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DID YOU READ

“Alice in Wonderland” through the years.

“Alice in Wonderland” through the years. (photo)

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Screenwriter John August‘s reliably insightful blog caused a stir yesterday with a post about the misconception that he wrote the latest adaptation of the Lewis Carroll classic. It’s an understandable mistake, since August has collaborated on four films with “Alice” director Tim Burton, including “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” and “Big Fish.”

But then, he proceeds to explain the “recurring motif” of working on other “Alice”-related projects, like the rave sequence in “Go,” a Wes Craven-directed version of American McGee’s video game “Alice” and a Sam Mendes take that would’ve incorporated Carroll’s real life into the fantasy.

Those last two projects never actually came to fruition, and August jokes that he expects to go back through the looking glass around 2025 to finish the job. He wouldn’t be the first to return to Wonderland. With the Burton version, Disney is returning to the well after first making the 1951 animated classic, but others who have done double duty include Sammy Davis Jr., who played the Cheshire Cat in an animated 1966 production and went on to play the Caterpillar in the 1985 musical version, and Peter Sellers, a veteran of 1966 and 1972 productions as the King of Hearts and the March Hare, respectively.

The imagination that’s kept “Alice in Wonderland” such an enduring story has also made it ripe for adaptation by filmmakers of all stripes. Here’s a sampling of some of the more unusual adaptations over the past 100 years.

Percy Stow and Cecil M. Hepworth’s “Alice in Wonderland” (1903)

It didn’t take too long after the creation of film itself for filmmakers to start imagining how to bring “Alice” to the big screen. At the time of its release, Stow and Hepworth’s 12-minute epic was the longest film in British history and was usually chopped up into individual sequences when it was projected at cinematheques.

Norman Z. McLeod’s “Alice in Wonderland” (1933)

Although most productions have deferred the star power to Carroll’s colorful characters, this Paramount-produced version was a star-studded affair, featuring the likes of Cary Grant as the Mock Turtle, Gary Cooper as the White Knight and W.C. Fields as a cannily cast Humpty Dumpty, though he’s buried underneath piles of makeup. Future “All About Eve” writer/director Joseph L. Mankiewicz combined Carroll’s “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” and “Through the Looking Glass” to allow for the enormous ensemble room to play.

Dallas Bower’s “Alice in Wonderland” (1949)

Through their lawyers, Disney actually put the kibosh on Bower’s version from being released in America since the studio thought it would compete with their own film in 1951, but nowadays, one can see that Bower’s version is a completely different experience. Featuring the stop-motion animation of puppeteer Lou Bunin, the film is a trippy, not to mention colorful, rendering of Carroll’s tale that adds in musical numbers and hews closely to the source material while not suffering from a lot of clutter.

Bill Osco’s “Alice in Wonderland” (1976)

Last weekend during Jason Reitman’s guest programming run at the New Beverly, special guest William H. Macy won over the crowd with NSFW stories about “Boogie Nights” co-star (and real-life adult film star) Nina Hartley before a screening of Paul Thomas Anderson’s film. Still, he was no match for the laughs elicited by the all-too appropriate accompanying trailer for this softcore “Alice in Wonderland,” which boasts the tagline “the world’s favorite bedtime story… that’s finally a bedtime story” and probably the only adult film to have any kind of Oscar affiliation with music from “Funny Lady” conductor Peter Matz.

Jan Švankmajer’s “Alice” (1988)

Even though many creative liberties are taken with the original Lewis Carroll text, it’s likely if Tim Burton looked at any of the previous “Alices” for his new adaptation, it was this one from the Czech master animator who made his feature debut with this live action/stop-motion hybrid that takes a serious tack towards Alice’s fragile psyche and makes use of dolls and everyday objects to recount her adventure.

Daniel Díaz Torres’ “Alicia en el Pueblo de Maravillas” (1991)

Admittedly this Cuban satire falls into the category of “inspired by…” films that includes everything from Roman Polanski’s 1972 oddity “What?” to the “Resident Evil” franchise. But only “Alice in Wondertown” has the distinction of being banned in its home country due to its criticism of the Cuban bureaucracy that keeps them isolated from the rest of the world, though the film itself traveled well beyond Havana, even to the Berlin Film Festival where it won a Freedom Prize. “Alicia” is a school teacher who witnesses the decay of a village where surreal imagery becomes the norm for its population of disgraced bureaucrats who try entertaining themselves to kill the time.

[Photo: Nathan Bexton and Sarah Polley in “Go,” Columbia Pictures, 1999]

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SO EXCITED!!!

Reminders that the ’90s were a thing

"The Place We Live" is available for a Jessie Spano-level binge on Comedy Crib.

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Unless you stopped paying attention to the world at large in 1989, you are of course aware that the ’90s are having their pop cultural second coming. Nobody is more acutely aware of this than Dara Katz and Betsy Kenney, two comedians who met doing improv comedy and have just made their Comedy Crib debut with the hilarious ’90s TV throwback series, The Place We Live.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Dara: It’s everything you loved–or loved to hate—from Melrose Place and 90210 but condensed to five minutes, funny (on purpose) and totally absurd.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Betsy: “Hey Todd, why don’t you have a sip of water. Also, I think you’ll love The Place We Live because everyone has issues…just like you, Todd.”

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IFC: When you were living through the ’90s, did you think it was television’s golden age or the pop culture apocalypse?


Betsy: I wasn’t sure I knew what it was, I just knew I loved it!


Dara: Same. Was just happy that my parents let me watch. But looking back, the ’90s honored The Teen. And for that, it’s the golden age of pop culture. 

IFC: Which ’90s shows did you mine for the series, and why?

Betsy: Melrose and 90210 for the most part. If you watch an episode of either of those shows you’ll see they’re a comedic gold mine. In one single episode, they cover serious crimes, drug problems, sex and working in a law firm and/or gallery, all while being young, hot and skinny.


Dara: And almost any series we were watching in the ’90s, Full House, Saved By the Bell, My So Called Life has very similar themes, archetypes and really stupid-intense drama. We took from a lot of places. 

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IFC: How would you describe each of the show’s characters in terms of their ’90s TV stereotype?

Dara: Autumn (Sunita Mani) is the femme fatale. Robin (Dara Katz) is the book worm (because she wears glasses). Candace (Betsy Kenney) is Corey’s twin and gives great advice and has really great hair. Corey (Casey Jost) is the boy next door/popular guy. Candace and Corey’s parents decided to live in a car so the gang can live in their house. 
Lee (Jonathan Braylock) is the jock.

IFC: Why do you think the world is ready for this series?

Dara: Because everyone’s feeling major ’90s nostalgia right now, and this is that, on steroids while also being a totally new, silly thing.

Delight in the whole season of The Place We Live right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib. It’ll take you back in all the right ways.

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New Nasty

Whips, Chains and Hand Sanitizer

Turn On The Full Season Of Neurotica At IFC's Comedy Crib

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Jenny Jaffe has a lot going on: She’s writing for Disney’s upcoming Big Hero 6: The Series, developing comedy projects with pals at Devastator Press, and she’s straddling the line between S&M and OCD as the creator and star of the sexyish new series Neurotica, which has just made its debut on IFC’s Comedy Crib. Jenny gave us some extremely intimate insight into what makes Neurotica (safely) sizzle…

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IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon.

IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. You’re great. We should get coffee sometime. I’m not just saying that. I know other people just say that sometimes but I really feel like we’re going to be friends, you know? Here, what’s your number, I’ll call you so you can have my number!

IFC: What’s your comedy origin story?

Jenny: Since I was a kid I’ve dealt with severe OCD and anxiety. Comedy has always been one of the ways I’ve dealt with that. I honestly just want to help make people feel happy for a few minutes at a time.

IFC: What was the genesis of Neurotica?

Jenny: I’m pretty sure it was a title-first situation. I was coming up with ideas to pitch to a production company a million years ago (this isn’t hyperbole; I am VERY old) and just wrote down “Neurotica”; then it just sort of appeared fully formed. “Neurotica? Oh it’s an over-the-top romantic comedy about a Dominatrix with OCD, of course.” And that just happened to hit the buttons of everything I’m fascinated by.

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IFC: How would you describe Ivy?

Jenny: Ivy is everything I love in a comedy character – she’s tenacious, she’s confident, she’s sweet, she’s a big wonderful weirdo.

IFC: How would Ivy’s clientele describe her?

Jenny:  Open-minded, caring, excellent aim.

IFC: Why don’t more small towns have local dungeons?

Jenny: How do you know they don’t?

IFC: What are the pros and cons of joining a chain mega dungeon?

Jenny: You can use any of their locations but you’ll always forget you have a membership and in a year you’ll be like “jeez why won’t they let me just cancel?”

IFC: Mouths are gross! Why is that?

Jenny: If you had never seen a mouth before and I was like “it’s a wet flesh cave with sharp parts that lives in your face”, it would sound like Cronenberg-ian body horror. All body parts are horrifying. I’m kind of rooting for the singularity, I’d feel way better if I was just a consciousness in a cloud.

See the whole season of Neurotica right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

The-Craft

The ’90s Are Back

The '90s live again during IFC's weekend marathon.

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Photo Credit: Everett Digital, Columbia Pictures

We know what you’re thinking: “Why on Earth would anyone want to reanimate the decade that gave us Haddaway, Los Del Rio, and Smash Mouth, not to mention Crystal Pepsi?”

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Thoughts like those are normal. After all, we tend to remember lasting psychological trauma more vividly than fleeting joy. But if you dig deep, you’ll rediscover that the ’90s gave us so much to fondly revisit. Consider the four pillars of true ’90s culture.

Boy Bands

We all pretended to hate them, but watch us come alive at a karaoke bar when “I Want It That Way” comes on. Arguably more influential than Brit Pop and Grunge put together, because hello – Justin Timberlake. He’s a legitimate cultural gem.

Man-Child Movies

Adam Sandler is just behind The Simpsons in terms of his influence on humor. Somehow his man-child schtick didn’t get old until the aughts, and his success in that arena ushered in a wave of other man-child movies from fellow ’90s comedians. RIP Chris Farley (and WTF Rob Schneider).

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Teen Angst

In horror, dramas, comedies, and everything in between: Troubled teens! Getting into trouble! Who couldn’t relate to their First World problems, plaid flannels, and lose grasp of the internet?

Mainstream Nihilism

From the Coen Bros to Fincher to Tarantino, filmmakers on the verge of explosive popularity seemed interested in one thing: mind f*cking their audiences by putting characters in situations (and plot lines) beyond anyone’s control.

Feeling better about that walk down memory lane? Good. Enjoy the revival.

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And revisit some important ’90s classics all this weekend during IFC’s ’90s Marathon. Check out the full schedule here.