Monday, June 23, 2014

The Wizard of Oz, 1939
How does one even begin to write a review of a movie, that is considered one of the most popular movies ever made and most will say, the most watched movie of all time? The movie Wizard of Oz is based on the book by L. Frank Baum. He went on to write 15 books on the Wizard from 1900 - 1920. Additional 'Official' books continued by author Ruth Plumly Thompson who went on to write 20 more books published between 1921 and 1976? One of the top movies of all time starred the legendary Judy Garland and was so popular that multitudes of movies, documentaries, and even other books have been written. What an honor to review a movie that brings back some of my earliest memories regarding the movies. One I have seen many times, own various renditions, edits, and remastered versions. I also own all of the official books written by Baum and Thompson, although I haven't read all of them. 

The Wizard of Oz is noted for many things, most see it as a children's story and while it is that, it is much more. When the movie was made by MGM it was the most expensive movie ever made. It made minimal profits during its original release, some will say even lost money, but, we all know now the power of legs and the importance of television. When the film was shown some years later, in the 1950's on television, the film took off and viewers everywhere took notice. The movie received critical praise, although some critics didn't like it. During the theatrical release in 1939, it was nominated for numerous Academy Awards in a year considered by many until this day as the best year ever for movies. It lost The Best Picture Oscar to eventual winner, Gone With The Wind. The Wizard of Oz won other awards including Best Song, Somewhere Over The Rainbow which is considered by many as the best song in the history of film.

www.mosaicwichita.comOne little known fact is the 1939 version of The Wizard of Oz was not the first movie release of the story. Others based on L. Frank Baum's work was released in 1910, 1925, and 1933. Baum even commissioned a theatrical musical of the story released in 1902. The movie for me has lasting memories for other reasons though. I live in Kansas, the lasting references to the Land of Oz and not being in Kansas anymore is something I endure if not on a regular basis to this day. Kansans because of the love of Dorothy for her home has most Kansans sympathetic to the movie.  

While there are many things to notice in this classic fantasy, from the incredible, lasting special effects, the use of color, the terrific direction, cast and music one can't get away from magical moments that exist from the opening scenes in black and white to the color transitions to the closing scenes. There is everything in between from a horrific witch to singing Munchkins and flying monkeys. Along the way are friendships that give example to the things each of us have the potential to possess. A brain that gives the ability to think, courage that allows one to stand on their convictions and a heart that allows one to love and care for others. Dorothy is if you will a sort of savior who has come from another land to rekindle hope in this place called OZ. She does so by helping instill dreams for a Cowardly Lion who needs a courage, a rusty old Tin Man who needs a Heart, and of course a Scarecrow who needs a brain. Each of these characters, in some ways represent all of us. They take on attributes that ultimately defeat evil and provides Oz the salvation it needs. After accomplishing her purpose, just like the Savior Jesus,  Dorothy goes home to the place she loves, Kansas.  She departs much like Jesus, into the Heaven's with those she has saved looking on and declaring her glories.

www.thekeystonekid.orgDorothy represents the need to sometimes help and inspire others. We can see ourselves in this beautiful story. Psychology Today did a piece on the story in the June issue of 2010 that stated the movie is the most popular movie of all time, (viewed by more people of any movie in history) because in part, " embodies some of our most enduring values. At the same time, it also raises some provocative ideas." Within those ideas are reflections that each human can relate to, a place to call home, we are powerless and in need of a redeemer or savior if you will and the realization that our strengths and weaknesses come from within ourselves. (June Issue 2010, Psychology Today, The Narcissus In All Of Us, Why 'The Wizard of Oz' is the most popular film of all time)  Of course as a person of faith, I believe the ultimate answers to our problems come from God. Just as Dorothy illustrated the need of Oz to have a savior, Jesus is the embodiment of the savior we need. It is clear that some of Baum's early Methodist and Episcopal roots are evident in his stories, although he converted to a free thinker train of thought through  theosophy, at many points even confronting Christian theological aspects, that said, it is hard to escape the need of a savior as presented in The Wizard of Oz. Whatever the perspective, there is no doubt of the influence of faith on the writings of Baum, whether they be to promote or tear down religion.

www.thevirtualpew.comAs movies go, The Wizard of Oz about covers everything, excitement, story, great acting, music the whole bit. I also find it beautiful as it also opens up themes you can talk about with children and grandchildren. The themes are universal and can give examples on how God gives gifts, abilities and the special things that allow each of us to contribute to the world around us. These lessons aren't just for children though which is why I suspect so many still find the movie so touching, even after watching it year after year on television as it still makes its annual broadcast. We need those innocent reminders of home, value, conflict, purpose and more. 

While our Summer Blockbuster features focus on Summer Blockbusters, truth is, initially, The Wizard of Oz just doesn't fit into that category. What it does fit into though is a movie with legs, a movie that inspires, one that went on to become the most watched movie in the history of Cinema. It is a lesson for each of us, it isn't always how we start that matters, it is how we finish. Run the race well, and be prepared to win, for no matter how we do in this life, for the follower of Jesus, in the end we gain everything, including eternity with a Savior in a heavenly place that is better than Oz, a place called Heaven that will be appear as; the Land of Ahs!  While that may not have been the intent of L. Frank Baun and his  theosophy beliefs, it is what I as a follower of Jesus can take out of it and on that matter, I can find cause and reason to celebrate a classic, called The Wizard of Oz.

For a rare treat, click on the following video to watch the first full length OZ film, The Patchwork Girl of Oz from 1914 in its entirety.  If the video doesn't work, click on the link below.

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