Wizard of Oz (1939) *Top Picks *
Genre: Fantasy Adventure Family Musical
Starring: Judy Garland (Babes in Arms; A Star Is Born), Frank Morgan, Margaret Hamilton
Directed By: Victor Flemming (Gone With The Wind; Captains Courageous)
Overview: A young girl trapped in a tornado wakes up in Oz, a fantastical land of wonder, where she finds that getting home is going to take some real effort, given that the Wicked Witch of The West is out to get her.
Acting: Judy Garland was just beginning to establish herself as a shining star when she made this timeless classic, but this is the one that has immortalized her, not because her singing and almost Vaudevillian style of acting is astounding (which it is) but because her supporting cast and direction held her up so well.
Cinematography: First of all, any film that goes from black and white to vivid Technicolor™ helps to ensure its cinematographic genius. Add to this the fact that colour film was a genuine rarity and those impeccably perfect costumes (the lion's suit weighed 80 lbs.) and you still have to credit the sets and rich backgrounds. Truly a visual spectacle, not only of its time, but still today.
Script: "Ill get you, my pretty... and your little dog, too!"
Not only are the songs original, (two Oscars in fact) but the dialogue, especially of the Wizard himself, has a real effort behind it. The quips are humorous, the dialogue is eloquent . The simplicity of innocence of Dorothy, the wickedness of The Witch, and the rich personalities of the other characters are truly a pleasure to experience.
Plot: On top of everything else, there's even subtext. Baum wrote this primarily as a children's fantasy story, yes, but there was just a hint of "a gentle and friendly Midwestern critique of the Populist rationale". As adventure stories go, it's rich yet simple: meet some friends, get a quest, fulfill said quest to reap reward. All that classic 'character arc' stuff aside, this is just a great story.
Mood: This film appeals to so many for several reasons. The fact that this is televised every year much the same way as It's a Wonderful Life and A Christmas Carol is will spark the nostalgia for most viewers. There is just enough singing to appeal to the kids, while still being mostly regular dialogue. As for the adventure and imagination of this production, it's just plain magical.
Overall Rating: 90% (The Wonderful Wizard of Oz!)
Aftertaste: I will certainly agree that this film is a childhood right of passage. Anyone who hasn't seen this yet can be easily spotted: the hunched shoulders, the dark circles around the eyes, a pale complexion and the constant guttural growl indicative of a vacant soul. You know them, the lifeless leeches who suck on the joy of other by sharing misery, society's vampires. They are still salvageable, however, just give them a chance. After watching, if you see the eyes lighten and the fangs stop dripping, you may just have saved yourself the trouble of beheading your friend and stuffing garlic down their neck.