Oscar 2011 Post Mortem: One Giant SnoozeFest

You can look back and say that a handful of the Oscar telecasts in the past 20-30 years have been, at times, predictable, overly long, ostentatious, and even a bit egomaniacal. But never, ever should the glorious Academy Awards be viewed as BORING! Now I hate to say “I told you so,” but remember…what I told you a couple of weeks ago? I said the evening had “sleepy disaster” written all over it – and on top of this being (by leaps and bounds) the worst Oscar show I have seen in 25+ years, this was without a doubt, the most mind-numbingly tiresome telecast I have ever had the displeasure of sitting through. I haven’t seen any of what was being said this morning about the show (I am assuming they are all echoing my sentiments), but I wanted to make sure and put a bow on this baby and write some overall commentary about the evening – and let us promise to never speak of this ill-fated travesty again.

First, our hosts. This was an idiotic decision from Day #1. Did the producers really expect thousands of younger viewers to flock to their sets to sit and watch James Franco and Anne Hathaway? Both are terrific actors, but that is not the issue here. The issue is that although Hathaway was ready and game all night, her co-host looked completely disinterested and gave off the appearance of wanting to be anywhere but there. Hathaway tried her hardest, by golly! She was energetic, funny, prepared and looked thrilled to be there. It made for a very uneven and awkward chemistry every time the duo took the stage. Their skits were unimaginative and the few jokes (where were all the jokes???) they told were safe and trite. On top of boring, this was the unfunniest (I just made that a word) Oscar show ever. I expected a lot more from Franco and he disappointed in huge fashion. Huge.

And where the hell was all the glitz? The glamour? The romance of Hollywood? I saw none of it. Part of what makes Oscar night great is that it is a celebration of Tinseltown – old and new. Where were all the beautifully edited montages of films from yesteryear? They started with telling us that the Oscars started in 1929 and showed us a nice picture…and that was it. Did nothing with it. They started by showing us the famous illustration from Gone With the Wind…and that was it. Did nothing with it. There were no tributes paid to award-winning films from the past – and even the Honorary Award for the evening was rushed as our honorees were not even allowed to speak. The Tony Awards don’t do much right, but one thing they do is showcase their respective ‘Best Musical‘ nominees so that viewers can get a taste of what the show is about. After watching this Oscar telecast, I had no idea what any of the 10 nominated films were about. They could/should have at least displayed them to us so that those who missed a few could perhaps be enticed to see them. What did they do instead? When rattling off the names for all the ‘Best Picture’ nominees, we were treated to a poorly edited pastiche of them – without any of the actual sound! No, we got a monologue from (the now officially overrated) The King’s Speech to be the voiceover to it all. Painful.

Also, I always look forward to the moment when Hollywood pays respect to those artists we have lost during the past calendar year. It is a nice reminder and a gentle tribute. Forget that I had to sit and look at/listen to Celine Dion….there was no applause, no emotion…nothing. Even this staple of the evening was passed over and easily forgotten. Overall, the evening was really just presenters – most of whom have future films to pitch and sell us on – just coming up and giving out awards in very anti-climatic fashion. And with the exception of Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg (and of course Coppola who wasn’t allowed to talk), there were no Hollywood heavyweights to really speak of…no Jack, no Al, no Clint. No George, no Brad, no Johnny. No Meryl, no Julia, no Angelina. On a good note though, I did get to see Marisa, Scarlett, and Penelope so I am not complaining THAT much.

I won’t repeat myself with everything that was wrong with the 83rd Academy Awards. You can go to my Live Oscar Blogcast to see all of that. Suffice it to say that when the most exciting part of the evening is Melissa Leo dropping the F-bomb, something is terribly wrong.

Something needs to be done – and fast. This cannot be allowed to happen again. At the risk of sounding overly dramatic, this was nothing short of a disgrace. Someone knock on Billy Crystal’s front door and pay him. Drop a boat-wad of money at his doorstep and just pay the guy what he wants. Because the evening deserves much more than what we were witness to last night. And if Mr. Crystal is not willing, then fine. But you better pick a polished comedian – the perfect choice for an emcee at the Oscars. I know everyone is terrified of Ricky Gervais right now (who I think is simply brilliant and downright hysterical), but there’s one thing you can’t say about him – he sure ain’t boring!

83rd Annual Oscars – LIVE BLOGCAST!!!

The 83rd Oscars are just under two hours away and I am prepping for Magic Lantern’s 1st live blogcast of this celebrated event. Really, it’s just me typing away my own personal (and at times, ridiculous) comments during the course of the night — what went well, what seemed embarrassing, the nice touches, those deserving, and those (like last year’s Monique) that simply made fools of themselves. I really can’t sit and watch the Red Carpet affair…that in itself seems like an inane activity. I don’t care what these people are wearing and I never hear any intelligent questions asked of the stars anyway. So I tune in at 8:30 and enjoy the actual ceremony.

Hope you have a great Oscar Night! I will see you then — and please feel free to comment yourselves…. 

So I had the E! Channel on mute then changed the channel. Having to watch Ryan Seacrest before such a big, exciting night just ruins it for me. I liken it to having a rain delay before a big post-season baseball game.

Oh goodie — another Jake Gyllenhaal flop to look forward to in April. Poor guy keeps trying so hard…

Opening Montage: Meh. Nicely edited….not as funny as it could’ve been. Hathaway was actually pretty funny, especially in The Fighter bit.  Why are we giving Baldwin so much attention and credit anyway? Stop encouraging this guy.

Hathaway was so energetic and lively. So adorable. She was terrific — too bad Franco forgot to bring it. I didn’t need to see their relatives though. Poorly written opening….and stiff (nice, James).

Art Direction & Cinematography: Holy shit! Huge upset already in the Art Direction category. Would have never guessed Alice in Wonderland! I thought Inception was a shoe-in. “Alice” was a beautiful movie to watch, I must say.

Oh, Mr. Deakins (aka Susan Lucci)….looks like you’ll have to wait a bit longer for the Award that should have been yours long ago. So sorry to see…though the cinematography for Inception was glorious.  

Oooo!!! Caught sight of Mr. Francis Ford Coppola in the back. He looks great. Still one of our very best filmmakers. And sending Kirk Douglas out there like that??? I thought this was kinda tacky and a little sad. Will he be doing New Year’s Eve with Dick Clark in December? This was terrible and not necessary.

Supporting Actress: Melissa Leo!!!! It goes to the most deserving this year!!! So awesome and she looks terrific. Knew you’d win an Oscar when I saw you on “Homicide” years back. Everyone needs to see Ms. Leo in this…she was superb. (written AFTER the telecast – And your big F-bomb? In hindsight, the evening’s only spontaneous moment. Nice play, Melissa.( Someone take Douglas off the stage please…

Animated Films: Cute Bansky reference. Was waiting for that. Justin looked nervous and was tight….killed the whole bit. Made it up a bit when he said, “you know” when they opened the envelope….and Toy Story 3 wins Animated Film….no surprise at all there. That was the LOCK of the evening. No chance in hell it takes Best Picture though. And excuse me, I just have to say, Mila KunisGORGEOUS!!!

OK, so really James Franco and Anne Hathaway are done for the night, right? I mean, they did their work…and I am assuming will be doing very little else for the rest of the evening. Ugh….

Screenplays: I always like when the Oscars flash back and pay homage to the Hollywood from years ago, but that was lame. What was the point of showing that 1929 footage when you do nothing with it? Josh Brolin always comes off more smug than me. No surprise with The Social Network winning adapted screenplay….It was very good (though I can’t stand Sorkin). Was pulling for the Coen Brothers and their great adaptation. OK, so what was with the silly showings of the script/dialogue that showed absolutely nothing about the process and art of screenwriting? The King’s Speech wins as predicted. Great “late bloomer” line by our winner….a wonderful acceptance speech. Very witty, intelligent and well spoken.

Sets up a great two-way showdown for ‘Best Picture.’ And now I must prepare to hold my breath and not turn the TV off when Russell Brand comes on. Lord help us all….when are his 15 minutes up?

Anne Hathaway – you’re a real sport. Nice job…totally committed. Bravo. Hugh Jackman, you tool. Haha! James Franco makes an awful looking woman…great text line though. Please — everyone — I beg of you…don’t pay good money to see the Arthur remake…rent the brilliant classic that can never be duplicated. RIP Dudley…

I’m not doing so hot on my predictions. Surprised at the Foreign Language film. Dogtooth was brilliant, but oh-so deeply disturbing. I really thought it would go to Incendies.

Supporting Actor: I knew Bale would win when I saw it in November. I really didn’t go out on a ledge with that one. Don’t care for the guy, but as I stated before, he truly deserves this award. One truly heartbreaking and courageous performance. Bale looked somewhat humble — nice to see.

Is it me — or is this Academy Awards a bit anti-climatic? Seems a bit boring. The presentations for all the awards are so dull….Zzzzzz.

Some nice excerpts from the Best Score nominees. A bit surprised that Reznor took this one, though hearing a small protion of it again, reminded me of how good it was. Interesting that the Academy didn’t go the “safe” route with Desplat’s work on The King’s Speech.

OK, so here is where Inception wins two more awards (for sound categories). And…SCARLETT!!!! Giddy up! Not sure what she was wearing, but still…SCARLETT!!! No surprise at all with these two sound statues….get my batting average up a bit.

Oooo – Marisa Tomei….always up for a Marisa sighting. She should make anyone’s Fantasy 5. And she doesn’t need a sidekick. She looked stunning. Simply stunning.

Make-Up: Lousy nominees. Wolfman is very deserving, but there were many films this year with great make-up work. Should be a much more exciting category than it is every year. This was a lay-up, people.

Costume Design: Great nominees. Tough category. Look, I got another one right! Getting better as we go along. Gorgeous work by Ms. Atwood. She did look stiffer than James Franco though. There go two more awards — and the boring telecast continues! This is the worst in years, no?

Best Song: Randy Newman…same song, different title (even though I picked you to win). Uh…what was that watching everyone’s favorite song bit? That’s what they came up with to introduce this category? Someone needs to be fired. Nice to see the clip from Once – one of the best songs to win the award in recent memory. Weak category this year…very weak.

Hollywood is going to keep ramming this guy down our throats until we just accept him — for all his pathetic inadequacies. Way to even fuck that short bit up, Jake. You don’t get 30 takes to come off as semi-authentic on live TV. I won’t even pretend that I saw the shorts this year. I usually rent them when they come out on DVD. So no – I did not predict or project in these two categories. Though crazy hair guy gave a sweet acceptance speech, capped off nicely with a nice nod to his gal.

Musical nominee remix bit — the night just keeps getting sadder, doesn’t it…No wonder Jack doesn’t bother showing up. And Oprah, why are you here??? Go away…go away now! Haha, Joel Coen looked more bored than idiots like me who insist on keeping this sleepy show on.

Good docs this year (though thought Restrepo was a bit underwhelming). I kinda figured Inside Job would take this one. I’m like Mark Texeira…I started out really slow, but picking up steam now. Good mini-political statement and yes, you should watch the film…it’s alarming to say the least. Great, Downey and Law coming up….could Sherlock Holmes get any shittier the second time around?

Billy Crystal!!! Never thought I’d say this but GOD I MISS YOU TONIGHT!!! Robert Downey – no wonder the brilliant Gervais made fun of you. He had every right. Feel happy in your safe confines here? This show needs some Gervais — am I right???!!!!

4 technical Oscars for Inception. Very impressive. OK, we’re almost done with this people…thank God. When is the montage of those we lost in Hollywood this year? I always like that…Tony Curtis is my odds-on-favorite for most applause.

So I got 12 out of 16 right so far….not too shabby. Not shabby at all. Just sayin’….

Inappropriate movie title bit…it just keeps getting worse, doesn’t it? This is close to an abomination. Who did the writing of the jokes this year? Hey — who is the Enya wanna-be? And Gwyneth looks like she is going for heroin-chic. This award is between Toy Story 3 and 127 Hours, I think…Randy Newman not only won this Oscar (not deserving at all, but I did pick him), but he placed third in the Roger Ebert look-alike contest held in Knoxville, Tennessee. Kudos, Randy.

Even the stars in the audience are bored to tears! This was the first year there was no applause during the montage of those who passed away this year. Maybe they were all asleep too and didn’t realize it. Once again– R.I.P. Dennis Hopper!

Ah, I love when Oscar plays the race card. Doesn’t come off as patronizing at all. Another ineffective segment for your viewing pleasure.

Best Director: Ms. Bigelow won for that very reason…because she is a woman. Sorry folks. Someone had to say it. You’re all thinking it!!! Holy shit, Tom Hooper wins — that’s a sign for your Best Picture winner right there. I screwed that call up big time. I would call this a minor upset even though The King’s Speech was the odds-on-favorite. I did not find him to be deserving of this — but that is just me. Nice speech though, Mr. Hooper. Was cute. (BTW, James Franco — you brought NOTHING tonight. You’re better than that, dude.)

Brownlow/Coppola/Wallach – the night’s best moment. And they let it slip through their fingers. Couldn’t let them speak? They even fucked that baby up.

Speaking about her co-host for the night: “A fabulous job hosting tonight” — wow, Anne…you CAN act. Nice big fat lie.

JEFF BRIDGES!!!! THANK YOU, GOOD LORD!!! Look how fucking awesome he is. Just listen to this guy. So sincere, so prepared. And yes…still the best hair in Hollywood. Jeff — you remain THE MAN!!!

Best Actress: Oh where are you Ms. Noomi Rapace? Jennifer Lawrence looked beautiful – and you rocked, girl. This was such a weak category this year. A number of others that were so well deserving not here. Ms. Portman was very deserving, given the competition. It was a raw, multi-layered and brave performance in a very good (but not great) film. I’m glad they didn’t go politico and vote for Bening. A nice speech…seemed very genuine. She looked good too — way to go, LONG ISLAND GAL!!!!

Best Actor: Sandra Bullock — what the fuck you do with yo hair, girl??? JEFF BRIDGES…I have no shame in saying I have great man love for you. Jesse – just get on your knees and thank God that you are even part of this evening. Your nomination robbed so many others who were so well deserving. I have no gripe here…Colin Firth was excellent. It was a wonderful performance (though I do wish Bridges took it home). Sandra was very entertaining and playful here, but that “none better than you” statement to Franco was a bit too much. Mr. Firth – nice speech. Boring….but nice.

Best Picture: When Hooper won for Director it kind of let the steam out of the suspense. I think The King’s Speech was a very good film…a solid 3-star film, but am so surprised it took home the Award this year. Then again, nothing really stood out as an unbelievable or remarkable film, especially of the twn chosen here. BTW, hated the “King Speech” voiceover to all ten nominees — give each film its due and show a nice clip from all ten. This was another blundering decision. Weinstein campaigns himself to another Best Picture win…no one does it quite like him. Franco couldn’t look more disinterested at the end (as well as all evening through) – did he have reservations somewhere?

Eh…I predicted 15 out of 21. Not terrible. Not great, but not so terrible. How did you do at home? That is…if you are still up watching this travesty of an awards show. Maybe I should start watching the Spirit Awards again, just to see a bit of energy.

Tomorrow – I’ll make sure to write a brief write-up of my overall thoughts of this Oscar ceremony. Not much to say…just how terribly, terribly boring it all was. I’m sure most media outlets will be spewing the very same thing – BUT YOU HEARD IT HERE FIRST!

Thank you so much to the handful of readers of this site who followed along with me tonight — and of course, for adding your own personal commentary. Always great to read what others are thinking and I thank you for taking the time to share with me. Greatly appreciated. 

THE WINNERS:

Best Film Editing – The Social Network
Best Costume Design – Alice in Wonderland
Best Art Direction – Alice in Wonderland
Best Cinematography – Inception
Best Make-Up – The Wolfman
Best Visual Effects – Inception
Best Sound Editing – Inception
Best Sound Mixing – Inception
Best Documentary Feature – Inside Job
Best Documentary Short Subject – Strangers No More
Best Live Action Short Film – God of Love
Best Animated Short Film – The Lost Thing
Best Animated Feature – Toy Story 3
Best Score – The Social Network
Best Original Song – “We Belong Together” (Toy Story 3)
Best Foreign Film – In A Better World
Best Original Screenplay – The King’s Speech
Best Adapted Screenplay – The Social Network
Best Supporting Actor – Christian Bale (The Fighter)
Best Supporting Actress – Melissa Leo (The Fighter)
Best Actor – Colin Firth (The King’s Speech)
Best Actress – Natalie Portman (Black Swan)
Best Director – Tom Hooper (The King’s Speech)
Best Picture of 2010 – The King’s Speech

Oscar Picks for 2011!!!

The 83rd Annual Academy Awards are just around the corner, so I wanted to throw in my two cents about who you can expect to walk away with Mr. Oscar, arguably the world’s most recognized prize, on February 27th. Though I think that the co-hosting duo of James Franco and Anne Hathaway has “sleepy disaster” written all over it, I will surely be glued to the television that evening to watch – as I have each year since I was quite young. In truth, it’s the only awards show on TV that I allow myself to watch. There will be no sweep of awards by a single picture this year. Rather, I think Oscar voters will spread the wealth around. For each of the “major” categories I’ve cited here, I made sure to include “who will win,” “who should win” and perhaps my personal favorite, “who should have been nominated.” In any case, here they are…my scholarly predictions for this year’s Oscars:

Best Supporting Actress

Usually, if there are any big upsets it comes in the supporting categories. So don’t be surprised if the young Hailee Steinfeld pulls off a Tatum O’Neal/Anna Paquin stunner, even though Steinfeld is in fact a leading actor in the Coen Brothers’ wonderful remake of True Grit. I don’t see Jacki Weaver (though wonderful) nabbing it and frankly, I didn’t think Bonham-Carter was very deserving of a nomination, so out she goes. The odds-on-favorite here is Melissa Leo and rightfully so. She was sensational as the controlling mother of her large Boston clan in David O. Russell’s excellent film, The Fighter. Perhaps the ads she took out for herself may turn off some Oscar voters, but I’ll go with my heart and gut here and say that Leo gets the award she most certainly deserves.

Will Win:           Melissa Leo
Should Win:     Melissa Leo
Should Have Been Nominated:   Naomi Watts (Mother and Child)

Best Supporting Actor

I really can’t stand the guy, but I cannot deny his tremendous talent and versatility. Nor can I refute his masterful performance as the former boxer-turned-heroin addict in The Fighter. If voters can spot a stand-out performance, then this award will surely go to Christian Bale. I thought he had this award locked up when I saw it in November. The only competition here seems to be Geoffrey Rush who has an outside shot at best. Rush was very good and is well liked, but his prior win hurts him – and frankly, Bale was just frighteningly authentic. For the record, I must say that, for the second year in a row, I’m not sure why Jeremy Renner is nominated. Do people like, owe this guy a lot of favors or something?

Will Win:           Christian Bale
Should Win:     Christian Bale
Should Have Been Nominated:   Ben Mendelsohn (Animal Kingdom)

Best Animated Feature

Here’s your no-brainer lock for the evening. The fact that Toy Story 3 spoiled a perfectly good 10th slot in the ‘Best Picture’ category tells you all you need to know. Not that it isn’t deserving of a ‘Best Picture’ nom, but an animated film should not be considered here – being that, you know…the Academy created its own category especially for them. And this is it! Toy Story 3 walks away with this with no fight whatsoever. It is nice to see the smaller independent The Illusionist get some recognition here – but why the hell wasn’t the wonderfully delightful My Dog Tulip on this list? The beautiful animation, heartfelt story and terrific narration by Christopher Plummer made it one of the warmest films of the year.

Best Song

Is it me or does every Randy Newman song sound eerily similar to the last? Perhaps that explains why this is his 20th nomination, but only has one win to show for it. “We Belong Together” from Toy Story 3 will be his 2nd win. His only other competition here seems to be “If I Rise” from 127 Hours – a film that doesn’t really have a shot to win in any other category it’s nominated for. This is a 2-horse race and it is kind of a toss up. Though “If I Rise” is the better song, in the end, voters will side with Pixar and Disney. One last thought — every year it seems there were far better songs out there then the ones that end up vying for Oscar. This should be an exciting category, but more often than not – it ends up being pretty weak.

Best Original Screenplay

For all of its one-dimensional supporting characters and many plot holes, I’m still scratching my head as to why Inception is nominated here. This one is between The King’s Speech and The Kids Are All Right. I’m thinking The King’s Speech walks away with this one, and is a lock if The Social Network does indeed walk away with the night’s grand prize. Cholodenko’s screenplay was fine, but can she write about anything other than lesbians?

Will Win:           The King’s Speech
Should Win:     The Fighter
Should Have Been Nominated:   Mother and Child

Best Adapted Screenplay

The Coen Brothers did a wonderful job adapting True Grit, remaining very faithful to the novel, more so than the classic 1969 film. Winter’s Bone is also a solid screenplay – but that will have to bask in the Independent Spirit Awards glory. Here, The Social Network wins hands down. I’m not a big Sorkin fan and I feel much of his dialogue is overly melodramatic and does not ring genuine – it’s “TV talk.” But he does a solid job here and though I may not think it’s the best adapted screenplay of the year, Oscar voters will surely think so.

Will Win:           The Social Network
Should Win:     True Grit
Should Have Been Nominated:   The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

Best Cinematography

A strong category this year with some great work across the board. Even though I didn’t go nuts for Inception, I cannot deny the beautiful camera work done. Black Swan was also quite visually stunning at times. But Roger Deakins’ work is hailed by everyone in Hollywood and anyone who loves film. The man has been nominated nine times in the past and has yet to walk away with Oscar. Since True Grit really doesn’t have much of a shot at the “bigger” awards, this one ends Deakins’ Susan Lucci streak and he gets his much deserved award (that he should have had long ago).

Will Win:           True Grit
Should Win:     True Grit
Should Have Been Nominated:   The Ghost Writer

Best Actress

I find this to be an especially weak category this year – with no suspense as to who will even win, which takes much of the steam away from it. Natalie Portman has this baby in the bag – she was very good in a very demanding role, but I don’t think she gave the year’s finest performance. Of these five, I would say she deserves it – but Noomi Rapace gave one of the most courageous performances in years and Hye-ja Kim was devastating in Mother. These are the two ghastliest oversights of the year. Annette Bening is certainly deserving of a nomination this year – they just chose the wrong film to nominate her for. Portman – in a landslide.

Will Win:           Natalie Portman
Should Win:     Natalie Portman
Should Have Been Nominated:   Noomi Rapace (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo)

Best Actor

Another category with no drama to it this year. Jeff Bridges won last year (deservedly so), so he won’t win. Jesse Eisenberg did what he does in every film – with the same delivery and same mannerisms – so what the hell is he doing here? Many thought Colin Firth should have won the ‘Best Actor’ prize for his terrific work in the sub-par A Single Man…add to that his excellent performance in The King’s Speech – and we have ourselves a winner! Oscar voters love a good physical handicap that is overcome…and stuttering suits that bill just fine.

Will Win:           Colin Firth
Should Win:     Colin Firth
Should Have Been Nominated:   Robert Duvall (Get Low)

Best Director

David Fincher’s films are hit-or-big miss with me. Seldom does the ‘Best Director’ and ‘Best Picture’ awards get split up, but it does happen on occasion. I don’t think this is one of those years. In a mild upset, I think Fincher bests Tom Hooper’s period piece in one of the few categories that actually has some suspense to it.

Will Win:           David Fincher (The Social Network)
Should Win:     David O. Russell (The Fighter)
Should Have Been Nominated:   Niels Arden Oplev (Dragon Tattoo)

Best Picture

We have two films with a serious chance this year – if any other film other than The Social Network or The King’s Speech wins, it would certainly be considered a tremendous upset. The 10 nominations is silly – look at the ‘Best Director’ nominees and you can immediately eliminate five films. The Social Network is a critics’ darling. The King’s Speech has gained much momentum with some recent Guild award wins. Oscar voters are smitten with British accents, but I’m going to go with my gut on this one. I enjoyed The King’s Speech, but didn’t feel it had nearly as much weight as Fincher’s film. I know The King’s Speech is the favorite right now, but I’m thinking voters will “Like” (get it?) the societal relevance of The Social Network in the end.

Will Win:           The Social Network
Should Win:     The Fighter
Should Have Been Nominated:   The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

Picks From Other Categories

Best Make-Up:
The Wolfman (as always, terribly lame choices in a category that should be filled with excellent work)

Best Costume Design:
The King’s Speech
(though Alice in Wonderland, the more deserving film here, may pull a minor upset)

Best Film Editing
The Social Network

Best Art Direction
Inception

Best Documentary Feature
The very timely Inside Job ekes out a victory over the fascinating Exit Through the Gift Shop

Peter Eramo Reviews: “Alice in Wonderland” (***)

I recall that there was so much anticipation to this film — ‘The film that Tim Burton was born to direct’ was what everyone was saying. Then, when it was released earlier this year, I hadn’t heard many positive things about it at all (despite its massive box-office intake), so I decided to stay away from it. Sadly, I did not get to witness this gorgeous looking film on the big screen, but I am glad that I did get around to watching it as I found it to be a pretty enjoyable film.

Tim Burton is hit-or-miss with me. Though certainly a great visual director who has his own unique style, I always felt he needed better screenwriters to collaborate with as many times it is the screenplay that I find to be weak, though he has made terrific films in “Sweeney Todd,” “Big Fish” and “Ed Wood.” Here, he re-creates his own bold interpretation of Lewis Carroll’s seminal work with an adapted screenplay by Linda Woolverton. Rather than having an Alice trying to figure out who she is not (as in the book), this Alice (a fresh young face in Mia Wasikowska) is seeking to find out who she is as a 19 year-old budding woman. In the process, Burton gets to explore the complex nature of dreams as Alice is never quite sure if she is awake or will wake up at any moment.

Alice is betrothed to an idiotic fop of an English nobleman who she really has no love for. The first few minutes pretty much beat you over the head with showing you how independent and unique she is — too much so. At her engagement party where she is debating whether or not to say “Yes” to this clod, Alice escapes and falls down the proverbial rabbit hole, entering the magical world of “Underland.” Filled with strange and unique characters – a tyrannical queen, talking animals, bandersnatches, knights and such – Alice finds that she is there for one reason…to slay the treacherous Jabberwocky and restore the White Queen (Anne Hathaway) to her rightful place on the throne.

The film is a visual delight filled with wonderous art direction, make-up, and computer effects in addition to Colleen Atwood’s imaginative costume design for these surreal characters. Danny Elfman’s score, though fitting, is quite easy to point out, as much of his work for Burton’s films sound very much alike. While in Underland, the movie is a treat to watch — it’s the beginning and end of the film, when Alice is in “the real world,” that the film falls short.

The performances here are wonderful and fun to watch.  As the despotic Red Queen with the enormous head, Helena Bonham Carter is deliciously fun. She is incredibly bossy here (“I need a pig!”) and barks her orders in quick, firm fashion. Though quite villainous, Carter does display a great sense of insecurity and envy towards her sister, the White Queen. You almost feel bad for her…almost!  Hathaway does a fine job as the White Queen who is committed to her altruistic vows. She doesn’t get to chew the scenery like her co-stars, but does an admirable job and has the right look/air of playing the good queen. The voice work of Alan Rickman (the Blue Caterpillar) is superb, which should be of no shock to anyone. His baritone voice is smooth and melodic and creates a great sense of mystery here. Stephen Fry plays the voice of the magical Cheshire Cat and he too is wonderful to listen to.

Of course the highlight here is Johnny Depp playing the infamous Mad Hatter. I’m not sure what to say about Mr. Depp other than the fact that I find him to be one of the handful of actors working today that truly immerses himself in a role and commits to the craft of performance in full force. A close friend and “student” of the late Marlon Brando, you can tell that much of Brando’s approach wore off. Depp has an uncanny chameleon-like ability and here, he comes up with his own unique interpretation of the Mad Hatter. He is sweet and gentle one moment, and forceful and a bit sinister the next. His lispy voice and eccentric manner (as well as his make-up and costume) fit the legendary character very well. He also plays a great protector to little Alice and there is a very sweet scene between the two when Alice has to say good-bye to her new friend. I found myself feeling great empathy for him throughout the film. There is also an incredible scene between Depp and Carter when he is brought in to her as a shackled prisoner. Great fun to watch!

This is a very engaging coming-of-age story where Alice has to figure out who she is, what she wants and has to find her “muchness” that she has apparently lost. Wasikowska, an actress I was not familiar with, does a nice job at playing the very demanding role where much of her work is done against a green screen – and her chemistry with Depp is strong.

All in all, I was upset that I didn’t get to witness this event on the big screen and I don’t see where all the negativity comes from — unless it was that expectations were set so high that Burton had to create a masterpiece in order to satisfy everyone. This film is not a masterpiece, but it is a very entertaining film that takes on its own interpretation while keeping the tone and feel of the book everyone knows. And though it does have a few flaws, I enjoyed it immensely.

Rating:   
Director: Tim Burton
Year:      2010

To watch the film trailer, please click here

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