Cheers and Jeers for Burton’s “Alice”

March 26, 2010 at 2:58 pm (Film)

After seeing Tim Burton’s latest venture, his reimagining of “Alice in Wonderland,” for the second time, I feel safe in giving it a review. As an obsessive Burton fan, I’m going to contain myself and just write.

Cheers to the digital artists at CafeFX and the art department on the film. While I didn’t see this in 3D, the picture was incredibly clear and the environment incredibly detailed. I could see individual blades of grass, small stones, etc., and scenes that I know were created on green screen passed as real. The garden of the White Queen was particularly outstanding, and those in charge of the greens should be considered masters. The painters obviously did a fantastic job as well–from the portraits on the wall of the Red Queen’s castle to the harlequin-tiled floor of the room of doors, it was as textured and intricate as anything I’ve seen. Meanwhile, the animated characters weren’t too obvious or overdone. I knew that they were animated, of course, but when watching, I completely forgot that they weren’t real. They didn’t seem to have that glossy, brand-new paint-job feeling that you get with other movies that feature animated characters (particularly noticeable during close-ups). Should I stop gushing? Maybe.

Cheers to the model makers, for the brilliance that is the two castles of the queens. The first shot of the Red castle literally almost took my breath away. It was huge and beautiful, menacing and whimsical. It looked very real, which is the whole point, and I have the utmost respect for anyone who can work in miniature detail. The picture isn’t the best, but it shows a good deal of the structure and it’s unique architecture.

Cheers to Stephen Fry for voicing a delightfully smooth, genuinely British Cheshire Cat. It was perfect, effortless, and not some crazy screechy actor trying to play an insane cat. He actually played on the grace and indifference of cats, and just did it. Glorious. Along those same lines, congrats to Alan Rickman for voicing a character who wasn’t a villain, but just a smarmy old man fed up with youthful insolence–all contained within the skin of a caterpillar.

Cheers, again, to the art department, for including a portrait of Henry VIII in the red castle. I noticed it immediately. Is it supposed to imply that he’s the father of the red queen? Or is it simply a nod to explosive change, employed by the fictional red queen over Underland as well as the very real upset in the church and state government caused by Henry? Either way, it caught my eye and made me smile.

Cheers to Danny Elfman and his delightful score. There’s something in the choral interlude that just grabs me. I’m sure there’s a musical, technical term for it that I’m not familiar with, since I just played the flute in high school and don’t really know the important things. I think it may have something to do with how he keeps it in a major key for most of the time? I generally expect something to switch to a minor in his scores, usually because it’s a Tim Burton film that requires some sort of unexpected, nasty twist, or generally has a gloomy atmosphere to it. I liked that I couldn’t tell it was Danny Elfman until I saw the credits–and that, to me, in my completely unprofessional opinion, signals that the composer has really done their job in creating something for the world of the film and reinvented themselves. ALSO: he scored this to green-screen footage. He didn’t even have a visual to go off of. I find that fantastic. Can you tell I love movie scores? Yep.

Cheers to Colleen Atwood, of course. I can’t say enough about her, really, so I’ll pick out a few things I noticed: for the real world, she used the Victorian era, as per usual, for costumes–which were beautifully done. I couldn’t stop staring at the mother-in-law’s white ensemble. However, for Underland, she used Renaissance/TUDOR-style garments! I don’t think I’ve ever seen her do anything besides Victorian for a Tim Burton film (except for planet of the apes. But you get what I mean) and it made me so, so happy. The ensembles were beautiful. I focused not on the two queens, who were the most prominent figures, but the red queen’s subjects. The color scheme for them seemed to be black and gold/beige/lighter browns, and had the tell-tale Colleen traits of intricate stripes and patterns matching up, then falling away into something uniquely different. I kept noticing the stomachers, because that was my cue to realize what period the Underland costumes were in. In some of the White Queen’s party, they looked much later than Renaissance/Tudor…as in, almost Georgian. Just in the necklines, and in some cases, the hairstyles. I’m all for mixing and matching period elements, but I feel rather stupid when I try to figure out if that’s what Colleen was actually doing, or if I’m just not remembering my costume history properly. It’s probably the latter. ALSO. The Mad Hatter’s costume…I didn’t like the entire thing, but the sash made out of spools of thread, the pin-cushion ring, the hat pins in his hat…I loved that she integrated so much of his profession into his clothing. BUT, as much as it pains me to say, I do have some jeers for my favorite designer of all time…scroll down to see.

Cheers to Anne Hathaway for her quiet performance as the sweet and subtley humorous White Queen. Although the character seemed to be written as a sickeningly sticky-sweet good fairy who doesn’t harm any living thing, Anne brought a human quality and a little bit of crazy to the role that made her seem real.

Cheers to Paul Whitehouse, the voice of the March Hare. He was the epitomy of the word “spaz.”

You know what? Let’s just give a round of applause to all the voice actors. I mean, really. Matt Lucas, Imelda Staunton, Christopher Lee, and anyone else I haven’t mentioned…bravo.

Cheers to having the boat Alice departs on named “Wonder.”

Cheers for actually creating a new story.

Cheers to having dead heads float in the moat of the red castle (whoa, I rhymed). It reminded me that a queen who beheads people is actually really scary. It served as a great warning to anyone who wished to enter.

Cheers to Colleen (I forgot this one!) for using almost the same blue coat Violet wears in A Series of Unfortunate Events for Alice’s sea voyage outfit. The only difference is the collar, as far as I can tell. If I had a bigger picture of Violet’s, I’d be able to see better. Also, cheers to her use of fingerless gloves. we love those.

Jeers to Tim Burton for:

  • Several loose ends in the plot that didn’t get tied up properly. For instance: Alice gets scratched by the Bandesnatch (s/p?), and everyone makes a huge deal of it–as if it doesn’t heal quickly, she’ll die or turn into the creature. Everyone is concerned about Alice being wounded, which is understandable, but it’s not the kind of “Oh goodness, you’re hurt! Let’s get some bandaids!” type of concern; it’s a “if we don’t get this taken care of, she might die” type of concern. Apparently, it heals when the Bandesnatch licks her arm, and isn’t mentioned again. Why make such a big deal out of it if there won’t be any follow up? It’s merely a battle wound, no big deal. This really bothers me.
  • Focusing so much on the relationship between the Hatter and Alice. It honestly came off a bit sexual–at least to me. The number of times the Hatter remarks about the size of Alice, and how she’s really herself again so that he can….what? And his desperate need for her to stay/remember him when she leaves doesn’t seem like a friendly sentiment. What comes to mind is when Dorothy leaves Oz, and says goodbye to her friends. That to me says “friendly, but heartfelt, goodbye.” In other words? Too much awkward sexual tension.
  • for not giving Mia Washikovska the proper direction that could have made her performance so much better. She fell into Underland and was completely unphased. No look of surprise crossed her face; she just took everything in as though she was used to shrinking, talking flowers and animals, and a monarch with a head the size of the New Year’s ball. She acknowledges that these things are all impossible as she fights the jabberwocky, but I didn’t believe that SHE believed it. I don’t want to say that he shouldn’t have cast her at all, because she’s got the potential (I say as a non-actor, of course), and to have knocked all other girls out of the running she must have had some earth-moving audition. But I think Burton could have at least noticed that her performance needed some life to it, and he should have told her what he wanted.
  • to casting Johnny Depp AGAIN. For the 7th time. Honestly? Give someone else a chance. I love Johnny Depp, I do, and he’s a terrific method actor with so much talent…but it’s getting old. I’m tired of his fake British accent, which can’t seem to shake the influence of the character of Jack Sparrow. Don’t get me wrong–he did a pretty decent job at the crazy/insane part of the mad hatter. But what was with him slipping from mild British accent to the evil, thickly Scottish accent? Was that supposed to signify a switch between normal Hatter and crazy Hatter? It was a great accent, but the concept was unclear. Props to him, however, for researching mercury poisoning and the hazards of being a milliner.
  • to casting Crispin Glover. His attempt at being the debonnaire-yet-evil villain was too awkward for me to watch. From the way he spoke to the way he moved, it was just wrong. It was as if someone else was inside his body and trying to act how Crispin Glover would act in a film….unsuccessfully.
  • the awkward dance Alice does when she leaves to talk with her father’s friend. I closed my eyes the second time; that’s awkward it made me feel. This whole movie was full of awkwardness.

Jeers to Colleen Atwood for Hatter’s hairstyle in the flashback scene. It was horrendous. And his bowtie. I’m sorry.

Jeers to whoever made the decision to make the doormouse so snippy and sword-happy. Isn’t he supposed to be pretty mad? He seemed completely normal, except a little angrier than the typical mouse.

Jeers to whoever lost track of what size everyone is supposed to be. The Tweedles were only a couple heads taller than Alice when she first arrived in the garden, yet they’re the size of a large child in the queen’s court. How did that happen? Am I just being really nit-picky? Yes. But that’s not the point.

Jeers to whoever made younger Alice look like a petrified doll bride when she is first seen on screen. She looked like one of those girls who enter beauty pageants, except with scary lighting and dark makeup. It was really quite off-putting.

There are many more things I would love to comment on about this movie, but these will do for now. I do advise you to see the movie for yourself–especially in 3D, if you can. I would love to see it again, if only for how beautiful the film is. And that, my friends, has been my unprofessional, yet completely legit, review of Alice in Wonderland. Ta.

Wonderful costume pictures here.

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Beirut

March 6, 2010 at 11:56 pm (Music)

I recently finished styling hair for a dance piece in our Winter Dance Concert. The hair was modeled around 1940s hair styles, and the dancers were supposed to look like housewives. The music used in the piece was the music of the band Beirut, which I feel the extreme need to talk about right now.

I’ve liked Beirut for a year or two now, but I’ve only heard a few of their songs. The most well-known song would probably be “Elephant Gun,” the first single our theirs to get an official music video on mtv/vh1/etc. But the songs used in this dance piece were really, incredibly different than Elephant Gun or any other Beirut song I had heard. The first is called “Gulag Orkestar“, the second called ” Bratislava“, and the third called “La Llorona“. All three of these songs have this strange cheeriness, yet haunting sadness to them. And Zach Condon’s voice, which I’m in love with, sounds so European that there’s no way he can possibly be from New Mexico. I can just hear the wavering emotion in his voice, feel the reverberations of the trumpets and tubas as if I were right there, and I just can’t believe that this band isn’t one of the most popular in the world.

Beirut is a mish-mash of styles including Balkan folk, Eastern European music, and world music. The instruments used to create the sounds of this band include: ukelele (which Condon uses instead of guitar because of a wrist injury), flugelhorn (YES. FLUGELHORN.), cello, accordion, mandolin, guitar, drums, violin, saxophone, euphonium, and the glockenspiel (YES. GLOCKENSPIEL.). Now do you understand why you need to check out this band?

If that isn’t enough incentive, please view this beautifully and artistically directed video for “Elephant Gun.” You can see the flugelhorn in all it’s glory, and hear Zach Condon in all of his.

And now, watch this video for the very first Beirut song I ever heard, “Postcards from Italy.”

Enjoy this great music! Happy Saturday.

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Nonsense Rants.

March 4, 2010 at 10:27 pm (Uncategorized)

A month later, I decide to update. There’s a lot of things to talk about, so I’ll write down what I can remember.

1. ORPHEUS, the movement piece I designed costumes for, closed two nights ago. It went surprisingly well. Makeup and tattoo pictures will be posted! I won’t lie: it was an incredibly taxing process. However, I absolutely loved the cast and crew; they are the most lovely people and I had a wonderful time getting to know them this quarter.

2. Sprained my foot a few weeks ago. I got to ride in an ambulance and walk with crutches for a week. Now I just wear an ankle brace that supports everything, but it still hurts–mostly because I’ve got pretty extensive bruising all along my entire foot. I’m pretty sure that my ligaments are mostly healed, though.

3. I’m officially working at the Ohio Light Opera for my third summer in a row this summer! (Check out our website and our 32nd season!) I will be joining some of my best friends there, and I can’t wait.

4. The Oscars are THIS SUNDAY!! I think Sandra Bullock is a shoo-in for Best Actress, and Jeff Bridges for Best Actor, but the nominees for Best Picture are too numerous for me to pick out just one. There are TEN nominees, if I’m not mistaken. I personally want Inglourious Basterds to win, but I don’t care who wins as long as AVATAR does not win. I also cannot be as judgmental as I was last year, seeing as I haven’t seen all the films nominated. That being said, I am very well aware of the costume designers nominated this year.

COSTUME NOMINEES:

1. Bright Star–Janet Patterson

2. Nine–Colleen Atwood (my idol!!)

3. The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus–Monique Prudhomme

4. Coco before Chanel–Catherine Leterrier

5. The Young Victoria–Sandy Powell
I personally would love for Monique Prudhomme to win for Parnassus, but I know that Sandy Powell is more likely to get the award for The Young Victoria, since it is a period piece. I have seen The Young Victoria, and it was done really beautifully and accurately. It’s really difficult to predict an outcome this year (if we ignore the academy’s track record of awarding period pieces…) because each film has a very different point of view and style of execution. It all depends on personal taste, in my opinion. For the first time, I am rooting for someone other than Colleen Atwood. Blasphemy, I know. I, the girl who sits and pauses movies and sketches Colleen’s costumes from film stills. I, the girl who entertains the notion of finding Colleen and having her mentor me and/or recommend me to Tim Burton. I, the girl who is now completely obsessed with stripes, buckles, and design oddities….am rooting for Monique Prudhomme. Why? Because to me, the costumes for Nine, while beautiful, did not stand out. They were typical of a Rob Marshall/Colleen Atwood film–glitz, glamor, strategically placed sequins and feathers, and tastefully put-together outfits for mothers and wives. The only thing that truly stands out to me, as I can remember from watching the film, is Marion Cotillard and her simple, yet beautiful, clothing that helped bring out her gorgeous face. I don’t remember what the clothing was, I just remember Marion’s face, her expression, and her eyes. But I remember everything from Dr. Parnassus. That white suit he wears in the Imaginarium is completely genius. The daughter’s dress as she floats through a sea of shoes is completely amazing, and Mr. Nick’s double breasted coat, bowler hat, and grey gloves do indeed have a certain sense of forboding. Or maybe it was his melodramatic, villain-y mustache. Either way, that film was incredibly, absolutely, perfectly executed in every aspect of the word “visual.” Monique, you’ve got my vote.

The Imaginarium will, hopefully, win Best Art Direction as well. How could it NOT? The only threat will be, I think, Sherlock Holmes and Nine.

I do plan on trying to see “bright star” soon, though. Several people have told me to see it, and that the costumes are stunning.

The Award for cinematography will be really hard to predict. Nominated are: Inglourious Basterds, The White Ribbon, HP 6 (YAYYYY!), The Hurt Locker, and Avatar. Avatar will probably win–the technology was 12 years in the making, and is really stunning. But I would love for IB or The White Ribbon to win.

Directing will go to either Jason Reitman for Up in the Air or Kathryn Bigelow for The Hurt Locker. If they pick James Cameron, I will throw something at my television and then scream. I would love for Quentin Tarantino to win, but, let’s face it: the Academy will never pick him. He doesn’t have enough political pull in Hollywood…which is really sad, because Quentin is truly talented…much more so than James Cameron. I mean…what? Who said that?

Foreign Language film will most likely go to The White Ribbon (Germany). I haven’t seen it, but there’s so much buzz about it that I think it’s a shoo-in for sure.

Makeup will go to Star Trek, most obviously for the alien faces of the Romulans and the Vulcans. I don’t think stage makeup for the singers of Il Divo is really quite enough for an Oscar–which pains me to say, since I’m partly a makeup lady and I know what it takes to make stage makeup look perfect. And I’m not exactly sure what was so innovative about the makeup done in The Young Victoria.

Best Score will go to either Michael Giacchino for Up, or Hans zimmer for Sherlock Holmes. I’m rooting for Michael. Meanwhile, best original song will probably go to Crazy Heart.

Avatar will undoubtedly win the Visual Effects award.

I have no idea who will win for best adapted screenplay. It’s a huge toss up.

I think that’s it for my predictions right now. Yes, I skipped some categories…whatever.

5. During strike for SOT’s show, Marisol, I helped clean out the magazine section of our storage unit. This is where we keep all different types of magazines for students to use for collages, research, renderings, and inspiration. We’re about to remodel that room, so we had to decide which magazines to keep and what to toss. And boy, did I find some fantastic things. Let me just list some things: 1998 issues on Angel, the spin-off of Buffy; issues on Star Wars, The Phantom Menace, and interviews with the cast members, etc; The Oscars of 1996, the new pop sensations Britney Spears and NSync; Lord of the Rings….need I go on? It was HEAVEN for a pop-culture nerd like me. So much awesome in just a few magazines. It was like I was traveling back in time with extensive knowledge of the future. For instance, we all know what happened to the new Star Wars episodes (they were horrible), Britney Spears (mother of two, nervous breakdown, one of the most famous comebacks in musical history), and whether or not Julia Roberts stayed married to Lyle Lovett (she didn’t). It was just…AHH! So incredible. I hardcore geeked out.

Where was I? Rambling, of course.

6. If you have a school of dance/dance major at your college or university, please go support them. Dancers are incredibly talented, and dance concerts are some of the best displays of art I have ever seen. We have out winter dance concert tomorrow and Saturday, and I’m helping out with hair for one of the pieces. When I got a break, I went down and watched some of the routines, and they were INCREDIBLE. It blows my mind how they can control their movements so well; how they can transition from standing still and upright to being on the floor, legs in the air and rolling into the next pose, only to stand straight up again. The choreography alone is a masterpiece. Add costumes, sound, and some ridiculously awesome scenic/lighting elements, and you get the most fantastic, beautiful experience that you can possibly get within a two-hour concert. And sure, some of the movement and music is weird…but it is still some really cool nonsense that you can’t really get anywhere else. What’s even better is that it’s live. You can feel the dancers and their passion; you can feel their stomps and steps reverberate through the floor to the music; you can feel the emotion and see it on their faces and in their bodies. It’s beautiful. And that is my School of Dance plug. =)

More updates will follow once I see the outcome of the Oscars and whether or not I can somehow get pictures of the dance concert. Peace!

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