Notes from the back row 

Livin' next door to Alice

Lewis Carroll's Alice is many things to many people. To Jefferson Airplane she's a drug trip gone wrong (or right?). To really geeky mathematicians she is both a reflection of the concept of numerical limits and an exploration of using different bases and positional numeral systems (I'm not making this up, I don't even know what it means.)

To me Alice is the title character in a killer song by the Smokies, and to Tim Burton she's a chance to go balls-out crazy in his first foray into the so-hot-right-now world of Digital 3D.

Burton's Alice in Wonderland opens this Friday (in 2D) at the good old Village 8 and it's both a rabbit-punch to the eyeball and a solid kick in the raspberry tarts. Remember the old Wonderland story? Ditch it. Burton's flick starts off with a 19-year-old Alice about to be pushed into an awful arranged marriage and what looks to be a shitty-ass life. Not remembering the last time around, she falls back down the rabbit hole and returns to the Hatter and his amazingly disproportionate world of madness.

Although Alice has a new mission this time around, all the classic "underland" characters are present and the film watches like a rollercoaster ride through a funhouse of mirrors with an acid-overdosed Johnny Depp working the controls.

Johnny turns up the crazy but even still he gets out-acted by the stunning Helena Bonham Carter, who steals the film (and then beheads it).

Themes of escaping a suffocating reality where life seems all laid out could have been beefed up a bit and the dream-illogic of Alice is certainly not for everyone, but when you've got Tim Burton and Johnny Depp collaborating on one of the most universally loved stories of all time, well, you kinda have to see it (in the city, preferably in IMAX 3D).

For less adventurous movie fans, or those who haven't watched enough TV these last few weeks, the Academy Awards are on Sunday night and the big drama is supposed to be whether James Cameron's super CGI, 3D enviro-epic Avatar can beat out his ex-wife Kathryn Bigelow's little indie war/bomb squad movie The Hurt Locker. The films are polar opposites and although The Hurt Locker is Entertainment Weekly's frontrunner Avatar will probably win - it's hard to argue with that kind of box office success. Of course, the Academy might want to finally reward a woman with best picture (for the first time in history) or they might do the old, "give Best Picture to one and Best Director to the other" so no one's feelings get hurt. Personally I think District 9 was better than both of them.

Give the Best Actor trophy to Jeff Bridges right now. Not that Crazy Heart was so fantastic, it was good (though not as good as last year's The Wrestler), but Bridges earned a lifetime achievement award for playing "The Dude" in The Big Lebowski so this is long overdue. Clooney is the dark horse for his role in Up in the Air but that movie is a renter, a solid renter, that's got a lot of hype.

Best Animation should go to Fantastic Mr. Fox, although Coraline was pretty dope as well and the 3D might nudge it ahead, and The Cove, in best documentary category, is definitely a dark horse but also a must-see. I'll also be cheering for Christoph Waltz, the Jew Hunter in Inglourious Basterds. The guy killed it in four languages. Give him the trophy.



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