Masterpiece: Wizard of Oz

So it’s about 2:30 in the morning and my friends and I had a lovely Halloween together.  We ate pizza and talked and then watched Paranorman- a wonderful ghost story that is so inventive and creative.  I highly recommend it.

Once everyone had left I found myself awake and looking for something to entertain me as I started my first night of Nanowrimo.   What to turn to?

Well, it seemed to fit the night so I put on one of my all time favorite movies, The Wizard of Oz.

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Is there a more iconic movie?  Maybe Gone with the Wind?  But I can’t think of any other movie where you could say a word ‘somewhere’, ‘rainbow’, ‘wicked’, ‘wonderful’, ‘cowardly’ and most people would immediately think of Wizard of Oz.

I saw it last year in the limited release in 3D in the theaters and I was blown away.  It hasn’t aged  a bit.  The songs are spectacular, villain mesmerizing, art direction gorgeous, message is touching and Judy Garland singing. Need I say more?  It’s hard to know where even to begin with such a classic.

It’ starts out of course with our gorgeous black and white- sepia tone in fact.  We get to meet the entire farm and see Dorothy getting into trouble with cruel neighbor who wants to have her dog Toto committed.  She even gets the sheriff to come and take the dog away.  This creates a simple dynamic to start off the film.  Dorothy loves her dog but all at home want to take that love away from her.  She then sings about it in arguably the most perfect vocal performance in movie history.  She makes it seem easy.

Without Dorothy and Somewhere Over the Rainbow there wouldn’t be Ariel and Part of Your Word or Elsa and Let it Go.  She touches cord with every child, teen and human who has felt misunderstood.  The song is both hopeful and hopeless.  The last line is so haunting “if happy little blue birds fly beyond the rainbows why oh why can’t I” What human being can’t relate to that?

At last count I had 13 different versions of Over the Rainbow on my ipod.  I’ve heard it sung a million different ways and just love it. In fact, I sang it myself at recital.  It’s nothing to write home about but I did my best.

Dorothy is so devastated by the threat to her dog she decides to run away but on the way she meets a peddler who helps her realize how much she is needed, which is a major theme of the movie- whether you are a lion, a scarecrow or a little girl we are all needed at home. So she rushes home only to be caught up in a terrific storm.  The tornado totally holds up with modern technology and looks great and the music is spectacular.

You feel the panic of it all.  It’s very chilling and we see Miss Gulch in the tornado and our first glimpse of a witch on a broomstick.  It is brilliant imagery.

Dorothy of course lands in Munchkinland in Oz.  She is greeted as a great hero but is also immediately presented with the difference between good and evil.  The creativity and inventiveness in every aspect of these early scenes blows me away.  Yes they are high pitched Munchkins singing but they created a whole world.  It would take until Star Wars till a dichotomy of good vs evil in a new land is as beautifully captured.  I don’t know if we ever get another musical fantasy to match it’s equal.  Every inch is designed and full of color and light which is the rainbow opposite of Dorothy’s home

Every part is iconic from the yellow brick road, to the ruby slippers to everything else.  Margaret Hamilton is so chilling as the Wicked Witch of the West.  She overwhelms with hate and bitterness, even for her dog, and part of what makes her work is we have just seen her equal in the human world which makes her seem not all that far-fetched.

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So Dorothy starts on her journey where she meets the scarecrow who is obsessed with his lack of a brain, tin man who is obsessed with his lack of a heart and cowardly lion who is obsessed with his lack of courage.  Each of these characters are kind of like our troupe in Lord of the Rings.  They provide warmth and a quasi-family for Dorothy and are completely charming.  Not to mention some terrific songs and dance sequences.

The color and art  design is so fabulous with such endearing performances.

My personal favorite is the Cowardly Lion by Bert Lahr.  Who doesn’t feel for the shy King of the Forest?

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Eventually they make it to the Emerald City where we meet a Wizard of a lot of sound and fury.  More great music and he gives the troupe a seemingly impossible task- bring him the broomstick of the Wicked Witch of the West.  It’s always effective in storytelling when the task seems greater than the participants capabilities.  That’s what makes Harry Potter so good.  Harry always seems unequal to his tasks which makes you cheer all the louder when he does.

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This scene in the Witches Castle is just about perfect.  The Witch is so mean and scary and you feel the panic in Dorothy’s voice.  When Toto escapes it is an emotional moment and then when she see’s Auntie Em in the crystal just like she did in the peddler’s ball it will make the most hardened man emotional.  Especially to have her emotion mocked by the witch.  Again to me it is chilling and scary and emotional and perfection.

The water is a bit lame but how far they take it is chilling with the Scarecrow on fire and all and her last exclamation is so perfect ‘Oh what a world, what a world.  Who would have thought a good little girl like you could destroy my beautiful wickedness”.

Hail to Dorothy!  The Wicked Witch is dead!  It’s such  thrilling moment going back to the initial conflict with Miss Gulch.  The amount of emotions we get in a short 10 minutes of film is astounding.

So now we think our story is over.  She has the broom and she is to see the Wizard but alas we all know about that ‘man behind the curtain’.  This is so brilliant because it teaches Dorothy that villainy can be found in many forms and that the great and powerful of this earth are often nothing but a bunch of smoke and mirrors.  Real power comes from home and love.  It’s like the priests battling Elijah.  With all their fire and blood they could not mimic the actual power of God.  In some ways the wizard is the true villain of the picture because at least the witch is honest.

Then when all hope seems to be lost we learn ‘there’s no place like home’ and just like Dorothy went home after talking to the peddler about Aunt Em, Dorothy is able to return to her home.  The goodbye to particularly the Scarecrow is very touching (I’m telling you this movie gives me every emotion!).  Could watch this about a million times.

And she is home.  Her journey Over the Rainbow is done and she is home.

Movies are supposed to take you on a journey and I can’t think of one that does that better than Wizard of Oz.  It looks gorgeous.  The art design is outstanding.  The special effects and sound design still hold up.  The performances are all great.  The music both score and songs are fabulous. The performances are wonderful with Judy Garland perfection.  It brings on every emotion from fear, to longing, to friendship, to glee.  It is tender and sweet while also being dark and disturbing.  It keeps up the theme of Over the Rainbow that life is both hopeful and hopeless but it is always a journey home.  There will be evil, charlatans, fools and friends along the way but the goal is always to defeat Satan and return to Our Heavenly Father, to return home.

We’re Off to See the Wizard!   It certainly is one of my all time favorites.

Overall Grade- A+

ps.  The sequels and prequels have been an absolute embarrassment.  Stop people!

6 thoughts on “Masterpiece: Wizard of Oz

    1. Fun! My high school did The Wiz and I was in the chorus too. So much fun!

      It’s one of the rare instances where the movie came before the broadway play like Beauty and the Beast and Mary Poppins.

      Like

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