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Tim Burton’s ‘Big Eyes’ Eyes Globes, But Oscar Chances Iffy

Like all Tim Burton movies, “Big Eyes” is a visual/aural treat, with quirky humor, heart and a zippy pace. Cult status seems assured, and it could get attention at the Golden Globes. But Oscar is another question.

For a respected director who has been making big, successful movies for nearly 30 years, his track record with Oscar is surprisingly hit and miss. His films do best in the Academy’s artisan categories, and that’s likely to be true with “Big Eyes” as well: Bruno Delbonnel’s cinematography, Rick Heinrich’s and Colleen Atwood’s respective production and costume design, JC Bond’s editing and Danny Elfman’s score.

The Globes seem likely to recognize the Weinstein Co. release it in the comedy/musical best-picture race, and lead actress Amy Adams could also score. Christoph Waltz once again steals the show in a supporting role. There is also terrific work by co-stars Jason Schwartzman, Terence Stamp and James Saito, but unfortunately, there is no category for actors for a few minutes of screen time.

After a screening at the Linwood Dunn Theater in Hollywood, writers (and producers) Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski talked about their 11-year struggle to bring the too-weird-to-be-fiction story of Margaret and Walter Keane to the screen. They also got gasps and laughs when they said the climactic real-life trial was so over the top, “Believe it or not, we toned it down.”

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Lynette Howell said the key for a producer is “perseverance.” She finds that whenever she is on a panel discussion, it’s usually to talk about labor-of-love projects that take years to gestate; there is rarely such industry attention given to films that are cranked out quickly, because of the results.

Burton referred to Margaret Keane’s paintings as “suburban art,” saying they were “very much a part of the culture I grew up with.” The film takes a wry look at those kitschy-but-heartfelt paintings, and explores themes of genuine talent, public acclaim, critical acceptance and commerce — and the overlap and/or disconnect among all of them. (Interestingly, those themes also crop up in this year’s “Birdman” and “Mr. Turner.”)

Burton certainly has the public acclaim (“Alice in Wonderland” passed $1 billion) and his films seem to gain industry affection and admiration over the years: “Edward Scissorhands,” “Sweeney Todd” and the others seem to be more esteemed than when they first opened.

He has been nominated for two Oscars, for stop-motion animated features “Corpse Bride” and “Frankenweenie,” but never as live-action director and none of his films has scored a best-picture nomination. “Big Eyes” may not change that, but presumably he will win in those categories one of these days. As Waltz says in the movie, sometimes it’s just a question of “the right place at the right time.”

 

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