When our cousins the Lewis Carroll Society of Brazil held their first “Alice Day” in May this year, one of the main events was the live performance of a new soundtrack to the silent Alice in Wonderland (1903). The music was composed by Paulo Beto and performed by the band Frame Circus on keyboards, cello, percussion and Theremin.
Thank you to Adriana Peliano for sending us news of the event. Adriana tends Alicenations, the blog of the Lewis Carroll Society of Brazil. The above video featured in her Alice Day blog post, along with another soundtrack by Frame Circus, and a video of Leon Theremin playing his own instrument.
Shelby Tashlin of Las Vegas walked to the counter clutching a boxed edition of “Alice in Wonderland” containing an etching and 12 lithographs by Salvador Dalí. Ms. Tashlin’s opening thrust: the Dali prints were limited in number. Mr. Harrison’s parry: “He’s pretty well known for fudging numbers.” Mr. Harrison spoke about etching versus lithography and allowed that Dalí and Lewis Carroll were a “wonderful combination.” Then it was time for business. Ms. Tashlin wanted $10,000. Mr. Harrison asked if she had taken a little blue pill, and offered $5,000.
She politely declined and walked away still clutching “Alice in Wonderland.” “I was hoping it would go the other way, but I’m not surprised,” she would tell a reporter later.
According to the Wikipedia, Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland is now behind only two James Cameron films, the final Lord of the Rings movie, & another Disney Johnny Depp flick, as the highest grossing movie world-wide (of all time, partly adjusted for inflation.) They discuss the difficulties of calculating these figures meaningfully (inflation, ticket-price inflation, population and distribution, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.)
In comparison, in their “List of Highest Grossing Films in the U.S. and Canada: Not Adjusted for Inflation”, Alice in Wonderland is merely 20th, just above Forrest Gump. It is still the highest grossing film of 2010. Not bad for a movie sort-of based on a Victorian-era children’s book with no linear narrative. And also, a bit of an Alice-redemption for the Disney Corporation, whose 1951 version received sour reviews and box office disappointment.
Some light entertainment for your Sunday morning: Where would you put a life-size cut-out of Helena Bonham Carter as the Red Queen (yours for only $34.95 from AG)? I would like to think of her used to direct attention to a particularly important agenda item, or perhaps to direct traffic (to the left).
I have to admit I am featuring this item mainly because the idea of the company made me giggle: AG, “Home of Cardboard People” is “the world’s largest manufacturer of cardboard standups.” Where “our kind of people are cardboard people.”
But fans of Disney’s 1951 Alice in Wonderland may like to ask why it is possible to purchase a three-foot-tall cut out of Dumbo, but no Alice and no Cheshire Cat? Who exactly is the target audience? Does the Dumbo fan club really wield more eccentric purchasing power than the fans of Alice? Say it isn’t so!
There will of course be reviews of the new Tim Burton Disney Movie (knocked down by titans, dragons, and Tyler Perry, but still 5 in the box office in its fifth week, and having made already $300 million dollars!) in the forthcoming Knight Letter. Meantime, several LCSNA members have been forwarding this video around, seconding this reviewer’s sage insight:
At 12.01am this morning the curtain rose on Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland. If the last five months of hype have left you cold, how about being truly perverse and making today the day you watched the first Alice movie ever made?
Alice in Wonderand (1903), carefully restored by the British Film Institute’s National Archive, is now available online. In fact you can watch it right now, right here:
A fascinating article about the restoration project appears on the British Film Institute’s website. Apparently, the film featured the first British actor ever to be named in the credits of a film: it was the collie dog glimpsed at 3:16 minutes in, later to star in Rescued by Rover (1905). Now you know.
From the March 5th – 15th, the BFI will be hosting a “brief rabbit-hole retro,” with a selection of the most notable Alice films, from Paramount’s 1933 star-studded oddity, through to Jan Svankmajer’s 1988 masterpiece of taxidermy. All films will be shown at the London Southbank Centre. For a full schedule and ticket information, see the BFI website.
When Lewis Carroll published a few thousand copies of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland in 1865, with no hype or buzz, it received some mixed reviews. That’s one of the few things Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland has in common with Carroll’s original stories. The critics were out this week, and occasionally perceptive. As of this morning, the “top critics” that Rotten Tomatoes tracks average at about 59% (between rotten tomato and ripe tomato), with the general masses giving it about 53%. Manohla Dargis of the New York Times, one of my favorite critics to disagree with, had some interesting insight into the Alice Paradox in movies:
Dark and sometimes grim, this isn’t your great-grandmother’s Alice or that of Uncle Walt, who was disappointed with the 1951 Disney version of “Alice in Wonderland.” “Alice has no character,” said a writer who worked on that project. “She merely plays straight man to a cast of screwball comics.” Of course the character of Carroll’s original Alice is evident in each outrageous creation she dreams up in “Wonderland” and in the sequel, “Through the Looking-Glass,” which means that she’s a straight man to her own imagination. (She is Wonderland.) Here she mostly serves as a foil for the top biller Johnny Depp, who (yes, yes) plays the Mad Hatter, and Mr. Burton’s bright and leaden whimsies.
Her conclusion, however, is vague and baffling:
This isn’t an impossible story to translate to the screen, as the Czech filmmaker Jan Svankmajer showed with “Alice” (1988), where the divide between reality and fantasy blurs as it does in dreams. It’s just hard to know why Mr. Burton, who doesn’t seem much interested in Alice, bothered.
The great Roger Ebert, at the Chicago Sun-Times, admits he didn’t care for the books growing up, which possibly explains some of his strange tangents:
This has never been a children’s story. There’s even a little sadism embedded in Carroll’s fantasy. It reminds me of uncles who tickle their nieces until they scream. “Alice” plays better as an adult hallucination, which is how Burton rather brilliantly interprets it until a pointless third act flies off the rails. It was a wise idea by Burton and his screenwriter, Linda Woolverton, to devise a reason that Alice (Mia Wasikowska) is now a grown girl in her late teens, revisiting a Wonderland that remains much the same, as fantasy worlds must always do.
Burton shows us Wonderland as a perturbing place where the inhabitants exist for little apparent reason other than to be peculiar and obnoxious. Do they reproduce? Most species seem to have only one member, as if nature quit while she was ahead.
How could he not develop that shocking exposée? Who was the Duchess’s baby daddy? Is there a Mrs. Mock Turtle!? I wish Carroll was around to explain the laws of dream procreation.
One more quote, I’ll give Elizabeth Weizman of New York Daily News my highly coveted Saying Nothing Award:
“Frabjous” may be a word Carroll invented, but Burton knows just what it means, at least in his own mind. He’s clearly excited to invite us inside, and as long as you’re open to so much muchness, you’ll be very glad he did.
This parsing of critics possibly to be continued… In the meantime, I have several questions:
-How come no one has discussed the influence of Miranda Richardson’s Queen Elizabeth I from BBC’s “Blackadder II” (1986) on Helena Bonham Carter’s Red Queen?
-Why was the Dodgson-esque figure named Charles at the beginning Alice’s dead father? What?
-Did the bizarre Chinese trade-route plot-line at the finale, which was guided on by the blue butterfly (née Caterpillar), have anything to do with opium (i.e., the possible contents of the Caterpillar’s pipe)? I know it was 2am and I had a headache from two hours of drinking wine in an IMAX with 3D glasses, but I think I may be onto a possible explanation for the otherwise unexplainable China thing.
Paramount’s Alice in Wonderland (1933), directed by Norman Z. McLeod, has been mentioned a lot in the past few weeks, as the first big Hollywood all-star blow-out adaptation of Lewis Carroll’s books (with such stars as Cary Grant, Gary Cooper and W.C. Fields.) Slightly lost amongst the thousands of other Alices being released this month was the fact that this film, which was never released on VHS or DVD, is finally available (list price $19.99). Why is it being released as Universal Homes Entertainment? Our source from inside Paramount answers that question:
Back in 1957, Paramount sold most (but not all) of its pre-1948 film library to Universal for some quick cash (at the time, Paramount was ailing, financially). Thus, a number of Paramount films are now distributed by Universal, under their corporate and home video label [...] Paramount no longer owns the rights to these films.
Also released on DVD on March 2nd is the SyFy miniseries Alice (list price $19.99), which originally aired last December. Jonathan Miller’s 1966 adaptation was issued on DVD (featuring John Gielgud, Peter Cook, Peter Sellers; list price $14.98). I noticed that Amazon has a deal selling all three for $38.97, the price of which won’t even get a family of three into the IMAX to see Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland in 3D.
There’s more: Hallmark’s “overblown” 1999 television special of Alice in Wonderland (with Whoopi Goldberg, Martin Short and Christopher Lloyd) is being reissued on DVD (list price, $19.99) along with its companion Through the Looking Glass (with Geoffrey Palmer and Ian Holm; list price only $9.98!)
Now, several tie-ins to the Disney movie were also released March 2nd: several hot new video games for Nintendo Wii(list price $39.99), Nintendo DS (list price $29.99), and a Disney Interactive computer game for PC ($19.99). The movie soundtrack by Danny Elfman was released on March 2nd (list price $18.98). And merchandise, merchandise, merchandise, too much to mention here.
Did you know Alice stories can also be purchased in a book form? Many editions of this “book” were released in conjunction with the big movie premiere, but the only book rolled out on March 2nd (to keep true to the theme of this post), was one called “The Real Alice in Wonderland: A Role Model for the Ages” by C.M. Rubin and Gabriela Rubin (list price, $29.95), from AuthorHouse. A day after it was released, it appears to already be out of stock. From the product description:
In 2006, award-winning author C.M. Rubin and her daughter, Gabriella Rubin (who are related to the Liddell family), began an incredible journey to create the ultimate book about the original Alice in Wonderland’s life. Their grand pictorial, biographic vision for the book involved collecting photographs spanning two centuries, reaching out to many celebrated Alice in Wonderland artists (including Vik Muniz, Annie Liebovitz, Mark Steele, Lizzy Rockwell, Helen Oxenbury, Frances Broomfield, Jeanne Argent, David Cooper, Bruce Fuller, Tatiana Ianovskaia, Jewel, and Tom Otterness), and connecting with museums, libraries and schools around the world. The Real Alice in Wonderland book is told using never before seen pictures along with prominent voices from Alice’s lifetime and from the present day. C.M. Rubin and her daughter Gabriella explore the theme of inspiration. Behind every great person there is the person who inspires and believes in him or her. The person who motivates them to realize their dreams. This magnificent cross-atlantic epic will fascinate you — it will make you think again: what does it mean to inspire?
The Real Alice In Wonderland book is dedicated to all those who inspire the minds and souls of human beings.
However, don’t miss Simply Read Books edition of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll, no longer out of print, with Iassen Ghiuselev’s unique and beautiful illustrations, reissued in hardcover on March 1st (list price, $24.95).
I just noticed that Tim Burton’s Alice In Wonderland is rated PG “for fantasy action/violence involving scary images and situations, and for a smoking caterpillar.” Wonderful! Disney’s 1951 version, which also contains a smoking caterpillar, is rated simply G. Therefore, since All Scotchmen are Non-Dragons, and a fish with three rows of teeth is not to be despised, it would follow that it was not that hookah-smoking caterpillar which increased the rating from G to PG.
Smoking in movies is of course a contentious issue, with many organizations and websites tracking Hollywood for how it portrays tobacco use. (There’s something called the “Hackademy Awards”, presented by the Breathe California of Sacramento-Emigrant Trails, for smoke-free movies. Nine, for instance, got last year’s biggest Thumbs Down for “lavishly promoting cigarette and cigar smoking as emblems of sexiness, wealth, power, coolness and relaxation.”) Shisha is not something they come across very often, so I’m curious to see how this goes down.
Alan Rickman (the great actor famous for his Professor Severus Snape) is playing the voice of the Caterpillar in the new film!