Donald Clarke

Whingeing about cinema and real life since 2009

Trailerspotting goes down the rabbit hole in search of Irish films.

What’s the most eagerly awaited film of 2010? There’s a stupid question. If you’re a big fan of the excellent Jennifer Lopez and her many splendid romantic comedies then you will, no doubt, be slavering for The Back-Up Plan. If, …

Fri, Dec 18, 2009, 23:53

   

What’s the most eagerly awaited film of 2010? There’s a stupid question. If you’re a big fan of the excellent Jennifer Lopez and her many splendid romantic comedies then you will, no doubt, be slavering for The Back-Up Plan. If, on the other hand, you have long admired the way Hollywood treats Irish mores and habits — you know, the way it never patronises us — then you may have high hopes for the promising Leap Year. If you like to watch Robin Williams in light-hearted, quasi improvised lad-coms then… What the hell is wrong with you? You should bloody see somebody about that.

Where was I? Oh, yes. I reckon the mainstream film that most people circling this “blog” are interested in just might be Tim Burton’s upcoming adaptation of Alice in Wonderland.

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Now, at the risk of bringing down the wrath of cinephiles everywhere, let me just tentatively note that I have never been entirely sure about Tim Burton. His films do look quite nice — particularly if you’re a sulky goth — and he does have great taste in actors: Michael Gough, Christopher Lee, Christopher Walken and, of course, Johnny Depp. But his work too often lacks a centre. You know what I mean. Mars Attacks! is funny, but the story flails around so much you end up feeling quite dizzy by the end. Sleepy Hollow is set design in search of a story. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory was so shallow it could have stood as a work of conceptual art. For me, the best Burton films are the least fussy: Edward Scissorhands, Beetlejuice, Pee-wee’s Big Adventure and — the one film of his I think a genuine gem — Ed Wood.

So what do we make of Alice? Well, not that it matters, you wouldn’t say it looks very true to the original. The Lewis Carroll version managed to be unhinged while still remaining sober. (Carroll was a mathematician after all.) The Burton adaptation appears to be tending towards the screamingly camp: Alice reimagined by H R Pufnstuf‘s fabulous younger brother. Also, the trailer suggests that the writers have worked a little too hard at expanding and fluffing up the original story. Another Where the Wild Things Are would be bearable. Another Popeye would not.On the upside, Depp has finally managed to win his long, backwards and forwards conflict with the English accent. The cat looks cool and Tweedledum and Tweedledee seem properly scary. I’m still not quite sure.

On an unrelated note, you may like to ponder my consideration of the best Irish films of the decade in today’s Ticket. The good news is that the debate is now one that’s really worth having. My final five were Hunger, Adam & Paul, Once, Intermission and Pavee Lackeen.

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