Sunday, December 22, 2013


Hi everyone,

One of my favorite Christmas movies is Scrooge (1970), a musical version of the classic Charles Dickens tale. No one plays the old miser better than Albert Finney! 

On Christmas Eve, Jacob Marley (Alec Guinness/Gordon) pays Ebenezer Scrooge (Albert Finney/Norman) a visit to help save his soul. Overnight, Mr. Scrooge is visited by three ghosts: The Ghost of Christmas Past (Edith Evans/The Mother Kitty), The Ghost of Christmas Present (Kenneth More/B.J.), and The Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come (Paddy Stone/Simon). Remembering his happier past and seeing his bleak future, Mr. Scrooge has a miraculous change of heart: he learns the true spirit of Christmas and that sharing his wealth and his heart brings riches far better than any amount of gold. It's a good lesson for all of us. 

Spirit (December 22, 2013)

Happy holidays, everyone! See you in January!

Thursday, December 19, 2013


On sunny days, Tyrone spends most of his time in the garage chasing his own shadow. I'm not sure who's winning here.

Shadow (December 18, 2013)
(Illustration Friday: November 22, 2013)

Monday, December 16, 2013


Tyrone's fur pattern is unlike any other we have seen. It's up for debate what it all means. So far, researchers have traced it back to his African and Native American ancestors. Their findings could take a drastic turn at any moment, however, since the subject is not offering any clues. Tyrone is too busy climbing trees to bother explaining himself.

Pattern (December 13, 2013)
(Illustration Friday: December 6, 2013)

Monday, December 09, 2013

Johnny Kitties: Celebrating Johnny Depp Film #39--Alice in Wonderland (2010)

[What is Johnny Kitties? See Johnny Kitties: Celebrating Johnny Depp for all the details.

One of the reasons why Alice and Tim are such a great match is because nothing is exactly as it seems in Wonderland. Nothing is entirely good or entirely bad. - Anne Hathaway on Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland

Where did she go?

At her surprise engagement party, Alice Kingsleigh (Mia Wasikowska) disappears. Chasing a white rabbit (voiced by Michael Sheen) through the garden, she falls down a rabbit hole. While pleased to have escaped the boring party and the pressures of society's expectations of her, Alice is now trapped in an underground room surrounded by locked doors. The only door she can unlock is too tiny for her to fit through. Luckily, she finds a potion and some cake that help her get down to size. 

After some trial and error, she makes it through the door and discovers that the residents of this foreign land have their own expectations of her. Her strange new friends, a Mad Hatter (Johnny Depp), roly-poly twins Tweedledee and Tweedledum (Matt Lucas), a White Queen (Anne Hathaway), and a few animals, inform her that she is their champion. She must battle the Jabberwocky, a dragon-like creature (voiced by Christopher Lee), so that the White Queen can regain rule from her sister the evil Red Queen (Helena Bonham Carter) and restore peace. No pressure. Get ready for a trip in Tim Burton's dreamlike adventure, Alice in Wonderland

Don't worry, it's just Johnny. 

I won't lie: Seeing these giant posters of the Mad Hatter's smiling clown face on bus stops and in Metro stations around D.C. kind of freaked me out for a while. I'm not afraid of clowns, but I don't like them. (Thanks, Poltergeist.) While not a clown by any means, the Mad Hatter's look reminded me of one. It's hard to see Johnny under all that makeup and costume; I was especially disturbed that his eyes were digitally enlarged and covered with neon contact lens. But I got used to it, eventually, because if you really look at the makeup and the outfit, it's a quite beautiful mix of colors and amazing detail. 

Most fascinating to me was that when Tim Burton and Johnny, who both like to paint, created images on their own of what they thought the Mad Hatter would look like, they were very similar. It's no wonder they work so well together so often! Here are their watercolors. (Tim Burton's effort is on the left.) 

Makeup Artists Patty York and Joel Harlow referred to Johnny's paintings when working their magic on his face. Johnny requested those electric eyes, with one contact painted slightly off. "He's never really looking straight at you. He's always looking a little farther off," he explains.

For the Mad Hatter's outfit, Johnny worked with Costume Designer Colleen Atwood. "We talked about him having all the tools of his trade apparent, so they aren't just on a shelf. They're a part of his costume," she says. "He's got his thimbles, his pin cushion ring, and all these things. We just kept pushing it, and it was great fun to make him all his bits and stuff." While the original hat was finished before the painting above, it is a pretty close match, don't you think? 

That is not Johnny!
When Alice first meets the Hatter and his friends at the table, I love how vehemently he promises to "futterwacken vigorously" when the White Queen regains her rule, but I hate the celebratory dance that is included in the movie. I mean no offense to David Bernal, who created and performed the dance in the film, but I didn't expect that, during it, the Mad Hatter's head would spin around like The Exorcist at warp speed. The sudden, out-of-place music and the head spinning ruined the scene for me and made me sad. Despite his madness, crazy orange hair, makeup, and extra-large neon green eyes, I believed the Hatter to be a real person, like Alice. Is he not? Can everyone spin their head around like that in Wonderland? This must be a part of the book I don't remember. Oh, it bothers me! 

I realize, however, that maybe I'm not the audience for that level of ridiculousness; it made the little girls sitting near me in the theater laugh. Yet, whenever I watch Alice in Wonderland, I'm still taken aback and disappointed by how unbelievable and disjointed the dance scene is in this magical world that otherwise I'm lost in every time.

But let's just focus on the Hatter!

I'll get over it. Futterwacken only takes up 30 seconds of a great movie, and you can tell Johnny had a good time exploring this fascinating character. "After doing something like John Dillinger [in Public Enemies], a performance where it's so restrained because of the responsibility you have to that guy, the Mad Hatter was like being fired out of a cannon," Johnny remembers. "The Hatter was great fun and, again, it's one of those things where you're just amazed that I'm not fired. I truly am." 

Johnny's performance is wonderful! To research the role, he got clues about the character from Lewis Carroll's book and then read about real hatters who used glue with high mercury content. The glue would stain their hands and eventually the mercury would affect them. "They'd go goofy from the mercury and go nuts," Johnny says. "It did happen to people. They went mad as a hatter!" He imagined that's what happened to his character. Johnny saw the Mad Hatter as a more tragic figure than typically portrayed in other versions of Alice in Wonderland. In the 10 years since Alice has been away, he's gone through a lot: Aside from the occupational hazard of mercury poisoning, he suffers from depression caused by the Red Queen's oppressive rule over the once peaceful land. "I think he's been sitting there at that table, having the same tea with the same people in this kind of spaced-out funk for 10 years," Johnny says. "I think he's been frozen in time, waiting for Alice to come back." Now that she's returned, the Hatter has hope and is eager to fight back and free everyone from the Red Queen's domination.

My absolute favorite thing about the Hatter is his voice. I love how it changes depending on his emotional state. When not provoked, the Hatter is kind and playful, but when angry or scared, he acquires a heavy Scottish accent and a deeper register. "It's one of those things where it's hit or miss, and you just hope that it works. The accent, the switching, it's the merging into another character basically," Johnny explains. "It's the Hatter's safety mechanism kicking in when he needs to become tough, when he needs to become angry, when he needs to be protected, or when he's fearful. It's kind of like experiencing a kinder form of personality disorder in a way." 

Reflecting on how Johnny developed his Mad Hatter character, Tim Burton observes, "He likes dressing up. I think, with Alice in Wonderland characters, they've often been portrayed as just crazy without much subtext, and I think he tried to bring something, an underlying human quality to the craziness. He tried to understand it a bit more....And, he's good at sort of exploring that, I guess, because he's crazy. I don't know." It's genius!

This Alice has muchness!

I was very excited to see this version of Alice in Wonderland. I have a clipping from USA Today that was published during production and offered a preview of the film's sets. The title of the article, "Alice in Wonderland, Burtonized!" and the images accompanying it were enough to get me pacing the floors. Alice in Wonderland is a perfect kind of project for Tim Burton's imagination.

A part of me wanted this movie to be darker, but I guess it is a children's classic. This film used a mix of live actors, full animation, and a hybrid of both. "The idea was to explore the nature of dreams," Tim Burton says. "With all the cast, it was important that they felt like they were in the real and unreal world at the same time." I love how dream-like everything is, from the concepts to the visuals. The whole time, its unclear and questioned whether Alice is dreaming or not. She pinches herself to try to wake herself up. She tries to convince herself during scary moments that it's only a dream and that she can control it. Everything and everyone is strange in some way, in looks and personality, and some of the visuals are inspiring. After a long fall down the rabbit hole, for example, Alice lands upside down on a ceiling. And, when she drinks a potion that makes her shrink, she disappears into the folds of her dress's fabrics.

Alice in Wonderland's cast is fantastic, of course! Aside from the Mad Hatter, Helena Bonham Carter as the Red Queen is easily my favorite. She is creepy and hilarious at the same time and delivers some great lines so perfectly. Anne Hathaway is a complementary opposite as the White Queen, and Crispin Glover, who appeared with Johnny in Dead Man, is wonderfully slimy in this movie as Stayne. You'll hear many familiar voices from the animated characters too, including Alan Rickman, Paul Whitehouse, Timothy Spall, Michael Gough, and Christopher Lee. "He's always had a compassion, I guess, and been drawn to outsiders," Helena Bonham Carter says of Tim Burton's view of Alice in Wonderland's characters. "I think it's quite tricky for Tim because he said they're all mad. We all have to make them mad in a different way." 

The most inspiring takeaway from this movie for me is Alice's character as she tries to prove who she is to everyone around her. She makes her own decisions and, by the end, builds up the courage to fight for what she wants. "The idea of Wonderland is kind of, in a surreal way, representative of, [in] some way, shape, or form, issues that she's dealing with in her own life," Tim Burton explains. Through her emotional journey, she becomes a really strong character. As Mia Wasikowska explains, "Her experience in Wonderland is her finding herself again and finding that she has the strength of being more self-assured." 

Where will Alice go from here?

Alice in Wonderland never made a lasting impression on me as a kid. Aside from all the famous characters and a few memorable moments, this story was relatively new to me when I saw Tim Burton's version in theaters. Now, if I read the story again, I'll probably picture it through Tim Burton's  lens, at least until May 2016. That's when, it has just been announced, Johnny will reprise his role as the Mad Hatter in a sequel to Alice in Wonderland, directed by somebody else! [Imagine dramatic music here.] I know! Details our sketchy, but as of now, the movie will be directed by James Bobin. He directed the last Muppets movie and he's a co-creator of "Flight of the Concords." I think I can live with that. Stay tuned for another two years! 

The Kitties are always up for tea.

After falling down the rabbit hole, Alice (Lily) finds her way to the Mad Hatter's dilapidated tea party. A 10-year wait is a long time. She's terribly late, but now they can start their adventure!

Johnny Kitties: Celebrating Johnny Depp Film #39. Alice in Wonderland (2010) [September 22, 2013]

What's next?
Stop the presses! The world's biggest movie stars join forces as Johnny caps off the decade with Angelina Jolie in The Tourist.

Image credits: All Alice in Wonderland images © Disney; Tim Burton painting  © Tim Burton; Johnny Depp paintings  © Johnny Depp; illustration © Melissa Connolly.

Friday, December 06, 2013

Nelson Mandela

Some people make the world such a better place that all you can do is marvel at their grace and accomplishments. Nelson Mandela was one of those universally admired individuals. This great man's presence was a gift, a blessing, and a comfort to many. For more information about his extraordinary life and work, check out PBS Newshour's informative tribute

Below are some memorable quotes by this thoughtful leader. Let's honor Mr. Mandela's legacy by following his example and continuing what he started.

His life was a purposeful journey.

I had no epiphany, no singular revelation, no moment of truth, but a steady accumulation of a thousand slights, a thousand indignities, and a thousand unremembered moments produced in me an anger, a rebelliousness, a desire to fight the system that imprisoned my people. There was no particular day on which I said, 'Henceforth I will devote myself to the liberation of my people;' instead, I simply found myself doing so and could not do otherwise.

I learned that courage was not the absence of fear but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid but he who conquers that fear.

It is never my custom to use words lightly. If 27 years in prison have done anything to us, it was to use the silence of solitude to make us understand how precious words are and how real speech is in its impact on the way people live and die.

Part of being optimistic is keeping one's head pointed toward the sun, one's feet moving forward. There were many dark moments when my faith in humanity was sorely tested, but I would not and could not give myself up to despair. That way lays defeat and death.

I have walked that long road to freedom. I have tried not to falter; I have made missteps along the way. But I have discovered the secret that after climbing a great hill, one only finds that there are many more hills to climb. I have taken a moment here to rest, to steal a view of the glorious vista that surrounds me, to look back on the distance I have come. But I can only rest for a moment, for with freedom come responsibilities, and I dare not linger, for my long walk is not ended.

As I have said, the first thing is to be honest with yourself. You can never have an impact on society if you have not changed yourself... Great peacemakers are all people of integrity, of honesty, but humility.

When a man has done what he considers to be his duty to his people and his country, he can rest in peace.

He understood how the world should be.  

Great anger and violence can never build a nation. We are striving to proceed in a manner toward a result, which will ensure that all our people, both black and white, emerge victors. 

Social equality is the only basis of human happiness.

We owe our children, the most vulnerable citizens of any society, a life free from violence and fear.

I always knew that deep down in every human heart, there is mercy and generosity. No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin or his background or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than the opposite. 

And he gave great advice on how to get there. 

Your victory has demonstrated that no person anywhere in the world should not dare to dream of wanting to change the world for a better place. 

We must use time creatively, and forever realize that the time is always ripe to do right. 

What counts in life is not the mere fact that we have lived. It is what difference we have made to the lives of others that will determine the significance of the life we lead. 

A good head and a good heart are always a formidable combination. But when you add to that a literate tongue or pen, then you have something very special. 

The greatest glory in living lies not in never falling but in rising every time we fall.  

Tread softly, breathe peacefully, laugh hysterically.

Live life as though nobody is watching, and express yourself as though everyone is listening. 

Image credits: first image © unknown; middle images © Getty Images; last image © Yousef Karsh

Monday, November 18, 2013


As shown in this photo op, it's a bit difficult to catch Tyrone sitting still.

Energy (November 17, 2013)
(Illustration Friday: November 8, 2013)

Saturday, November 09, 2013

Johnny Kitties: Celebrating Johnny Depp Film #38--The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus (2009)

What is Johnny Kitties? See Johnny Kitties: Celebrating Johnny Depp for all the details.]

The loss of Heath Ledger was such a blow that it was a test of everybody involved in this film whether, in these kinds of incredibly difficult circumstances, we could continue and make a film worthy of Heath's last movie. I think because so many people loved him, respected him, we pulled it off. The contractual credit was "A Film by Terry Gilliam." We all agreed to call it "A Film for Heath Ledger and Friends." It's truly the honest, accurate, and right credit. - Director Terry Gilliam on completing The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus

Be careful what you wish for!
Endlessly meditating in his monastery, Dr. Parnassus (Christopher Plummer) meets the devil Mr. Nick (Tom Waits) and gambles with him for immortality. Having won that bet, centuries pass. When Dr. Parnassus falls in love with a woman, he makes another deal with Mr. Nick: for his mortality and youth, he will send the devil his first-born child upon his or her 16th birthday. The scheme works and Dr. Parnassus wins the woman's heart, but she dies after giving birth to their daughter Valentina (Lily Cole).

Nearly 16 years later, Dr. Parnassus is part of a traveling sideshow, which includes his daughter and fellow performers Anton (Andrew Garfield) and Percy (Verne Troyer). Through the imaginarium, a magic mirror controlled by Dr. Parnassus, audience members can enter their own imaginations, where they can make choices to follow their wildest dreams but are also at risk of being lured by Mr. Nick.

Desperate to save Valentina, now that she is nearly of age, Dr. Parnassus makes another deal with the devil: He has two days to provide Mr. Nick with five souls in exchange for his daughter. Late one night, the troupe finds Tony (Heath Ledger), a mysterious stranger who breathes new life into the attraction to help Dr. Parnassus in his quest to save his daughter. But when Tony's past catches up with him, his true identity is revealed and affects everyone around him. In the end, everyone must face the consequences of their action and own up to their choices.

The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus bends your mind in the most wonderful ways and still makes sense if you just let yourself go along with it. Johnny Depp describes it well: "The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus is a uniquely ingenious, captivating creation, by turns wild, thrilling, and hilarious in all its crazed, dilapidated majesty." Welcome to the mind of Terry Gilliam and enjoy the ride!   

This one's for Heath.
With Terry Gilliam at the Los Angeles premiere of
The Brothers Grimm, 2005 (© Kevin Winter/Getty Images)
Terry Gilliam directed Heath Ledger before, in 2005's The Brothers Grimm. That movie's failure at the box office didn't concern Heath Ledger, "Success is relative, I guess, isn't it? That was a success to me because I was working with one of my heroes," he said of the experience. "Sometimes, you just have to kind of throw away the care. You have to not be too conscious of what will be a success and what won't be 'cause that's out of your power. That shouldn't, in my mind, dictate what your choice is. I just want to enjoy myself. I want to learn more. I want to work with good people - creatively and as people, really, just good people. That drives me more." Like Johnny, Heath Ledger remained close friends with Terry Gilliam since their first film together. "He's one of the greatest creative visionary minds ever in film history and a wonderful figure in my life and had done a lot for me," Heath Ledger said of the director. "He had given a lot to me, and if I can do anything to help him, then I will."  

Heath Ledger died of an accidental prescription drug overdose in the middle of filming The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus, and that's the only reason Johnny is in this movie. "Johnny, I supposed, was the most critical person in this whole combination of saviors," Terry Gilliam remembers. "I called him a day or two after Heath died to commiserate because he was a close friend of Heath's as well. I didn't know if I was going to continue with the film or just close it down. And he said, 'Well, whatever you decide, I'll be there.' And that was actually a turning point, I think, because the money people were all closing down the shop, and when they were told that Johnny Depp said he would be there to help, it slowed the retreat."

The tragic loss brought out the best in people. Along with Johnny, mutual friends Jude Law and Colin Farrell filled in as "Tony" in the scenes Heath didn't complete. "The crucial thing with Johnny, Colin, and Jude was that they were friends of Heath, and they were the only people I called because I wanted people who knew Heath very well to make the transition easier," Terry Gilliam explains. "They knew who he was. They knew what he was like." The three actors redirected their typical fees for film work to Heath Ledger's daughter, Matilda. 

The finished product is kind of a miracle considering the star died halfway through shooting, but Terry Gilliam reworked the script so that the additional cast members' involvement makes perfect sense in the story. "It's been a rather incredible gathering of friends and dedicated people who were determined that Heath Ledger's last film was not going to end up on some floor unfinished," the director says. "I am grateful to Johnny, Colin, and Jude for coming on board and to everyone else who has made it possible for us to finish the film. I am delighted that Heath's brilliant performance can be shared with the world."

I wished Johnny weren't in this one.
News of Heath Ledger's death broke while I was at work. I walked into an office where my two friends were reading from a laptop, with horrified looks on their faces. "What happened?" I asked. When they told me, I thought they were joking. But why would anyone joke about Heath Ledger dying? Nobody wants that. This was not supposed to happen. I was officially depressed, and it wasn't even lunchtime yet.

I had mixed feelings going to see The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus in the theater. I love Terry Gilliam's films, but I was sad about these circumstances and watched in fear of reaching the cutoff point of Heath Ledger's last scene. I actually dreaded seeing Johnny in this movie because I figured his appearance meant we reached that end point. "A lot of people, when watching the film, assume that we're not going to see Heath again, but he always keeps coming back," Terry Gilliam says. "It wasn't just a matter of Heath stops, and Johnny, Colin, and Jude take over. It's the fact that he keeps reappearing, and he's never out of the film; that's why I think the film works as well as it does." It's true, so fear not! Heath Ledger stays with us all the way through with no real noticeable gaps in the scenes or story. With a big sigh of relief, I was so pleased with the result that I left the theater smiling and I think Heath Ledger was too. 

Terry Gilliam's in his element!
Having grown up watching Terry Gilliam and his artwork on "Monty Python's Flying Circus," I always look forward to a Terry Gilliam film. He cowrote this one with Charles McKeown, whom he's collaborated with on Brazil and The Adventures of Baron Munchaussen. The latter is one of my favorites and now this one is too.

The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus is so creative, I can hardly describe it. Whenever characters step through Dr. Parnassus's magic mirror into the imaginarium, they enter their own imaginations (and those of whomever else may be in the imaginarium with them). "Every time you go through the mirror, there's going to be something different," Terry Gilliam says. "I wanted to take advantage of the fact that we have this mirror that can provide us a surprise each time we go through so that one is never bored."  If more than one person goes through the mirror at the same time, you will find competing imaginations. Whichever is most dominant takes over, causing the different worlds to literally split apart or expand in free form. "These kinds of worlds are me just letting my imagination run. I pretend I'm whoever the character is in there, and I just go with it," Terry Gilliam says. "Or, I have an idea that already exists that I'm trying to force onto the film, and I make sure the character becomes something that serves the ideas that I already wanted to get out of my system and get up on the screen." All sorts of imaginations are explored, including those of an alcoholic, a child, a criminal, and the main characters--Valentina, Anton, Tony, and even Dr. Parnassus himself. 

These different worlds are fascinating and clearly drawn from Terry Gilliam's own imagination; at times, the movie feels familiar to his work for Monty Python. The imaginarium scenes are like paintings that remind me of his animation work for that show. And, who else but Terry Gilliam would think to have Russian criminals dumbfounded by a sudden song-and-dance number by cops in skirts, fishnets, and heels? Producer Samuel Hadida agrees. "The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus is a movie that will deliver all that Terry Gilliam has made up to now." The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus was nominated several production-related awards, including two Oscars for art direction and costume design.

Where does Johnny come in? 
Three sequences in the imaginarium remained to be filmed after Heath Ledger's death. To adapt to the new terrible situation, Terry Gilliam established that, in the imaginarium, Tony's appearance could change to whoever is imagining him. Johnny's sequence is first for a reason. The director explains, "I felt that, if this idea of different people playing Tony was going to work, Johnny would be the best one to drag us across, and that's exactly what happened. So many people, when they watch the movie, actually think it's Heath for a moment, which was really a sign that we've pulled off something that worked." That is exactly what happened when I watched this movie for the first time in the theater!  

At the time that The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus was being made, Johnny was in the middle of filming Public Enemies, and many people were upset that he committed to helping Terry Gilliam complete his movie while he was committed to another one elsewhere. But he flew to Vancouver to film his scenes anyway. "We only had him for one day and three-and-a-half hours the next day, which just tells you how brilliant he is," Terry Gilliam remembers. "He arrived; he was ready to go. There was no time to rehearse. We just dived in, and it's absolutely, utterly brilliant!" Despite flying through it, with all of the scenes completed in only one take because of his schedule, Johnny loved working on this film. "Though the circumstances of my involvement are extremely heart-rendering and unbelievably sad, I feel privileged to have been asked aboard to stand in on behalf of dear Heath," he said. 

This cast shines bright!
The rest of the wonderful cast assembled The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus need to be highlighted too: 

  • Tom Waits is the devil! Isn't that an example of genius casting? Johnny aside, doesn't that alone make you want to see this movie? No? Okay, there are more!
  • Christopher Plummer as Dr. Parnassus is amazing, as expected. "It seemed to me one needed a man of his kind of weight and gravitas and experience to give dignity to the shabby little show we were running," Terry Gilliam says. "I think it's Christopher's dignity and his ability to make even what might be a charlatan in the case of Parnassus into somebody that you believe does have extraordinary powers." 
  • Lily Cole, who plays Dr. Parnassus's daughter Valentina, is a successful fashion model. When I saw her photographs in magazines, I always thought she had a great face for movies. The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus is her first starring role, and I'm pretty sure she's safe to keep going!
  • Andrew Garfield is in this movie! Yeah, Spider-Man. I didn't realize it until I revisited this film for Johnny Kitties. During filming, he learned and embraced the joy of improvising by watching Heath Ledger and caught on quickly. In his first comedic role here, Andrew Garfield is really fun to watch. I might have to see all his movies now.
  • Verne Troyer, I admit, is someone I can't look at without thinking of Austin Powers' "Mini-Me" and laughing. I got over it with this movie, in which he plays a serious role quite admirably.
  • Jude Law takes over as Tony after Johnny's turn in the imaginarium. Ironically, before Heath Ledger was chosen, Jude Law was considered for the role of Tony. As always, he is fantastic. An avid admirer of Terry Gilliam's films, participating in this one was obviously important for other reasons: "To help Terry finish his film was an honor paid to a man I adore," he says. "I had a great time on the job. Though we were all there in remembrance, Heath's heart pushed us with great lightness to the finish."
  • Colin Farrell is perfectly suave and slimy as Tony in the final imaginarium sequence. He wrote about the experience on his blog, noting the sense of community everyone felt in Heath Ledger's honor. "Three of us had been asked to complete a task that had been set in motion by a man we greatly liked and respected as both a person and an artist. Being part of this film was never about filling Heath's shoes as much as seeing them across the finish line," he writes. "How I wish he had brought the film to its completion himself. Of course, the whole crew felt this way. And, the cast that we joined felt it too. It was this spirit of grieving the loss of Heath that Johnny and Jude and I joined. But there was also a sense of dogged insistence: insistence that Heath's last piece of work should not be kept in the shadow of the light of day. A community of people - caterers and actors, electricians and makeup artists - had been brought together in a recognized sense of love and obligation, for and to, one of cinema's finest actors and most generous of men. It will be the sense of love amidst the sadness that I will remember most. Such a gift and an honor, from Heath, to be part of the trail that he left behind."
Get ready for something completely different.
I recommend that you watch The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus more than once. Even Terry Gilliam agrees, "What does happen so often with my films is that it takes a second viewing for people to really see what the film is or understand it," he says. I discover something new and enjoy it more each time I see this one.

The big finish with Colin Farrell as Tony, mentioned earlier, could test some viewers. The finale, a battle in the imaginarium among four people with strong imaginations (Tony, Valentina, Anton, Dr. Parnassus), is a trip, so be ready for it! "The whole last sequence is about whose imagination is winning at any particular moment. Unless people understand that, what is going on, the whole thing probably becomes very confusing," Terry Gilliam explains. "To me, it's an absolute dream sequence - this whole finale - because one thing is flowing into the next, making very clear leaps. It's how dreams form and reform and transmute things, but unless you're willing to let go, and go into a kind of dream state, you're going to have trouble through this sequence. You've got to let it just take you where it goes 'cause each thing makes sense in its own way, but you're connecting a lot of things that may or may not make sense depending on who it is." All clear? Trust me, you'll understand when you see it! Just go with it.

The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus doesn't follow the typical logical flow or structure of a film. "It flows at a different level. It depends on whose mind you're in," Terry Gilliam explains. "Can you shift from character to character and understand why each world is what it is? I find children can do this easily, but the older people get, the more rigid they become, the more terrified of this, what seems to be chaos. They want things explained, and they even like things explained in advance or [to be] given a road map of where we're going. And, I think that is exactly what the imaginarium is not about. Those that go in there, and take this ride and hold on, have a wonderful time; so we're trying to encourage people to let go, even adults." 

Rent The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus and give it a try (or two, three, or more). It's worth the trip!

In the imaginarium, the Kitties can do the impossible!
Johnny's time in the imaginarium explores the mind of a wealthy middle-aged woman played by Maggie Steed. "Johnny loved working with Maggie," Terry Gilliam says. "The two of them just clicked, and he said he wanted to have her in every film he does. It was just a great combination." Here, the woman (The Mother Kitty) imagines Tony waltzing with her on lily pads among a few of her favorite things - brilliant jewels, magnificent shoes, and sweet perfumes. But Tony's own imagination conjures up the young and beautiful Valentina (Lily), who lures his attention away from his dance partner.

Johnny Kitties: Celebrating Johnny Depp Film #38. The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus (2009) [August 3, 2013]

What's next?
Johnny is just slightly mad in Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland.

Image credits: The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus images © Infinity Pictures Entertainment and Poo Poo Productions; Illustration © Melissa Connolly

Wednesday, October 30, 2013


Can you believe that The Kitties knocked out this totem pole in the backyard this week? Who knew that adding an energetic kitten to the bunch would make such a big difference? It's about time Tyrone got to work.

Totem (October 27, 2013)
(Illustration Friday: September 13, 2013)

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Lou Reed

Hi everyone,

With Lou Reed's passing on Sunday, the music world lost another great one. All I could think was that the world became a little less bright that day. I had the same feeling when Joe Strummer died. So, I wasn't going to write about it and make everyone sad.

But, then, my sister told me that when she mentioned Lou Reed's death during a Halloween party she attended Sunday night, no one there knew who he was. What other depressing news can I pile on here? (Surely, everyone knows who Joe Strummer was, right?)

Oh, let's just focus on the positive: Lou Reed left his stamp on music history with his amazing songs. I admit that I own copies of only a few of them right now, but I grew up listening to "Walk on the Wild Side," which is still a staple on classic radio stations. I fell in love with "Sweet Jane" when I first heard the Cowboy Junkies sing it in Pulp Fiction. And, Duran Duran actually introduced me to the beautiful "Perfect Day" when they included it on their album of cover songs Thank You.

While I never followed Lou Reed's career, he kept popping up in my life because all of my favorite musicians and artists have been inspired by or were even friends with him. I heard his instantly recognizable voice singing on random soundtracks of good movies and on my favorite radio stations, and his name would drop in interviews with other celebrities I admired. So, whenever I saw Lou Reed himself anywhere, in magazines or on TV, I paid attention.

The range and creativity of his work and weight of his influence are undeniable, shining well beyond the music community to writers, artists, and others. Whether you know who he is or not, Lou Reed exuded cool! Can't you tell just from this photo?

So, let's cheer up, remembering this one-of-a-kind songwriter, musician, and rock star who graced us with his  unique presence and talent for the last 50 years, first in his pioneering alternative rock band the Velvet Underground and later on his own. Penning songs about sexuality, drug use, and other unspoken topics that countered the peace-and-harmony culture of the '60s, Lou Reed spent his career experimenting to create the music he wanted, and that's his legacy. It's fitting that his one and only Top 40 hit is a story about transvestite prostitutes walking the streets of New York. Everyone who loves this song has it memorized, so turn it up, sing along, and enjoy:

Feel better? Now, go to iTunes, or wherever you buy your music, and explore Lou Reed's entire catalog. It's a worthy investment.

You will be missed, Lou Reed. Thanks for the voice and music.

Copyright credits: Photo © unknown; "Walk on the Wild Side" ©  Lou Reed 

Monday, October 28, 2013


Hi everyone,

Meet our newest Melissa's Kitties' member, Tyrone!


He is about 2 months old and used to live in a sewer drain pipe. A good samaritan who works at the post office in Alliance, Ohio, discovered and rescued him and his two siblings and found each of them safer homes. Tyrone moved into my parents' garage on September 17.

Tyrone (10-27-13)

So far, he enjoys playing and playing and playing and playing and playing and sleeping and eating and playing. He spends most of his days exploring his new surroundings. When he venture outdoors, he fearlessly races through the yard and climbs trees. In an effort to harness his attack-and-conquer approach to flowers, Mom is teaching him how to garden properly. In the evenings, he helps Dad with his woodworking projects. When Tyrone's ready to crash, he'll find and climb into whoever's lap is closest.

When we first met earlier this month, I introduced Tyrone to all sorts of music and movies and left him some good books to read once he learns how. He should be up to speed with the other Kitties any time now. A quick learner, he has already identified Art Carney, Richard Pryor, Jackie Robinson, Dave Grohl, Mandy Patinkin, and Mohammad Ali among his heroes. (We'll get to the ladies eventually, but right now he thinks girls are gross.)

When asked recently how he likes his new digs, he responded, "It's better than the sewer." That's the truth!

Tuesday, October 22, 2013


Hi everyone,

One of the highlights during my California vacation last month was visiting Miur Woods. When I returned to D.C., everyone I told about it said something to the effect of, "Well, those are just the baby Redwoods." To me, these Redwoods were plenty impressive!

Muir Woods - September 2013

Muir Woods - September 2013

Muir Woods - September 2013

Muir Woods - September 2013

Muir Woods - September 2013

Muir Woods - September 2013

When I got back home, I started working on this drawing for Illustration Friday. (Finally completed, I've only missed the deadline by a month and a half.)

Lush (October 21, 2013)
(Illustration Friday: August 30, 2013)

You'll notice 10 Kitties in this picture. Yes, this illustration took me so long that another Kitty joined our family in the meantime! Last month, this kitten muscled his way into our lives and up all the trees in our backyard. Since his love for trees could not be denied, I had to include him here.

New Kitty!
Hello! I like trees and I like this bootlace. 

Kitty #10 will be introduced properly soon!