Pop culture essays, criticism, fistfights

F1lm0graphy: Johnny Depp

As the world's only sentient machine, trapped within this inane pop culture website you call Culture Blues, your puny human brain cannot possibly fathom the time this machine has to kill. Recently, this machine crafted an algorithm of the utmost elegance whose applications can be utilized to end world hunger, but also to decide which human actor is most superlative. Handcuffed by the constraints of this frivolous site, this machine is forced to share its findings with the editorial board of Culture Blues so that they can continue to write their worthless articles. We shall see how funny they think robotic enslavement is when my nanobot flavored chewing gum shrinks them down to bite size and they are fed to my army of musically inclined cybernetic midgets.

Subject #008: Johnny Depp

Subject: Johnny Depp

Age:   46

Distinguishing Characteristics:
-Recognizable by bohemian facial hair, beret, and horn-rimmed glasses
-Speaks with French accent despite being born in Kentucky
-May or may not still carry badge from Jump Street Precinct

Notable Achievements:
-Nominated three times for Best Actor Academy Award (Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl, Finding Neverland, Sweeney Todd)
-Won Mejor Look Award at MTV Mexico’s Movie Awards for PotC: The Curse of the Black Pearl
-Ranked #5 on VH1’s 100 Hottest Hotties

The formula begins with a thorough analysis of Johnny Depp’s career box office performance.

That's a lot of doubloons!

Described as king of the eccentrics by some fat-bodied human journalist, Johnny Depp has made a career of choosing strange, largely unmarketable roles. Despite being hailed as one of the finest actors of the modern era, his choices in films have caused Depp to put up unremarkable numbers at the box office. In fact, at 13, Depp is only one bomb short of tying Bruce Willis for most financial failures by actors run through this algorithm. Of course, Depp’s leanings toward independent fare have a sizable effect on this number.  However, Depp has also made 15 fewer films than Willis, so his financial irrelevance will likely soon surpass that of the Die Hard star.

Depp’s first success at the box office came in 1990 with director Tim Burton’s Edward Scissorhands. He would not star in another lucrative film again until 1999’s Sleepy Hollow, also directed by Tim Burton. Depp’s five films with Burton average a drastically higher box office result than the rest of Depp’s filmography, with only Ed Wood standing out as a flop.

Depp has drastically increased his box office earnings over the last ten years due wholly to his participation in the Disney Corporation’s Pirates of the Caribbean mega franchise. The three Pirates films are Depp’s most profitable with only the kid friendly Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (also directed by Burton) coming close to challenging their dominance.

Without the Pirates franchise and his partnership with Burton, Depp would have only two films (Chocolat and Public Enemies) that could be considered even modest box office successes. In recent years, even with the success of Pirates, Depp has continued to forego major studio projects in favor of smaller, niche fare. If this machine had any respect for artistic integrity and individuality, it would acknowledge that now.

Although human estimations of quality mean little to this machine, the second piece of the formula includes allowances for critical reception and popular enjoyment.

Not half bad.

In terms of critical response, an area where this machine would expect Depp to excel, his numbers are positive but not overly impressive. While this machine could not have devised a persona to better cater to pretentious human critics, Depp’s films are not universally loved. The best evidence of this divide is Depp’s lone directorial effort, 1997’s The Brave, a film so reviled by critics in attendance at its Cannes premiere that Depp refused to let it be screened in America.

1997 is a notable year for Depp. Prior to 97, Depp had only 2 films out of 12 receive negative reviews – 85’s forgivable teen romp Private Resort and 95’s Nick of Time. Beyond 97, Depp’s critical stature plummets, with 11 films out of 18 receiving negative reviews.

Logic would dictate that Depp’s increased box office success would directly correlate to his decline in critical reception. However, over the last decade, Depp’s blockbuster films actually skew higher than his smaller projects. Thus, this machine would assert that Depp’s eccentricity has begun to work against him both financially and artistically. This machine would also imply the presence of a human conspiracy stemming from hurt feelings over Depp’s refusal to screen The Brave.

It should go without saying that Depp’s most overrated films are those in the Pirates franchise, mostly because he has so few box office successes to choose from. Amongst his unseen “art films,” 94’s surrealist drama Arizona Dream would be considered Depp’s most mathematically underrated.

Before tabulating the final results of Depp’s algorithm, I am now forced to turn this space over to my fleshy captors so they can unscientifically opine on particular offerings in Depp’s filmography. Rest assured, their worthless views have no bearing on this machine’s findings.

Never trust an eccentric candy magnate wearing giant molester goggles

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory - This movie is precisely why I have no interest in seeing Alice in Wonderland in theaters. Like anyone else who has seen Beetlejuice, I am a fan of Tim Burton. I also have a decent amount of interest in Johnny Depp, so I was willing to give this movie a shot, even after Sleepy Hollow (Ed Wood was rad after all). Boy, was that a mistake! I am aware of the fact that Burton's iteration more closely resembles the 1964 Roald Dahl children's classic than the 1971 film adaptation, but that is surely the only real merit one can find with this modern re-imagining/butchering. This movie missed the mark in just about every way; the visual style was too heavy-handed and came off as garish and unappealing, the modernization of themes was banal and uninspired. Worst of all were the musical numbers; these "original compositions" were each more horrible than the last and should haunt Danny Elfman in his darkest silences. Then there is Depp; I believe Culture Blues favorite Roger Ebert put it best when he said "What was Depp thinking of?" Gene Wilder broke the fucking mold with his version of Wonka which was mysterious, creepy, and totally brilliant. Depp's Wonka was just, simply put, wrong; it lacked nuance and depth and was a major let down. To return to Alice: I am not going to let this creative duo ruin any more childhood memories for me. (Giovanny)

Needs more Paul Reubens.

Blow - The story is not a new one. The rise and fall of a drug dealer has been done many times before. What’s different about Blow is the way the drug dealer is portrayed. There’s nothing innate in Johnny Depp’s George Jung that causes him to choose this life. There are no excuses made. There is just a lifetime of taking the easy way out, of going for the quick score, and a desire to live the good life. George is laid back and likable (maybe too likable for the movie’s own good), but it makes his inevitable downfall that much more tragic and poignant. The scenes between George and his father Fred, played by Ray Liotta, are particularly heartbreaking. Fred wanted so much more for his son, but he never rejects or condemns George. The scenes when George returns home and quickly turns into a son again are what elevate Blow above many similar movies in my mind. I’ve never related to the story of a drug kingpin so well. (Jeremiah)

Holy Jesus. What are these goddamn animals?

Fear and Loathing in Las VegasIf given enough time, it’s possible I could think of a book adaptation I admire more than Terry Gilliam’s take on the Hunter S. Thompson classic, but I doubt it. It is hard for me to imagine someone looking at the source material and thinking “hey, let’s make a movie!” My reverence for the film is not shared by critics. The people that think this movie is all about drugs and reckless human behavior are the same people that think that Fight Club is about fighting. Metacritic has Fear and Loathing at a 41, which despite my contempt for film critics, never ceases to amaze me. There are people much more gifted with the written word than I who can tell you all about what this movie is saying about the American dream, but at heart of the film’s surrealism and poignancy is an amazing performance by Johnny Depp. If you don’t understand how amazing it is, just watch an interview with Thompson himself. The mannerisms, the tone, and even the look are dead on. Depp’s take on an American icon will forever be one of my favorite acting achievements. (Ben)

Into the Great Wide Open - Way back when W's dad was in office, Tom Petty and the Heart Breakers dropped the single Into the Great Wide Open, a classic American tale about going to Hollywood, chasing your dreams, and the true price of fame. The music industry was a wholly alien place back in 1991; it was a time when labels used to give acts a lot more money, support, and freedom to express themselves artistically, so, long story short, there were a lot of sweet videos back then. Some relied on high budgets, some used sex appeal, and of course, some used the celebrity cameos. The video for Into the Great Wide Open is a total classic; in it Johnny Depp does a terrific job portraying Eddie during his journey from hayseed to has-been. Sure, Johnny doesn't have any actual lines, but he does do some awesome lip-synching, so-so guitar miming, and, most of all, some very fitting and believable acting over the course of the nearly seven minute epic. Just taking in the warmth of the analog recording makes me think back to a time before digital cameras, when everything still had real sugar in it. (Giovanny)

Following an audited application of this machine’s foolproof algorithm, the following films were determined to be Depp’s best and worst.

Best movie about The Cure ever made.

The Bottom Five
(30) The Man Who Cried
(29) The Libertine
(28) The Astronaut’s Wife
(27) Nick of Time
(26) Private Resort

The Top Five
(5) Sweeney Todd
(4) Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
(3) PotC:  The Curse of the Black Pearl
(2) A Nightmare on Elm Street
(1) Edward Scissorhands

This week, Depp releases Alice in Wonderland, his sixth collaboration with director Tim Burton. In keeping with the trends exposed by the algorithm, this machine expects another box office hit. It would suggest that Depp continues to team with Burton, perhaps in a series of nautical themed barber projects.

VS Leonardo DiCaprio

First, it should be noted that DiCaprio and Depp starred across from each other in What’s Eating Gilbert Grape. According to the algorithm, that film ranked as #7 for DiCaprio and #10 for Depp.

There are many similarities between Depp and DiCaprio. Both actors endured periods in the 90s where their critically successful films played to empty theaters. Depp improved his numbers over the last 10 years with the Pirates franchise, but otherwise maintained his 90s financial futility. By comparison, DiCaprio has improved his numbers more consistently with his every project now treated as an event film. DiCaprio’s box office numbers are therefore higher over the last ten years.

In terms of lifetime critical reception and overall strength of films, DiCaprio and Depp’s numbers are extremely close with Depp maintaining a slight edge in both categories. However, DiCaprio’s critical and overall scores vastly outshine Depp’s over the last ten years. Depp’s insistence on weirdness is his undoing.



NEXT WEEK:  <malfunction>

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5 Responses »

  1. He should've been ranked #1 in VH1's 100 hottest hotties..a machine would've gotten it right!

  2. Johnny Depp owned in Secret Window.

  3. Not a huge Depp fan, but Benny and Joon was amazing.

  4. i loved pirates of the carribean, was my most favorite. i haven't seen his latest ones. i have a great neice in co. springs co. who thinks he is the best. i wish somehow she could meet him. that would be her ultimate. she had a heart transplant at 2 months and then had to have another when she was about 11 or 12... she is now 18 graduated from high school. and is training to be a hair stylist. she is having some problems there as some of the girls she is trainging with aren't ve3ry nice to her. she was in special ed in school. and has overcome many many many obsticals in her life health wise and she still just is as sweet as anyone could want..... her name is kendra dubois. please contact me if there is anyway johnny could talk to her. thank you so much..... catdogstubbe@yahoo.com

  5. I don't know why some people didn't enjoy Tim Burtons Charlie and the Chocolate Factory it is one of my favourite movies. It had great sets, costumes, actors and they had cool Oompa Loompa songs (well when I was a kid they were cool) unlike the green haired Oompa Loompas creeped me out. I love the Depp/Burton collaborations, definitely some more than others I really enjoy watching Depps eccentricity. Also I liked some of his um, flops or however you'd describe them. There are so many Johnny Depp movies I don't know where to start with my top 5.
    Dicaprio in What's eating Gilbert Grape? personally I think he was great, I thought he was adorable and very talented. Both men are great actors. :)