Wizard of Oz

January 28, 2009 at 10:41 am | Posted in J. Frederick, Jonny R Goode | 1 Comment
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The Wizard of Oz, a 1939 film directed by Victor Fleming and released by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, is a taut, gripping drama that depicts, in unflinching terms, the bleak reality of life during the Great Depression.  Shot in rich sepia hues, and similar in tone and theme to Agee and Evans’ Let Us Now Praise Famous Men, the film centers on Dorothy (Judy Garland), the niece of desperately poor sharecroppers living in the stark landscape of the Kansas Dust Bowl.  I’ve only seen the first fifteen minutes, and the final two minutes, but I couldn’t help but be awestruck by the film’s uncompromising look at the breakdown of society when faced with horrific conditions; note how the cruel Miss Elmira Gulch (Margaret Hamilton) torments Dorothy by threatening to take away her dog (no doubt an allegory for banks foreclosing on farms).  This being a family website, I can’t say exactly say what Miss Gulch is, but let’s just say it rhymes with “witch”!  Dorothy herself remains hopeful in the face of such misery, at one point singing the gut-wrenching “Somewhere Over The Rainbow”, a hopeful paean to the kind of whimsical, magical fantasy world that she will never, ever see.  But her flights of fancy are doomed to be short-lived.  The film’s unusual title is a reference to Professor Marvel (Frank Morgan), a scruffy, pathetic huckster driven so mad by the wretched poverty that constantly surrounds him that he starts to fancy himself as having magic powers; had I not been forced to change the channel because the game was starting, I no doubt would have seen Professor Marvel continue to degenerate into further crazed, alcohol-addled lunacy, taking poor Dorothy and her family with him – and indeed, when I flipped back to the movie, there was a bed-ridden Dorothy, babbling like a lunatic to her grief-stricken family and friends, no doubt dying of some condition they can’t afford to cure.  The Wizard of Oz has often been named one of the best films ever made for children and families, and no wonder – it’s best to make your children aware of the harsh realities of life as early as possible.  All in all I’m glad I caught a bit of it.  Oh and the game was awesome, I think LeBron had like 42 points. – J. Frederick & Jonny R Goode

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