There's no place like home
The film isThe Wizard of Oz is a 1939 adaptation of L. Frank Baum's 1900 children's novel, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. The film was primarily directed by Victor Fleming, but also received directing work from King Vidor, George Cukor, and Norman Taurog. It stars Judy Garland, Ray Bolger, Jack Haley, Bert Lahr, Frank Morgan, Billie Burke, and Margaret Hamilton. The film won two Academy Awards for Best Original Song and Best Original Score, but lost Best Picture to Gone with the Wind, which Victor Fleming went to take over directing when he left production.
A review of The Wizard of Oz almost 80 years after its initial release is probably one of the most useless things to be had. Me telling you just how wonderful the film is (and it is incredibly wonderful, not having dated in the slightest) would be about as useful as telling you that eating food is necessary to live or that doing drugs is bad for your health and mental well-being. The film has become such a staple of one's childhood that I make the assumption that every single person I meet has seen the film at least once, and if by some stunning miracle that a person hasn't seen it at all, then I would heavily insist that this be the next film that the person watches and that they watch the film as soon as possible.
Watching The Wizard of Oz as a child was certainly a treasured experience that everyone ought to remember, but watching the film as an adult is something of a entirely different matter, because as an adult, you have greater appreciation for The Wizard of Oz as a movie: how intensively the people involved had to work in order to make the film a success, what exactly makes the film such a timeless gem, and just how impressive the film's technical and visual innovations are, knowing that not one single computer was involved in the making of the film.
This is the first time that I feel no need to give a plot/story summary, because I'm sure for all of you reading this, you've seen the film and know the story, and you don't need me to repeat it. Instead, I want to bring up something that I've discussed in just a small handful of reviews I've done before: the criteria of a great film, and what it takes for a movie to be considered important. Cutting right to the chase, The Wizard of Oz is both a great film and an important one. Not many other films to ever be released can we say went on to become such massively iconic parts of popular American culture, as well as develop a legacy as a film that everyone and his brother knows and loves. The likes of Gone with the Wind and Casablanca are also great, important films that I encourage everyone to see at least once in their lifetime, but what The Wizard of Oz has that those films don't is the power of being a part of one's childhood, because The Wizard of Oz is very much a children's film- one that just about every child should come across while they're little and naive - and it is a children's film crafted with such human ingenuity and care that it remains just as equally appealing to adults.
- It should come as no surprise that The Wizard of Oz was nominated for Best Picture, despite losing to Gone with the Wind. Acting, direction, music, production design, and so on and so forth; all of it is fantastic, masterful examples of film-making done at its absolute best. The one I want to discuss though, is the film's use of color. Three-strip Technicolor wasn't exactly brand spanking new in 1939, but the way that The Wizard of Oz utilized Technicolor, it might as well have been re-invented. The film being a colorful, fantasy adventure masterpiece isn't telling the whole story. The use of color is an essential part of how the film tells its story, which includes specific color designs for the main characters. And before we march too far on ahead, I do want to acknowledge, the shot of Dorothy opening the door from her sepia tone house into the color explosion that is the land of Oz is still just as amazing today as it was back then.
Let's start with Dorothy:
White blouse. A blue and white dress. Red hair and red ruby slippers.
Dorothy Gale is our America, all right.
Then we have The Wicked Witch of the West
All black outfit, though she has green-colored skin
Black, representing a lack of color, and the one that tries to wash out all of the other colors. The Wicked Witch of the West is the evil presence that attempts to take over everything around her. She, of course, will stand out wherever she goes, because of how the color black stands out. Black is normally associated with what's bad and cruel in a film. Why else do you think several Disney villains, as well as the likes of Darth Vader, are dressed in this color?
Now, what about the green? Certainly, we cannot associate green the way we associate black. Green represents nature, growth, and fertility. It corresponds with safety, because one feels relaxed and at peace with green. Green also has great healing powers. Dorothy and company are trying to get to Emerald City, an explosion of green. Emerald City is the place of safety and healing. It's where Dorothy must go to find her way back to Kansas.
As for The Wicked Witch, she represents about the exact opposite of what Emerald City does. So how do you possibly explain the green for her? Well, green is a primary color of light, and the Witch is constantly in pursuit of Dorothy's red, ruby slippers. Hey! Red is also a primary color of light! Plus, the Witch uses red smoke to appear and disappear. In this case, the green helps the Witch stand out as one of the movie's primary figures, and she's in constant conflict with red and blue, colors mostly associated with Dorothy. It's a battle of primary colors. Quite subtle. Perhaps a little unintentional, but incredibly effective nonetheless. Whether you happened to realize it or not, The Wizard of Oz is dependent on the meanings of the colors it uses, and not just using color for the sake of a gimmick.
- The Wizard of Oz has a lot of goofs and technical blunders, some of which don't require too sharp of an eye to notice. I could dedicate an entire post talking about how many there are. However, if there is any film that I can forgive for sometimes looking like a movie set, this is the one. This movie was anything but a walk in the park for everyone involved in the production, and they cared. They really cared.
We'd be here all day if I kept going on and on about how and why The Wizard of Oz works so well, and how it fits into the criteria of a great, important film. Besides, analysis and praise has been done over so many times by so many others, that it's just a matter of which parts of the film stand out the most to you. For me, re-watching the movie for the first time in a while, it's the film's terrific use of color, not just for the sake of visuals, but for the sake of great storytelling.
At this point, what else needs to be said? The Wizard of Oz remains to this day one of cinema's greatest treasures, a film that works on every level imaginable, and one of those incredibly rare children's films that is just as pleasing to children as it is to adults. No one's love of movies nor knowledge of cinematic history is complete without The Wizard of Oz, a film that you can watch time and time again and never stop being enchanted with. It's as magical and uplifting today here in 2018 as it was back in 1939, and believe me when I tell you, timeless-ness, in this age or any other, is one of cinema's greatest honors.
Recommend? If by some miracle you haven't seen this film, stop whatever you're doing and go watch it
Here you'll find my reviews on just about any film you may have seen. I try to avoid major spoilers as much as possible. I structure my reviews in the following way: