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Mar 17

Film Review: Alice in Wonderland (3D) (Spoilers)

Posted on Wednesday, March 17, 2010 in culture, films

Director Tim Burton’s ‘Alice in Wonderland’ is a good film; sadly though because it’s also a Disney film it stops itself from being a great film. As fun as it is (and the 3D rendition is a lot of fun), this sequel to the original cartoon suffers from the same problem as ‘Avatar’ – no plot. Or rather there is a plot, but it’s so Disney-fied and insubstantial that it might as well not have had one at all. Right from the outset the twin conclusions are telegraphed, both in Wonderland and in the real world, and, well, Disney doesn’t disappoint. Burton’s Alice – Mia Wasikowska could just as well be Anne Hathaway in The Princess Diaries – screenwriter Linda Woolverton doesn’t exactly take any risks in her storytelling, but this film isn’t even carried by that film’s charm. For that matter it doesn’t even rely on the original cartoon’s charm, or rely much on the Lewis Carroll source material. Burton may have visual flair, boundless imagination, a sense even of the absurd, but it’s a film with no heart; despite some delightful touches – the Cheshire Cat, Helena Bonham-Carter’s Red Queen and Anne Hathaway’s White Queen, it’s actually quite dull.

Much has been made of Johnny Depp’s Mad Hatter and much has been said of newcomer Mia Wasikowska as Alice, but neither impresses so much as to make much of an impression and whilst Wasikowska may have Gwyneth Paltrow’s looks, she doesn’t have her presence or her ability. Alice is a curiously 2D character in a 3D film, and epitomises the wasted opportunities which litter this film. It’s frustrating, considering the interesting clashes available in telling the story of an adult Alice returning to the Wonderland she’d forgotten she’d visited as a child. Depp in turn unquestionably entertains but you’ve seen the crazy man ‘thing’ many times before; his amalgam of Jack Sparrow, Sweeney Todd and Willy Wonka is enjoyable but exactly what you’d expect of him.  The supporting cast however is an utter knockout – Alan Rickman, Geraldine James, Matt Lucas, Michael Sheen & Stephen Fry all have enjoyable turns, but they fail to lift this from substandard fayre. Great for the kids, amusing for the adults, but not terribly entertaining.


Oct 17

Notes on #janmoir – Don’t ‘Blame’ Fry

Posted on Saturday, October 17, 2009 in human rights, News


I’ve seen a few media reports now on yesterday’s unprecedented new media revolt against the Daily Mail.

Of all of them the Huffington Post’s takes the biscuit for ‘worst take’. They reckon it’s about a fight between the Daily Mail and The Guardian. Seriously. I suspect a showbizzy intern selected their quote heavy, googled contribution.

A meme in practically all the reports is the role of Stephen Fry. This has now culminated in a Telegraph piece titled ‘Don’t laugh – Stephen Fry is giving the orders now.’

Those, like Fry, who are “deeply dippy about all things digital”, argue that the internet is the ultimate tool of democracy. But it could just be that historians – if they are so permitted – might look back on this period as the moment when the techno-savvy few seized control of the minds of the many.

The blogger Guido Fawkes seems effectively to run British politics. Ashton Kutcher – actor and tweeter with over three million followers: “life isn’t tied with a bow, but it’s still a gift” – is our spiritual leader. And Fry? Well, he’s bigger than both of them.

Where to start? Iain Dale has a lot more blog traffic than Guido. Not sure what Kutcher’s in there for save to keep the ‘celeb’s rule’ idea going (and his Twitter following like that of other Hollywood celebs doesn’t seem to translate to followers automatically watching their shows). And as for Fry?

I was actually dipping in-and-out of the #janmoir Twitter stream yesterday and very, very few of the tweets were Fry Retweets. Sure, his numbers are huge but the ‘Twitosphere’ is far, far, far huger. Presumably far too huge for most journalist’s to get their minds around.

By 2010, 26 Million (1 in 7) U.S. Adults Will Use Twitter Monthly.

Edited to add: Thanks to to commentator Ian Hopkinson for pointing to some evidence.

Here’s the trendastic tracking of #janmoir

Showing it peaking at 11am – @stephenfry first tweet on #janmoir was at 12:27pm.

What the ubiquitous Fry mentions in their reports are about is a journalistic laziness and the ever-present need for a celeb mention. A real piece of good work would be to actually track #janmoir all the way from where the first rock was thrown out to the furthest reach of the ripples.

Such as the excellent American analyst Evgeny Morozov‘s tweet:

notes on the new public sphere: Twitter has shrunk the Atlantic and purely local UK scandals are now global news

That’s why HuffPost bothered putting Gately on the front page – #janmoir was number one or two trending topic when they woke up, and it had that celeb angle they love.

It’s notable that they’ve ignored what it by far the most game-changing event on Twitter this week, #trafigura – something which Gill Hornby in the Telegraph thinks is also down to Mr Fry.

From his palm-top device .. he struck a major blow for press freedom – when the Dutch company Trafigura won an order preventing the press from discussing the impact of its pollutants on the African coast, Fry tweeted the details to his vast audience and the gag was lifted.


Oct 16

Universal Condemnation of Jan Moir

Posted on Friday, October 16, 2009 in What Makes Us Angry

Homophobic Daily HateMail columnist Jan Moir would like you to believe that it’s mischievous of those of us who seem to be part of an ‘orchestrated internet campaign’ to believe her hatchet job on Stephen Gately had ‘homophobic and bigoted undertones’. Does that make Stephen Fry ‘mischievous’? What about Phillip Schofield? A selection of Tweets:

Stephen-GatelySchofe Sat down to read up on the day. Dear God Jan Moir I hope when you lie in your bed tonight reflecting on your day you feel utterly ashamed

charltonbrooker RT @disappointment: Jan Moir manages to walk the difficult tightrope between being a bitch and a cunt

stephenfry …mischievous in the extreme to suggest that my article has homophobic and bigoted undertones.” UNDERTONES??!

Let me refer you to Charlie Brooker, who has a way with words, particularly for filth like Moir:

The funeral of Stephen Gately has not yet taken place. The man hasn’t been buried yet. Nevertheless, Jan Moir of the Daily Mail has already managed to dance on his grave. For money.

It has been 20 minutes since I’ve read her now-notorious column, and I’m still struggling to absorb the sheer scope of its hateful idiocy. It’s like gazing through a horrid little window into an awesome universe of pure blockheaded spite. Spiralling galaxies of ignorance roll majestically against a backdrop of what looks like dark prejudice, dotted hither and thither with winking stars of snide innuendo.

Read the whole thing. It’s a great piece, and as usual he’s right about absolutely everything. Fortunately the outrage has caused HateMail sponsors Marks & Spencer and others to withdraw from the online page at least, suggesting she’s caused considerable damage to her employer, who might think twice in the future before printing an article quite so horribly hateful again. There’s simply no money in it after all. A national newspaper, even a rag like the HateMail can’t really afford over 1,000 complaints to the Press Complaints Commission either.

What an odious cow. I sincerely hope she loses her job.

Oct 7

Stephen Fry: Tories Should End Alliance With Homophobes

Posted on Wednesday, October 7, 2009 in human rights, News

Stephen Fry has suggested the letter he and other celebrities have signed, condemning the Conservative Party’s EU Parliament alliance with the Polish Law and Order Party and Latvia’s Freedom and Fatherland Party, offers David Cameron an opportunity to walk away from them:

Jonathan Freedland describes the anti-semitic and homophobic backgrounds of these parties:

there was a time when no self-respecting British politician would have gone anywhere near such people. Kaminski began his career in the National Rebirth of Poland movement, inspired by a 1930s fascist ideology that dreamed of a racially pure nation. Even today, the PiS slogan is “Poland for Poles”, understood to be a door slammed in the face of non-Catholics. In 2001 he upbraided the president for daring to apologise for a 1941 pogrom in the town of Jedwabne which left hundreds of Jews dead. Kaminski said there was nothing to apologise for – at least not until Jews apologised for what he alleged was the role Jewish partisans and Jewish communists had played alongside the Red Army in Poland.

Incredibly, Kaminski’s Polish party is not the most unsavoury of the Tories’ new partners. That honour goes to the Latvian grouping whose members have played a leading part in the annual parade honouring veterans of the Latvian Legion of the Waffen-SS. Lest we forget, the SS were the crack troops of Nazi genocide; the Latvian Legion included conscripts, but at least a third were volunteers, among them men with the blood of tens of thousands of Jews on their hands. It is in honour of those killers that Cameron’s new buddies march through the streets of Riga.

And Fry went on to make an extremely salient point, given the current economic circumstances:


Fry told Channel 4 News he fears there will be a nationalistic and homophobic reaction to the current recession, unless groups across Europe take action.

He told Channel 4 News: “This is a problem that is not going to get smaller because, as we start to pay for the financial disaster of the last year, a kind of great pimple of nationalism, homophobia and racism is going to erupt around Europe because there is going to be trouble with unemployment.

“The problem with the 30s was not that period. It was the end of the 30s when you start to pay the price – and that’s why it matters now to make a stand because things will get worse.

I couldn’t agree with him more. The letter he signed his name to says:

“It is not just that your new Polish allies oppose gay marriage and adoption but that their vile rhetoric – branding homosexuality as a ‘pathology’, gays as ‘perverts’, and describing ‘the affirmation of homosexuality’ as ‘the downfall of civilisation’ – was used to whip up hate during their election campaign.

“Your party’s decision to host an LGBT event at conference is a good step in the right direction.

But it will seem empty – a two faced gesture – if in the same week you fawn over allies whose homophobia has no place in modern Manchester, in modern Britain, or in Europe.”