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Dec 22nd
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After The Fall

film_aliceBurton follows Carroll down the rabbit hole in a funny, engaging 'Alice in Wonderland'
The better you know the Alice books of Lewis Carroll, the more you'll appreciate Tim Burton's winsome and nutty remix, Alice In Wonderland. Instead of rehashing of the familiar children's story, Burton and scriptwriter Linda Woolverton borrow elements from both classic Carroll books, "Alice In Wonderland," and "Through The Looking Glass," then dare to imagine an entirely new story populated by Carroll's enduring fantasy characters.

Burton and collaborator Woolverton (she wrote the marvelous script for Disney's Beauty And the Beast) understand what makes the books so much fun—deadpan, Seinfeld-like conversations about the minutiae of life, the usefulness (or not) of language, silly plays on words, and the stubborn pragmatism of resourceful little Alice in a world gone cheerfully mad. Staying true to this antic, anarchic spirit, they fashion a funny, girl-empowering saga that is often Carroll's equal in drollery.

In this story, Alice (Mia Wasikowska) is a slightly rebellious Victorian-era 19-year-old. Shanghaied to a surprise engagement party for her arranged betrothal to a pompous rich boy, Alice scoots off into the hedgerows in pursuit of a rabbit in a waistcoat and tumbles down the rabbit hole (a virtuoso sequence in which she caroms off the most amazing and amusing clutter). When she finally lands in the familiar locked room with one tiny door to the outside world and a drink and a cake to alter her size, unseen observers remark, "You think she'd remember all this from before!"

Alice has visited Wonderland (here called the Underland) as a child, but she doesn't remember much and thought it was only a dream. Now, as she encounters the personae of the Underland— the "Tweedles" (Dum and Dee), the White Rabbit—she still thinks she's dreaming while they debate whether or not she's the right Alice. By the time she's ushered to the eternally in-progress Tea Party, the Mad Hatter (Johnny Depp) rolls out a scroll (decorated with the artwork of famous Carroll illustrator John Tenniel) and explains that she's the subject of a prophecy. On  the Frabjous Day, Alice is destined to slay the monster Jabberwocky and free Underland from the tyranny of the Red Queen.

In the first Alice book, royalty and their minions were based on playing cards like the Queen of Hearts. The second book was patterned after a chess game, with red and white queens, kings and knights. The film's imperious Red Queen (a delicious comic performance by Helena Bonham Carter) is more Queen of Hearts. Red heart motifs dominate her court, scrollwork, even her hair-do; her soldiers are stylized, armor-plated red cards. Shouting "Off with their heads!," she maintains her power through a ferocious black knight enforcer called Stayne (Crispin Glover).

Her sister, the White Queen (an uneasily platinum-blonde Anne Hathaway), beloved by the people, is confined to her checkerboard estate with her loyal court and chess-piece soldiers. In her quest to restore the White Queen to power, Alice's staunchest ally is the Hatter; sublimely silly and soulful as only Depp can be, he's part court jester, and part spirit guide. When Alice balks at her task, he says she was "much more…muchier" as a child. "You've lost your muchness," he tells her, in an exchange Carroll would love.

Depp and Carter get to act their parts with only a few CGI flourishes (like the Red Queen's hilariously bulbous head). Other characters are completely digital (but no less effective), like the Caterpillar (voiced with lubricous verve by Alan Rickman) and the cheeky Cheshire Cat (Stephen Fry). A jail cell scene between the Hatter and "Chess" the cat is a marvel of magical fx, comic timing, and wistful emotion.

Some visuals do suggest Tenniel by way of Sleepy Hollow, but Burton mostly saves his Gothic-noir sensibility for depicting the Red Queen's slash-film_alice_in_wonderlandand-burn policies. And even a somewhat gruesome moment when tiny Alice clambers over severed heads in the Red Queen's moat to sneak into her palace has a weirdly poetic quality. ("Lost my muchness, have I?" she cracks.) Alice's quest toward selfhood ("I make the path!"), and her knack for turning fearsome enemies into allies along the way, combine with the film's  ravishing look and  clever script for a buoyant heroine's journey well worth taking.

ALICE IN WONDERLAND ★★★★

With Johnny Depp, Helena Bonham Carter, Crispin Glover, and Mia W. Written by Linda Woolverton. From the novels by Lewis Carroll. Directed by Tim Burton. A Walt Disney release. Rated PG. 108 minutes.
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2014 is almost over. Wednesday, Dec. 17, the Jewish Festival of Light, Hanukkah, begins. We are in our last week of Sag and last two weeks of December. Sunday, Dec. 21 is winter Solstice, as the sun enters Capricorn (3:30 p.m. for the west coast). Soon after, the Capricorn new moon occurs (5:36 p.m. for the west coast)—the last new moon of 2014. Sunday morning Uranus in Aries (revolution, revelation) is stationary direct (retro since July 22). Uranus/Aries create things new and needed to anchor the new culture and civilization (Aquarius). We will see revolutionary change in 2015. Capricorn new moon, building-the-personality seed thought, is, “Let ambition rule and let the door to initiation and freedom stand wide (open).” Capricorn is a gate—where matter returns to spirit. But the gate is unseen until the Ajna Center (third eye), Diamond Light of Direction, opens. Winter solstice is the longest day of darkness of the year. The sun’s rays resting at the Tropic of Capricorn (southern hemisphere) symbolize the Christ (soul’s) light piercing the heart of the Earth, remaining there for three days, till Holy Night (midnight Thursday morning). Then the sun’s light begins to rise. It is the birth of the new light (holy child) for the world. A deep calm and stillness pervades the world.The entire planet is revivified, re-spiritualized. All hearts beating reflect this Light. And so throughout the Earth there’s a radiant “impress” (impressions, pictures) given to humanity of the World Mother and her Child. The star Sirius (love/direction) and the constellation Virgo the mother shines above. For gift giving, give to those in need. Give and give and then give some more. This creates the new template of giving and sharing for the new world.

 

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