Saturday, March 13, 2010

When Precious Met Alice: Kind of a Movie Review #9


...went to see the new Alice in Wonderland...3-D, IMAX....guess you could say I’ve joined the twenty-first century...or the psychedelic era...hell, the movie cost more than I used to pay to see a Grateful Dead show...with some similarities...

...beyond trippy visuals, though, the movie offers little chance of expanding consciousness...a wealth of joyfully absurdist poetry sucked out of the story in favor of drably conventional Hollywood fantasy adventure...surrealistic pillows given way to cheesy swords...any feints toward poetic madness rapidly contracted, shriveled and shrunken away with lameass explanations for anything in danger of expanding the viewer’s imaginative scope...(the Mad Hatter gets turned into a boring action hero, for chrissake...like Mel Gibson with Carrot Top’s hairstylist)...

...all in all, more C. S. Lewis than Lewis Carroll...if more liberal-minded....a grown-up Alice making the story a bit less Victorian-pervy, more modern-day female-empowerment........as such, offering, I guess, a better role model for my young nieces than the standard Hollywood princess shrinking away dreaming of a handsome prince/sexy vampire...but that's not saying much...

...one pill makes you larger, one pill makes you small...
Grace Slick

...if not for concerns about subject matter leaving them permanently traumatized, I’d be more likely to recommend sending the kids to see Precious....hell, having read Sapphire’s Push a decade ago, didn’t know if I was ready for it...but, flying from San Jose to George Bush International...relaxed and flexible from all the yoga and beach time...if not enough to make a coach seat comfortable enough to concentrate on reading for three and a half hours...mind relatively open and non-depressed...had a little TV on the seat-back in front of me with fifty-something cinematic pills to choose from...and went for it...

...while the movie only vaguely implies at least one of the novel’s more horrifying aspects, there are lots more where that came from...in an utterly harrowing portrayal of a young woman, Precious, the likes of whom most of us would prefer to ignore...trapped in a rabbit hole of poverty, neglect, rape, incest, illiteracy, and AIDS...told she’s stupid and worthless by a mother who treats her as little more than an object to be used and abused...grown huge on junk food, disappearing inside....

`I can't help it,' said Alice very meekly: `I'm growing.'
`You've no right to grow here,' said the Dormouse.
Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland (not in the movie)

...and yet, the movie’s ultimately about growth...kinda like yoga*...finding possibilities for expansion in unexpected places**...that sacred something remaining, no matter how fucked up and hopeless-seeming a person might appear on the surface...and the importance of having the compassion to see that something even in people it'd be easier not to have to see at all...

I am large. I contain multitudes...
Walt Whitman

...near the end, Precious' mother*** gives a monologue...revealing, even more than before, just how toxic she is to her daughter...and, probably, to just about anyone else likely to come in contact with her...but, also, the far more difficult truth that, in the end, she’s another desperately wounded human being...so twisted and lost in her damaged mind it’s hard to imagine how she could find peace...but one of us, nonetheless...if we can grow large enough to acknowledge her...


* that said, it should be mentioned that Gabourey Sibide, who plays the title character, says she hates yoga...would like to kill it, even....though I suspect that has more to do with airbrushed mass-marketed images than core philosophies...

** hell, it turns out Mariah Carey can act...who could’ve imagined that?...

*** played by Mo’Nique...representing one of the rare instances in which I actually agreed with Oscar...(though, if I had my way, Cate Blanchett and Meryl Streep would win practically every year)...(then, if I really had my way, I'd probably be married to Cate Blanchett...but, anyway...)...

17 comments:

Lana Gramlich said...

I would definitely like to see Precious, but after hearing about the latest "Alice in Wonderland" offering, I think I'll skip that.

Lydia said...

This is beautiful and brilliant. You could turn the concept of movie critic into something completely unknown up to now. The arts and entertainment world needs someone like you writing about them.
I once saw Bill Clinton as a guest movie reviewer (can't remember which show) and I've never forgotten the thoughtful depth of his review. It wasn't about how clever he was...it was about the film, which in the end showed just how clever he was.

Bob Weisenberg said...

Hi, Jay. Your blogs often leave me speechless, in the best and most meaningful sort of way.

Such is the case with this one. Thanks.

Bob Weisenberg
YogaDemystified.com

ZenYenta said...

I was kind of interested in seeing Alice, but it sounds like it could have been a lot better. I suppose I'll see Precious eventually. To tell you the truth none of it sounds that different from the issues that are dealt with where I work on a daily basis. And I hope that we never forget that each of the people we try to serve is one of us.

Eco Yogini said...

I liked the movie... but didn't expect it to be anything more than a hollywood crapper.
also, the second movie, precious, although it sounds much more meaningful, would probably make me want to curl up into a tiny ball of depression and hopelessness. i tend to avoid those movies for the most part.

also- just wanted to let you know, that during your absence I have missed your ridiculously funny comments on my blog. It's nice to have you back. :)

Kavindra said...

Yes, beautifully written, and I agree with Lydia you take criticism to a whole other sphere.

Before reading this, I had been dying to see "Alice" and no way in hell was going to see "Precious". You just turned that inside out (hey, like a headstand!)

ALthough ... I may actually have to see "Alice" to support my (pretend) husband Johnny Depp...

Brooks Hall said...

Hmmm. So, it sounds like Precious's victory over her circumstances is preferable for you because she walks forward as a warrior goddess with her imperfections. And Alice's imperfections of circumstance are shed for a fantasy of power and wealth.

Yeah, the Alice movie is slick and neat and tidy, as well as in line with Hollywood formula, as you've pointed out. I left the movie feeling bad, even though it is delightful visually. It had the pretence of embracing difference, but it was really kind of brutal to certain kinds of difference like the older unmarried aunt (or cousin) at the engagement party, and enlarged body parts like the head of the red queen were openly scorned. The people around her pretended to have similar enlarged deformities, but then we find out that nobody is as strange as her (like when kids pick on the one person who doesn't seem to fit in). The petite white *good* queen was PERFECT. Okay, the association between goodness and perfection is kind of dated, not to mention BRUTAL to the psyche of people who believe that they are less than perfect...

Precious IS cooler because she accepts herself in the most challenging circumstance. I don't know what her future holds, but she seems to be the greater heroin.

louloulovesbooks said...

If I were Cate Blanchett I would want to be married to you

My snidey petty gripe about AiW was that she wasn't wearing an Alice band.

Details, filmmakers, details.

{*}

earthtoholly said...

Entertaining reviews, drjay!

I really don't have any interest in seeing Alice as I'm not a fan of fantasy flicks, but I do want to see Precious. From what I've seen of the clips, I understand how Mo'Nique came away with Oscar...although I thought Julie & Julia was great and was pulling for Streep. Loooved it...thought she was awesome in her role.

And I love a Kate of another kind...Kate Winslet...don't wanna marry her...but like just about everything she's in. And she's never too skinny...

Erik Donald France said...

Thanks for the two takes, intertwined. I'll skip Alice and get around to Precious: these whistled me over the trench-top.

Laura Hegfield said...

I am inclined to agree those who see your future as a movie critic...wow! Seriously...why not?

berenice said...

Dr. Jay, i vote for you keep one writing more kind of reviews too, of films, books, music, all and nothing

on Alice, i am not excited to watch it, since i heard Burton was re-making the film, i used to like Burton films a lot! i am a fan of A Nightmare before Christmas, Ed Wood, Edward Scissorhands, but for a while he's been much more main-stream and some of his initial obscure talent is gone...

also, i already have a favorite film version of Alice, one that do respect all the darkness and poetry of the original written Alice, the stop-animation film made by Czech surrealist director Jan Švankmajer, do watch it it's a fantastic film!

http://bereweber.blogspot.com/2007/11/jan-svankmajer.html

and here the first 6 minutes of the film, how the white rabbit came to life, a favorite character in this version! you are going to like this...

so good to read you Dr. Jay!

berenice said...

& the lift scene
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TI1x1OfSwSY
now this is a Lewis Carroll's great adaption, i think, much better than the hyper-colored characters of Burton i've seen in the TV shots

Mandy said...

I was forced to go see Alice this weekend by my 8 yr old who HAD to see it. I had never seen a movie in 3D before, so I spent the entire movie amazed at the scenery (which I give an A+).

It's A Yoga Thang said...

I did enjoy Alice, though my husband I spoke of the Hollywood influence killing the original story a bit.
I have not seen Precious, but did read the book. Interesting feedback on both.

Kitty said...

Hey Dr. J, thanks for posting on Cabbages and Kings; in the midst of my divorce I haven't had time to try to see the Alice movie again, or post much of anything on my Blogger bits. Not having had the chance to lurk on your page lately, either, I enjoyed catching up. Your review makes me not want to see the movie, or at least pay for it. I may well be the only woman in America who doesn't think Depp is the shiznit; in point of fact I just think,"Overactor" every time I see him. Like Zoolander, he only has one look! But I dig how you juxtaposed Precious with Alice. I'll look you up on Elephant. Peace, Kitty.

Kitty said...

@louloulovesbooks: get in line, honey!