Thursday, February 25, 2010

All Things Alice

I cannot possibly express how excited I am about the new Alice in Wonderland flick! I've loved Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass since I can remember. My love originated from my fascination with Victorian England and my intense desire to be whisked away to an elaborate fantasy world (a la Narnia, Oz, et al.) The best thing about Alice in Wonderland was that, unlike similar stories, it wasn't overly didactic. The point wasn't to learn a lesson or defeat an enemy, it was to see if Alice would make it back to her own world relatively unscathed. Along the way, she had to deal with difficult and often obnoxious people who created obstacles to achieving her goal. For kids, many of the people Alice met seemed like the grown ups in their own lives, who often make their own rules and twist logic to suit their own needs.

Over the years, there have been many versions of these classic tales, including a stage version that Carroll himself wrote. I collect all that is Alice, so here are a few of my favorite takes on Wonderland:

1. The Annotated Alice
Martin Gardner takes a "behind the scenes" look at Alice in Wonderland. The text is preserved, but Gardner adds footnotes that explain the often obscure inside jokes and references found in the book. For the true Alice fan, it's a must have, but it's also extremely useful source for those writing papers about the books and/or the author.

2. Fantastic Alice
Edited by Margaret Weiss, Fantastic Alice is a collection of short stories that explore different facets and characters from Wonderland. Not all the stories are wonderful, but Gary A. Braunbeck's story "The Rabbit Within" never fails to make me cry.

3. American McGee's Alice
An awesome take on the third-person shooter, American McGee's Alice combines the use of weapons and puzzle solving to work through the game. The game is a dark, twisted version of Wonderland, which is perfect for me! Even though it's an older game, I have played it several times and it is always challenging and fun.

4. Disney's Alice in Wonderland
Of course, the iconic animated feature HAD to be included in this list. Almost as good as Carroll's version, this film is one of my favorites.

5. Nick Willing's TV Miniseries Alice in Wonderland
Boasting a full cast of celebrities and a faithful adaption of the story, this made-for-TV version is beautiful and a lot of fun. The casting choices of Christopher Lloyd (the White Knight) and Gene Wilder (the Mock Turtle) were stellar!

6. Nick Willing's Sci-Fi Miniseries Alice
Willing explores Alice yet again with his more modern science fiction series Alice. Matt Frewer is excellent as the White Knight, Kathy Bates rocked the Queen of Hearts, and I loved Andrew Lee Potts as Hatter!

From what I've seen of the Tim Burton version, it looks fabulous! I do wish they had not combined the characters of the Queen of Hearts (Alice in Wonderland) and the Red Queen (Through the Looking Glass), but I understand why they did. It would have been nice to see the dichotomy of the logical (sort of), governess-like Red Queen and the dreamy, scatterbrained White Queen, though.

I love how Burton used Sir John Tenniel's original illustrations (accept no substitute!) as inspiration for the film. It shows a dedication to preserving what is great about the original stories.

If you see the movie and love it . . . read the books!

Monday, February 22, 2010

And On the Other Side of the Coin . . .

{Editor's note: This post is an experiment wherein I discuss a TV show, the late "Pushing Daisies", that bridges the gap between what would seem to be my two mutually exclusive sets of interest: The retro, old-movie loving, secretly wishes to be a housewife side and the geeky sci-fi enthusiast, horror movie lover, macabre true crime fan side. Because the two blogs I pen would have theoretically separate audiences (although, with my friends, I suspect there would be more overlap than normal), I am trying to appeal to both sides without turning either side off. Thus, the crossover blog posts. If this idea fails miserably, I will try not to repeat it . . . but no promises. Now, back to your regularly scheduled post.}

Bryan Fuller is the king of quirky, witty . . . and ultimately cancelled shows. My favorite of his doomed creations is "Pushing Daisies". "Daisies" is/was the story of a pie maker named Ned who could bring the dead back to life . . . with a few restrictions. As the name suggests, death is interwoven in each episode's storyline. As a fan of true crime shows (and the occasional CSI/Law and Order SVU flair), the mystery of the murderer and the motive was an instant attraction for me. The show doesn't shirk on the gruesome deaths and black humor abounds. My personal favorite: Ned and Emerson's lively debate about the morality of calling the recently resurrected "zombies" versus "alive again". A good example of the gruesome played for laughs, Missy Pyle's character Betty Bee's return from fatal bee stings, pictured here:

The show is smartly written, interweaving obvious puns with subtle humor, ensuring that each script is intensely multi-layered. The show is also chock full of eccentric characters who initially seem flat or stereotypical, but each episode reveals something new about them, not unlike peeling back layers of an onion. The show is delightfully quirky (think Tim Burton's Big Fish) and balances out the macabre, and often tragic, circumstances with a whimsical, modern fairytale feel.