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So, I should say first, that you should probably go see it.  It’s pretty.  Tim Burton is good at pretty things.  But I hated it.  And that’s what I keep telling people when it comes up.  Hated it.

The movie delights the visual senses in every frame.  Even in the film’s beginning, before we descend into Underland, as they call it.  It’s amazing.  Every fabric begs to be stroked, each flower begs to be smelled, each ray of light begs one to pierce the veil and step onto the screen.  There were so many frames where I wish I could have paused the film to soak it all in.  The rich synthesis of color and imagery is truly one of Burton’s best.  The film is sexy.

And the cast:  bravo!  It really was cast perfectly.  Depp’s Hatter enchants, Bonham Carter’s Red Queen enthralls, and who wouldn’t want to follow Mia Wasikowska into the rabbit hole?  Even the voice acting was spot on.  I was expecting a little more from Alan Rickman, to be honest, but it could have just been that all his lines sucked.  And I want to be clear that playing these characters was no easy feat.  Consider Bonham Carter’s Red Queen.  Who doesn’t remember the queen from the Disney classic, with her her grim, absolute sentencing:  “Off with her head!”  Bonham Carter did not attempt to out-bellow the classic character that we all know.  Her performance was more subdued and emphasized the queen’s puerile brattishness.

So we had a lot of good things on the table.

But the story… oh the filthy story.  Looking back over Tim Burton’s films, I realize that storytelling was never his strongest suit.  His best films follow an earlier work, be it play or novel, as closely as they can.  I think that Sleepy Hollow compares with Alice best.  It’s been awhile since I’ve seen it, but I remember the scenario being similar:  amazing cast, amazing visuals, complete afterthought of a story.

But this story is one I hold rather dear.  The fact is very simple:  The last thing Alice in Wonderland ever needed was a plot.  In fact, its lack of plot is if not part of the point, then at least tangential to it.  Carroll’s classic was an episodic narrative game.  Its puzzles and logical inversions engage the reader, just as they engage the book’s hapless protagonist.  While some puzzles have solutions, and some are clearly playful parodies of cultural realities, so many of them are simply beautiful nonsense.  Attempting to corral these episodes and sew them into a good old fashioned three act structure is a vulgar insult to one of the few books in history that has always, since its inception, been in print.

The only saving grace that I can find with the film is that Burton loves his Alice just as much as Carroll loved his.  This, I think, is the one thing that makes me hesitate from condemning the movie as outright shit.  (I think a lot of people will like the movie.)  And while, I’m fine with Tim Burton bringing his very own, very special Alice back into this world, I can’t help but feel that it’s our Wonderland.  A grown up Alice lost in the strange, beautiful, and utterly non-sequitur Wonderland might make an interesting film indeed.

But Burton instead brought us into an echo of that familiar world.  And while it might have sprung to life as a most beautiful verisimilitude, it is as hollow as the bluescreen that most of the damn thing was filmed on.

Like I said, you should probably go see it.  But seriously:  fuck that movie.  I hated it.

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It’s hard to find a better start to the week than one of your coworkers just breaking out a giant plate of berries and cream for everyone to share.  Talk about spring being here.

Last week was actually full of positive spontaneous energy, and I barely found the time to post anything.  This week might be starting off the same.  This seems to be a trend, or at least I hope it’s a trend, after the pall of negative energy that fell over the last few months.

I’ve been great about logging lots of hours at work, so all I need to do is keep that up and be good about a few other things, and we’ll be back on track.  I think my goal for this week is to get some reading done.

This weekend I managed to check out Sam’s Kid and Tapas Adela, and both were amazing.  Recommended!  Go to Sam’s Kid when it’s not busy, though.  They seem to be a little short staffed.

I have a post about Alice in Wonderland, but wanted to give it its due.  The short review:  imagine the hottest, cutest art school girl/boy you ever dated (or crushed on).  Tattoos, skinny jeans, amazing taste in music, and soooo god damn gorgeous that it was almost unbearable.  But as soon as this crush of yours opened his/her mouth and started talking, you just wished they would stop talking (and preferably start making out).  Because as soon as their lips start moving, their aching beauty is sullied by the complete nonsense that spills from their mouth.  Hot and stupid.  That’s what Alice in Wonderland is.

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Well, it might not be warm outside yet, but spring definitely seems to be knocking. Actually maybe today it will feel a little spring like. We might see 50 degrees outside! Makes me want to wear shorts.

Had a relaxing evening last night sharing a few beers with a friend and talking about dating. Smalltimore, geeks, hookups, older men, call-backs, beards. My friend, this is a lady friend, she was trying to help me understand how beards are attractive, and I simply don’t understand it. To me it just makes a man look disheveled, and besides that I find them to be terribly uncomfortable.  Those beardy thrift store shopping hipsters do make pretty badass music, though, I have to give them that!

But yeah, spring is definitely abounding in the romantic sense. I’ve had a lot of “hey why don’t you join me at the bar (…and meet my cute single friend)” invites lately. This weekend I have not one but two dates lined up. This concerns me, as it’s a situation I strive to avoid. But it just kinda happened. There are some folks who can have a few early stage things going at once and dally in choosing which (if any) to stick with. Not me. It’s not just that I don’t want to be sleeping with multiple people (which I definitely don’t), but who doesn’t love that thrill of a new crush. Maybe I’ve a bit of a one-track mind, so splitting one’s interests just seems to defeat the purpose to me.

Anyway, we’ll see how that goes.

In other news, Alice in Wonderland is out, and as you might guess I’m a bit excited. I don’t think I’m going to love it. I mean, I already read that it sort of falls apart towards the end with senseless action sequences. But I do hope to like it. More than most Tim Burton films, this one’s all about the visuals. So let’s see some bitchin’ eye candy. I’ll post more later, after I catch it tonight.

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I didn’t realize that Sanjuro meant “thirtysomething”.  That’s probably because the last time that I watched Yojimbo I wasn’t a thirtysomething, or maybe I was only thirty.  It’s been a little while.

I had some time off today, convalescing, and I realized while lounging magnificently on the couch that there are a number of Criterion Collection movies on my Netflix Instant.  The morning was spent learning that old French movies make no sense.  But the afternoon was for an old favorite:  Yojimbo.

(I feel somewhat compelled to point out the irony that while I own this on DVD, it takes Netflix to get me to watch it.  Go figure…)

There’s really not enough that can be said about this film.  Kurosawa and Mifune’s movie of a taciturn ronin turned vigilante stands the test of time with each viewing.  I could spend pages writing about Mifune’s brilliant acting or Kurusawa’s artful eye, but watching the film today I was caught up in the aspects of the film’s vigilanteism.

The two most telling characters in the film are the coffin maker and the innkeeper.  One profits from the town’s violence (the coffin maker), while the other loses.  Sanjuro allies himself with the innkeeper, but at first the innkeeper wants nothing to do with him.  Violence begets violence and all that.  The tipping point comes when Sanjuro rescues the young couple from the grips of one of the crime lords, winning the innkeeper’s undying respect.

And this is what gets me.  Neither of the neutral parties have a vested interest in the town being razed.   “This many bodies, they don’t bother with coffins,” the coffin maker moans (more or less).  And yet the innkeeper gets behind it.  He has lost his business’s livelihood as well (at least for now), but Sanjuro is a hero to him.

This I love.  This infatuation with vigilanteism.  It could easily be said that this theme that I’m riffing on is of justice, but I think the subtext is a little more subtle than that (and sublime!).

It just seems such an American infatuation to me, so I guess it strikes me so much seeing it in a foreign film.  And not just seeing it, but seeing an archetype born so full, beautiful, and fully formed.  (This film will always be remade, and yet the original will always stand.)

When I saw Michael C Hall, of Dexter fame, in San Diego last summer, he told this little anecdote that went like this:

“So we recently sold Dexter in about a dozen countries, and so I’ve been trekking across Europe for the last several months promoting it.  And there’s this thing that I noticed.  I tell people that the show is about a serial killer.  And people kind of say, ‘Oh…’  But then I say that, well he’s a serial killer that only kills other killers.  And Americans always respond with, ‘Oh, okay.  Alright.’  But in Europe they just kind of look at me and say, ‘…yeah, but he’s still killing people.'”

It makes me wonder, I guess.  Are the Japanese as infatuated with this as we are?  I’m a little behind on my Japanese and Asian cinema these days, so I’m not really sure.

I think what’s so remarkable about the character of the innkeeper is how his attitude so captures the inevitable attitude of the audience.  Yes destruction has been wrought, but justice has been done and those who have paid have been the deserving.  What I think nails it is Mifune’s performance.  He never really seems entirely approving of his actions.  His hand almost seems forced, as if there is a duty to be done and he simply has been chosen to carry it out.  I could remind viewers of Mifune’s introduction in the film:  a wandering ronin at a crossroads casts a stick into the air, following in whatever direction it lands.  Sanjuro is but a fatalistic instrument.  The wily innkeeper, though, he gets to throw up the thumbs up or thumbs down.  It would be a completely different film without him.

Anyway.

That’s enough film critique for now.  I am now convinced that as a “thirtysomething” I should adopt Sanjuro as an occasional nickname.  Perhaps if I run into any wily innkeepers they will give me a discounted rate out of deference to such a great film.

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I really kind of stumbled through the day.  This is, of course, because I was up late last night watching Pan’s Labrynth with someone awesome.  As far behind as staying up got me, I wouldn’t trade it for a second.  In fact, my only regret is that we had narry a moment to discuss the rich mythological themes of the film before the night drew to a close.  Perhaps later…

Anyway.  It’s going to be a long week.  I’ve made ovations at doing something interesting on this page, but have yet to find the time/energy.  Perhaps I will do it this week?  Oh fuck!  Or perhaps I won’t, it’s MY blog page after all.

No, but really.  I want to put something on this page worth reading.  Not for your eyes, whoever you are.  For mine.  For this is the best way to regard a blog.  It’s just kind of hard to regard it that way when working 60 hr weeks….

Anyway, good night for now.

ALSO:  there is a new rule in the house!  No fucking turkey!  I had another turkey dinner at Mom’s tonight, and as good as it was, I wanted to barf.  I did not barf, but that is a testament to my mighty fortitude.  The new rule is designed to secure my fortitude from the rigors and temptations of turkey, stuffing, dressing, trimming, and anything else that attempts to needlesly march its way into my gullet.

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This has been one of my favorite things to share in my Google feed reader, but I don’t think I’ve mentioned it on here at all.  Slaughterhouse 90210.  Folks post pictures from movies and tv and then an underlying literary quote to accompany it.  Occasionally very clever, but usually just amusing.  Btw, I believe the title comes from the first post being a Vonnegut quote, probably the ubiquitous “So it goes”.  I don’t remember.

The following just popped up, which is interesting because I was just discussing this Calvino book with someone this week:

“Arriving at each new city, the traveler finds again a past of his that he did not know he had: the foreignness of what you no longer are or no longer possess lies in wait for you in foreign, unpossessed places.”
— Italo Calvino, Invisible Cities

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