He's one of the most respected and popular filmmakers in Hollywood, the go-to director for all things wacky, weird and dark-but-not-too-dark. And now, thanks to the Best Animated Feature nomination for "Frankenweenie," Tim Burton might soon also be an "Oscar-winning filmmaker."
Tim Burton films are well acquainted with the Oscars. Danny Elfman was nominated for his score for "Big Fish" (2003). "Batman" (1989), "Sleepy Hollow" (1999), "Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street" (2007) and "Alice in Wonderland" (2010) all won the Oscar for Best Art Direction. "Edward Scissorhands" (1990) and "Batman Returns" (1992) were both nominated for Best Makeup, and "Beetlejuice" (1988) won it.
However, Burton himself has never received a Best Director nomination, and not one of his films has been nominated for Best Picture. Well, that's not entirely true -- "Corpse Bride" (2005) was nominated for Best Animated Feature, the category for which "Frankenweenie" has been nominated this year.
Honestly, "Frankenweenie" actually winning the Oscar is a bit of a long shot, especially when it's up against more popular contenders like "Wreck-It Ralph" and "Brave." But if the Award were given this year simply based on sheer filmmaking chutzpah, "Frankenweenie" would be a shoo-in. Burton, who's long been running on automatic pilot with cash-ins like "Alice in Wonderland" and lackluster experiments like "Dark Shadows" (2012), shows high signs of getting his old groove back and then some with his animated tale of a young boy who brings his beloved pooch back from the grave. While Burton may never completely recapture the fearlessly creative glory days of "Pee-wee's Big Adventure" and "Beetlejuice," "Frankenweenie" at least reminds you of those wonderful early chapters in the filmmaker's career.
"Frankenweenie" winning (fetching?) the Oscar would also make for a delightful case of "coming full circle" for Burton, as the film is based and expanded on his own 1984 short, produced well before he even sent Pee-wee Herman on a quest to find his stolen bicycle. Did the 26-year-old Burton ever dream that, over 28 years later, his short film would be adapted into an Oscar-nominated feature?
Unfortunately, "Frankenweenie" might ultimately be too strange a creature for the Academy (though someone should perhaps remind the prestigious members that it's in black and white, just like that movie they gave Best Picture to last year), and Burton might have to once again settle for going home with just Helena Bonham Carter rather than Helena Bonham Carter and a golden statue. But who knows? Lightning might just strike at this year's Oscars.