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“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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Give Back

Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Hits from the '80s are on repeat all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC.

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GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

It’s the final countdown to Christmas and thanks to IFC’s movie marathon all Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, you can revel in classic ’80s films AND find inspiration for your last-minute gifts. Here are our recommendations, if you need a head start:

Musical Instrument

Great analog entertainment substitute when you refuse to give your kid the Nintendo Switch they’ve been drooling over.

Breakfast In Bed

Any significant other or child would appreciate these Uncle Buck-approved flapjacks. Just make sure you’re not stuck on clean up duty.

Cocktail Supplies

You’ll need them to get through the holidays.

Dance Lessons

So you can learn to shake-shake-shake (unless you know ghosts willing to lend a hand).

Comfy Clothes

With all the holiday meals, there may be some…embigenning.

Get even more great inspiration all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC, and remember…

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A-O Rewind

Celebrating Portlandia One Sketch at a Time

The final season of Portlandia approaches.

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GIFs via Giphy

Most people measure time in minutes, hours, days, years…At IFC, we measure it in sketches. And nothing takes us way (waaaaaay) back like Portlandia sketches. Yes, there’s a Portlandia milepost from every season that changed the way we think, behave, and pickle things. In honor of Portlandia’s 8th and final season, Subaru presents a few of our favorites.


Put A Bird On It

Portlandia enters the pop-culture lexicon and inspires us to put birds on literally everything.

Colin the Chicken

Who’s your chicken, really? Behold the emerging locavore trend captured perfectly to the nth degree.

Dream Of The ’90s

This treatise on Portland made it clear that “the dream” was alive and well.

No You Go

We Americans spend most of our lives in cars. Fortunately, there’s a Portlandia sketch for every automotive situation.

A-O River!

We learned all our outdoor survival skills from Kath and Dave.

One More Episode

The true birth of binge watching, pre-Netflix. And what you’ll do once Season 8 premieres.

Catch up on Portlandia’s best moments before the 8th season premieres January 18th on IFC.

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WTF Films

Artfully Off

Celebrity All-Star by Sisters Weekend is available now on IFC's Comedy Crib.

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Sisters Weekend isn’t like other comedy groups. It’s filmmaking collaboration between besties Angelo Balassone, Michael Fails and Kat Tadesco, self-described lace-front addicts with great legs who write, direct, design and produce video sketches and cinematic shorts that are so surreally hilarious that they defy categorization. One such short film, Celebrity All-Star, is the newest addition to IFC’s Comedy Crib. Here’s what they had to say about it in a very personal email interview…


IFC: How would you describe Celebrity All-Star to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Celebrity All-Star is a short film about an overworked reality TV coordinator struggling to save her one night off after the cast of C-List celebrities she wrangles gets locked out of their hotel rooms.

IFC: How would you describe Celebrity All-Star to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Sisters Weekend: It’s this short we made for IFC where a talent coordinator named Karen babysits a bunch of weird c-list celebs who are stuck in a hotel bar. It’s everyone you hate from reality TV under one roof – and that roof leaks because it’s a 2-star hotel. There’s a magician, sexy cowboys, and a guy wearing a belt that sucks up his farts.


IFC: What was the genesis of Celebrity All-Star?

Celebrity All-Star was born from our love of embarrassing celebrities. We love a good c-lister in need of a paycheck! We were really interested in the canned politeness people give off when forced to mingle with strangers. The backstory we created is that the cast of this reality show called “Celebrity All-Star” is in the middle of a mandatory round of “get to know each other” drinks in the hotel bar when the room keys stop working. Shows like Celebrity Ghost Hunters and of course The Surreal Life were of inspo, but we thought it
was funny to keep it really vague what kind of show they’re on, and just focus on everyone’s diva antics after the cameras stop rolling.

IFC: Every celebrity in Celebrity All-Star seems familiar. What real-life pop personalities did you look to for inspiration?

Sisters Weekend: Anyone who is trying to plug their branded merch that no one asked for. We love low-rent celebrity. We did, however, directly reference Kylie Jenner’s turd-raison lip color for our fictional teen celebutante Gibby Kyle (played by Mary Houlihan).


IFC: Celebrity seems disgusting yet desirable. What’s your POV? Do you crave it, hate it, or both?

Sisters Weekend: A lot of people chase fame. If you’re practical, you’ll likely switch to chasing success and if you’re smart, you’ll hopefully switch to chasing happiness. But also, “We need money. We need hits. Hits bring money, money bring power, power bring fame, fame change the game,” Young Thug.


IFC: Who are your comedy idols?

Sisters Weekend: Mike grew up renting “Monty Python” tapes from the library and staying up late to watch 2000’s SNL, Kat was super into Andy Kaufman and “Kids In The Hall” in high school, and Angelo was heavily influenced by “Strangers With Candy” and Anna Faris in the Scary Movie franchise, so, our comedy heroes mesh from all over. But, also we idolize a lot of the people we work with in NY-  Lorelei Ramirez, Erin Markey, Mary Houlihan, who are all in the film, Amy Zimmer, Ana Fabrega, Patti Harrison, Sam Taggart. Geniuses! All of Em!

IFC: What’s your favorite moment from the film?

Sisters Weekend: I mean…seeing Mary Houlihan scream at an insane Pomeranian on an iPad is pretty great.

See Sisters Weekend right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib

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