Eileen and I went to see Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland yesterday. I have been coming to terms with the fact that much popular culture has been leaving me unmoved. I thought Avatar was pretty silly. I could see how beautiful the images were but they still weren’t enough to surpass the silliness of a micron thin plot which has been done many many times and the extreme paternalism that assumes that one species could not only “pass” as another but serve as its savior. Sheesh.
And of course I never did get on board with reality shows and competitions like American Idol and Dancing with Stars. After we deal with taxes (due to my outside income of performances and sundry things we always have to pay something…. this year looks to be less than many years), I am seriously considering bundling internet, cable and phone. After that I will probably be able to watch more TV. But, it makes me crazy that this stuff is so cheap in Europe and so expensive here.
Anyway, I loved Alice. I like the fact that Burton told a new story using the old story. I thought the screenplay was extremely clever. There were so many little clever things like the duplicate crowd shots of the people in the garden awaiting Alice’s acceptance of the Lord’s proposal and the White Queen good guys awaiting Alice’s decision as to whether she would be a champion or not. I half expected the Jabberwocky to have the Lord’s head or voice or something.
I loved Tweedledee and Dum.
I loved the mixture of character in the White Queen… how she holds her hands in a fey manner, mixes up a potion including some pretty noxious stuff and has a vomit reaction when she gathers Jabberwocky fluid….. she is pretty cool.
The music managed not to be too dumb. I was wondering idly during the trailers how in the world one manages to write movie music that gives the feeling of “epicness” in an age without the trope of the symphony orchestra literature. I noticed in the trailers a lot of “hair rock” sound for this effect. Elfmann still uses orchestra in places and its really not too bad.
We recently watched “Black Dahlia” I thought Mark Isham’s score was awful. But I also thought the whole movie was preposterous. Probably endeavoring to be true to the book which was based on a real murder, the plot has no focus. It starts with a boxing match between two detectives that save the police departments budget with good PR before an election. I figured this was supposed to set up some sort of tension between these two characters who are classic movie detective partners. Hmmmm. Not so much. The plot keeps getting more and more filigreed until at the end in order to have a denouement the voice over is talking quickly as on screen action begins to get comic eliciting belly laughs from me at points.
After doing some prep for today’s church service at church, I came home and treadmilled watching a little movie about Frank Zappa and his albums Apostrophe and Over-Nite Sensation. I felt good old self indulgent nostalgia watching tape of Zappa talk as well as his wife, fellow musicians and recordists. Particularly fun for me was seeing middle aged versions of Ian Underwood, Ruth Underwood, and George Duke on camera. I loved it when Underwood was talking about a score and showing it to the camera. Then she picks up mallets and plays a few licks to demonstrate what she is talking about. After playing several measures, she quips, “Only three mistakes, one for each decade since I’ve played the score or the instrument.” Cool beans.
I’m not terribly happy with the Zappa heirs. Dweezle on camera was worshipful of his father. Dweezle can play pretty well as demonstrated in this film. But I’m unhappy that they keep such tight controls on Zappa’s copyrights. Technically one cannot even perform Zappa’s music without permission from the family. Also so much of his music is not published. Scores can only be rented at exorbitant prices. I believe this sort of copyright nonsense is shaping what music will be heard by people. I think it’s a shame that more people (people like me without money who like to play music) can’t hear and perform Zappa’s wonderful music.
On the other hand, I sympathize with a husband and father’s point of view of leaving your fam a way to have money to live. Zappa was nothing if not driven by his need to use his music to make money.
I also couldn’t quite understand what Billy Bob Thorton was doing in this little movie.
I was pretty surprised, however, when I put my head on my pillow and realized I had had TWO good cinema experiences in one day. Pretty good for an aging critical curmudgeon.
I have to add that I was also surprised that a recent blog that only had words in it elicited three (Three!) comments. Of course two were from an old friend and one from the wife, but still.