Have you guys seen this? THE WIZARD OF OZ? I think it’s pretty well known. Last month they had a one-week re-release in 3D Fake Imax, so I took the opportunity to see it then and I thought I should write a little about it. If you have the 3D getup at home the converted version is now on blu-ray if you’re interested.
Loosely based on the stories of L. Frank Baum, Judy Garland (THOROUGHBREDS DON’T CRY) plays Dorothy Gale, an inquisitive, somewhat agitated girl who lives on a farm with her Aunt nah just kidding I’m not gonna explain the plot to you. Look it up on IMDb you lazy assholes.
Yeah, this movie is almost 75 god damn years old and still loved by each new generation that womankind squirts out, so I’d say it’s a pretty monumental piece of cinematic history. But to be honest it could end up that 200 years from now nobody gives a shit about OZ anymore but BLADE II is still beloved so BLADE II would be considered alot more important in the long game. But regardless of that I think there is room in history for both movies.
You know what, I’m gonna give you a rare glimpse into the ol’ childhood. Consider this Outlaw Origins: Vern. Like anybody this movie was something I saw alot growing up because it would play on TV every year. And looking back on it it was very important to my criticalistic development, or at least my understanding of movies. See, I have this memory of watching it when I was real little. It was at the part where they’re going through the woods saying “Lions and tigers and bears, oh my!” And li’l Vern was scared shitless. I don’t know what I thought was gonna happen, was an actual tiger gonna come out and tear Dorothy’s throat out? I don’ t know but I was pretty concerned.
Then all the sudden I had this realization. You know when you’re in a dream and you’re worried about something but then you notice some logical impossibility, like “wait a minute, I’m on vacation in California right now, how the fuck did I take the bus to work?” and then you figure out you’re in a dream? I had kinda the movie-watching equivalent of that where I remembered wait a minute, I’ve seen this movie a bunch of times already, and at no point has a bear jumped out and disemboweled the lion. I know they’re gonna be just fine, so what am I scared of? I really think it was the first time I stepped back and thought about how movies work. Or looked behind the curtain, you might say, but I wouldn’t.
Another thing I remember, I wanted to go back to watching THE WIZARD OF OZ on TV, but my old man said I had to finish my dinner first. I couldn’t do it because I thought the casserole or whatever was nasty, so when he wasn’t looking I scraped it off onto the table and put the plate on top of it. Problem solved! I went back to watching the movie but it turned out that he was later gonna move the plates and find out what I did, so there was hell to pay. Shoulda thought ahead a little more. This is not important to my development as a movie watcher, it’s just indicative of the poor decisions that have led me to where I am in life.
Anyway, I think we all know this movie holds up, I don’t gotta try to convince anybody it’s good. If somebody genuinely doesn’t get why THE WIZARD OF OZ is good then they’re just one of those weirdos that doesn’t like pizza or something. There’s not much point in trying to clue them in.
I saw this movie on the big screen once before, back when they still used film prints, and it looked great. One thing I remember from seeing it that time was spotting what urban legend claimed was the body of an actor who played a munchkin who had hung himself on set and had not been discovered, but which in fact was very clearly a bird walking through the fake trees. I figured if people had seen it on the big screen instead of TV broadcasts and VHS there never could’ve been that misunderstanding.
I forget which scene that’s in and this time I didn’t spot it. I wonder how 3D conversion artists handle stuff like that. It was technically a mistake that the bird is in the shot, but I doubt they would erase it. I hope there is a code of ethics for 3D conversionists.
The 3D is pretty cool. Of course a conversion, as opposed to a movie actually shot with cameras at two different angles, is never gonna look that great. But as far as these things go it’s pretty cool, and it fits the movie. It’s funny that in part of the “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” scene there’s one piece of hay sticking out into the frame so they get to put it in front of Dorothy.
Definitely the best part of it is the backgrounds. There are so many painted backgrounds in this movie, and they’re not necessarily trying to look photorealistic, or at least they don’t look that way when vividly remastered and shown on a giant Imax screen. So what’s cool is that even though they’re clearly paintings they 3Dified them to give them depth. So if there’s a painting of mountains, even though we know it’s actually flat, they render each mountain at a different depth. I like it.
More important than the retrofitted 3D is just seeing it big and clear on a giant screen. The digital Imax (as a one week release this was only digital and not real Imax) is not my favorite. They use two separate projectors, which is great for the 3D illusion, but they’re not up to the standard resolution of digital projection. You don’t always notice it but it sucks to see pixels on the credits of a 75 year old movie. There were no pixels involved in making those credits! It’s kinda wrong.
Still, it’s probly the clearest I’ve ever seen the movie (can’t remember for sure how the print compared, that was a long time ago) and I like how you can see through the illusion more. I noticed alot of makeup and bald cap lines and cheapness in the sets, and maybe that could be a bad thing but I think it’s kinda cool because you’re very conscious of all the artists and craftspeople who had to build this shit. Watching the Munchkinland scene I kinda felt like I was at Disneyland, looking around at all the buildings and costumes and appreciating the attention to detail.
So even though I’ve seen it a million times, it was kind of like watching it with a new set of eyeballs, and it made me think about some aspects of the world of Oz I hadn’t really considered before. So let’s discuss those.
I know there’s that musical called “Wicked” that I believe is supposed to be this story from the point of view of the witch. Maybe they deal with this question I kept wondering: How bad could this Witch of the East really have been? The citizens of Munchkinland all celebrate her death like she was Saddam, but don’t most tyrants tend to live it up themselves and starve most of their people? We don’t see a bunch of Munchkins in rags throwing burning garbage cans at flying monkeys. Look at these little guys with their fancy outfits, houses, carriages.
True, this appears to be a Necromonger style government where they want Dorothy to rule them because she slew their previous master. But they’re not barbarians. They have a mayor who seems to have legitimate power, not just a figurehead. The coroner, I mean who knows, but he doesn’t seem to have a haunted look in his eye like he’s seen fucked up shit you wouldn’t believe. They have an elite guard who are happy to still do their precision marching, apparently not disbanded during sudden regime change. They have the Lullaby League and the Lollipop Guild, so obviously this witch allowed organized labor to flourish. You don’t get that in many fascist states. The Lollipop Guild have stylized jagged cuts that seem to represent torn clothes, the only arguably impoverished Munchkins we see, so they might not be getting paid a living wage. But obviously we know they have food.
It is very possible that all of these titles are just some bullshit that the Wizard made up a long time ago and not actual offices. But it’s hard to argue with their material wealth. We see it on them.
On the other hand, look at the Wicked Witch of the West. She’s not exactly gonna get on MTV’s Cribs. She doesn’t have an Ice-T style shark tank. Yes, she lives in a castle, but it’s not some Saddam or Scarface type shit. It’s all rough stone, not marble. Very little decoration. Probly cold. Almost for sure smells like monkey shit. Nobody in their right mind would prefer to live in that place to Munchkinland, if they could fit. If her sister in the East had a similar lifestyle then how tyrannical could she have been? Her people were living better than her.
What I’m getting at is maybe these Munchkins are a bunch of tea partiers, this witch actually did well for them but they can’t appreciate it, they hate her because she’s different from them. They’re okay with tall ladies like Glinda and Dorothy, but Glinda’s telling them this stereotype that ugly women are “bad witches.” Maybe that’s what it was about. Overall Oz is an accepting land for people of many sizes, talking animals and animate-inanimate objects. But maybe Munchkinland is the deep south of Oz. I see exactly one brother in this whole place and he’s the security guard.
But what do I know, I’m not on the inside, and they could very well know things that we’re not seeing in the movie. Maybe that witch was executing her enemies left and right, maybe there are political prisoners rotting away somewhere. Maybe they’re in the sewers we saw one Munchkin crawl out of. I don’t claim to be an expert on the political situation there, so don’t get offended. I’m just making some observations.
Before we move on from witches, why do they melt in water? I mean that’s a dumb question, but I wonder if the answer is that they’re made of sugar. If so it would be cool to just eat ’em. Like one of those cake decorations that are carved out of sugar. You’re not supposed to eat ’em, but when in Oz, you know?
More government questions. If the Wizard is the ruler of the whole place doesn’t he have some responsibility for what goes on with the witches, who only rule by region? Is this like one of those countries where there’s a government but they can’t really control the warlords in certain regions? You’d think it would be more of an obvious hellhole if that was the case, but maybe not. I can buy it.
But I don’t know how much we as Americans should be supporting this Wizard’s regime. He decides to leave and just transfer his power to the Scarecrow! We like the Scarecrow, but what kind of democracy is that? I guess we shouldn’t be surprised. The Wizard’s power is completely based on hype and bullshit, like THE MATRIX. We know this, but then we forgive him because of a couple medals that we know don’t mean shit. A total used car salesman.
We should not be in bed with this guy, it’s gonna blow back on us. And don’t tell me we’re safe just because they’re in a dream and we’re in the waking world. There are many connections between our lands. Dorothy travels there by dream, the Wizard by air. They’re treated as foreign visitors, but not as aliens. There has been plenty of communication between the realms, otherwise how do you explain the references to Lincoln and Shakespeare? They know our history and our writers. They know more about us than we do about them.
But maybe that’s a good thing that our people haven’t explored Oz that much. We can’t be trusted anymore than they can. Thank God the Crusades didn’t make it over there, or the Witch Trials. Poor Glinda coulda been burnt at the stake, then instead of seeing her flying around in a bubble we’d see horror movies about why she deserved it.
On a completely different topic: do you guys remember that the Scarecrow is a gun owner? Somehow I didn’t remember this, and an informal poll shows that nobody I know remembers it either. But I swear to you that when they’re in the Haunted Woods all the sudden the Scarecrow is waving a piece around. Here, watch his right hand:
See, you don’t even have to have a brain to pass the background check. Luckily he never uses it. But maybe he should’ve tried shooting that witch or some of those monkeys, now that I think about it.
Back in the real world, where everyone is awake and in sepia tones, did they ever solve the issue with that neighbor lady who looks like the Wicked Witch of the West who says she’s going to execute Toto for trespassing in her garden? I don’t think they do. That lady was so bad that Aunt Em said that “being a Christian woman” she couldn’t say what she’d wanted to say to her for 23 years. How many people do you know that Aunt Em wants to call the c-word?
I don’t think Dorothy saves the dog, but she does learn her lesson that “there’s no place like home,” so I guess she should stay home on the farm at all times instead of wanting to go out and do different things or go to different places. It’s supposed to be a nice warm message, but it’s kinda sad. I got two pieces of advice for Dorothy:
1. You can always write letters to home. Go travel for a while, live in a city somewhere, have a good time, find yourself. You don’t gotta be a chicken farmer just ’cause your aunt was, you gotta do what fulfills you. And you seem like somebody that likes to meet different people. If you stay here you’ll never experience diversity like you saw in Oz. You’ll probly never meet any gay people. Trust me, gay people would love you! You gotta get out there.
2. You know, people are very rarely interested in hearing about other people’s dreams. Cool it with the “and you were there, and you were there” business.
Anyway, pretty good movie in my opinion.
VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.