Thursday, January 7, 2010

#9 The Wizard of Oz: People come and go so quicky here!

1939. dir. Victor Fleming, starring Judy Garland, Ray Bolger, Jack Haley, Bert Lahr, Margaret Hamilton, Billie Burke, Frank Morgan.

Seen it before? Many times when I was a kid, but not recently.

Let me say this right off the bat: Wicked didn't happen.

Yeah. I saw that show when it was in Chicago, and it gave all sorts of backstory about the land of Oz and the Witches. They explain the Scarecrow, the Tin Man, the Cowardly Lion, they explain why the Witch of the West has a green face. They explain everything, and that's why I hated it.

I LOVED this movie when I was a kid. It was one of the few movies we had on VHS and we watched the shit out of that tape. (I think we had taped it off of TV, commercials and all.) There were so many fantastic little unexplained details, and you would notice something new every time. There's a red brick road at the beginning, where does it go? What's with the weird red sand in the hourglass, and the red poison the Witch sprinkles on the poppies? What's so special about the ruby slippers? What was the Witch of the East like, and where's the witch of the South? Don't tell me! It sucks out all of the mystery and wonder.

Really, this movie is a masterpiece. The land of Oz has this wonderfully colorful look, like a picture book. It doesn't quite look realistic but that's the point. The performances are legendary; upon rewatching it, my favorites (besides Judy) are Bert Lahr as the Cowardly Lion and Margaret Hamilton as the Witch, and of course the Muchkins. You can tell that if they remade this movie they would totally ruin it with lots of CGI. No way they would hire a bunch of real midgets anymore... just create a bunch of digital copies of Verne Troyer or some bullshit like that. Somebody needs to lock up Tim Burton in his basement. I'm just saying.

My wife keeps telling me the story is some sort of complex allegory about the politics of 1890's. Some nonsense her college history prof told her about the Gold Standard or William Jennings Bryan or something. Bullshit I say, this movie is more universal than that. Watch the adults in this movie: some of them are loving and caring, but the Witch is cruel, the Wizard is useless, and Glinda... I think Glinda is the most important adult character in the movie. She could have helped Dorothy; could have just told her how to get back right away. But noooo, she had to teach her a lesson first. She's so aloof and flippant. That's such a key insight to the relationship between adults and children.

Shame that Wicked turned her into a giggling Valley Girl. Seriously, it didn't happen.

Position on the list: 119
Movies that are dubiously ranked higher: Sin City, Gran Torino, Batman Begins, Return of the Jedi(!?)

1 comment:

  1. I have an entire cupboard of VHS movies from when you guys were little.