After admitting my ten deadly cinematic sins (which I’ll be watching during the next ten days) on the Cinema Confessions blogathon, what most surprised some of my followers was that I had never seen The Wizard of Oz. No doubt it was already number 58 on my List of Shame (the order means nothing, really), but then I’ve only seen 39 of the 100 films I promised to watch, so no surprise Oz was on the winning side of that list. Moreover, The Wizard of Oz was never appealing to me – also the case of others, like Lawrence of Arabia (boring desert), Oldboy (asian), The Sound of Music (my grandmother is very fond of it) and every single western on that list (something about the chaps) – the costumes seemed dated, the sets clearly fake, and overall just too silly. And Oz is, indeed, all of that, except it is not dated. And those are not flaws.
It’s perfectly obvious that we’re watching a bunch kids in costumes running around on a set, but that is why I love films like Jurassic Park. Sure, it has some digital help, but nothing like Rise of the Planet of the Apes. Those dinosaurs are fake, there’s no doubt about that, but somehow that makes it even better. With CGI, you know that monster is just a green/blue screen – or worse, some guy with that white stuff all over him – but with animatronics, the actors are really touching it. And so it’s like we can touch it too, it feels so much closer. Or maybe I’m just old fashioned. Either way, in The Wizard of Oz there are no special effects that overrule the actors, and that leaves room for something wonderful, my favorite thing about this film: everyone on that set looked like they were having so. much. fun. And we can’t help but to be happy with them. More than anything else, this film is pure joy.
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Even the evil witch is fun to watch. She’s as loveable, in a way, as the sweet Glinda (Billie Burke). In fact, I’m in awe with Margaret Hamilton. I first saw her in People Will Talk, and somehow that performance stuck with me. So when I saw walk into Dorothy’s house I was completely taken by surprise, and then having her play a witch? Delightful.
There’s also a very basic message of hope and love (yes, this review is about to get cheesy) that I can’t help but feel it’s been lacking from most animated films of the past few years. Dorothy embraces a brainless scarecrow, a heartless tin man, and a cowardly lion without hesitating. They all go on a journey searching for the Great Wizard (damn catchy song), hoping that his magic could help them. But in the end, the Wizard had no supernatural magic, instead he had what we can consider a human kind of magic; just like the scarecrow already had his own kind of brain, the tin man his own kind of heart, the lion his own kind of courage, and Dorothy the key to return home. They all had it in them, they just needed someone to help them see it.