Sep 24, 2014

Impressions: Eyeing 'Big Eyes'


Okay. I like "Oscar Bait" movies. The lush cinematography. The sweeping musical scores. The poetic linguistics. The epic drawn-out bio-pics with all the sloppy tears and substance abuse slurred words. For a character study nerd who likes to read over-analyzed, Easter egg hunting posts about The Shining and Rosemary's Baby on IMDb as a pastime, I love getting immersed in the world building of movies that are all about catching the attention of the gilded gold man. I even hang onto the flimsy (but valid) dream that one day one of my (always in draft mode) novels will be turned into an Oscar bait-y film *fingers crossed* 

I came across a list the other day that highlighted all the upcoming 'Oscar bait' flicks, and a few caught my attention. I was interested in the synopsis for the Tim Burton-directed, Big Eyes, and after viewing the trailer I'm sold on it and am excited that Burton is diverting away from the fanciful macabre he's known for, and doing some magic realism swirled real-life storytelling.

Big Eyes recounts the story of artist, Margaret Keane, who created the "big eyes" paintings that became popular in the 1950s and 1960s. Yet, nobody capitalized greater off of them than Margaret's own husband, who being the savvy businessman he was, monopolized on her talent and took credit for her paintings. The film stars Amy Adams as Margaret, and Christoph Waltz, as the conniving husband, Walter, and I'm already sold by cast alone (Krysten Ritter is even in it!). Plus this is a Tim Burton movie without the talents of Johnny Depp and Helena Botham-Carter for a fresh casting change --- unless Bonham-Carter is playing the paintings because she so could.


This story is fascinating to me because of the outright gall the husband had at inserting himself as the sole creator of the paintings. He, being the jerk face that he was, enforced death threats towards Margaret and her young daughter (from a previous marriage) if they ever so mentioned the 'big secret', thus Margaret kept quiet. Keane expressed in a 2000 interview for the LA Times, that by the time she realized her husband was taking credit for her works, it was "too late". Thankfully, after divorcing Walter and gaining confidence to speak out, Margaret sought credit and royalties, and to prove that she was the sole creator, Margaret challenged Walter to two "paint offs". Margaret won her case fair and square as Walter didn't show up the first time, and complained of a "sore shoulder" when asked to do it in court --- all while Margaret set up an easel and painted a portrait within 53 minutes.


From the trailer, the movie looks as if it will also cover sexism in the art industry, as not only do people buy into the fact that Walter was artist being the paintings, but he flippantly states to Margaret that nobody will buy "lady art". Um, yeah bud, tell that to the numerous celebrities like Natalie Wood, Jerry Lewis, and Joan Crawford, who were avid collectors of her works, and who even went as far as to have their portraits decked out with Keane's signature saucer eyes. Also tell that to the numerous copy-cat artists from all over the world that popped up with similar "sad eye" people and animal art, and other pop culture influences like the 1970s wide-irises of the Blythe dolls and The Powerpuff Girls cartoon, that all owe credit to the "mother of big-eye art".

Big Eyes hits theaters Christmas Day.

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