Alice in Wonderland – or getting 3D-ed

Alice in Wonderland (3D) (2010) by Tim Burton

I should probably start by saying that I have never read Lewis Carroll’s stories about Alice. I am aware there are two, I am aware that they exist, never read, only ever watched. But I am willing to read them should the opportunity occur.

I like Burton’s take on the old story (just like I liked Ridley Scott’s new take on another old story) though something was lacking. In another review about the movie (http://www.afterellen.com/blog/afterelton/review-of-alice-in-wonderland) it was said that it lacks heart. I agree though I don’t share the opinion that the mad hatter is just another Edward Scissorhands. Still, the story shows maybe a little too much enthusiasm for Johnny Depp’s character. Having gone through early resentment of that actor in his 21 Jump Street-days I have come to like him – especially in Burton-films.

Where there is too much Johnny Depp there is too little Helena Bonham Carter. I love that woman. One of the finest actresses ever to come to Hollywood over the big pond and she nails the character of the Queen of Hearts like she does every other role. (I have been a fan of hers since Howard’s End, she’s just brillant!)

My sister commented on Anne Hathaway’s character that she appears to be on dope and I quite agree. Not her best performance in all but I still like her.

What I did not like and have a hard time to come to terms with is 3D. It made complete sense in Avatar, I was glad that Scott did not use it for Robin Hood, and with Alice in Wonderland it seems to have been just another distraction from the story. Maybe it is because I am wearing glasses and another set of them does not make me really happy but I really think that it is mostly much ado about nothing. As I said, it was nice in Avatar because of this wonderful new world of Pandora but I do not think that every other movie has to have it and am honestly surprised that it is seemingly only discovered by Hollywood now. I mean, it has been around for some time, right? Why all that hype now? I don’t get it.

I guess, I don’t have to. But, honestly, dance movies in 3D? Animated movies in 3D? Not for me, thank you very much. I am very happy with 2-dimensional views of my favorites.

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Robin Hood – She was no maid!

Robin Hood (2010) by Ridley Scott

Well, I am in Berlin (at the moment) and I promised myself not to go to the movies… and then I did it anyway. Sometimes it’s a little bit shocking how easily I am forgiven when I break a promise to myself – at least those who include watching or not watching movies.

Anywho, I watched Robin Hood, a movie I was not in the least curious about when I first saw the trailer. Then they said “by Ridley Scott, the director of ‘Gladiator'” and I chanted at the screen: “Alien. The director of Alien. Whoever saw Gladiotor? I certainly didn’t…” Well, I guess I am a tiny bit obsessed when it comes to Alien. Especially since a fifth is in the making (without Ripley? Are you guys serious?) Word has it that it will be in 3D although Scott is not convinced by it (neither am I, I might add). Why do it then?

Okay, back to Robin Hood. It is a good movie. Solid. An old story told differently. Enlightening in some ways, demystefying in others – especially when Lady Marianne reveals that she was no maid when she married Loxley – who is not the real Robin Hood…

It’s all very shocking. Eleanor of Aquitaine is still alive (mother of Richard and John and six more) and well and is treating John like the scum he is, mainly. Richard is little better than his brother, searching for lost glory in Jerusalem and getting himself killed on his pillaging way back to England (by a French cook, nonetheless). His crown is sent to England with his guard and their leader: Robert of Loxley. He dies too but before he does he gives his sword to one Robin Longstride and tells him to bring the sword to his father. Robin does and is adopted by the blind Walter of Loxley… seems Lady Marianne (Loxley junior’s wife) is part of the deal – or maybe she falls in love with him (if it pleases Hollywood!). Englishmen get killed because John trusted the wrong man and then the French king sails over to invade… but, alas, Robin of the Hood has finally brought the barons of England under one banner again (for a promise of King John to give everybody more rights) and beats the Frenchmen. Happy ending? Oh, contraire, John breaks his word and is from now on the stupidest King John in Hollywood history – but who cares since Robin and Marianne and their friends have abondoned the windy castle walls and live now in a forest – what was its name again?

I like the new movie although I must confess I am a sucker for the 1938 movie with Errol Flynn (there is a scene where one can see striped boxers through green tights – it’s a classic). Russell Crowe doesn’t wear tights, of course, which is good (I wouldn’t want to see him wearing them, I am sure you wouldn’t either). Lady Marianne is an absolut improvement, too, she is feisty, witty, strong and hot, a true feminist. And Cate gives her more than the literary figure bargained for, I am telling you.

Ridley Scott fortunately makes for great femals characters. I don’t think it is a coincidence that he put Eleanor in his movie (although a Hepburn-fan like me gets a little sentimental seeing her portraid by somebody else even though the job was well done by Eileen Atkins). Even John’s girlfriend turning queen is a strong female character. And then there is Marianne, cocking bows, swinging swords, and mainly being what women in those times should have been but probably weren’t. And she kills the man who is trying to rape her, for a change… (if we keep this up we might never again have to endure another scene that even indicates rape… wouldn’t that be great? it wouldn’t be historically correct but it would still be great!)

I liked the movie. It wasn’t the best ever but the story is new, the characters evolved, the setting stunning, and though I will never again be a fan of Russell Crowe he is capable… and has a great voice (remember: in Germany movies are dubbed and I have never watched one with Crowe in English.)

Battle On!

Chloe – or what it means

Chloe (2009) by Atom Egoyan

I watched Chloe last night. These past few days I had actually become a little obsessed with the idea of watching it. I guess it had everything to do with going to watch Julianne Moore playing gay again. Julianne Moore is an outstanding actress, talented and able. And she’s super-hot.

I have not watched the movie this one based on, Nathalie. Strangely enough, I wanted to see it back in the days but never quite got to it. Now I am going to watch it and will probably end up owning both on DVD some day. So, I guess, you already think I liked the movie. Well, I am not quite sure about that, it confused me a lot. And I am not sure if it confused me because I didn’t get it or because I did get it completely. (Like Mulholland Drive which wasn’t all that difficult to understand but still confusing in it’s simplicity.)

I feel like there are many layers to this film and I would like to work through those I have detected. If we only look at the story the movie may seem a little too over the top with a few notions that make the lesbian feminist in me rather uncomfortable. For once, the implication that women seek the company of prostitutes as well as men do. Another implication is that every woman (I guess I could put “straight” in front of “woman” here) is in some way fascinated by the profession of a prostitute. Then, of course, we have the (potentially) lesbian character who obviously had a difficult relationship to her mother, seeks men to satisfy but women to love – and dies in the end. Controversial tropes and they have been discussed at length in other places so I will not go into them here.

And I almost forgot the NOT cheating husband who has the opportunities to sleep with other women but does not while the wife does not only have an affair but an affair with a woman – and she’s straight (or not?).

But if that was all there was to this it would not be based on a European (much less a French) movie. French filmmakers like to be deep and artist-y with a lot of sex-scenes thrown in for good measure. And if you have stars like Fanny Ardent, Emmanuelle Beart and Gerard Depardieu in it it will have a lot of all that. I generally don’t like French movies (even less than I like German movies) because they try to be artist-y while I am all for telling a good (straight [as not to say simple, again; not as to say not gay]) story. I am simple that way.

An underlying red thread in the story is Catherine Stewart’s (Moore) motherhood. Her relationship to her son has been disrupted (it is not told by which incident or if it was just rebellion on his side) but Michael – the son – is now in therapy and everybody seems relieved that he is. There is an indication toward an incestuous relationship between mother and son. They have been close and Catherine struggles with the new situation of his rejection toward her. Her sexual encounter with Chloe seems to draw for the most part on Chloe’s sexual relationship with Catherine’s husband David but since that relationship was invented by Chloe and never happened the linkage between her night with Chloe and Chloe’s sexual encounter with Michael establishes itself retrospectively.

Chloe can also be seen as a substitute child for Catherine (I don’t like this implication either but it’s still there). Since her own child is rejecting her she is “adopting” Chloe as her own. The token from Chloe, a slide or hair comb,  is given with the reference that it has been Chloe’s mothers. Catherine does not wear it until the very end of the movie, indicating that her motherhood has come full circle and that her relationship with Michael is as strong as it has been before (but maybe that is an illusion – the movie is very ambiguous in the end).

There are a lot of indications that the story is more about mother and son than about wife/husband. Neesen plays a sallow character; the male equivalent to a woman who has been cheated on by her husband. But he is not believable maybe because the stereotype is not believable.

The question of the relationship between the two women is not solved. Chloe seems to have become quite obsessed with Catherine (a notion I can completely understand) and Catherine is not as disinterested as she wants to be seen. Is she honestly fighting Chloe’s advances? Is she flattered? Is the token she is wearing in the end a reminder for both husband and son that she is a desirable woman that will not be taken for granted anymore? There are indeed many open questions in the end.

The movie comes full circle with the celebration in the end mirroring that in the beginnning. Only, the picture perfect which Catherine could not establish at the surprise party for her husband is intact in the end at the graduation party for her son. One might think that a family that lived through a trauma like they had, would be disrupted but it’s indeed the contrary. How deep does this picture perfect go? Did Chloe die to reestablish the perfect family? The perfect heterosexual couple? Heteronormativity?

It would be sad if this was the sole purpose for this movie. And the closeup on the token in the end belies this theory. But what does it mean?

I don’t know but it sure is fun to think about it. Chloe challenges perspective. The story is not extraordinarily clever or new but the performances of Julianne Moore and Amanda Seyfried give it that little extra depth to make it more than just a story about not very likable stereotypes.