Over at the A.V. Club, my colleagues and I detail the heartbreak of falling out of love with formerly favorite artists, people who once seemed essential and now seem loathsome. There aren't many who fall into that category for me. Although my tastes have grown over the years, they've been surprisingly consistent. When I rewatch/reread/relisten to things I read/watched/listened to when I was 16, I find my appreciation may have deepened, but my basic gut up-or-down hasn't changed. There are rare exceptions: I didn't really understand Jules and Jim until I'd been through my first soul-destroying breakup, and when I watched say anything... last year, probably for the first time in more than a decade, I found the intrusive subplot involving Diane Court's father no longer seemed so jarringly out of place with the teen romantic comedy I wanted the film to be.
Only twice in my culture-consumption career have I felt the need to publicly sever ties with directors who once moved me, when their work became not just bad but so uninspired and lifeless that hoping for better was just setting myself up for a fall. One was Woody Allen, whose post-Soon Yi films combine a desperate desire to win back the public's affection with an overwhelming hostility to women. The other was Tim Burton, whose movies have become so rote and pseudo-fantastic that it makes me wonder if I was wrong to like the ones I did in the first place. The final straw was 1999's Sleepy Hollow, which made it clear that Burton was content to glide along the surface of his stories and never tap the depths underneath. The advance looks at Burton's Alice in Wonderland (whose conceptual art, by Michael Kutsche, is reproduced above) suggests that Burton has taken a similar approach to Lewis Carroll's masterpiece, glomming onto its superficial fantasy while missing the intellectual delight and deep longing that make it so inexhaustibly rich. In recent years, I've come to think that no discussion of Alice is complete without a consideration of "All in the Golden Afternoon," the surpassingly lovely epigraph which commemorates Carroll's time with Alice Liddell, Wonderland's muse and primary audience. Whatever you think of Carroll's attachment to children, it's clear he felt a tremendous deal of affection for the girl, and that the stories were designed to delight her and their creator equally. Much as I'd love to be proven wrong, I have a strong suspicion that Burton's movie will provide little more than CGI clangor.