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Jan 12, 2011

The State of the Cabins (1/12/11)

Things to Click On
* Hokahey takes a final look back at 2010 with his "Images" retrospective. (Little Worlds)

* The Good Indoorsman takes a page from my book (not that I have the market cornered or anything, but he even said he double-checked to make sure I hadn't already done it - awesome!).

* Horatio (Paul's compadre over at Careful with That Blog, Eugene) has a bone to pick with Ramona Flowers. Funny stuff.

* Want to debate the term 'second fiddle?' Castor has deemed these 7 Actors as being better off in that role than in the lead. (Anomalous Material)

* Kano's done made a '50 to see in 2011' list as well, and damn, if he ain't in for a terrific 52 weeks of movie watching. (Kano's Lay-Z-Boy Theater)

Movies watched for the first time (non-theatrically) since last week time:
* Alice in Wonderland
Pardon my French, but what the fuck was that shit?

Unlike many out there who were fooled by it, I was pissed at this abomination from the first look at the trailer. It certainly wasn't the fact that someone dared to make a sequel/remake/whatever of the Disney classic - hell, it's had a number of those over the years. It was that he was doing it - TAFKAB, aka The Artist Formerly Known as Burton. I guess it shouldn't come as that big of a surprise that he's a hack anymore - the evidence has been mounting for years.

We all fell in love with him in the 80s and early 90s. Some with Pee-Wee, others with Edward Scissorhands, and still more with Beetlejuice and the Batman films. He's not the first director to start out as a hyphenate, but at least the others can mix it up every now and then. Hell, Martin Scorcese hasn't written a screenplay since Casino in 1995, but no one would accuse him of being a hack. Burton hasn't even had so much as a story credit on a feature since 1993 (The Nightmare Before Christmas), and few would argue that he's made a better film since 1994's Ed Wood. (Note: this will actually change with his next flick, as he's mining his past/returning to his roots to make a feature of his short film Frankenweenie.)

This is not a coincidence. Burton, while capable of turning copper into at least bronze with his shtick (Big Fish) is more than content these days to mine the past of others, putting his stamp on all matter of pop culture greatness, from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory to Sweeney Todd to Sleepy Hollow to even Planet of the Apes. And now this. If I didn't know better, I'd lay even money that a Wizard of Oz remake will be on his slate within the next ten years.

So it was with that mindset that I sat down to watch his interpretation of Alice. Oh, but wait! It's no remake at all - it's a pseudo-sequel! That Alice being played by a teenager was no accident - Burton tells us that her original trips were part of her early childhood dreams (or were they...?), and here at the arrival of her supposed engagement she's meant to take another trip down the rabbit hole.

But it's not to Wonderland, no. Not content to merely sequelize the classic, Burton informs us that it was never Wonderland at all, but Underland. Oh. Well, then here's my question for you, Tim? Why title your film Alice in Wonderland?

The answer is money. And shame on him and Disney for gracing this awful movie with the same title as the 1951 film it trades off of.

Fletch's Film Rating:
"I want you to punch me as hard as you can."
Large Association of Movie Blogs

* True Grit
Were it not for the overwhelmingly positive reviews all-around for the Coen Brothers version, here is where I would likely come off as a hypocrite. It's no surprise to anyone reading this, but I'm no film classicist. I've mentioned before that there's an invisible line in the sand of film history where 'modern' turns to 'classic,' and with it a set of variables that are likely to turn me off. I usually place this line somewhere in the mid-to-late 60s, though it seems to jump from film to film.

True Grit manages to extend that line all the way to 1969. Is it just me, or does it feel as though it were made a decade earlier? Unlike the 2010 version, the film is anything but gritty, starring a weirdly-always-smiling Kim Darby as Mattie Ross and featuring a just-plain-awful title song that I later learned was (of course) nominated for an Academy Award. Likewise, star John Wayne received his only Best Actor win for his role as Rooster Cogburn, and I can only assume it's because it was a bit outside his normal wheelhouse. Will you hate me for saying that Bridges is worlds better in the role?

That's not to say that Wayne isn't enjoyable - he just doesn't do much here to make me think he deserved the win over the other nominated actors, including both Dustin Hoffman and Jon Voight from Midnight Cowboy. Smells like a lifetime achievement award, despite the likability of the Cogburn character.

The completest in me was curious to catch the original and compare the Coens version to it and I've done it; as others have noted, it's surprisingly similar. Many scenes and lines are near shot-for-shot or line-for-line. There's just something that didn't click nearly as well. Not surprisingly, Robert Duvall as Ned Pepper was terrific and led the way for Barry Pepper, and also served as my modern-day connection to an old-timey movie (Dennis Hopper, not so much).

P.S. - I was thinking that Darby was so terrible that she couldn't have gone on to do much else. Of course not - amongst other things, she's an 80s icon (!), co-starring in not only Teen Wolf Too! (haha) but also in Better Off Dead, as Lane's mom. I can't wait to watch it again just to see her. Hell, she probably fit right in with the tone of that flick, which is more than I can say for Grit.

Fletch's Film Rating:
"Darn tootin."
"You seem a decent fellow. I hate to kill you."
Large Association of Movie Blogs

Music I'm currently obsessed with:
* See below - I haven't listened to much of anything lately.

Book I'm currently reading:
* See last week's State. I don't think I've read a page since (I'm at home on paternity leave and haven't had or made much time for reading).

6 people have chosen wisely: on "The State of the Cabins (1/12/11)"

Jess said...

Good - I thought I was the only one who liked the Coens version better! The happy sunny (Coen's used winter better) town they arrive in might have been a better representation of that town, but it didn't work as a story. Hailee Steinfeld was also a more precocious Mattie Ross and believeable to me.

I hope you're enjoying paternity leave.

Castor said...

Thanks for the link love Fletch!

Aiden R. said...

Dude, Alice was the worst movie of the year. Sorry you had to sit through that.

Anonymous said...

I hate the animated Disney Alice, loathe it. It's just a bunch of random scenes that don't understand in any way shape or form the original critique of Carroll's novel. More people need to read books, dammit.

I like this new version more, in large part because it becomes it's own story and in part because I think Burton tapped into that spirit of critique Carroll had in his original novel.

But maybe I'm just mad as a hatter.

O yea, and that True Grit film. It was good, I guess. Best use of bear skin in a movie. That needs to be a friggin' Oscar category.

ratatouille's archives said...

Bonjour! Fletch...
LOL!!!! to your Alice in ["V"]onderland comment.

(A fellow blogger, gave me a copy Of "Alice"...However, I gave the film to my young niece...no comment from her yet...I will wait until she return the film before I give the film the thumb-up or thumb...)

Unfortunately, I have not watched the Coen's "True Grit" yet... with "yet" being the operative word.
Merci, for sharing the links too!
DeeDee ;-D

Fletch said...

Jess - really? Far as I could tell, many have been saying that the Coens version is a better film, and I couldn't agree more.

Paternity leave is alright. I'm getting a bit baby crazy (in the wrong way) and will kinda welcome returning to work. I think this stage of infancy is just not my favorite. I'll want to be home all of the time when she can interact with me beyond screaming in my face.

Castor - no problemo!

Aiden - Well, I chose to. Bad choice. Curiosity gets the better of me a lot.

James - Sorry, I haven't read Carroll's book, but I think I might like to. That said, I love the 1951 version, so, yeah. Watch it under the influence some time and get back to me.

Please give me four other uses of bear skin in the last 10 years. Then we can talk Oscar categories.

DeeDee - merci! Wise choice getting rid of that Alice as soon as you could. ;)

Good luck catching True Grit. It's worth it!