It’s that time of year again…

Yes, that most anticipated of Awards Ceremonies, The Oscars, sees all kinds of celebrities turning out in their most amazing looking threads and practising their most gracious of losing faces for this one time of year.

Of course, this year was no different, and England in particular has a lot riding on this, the 83rd Annual Academy Awards, with The King’s Speech nominated in as many categories as it can possibly manage. From the Red Carpet, everyone seemed rightly excited for the close calls in this year’s nominees. Everyone has their favourites, but only one can win. I know where my money is!

James Franco and Anne Hathaway did a nice job of hosting together, but of course when you put two attractive people together like that you’re hoping to get an entertaining back and forth (especially when half-way through they come back out dressed as each other). Plus, it gives all the geeks in the audience a chance at imagining how Anne Hathaway will look when she plays Catwoman in The Dark Knight Rises next year!

Best Art Direction surprisingly didn’t go to Inception but to Alice in Wonderland, which I suppose must be purely for all its CGI and imaginative creations.

Best Supporting Actress went to Melissa Leo for her performance in The Fighter, but it did mean that both Helena Bonham Carter and Hayley Steinfeld missed out (which gave Helena a reason for looking moody and gothy), which confused me as I was sure they put Hayley Steinfeld into this category so she might win since she was on the screen for 90% of the time, which would surely mean the Lead Actress in True Grit was Matt Damon…

Best Animated Feature obviously went to Toy Story 3, but being one of three films nominated it was almost to be expected. Best Adapted Screenplay must have been a very close call because 127 Hours, The Social Network and True Grit were all very well written, but the award went to The Social Network as I hoped. Best Original Screenplay brought the first Oscar to The King’s Speech, and David Seidler made a great acceptance speech for it. I couldn’t have called In a Better World for Best Foreign Language film as I think most people expected it to go to Biutiful, but there you go.

Another tough call came for Best Supporting Actor, but Christian Bale took the award away, which I’m guessing is due to the amount of weight he lost purely to perform his role in The Fighter. Inside Job took Best Documentary, but that’s probably because it exposed massive financial fraud to a nation that got hit by it!

Inception took away a total of 4 awards, including Sound Mixing, Sound Editing, Visual Effects and surprisingly Cinematography, which I expected to go to True Grit for its scenery and settings. Best Original Score, to my huge excitement, went to Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, which meant I got to see the man that fronted Nine Inch Nails accepting an Oscar whilst simultaneously feeling obviously awkward about it!

Best Director, without any surprise, went to Tom Hooper for The King’s Speech, even though I was rooting for David Fincher for The Social Network, but at least he made a good acceptance speech so you can’t fault him for that. Best Actress went to Natalie Portman, and again that is likely due to the amount of dance training she went through for her role in Black Swan.

No prizes for guessing that Best Actor went to Colin Firth for The King’s Speech, as well as winning Best Feature Film. That means 4 Oscars for The King’s Speech and good night for English Films!

So, until next year, we can all go away and rent all the films from tonight, and remember just why they won the awards they did. Or, alternatively, bitch continuously about how our favourites really should have won that one award that they were nominated for instead of that other which wasn’t nearly as good…

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Alice In Wonderland (Contains Spoilers)

When I first heard about this film being made, I was so incredibly excited about it that I sent the link to the trailer to a bunch of my friends. After that, I slowly became wary that the films like this usually have a hard time living up to expectations, so I was ready to view this film with an entirely open mind. Tim Burton’s take on the Lewis Carroll classic is interesting to say the least. But it’s also clearly Tim Burton massaging his ego with the material he’s probably been dying to do ever since he graduated Art School. I’d like to point out here that I, in no way, “hated” Alice In Wonderland. But I also didn’t think it was the jewel in Tim Burton’s crown everyone was expecting it to be either. In other words, it was good, but not as great as it was meant to be…

Alice In Wonderland is the kind of film that relies heavily on a few things. First and foremost, it relies on having the epic, drug-addled visuals that the original material built up in people’s heads. This, Tim Burton has done a fantastic job on – of course he has, it’s Tim Burton’s imagination! He probably has dreams like this every night! But regardless of that, everything that appears in this Alice In Wonderland version matched pretty closely to how things should look, with Burton adding in his own acid-trip effects in the right places. However, maybe letting Tim Burton totally re-write how things should have looked as well would have been interesting to see, but could have annoyed and confused people who know the original material well.

This leads me to my second point – the adaptation to the script. Obviously, this version is not the original story. Or at least, not for the most part. There were clearly parts from the original text that Tim Burton wanted so badly to do, but at the same time create a unique piece of work that could act as his own version, that he couldn’t choose between the two. So the fact that the now 19-year-old Alice has conveniently forgotten her original adventure into Wonderland means that for the first hour or so of the movie, she gets to re-discover everything all over again. This has obviously been done for the convenience of easing the audience gradually into this new extension of the original story without completely going off the rails. Which could be either clever or redundant depending which side of the Tim Burton fence you fall on.

But possibly the biggest thing that Alice In Wonderland’s storyline relies on isn’t Mia Wasikowska’s performance as Alice at all. In fact, this version revolves (for the most part) entirely around Johnny Depp’s character of The Mad Hatter. And that, unfortunately, is where I thought the film started to falter…

Whilst it’s common knowledge that Tim Burton and Helena Bonham Carter (who also appears in nearly every Tim Burton film, and stars in this as The Red Queen) are married, its undeniable that him and Johnny Depp do so much work together that they may as well be having an affair. However, doing so much work with Tim Burton is obviously starting to wear thin for Depp, and his Mad Hatter seemed to be lacking a few elements to be entirely complete. Which is a shame, because as I mentioned, this new story revolves almost entirely around The Mad Hatter character, and sadly, I expected a lot more from him in this. I personally was expecting an entirely outrageously eccentric character from Depp, but instead he seemed more like The Multiple Personality Disorder Hatter, or The Mild-Case-Of-Tourettes Hatter instead. It’s perfectly reasonable to say that this character fits this version, though, as Tim Burton is doing his usual thing of putting a darker twist on an otherwise light-hearted story.

This new story, as many might know by now, sees Alice returning to wonderland to take up her rightful place of overthrowing The Red Queen’s rule over Wonderland (or technically “Underland”) by slaying The Jabberwocky (played by none other than Christopher Lee!) so that The White Queen (played by Anne Hathaway) can restore the land to the way it once was. This darker, almost apocalyptic version of Wonderland is fitting for what Tim Burton does, and Johnny Depp’s more serious, forlorn Mad Hatter fits into this, but it’s clearly not what people were hoping for from him. Instead of the bizarre, original, off-the-wall character we were hoping for we get a mixture of Jack Sparrow and Sweeny Todd. There were also other things about the story that started to annoy me which I’ll avoid going on a rant about, but I’ll list in case other people noticed them as well.

Firstly, the fact that Alice miraculously and conveniently tames the Bandersnatch after it already nearly killed her. It had no rhyme nor reason behind it, other than it was means for her escape from the castle. There were many other ways that this could be done, but instead they clearly wanted to have a scene with Alice taming a Bandersnatch. Secondly, the “why is a Raven like a Writing Desk?” riddle was brought up WAY too many times – it was clever in the original text to prove a point, but they are trying to use it way too much in this. The whole point of the riddle is that a raven IS NOT like a writing desk, and therefore its point for use is made redundant! Thirdly, Anne Hathaway (as great as her acting is, making her one of the best performances of the film) does this thing with her hands throughout the film to make her character seem more graceful, but it actually distracts from her performance a little too much.

As for the rest of the film, I thought it was fantastically stylised, and the voice talents of Stephen Fry as The Cheshire Cat, Matt Lucas as The Tweedles and Micheal Sheen as The White Rabbit amongst others were completely on the mark and really perfected those characters. The visuals were epic, the creatures like The Jub-Jub Bird and The Jabberwocky looked perfect, and all the set pieces from the original Wonderland story were there. I think that seeing Alice In Wonderland in 3D or IMAX would possibly be distracting people from the storyline with pretty effects and stuff, but it would also be entertaining to see how different certain scenes are between the 2D and 3D versions.

Overall, I enjoyed Alice In Wonderland to the extent that I found it interesting to watch and fun to see the characters and set pieces brought to life in a live-action film, but the storyline that doesn’t delve too deep and a few disappointing performances and parts of the script mean that it wasn’t the instantly awe-inspiring film that I was hoping to be. For that, I’m giving Alice In Wonderland a half-and-half 5 out of 10. I liked it, but I did not love it.

LISTED Film Previews – March 2010

Because of changes in the printings for Listed Magazine, these will actually be going out monthly now, as opposed to covering two months in one go – which means more movie previews packed into a months space than before, making your movie-going choices even more difficult than before! I love being helpful!!

ALICE IN WONDERLAND (PG) (Dir. Tim Burton)

Tim Burton, master of the wierd and gothy, has struck once again – this time turning his hand to Lewis Carroll’s famous masterpiece! Taking on a slightly different storyline to the usual concept, this version sees a 19 year old Alice returning to Wonderland to fulfil her destiny of ending the Red Queen’s reign of terror over Wonderland. Burton has given the film’s visuals his own unusual-but-accurate approach, and with a star-studded cast including Johnny Depp (of course) as The Mad Hatter, Stephen Fry as The Cheshire Cat, Michael Sheen as The White Rabbit and Helena Bonham Carter as The Red Queen to name just a few, this is definitely one (acid) trip you’ll want to go on! Miss this, and you’ll miss out! Released March 5th.

THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO (15) (Dir. Neils Arden Oplev)

After having a huge reception, this Swedish adaptation of the bestselling book is reaching our shores soon! A journalist (played by Michael Nyqvist) and a computer hacker are paired up to investigate a girl’s disappearance. But the more they investigate, the more they uncover about the families history and a string of murders from the past… Even though Sony have already optioned for a remake, you’ll want to check out this original version first and foremost! Released March 12th.

THE RUNAWAYS (15) (Dir. Floria Sigismondi)

A chronicling of the rise to fame of LA rock band The Runaways, who were an all-girl band in a man’s rock world in 1975. Written and directed by Sigismondi, this film sees Kristen Stewart break FAR away from her previous Twilight Saga role to play teenage lead singer Joan Jett, as well as Dakota Fanning looking surprisingly grown-up playing Cherie Currie. A must see for drama lovers and music lovers alike! Released March 19th.

CLASH OF THE TITANS (12A) (Dir. Louis Leterrier)

Whilst 2010 seems to be “The Year Of The Bad Re-Makes” (stay tuned for future months for more on those…), the Clash Re-make starring Sam Worthington (of Avatar fame) looks like it could satisfy anyone having withdrawal symptoms from 300! Loosely based on Greek myth, Perseus (Worthington) embarks on a mission to destroy Hades (Ralph Feinnes) before the underworld can spread to Earth and seize the power of Perseus’ father Zeus. The visual effects in Clash Of The Titans looks fantastic from the trailer, so you can definitely get more bang for your buck in this one than any other action film this month. Expect every other re-make this year to look awful compared to this! Released March 26th.

HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON (PG) (Dir. Dean DeBlois & Chris Sanders)

From the same studios that brought you Shrek and Kung Fu Panda, How To Train Your Dragon is an adaptation of the children’s book of the same name that follows a young Viking named Hiccup Horrendous The Third as he finds his very own wild dragon, Toothless. If you’re a fan of kid’s films with things for the parents included, then this is a great comedy adventure for the family. Catch it in 3D if possible, too! Released March 31st.

As printed in Listed Magazine Issue 25 and on www.listedmagazine.com