Saturday, November 05, 2011

Singing the praises of the Wizard of Oz?

I am blogging a lot today, catching up, writing on my November novel project.  It's beautiful outside, though, so I'll be taking the pit bull for her training.

Reading Jonathan Safran Foer's book about 9/11, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close.  It's fascinating.  He has some absolutely touching and beautiful passages in it, although the postmodern style took me aback at first.  I am only reading it for a literary club at the college, but it's a good choice.

Also reading about ten other books.  After I get to a certain point in each one I focus on it alone. 

However, last night the Wizard of Oz was on.  Is any film more core to American culture than that one? Has any other movie been paid so many homages to by being copied?  I believe they even copied some of it in the Lord of the Rings movies; I am tempted to wonder if J.R.R. Tolkien saw it while he was writing LOTR.  (it is about a wizard, after all, and humble, flawed people on a mission against a sorcerer, and they will free the world, not just themselves, from the sorcerer, when the quest is over!  And the sorcerer has an army of really scary creatures.  Those flying monkeys terrified me as a child, and I am not the only one who felt that way.)
The film, loosely based on Frank Baum's crazy novels, is so iconic that it seems like Joseph Campbell used it for his theories.  It's the ultimate quest story where the hero(ine) ends up in her own backyard, as in the famous quote by Eliot.  And yet the quest is an illusion, a dream--sounds almost like an Eastern religion! 

Yet the movie is so funny, thanks to the actors.  Bert Lahr is a hoot.  I never fail to laugh when the Wizard gives the Scarecrow (my favorite) a diploma because he can't give him a brain.  What a lampooning of higher education.  We don't really know if people are smart, only that they took credits and have a piece of paper (although some of those pieces of paper involve an awful lot of effort).  In this day of University of Phoenixes, not much has changed.

Which is my point about the Wizard of Oz.  It never gets old.  It's as if the movie were made ten years ago rather than 72!  The lyrics are delightful, the music just enough (musicals can be so annoying).  Perhaps Baum did write it as a critique of turn-of-the-century politics, but the film ignores that to deal with deeper issues and yet not let you think it is. 

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