Monthly Archives: September 2013

The Wizard of Oz in 3D – A Fresh Look on a Favorite Film

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We spent the big bucks to see The Wizard of Oz:  An IMAX 3D Experience.  Was it worth it?  Yes!  Such a great movie, with so many family memories and cultural reminders tied up into it!

While enjoying the movie, I wondered about some things.

1.  Is anyone in the audience seeing this for the first time?  Does anyone not know this movie?  There were some young families in the audience.  I tried to listen into the pre-movie conversations around us (I know it’s not good to eavesdrop!) but couldn’t tell if the little kids knew about the story.  What would the new viewer think of the movie?  Would the flying monkeys be frightening, or laughable?  Without already loving it and already knowing all the songs, can a person in 2013 enjoy the film?  I think so, as a modern person would enjoy any older movie.

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2.  The entire thing is shot on a sound stage.  That means the MGM studio set designer had to build and the painters had to create a backdrop for a farm in Kansas (complete with a herd of pigs), Munchkin land, all the twists and turns of the Yellow Brick Road, Oz, the witches castle, the field of sleep-inducing poppies, the forest of apple-throwing trees, etc.  I found myself looking for the point where the set ended and the painted wall began, but I do that for modern movies, too.  I try to see what is real, and what is computer generated (computer generated doesn’t excite me as much as real.)

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3.  Judy Garland is simply gorgeous!  Here is a young girl, just 16, carrying an entire film.  She has to sing and act with dogs and an entire cast of unusual characters, yet she keeps us believing in Dorothy.  Watch the scene where she sings “Somewhere Over the Rainbow“.  It’s in black and white, on her Kansas sound stage farm.  She has to make her marks and interact with Toto on a tractor.  She is lip-synching to her own voice, and still makes us believe she is singing this song about yearning for a peaceful place for the very first time.  Once in Oz, and in color, she is polite, and scared, and amazed, and brave.  And beautiful!

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4.  A movie of this cultural importance invites conversation and memories.  Lions and tigers and bears – oh my!”  “I’ll get you my pretty, and your little dog, too!” “There’s no place like home.” How many movies and TV shows have referred to the Wizard of Oz?   The flying monkeys never scared me as a child, but the wizard gave me nightmares!  My daughters were part of the Lollipop League munchkins in a community theater production when they were very young, and they had fun playing with fake Toto after each show.

What are your favorite memories of The Wizard of Oz?

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A Love Letter To Kentucky: Elizabethtown

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Elizabethtown (2005 PG-13) somehow got on my Netflix list.  The blurb kept me from wanting to watch it (“Fired from his job as a shoe designer, Drew tries to kill himself. But he gets a new lease on life when he returns to his hometown for a funeral.”)  I finally did, and found some good in it.

Cameron Crowe (Almost Famous) directs Orlando Bloom (Drew) as the young man who goes to small town Kentucky after his father’s unexpected death, and Kirsten Dunst (Claire) as the flight attendant who passes on her phone number.

If you’ve ever been to a family reunion or holiday get-together, you would recognize the scenes at his uncle’s house.  Lots of food, lots of relatives you’re not sure you remember, lots of kids running around.  Yes, that is Paula Deen as Aunt Dora.

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And you may have experienced a phone conversation in which neither of you wants to hang up, so you simply continue rambling as you wander about your house.  Drew calls Claire because he is lonely and out of his element, and the long scene on the phone is fun to watch.

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When Drew’s mother (Susan Sarandon) and sister (Judy Greer) arrive for the services, we get a taste of the way some families are resentful when one member moves away.

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My favorite part is when Drew takes a road trip with his father’s ashes, using directions Claire gives to him.  She guides him to out of the ordinary sites, the kind you find off the beaten track in every state.  The Round Barn.  The World’s Second Largest Farmer’s Market.  Small towns and family farms, brick buildings and dusty diners.  It is on the road that Drew makes peace with his father, and with his failure at work.  Fun!

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But on the whole, I couldn’t enjoy the movie.  Claire is just too cute, too perfect, too prepared to say the right thing, to give the right gift.  Susan Sarandon, as the outsider, enjoys her manic-style mourning a bit too much.  The misunderstood cousin, the endless bachelor party, is too extreme.

I like the trailer more than the movie.  What do you think?

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Beethoven in the Movies: “The King’s Speech” and “The Fall”

Listen to this performance Beethoven’s Symphony Number 7, 2nd Movement.  It starts low and mysterious.  Slowly, very slowly, builds to a powerful, yet melancholy, finish.  Very dramatic!

No wonder it has been used in many movies!

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The King’s Speech (2010 R).  British Prince Albert (Colin Firth) suffers from stuttering until his wife (Helena Bonham Carter) finds a speech therapist Lionel Logue (Geoffrey Rush) who is able to work with him, even after Prince Albert has all but given up hope.  When he becomes king, he must make his first radio broadcast, announcing Britain’s declaration of war on Germany in 1939.  Logue is there guiding him, and Beethoven emphasizes the enormity of his speech.

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Watch The King’s Speech scene with Beethoven’s 7th Symphony.

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The Fall (2006 R).  In a 1920’s California hospital, an injured stuntman (Lee Pace, Pushing Daisies) from the early days of movies spends his days spinning an adventure story for a little girl (newcomer Catinca Untaru) also recovering from a bad fall.  Watch how the director (Tarsem Singh, Mirror Mirror) blends what happens in the story to the little girl’s perception of her world. It’s beautiful!  The opening title sequence uses the Beethoven to show how the stuntman was hurt while filming a silent western.

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Watch The Fall scene with Beethoven’s 7th Symphony.

Both movies use Beethoven beautifully.  And both movies are incorrectly labeled as R.   The King’s Speech, a historical adaptation, would be a terrific film to be shown in high school history classes, but because of one scene with many swear words, it got the R rating.  Casino Royal, the James Bond movie with a naked torture scene, got a PG-13.  The Fall, a fantasy adventure film, is “Rated R for some violent images”.  All four Pirates of the Caribbean movies certainly contain some violent images, and each have a PG-13 rating.

Take the time to see these great movies!  Enjoy the fun music, too.

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My teenaged daughter played this Beethoven piece in her youth symphony. It’s great that she recognizes classical music in movies!

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