The World According to Renee

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Learning Life’s Lessons

Sometimes in life you make a horrendous mistake which is humiliating, embarrassing and you wish the world would swallow you whole.

And sometimes, you avoid those mistakes because someone made it way before you. Even if that someone is a fictional character in another country.

I watched the first episode of Degrassi Junior High when I was ten. I was at a friend’s house and the TV was on for background noise. We were immediately engrossed in the glamorous Stephanie Kaye and her promises to the boys in order to become the school’s president. After that I was hooked and hence begins my life’s lessons.

It was screened at 5.30 on weeknights, usually the time my mother was cooking dinner. She had no worries about me watching a teenage show. She took the opportunity to reinforce the mother-daughter relationship via the dramas of the characters.

One storyline involved the smart, blonde Kathleen and her abusive boyfriend. I remember my mother telling me never to put up with that, that no woman deserves to be beaten. If it ever happened, I was to tell my mother (I assume she meant my teenage relationships…) and she’d deal with it if I felt too threatened.

When Spike became pregnant my mother was very strict: she wouldn’t be happy about me falling pregnant but she would support me. If I had any questions about sex I could ask her (I never did- how embarrassment!) but really, the kids at Degrassi seemed to have educated me more than real life in that particular regard.

Strangely enough, I don’t remember any discussions about drugs. Maybe my mum realised I wasn’t that stupid, or maybe it was a bigger taboo than teenage sex. Whatever the reason, the only thing she said to me about it was “Don’t do drugs!” Ditto for drinking; it wasn’t a straight out “don’t do it” but I can’t recall anything said about drinking. Being a non-drinker herself and my dad having the occasional beer, maybe the reasoning was we wouldn’t grow up to be alcoholics anyway. Who knows?

The kids of Degrassi certainly taught me all the angst of being a teenager. They didn’t shy away from issues and even though the mullet haircuts, big glasses and shoulder pads haven’t made it to the 21st century, they still have. It would have been awesome to have someone dealing with depression but I guess Wheels had that covered when his parents were killed.

So as I leave you with my ode to Degrassi, remember this:

Wake up in the morning, feelin’ shy and lonely
Gee, I gotta go to school…

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March 30, 2010 Posted by | Thoughts & Reflections | Leave a comment

Alice in Wonderland

Tim Burton likes making dark movies with subplots.

His Alice isn’t as expected.  He ‘re-imagines’ the classic Alice story by taking the original characters (or, as in the case of the Red Queen, amalgamated original characters) and telling a different story. Alice, aged nineteen, has returned to Wonderland after thirteen years. She’s been having dreams of Wonderland every night since childhood and doesn’t remember it actually being a place she has visited. She’s being called back to fulfil her destiny of slaying the Jabberwocky and release Wonderland from the Red Queen’s reign.

All the classic characters are present and accounted for, mostly in very different forms from other Disney-ised versions (namely the 1950’s animated version). Johnny Depp’s Mad Hatter has a large role and plays it very well. Helena Bonham Carter is perfect as the big-headed Red Queen. Many reviewers have issues with Mia Wasikowska as Alice, but she played her part as the airheaded, bumbling, naive girl well. Oh wait- Alice is not supposed to be any of those.

Thus lies my problem with the film. Alice isn’t the sharpest tool in the shed. You’d think that after dreaming about a place for 13 years, something would click that maybe she’s not actually dreaming this time (especially as she’s poked and prodded to the point of pain by other characters).  There are massive holes in the plot. I wanted some poetry from Tweedledum and Tweedledee. I wanted some actual advice from the caterpillar. Even some vague musical numbers would be great. But no. We have a tired rendition using the same cast of people Burton’s (over)used in his last five films.  I believe I even groaned at the Danny Elfman music over the opening credits. If you’re going to reinvent a classic story, you need to add value to it, not just recreate characters to fill spots.

Alice‘s redeeming feature is the technology. Once again, CGI tries to fill the gaps left by what passes as a plot (a la Avatar). As with James Cameron’s magnum opus, technology has caught up with Burton’s creativity and vision. Perhaps the consensus is, stun the audience with visual effects and they’ll forget about plot expectations and rehashed cast.

There were elements of other fantasy movies: The Wizard of Oz, Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter. In truth though, Alice brings nothing new to the story, adds nothing to the canon but only shows off what directors these days are capable of. Hopefully next time, Burton brings new talent to his pool to showcase what a talent he really is.

March 7, 2010 Posted by | Reviews | Leave a comment