Two things you should know before undertaking Tim Burton’s Ed Wood (1994): Edward D. Wood, Jr. (Johnny Depp) is not the worst filmmaker who ever lived, and his Plan 9 From Outer Space (1959) is not the worst movie ever made. Not even close. A much truer assessment is that Wood is the most lovably inept filmmaker of all time, and his Plan 9 the one of the most-loved and famous bad movies ever made. Wood was a true auteur, a visionary—and he wasn’t going to let a little thing like a complete lack of talent and judgment stand in his way. He was a perfect subject for a supremely talented auteur and visionary like Tim Burton—not in the least because Burton has always thrived on stories about people obsessed with things that no one else understands. In Wood’s case, that was not only making goofy, indefensibly bad (but often entertaining) movies that nobody wanted to watch, but also his fetish for dressing up in women’s clothes. An even greater appeal for Burton lay in depicting the strange friendship between Wood and faded horror star Bela Lugosi (Martin Landau). In Burton’s mind, this reflected his own relationship with the aged Vincent Price—and that’s largely why the film’s version of that relationship omits certain messy details. In the main, however, the film does cover the basic facts—as long as those facts don’t get in the way of Burton’s vision. The very funny, very touching results make for a film that is quite possibly Burton’s best movie.
The Asheville Film Society will screen Ed Wood on Tuesday, May 8, at 8 p.m. in the Cinema Lounge of The Carolina Asheville and will be hosted by Xpress movie critics Ken Hanke and Justin Souther. Hanke is the artistic director of the A.F.S.