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Prediction: 'Sweeney Todd' will win the Oscar for best picture

October 31, 2007 | 10:55 am

If you've checked out our first Buzzmeter (CLICK HERE, then click on any link to "Individual Panelists' Rankings"), you'll see that I buck the pundit tide and boldly predict that "Sweeney Todd" will win the Oscar for best picture.

No, I haven't seen the film adaptation of the Stephen Sondheim Broadway classic yet, but I have now heard from enough viewers to feel confident that I'm making a shrewd, if recklessly early call. They're all deliriously passionate about it — in fact, they're as mad for it as Sweeney is for his revenge-wreaking razor — and so far it's the only film on the scene to inspire this kind of joy.


"Sweeney Todd" does that to people, even though they're actually rooting for a deranged chap to slash men's throats. It's a proven recipe for Oscar victory, tattling on Hollywood's sick dark side. Let's recall that the last musical to win best picture — "Chicago" — also asked viewers to cheer on characters to get away with murder.

But "Sweeney" does it much more deftly in an artistic way. Sondheim's musical score is a masterpiece. By comparison, "Chicago's" score is bad Britney Spears. Viewers can't help but get swept up in "Sweeney's" lush melodies and raging drama, as they're seduced into egging on his quest for vengeance against old Judge Turpin (Alan Rickman) who wrongly sent him to prison in order to steal his wife, then, after she reportedly dies upon swallowing poison, plans to wed and bed Sweeney's lovely young daughter.

I was in New York City in 1979 when "Sweeney Todd" first cast its mad spell on audiences. Broadway went berserk. Media and Manhattan's fancy folk couldn't stop talking about it. Beware: America's moviegoers are about to go through the same mania when they inevitably become smitten with its irresistible bloodlust, artistic brilliance and twisted love tales.


Being a fan of the Rialto production, I had misgivings about this screen adaptation at first. I heard that director Tim Burton cut out lots of its musical score and made it very Sweeney-centric. He significantly trimmed Mrs. Lovett's role — the goofy, love-struck baker who fills her meat pies with his victims because it "seems an awful waste," she sings. "I mean, with the price of meat / what it is/ when you get it / if you get it."

But now I hear that Burton didn't cut out, well, the real meat of her role. She still breaks audiences' hearts even while Sweeney continues to ignore her, which means Helena Bonham Carter is a serious contender for best actress at the Oscars. Her stage predecessor, Angela Lansbury, won the equivalent Tony. The show won eight in all, including best musical, director (Hal Prince), actor (Len Cariou). The only category it lost was lighting.

Thus — since Burton & Co. do not, apparently, screw things up —I think "Sweeney" is a good bet to sweep the Oscars next. Yes, there's the serious issue of Johnny Depp's "singing." He doesn't do it well, but I hear that he sells his feelings with such passionate bravado that he compensates adequately, much like tone-deaf Antonio Banderas managed to pull off — miraculously — in "Evita." When Depp gives up even trying to sing, I hear that he attempts a kind of sing-speak, which worked fine for Oscar- and Tony-winner Rex Harrison in best picture champ "My Fair Lady."

"Sweeney Todd" isn't just any show. Arguably, it's the greatest in Broadway history. All Burton & Co. have to do is not mess up and its dramatic power will carry them to glory.

I believe "Sweeney Todd" will win picture, director and actor. Now it seems clear that Helena Bonham Carter will be nominated for lead actress, but it's unclear yet that she can win. A few months ago Angela Lansbury told me not to worry.

"I think this young woman is very capable of doing something very interesting," she told me about Carter taking over her role as Mrs. Lovett. "Because she's English. She knows London, the East End. I think you'll be surprised. I hope to be able to say that it's going to be good."

To see our video interview, CLICK HERE. Most of her discussion of "Sweeney Todd" is in part two of the video.

The comments to this entry are closed.


Sweeney Todd, to me, was the greatest movie I've ever seen, to be frank. I still "lovett" even nearly a year after its release in the US, but I honestly wonder if others will still be reading this as its August already, but if they do, I am totally with Tom. He sums up everything I had to say.

this is the most amazing film i have ever seen. i love it!
Johnny depp is stunning and his voice is perfect for the part. Helena is great too, and their voices really suit eachother!
I wish it wasnt an 18 though, its not really that violent.

Well, I've seen the movie, and I love the score. Purchased the soundtrack later that weekend. The blood laden scenes related to multiple neck slashing, and bone breaking falls of unsuspecting victims into the basement below were not easy to watch, however. But I'm old now...can't stomach much anymore. I'm 43.
My favorite tunes, Joanna, the duet, and No One 's going to Harm You.

I've actually seen it and it's teriffic. I saw the orginal with Angela Lansbury on Broadway too. It's a really exciting movie musical and it's certain to get a ton of nominations. Will it win Best Picture? Too soon to call. But it's definitely in the front ranks.

What a joke. You clearly have no music credibility. Love or hate his Evita performance, Antonio Banderas is definitely not tone-deaf. Sorry, you can denigrate his singing if you want, but tone-deaf he most certainly is not. Do you know what the term means?

Furthermore, while any assessment of the quality of Mr. Depp's singing is subjective, it is unquestionably singing (at least based on the bootlegs that are out there so far). It's not even remotely like Rex Harrison's My Fair Lady performance. Frederick Loewe actually wrote rhythms and melodies to roughly adhere to Harrison's speech patterns (it's all in Alan Jay Lerner's autobiography, but there are other sources, too), and the man sang a note or two here or there. Johhny Depp is taking pre-existing music, written for real singers, and singing it. No talking his way through, no songs tailor-made to his talents. Completely different situations.

Stick to commenting on what you know. Music clearly is not included in that category.

(And, just to anticipate any objections, "Epiphany" always has a lot of talking/shouting in it, no matter who plays the role. So no Rex Harrison comparisons there.)

I really think it's time for Tom O'Neil to openly admit that he's a 14-year-old girl.

To SweeneyToddFan... Brilliant casting idea with Collette and Crowe.
Does anyone know if Sondheim has written a new song for the movie? I imagine he would have.
What (if any) songs have been cut?

When I heard that there was going to be a movie version of "ST:TDBOFS", I thought Russell Crowe would make a great Todd and Toni Collette would make a great Lovette and maybe someone will have the guts to film it in black and white and keep the entire score with the Jonathan Tunick orchestrations. Then I heard that Tim Burton was heading the project and I pretty much figured out the cast from there and I thought, "Oh, why bother with it." Then I heard about Stephen Sondheim's enthusiasm about the project and the care the scripters used in the adaption of it and so I was looking forward to it again. THEN I saw the trailer and I don't know what to think now. Depp's singing was awkward and strained and HBC was wickedly sly in her cut together fragments, but the whole preview seemed to lack the black humor of the stage show. It's a toss up and can easily be embraced by the film industry, critics, and public or hated and/or ignored by all. Don't call it 'til you see it!

ha! I love reading T.O.'s over-the-top proclamations. They're hilarious.
I mean I don't laugh with him, I laugh AT him.
To quote, A_Fabulous: "What are we looking for?" "Oh, I don't know. I'm just here from the drama."
That's describes Tom.
Oh, and Sweeney? No way in hell does this thing have a chance up against the
competition. (Atonement, No Country, There Will Be..., AmGangster. Kite Runner ?))
No way will this campy romp be taken seriously with much headier choices.
And, Burton is just not taken seriously by overall Academy. That's just how it is.
So Tom, honey, keep your Sondheim tears to yourself in the coming months, we don't
you to completely embarrass yourself like last year with the DGurlz debacle. Meow.

Antonio Banderas is NOT tone-deaf. He sang the lead role in Nine on key, unlike Raul Julia who originated the role and had problems with the difficult score.

What bothes me is that Tomis just trying to get bragging rights should ST win Best Picture, which, I assure you, it's not. But if it should, he wants to be able to be the first to say, "I called it. I called it first back in October." I might would take him more seriously if, after reading several months ago that "Charlie Wilson's War" was going to win Best Picture, according to him, because someone he knew who knew someone read the script.

"Carter belongs in the Best Supporting category because it's weaker this year and she would stand a better chance of winning there as her performance is not being lauded quite as much as Depp or Rickman or Spall."

No, No, No! She does not deserve to be pushed into supporting. Maybe it would be easier for her to get nominated but Blanchett is going to win so she should go lead for at least a chance to win.

To Christian Brando
There is nothing wrong with the ball being glamorous. It's rather natural that it would be. It is a ball after all.
What drove Lucy mad is what happened there, not the peoples' fashion sense.

Angela Lansbury's gracious comments about Helena Bonham Carter playing the part she (Lansbury) originated sound a lot like Carol Channing's public statement when it was announced that Barbra Streisand would play Channing's original stage part in the film version of HELLO, DOLLY! ("It should be very exciting"). After that film was released, Channing became a lot more outspoken ("The only time I was ever sick on a plane is when they were showing Barbra Streisand in 'Hello, Dolly!'").

I hope Johnny Depp's singing is better than the brief pop tenor you hear in the trailer. I also hope the masked ball, which is supposed to be scary (it's what drives Lucy mad, after all), isn't as glamorous--like an outtake from the "Masquerade" number in "Phantom"--as the trailer indicates. A trailer's supposed to entice, not mislead.

Tom, I love reading your column...but this is way too familiar to last year. Don't disappoint yourself by committing to a picture that hasn't been released yet. If Sweeney doesn't get nominated for best picture, please don't write a column bemoaning the Academy.

Oh Lord. Here we go again.

Tom has girlish hysterics about the year's most FABULOUS sounding film -- remember last year's hopeless Dreamgirls -- and then gets in a huff when the voters prefer grit and substance to FABULOUSness.


Again... I am a journalist and writer from Argentina, and I attended the footage of ST in Venice. I say it again, louder..... Johnny Depp absolutely can sing, and he does it VERY WELL, actually. I cannot understand why you keep saying that he cannot sing, since you haven't heard him singing!
He definitely can sing, and he does it BRILLIANTLY.

I think Tom O'Neil's writings are either ghostwritten by non-professionals or O'Neil just doesn't have a real opinion of his own anymore because he's throwing so many different ones at us. How many weeks ago was he predicting the film would be a flop? How many weeks ago was he making grand mistakes in his understand of both the production and the new film? He was originally listing Sacha Baron Cohen as the primary "nemesis" but now has finally had word slipped to him that Alan Rickman is actually in this film and playing the "villain" role. How many weeks ago was he claiming Depp can't sing? Now he's saying the film is good and the acting is good but he still has the idea that Depp can't sing, despite having NOT seen the film yet himself? Of course, all of this article comes from the fact that he's spoken to unnamed persons who have seen the film already. Well from those I have spoken to who saw it, Depp and Rickman sound amazing, and Carter is just so-so. The same is true for the acting: Depp and Rickman are "perfect" while Carter is only decent.

Carter belongs in the Best Supporting category because it's weaker this year and she would stand a better chance of winning there as her performance is not being lauded quite as much as Depp or Rickman or Spall.

I am not disagreeing with O'Neil's prediction for Best Pic because I too feel this film has a shot at dark horse glory. But my problem lies with the fact that O'Neil seems to be stealing the opinions of us comment posters and using them for his articles. I am all for any kind of boost this little article from O'Neil may give to the film, but I dislike how O'Neil basically comes across as a rubbish writer without a single steadfast opinion of his own.

I hope it's that good. If it is, then great. It's time Tim Burton got some Oscar love.

Tom it was so nice reading your predictions for the Oscar. Let's just hope the Academy follows through on them as I certainly don't want to see another gangster type movie win Best Picture this year. However, as one that attended the screening last week, I'm not sure where you got the information that Depp can't sing. From what I heard at the screening, the guy CAN sing and sings well. What he brings to the role in addition is a fabulous acting performance that meshes with his singing. I was expecting less singing in the film but was surprised ast how much singing occurred. Depp and company hold their own in the singing department. Do they sound like classically trained singers---no, but they can definitely carry the melodic Sondheim music. What works is the impact of their acting that shines through in the singing. So, all in all Tom, thanks for the positive article, but please refrain from knocking an aspect of the film if you haven't seen it.I'm one that hopes your predictions come true at awards time.

I'm sticking with 'Charlie Wilson's War' to win. It has all the right ingredients: big epic film with two of the biggest stars in the world and a top-notch director, plus Phil seymour Hoffman, the ultimate actor's actor. You really can't go wrong. It will no doubt have a huge Harvey-like campaign surrounding it, making it tough to beat Todd. Tim Burton has not been an Academy favorite, and the old white voters, who make u a bulk of the Academy, will not be too passionate about it.

This reminds me of your post last year predicting "Dreamgirls" to sweep everything. Could you please admit that you are biased towards musicals?

Since you haven't heard Depp sing how on earth can you say he doesn't do it well? I have read several accounts of people who have ACTUALLY seen the film and they all say he does do the singing well. I have noticed that you are extremely intent on pushing the notion that Depp can't sing, which is weird considering you are predicting a sweep for the film. If Depp is the horrible singer you seem to hope he is, then the film has little chance of succeeding come Oscar time no matter how good the acting is.

Why are you so intent on the notion that Johnny can't sing, when many, many accounts from people who have heard him say that he does do the singing well? Please don't declare your apparent desire for his singing to be awful to be fact when there is evidence to the contrary. Furthermore, if his singing is as awful as you have been pushing in your writings about the film, then I doubt that Depp or the film will do well, no matter how good the acting is. So, there is something really funky in your assessment of the situation.

Having seen the film at the special screening I can't imagine who told you that when Depp 'gives up trying' to sing he goes into a speak sing it's rubbish. Infact whoever told you Depp doesn't sing well is obviously tone deaf and has no idea what they are talking about. Although I suspect the only thing you have been listening to are the voices in your own head.
So why your busy trying to give the film and Depp some kind of backhanded compliment it comes across as though you are nothing more than a tabloid hack who has no right in putting across an opinion of any film.




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