The Friday Hot Sheet

Sometimes weeks can be quiet. Work is busy -- but not in any sort of way that requires ranting or exasperation. You're just making the moves, going through the motions, making it happen. This hasn't been one of those. The latest project I'm working on is one of those "There is a deadline. We have a deadline. Everyone must freak out about the deadline." type of deals -- and yet, as that fateful day approaches it's clear that our overseas compatriots didn't get the memo about said freaking out and as a result, everyone here is (wait for it) -- freaking out.

So there's been a lot of meetings where we discuss the best way to deal with this problem, followed by communications sessions where we get Puerto Rico on the line and say things like, "You see, my wife, she has been most vocal on the subject of the pretzel monies. 'Where's the money?' 'When are you going to get the money?' 'Why aren't you getting the money now?' And so on."

Everything will get done of course. Maybe not exactly when everyone wanted it to -- but things around here have a way of even-ing out if you give them the chance. It's almost funny to me that the ones who usually don't seem to get that are the same people who have been working here many more years than I have. I suppose it's all about the personality you bring to your work -- but in my experience when it comes to getting corporate people across the globe on the same page, freaking out rarely accomplishes much of anything.
And yet, that's what's been happening here. So we have meetings and discuss, and then we communicate. And then we wait.
So while I wait to see if that last email I sent will get any response at all -- here are this weeks risers and fallers, and the buzz as it looks from here..
Disney's Alice In Wonderland One of my more prized literary possessions is an exceptionally tattered compilation of Lewis Carroll stories, including both Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There. Its not a particularly fancy or valuable (it looks more like the kind of thing you'd get at a college bookstore to use in a literature class) -- but I've had it for ages, and re-read it on a pretty regular basis. I love the storytelling, the characters, and the imagery -- but it's also one of those books that (depending on how deep you want to try and go with it) suggests all kinds of layers and subtexts beneath the words.

With all that going on -- it's really no surprise that there have been so many attempts to recreate this world on film (including the inevitable porn version). And yet, all the different attempts over the ages to bring this story to life on the screen have always fallen short in one form or another to truly bring all the depth, wonder, and madness of this world effectively to life. I think that's one of the reasons I actually love the book so much -- because even though it was written over a hundred years ago, it still exists best in the imagination of the reader.
It's almost as if Hollywood can't make a decent Alice in Wonderland movie.
Of course in the modern age of CGI wizardry and 3D film-making, more than ever is possible for audiences to see -- especially if handled by the kind of visionary who not only has the savvy to understand the depth of the source material, but the imagination and skill to bring it to life on the screen. So on first glance it might seem that someone like Tim Burton would be the perfect choice.
Unfortunately, Tim Burton hasn't really made an engaging film in years.
Worse yet, this period of turning out projects that fall way short of expectations has coincided with the rise to super stardom of one Johnny Depp, who lets face it, has also been sorta riding on his name lately. It's almost as if having weathered the storms of becoming famous together, Burton has rewarded Depp in his last few movies by never asking too much of him, and Depp honors that request by not doing much more than looking good and affecting his voice with various accents.

As a result, I'm not holding out much hope for their take on one of my favorite stories. I mean, I'm sure it will look great and bring in the top box office numbers for the weekend (just like Corpse Bride, Willy Wonka, and Sweeney Todd before it) but really, is anyone expecting all that much here? Johnny Depp's makeup job makes him look like Madonna, Alice apparently doesn't say anything at all, and despite the fact that all the ads feature footage from the Hatter's tea party -- the plot itself seems to be focused on some battle between Alice and Helena Bohnham-Carter's Red Queen. It's essentially the equivalent of advertising Star Wars by only showing clips from the Cantina scene.

It's always been my theory that Tim Burton works best when he finds iconic actors (like Depp) who are willing to accept the challenge of bringing life to his visions. Think about Jack Nicholson in Batman. Rod Steiger in Mars Attacks. Michael Keaton in Beetlejuice. Martin Landau in Ed Wood. But ever since he's sort of settled on having the same five actors in all of his films, that challenge isn't there. And as a result, the resulting films have fallen way short of what you'd imagine they could be. Which is why I have almost no reason to believe (although I'd love to be proven wrong) that Burton's Alice in Wonderland will be any different.
The OscarsSpeaking of movies, the Oscars happen Sunday Night -- and although there's lots of interesting categories to think about this year, all of the pre-press has been focused on the best picture race. Despite the category itself being extended to include 10 nominees (not so much because there were 10 films that good, but now there will be 10 DVD covers that can include the words "Oscar Nominated" on them) -- all indications are that it's a two horse race between James Cameron's box office record-breaking science fiction epic Avatar, and Kathryn Bigelow's super-intense modern war story The Hurt Locker. A classic battle between the movie everyone's (supposedly) seen multiple times versus the movie that people "heard was really good," but then passed over so they could see Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince instead. It's blockbuster versus indie. Real life versus fantasy. Big money versus small. And if that weren't enough -- the directors involved used to be married. In a year where we might actually see Sandra Bullock win Best Actress(!?), it's hard to think that something as popular as Avatar won't walk away a winner -- but all of the popular indicators (read: other awards shows) have gone the way of Hurt Locker. For me it sorta breaks down like this: Avatar was an enormous step forward in film technology, and was a ton of fun to watch. Hurt Locker was an amazing story, had me completely on the edge of my seat, and made me never want to enlist in the military ever for fear that I might somehow end up on that particular unit. For my money, The Hurt Locker is the far better movie. Alas, Hollywood rarely ignores cultural sensations -- despite usually being the first to lament how big budget films always stomp out the little guy. If you don't believe me, just ask L.A. Confidential, As Good as it Gets, or Good Will Hunting -- all of which are considered great films -- who lost Best Picture honors to James Cameron's Titanic in 1997. I fully expect Sunday's Oscar telecast to essentially be a repeat of that with Avatar ruling the night. Get mad if you want, but Oscar isn't really about art. It's about recognizing how much the world loves going the movies. And love it or hate it -- Avatar was the movie the world went to see this year.
Slide WhistlesSometimes being a parent is all about patience. About encouraging your child's creative and inventive spirit even if it's inconvenient, occasionally frustrating, or testing to your patience. Ask anyone who's kid has grown up to be a drummer, any parent who's had to set aside the time for multiple little league or pop warner seasons. There are other things you could be doing (like you know, ..sleeping). There are times when you don't want to listen to piano practice or guitar scales over and over. But without those moments, you'll never see them grow. Never have the chance to see how far they can fly once they spread their wings on their own. These are the things I keep telling myself now that I've made my son's dream of having a slide whistle come true. Because as much as he truly loves playing with it and as much fun as he's having sliding the whistle up and down (and up and down and up and down and up and down) the sound of it has gone from charmingly whimsical to utterly nightmare-inducing faster than you can possibly imagine.
The Robot MafiaI hate vacuuming. However, living with a menagerie of pets and a 9 year-old, it's something that I need to do. So when I moved into this place I forked out the cash for a Roomba -- which was some of the best money I've ever spent. Every day it scours the floor to give my place a semblance of clean that it would have never gotten otherwise. Unfortunately, machines don't last forever -- so when the Roomba eventually died, it was a no-brainer to replace it. Sadly, the new one locked up and died a week after I bought it. A few phone calls later, the folks at iRobot surprised me by offering to replace it for free, considering the kind of error message it was giving and the length of time I'd had it. I figure it's pretty rare for someone to be discussing a customer service call that went well -- so big ups to the guys who kept me once again from actually having to clean my own place.
Hot Tub Time MachineOne of the things that makes me a fun guy to be around is the way that I can bag on a movie like Alice in Wonderland before I've even seen it for appearing not to be inventive or madcap enough to live up to the legacy of the classic novel that it's adapting -- only to turn back around and say that I for one cannot wait to see what is surely a one-joke premise of a film like this one (Red Band Trailer, NSFW) -- that appears to be based off of an idea that someone came up with when they were really, really high. And yet, I personally can't wait for this movie to come out. I don't know -- I tend not to hold my stupid comedies up to the same standards that I do my literary adaptations -- and despite the fact that I can easily see this falling into lazy fart joke and 80's reference hell, it still looks crazy enough that it should still be fun.
RacismNo one's gonna tell you that racism has any place in civilized society. But the question still remains --
Could it sell you a mattress?

[Listening to:  The Bees - "End of the Street" ]


whatigotsofar said…
"Kick a puppy and punch a kitten."

How long do you think it would take me to drive from Toronto to Van Nuys and back? Considering, I'll have a mattress strapped to the roof of my car the entire way back.
JerseySjov said…
i was excited about alice until i learned that it was about her going back to wonderland as an adult. i get the impression that it's going to be tim burton's alice fanfiction.

on the other hand, i've been amped for hot tub time machine ever since seeing a trailer for it back in january. a 90-minute fart joke with sprinkles of 80s references is right up my alley.

bless you for buying the boy a slide whistle. i used to be a child who owned and poorly played a recorder/cello/violin/flute [tho i was better at all of those than my brother was at clarinet], so i'm not sure i'll be as generous with my own kids.
Bef said…
that commercial is wrong on so many levels...

All I care about concerning the Oscars is will hairy-legged Mo'Nique win for best supporting actress...though I didn't like the movie as a whole her performance was amazing truly.

slide whistles and loud toys/instruments in sir are EXTREMELY lucky we don't live in the same city and/or don't have a closer relationship I would make your life a living hell with loud toys...when our boys were young my sister and I engaged in loud toys war at Christmas...see she was not real bright in taking me on...I only have the 1 child...she at the time had 2 was so on! I won the war with the super deluxe voice changing megaphones yes plural...I got 1 for each boy... *evil grin*

I really cannot wait to see Hot Tub Time Machine...
Hex said…
WiGSF -- I'm pretty sure that ad was a fake, but who cares.. it was friggin hilarious. Makes me miss the days when local commercials were the wild wild west. Here in Jacksonville we used to have car salesmen in rabbit suits, roofers in chicken suits, there was a guy who used to promote his house painting service as "peanut butter proof" -- which he would illustrate by throwing spoonfuls of Jif at some guys house..

Good times.

Jersey -- The movie did fairly well at the box office (as expected) but I wonder if we'll see a big drop off this week. I'm with you though -- why not do the original story?

Hot Tub Time Machine looks like a blast. We should just get a whole bunch of us and go see it together ;)

Bef -- The only real surprise at the Oscars (if you can even call it that, seeing as it won most of the other award shows) was Hurt Locker topping Avatar. Mo'Nique was projected to win, as was Bullock and Bridges. Fairly boring in terms of shocks that night.

I personally tortured my parents with my guitar playing from the moment they got my first one for me. I was obsessed with it, and played for hours at a time. I love that they let me do that -- but I realize now more than ever just how much of a chore it must have been for them.
blamemyrobot said…
Firth off thank you so much for introducing me to Esther Baxter. I didn't know who she was before, but now it's definitely in the spank-bank. Secondly, sux you had to wake up early for no reason... I hate that too. Also, I really want this auto-tune phenomena to DIE! Just DIE! And I loved that Jon Stewart segment too man... thought he did a great job demonstrating how foolish and gullible the media can be to run with an internet fad.