Tuesday, July 28, 2009

The Wizard of Oz

Victor Fleming, 1939 (8.4*)
The GOOD news: the remastered colors will blow you away, all fans should see this new dvd version. Toto and the creepy flying monkeys were terrific, having a seemingly gay lion (Bert Lahr's only memorable role) was a stroke of comic genius, Margaret Hamilton was the perfect evil witch, Frank Morgan the perfect wizard, and I hope everyone got the reference to poppies putting them to sleep and snow waking them back up.
Otherwise, everyone's favorite children's fantasy just could be the most overrated film of all time, #18 on our Top Ranked survey (I'd put it about 200th). This actually followed the classic animated Snow White by two years, which makes me wish that Disney had at least had a hand in this. Can you imagine this film if they made it today, with the technology used for Lord of the Rings? My problems began in my own childhood, thinking this was "one giant-sized kid", even bigger than the witch - one would think they had good enough child actors to have cast this movie appropriately. Judy Garland looked like she was in her 20's (though just 17), but this was supposed to be a little girl, maybe ten years old. It always seemed to me that "Over the Rainbow" was just thrown into this movie, didn't fit the rest of the film's music (its certainly not a kid's song), and seems like it should have been in Meet Me in St. Louis instead (a more appropriate vehicle for Garland, imo). Buddy Ebsen was supposed to be the tin man but had a reaction to the metallic makeup and dropped out. Could't they get Donald O'Connor? (Don't get me wrong, I'm a Garland fan since I love great singers, I just prefer her in other roles: St. Louis, and Star is Born; she's miscast in this, it's a popular choice, not an artistic one)

All that aside: This is great fun for kids, with lame humor (unless you're under 10) and very slow scenes, but with the "Yellow Brick Road" refrain to seemingly link it all together and keep it moving. In fact when the film came out, Harvard's awards dubbed it "the worst film of all time". Of course, that was 1939 and they didn't have many films to choose from. For kids and fans only, you know who you are, or if you just need something entertaining!
Update: upon considering the religious implications, I upped my rating a little. Did anyone else notice that the only other American Dorothy sees on her journey has set himself up as "god" in Oz, which rhymes with "Gods" by the way? He rules by fear and intimidation ("dare you question the great Oz?"), using magic (smoke, mirrors, illusions) to convince people he's something supernatural, then sends people on tasks in his name that he hopes will get them killed so he's done with them and won't have to deliver anything material. Then when Dorothy's group succeeds, all he has to offer is homespun advice and common sense wisdom, and they have nothing more than what they already had, only self-realization. This could be nothing but a satire of religion to me (or history of religions), or at least America's version of religion; perhaps the way U.S. politicians use religion to scare and control people, and to get votes. I'm not sure of author Frank Baum's original intentions way back when he wrote this, but it sure seems that this is a clear parody of how we are controlled, even in this 'new millenium'.
[Updated: 7.29.09]


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These are the individual film reviews of what I'm considering the best 1000 dvds available, whether they are films, miniseries, or live concerts. Rather than rush out all 1000 at once, I'm doing them over time to allow inclusion of new releases - in fact, 2008 has the most of any year so far, 30 titles in all; that was a very good year for films, one of the best ever.

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