Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Why Alice in Wonderland Should Be Done In 3-D?

Though the rework of this Lewis Carroll classic seem like a merger between Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking glass, but is there a need for it to be done in 3-D?

By: Ringo Bones

Though the 21st Century incarnation of 3-D cinematography is here to stay because it manages to sell itself effortlessly, Über-director Tim Burton might had his own reasons for why should Alice in Wonderland be done in 3-D cinematography. But shouldn’t we be first try to explore what compelled the Oxford mathematician named Charles Dodgson a.k.a. Lewis Carroll to write the two adventures of Alice in the first place and why should it be done under 3-D cinematography?

When Lewis Carroll wrote Alice Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass around the early 1860s, the stereoscope – an instrument that became an extremely popular parlor toy during the Victorian era and 3-D cinematography’s great grandfather – started to gain inroads into English households. Stereoscopes require two separate photographs of a scene – known as a “stereo pair” – taken from slightly different angles. These photographs are placed in a small viewer, which permits one to be seen by the right eye and the other by the left. The brain accepts the disparity between the pictures as normal and blends them into a three-dimensional or 3-D view.

Though the stuffiness of “polite” Victorian era society is well known – just ask Karl Marx, Friedrich Engels, and Friedrich Nietzsche among others – the 2010 remake of Alice in Wonderland didn’t forgot to point it out. It was also at this point in time when many mathematicians – like Lewis Carroll / Charles Dodgson – now see themselves as formulators of possibilities, rather than as “mere” discoverers of truth. Which lead to his development of symbolic logic – an attempt to reduce all human reasoning into a mathematical notation.

Lewis Carroll was the pen name of the serious Oxford mathematics lecturer named Charles Lutwidge Dodgson – author of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass and famed for being the finest photographer of children in Victorian England. Most (?) readers today know that the story was invented for a little girl named Alice Liddell, and that it was told to her out loud one summer’s day before it was written down on paper. While the 2010 remake circles around a 19-year old young lady named Alice Kingsley who was doing her best to go to the hoops and conventions of the “polite” society of Victorian England. What everyone now accepts as to what Alice looks like first came from the illustrations done by Sir John Tenniel, when Lewis Carroll’s Alice Adventures in Wonderland was first published in 1865.

Though Charles Dodgson signed his real name to only his “serious” mathematical works, mathematicians for decades have been intrigued by the rich skein of symbolic logic that is woven into fantasies like Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass. It is very likely that Charles Dodgson – a.k.a. Lewis Carroll – influenced Albert Einstein in using familiar situations of his “thought experiments” to explain the unfamiliar ideas of higher mathematics. Thus making Dodgson’s less serious fantasy literature as a “thought experiment” set in prose form. Even contemporary science fiction like Star Trek has inspired Professor Miguel Alcubierre to formulate his now famous Alcubierre Equation.

Lewis Carroll’s famous Alice often gets entangled in many a verbal jungle in the wonderland on the other side of the looking glass, but much of that tangled verbiage can be hacked away via the sharp blade of symbolic logic. The mathematical symbolism of symbolic logic might seem incomprehensible to the layperson, but it ahs a clear and precise meaning to the logician which plain words just won’t do. In the rigmarole of logical jungles much thicker than that encountered by Alice, symbolic logic has been used successfully to blaze a trail to the heart of the meaning of vague or complex arguments in law and metaphysics.

To those in the know, symbolic logic is the most introspective of the Victorian era supermaths. It is a notation for stating and manipulating all sorts of propositions so as to bring both sequiturs and non-sequiturs into mercilessly sharp relief. Through symbolic logic, mathematicians have undertaken a Sisyphean task in which to classify and analyze the thoughts involved in every branch of mathematics. With the aim of identifying the axioms and procedures at the base of each and of reducing all possible proofs to the barest skeletons.

Symbolic logic has produced one of the most curious and influential theorems in all modern mathematics. This is Gödel’s Proof – an extremely abstract line of reasoning which shows that no useful branch of mathematics can be constructed on a consistent set of axioms without raising questions unanswerable within the framework of the axioms themselves.

Now that we know how the fantastic mind of Charles Dodgson / Lewis Carroll works at work and at play, it is now safe to assume that the “inherent weirdness” of the 2010 remake of Alice in Wonderland is as predictable as several impossible things happening right before breakfast. The conflict between the Red Queen and the White Queen may appear to some to be influenced by the conflict between Queen Elizabeth I and Mary Queen of Scots. But I just can’t help myself thinking that Helena Bonham Carter’s portrayal of the Red Queen poke’s fun at the North Korean dear leader Kim Jong Il.

Alice in Wonderland – especially the 3-D version – is nothing less than a contemporary cinematographic extravaganza, director Tim Burton should be praised for having an eye for detail for the little things. That Martin Scorsese like eye for detain in the scene where the White Queen (Anne Hathaway) and Alice (Mia Wasikowska) are in the Quite Queen’s somewhat over-lit kitchen / apothecary. Where Alice’s tiny and delicately blonde arm hairs got iridescently emphasized by the overly lit atmosphere of the White Queen’s kitchen / apothecary. Not to mention Mia Wasikowska’s brilliant make-up team that allowed her delicate blonde lashes to shine through. Probably reminding everyone that there is a G-Rated way to tell if the carpet matches the drapes – or is it making us movie geeks with Y-chromosomes nostalgic about our middle-school era Swedish exchange student crushes.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Revolutionary Idealism Sells: But Who’s Buying?

Used to be freely and spontaneously expressed by pioneering filmmakers for whom it has profound meaning, but has revolutionary idealism recently became nothing more that Madison Avenue’s Latest marketing ploy?

By: Ringo Bones

Maybe its just I got just a little fed up back in the 1990s about those clueless-about-Marxist-Leninist-socialism souls who thought those cute Che Guevara T-shirts were very snazzy just because they were promoted by Rage Against the Machine. But is this phenomenon returning in a much more insidious form, especially of the recent blockbuster success of the anti-imperialism and revolutionary idealism sentiment of James Cameron’s Avatar being used to peddle 3-D capable wide-screen TVs for the home?

Maybe the big four TV makers, namely LG, Panasonic, Samsung and Sony, simply resorted to the next logical step in marketing when they decided to use the runaway 3-D success of Avatar. Let’s just hope that these “new generation” of 3-D capable wide-screen TVs to be launched by June 2010 are budget friendly enough for those who want to bring the Avatar experience into a domestic setting. But I also have reservations when it comes to a medium’s predictability – whether film or other mass media outlet – utilized as a moneymaking scheme by major entertainment corporations.

When George Lucas toned down the jingoism of Star Wars via the now famous line: “ A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away” in order to tailor it to a post Vietnam War weary America, it did insure financial success for his masterful trilogy - Cold War-era cynicism notwithstanding. But mediums can be unpredictable too despite of how much an artist’s creativity attempts to manipulate it. When Exene Cervenka and Lydia Lunch lambasted the Internet in their satire titled Rude Hieroglyphics back in 1995 as a waste of both time and money. Little did they know that the Internet is probably the only media outlet where Rude Hieroglyphics and the rest of their music exists without being molested by US government censorship.

Some say bestowing the Oscar Best Director to Kathryn Bigelow for the sheer brilliance of The Hurt Locker is probably the best way to mark the 2010 International Women’s Day because no woman has ever received the accolade since. And a growing number even suggested that there should be a 3-D remake of Sergei M. Eisenstein’s Potemkin, though this remains to be seen. But to me bestowing the Best Director accolade to Kathryn Bigelow is probably this year’s most interesting way to mark International Women’s Day by breaking the “Glass Ceiling” that’s been haunting this accolade for far too long. I just hope that LG, Panasonic, Samsung, and Sony doesn’t forget to preach about revolutionary idealism when they sell those 3-D capable wide-screen TVs. Or subject us lowly consumers into another BETAMAX versus VHS battle when it comes to domestic 3-D capable widescreen displays.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

A 3-D Movie Remake of Potemkin

Given that James Cameron managed to achieve both commercial and critical success of his Avatar, will a remake of Eisenstein’s Potemkin manage to achieve the same results?

By: Ringo Bones

With the recent failure of the Copenhagen Climate Conference held last December 2009, it seems that the prevailing policies governing on how the finite resources of our planet now mirror that of the prevailing social conditions that led into the looming shipboard mutiny in Odessa. Given that the White Anglo-Saxon Christian elite seems to have the final say on how our planet’s finite resource extraction should be appropriated, will a planet-wide Potemkin-like mutiny be not so farfetched?

To the uninitiated – especially those who are the White-bred children of avid Tea Party 21st Century version advocates – Potemkin is a silent movie classic directed by the great Sergei Mikhailovich Eisenstein back in 1925. The movie is an account of a shipyard mutiny in Odessa. Potemkin wasn’t only one of the great “montage” films of Soviet-era Russia but also is considered as one of the masterpieces of the silent screen.

During the Golden Age of the Russian silent film era of 1924 to 1930, leading directors of the time – such as Vesevolod I. Pudovkin, Dziga Vertov, Lev Kurleshov, Alexander Dovzhenko and of course Sergei M. Eisenstein – started a movement in cinematography that would forever change it. Revolutionary idealism – freely and spontaneously expressed by artists for whom it had profound meaning – produced such outstanding works as Potemkin (1925), Mother (1925), The End of St. Petersburg (1927), Ten Days That shook the World (1928) and Earth (1930).

Despite of Cold War era censorship – remember the Red Menace tirade of Senator McCarthy of commies hiding in Hollywood? A fortunate few Americans still manage to see these films because Sergei M. Eisenstein has a reverence for the Hollywood film industry. Eisenstein visited Hollywood in 1930 and under the sponsorship of Upton Sinclair, later went on to Mexico to shoot a panoramic study of Mexican history and culture.

In the here and now, it seems that real life is almost imitating art. With the recent runaway success of James Cameron’s Avatar, the anti-imperialism theme of the movie seems to have been forcibly dragged kicking and screaming to become the fashionable ideology of the moment due to the recent failure of the Copenhagen Climate Conference. Add to that the way multinational corporations managed to swindle indigenous communities from their sustainably utilized natural resources while polluting their environment over the years that it is now save to assume that planet Earth is now set up to become one big Battleship Potemkin. Where you don’t even need those 3-D glasses to get engaged for the fight of you’re very own survival.

Given that the politics behind James Cameron’s Avatar mimic that of the revolutionary idealism of Sergei Eisenstein and his compatriots to create silent film classics, a remake of Potemkin – especially an up to date 3-D version – would probably be accepted by today’s moviegoers with open arms. More urgently so, especially when global warming skepticism and a renewed White Anglo-Saxon Protestant apologetic embrace of neo-NAZI ideology in order to counter Islamic extremism has become intellectually fashionable at the moment. And it should be in 3-D format given that Sergei Eisenstein – after seeing his first ever 3-D movie in the late 1920s – said that the future of cinematography was the 3-D motion picture. And given his newly earned clout in the Hollywood film industry due to the Oscar-worthiness of Avatar, maybe James Cameron should direct it.