Saturday, March 23, 2013

The Con Man of Oz

Maybe it's a character flaw, but I was never all the crazy about the original Wizard of Oz movie.  Could be that Judy Garland is just too intense for me?  They should have cast Shirley Temple.  Or the girl from The Philadelphia Story.  Or just not made it at all and let Hayao Miyazaki do it.  Of course I saw it when I was a kid, fifty-odd years ago, but I still am unmoved by it.  Now, I did like Return to Oz, which I remember as having a clearer, more interesting plot, and a much cuter Dorothy, who actually seemed the right age.  Anyhow, many years back I got hold of most of the Oz books, and, well, they were okay but I wasn't all that impressed. I have a theory that Baum's stuff was the best of the children's book genre that had been produced in America so far, so he was overrated.

But, be that as it may, they've gone and done another Oz movie.  Fortunately, I don't have to go see it, because Kelly Morrison already has.  It may save you the trouble to.  Lots of spoilers below. She writes:

Oz the Great & Powerful

Oz the Great and Powerful, the new prequel to the children’s classic, The Wizard of Oz, is a tempting spectacle for families with children, but the plot is thick with sexual tension, and the mature dialogue will be totally inaccessible to little ones. White families should steer clear of this movie, however, not because of the steamy thematic elements, but rather the anti-white and anti-Western propaganda that it contains.

The star of the show is Oscar, a magician for a traveling circus. Both a womanizer and a cheat, he is driven by Mammon and Pleasure. During the opening scenes, which are filmed in black and white, Oscar complains about the unsatisfactory proceeds from his last show and attempts to seduce a “simple country girl” he has recruited to assist with his levitation trick. Oscar gives her a music box that he claims belonged to his late grandmother. She is moved, but Oscar’s technical assistant Frank interrupts the moment at show time.

After the show, an innocent little girl in a wheelchair, convinced by his performance, shouts “Make me walk!” Soon the whole crowd joins in her request. When Oscar cannot rise to the occasion, the spectators realize they have been fooled and attack the magician. Oscar retreats to his trailer, where he receives a visitor from Kansas. Annie reveals that a young man named John Gale has proposed to her, saying “I thought you should know.” Momentarily tempted, the magician congratulates Annie on the proposal from a “good man.” Annie replies that Oscar too could be a good man if he wanted, but Oscar wants to be great man not a good man. He does not wish to be a slave to the soil until it consumes him in death like his own father. The tete à tete is interrupted when Oscar boards his hot-air balloon to escape the circus strongman who believes the magician attempted to seduce his wife.

Oscar loses control of the balloon as a tornado carries him away to the Land of Oz. He pleads to God for protection and mercy, and offers his thanks when his balloon escapes the tornado. “You won’t regret this!” he shouts. When Oscar lands in a beautiful marsh, Nature itself celebrates his arrival. The leaves on the trees quicken and flutter about, green shoots whistle a tune, and water lilies blossom and curtsy. Now in color, the film never reverts to black and white as in the original, suggesting the objective reality of Oscar’s experience in Oz.

Shortly after the beautiful witch Theodora appears, river fairies drive the reluctant magician out of the water to meet her and begin his new life. He is already wavering in his obligations under the bargain he struck with God in the balloon. Dressed provocatively in a red jacket and black leather pants, Theodora confirms Oscar’s messianic destiny, revealing a prophecy concerning a great wizard who will descend from the sky to save Oz from the wicked witch who killed her good father and usurped his Throne. She further reveals that the wicked witch has sent her minions to kill him before he can depose her. Cornered, Oscar releases a white dove to distract a flying baboon that nearly captured them.

Oscar wastes no time in taking advantage of the opportunity with Theodora. He gives her a copy of the same music box that he had given to his previous target. Despite her attire, Theodora is totally inexperienced; Oscar must teach her to dance. The next morning the pair sets out for Emerald City where Oscar will meet Evanora, the Theodora’s sister who is serving as Regent in place of the dead King. She walks with Oscar among oversized yellow-orange daisies and speaks of her dream of a future with him as his Queen. Disingenuously, Oscar says, “Like you said, we belong together.” Frank, the magician’s assistant, reappears as Finley the flying monkey trapped in a vine along the way to Emerald City. Oscar uses a crude magic trick to distract a lion who is about to attack him, and Finley swears an oath to the magician and remains his companion throughout the tale, even when the magician reveals to him that he is not the true Wizard. Finley’s own faithfulness both highlights Oscar’s own vacillation and provides the ideal toward which the magician will evolve throughout the film. (Keep reading HERE.)

1 comment:

  1. I remember when Return to Oz came the critics attacked it even though they didn't know what they were talking about.

    Modern movies, can't stand them so I don't watch them.