by Sondheim. Burton and Depp were in attendance as well. This being a NYC theatre crowd, they applauded and stood when Sondheim entered, but stayed seated for Burton and Depp.

    Great crowd reaction overall. Especially for the new stuff. Sondheim warned the audience beforehand that this was not the stage musical on film, but rather a film musical. And he was right. In its own insane, little world, it’s a masterpiece. Really powerful and emotional. And yes, bloody. Frankly, I didn’t think the violence was that over the top. I don’t know if it’s an Academy Award kind of picture. But who really gives a flying f–k? It’s a great movie; a fantastic new version of a brilliant story, with some of the best music and lyrics of the 20th century. Who cares if the Oscar crowd doesn’t get it. For me, it’s a gift.

    I’ll be back to see it opening day.

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