Overheard last night at the members' preview of the Tim Burton Retrospective at LACMA:

(Two women are gazing upwards at the rear end of a pedestal-high display of Edward Scissorhands' buckled, tight-fitting black leather costume.)

Woman #1: Ahh, Johnny Depp. Sexy even without a head.

Woman #2: I know. I'm looking up at that butt and thinking, I would totally do that mannequin.

The events scheduled to take place at LACMA this weekend are sure to draw out plenty of black-clad Tim Burton megafans: screenings of Edward Scissorhands tonight and Ed Wood tomorrow, with Burton himself introducing Ed Wood, a book signing at noon Saturday, and the public opening of the exhibition on Sunday.

But last night's fairly diverse preview crowd was a reminder of the pervasiveness of Burton's appeal, and the attraction of his dark-but-not-too-dark vision. Just like Halloween, Burton gives us some of the scary stuff, but then soothes us with candy afterwards.

LACMA's show makes much of Burton's Burbank roots, oddly insisting on casting the Valley town that's home to Disney, Burbank Studios, Warner Brothers and countless film industry and creative types as some sort of oppressive small town hellhole that Burton was lucky to survive. But weirdos with unique visions always experience childhood feelings of alienation, no matter what side of the hill they live on.

In addition to showcasing Burton's talents at the sketchpad, the show also has plenty of “oh right” moments, as in, “Oh right — I totally forgot about Planet Of The Apes,” and the display of Jack Skellington heads from The Nightmare Before Christmas is a pleasurable reminder of Burton's uncommon ability to turn a skull into something so adorable you'd pinch its cheeks, if it had any. Burton is also adept at throwing that same train into reverse, such as the Kewpie-doll figures that melt and burst into flames from the opening of Charlie And The Chocolate Factory, also on display at the show.

Burton fans Buck Down and Danielle Farrar; Credit: Benjamin Simpson

Burton fans Buck Down and Danielle Farrar; Credit: Benjamin Simpson

Danielle Farrar and Buck Down, two big Burton fans in attendance at the show, differed on on their opinions of Burton's best and worst movies, but agreed that his work was wildly variable. Said Down, “A lot of it has to do with people that consistently work with him, most importantly Danny Elfman. They're like a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, like Hunter Thompson and Ralph Steadman. Their work has become so connected that one automatically suggest the other.”

Down even defended Planet of the Apes, but qualified his remarks by saying, “Look man, you could put a monkey in anything and I'll watch it.”

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