Awards Profile: Big Eyes



Directed by: Tim Burton
Written by: Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski

Cast: Amy Adams, Christoph Waltz, Jason Schwartzman, Krysten Ritter, Danny Huston

Synopsis: The story of the acrimonious divorce and subsequent professional war between artists Margaret and Walter Keane (Amy Adams and Christoph Waltz) debating who was responsible for painting a series of picture featuring children with big eyes.

In the 1950s a series of portraits of sad children with huge doe eyes took the art world by storm.  All of these paintings were supposedly the work of Walter Keane.  When Walter and his wife Margaret started divorce proceedings in the 1960s, she came forward to declare she truly painted all the artwork under Walter’s name and was fighting for the rights to said artwork, as well as the ability to continue painting under her own name.

The true story behind the events is fascinating, lasting several decades.  During the court proceedings, Margaret challenged Walter to a “paint-off” in the hopes of proving she was truly the painter; Walter refused, citing a bum shoulder.  Eventually, in 1986, Margaret was declared the rightful painter and continued to paint under her name.

Why It Could Succeed:

amyadamsbigeyesTim Burton desperately needs a hit with critical acclaim!  Over the last ten years, Burton’s been content to follow the same formula of bizarre characters, adaptations of old television shows or movies featuring Johnny Depp, and films for children.  The last Burton vehicle to command any sort of awards consideration was 2003’s Big Fish, which was nominated for an Oscar for Best Original Score.  Burton’s received two Oscar nominations in his entire career, both for Animated feature, so now is the perfect time for him to leap into the true Best Directing waters.  Fans are yearning for Burton to return to quirky tales about people, not characters, and this could be the picture to propel him into serious Oscar consideration.

Burton’s helped by screenwriters Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski.  The last time the two worked together was 1994’s Ed Wood which led to an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor for Martin Landua; whether you want to say that was for Landua’s body of work or not, the script and Burton’s direction definitely played a part.  The screenwriting pair also won a Golden Globe back in 1997 for their script, The People vs. Larry Flynt which deals with controversial characters in a courtroom setting as does Big Eyes, although I doubt Big Eyes is going to be as sexually charged.  The story of a couple going through a difficult divorce with calls of professional sabotage has the potential for blistering dialogue and domestic dramas do well at awards time (Kramer vs. Kramer and American Beauty immediately spring to mind).

And let’s not discount the cast including two-time Oscar winner, Christoph Waltz and five-time nominee Amy Adams.  After all the hubbub wrapping up over Adams loss for American Hustle, this could propel her to the frontrunner position for next year’s Oscar race.  The tale of a repressed woman struggling to assert her independence, both personally and professionally in the 1960s is the perfect Oscar role for Adams, especially when in conjunction with a sixth nomination and no win.  Waltz himself could secure his third nomination (a third win would put him against Daniel Day-Lewis, the only actor to hold 3 Best Actor Oscars) as the bitter Walter Keane.  The supporting cast includes Krysten Ritter, Danny Huston, and Jason Schwartzman who could break out in their respective Supporting categories but details on their roles are slim.

Why It Might Not Succeed:

Burton’s tackling a humbler subject than in years past, and newer Academy members might fail to realize the magic Burton can do with Alexander and Karaszewski.  They need to watch Ed Wood is what I’m saying.  If Burton becomes too obsessed over the style of the movie itself, it could squash the dialogue and interactions of the two characters at the forefront, especially if he decides to overuse quirky side characters.

Awards Speculation:
Best Director (Burton)
Best Screenplay (Alexander and Karaszewski)
Best Actress (Adams)
Best Production Design (Rick Heinrichs and Shane Vieau)
Best Costume Design (Colleen Atwood)