Wednesday, January 18, 2017


Hi everyone,

Sometime in the middle of 2016, I lost motivation to write on my blog. It's not Drew Barrymore's fault. In fact, I read her book Wildflower immediately after finishing my last book review in August, and I finished it in about a week's time! Let's see what I remember about Wildflower, which has been sitting next to my computer for months, waiting to be reviewed.

When I got the e-mail from Sixth and I Synagogue telling me that Drew Barrymore was coming to town to promote her new book, I gasped and bought my ticket. When the day arrived, I got in line about an hour and half before the doors opened. (I wasn't completely crazy; a few people were ahead of me.) All the while, I wasn't sure why I was so excited about this.

By the end of the event, I had figured it out: I've always wanted to be friends with Drew Barrymore. Apparently, I'm not alone. Our Sixth and I host noted that we've known Drew Barrymore for her whole life, and we all have our favorite Drew Barrymore moments. She's the girl from ET who was born into Hollywood royalty, the free spirit who spontaneously danced on David Letterman's desk and gave him a birthday surprise, the business woman who runs Flower Films and Flower Beauty, and now a wife and mother of two.

It's true that I will watch Ever After and Fever Pitch whenever I find them on TV, but what I love most about Drew is Drew, for being so down to earth despite her famous relatives, for surviving growing up in the spotlight and through her rebellious years, for starting a production company focused on films that empower women, for branching out into business and building a brand, and with the start of her own family, finally finding the personal happiness for which she always seemed to be searching. (Granted, after I finished reading this book, she and her husband got divorced, but it was the friendliest no-fuss divorce I've ever seen. Who else could achieve that but Drew Barrymore?)

I read Wildflower so quickly because this book is just like Drew – warm, welcoming, honest, and funny. While the editor in me initially hated all the incomplete sentences on these pages, I soon realized that these purposeful phrases helped capture Drew's voice, which I could so clearly hear telling these stories.

This memoir is a collection of moments from Drew Barrymore's life that show where she came from, where she's going, and how she's evolved in between. She talks about her parents and deciding as a teen to live on her own without their help, teaching herself from scratch how to be a grown up. She revisits fun road trips and adventures with friends, remembers finding her perfect companion pups, and pays tribute to the many mentors in her life, including her business partner Nancy Juvonen and her ET director Stephen Spielberg. She recalls feeling real purpose after reading a New York Times article about African school children who have no school to go to and does something about it. My favorite chapters are dedicated to her daughters and about her family life because she shares the same uncertainties and joys everyone experiences in new relationships and motherhood.

What you get in Wildflower is a full portrait of a woman we all think we know. She doesn't disappoint in giving what is expected of Drew Barrymore, the bubbly movie star. But you also find a thoughtful, driven private citizen, who is always striving to be a better one and enjoying life as best she can while its happening – just like the rest of us.

Happy reading!


Monday, January 09, 2017

Johnny Kitties: Celebrating Johnny Depp Film #51. Alice Through the Looking Glass (2016)

[What is Johnny Kitties? See Johnny Kitties: Celebrating Johnny Depp for all the details. Visit the Johnny Kitties page for a full list of Johnny Depp's filmography and links to all previous Johnny Kitties blog posts.]

I'm English, and as an English person, the Alice books are part of your culture. They really are: Your grandparents have it in their house. Your parents have it in their house – both books, Alice in Wonderland and Alice Through the Looking Glass. For me, it was something I grew up with and was incredibly familiar with, so the idea of being able to work in that universe was incredibly appealing.
Director James Bobin on Alice Through the Looking Glass

Where has Alice gone now? 
Recently home from her latest voyage at sea as captain of her father's ship, The Wonder, Alice (Mia Wasikowska) finds her mother still wishing that she'd conform to society's rules and her ex-suitor threatening to take what's left of her father's legacy. In this wild sequel to Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland, Alice escapes these problems when she is summoned back to Underland and tasked with traveling through time to save the Mad Hatter (Johnny Depp) and his family. With this original story, director James Bobin joins a familiar cast of colorful characters revisiting Wonderland for a new adventure in Alice Through the Looking Glass

What's happening?!
When I heard that Tim Burton was not directing this sequel, I lost a bit of interest in Alice Through the Looking Glass. Of course, I was excited to see Johnny making various appearances to promote the movie, but the commercials for it didn't help me because I couldn't follow the storyline. Then, there was this.... 

The week before the May theatrical release of Alice Through the Looking Glass, three pieces of Johnny-related news came out in quick succession: 
Johnny and his mom,
Betty Sue Palmer in 1999
Source: Pinterest 
  1. Johnny's mother died. Johnny was so close to his mom. While not unexpected considering her long illness, her death was still sad news to hear. 
  2. Johnny's wife Amber Heard filed for divorce. Just before I read this news, I had decided that he and Amber Heard may prove everyone wrong and live a long, happy life together. But I was wrong. 
  3. Amber Heard filed a temporary restraining order request against Johnny, claiming domestic abuse throughout their entire 15-month marriage. About this, I have more to say. 
Amber Heard's restraining order request and accusations shocked, angered, and upset me. Johnny said it was all untrue and, of course, I believed him. Still, at the time, I tried to be impartial and hear and understand what she was saying. This divorce and restraining order drama played out all summer, and against my better judgment and the advice of my wiser friends, I read everything I could get my hands on about it. (Sorry, Johnny, but I was worried about you.) 

All of it is hearsay and opinion from tabloids, lawyers, and third or more distant parties. By the time the divorce settlement was completed in August and Amber rescinded her abuse claims and restraining order request, the public didn't care because they'd already made up their minds about everything within the first week. By then, I was so emotionally drained and distraught that I couldn't really think or talk about this topic coherently. While relieved that the ordeal was over, I didn't feel any better nor did I know anything more since that first week that definitively explained what really happened. I could write a thesis on all the weirdness the proceeded this summer, my many reasonable doubts about these accusations, what I believe might have happened, why I'm supporting Johnny through whatever did happen, and how you can't trust anything you read or see about it in the media, but I don't want to contribute to the endless speculation. (I've already spent too much blog space on this topic.) 

We're never going to know this full story because we don't know Johnny or his ex-wife personally. Whatever happened is their private business and should have stayed that way. I'm still waiting for the Johnny news out there to be more positive and to stop mentioning his ex-wife and everything they did last summer. Beware the perils of celebrity worship, but I have 30 years of evidence that Johnny is a good, thoughtful, non-violent person, and I believe it.

I'm mentioning all of the above only to explain my state of mind when I saw Alice Through the Looking Glass at my local theater that weekend. I felt completely miserable and hoped the movie would cheer me up. It didn't because we learn pretty quickly that the Mad Hatter is sick and dying, and only Alice can save him. I spent the first half of the movie inspecting Johnny's face to see if I could tell whether he was as miserable as I was about his personal problems. (I know this is ridiculous on several levels. It was also fruitless because he's an amazing actor playing someone who is ill and dying.) By the end of this viewing, I concluded that Alice Through the Looking Glass has great special effects and visuals, but the story is lacking. Also, the acting isn't great, despite all of the wonderful, reliable actors in it. I wondered how all these familiar favorites could make such a confusing, half-hearted effort. Then I checked Google with dread for the latest on Johnny's unfolding real-life scandal. This summer was long and hard.  

Let's try this again.
Actually, I really like this movie! When I rented it from Netflix in November and re-watched it with a clearer mind, it was like seeing it for the first time. Serving as producer this time around, Tim Burton has his unmistakable stamp on it, which makes me happy. "I think he left his mark, but at the same time, he didn't put it so far into Tim Burton Land that it was distracting," Johnny says. "Once Tim got a hold of that whole landscape of possibilities, you know that anything is possible." 

Alice Through the Looking Glass is so colorful and fun but has a darker tone at the same time. More importantly, there is a story, and I can follow it! The Mad Hatter is depressed because he misses his family, who he believes survived the Red Queen's epic takeover on Horovendoush Day. Alice, being the only person not originally from Underland, embarks on a journey through time to find his family for him. To do so, she meets time itself (Sasha Baron Cohen) and "borrows" the chronosphere, a time-traveling vessel that takes her to different points in her friends' lives. Alice Through the Looking Glass is a dreamlike journey through Wonderland that introduces strange new characters and sheds new light on the old ones. "It's not the story of the looking glass, the book," Director James Bobbin explains, "but it feels like it could be." 

I stand by my first impression that the costumes, visuals, and special effects are amazing in this film, unlike anything I've seen before. "Wonderland, and Underland, is a place of limitless imagination, so when you meet characters, there's nobody sort of wistfully drawn or sketchy," Anne Hathaway says. "You're meeting full, almost – you know – kind of like live-action cartoons, which is so fun to play." For example, the Red Queen's servants are made of fruits and vegetables. Also, somehow, the filmmakers personified time and captured what traveling through it looks like by creating a character made of and surrounded by timepieces in space that reflects an ocean of memories. Alice Through the Looking Glass is mainly a roller coaster thrill-ride in a time machine with intermittent breaks. 

It's a treat to see different characters in different time periods to learn about their upbringing and different aspects of their personalities. By the end of Alice Through the Looking Glass, you know why the Red Queen has a huge head and a bad attitude. You meet the Mad Hatter in his younger days, when he was known more by his real name, Tarrant Hightopp, and find out why he lost touch with his family in the first place. I wish the movie explored more of these characters' family dramas and histories, but I suppose you can only fit so much into two hours.  
Clearly, my first viewing was so overshadowed by my concern for Johnny that I ignored everyone else! Giving it another look, it's great to get more of Helena Bonham Carter and Anne Hathaway as the sparring sisters, the Red Queen and the White Queen. It's wonderful to see how much Alice has changed and grown into an independent woman. And, it's bittersweet to hear Alan Rickman's comforting voice as Absolem. Alan Rickman, who costarred with Johnny in Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Streetpassed away early last year; he's always been one of my favorites in so many films.

My favorite thing about Johnny's performance is seeing how not only his expression, but his makeup and hair color changes depending on his emotional state. This happened only a bit in Alice in Wonderland, but it's on full display here. Johnny explains, "The second film explores the personalities of the Hatter, not just that we haven't seen but never expected to see." 

The creativity and sense of imagination in Alice Through the Looking Glass is showcased in so many different ways! Be sure to check it out!

The Kitties form a search party! 
I hoped to capture a portrayal of the Red Queen on this latest visit to Wonderland, but the closest I came was her uninviting heart-shaped castle. Here, the Hatter (Gordon), Alice (Lily), the White Queen (The Mother Kitty), and friends are on the hunt for his the rest of the Hightopp family. They enter the lair to investigate each floor and open every daunting door, hoping not to be foiled by the creepy critters who are watching their every move.
Johnny Kitties: Celebrating Johnny Depp Film 51. Alice Through the Looking Glass (December 16, 2016)

I hear that change is good. 
Rhonda's Kiss event
November 2016
Despite all of his personal strife, Johnny went on a summer tour with his band Hollywood Vampires and looked as though he was having a good time. He also received the inaugural Rhonda's Kiss Healing and Hope Award for his continual charitable donations for cancer research and patient care. 

In movie news, Johnny left his talent agent Tracey Jacobs at UTA, ending a professional relationship that's lasted through most of his career. I'm not sure what to read into his switch to CAA or what it means, but he then made a surprise appearance in J. K. Rowling's Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. In fact, he is a central character in this five-film franchise, and I am thrilled! He signed on for a few other films too, including LAbyrinth, costarring Forrest Whitaker, and a remake of Murder on the Orient Expressdirected by Kenneth Branagh. At least he's keeping busy.  

What's next? 
Johnny makes it a family affair, reprising his role as Tusk's Guy LaPointe alongside daughter Lily-Rose in Kevin Smith's teen horror/comedy flick Yoga Hosers.

To find more film reviews and artwork celebrating Johnny Depp's work, visit the Johnny Kitties page

Image credits: All Alice Through the Looking Glass images © Disney Pictures; 1999 Hollywood Star ceremony photo © unknown; Johnny Kitties illustration © Melissa Connolly; Rhonda's Kiss event photo © Frazer Harrison/Getty Images