Author: Scott Holleran

Let’s Remember Whitney for Her Ability

Remember when you first heard Whitney Houston sing? Was it “The Greatest Love of All” or “I Will Always Love You”—or maybe her Super Bowl performance of the Star-Spangled Banner? Her voice had a wide range, a soulful style and she had an ability to glide through a song. Whitney phrased the lyric, made the transition and held the note in such a way that she sang in perfect tune. Now that the coroner has ruled her drug-related death essentially accidental at the age of 48, we can say there are important lessons and that we were lucky to...

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Alice in Wonderland (2010)

by Scott Holleran Disney writer Linda Woolverton (Mulan, The Lion King, Beauty and the Beast) and director Tim Burton thoroughly reconfigure Lewis Carroll’s literary classic Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland in Disney’s new, computerized adaptation, which bears some resemblance to the studio’s 1951 animated version. The result, Alice in Wonderland, is an enjoyable spectacle. Burbank, California, native Burton, a former animator whose pictures reflect his strange, dark upbringing—I once read that he said his parents banished sunlight from his home as a child—has created his best picture since Big Fish (2003). Neither as bizarre as his macabre Nightmare Before Christmas nor as poignant as his breakout movie starring Johnny Depp, Edward Scissorhands (1990), who appears here as the Mad Hatter, this interpretation is a solid piece of filmmaking. Seen in 3D, it pops in vibrant colors for exotic scenes. Alice has an equally solid story, which engages the senses and, in its finest moments, the mind. Though it dips in the middle, Alice in Wonderland rises to the occasion. This is due in large part to the earnestness of its leading lady, an actress named Mia Wasikowska. Striking the right balance of innocence and seriousness, her Alice is that rarely seen sight: a heroine. Amid Lewis Carroll’s fantastically humorous characters, Mia makes the tale matter. After the death of her father, a visionary London entrepreneur who teaches his daughter to...

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We The Living: An Ayn Rand Novel for Our Times

Though increased sales of Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand have been getting the attention, Rand’s lesser-known first novel, We the Living (1936), is also strikingly relevant in today’s times. Rand once described We the Living, recently published in trade paperback and adapted for a film that’s available for the first time on DVD, as “a book for Americans.” The story, set in Soviet Russia, dramatizes the evil of totalitarianism. In her Foreword, Rand, who had lived under Communism, wrote: “We the Living is not a story about Soviet Russia in 1925. It is a story about Dictatorship, any dictatorship, anywhere, at any time, whether it be Soviet Russia, Nazi Germany, or—which this novel might do its share in helping to prevent—a socialist America.” Three characters embody the theme. Heroine Kira loathes Communism, loves life, and is in love with a man named Leo, a blacklisted aristocrat struggling to survive. Idealistic Andrei is a Communist who discovers what his philosophy means in practice. When Leo becomes gravely ill, Kira, aided by Andrei, is forced into desperate acts. Leo disintegrates, Andrei destructs, and Kira remains unconquered. Each character is crushed. We the Living depicts the cause of their devastation: dictatorship. The Soviet government controls the economy, rewarding the dishonest, punishing the honest and corrupting everyone. Banks and private property are seized. Regulations prohibit private “speculators” from smuggling goods into the city,...

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