Archive for March, 2010


Dear Reader,

When I went to see Alice in Wonderland, I had no expectations for it other than the kookiness portrayed in its trailer. And kooky it was, and often funly so. The Hatter’s tea party goers were as wonderfully disheveled as  the Hatter’s suit was bizarre. And Johnny Depp, as the Hatter, spoke with an irresistable tongue-thrusting British accent. (I wish I could remember the boxer who talked with a tongue thrust.) And the White Queen, played by Anne Hathaway? Hmm… seems like she had fun floating her arms about, a la Captain Jack Sparrow times 3.

For the most part, I readily imbibed in Tim Burton’s spell.


Then the  jabberwocky showed up, and the spell was broken. It screamed the same annoyingly high-pitched  scream as every  other mucous-mouthed Komodo  dragon creature  since Alien II. Boring! I’d intended to slam the jabberwocky itself and say it was a cliche’, but then I saw the saw how it was illustrated in Lewis Carroll’s novel, and I had to back off.  (It’s kinda the real thing.)  Even so, something wasn’t right about about the jabberwocky scene. It felt like the fantasy movie went bonkers and turned sci-fi. Curiouser and curiouser.

Also but…

I greatly thought the Hatter’s futter-wack (a kind of happy dance, I guess) was dumb. Both the music and the worm dance it accompanied  were jarringly out of character with the movie. Didn’t look real at all. I suppose that could have made it funny to some people. To me? Dumb.

I give the costume 5 stars, silliness 4, and the big head jokes 3 stars.

With Appreciation For Your Time,

The Editor


What Backstreet Boys, Joe Cocker, and Justin Timberlake Do to Me

Dear Reader,

I have to tell you what’s going on right now. I’m supposed to be writing a direct mail letter, but I can’t focus because I’m listening to my 22-year-old daughter sing the Backstreet Boys’ song “Everybody” (Denniz PoP, Max Martin, 1997) while she paints my bathroom. I’m wriggling in my seat as she bellows, “Everybody, rock your body. Everybody, rock your body right. Backstreet’s back, alright.” My daughter’s happy again. Happy. She’s back in 7th grade, crushing over Nick Carter, and prodding her dad and me to take her to Florida so she can bump into him on the street. Like a coupon fiend, she’s cutting photos of the boys. “If you want it to be good, girl, get yourself a… bad boy.”

Now I’m YouTubing Joe Cocker singing “Cry Me a River” during his Mad Dogs and Englishmen tour. “Now you said that you love me after being so untrue. I want you to cry (cry me a river). I want you to cry (cry me a river) … Oh, I cried a river over you.” (Arthur Hamilton, 1953) Unlike “Everybody,” “Cry Me a River” doesn’t send me to the past, as I have no past with it. But Joe Cocker’s performance makes me want. Now! I want his shredded voice as my passion, his syncopation as the force that jars my poems from complacency, and his spark as a trigger that mushrooms my poetic courage.

My daughter has finished with the bathroom and has begun to paint her former bedroom. I’m back to wriggling in my seat, this time to Justin Timberlake singing, “I’m bringing sexy back. Them other boys don’t know how to act. I think it’s special what’s behind your back. So turn around and I’ll pick up the slack.” (Nathaniel Hills, Tim Mosley, Justin Timberlake, 2002) I’m happy too!

Respectfully Yours,

The Editor

Why I Watch the Special Features on Movie DVDs

Dear Reader,

I never return a rented DVD before I’ve watched its special features. Sometimes I don’t like the movie, but that doesn’t keep me from learning about how it was made. For example, on the music special feature for Tim Burton’s film Ed Wood, I see a man standing behind a wooden box that resembles a 1940s radio which is called a theramin. He presses his left thumb and forefinger together and then, as if waving a conductor’s baton, he coaxes from the air eerie, human-esque “o-o-ooo”s, like hollow voices stretched by tinny whistles.  Theramins accompanied many 1950s sci-fi and horror films.

In another feature I see Martin Landau made up to look like Béla Lugosi. He describes how the makeup artists change his nose and jaw line to resemble Lugosi’s. This is interesting, but what’s more interesting is how he duplicates the way Lugosi, a native Hungarian, spoke. First Landau learned to speak Hungarian. Then he taught himself to act like a native Hungarian who speaks English with an American accent. What?

Next there’s Enemy at the Gates, which dramatizes “a duel of the eyes” between a Russian and a German sniper during the Battle of Stalingrad during WWII. The screenplay is based on a famous event that’s celebrated in Russia but hardly known about elsewhere. Director Jean-Jacques Annaud says he cast Ed Harris as the German sniper because “I needed the powerful eyes of birds of prey. Those eyes [Ed Harris’s] were like a light in the darkness.”

Then there’s “Costumes: Road to Perdition,” in which I learn about the challenge of costuming actors to portray the mood of a Depression-era winters. The costume desigbers says in winter “everything is dead,” so she wants to illustrate the bleakness of that time by using heavy, textured fabrics in muted grays and browns that absorb, rather than reflect, light.

I love watching special features. (In case you didn’t already figure this out.) My writing improves because I listen to composers, actors, directors, costume designers, lighting and set designers talk about their work, their decision making process. They provide a new approach to defining characters and settings I wouldn’t have thought of by myself.


The Editor