Friday, October 29, 2010

FYC Hell: Alice in Uglyland and the Art of Self Editing.

With screeners arriving and campaign parties starting, awards season is raring to go. The Oscar FYC ad pictured below, the first of the season, arrived today in my mailbox from the delightful Guy Lodge with the completely sensible command "Stop. This. Now." As many of you know, I loathe Tim Burton's Mia in Uglyland but I'm not dumb enough to think that it doesn't have a shot at a handful of Oscar nominations. Money, and hundreds of millions of bags worth of it -- each much larger than the Red Queen's oversized noggin -- goes a long way towards warming industry hearts.

The ad starts with the Claudia Puig USA Today quote "The movie should come with a note marked 'Watch me' for its extravagance of whimsy and wonder." and proceeds to list the names of 28 awards hopefuls (some of whom are very talented indeed... but... 'stop. this. now.' indeed)

There are so many things to be concerned with on this page, not least of which is how many optometrist appointments Ms. Puig seems to have cancelled recently.

[more bitching after jump]

Guy notes that you know this is going to end with Johnny Depp getting at least a Comedy Globe nod and my heart died a little from this astute prophesy. See, I love Mr Depp. I thought he absolutely deserved the Oscar for his rich and instantly iconic comic creation in The Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl (2003). Just a couple of weeks back I was caught up in some Edward Scissorhands again and admiring the invention and, this is an important note, sublime simplicity of that early performance.

But Depp, like his preferred auteur Burton, seems to have lost his knack for self-editing. I'm thinking of self-editing because the finale of Project Runway just aired [SPOILER] and self-regarding crunchy bohemian amazon Gretchen won the contest over richly inventive diminutive pattern-freak Mondo. The judges dinged Mondo for his lack of self-editing skills. While I thought Mondo deserved the win (like Burton, he's a uniquely creative fellow), I can't say that they weren't entirely off the mark in this one criticism. Did the clothes really need those pattern ball hats and other accessories... which read cutesy and pulled attention to themselves and their color and pattern repetitions rather than allowing you to just enjoy the great already busy clothes?

Now, one can easily claim that a movie blogger such as myself, examining my own cinematic brain vomit like tea leaves each day of the year, has no business bitching about anyone's lack of self-editing.... and to this I'd say touché but also: different field, different purpose, different budget (none), different cost (free), different team (i.e. none to talk you out of your worst impulses or help you shape your best ones with their own creative expertise)

Anyway... it wouldn't hurt Burton at all to be asked to deliver something on a tiny budget with a team who isn't completely enamored of / dependent on his brand. There needs to be someone to say "Um, that's a lot of garishness in one scene, let's pare down!" or "I get where you're going with this... how about we try it this way which accomplishes the same thing but is less fussy/muddy/ornamental!"

Edward Scissorhands (1990) still looks sensational twenty-years later. For a film which collects avon ladies, gothic castles, daytime talk shows, elaborate hideous hairdos, ice sculptures, scissor handed simpletons, christmas parties, and crazy ass topiary the size of two-story buildings under one broken drafty roof, it's remarkably uncluttered. It's suffused with whimsy and wonder. Someone should deliver it to Mr. Burton and Mr. Depp's offices with a note marked "Watch me." 


Devin D said...

I said everything that you said when I first saw this! I was laughing so hard I didn't know what to do with myself.

Alison Flynn said...

I saw the Deadline Hollywood article announcing Disney's intentions to campaign this for all it's worth a couple of weeks ago. They do have balls, that's for sure.

Daniel Armour said...

God, I think I just threw up in my mouth. This isn't the worst film of the year but its definitely a contender. People can say what they want about The Social Network and Inception being overrated but neither film made as much money as this soulless piece of junk. For that alone, it's the most overrated film of the year and the nerve Disney has to campaign this film for Best Picture is incredibly frightening/delusional.

Andrew R. said...

Let's run through the ad. (Keep in mind I just disliked the film-say, a C minus.)

Picture-More than half the slots are sealed up. Not happening.

Director-Practically the same as Picture. Next.

Screenplay-Not happening. Next.

Actor-Maybe the Globes. But who cares? It's not happening at the Oscars. Next.

Actress-Unrealistic as hell. Next.

S. Actor-Oh please. The category may be open, but not that open.

S. Actress-Well, Bonham-Carter is locked in for King's Speech, so no way (although if she were nominated for this instead, I would live). And even the critics who liked the film weren't big on Hathaway.

The 10 Technical Categories-This is where it gets a little trickier, since it's a good film technically. (I know it's over the top, but I did like some of the visuals.)

I think it's safely in for Art Direction, Costumes, Makeup, and Visual Effects. I won't have any problems with these nominations. I really did like the sets and costumes. The makeup for B-C was excellent, but Depp's was just plain eccentric. And the Visual Effects, well, see above.

I don't think the film will make it in for Cinematography (nothing really special, plus the film was so hazy/smoky that I could feel my lungs developing cancer), Song (that was a terrible song), and Score (forgettable).

As for Editing and the Sound categories, I don't know. I hate predicting the Sound categories, and the editing is rather run of the mill.

So Alice, at most, will be getting 7 nominations in minor categories. It's better than a Best Picture nod (oh no), so relax. And it's not the worst film to be nominated for Oscars. Norbit was nominated for Makeup, remember?

Alison Flynn said...

Yeah, I agree with that assessment. It will be art and tech categories for this one if anything.

I'd be really annoyed if they nominated Burton for his laziest work yet, this after ignoring him for stuff that he really deserved to be acknowledged for like Ed Wood. And if they were pushing Depp into supporting actor maybe - big maybe - he could get a nomination for this. And that would still be disappointing.


andrew r --ugh. i would not be okay with those nominations. This film was HIDEOUS to look at. to quote project runway's judges to the filmmakers "we 're concerned with your taste level"

amir_uk said...

For Your Consideration
Best Actor
Johnny Depp?

I'd actually forgotten he was in it.

The only person who should come out of this one-star mess with an Oscar nomination is Avril Lavigne.

Janice said...

OH Nat, that last line (in the article) was one of your best - I love when you come full circle in your articles like that. And you do - always come back to the point, even if you meander. Burton, on the other hand...

...I miss the man who made Edward Scissorhands. I want that man back. Alas, he is gone for good. (I'm also worried that Baz Luhrmann is gone for good after that mess that was Australia - and now hearing that he's adapting The Great Gastby? Dude, not in any - ANY - position to lecture others on extravagance.)

OtherRobert said...

I support costumes and make-up in this picture. I hope it can actually win the latter as the make-up almost made paying matinee price worth it.

cal roth said...

The only thing that worked for me was Atwood's costumes. They are nomination worthy, for sure. Nothing else is in this movie.


cal -- i dunno on the costumes actually. To me EVERYTHING was too busy. Like the production designer, who should theoretically be making sure the contributions from the various departments click visually together, should have reigned SOMEONE in. I realize Alice in Wonderland is not meant to be "minimalist" and never has been but this was just too much. It was like that absolutely hideous city chase scene in one of the recent Star Wars movies where George Lucas shoved something into every square inch of the frame. Hateful.