Sunday, March 17, 2013

"Oz: The Great and Powerful": is wizardry a prerequisite for greatness? Stay in the Emerald Hilton

From a filmmaking perspective, the most interesting part of the new remake fantasy “Oz: The Great and Powerful”, by Sam Raimi, in 3-D, from Disney, is the 40s-style opening in black and white, with a 4:3 old aspect ratio screen.  Carnival musician Oz (James Franco), with sidekick Finley (Zach Braff, who can do everything) entertains the masses on the Kansas plains.  He echoes “The Prestige” and “The Illusionist”.  He stirs controversy when he declines to cure a crippled girl with his magic sleight. In the scramble that follows, he gets picked up by a tornado (well done and transported to another planet, Oz. 
The screen shifts to color, and widens gradually to full Cinemascope, and it’s important to see this film in a theater that uses the entire screen surface for wide screen (otherwise the opening has to be cropped even more).  I saw it at the AMC Courthouse, remodeled with the reclining seats.

Oz has a geography, starting with the Emerald City, which looks like a green Dubai (or maybe a Hong Kong or even KCMO).  I wondered what a hotel room in one of the towers would be like?  Would there be Internet and Facebook?

Oz goes adventuring, and engages his characters: a monkey who looks like a small human with hairy arms and legs;  a doll with amputated lets who talks and moves around when Oz kindly glues her back together.  The ride inside soap bubbles, and eventually enlist an Army of farmers to fight the wicked witch. (It’s amazing what the farmers think their own skills contribute, toward solidarity.)  Michelle Williams is reasonably compelling as a girl friend in Oz.
The color (Deluxe) shows about the best use of hue that I have ever seen in film.

The official site is here.
“I don’t want to be a good man. I want to be a great man.”  To me, Braff would have filled that bill better than Franco.  Do you need to become a wizard to be a great man? A boyfriend asked that back in the 1970s.
I’ve seen most of the 1939 “The Wizard of Oz” with Judy Garland, by Victor Flemming and Noel Langley, on reruns.  The film is notable for its early Technicolor, with its sepia black and white in the opening and close (the new film omits BW at the end.  The films are based on the 1901 children’s novel “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz” by L. Frank Baum. 

Remember Oprah's Dr. Mehmet Oz, who talks about the importance of social connectivity for his heart patients.  You need to love somebody who loves you back.     

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