While we’re all getting caught up in a the best fall movie season in eight years (completely unexpected), it’s important to remember that a number of the big December heavy-hitters have yet to screen for anyone: e.g. Mike Nichols’s Charlie Wilson’s War, Marc Forster’s The Kite Runner and Paul Thomas Anderson’s There Will Be Blood (check that, it screened last night, and at least one New York City critic believes it’s potential top ten material). Still, these films are going to have to deliver on their hype with interest if they’ve any hope of outshining the excellent likes of Into the Wild, The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford and American Gangster (and I’m confident Russ is 100% dead-on about No Country for Old Men, too).
And what about Tim Burton’s Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street? Though some folks believe its greatness is a foregone conclusion based on the Stephen Sondheim pedigree (and, to a lesser extent, Johnny Depp in the lead role), does anyone really know what to expect from a Tim Burton musical? Though music has generally been an integral part of his best films (Ed Wood notwithstanding), helming a musical requires a different skill set altogether – one that he hasn’t evinced yet in his twenty-one year career as a feature filmmaker.
This is why it’s a relief to hear Sondheim tell Fox411 gossip Roger Friedman that the film is not only "great", but brief. What’s that? Brief is good? When it comes to transferring Broadway musicals to film, yes… yes, it is.
Per Sondheim: “It’s not the Broadway show. It’s only an hour and 45 minutes. A lot of the score has been cut. They’ve made it its own thing. You have to go in knowing that. But what they’ve done is great.”
I was worried that Burton might compensate for his musical inexperience by erring on the side of slavishness, but it sounds like he’s been ruthless in cutting somewhere between forty to fifty minutes out of the stage show (or maybe that credit is due screenwriter John Logan). While this obviously means a number or two will go bye-bye, I imagine the reduced runtime is mostly a function of paring down the operetta (which won’t be that big of a challenge for mainstream moviegoers, as the immensely popular Les Misérables is an all-warbling affair, too).
As you know, Tim Burton’s Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street has been my Best Picture frontrunner for months, so, now that Sondheim’s given his blessing, I feel entirely comfortable declaring the Oscar race over. It’s Sweeney Todd for the top prize, Burton for Director, Depp for Actor, Helena Bonham Carter for Actress, Alan Rickman for Supporting Actor and Timothy Spall for Exquisite Support of a Supporting Actor by an Amusingly Heavyset Man!!!