Monday, March 29, 2010

Psycho

yes I admit it
I was thoroughly creeped out
Vertigo's better

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Alice in Wonderland

I don't intend to use this blog for movie reviews, but I just saw Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland and can't resist writing a few things about it.

WARNING: Spoilers will be flying all over the place. Proceed at your own peril.

Not that there's much to worry about, because Alice has few surprises and hardly any suspense. I had a good time anyway, frankly. There's plenty of good mixed in with the what-were-they-thinking parts. I've also never seen a movie in 3-D before (stop snickering) and almost ducked when a bookcase came crashing down (come on, quit it). I don't know how it compares to Avatar (haven't seen it yet) or Up (didn't realize it came in 3-D), but the effect was enjoyable without being distracting. But I digress.

Burton has never been a cutesy filmmaker and I'm thankful that his take on Alice likewise refrained from being cutesy. I know some people are offended by his making a sequel of sorts to the original Alice, but I don't have a problem with this. The problem, I think, is that, though they distanced the film from its source, they didn't go quite far enough. Alice is a rebellious nineteen-year-old returning to Wonderland and has long since resigned the previous adventure as nothing but a dream? Great.

Too bad she spends over an hour continuing to believe it never happened and that what's going on right now is also a dream, when we can all guess that it did and this isn't. It's also too bad that the other characters blithely play along with her amnesia and assume the White Rabbit lured the wrong Alice. If they were going to go that route, it would've been more interesting if she actually was the wrong Alice. And then they could've avoided the Chosen One plot cliché.

Other than that, the film struck me as too adult for children and not adult enough for non-children. Am I the only one who noticed the sexual tension between Alice and the Mad Hatter? It's not as obvious as Jareth and Sarah in Labyrinth, but it's nevertheless there and they didn't do a thing about it. Look, I'm not crazy so I'm not suggesting there should've been a serious romantic entanglement between Alice and His Spectacular Looniness, but the tension between them has no payoff in Wonderland or in the "real world" she returns to in the end.

Which brings me to my next point. The opening scenes of the film – Alice unwillingly and unknowingly attending her own engagement party to a spoiled aristocrat – set up certain parallels with characters Alice later meets in Wonderland. Her would-be fiancĂ© Hamish has flaming orange hair like the Mad Hatter; his mother has an attitude like the Red Queen; Alice's brother-in-law Lowell is treacherous like Stayne, the Knave of Hearts; Alice's sister Margaret is sweet and perfect like the White Queen; there are even twin sisters who act like Tweedledee and Tweedledum. The problem? These parallels turn out to be either superficial or unnecessary. The one between Hamish and the Hatter is just absurd. It makes you wonder why they didn't employ the traditional technique of actors playing dual roles in order to emphasize the connections.

There's also a glaring omission concerning Alice's mother - she has no parallel in Wonderland. If Alice's intended mother-in-law, Lady Ascot, was supposed to evoke the Red Queen, then Alice's mother should've evoked the White one. The battle between them would've had more complexity as would Alice's part in it, but the film seems muddled over the difference between reality and fantasy. After working overtime to establish the "real world" Alice flees for Wonderland, this is entirely thrown away at the end, since Alice, in blatant defiance of Victorian gender politics, decides not to get married and be an entrepreneur instead. And not one character voices a word of protest. I know I sound stuffy, but that ending doesn't pass the common sense test. If they were going with woman's-empowerment, they succeeded with Alice being the one to slay the Jabberwocky, but letting a nineteen-year-old girl pursue a high-powered career in Victorian England outdoes wish fulfillment. It pushes the fantastic beyond the Mad Hatter.

Speaking of the grandly unbalanced one, though I'm never sorry to see Monsieur Depp, I am sorry that he and Tim Burton went so completely over the top with the Mad Hatter. One of the beautiful things about Edward Scissorhands was Depp's low-key performance in spite of his extreme costume. Surely they could've found a way for the Hatter to be outrageously dressed and subtly insane. If there's anyone who could pull it off, it's Depp, who played the eccentric Sam in Benny & Joon – a character that recreates Buster Keaton's slapstick routines and makes grilled cheese with an iron, but never raises his voice or cracks a joke. As he is, the Hatter is a circus rendition of Jack Sparrow, and I happen to like the Captain - dreadlocks, eyeliner, and all.

I will say that the Hatter seems overdone out of sheer love. It's also evident that the entire production is in love with the Red Queen. One of the film’s best features - pathetic, hilarious, cruel, and psychotic – she's designed and played like a caricature of Elizabeth I. Too bad they didn't take as much interest in the White Queen – she's Galadriel + bleach + a touch of kookiness. The same goes for the monarchs' respective kingdoms. The production obviously had a ball planning each and every detail of the Red Queen's castle – the White Queen lives in Middle-Earth.

So yes, I've spent the last 900 words listing one complaint after another and yes, I can still honestly say I was entertained. You can follow it easily, the visuals and actors are good. It's just that it could have been a lot better.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Special Mad Men Marathon: The Loves of Don Draper

Midge, Artist
a Village woman
left Don for a narcissist
what am I thinking?

Rachel Menken, CEO
a nice Jewish girl
who sees through Don like crystal
will I recover?

Bobbie Barrett, Agent
a tough showbiz broad
I think I've got Don's number
where did I go wrong?

Suzanne Farrell, Schoolmarm
an unlikely choice
but Don has eclectic taste
do I regret it?

Monday, March 15, 2010

Eight and a Half

I am confusion
the fragments of a circus
now there is freedom

Monday, March 8, 2010

Special To Catch a Thief Marathon

Shh! Don't Tell the Censors
ah, innuendo...
subtle as those those fireworks
exploding up close

Grace in Gold
anybody else
would've been a parade float
going down main street

I Don't Care What Your Name Is
Oh Johnny Devlin
John (Conrad/Cat) Roger (George)
I simply love you

Monday, March 1, 2010

Special Vertigo Marathon

Nightmare
castanets clicking
Technicolor pulsating
it's a showstopper

Scotty
you aren't crazy
although your taste in women
is questionable

Madeleine
mystery woman
spells trouble, capital T
a male fantasy

Carlotta
of all puzzling things
what I find most curious
you're not Latina