Sunday, October 30, 2005

Halloween Countdown...03

The Top Ten Movies That Make Me Think of Halloween continued...
03. The Wizard of Oz (1939)
Perhaps this 1939 musical classic should be exempt from any list. Because, well, it's got several unfair advantages. You don't even have to have seen it to feel as if you're intimately familiar (but it's such a grand film that one certainly should actually see it. And without commercial interupption). This movie is so deeply enmeshed into the collective subconcious that one can, if inclined, connect it to all else. The more fascinating list to make would probably be along the lines of "Top Ten Things ThatDon't Make Me Think of The Wizard of Oz". It makes me think of everything -childhood, television, Thanksgiving, Christmas, other Friends of Dorothy, old Hollywood, showtunes, midgets, shoes, Broadway, lions & tigers & bears, fantasy vs. reality debates, beauty fascism, hot air balloons... I could go on all day. I'll spare you.

So, why does it make me think of Halloween in particular? The ubiquity of its iconic costumes for starters. You will always see riffs on every one of its main characters this time of year. Silly spins (hirsute drag queens in Dorothy wigs), innocent enthusiasms (a great family group costume), and every other imaginable interpretation. The second and better reason is the beautiful wickedness of The Wicked Witch of the West. Audience affection for this villain is obvious, but only on Halloween, the night when evil is good, does it seem appropriate to wish that Dorothy had never tossed that bucket of water her way.
"What a world. What a world."


Javier Aldabalde said...

given that i'm the only person in the world who isn't overly fond of "The Wizard of Oz" (well, me and Stanley Kubrick) i really couldn't comment on this without being stoned to death in the process.

freedom of speech only goes so far, because when you bash "oz" or "casablanca" as i do, they tend to think you're an idiot. but i'm still trying to figure out the "greatness" in any of these movies. they're either overly theatrical, or literary, or both, they just don't feel like CINEMA and this is my general quibble when it comes to 30s-40s movies. modern movies are so more exciting in this aspect nowadays.

because i'm one of the few people in this world who believe cinema to be about intuition, not stories. and these oldies just aren't that good in the "cinematic" aspects of thing.

but there will always be "Potemkin" (which I LOVE and have seen numerous times), Citizen Kane (terrific), Bicycle Thief, L'Atalante, Joan of Arc, Day of Wrath, Nosferatu, and all those other early pictures that remind us that, yes, there were visionaries from the very beginning, people who seemed exhilarated with the notion that they had found a new art form, boundless and completely separated from theatre or literature.

but i'm talking nonsense now... isn't this about Halloween anyway??? Happy Halloween btw!

NicksFlickPicks said...

In a fair universe, Margaret Hamilton should have bumped someone from the Oscar lineup that year. She's much more interesting than Olivia de Havilland in GWTW, and both of them are better than Geraldine Fitzgerald in Wuthering Heights.

Joe R. said...

I don't think not liking The Wizard of Oz necessarily makes you an "idiot." I think, when taken at face value, you could certainly find fault with one or more aspects of the movie. Thing is, I, and so many more people, are simply incapable of taking the movie at face value. This is a movie that is so much a part of culture, of childhood, of so many places in the human psyche. "Face value" isn't even visible in the rear-view mirror.

adam k. said...

Yes, Wizard of Oz is great. Though I have sometimes watched it and thought "what is the big deal anyway?" but then Judy sings "Over The Rainbow", the world turns to color, and I am won over again.
I am wondering what exactly Javier means when he says cinema is about "intuition"... that's very interesting, but what do you mean by that? And how does it relate to Wizard of Oz and its particular cinematic form or whatever? I thought it had some brilliant "uniquely filmic" touches... the B&W to color moment comes to mind, as does the whole tornado sequence.

And Nathaniel, you are going right now to rent The Exorcist, right? Sorry to be a pain, but I will not let up on this until you say you'll do it. You can handle it, Nat, be a man. ;)

Anonymous said...

Yeah, the scariest bit in The Exorcist is when she crawls down the stairs backwards. And that's only in the Director's Cut.

I'm not that big of a fan of two of the biggest scary movies of all time: The Exorcist and Jaws. I mean, I like them good enough but when I saw them in the last few years (which is when I saw most of the pre90s movies I have seen - i was born in 1985 ya know) I was like "Oh. Okay. That was pretty good." but never overly impressed.

Wizard Of Oz is a classic though. It feels, unlike to Javier, like CINEMA. Crazy far-away stories with odd characters and out of the this world (quite literally) places. I love it.


Anonymous said...


you can add Salman Rushdie to your list. In his novel(?)short-story(?)autobiography(?) called "The Wizard of Oz", he talks about his love for the film but is quite critical about the ending. It is a good reading.
Talking about endings, Mr. Rogers mentioned in his discussion with Mr. Reid that the ending of a film (or the conclusion) has an important effect on his overall view of the film itself. It also works for me like this.

Marcelo - Brazil.

Javier Aldabalde said...

i'm probably being too hard with this movie, i know. i did enjoy it thoroughly and thought judy garland was great, but one of the best films of all-time?? That is way too much for me, it seems.

when i say that for me, cinema is about intuition, i mean that the "writing" in movies is not at all about the script but the way the images emote.

a perfect example of this is "mulholland drive"... you *feel* all the emotions lynch wants you to feel even if you don't know what the hell the movie is about. it all makes sense on an intuitive, subconscious level. because for me, film is about this - the connection between what we perceive as being real, and what lies behind that facade. that's the most exciting thing for me, i believe.

for my definition of cinema, just watch Ingmar Bergman's "Persona". My pick for most entertaining picture ever made.

Javier Aldabalde said...

i wanted to say "most cinematic", but whatever it's still the same thing :)