Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Underhanded Malice

So the big news inside the Beltway is the new Obama tell-all and its juiciest bit: the lavish Tim Burton Alice in Wonderland-themed Halloween party the president hosted in 2009.

Corporate Media World has the typical gripes:

We weren't invited. W-a-a-a-h.  It cost the taxpayers a bundle in the middle of a recession.  It was too glitzy.  Duh.... we were still enamored of all things Obama and didn't care.

But here are some criticisms I haven't heard yet.  The refreshments included fake blood served in vials, and among the attendees were military families. Did anybody stop to think how this trendy visual libation would affect the guests, many of whom have already experienced enough blood and gore to last a lifetime? The rates of PTSD in these people (and their kids) who have served in endless deployments is through the roof.  And was it really smart for Johnny Depp to show up in eye makeup straight out of A Clockwork Orange for a kids' party? 

How about we just criticize this soiree and the outrage it has spawned for its sheer kitschiness? 

Oh, and the movie itself reeked. It was a bleak, dark, sometimes-violent, high tech mess that had little if anything to do with Lewis Carroll.  Tim Burton, the party's host and designer, bombed in a big way with his psychotic take on Alice. His Jabberwocky is transformed into a computerized Godzilla who tries to kill Alice. Rotten Tomatoes gives it a 51% (Obama's approximate approval rating after the bin Laden brag-a-thon ).  The reviews -- mixed at best --  sound like they could be describing the Obama presidency itself.  Just substitute the allegedly real characters for the fictional ones. Compare "Underland" with the current Administration. Let your imagination run wild.

"A visually imaginative fairy tale that suffers slightly from its predictable course but still manages to wow at all the crucial moments".... Detroit News

"The feeling, in this movie, is always that of being frantically rushed to the next thing....Thanks to the Burton-Depp-Elfman brand, and to Disney's unrelenting marketing campaign, a favor Burton returns in the movie, making both the Red and White Queens' castles look like mockups of the iconic Disney one), this Alice in Wonderland will likely pull huge audiences down its rabbit hole".... Slate.

I wouldn’t have minded if Burton used Carroll as the merest of jumping-off points for his own nightmarish visions. What we have instead is a hybrid: Carroll’s hallucinatory wit crossed with Burton’s rank unseemliness rolled into Disney 'wholesomeness.' In the end, “Alice in Wonderland” doesn’t work either as visionary entertainment or as plain old family entertainment....Christian Science Monitor.

 Despite stunning visuals and fine performances Alice in Wonderland never really goes anywhere. Or rather it goes somewhere we've all been before....Joshua Stern, Coming Soon. (the most succinct summary of the O Regime, imho).

The imposition of a fairytale quest structure turns the surrealist wanderings (and wonderings) of a free-associating dreamer into a brusque crash-zoom, as Alice hurtles towards her appointment on the good-versus-evil battlefield.... Lisa Mullen, Sight and Sound.

Hmm... do you get all these Barry/Alice connections same as I do?  Or am I being too mean to Tim Burton?


Will said...

I actually enjoyed the film and all of its Burton-esque weirdness, but I had nothing to compare it to, having never seen or read anything Alice-related in the past. (OK, not exactly true. Of course I remember Grace Slick telling me to ask Alice something or other when she was ten feet tall. Also that fun music video for an otherwise below-average Tom Petty song.)

Plus, I've always had a thing for Burton's lovely and talented girlfriend, Helena Bonham Carter, who plays the Queen of Hearts!

As for any Barry/Alice connections, I understand the fantasy parallels, but I personally can't conceive of his administration in relation to anything other than the horror genre.

Denis Neville said...

Ah, the wretched excess of the Louis XVI-esque Obama Regime… Inside the Obama’s’ Secret Alice In Wonderland-Themed Halloween Party…

Never before made public for fear of a political backlash during hard economic times, …phony staged festivities, more humble Halloween festivities earlier that day for thousands of Washington-area school kids…well reported by the press corps. Then, the Obamas went inside, where an invitation-only affair for children of military personnel and White House administrators unfolded in the East Room.

More pictures @

For gawd’s sake…The Obamas are committed, caring parents. It was only a Halloween party for their kids. Who of us hasn’t “gone over the top,” making holidays, Halloween, and birthdays extra special and forever memorable, for our kids? I see nothing wrong with them having a Halloween party. They have two young girls, and they can't exactly go trick or treating, so why not have some fun at the White House, which is their private residence, and invite children of military families and White House administrators.

No wonder they were afraid, as Obamas’ Alice in Wonderland Halloween Party “showing Epic Tone Deafness” makes its way through the right-wing echo chamber.

Much ado about nothing, IMHO.

The Doktor said...

Well.... I gotta say I loved it! I thought it moved quickly, the special effects were never so over the top as to get in the way of the story, which was weird and dark and hard to follow, but I like it, I like it!
What I thought was really impressive was how Burton didn't allow Johnny Depp to upstage anyone or take over the entire project, Depp played his part and got out of the way! Let the weirdness commence!
I am a closet romantic ( at least one of you know that!) so I also loved the the ending, even though some may say it was somewhat predictable, I thought it was awesome to see a strong willed young woman take charge of her own life and set off on a great adventure- Living life on your own terms! Extremely difficult but just as rewarding!
So... I am not so vain as to think I should have been invited to the party at the WH, but seeing as I had the same idea for a Halloween party and didn't act on it I am doubly pissed.
But how apropos is it to have Alice in Wonderland at the nations Capital? I can't help but imagine some of our current cast of loonies cast as the crazies in a politicized version, especially given that was the original intent of the story when it was written.
Anybody care to suggest some characters?

Valerie said...

I don't have much of a comment on the movie - which I found to be only average and creeped out my daughter - but I DO think it is tacky for any president to be living the high life when a good portion of the people in the country are worried about losing their job and their house, not being able to pay for their children's college education, their children not being able to get meaningful employment when they go out into the workplace, or getting sick and losing what little they have because of no or insufficient health insurance.

To me it reeks of bad taste - and certainly shows that the Obamas live in the world of the rich. Sorry, those “poor” Obama girls not being able to trick or treat doesn’t sound like much of an excuse to me. Can you see Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter doing something like that because Amy couldn't trick or treat? Not a chance. Besides, the girls already were able to have a Halloween with the public school kids - or was that just holding court for the peasants?

This is too much like Michelle and the girls taking a European trip during the aftermath of Katrina - tasteless and insensitive to the plight of too many of the people in our country.

Valerie said...

One of my big gripes is the human cost of all these gadgets first worlders can't seem to get enough of and the conditions of the people who make them. Right now Yahoo has the best report on a mass suicide threat by 300 workers at an X Box factory in China. How dare they demand more than a pittance for their work!

A response by a reader, CAndrewB in Seattle, to the original Seattle Times article (which was pretty skimpy)sums it up perfectly.

"When one of your major suppliers has to install anti-suicide nets around their buildings and have employees sign non-suicide agreements (as has been reported) in order to prevent said employees from commiting suicide, you may want to start looking into alternatives. Seriously, at what point is humanity valued over profit, ever? . . ."

James Singer said...

This is all water under the bridge, isn't it? I don't know why, but for some reason the Obamas forgot to ask me how and if they ought to celebrate Halloween, for I certainly would have advised them that it's a pagan holiday and sure to infuriate christian and like-minded imbeciles.

Anonymous said...


Have you seen "Last Train Home"? It will break your heart - it did mine.


Denis Neville said...

Karen, your choice of Las Meninas brought back pleasant memories…

“Art washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life.” - Pablo Picasso

Diego Velázquez was one of the world’s great painters, and his Las Meninas (Maid of Honor) is one of the greatest paintings in Western art. Visiting the Museo del Prado in Madrid to view this painting, for me, was equal to visiting the Louvre’s Mona Lisa.

“You use a glass mirror to see your face; you use works of art to see your soul.” -
George Bernard Shaw

There are many different, legitimate ways in which to interpret Las Meninas, and each is as equally valid as the next. These differences can fundamentally change the central focus of the work. Just as in life.

There are, for example, different interpretations for where the center of the room lies. As a result, the perceived center of the painting is constantly changing in our minds, making a definitive judgment rather difficult, if not impossible. Las Meninas has three specific centers. Depending on which center we choose, our views of the Spanish monarchs’ presence shifts. La Infanta, for example, can be interpreted as a physical manifestation of the Monarchs. Although the Monarchs may not be physically present, La Infanta serves as a representation of their constant presence. The reflection in the mirror presents various plausible explanations. Despite various indications that the Monarchs are present, Velázquez chooses to remove them from the internal space of the painting, further complicating the viewer’s efforts to comprehend the work. Las Meninas connects Velázquez with humanity for eternity.

“To make us feel small in the right way is a function of art; men can only make us feel -small in the wrong way.” - E.M. Forster, Two Cheers for Democracy

Denis Neville said...

@ Ned - Have you seen "Last Train Home"? It will break your heart - it did mine.


We and the Chinese both share changing social landscapes…realities Charles Dickens could hardly have imagined.

Everything comes at a cost.

“Last Train Home” is a depressing and very heartbreaking portrayal of the lives of Chinese migrant workers. The largest human migration in the world occurs every year during the lunar New Year, when 130 million workers return from China’s industrial cities to their homes in the countryside. The price of China's emergence as a global economic power comes at a cost to the social/family structure of the millions of Chinese workers who must leave their poor rural areas to work in the developed centers of China.

In China, 130 million Chinese move between work and family in order to stoke the engines that drive the machinery of worldwide consumer capitalism.

In the United States, “A slowly sinking generation; a remorseless assault on the identity of many men; the dissolution of families and the collapse of neighborhoods; a thinning veneer of national amity—the social legacies of the Great Recession are still being written, but their breadth and depth are immense...We are living through a slow-motion social catastrophe, one that could stain our culture and weaken our nation for many, many years to come.” – Don Peck, How a New Jobless Era Will Transform America

Both are realities that Dickens could hardly have imagined.