"Come and see your old friend Sweeney:"–SWEENEY TODD opens in North America today to rave reviews!

Today is a red-letter day (blood-red, that is): Tim Burton’s SWEENEY TODD: THE DEMON BARBER OF FLEET STREET, starring Johnny Depp as Sweeney, opens in 1,249 movie theaters in North America. Here are excerpts from reviews written by the most influential movie critics in the United States. You can read the full reviews on the Zone’s Porch message board; thanks to FANtasticJD, Alina, and Larkwoodgirl for posting them.

From A. O. Scott, New York Times: “SWEENEY TODD: THE DEMON BARBER OF FLEET STREET, Mr. Burton’s film adaptation of Mr. Sondheim’s musical, is as dark and terrifying as any motion picture in recent memory, not excluding the bloody installments in the SAW franchise. Indeed, SWEENEY is as much a horror film as a musical: It is cruel in its effects and radical in its misanthropy, expressing a breathtakingly, rigorously pessimistic view of human nature. It is also something close to a masterpiece, a work of extreme–I am tempted to say evil–genius.”

From Peter Marks, Washington Post: “Admirers of Stephen Sondheim who have long wondered whether a film of distinction would ever be made from one of his stage musicals can put aside their skepticism: Tim Burton has accomplished it in his ravishing SWEENEY TODD. With oceans of gore, streams of luscious musicality and a performance by Johnny Depp redolent of malevolence and magnetism, Burton brings Sondheim’s 1979 musical to the screen with a bravura visual style thrillingly in touch with the timelessly depraved delights of Grand Guignol. [. . .] John Logan’s screenplay homes in [. . .] deftly on the psyche of Sweeney, who in the handsome Depp’s smudgy eye makeup and deathly pallor somehow seems more Byronic, less demonic than his Broadway predecessors. [. . .] It takes an actor of Depp’s suaveness–and yes, musical grace–to fully pull this [role] off. [. . .] Vocally, he digs into lyrics as if he were pulling words out of a coal bin, waiting to feed them to the fire.”

From Roger Ebert: “Here is one scenario that is proof against a happy ending. It has what is much better, a satisfactory mixed ending, in which what must happen, does. Along the way, with merciless performances by Johnny Depp, Helena Bonham Carter and Alan Rickman, with a brooding production design by Dante Ferretti, with the dark shadows of Dariusz Wolski’s cinematography, it allows Burton to evoke [. . .] the dregs of London. And yet there is an exhilaration in the very fiber of the film, because its life force is so strong. Its heroes, or anti-heroes, have been wounded to the quick, its villains are vile and heartless, and they all play on a stage that rules out decency and mercy. The acting is so good that it enlists us in the sordid story, which even contains a great deal of humor–macabre, to be sure. As a feast for the eyes and the imagination, SWEENEY TODD is … well, I was going to say, even more satisfying than a hot meat pie [. . .] .”

Congratulations to Tim Burton, Johnny Depp, Helena Bonham Carter, Alan Rickman, and the cast and crew of SWEENEY TODD! –Part-Time Poet

Screen Actors Guild nominations shut out SWEENEY TODD

The nominations for the Screen Actors Guild Awards were announced this morning, and the absence of SWEENEY TODD from the Best Motion Picture Ensemble category was a major shock, as was the lack of a nomination for Johnny Depp’s performance as Sweeney. The SAG nominations seemed to be out-of-step with other awards predictors this year: Gold Derby’s Tom O’Neil notes that “only one of the films widely presumed to be a current frontrunner” for the Best Picture Oscar received a nomination for SAG’s Best Ensemble: NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN. “Missing were ATONEMENT, SWEENEY TODD, THERE WILL BE BLOOD, MICHAEL CLAYTON, and JUNO,” writes O’Neil. That’s a very impressive set of movies to overlook, so exactly which movies did SAG deem worthy of Best Ensemble nominations? 3:10 TO YUMA, AMERICAN GANGSTER, HAIRSPRAY, and INTO THE WILD. What did these films have going for them? Timing. They were released early enough in the year so the nominating committee had a chance to see them.

The SAG Best Ensemble award has only matched the Oscar Best Picture winner in 5 of the 12 years of the SAG’s existence, so it is by no means a surefire predictor of Oscar success. Still, this year’s curious slate of Best Ensemble nominees has Hollywood pundits scratching their heads and searching for explanations. One inescapable conclusion: films that had not had major theatrical releases when the nominating ballots were due were largely ignored by the voters. Notes O’Neil, “No ensemble nods [. . .] for ATONEMENT, CHARLIE WILSON’S WAR, and SWEENEY TODD could be due to the fact that these films, still not in wide release, had not been seen by some of the 2,100 members of the SAG nominating committee spread out across the country. [. . .] DVD screeners play a big role. ATONEMENT did send out DVDs, but not till the tail end of the race and it opened late in the calendar year in theaters (December) and so managed to get skunked. Late-breaking CHARLIE and SWEENEY did not send out DVDs and paid a high SAG price.”

The Zone thanks Intodadepps for the O’Neil article and many thoughtful contributors who posted on the SAG awards thread on the News & Views forum. You can read all of Tom O’Neil’s musings here: http://goldderby.latimes.com/ For the section on the SAG nominations, scroll about halfway down the page. –Part-Time Poet

SWEENEY TODD European premiere, in London on January 10th, to benefit Great Ormond Street Hospital Children's Charity

Tim Burton’s film of Stephen Sondheim’s landmark musical SWEENEY TODD: THE DEMON BARBER OF FLEET STREET will have its European premiere in London at The Odeon Leicester Square, on Thursday, January 10, 2008. The premiere will be a benefit for Great Ormond Street Hospital Children’s Charity; stalls tickets cost L50 each and are available by calling the GOSH events team at 020 7239 3069. Callers outside of the UK will need to add international calling codes to that telephone number. “By purchasing your ticket for the SWEENEY TODD Premiere,” notes the press release, “you are helping Great Ormond Street Hospital to help more children get better and get home–thank you!”

The pricier ticket package which offered a chance to attend the afterparty (at L175 per person) has already sold out–that’s fantastic for GOSH but less fortunate for Londoners who might have been hoping for a chance to rub elbows with Johnny Depp at the afterparty. Well, there’s always the red carpet! We’ll hope for fair weather and bright smiles all around on January 10th.

The Zone thanks Emma for breaking the news, and we wish good luck to anyone attending the premiere or the red carpet. May you have an evening you will always remember! Those who live far from London can always send a contribution to Great Ormond Street Hospital Children’s Charity by visiting the GOSH website here: http://www.gosh.org/_donate/index.html It’s a way of being there in spirit, and at this time of year, when we have so much to celebrate, it would be good to share some of our bounty with those who watch over children and make them well again. –Part-Time Poet