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Tony Grist

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Notes On Tim Burton's Alice [Jan. 7th, 2013|11:00 am]
Tony Grist
OK, I don't altogether hate Tim Burton's Alice. His movies are always good to look at- in a predictable kind of a way. (I'm reminded of the reason Gore Vidal gave for not going to Fellini's latest- "He's a painter. I've already seen his gallery.")

But the crassness of the story-telling really gets my goat. Sending an older Alice back to Wonderland is a goodish wheeze (Carroll had it himself and called it Through the Looking-Glass; why not just film that?) but nothing could be further from the spirit of the original than this banal, Tolkieny epic of usurpation and resistance and bloody revolution .Everything that isn't Carroll is stuff we've seen before in God knows how many other Hollywood movies. Disfigured Villain- check, CGI armies- check. Explosions and things burning- check. Cute animals- check, scantily clad heroine- check. Big CGI monster- check, stirring speeches about liberty and tyranny- check.

Then there's the problem of the Depp ego. Burton and Depp are getting to be bad for one another. They weren't always so but now they defer to one-another's iconic coolness.  Willie Wonka and the Mad Hatter were roles that might have stretched the actor; instead they were tailored to fit the sexually-ambivalent, emo dandy that seems to be his fall-back persona. Depp can be funny- usually when the role doesn't particularly call for it (Hunter S Thompson in Fear and Loathing for instance)- but give him a comic turn and he'll strain- as here- for anything but laughs. What a rum bugger he is! .And Burton indulges him- gifting him with enormous, glowing, CGI eyes like headlamps. This Hatter isn't a character but a big show-off bundle of mannerisms and accents. There's no humour and the audience's sympathy (I'm a freak so love me) is whorishly solicited.  It's a boring performance and there's far too much of it.

Helena Bonham Carter channels Miranda Richardson's Queenie from Blackadder 2, Matt Lucas is rather sweet as the Tweedles, Stephen Fry (instantly recognizable) voices the Cheshire Cat.  Jesus, why does Stephen Fry have to be in everything? Doesn't he have a home to go to?

[User Picture]From: veronica_milvus
2013-01-07 11:35 am (UTC)
Some people write scripts as if they had been informed by a focus group ("Tell us the kind of things you have previously enjoyed in films") rather than using any kind of original thought. It's all bums on seats these days. The result is that a very narrow demographic of people actually go and see films at the cinema.

And yes - I saw enough of this on a plane once to realise that HBC was just being Queenie and I awarded her nil points for being a plagiarist.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2013-01-07 12:15 pm (UTC)
Besides, Richardson did it better. She was funny for a start.

It's a long time since I went to the cinema. There's really nothing that appeals to me these days.
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[User Picture]From: lblanchard
2013-01-07 02:00 pm (UTC)
I would say you have it backwards. Depp is indeed capable of a lot more, but I'd say he defers to Burton's desire for a certain flavor of weirdness. The great exception to the Burton/Depp genre, of course, is Sweeney Todd, where Depp is just as dark as can be. I'd suggest you try the surrealistic "Dead Man" from the mid-90s. He also did a fine job, I think, opposite Kate Winslet in "Finding Neverland."

Burton and Depp have said/done everything they can say/do together, except of course for Sweeney Todd, at Charlie and the Chocolate Factory or possibly before. I found the trailers for Dark Shadows so annoying that I didn't even go.

I know that Depp has split with the mother of his children, is moving to Nashville TN (or at least buying a property there), and is moving into publishing and back into music. It will be interesting to see what this midlife crisis brings (he will, after all, turn 50 this year).
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2013-01-07 02:34 pm (UTC)
It's hard to believe he's nearly 50. How on earth does he manage to look so young?

There are wonderful things in the Depp/Burton canon and some not so wonderful things. I love Ed Wood and The Corpse Bride and quite like Sleepy Hollow. I thought Charlie and The Chocolate Factory was atrocious- even worse than Alice. I haven't seen Sweeney Todd. Dark Shadows seemed (from the pre publicity) to be Burton operating on auto-pilot.

Depp on his own has done a lot that I admire. Dead Man is high on my list of movies I missed at the time and very much want to see. I admit- without shame- to loving him as Captain Jack Sparrow.

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[User Picture]From: angiereedgarner
2013-01-07 02:37 pm (UTC)
Hi! Surfed here via a friending frenzy, added you so you can have a peek at my blog. If of interest please add and if not, I'll go away in the next week or so.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2013-01-07 04:47 pm (UTC)
Hi, I've already visited. Great stuff. And friended you back.
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[User Picture]From: faunhaert
2013-01-07 03:11 pm (UTC)
i hate the campy stuff
looked at alice and dark shadows
and refused to pay for them last week

but in chocolaut and as Jack sparrow I love him

he does a film making music with gypsys
Now that is wonderful- think its because time wasn't there
it was all johnny
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2013-01-07 04:52 pm (UTC)
Tim and Johnny have done some great stuff in the past but I think it might be good for both of them if they separated for a while.

Ed Wood is a favourite of mine. I like The Corpse Bride too.
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[User Picture]From: steepholm
2013-01-07 03:50 pm (UTC)
I hate the way he Tolkienified Alice. If you're going to put something into the LOTR cookie-cutter, at least use a text that isn't world famous for its nonsense, inconsequentiality, and episodic structure. Tolkienify Moby Dick ("The reign of the Dark Whale and his fishy minions is over"), or Great Expectations ("Pip? Is that you?" "That's right, Miss Havisham - and I've come to claim my inheritance!"). Both would be more suitable than Alice. But what's that? You can't because they're classic adult books, and people would be upset? Oh, right, sure. Tosser.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2013-01-07 05:31 pm (UTC)
Yes, but I think he's taken some damage to his reputation by treating Alice this way. You and I can't be the only ones who find this adaption crass. Carroll is one of the greats- as important a writer as Melville and Dickens. You take liberties with him and it's not Carroll who's going to look small.
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From: algabal
2013-01-07 04:21 pm (UTC)
I love the Stephen Fry comment. Enough is enough!

Is there any childhood classic that Burton won't vulgarize? I'm so tired of him. And I'm even more tired of Johnny Deep, and seeing Johnny Depp everywhere. The man has absolutely no sex, and very little depth.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2013-01-07 06:09 pm (UTC)
Burton is an artist with very little to say. He said it in his first few films and now he's just churning out product. This isn't unusual.

I have mixed feelings about Depp. I've liked some of his performances very much. Others I've hated. I suppose what I'm saying is he's a strong flavour.
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[User Picture]From: setsuled
2013-01-07 05:59 pm (UTC)
It really was depressing. It seems to me Carroll's works are so much about the ridiculousness of adult conflicts and ceremonies, and Burton's movie was so much about how great adult conflicts and ceremonies are. Even more than disappointment in Burton, I was disappointed in how it reflected the kind of story people wanted to be told.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2013-01-07 06:16 pm (UTC)
No version of Alice has ever been as out of tune with Carroll's vision as this one is. Even Disney made a better fist of it.
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[User Picture]From: lblanchard
2013-01-08 02:07 am (UTC)
I saw a trailer for Lone Ranger today. I think there will be more than a hint of Cap'n Jack in his Tonto one. His gypsy film is The Man Who Cried. He had a lead role but spoke only 60-some words (I counted). I liked him in From Hell,too, where he was backed up by a terrific ensemble cast (Jasyn Fleming, Ian Holme, Ian Richardson, Robbie Coltrane, etc.).
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[User Picture]From: arielstarshadow
2013-01-08 02:39 pm (UTC)
For me, Burton's Alice spoke to me in ways I cannot fully express. The movie made me cry in several places, and it felt... right.

"You're not the same as you were before, You were much more...muchier...you've lost your muchness."

"Why is it you're always too small or too tall?"

I can't help you if you don't even know who you are, stupid girl.
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