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March 08, 2010 - Image 5

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The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com

Monday, March 8, 2010 - 5A

The ichganDail - ichganailyom ondy, arch8, 010- 5

Not quite a wonder

In defense of electron ica

Tim Burton's 'Alice'
is beautiful, but
tailored to tweens
BY KAVI SHEKHAR PANDEY
Daily Film Editor
"You're the wrong Alice!"
exclaim the
Dormouse,
Tweedledum,
Tweedledee and Alice in
many other char-
acters in Tim Wonderland
Burton's "Alice At Quality 16
in Wonderland," and ShOWCase
convinced this .
19-year-old girl Disney
who fell into
a dizzying hole while chasing a
White Rabbit is not the same Alice
that came to Wonderland 13 years
ago. Unintentionally, they are also
reinforcing that this ain't your
grandaddy's "Alice."
No, this is a corporatized, for-
mulaic, "let's try to sell as many
t-shirts at Hot Topic as we can"
version of "Alice in Wonderland."
For generations, Lewis Carroll's
1865 novel has spanned across all
age groups; it has enchanted chil-
dren with its goofy character cre-
ations and the teacup ride at Disney
World, connected with adults who
can appreciate the witticisms and
subtexts and inspired hippies with
its psychedelic undertones (see
"White Rabbit" by Jefferson Air-
plane).
Accordingly, the visionary mind
of Tim Burton was the ideal cre-
ative force to take the reigns of a
new tale set in Wonderland, having
already dreamed up the marvel-
ous mechanisms of Willy Wonka's
Chocolate Factory and the chill-
ing woodlands of Sleepy Hollow to
enormous success.
With "Alice," the seventh col-
laboration for Burton and his appar-
ent muse Johnny Depp ("Sweeney
Todd"), the director's genius is

On a scale from one to Johnny Depp, this eye makeup is a Johnny Deppy.
at full force. His visualization of his name - transformed into a val-
Carroll's world is unsurprisingly iant-but-vulnerable hero? Because
stunning, creating a once-vibrant he's played by Johnny Depp, and
mystical realm now overrun with tickets must be sold! Depp brings
murk and gloom. But other than out his surefire charisma, putting
the dazzling art direction, some on his trademarked Crazy Face and
inspired character creations and the settinga new record for most non-
occasionalblack comedy, there's not sensical phrases in a single scene.
much here for the over-18 crowd. It's understandable to give depth
As mentioned, this "Alice" is a to a typically secondary character,
continuation of the original story. but since the character is elevated
Alice (Mia Wasikowska, "Amelia") to such a substantial role and is on
is alligrown up and being pressured the forefront of every poster, the
into marriage by her mother and film might as well be called "Mad
high society. But destiny calls, and 'Hatter's Acid Trip in Wonderland."
she is drawnback to Wonderland to Burton'deserves a lot of respect
help topple the murderous regime for incorporating his distinc-
of the large-noggined Red Queen tive macabre humor - eye goug-
(Helena Bonham Cater, "Sweeney ing, decapitated heads and many
Todd"). threats of execution - into such,
This doesn't sound like Car- a family-friendly corporate cash
roll's original story, which followed cow. But it's painful to see his
Alice through the quips and riddles vision relegated to a film so obvi-
of the peculiar inhabitants of Won- ously targeted toward the hoards
derland. The problem isn't merely of teen "Twilight" worshippers.
that the focus has changed, it's that Indeed, this is the"wrong Alice,"
it has changed into a teen fantasy as the cross-generational appeal of
retread where a rebellious protago- Carroll's timeless classic has faded.
nist gathers friends, evades foes Still, "Alice" is worth watching,
and finds the almighty weapon, due to the Burton's natural bril-
culminating ina climactic battle. liance, the hilarity of the March
The friends include all the Hare (who tweaks like a crack
famous faces - the philosophiz- addict) and the best boogie-down
ing, hookah-puffing caterpillar denouement since "Fantastic Mr.
(Alan Rickman, "Harry Potter"), Fox." But make sure you book it for
Cheshire Cat (Stephen Fry, "V for the exitsbefore the scourge of Avril
Vendetta") and the Mad. Hatter. Lavigne has a chance to liquefy
Why has the Mad Hatter - a char- your eardrums with her abomina-
acter whose insanity is branded in ble end-credits song.

Electronica has a stigma. I know
this because when I first bought
Kid A and popped it into my stereo,
after having
spent months
wearing out the
grooves on The
Bends and OK
Computer, the
first thought
that washed ,
over me with JOSHUA
dread was: BAYER
"Fuck. I didn't
know Radio-
head did an electronica album."
Truth be told, I really had no
idea what electronica is, or what
it could be. To me, electronica
was little more than the yuppie-
on-ecstasy rave-up techno that
polluted radio waves after hours.
I saw it more as an excuse to initi-
ate orgies on dance floors than asa
legitimate form of music. And if it
wasn't in a club, then it was ambient
and boring; the floaty, sleep-tape
sort of music that snobs in berets
would listen to in order to prove
they could.
Electronica is what I'Jike to call
a "bastard genre" - a genre that, for
whatever reason, hasbeen shoved
into the backseat of pop culture.
Jazz and metal arebastard genres
too. And while I'm still slightly
terrified of metal, I amhere to tell
you that electronica is notjust for
computer nerds and club creepers.
It is for you. There is an electronica
album outthere that will change
your life if you listen to it.And I'm
hopingthat, by giving you an eclec-
tic shortlist of some of the more
accessible albums and artists who
have changed my life over the years,
I can, at the very least, provide you
with somethingthatwon't put you
to sleep or give you a migraine.
Let's start with the king, 1998's
Music Has the Right to Children
by Boards of Canada. This is the
record that popped my cherry, and
what I still deem to be the greatest
electronica album of all time. You-
Tube the song "Roygbiv" immedi-

ately, f
be war
humar
withot
withot
along;
beat w
that ex
windo
Thi
takes'
contai
world
filled
metro
es hau
While
on con
weren
facts f
whole
organ
noises
chirps
sating
its thr
Ear
cc
But
to Chil
can'tb
the kir
tempo
album
sound
ing his
essent
for "in
brancl
tempe
and he
Wh
album
best pl
Richar
est an,
out all
the re(
betwe
breakl

or proof thatelectronica can phonic Pixy-Stix harmonies that
rm, immediate, melodic and sound like they were daydreamed
n. This pop opus is low-key by kindergartners, albeit with a
ut being drifty and infectious refreshing tinge of evil. For anyone
ut being obnoxious, clicking who has ever craved the turbo-
steadily on an assembly-line charged exhilaration of frenetic
ith day-glo synth harmonies drum-machine music but has been
xude a stare-out-the-car- turned off by the frustrating lack of
w optimism. melody, this is the albuin for you.
s is one of those albums that And then there's the whole "left-
you to a vivid, alternate, self- field hip hop" realm, perfect for
ned reality - a sci-fi fantasy those seeking a chiller alternativeto
equally sinister and angelic, Weezy and Jay-Z. 1996's Endtroduc-
with shapeshifting neon ing... by DJ Shadow, the first album
polises and enchanted marsh- composed entirely of samples, is the
nted by demonic children. granddaddy ofthis subgenre. The
all of these songs eere made album distorts and mashestogether
nputers, they sound like they clips from essentially every genre
't made at all, existing as arti- and source imaginable (classical,
rom an alien civilization. The jazz, hip hop, funk, psychedelia, old
record feels overwhelmingly TV shows, dub, Tears for Fears, etc.)
ic and fibrous, filled with the in ways you would never imagine,
of trickling rivers, seagull uniting it all over mischievous, hard-
and giggling children, pul- hittingbeats. Compared to Endtro-
with warmblood in spite of ducing..., Girl Talk's music feels like
obbing robotic backbone. baby food.
As far as the aughts go, J Dill's
Donuts has probably picked up the
rcandyc be mostprestige, and Madlib's Shades
can ofBlue is pure ear candy, but my
A personalvote for Best DJ goes out
to Flying Lotus, whose albums 1983
and LosAngeles are equally genius.
Listening to Lotus's music is
while Music Has the Right like being stuck inside a strobe-
'dren is my personal fave, it lit pinball machine, traveling in
e denied thatAphex Twin is slow motion. His compositions are
ngpin when it comes to con- bouncy and driving withoutever
rary electronica. He released being straightforward - they're
s in the '90s that would more like dense galaxies, orbiting
cutting edge today, reinvent- stutter-like around an entrancing
sound with each record and central idea as alien twitters and
Bally layingthe foundation garbled breathing noises splashily
telligent dance music," the sift around in the mix.
h of electronica that borders While this list is anything but
rately between head-bobbing comprehensive, my hope is that
ad-tripping. something in this columnwill
ile all of Aphex Twin's encourage you to get your feet wet.
s are their own animals, the Because, as we all know, Cascada
lace to start is probably 1996's (that chick who sings "Everytime
d D. James Album, his short- We Touch") is taking over the
d most immediate. Check world. And this is a problem.

sum opener "4" for a taste of
cord's bittersweet balance
en trip-over-your-shoelaces
beats and cartoonishly sym-

Every time you and Bayer touch,
he gets this feeling. To give him that
feeling, e-mail jrbayer@umich.edu.

Melodramatic
and mustachioed

By ANDREW LAPIN
SeniorArts Editor
There's an awful lot of scenery-
chewing going on in "The Last
Station," a movie
about Russian
novelist Leo
Tolstoy's final The Cast
days. But no one
owns this movie StatnOfl
like Paul Gia- At the
matti's glorious Michigan
handlebar mus-
tache. Thick and Sony
bushy, with the
ends teased at sharp angles, it's
all anyone can focus on when Gia-
matti ("Sideways") is onscreen.
This wonderful facial eccentricity
evokes an image closer to Snidely
Whiplash than Vladimir Chertkov
(the real-life Russian writer and
Tolstoyan Giamatti is playing),
and yet, since the proceedings sur-
rounding the mustache are pitched
at a level of cartoonish hysteria,
the construction of said mustache
feels surprisingly justified.
Alas, Chertkov and his upper
lip are meant to be enjoyed only
as auxiliaries to this story. Writer-
director Michael Hoffman ("The
Emperor's Club"), working from
the historical novel by Jay Parini,
has elected instead to cast James
McAvoy ("Wanted") as the nar-
rative's fulcrum. McAvoy plays a
bland, naive writer named Valen-
tin Bulgakov, a Tolstoy sycophant
who is invited to be the man's
latest secretary and live on the
nearby compound populated by
the cult-like followers of his writ-
ings. He sports a rather drab goa-
tee-type thing that, unfortunately,
befits his character all too well.
McAvoy's chief job is to stare
wide-eyed at the domestic squab-
bles that erupt between Tolstoy and
his wife, until it's his turn to finally
think for himself. Yawn. Anyway,
the real meat of the story, and the
ham acting, is Tolstoy's love/hate
relationship, which actually does
occupy both extremes of that spec-
trum. Both Christopher Plummer
("Up"), as Tolstoy, and Helen Mir-
ren ("The Queen"), as the Countess
Sofya, received Oscar nominations
for their high-class screaming and
lovemaking. Mirren preens and
flops about, as per her character,
and she's just charming enough to
avoid audience revulsion.
Plummer's long, thick beard

keeps up the high facial hair stan-
dards set by Giamatti. Tolstoy's
beard, after all, was the source
of his power. Helen Mirren, dis-
appointingly, shows no effort to
similarly adorn her visage with
some mutton chops - not even a
Fu Manchu.
Wait, there's still a movie to
review.
All of the actors are more than
adequate in their roles, and the
film has a very nice look to it; there
are several gorgeous sweeping
vistas of the Russian countryside.
The problem is we can't take "The
Last Station" seriously as drama
because the characters over-emote
so much. There's operatic, and
then there's soap-operatic.
For at least the first half of the
movie this doesn't seem to be a
problem, since it's pitched as a
comedy, complete with the most
refreshingly awkward virgin-
deflowering scene ever commit-
ted to film. But around the time
we're supposed to root against
Giamatti's mustache in favor of the
crazy-yet-eternal bond the Tolstoys
share with each other, the movie
loses its mojo. There was never any
dramatic weight here, but we're
A campy look at
Leo Tolstoy.
cheated into thinking we missed it
somewhere between the countess's
gaudy suicide attempts.
The greatness of Tolstoy as an
author and philosopher is well-
established, and those more famil-
iar with the man's life and writings
may glean a bit more interest from
watching a dramatization of his
end. Butrthen again, the film doesn't
show much respect forthe old coot,
and that's not even taking into
account all of the British accents
these supposed Russians are sport-
ing. Was this really one of the most
celebrated writers in the world?
A hypocritical horndog who liked
making rooster noises in bed with
his wife?
If "The Last Station" is to be
enjoyed, it's as a campy fun casualty
of the costume drama genre. And if
they ever make an Oscar for Best
Facial Hair, that will finally be the
one Paul Giamatti wins.

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