The Wizard of Oz

Wizard of Oz color intro

When I was a kid, I thought The Wizard of Oz introduced color cinema to the world. Wouldn’t that have been amazing? Dorothy wakes up in her black-and-white (or sepia) house after it’s been deposited by the tornado and she walks out and — bam — moviegoers get their first ever look at a polychromatic shot. But that was not the case. Rudimentary color cinematography is nearly as old as cinematography itself, and even the three-strip Technicolor process used for the 1939 classic was hardly brand new. It was relatively rare, especially for as much footage as The Wizard of Oz has, but it wasn’t unknown to audiences. Still, it arrived at a significant time for color films. The Academy Awards had included special achievement Oscars for color cinematography beginning with the ceremony honoring works from 1936. Three years later, there were actual nominees for the distinction. The Wizard of Oz was among the six titles up for the award, the only contender that wasn’t fully shot in Technicolor, but it lost to Gone With the Wind (which also became the first color film to win Best Picture). Other hybrids were also still hot at the time, including another MGM feature released just a few weeks after The Wizard of Oz: The Women, which contained a single color fashion show sequence within the primarily black-and-white film.

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Into the Storm 06

Technically I have been in a tornado. But it was a teeny one in Connecticut, caused no real damage, that I know of, and was from my vantage point not a well-formed funnel shape. If it hadn’t been for a news report stating that a tornado went through where I had been driving, I would have just thought it was a freak storm that came suddenly out of nowhere, passed really quickly and was dangerous enough to make me pull over and strong enough to make a passing bicyclist jump into my backseat for temporary emergency shelter. I would never consider myself a tornado survivor, because that would be an insult to people in the Midwest who’ve encountered the real deal. I can’t even imagine what it’s like to be in such a disaster, as there’s something more terrifyingly visual about tornadoes than hurricanes and blizzards and other major storms I’ve been through. The shape of a tornado allows it to be a sort of villainous presence in cinema, and I assume it’s the same in real life. But there I go making assumptions based on what I’ve seen in the movies again. I like to believe that a special effects driven disaster movie like Into the Storm (pictured above) goes for some level of authenticity in its depiction of tornadoes, but while watching it this week my mind wandered to all the representations of tornadoes in cinema through the years, and I realized that tornadoes in the movies tend to be pretty ridiculous — […]

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goodfellastable

This week’s list of movies to watch is not inspired by a single new release, because there isn’t anything big enough out this weekend to warrant such a focus. Instead, I’ve got a year-end feature for you inspired by the entirety of 2013 in film. I can’t sum up every title released this year with only ten recommendations, but the movies I’ve selected are, I believe, the best representatives of the more notable titles and trends seen in the past dozen months. Most of the selections are familiar. Chances are you’ve seen more than a few. But obviously this edition has to involve more popular fare because they have to be influential movies to have informed so much of this year’s crop, even if unintentionally. Just take it as a call to watch them again, along with whatever you haven’t seen before, as a special sort of year in review of the most important movies of 2013 released before 2013.

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MNUF Halloween Special

The best movie culture writing from around the internet-o-sphere. Just leave a tab open for us, will ya?

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Francis Ford Coppola Wine

The best movie culture writing from around the internet-o-sphere. Just leave a tab open for us, will ya?

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Fight Club Doctor

One of the trickiest things for a movie to pull off is the derailment of the narrative at the hands of a character we barely get any time with. We’re trucking along with a hero we like, and some plucky upstart with only a few lines of dialogue changes the game completely. It seems deeply unfair, like young Bruce Wayne enjoying his delightfully privileged upbringing when a guy with a gun in an alleyway puts all of that to an end, launching a deep psychosis and a billion-dollar franchise. Tellingly, Tim Burton and company proved they couldn’t handle the random nature of the situation when they turned that grinning alley guy into The Joker. It’s closure we didn’t even know we needed. Since embodying raw chance is a difficult job, it’s amazing when a movie uses it as an advantage, launches the story with it or hides it so thoroughly that we don’t even recognize how powerful a day player was. It can also be a powerful tool in seeing how the protagonist deals with the roadblock. Some rise to the occasion, others fall off the cliff, and still others grab their toys and go home.

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wizardofoz5740

There are two reasons for 3D. The first is to give a film a seemingly more realistic sense of depth, and the second is to give a film extra eye-popping spectacle. Presumably it’s the latter motivation behind the 75th anniversary re-release of The Wizard of Oz, which hits IMAX screens for one week this September (almost a full year ahead of its actual 75th birthday). The classic has of course been retrofitted for 3D, and a trailer just hit the web that surprisingly doesn’t play up the format too much. Or maybe it’s just that we can’t appreciate the heightened format via YouTube. When you see this spot in theaters (likely in front of 3D copies of both The Lone Ranger and Despicable Me 2), it’s sure to showcase the three-dimensional upgrade in each shot. I bet that’s why the trailer begins with a hallway. What I’m curious about is whether or not the black and white bookend sequences will be in 3D. The trailer doesn’t really feature any of those scenes, but I’m thinking it would make sense to hold the 3D until Dorothy opens the door of her house and steps out into Oz, just the way it already transitions then from black and white to color. If they really wanted to keep up the concept of added steps in cinematographic technology, they’d even hold the 3D a bit longer, maybe even until Emerald City (no one in Hollywood will agree with me there). Or, hey, as long […]

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IntroEffects

Sometimes the best solution is also the easiest. When it comes to making movies, however, nothing tends to be easy. Then again, there have been a few instances where the solution – while still not anywhere close to easy – was at least simple. Cheap, even. Check out the following big budget effects that you could theoretically recreate in your own basement.

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Oz2_hi-res.jpg

Short Starts typically presents a weekly short film from the start of a filmmaker or actor’s career. This week we present a short film from the start of a film property. Say what you will about Oz the Great and Powerful (I’m not a fan, but the $80 million gross implies some of you are), but you can’t dismiss it simply out of loyalty and preference for MGM’s The Wizard of Oz. That film may be a classic, but it’s far from being an original product that can be ruined by any remake, sequel or prequel. Sure, the new Oz strangely attempts to get away with as much visual linkage to the 1939 film as Disney could get away with, but it’s also just another in a very long list of adaptations of L. Frank Baum‘s children’s stories, which includes animated versions, Muppet versions and all-African-American versions, as well as silent incarnations going back more than a century, many of which involved Baum directly. The first cinematic treatment of Oz was in 1908, as part of a compilation of stories adapted from Baum’s books (including non-Oz works) titled The Fairylogue and Radio Plays. I don’t technically qualify the project as the first Oz movie because it only partly involved colorized film material in addition to slides and live performance, all wrapped up in a traveling stage show. Naturally, this means it doesn’t survive — also it was not financially successful, resulting in Baum’s bankruptcy in 1911, so that may be […]

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FILM JOCKEYS HEADER

What happens when a legendary film critic brings is geriatric crankiness to an internet movie show? Film Jockeys follows the adventures of Carl Barker, his far-too-young production staff, the filmmakers and the movie characters that inhabit their world. Written and illustrated by Derek Bacon, it’s the perfect webcomic for passionate movie fans who also love wearing CGI ruby slippers. For your consideration, Episode #13:

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wizardofoz_commentary1

With the release of Sam Raimi’s CGI-heavy fantasy film Oz the Great and Powerful coming this weekend, it seems appropriate to look back in time more than 70 years to the release of one of the most influential films of all time: The Wizard of Oz. Based on L. Frank Baum’s children’s book “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz,” the story had been made into a film previously (once as a silent film in 1925 and again as a short film in 1933). However, it was Victor Fleming’s musical rendition of the story that left the brightest mark on the cinema landscape. This commentary was included on the 2005 DVD release, which is also included on the 70th anniversary 2009 DVD and Blu-ray discs. The late Sidney Pollack serves as emcee for the commentary, introducing archival interviews with cast, as well as family members of deceased cast and crew.

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ds wb musicals

I don’t like movie musicals. It’s probably more accurate to say that I strongly dislike the vast majority of musicals. Too often I find that the songs and dance numbers take priority over the film’s story and characters, and that disparity leaves me disinterested in the whole shebang. And if I’m being honest, I really hate it when complete strangers suddenly bust out with the same songs and dance moves as if they’ve been secretly practicing them for weeks. (Unless the story is about the history of flash mobs of course, but who the hell would want to watch that?) There are exceptions, but they’re usually films that place as high a value on the story being told and the characters within as they do on the music and dancing and other gibberish. Ones I do like include Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, 8 Women, South Park: Bigger Longer and Uncut and Takashi Miike’s The Happiness of the Katakuris. You could say I lean toward less traditional examples of the form. Warner Bros. just released a series of 20 Film Collection box sets broken down by genre, and when the opportunity arrived to take a look at the one focused on Musicals I literally stood still at the chance. And yet… here we are.

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Why Watch? In 1910, (possibly) Otis Turner directed a silent, black and white film (the only kind they had back then) that brought L. Frank Baum’s 1900 novel to life for the first time in moving pictures. The Wonderful Wizard of Oz capitalized on the author’s popularity and launched a filmic fascination with the works which, of course, led to the benchmark 1939 version. This is an artifact to be certain, but it features charming images and a fantastical spirit that can’t be tampered by the antique feel. What will it cost? Only 14 minutes. Skip Work. You’ve Got Time For More Short Films

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Just as the fears of global cataclysm at the end of the last century fueled films like Deep Impact and Armageddon, the ticking clock to December 21, 2012 has led to more end-of-the-world movies that rely on something larger than a zombie outbreak or a deadly contagion (although those have been recently popular as well). The latest entry into Hollywood’s obsession with the Earth’s last days is the apocalyptic rom-com Seeking a Friend for the End of the World, and if the Mayans were right, that might very well be the last one made. Film School Rejects responds to your concerns about the end of the world, as evidenced by the Apocalypse Soon feature currently running on this site. While you’re catching up on these films to see before the end of the world, we wondered who would be the best people to spend that time with. Steve Carell’s character gets to spend the end of the world with Keira Knightley, and here are some cinematic characters with whom we’d like to spend our last days.

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Over Under - Large

Despite the fact that we’re getting pretty close to its 75 year anniversary, The Wizard of Oz is just as recognized and celebrated today as it’s ever been, and we’ll probably still be showing it to our kids another 75 years from now. There’s good reason for that. Its music is gorgeous and iconic, its cinematography is ageless, and its production design and in-living-color presentation must have been something to see back in 1939. But, in the grand scheme of things, is this really a movie that’s so great that we should still be treating it with so much reverence? Or has watching The Wizard of Oz simply become a tradition we mindlessly follow, like always eating a turkey on Thanksgiving or puking up green food coloring on St Patrick’s Day? Steven Spielberg’s 1991 film Hook spins off of a legendary story, continues the tale of a handful of legendary characters, and was brought to us by maybe the most legendary director there’s ever been… but to say that it isn’t considered a legendary movie would be a pretty big understatement. It’s got a tone right in line with the best of Spielberg’s work, and it’s photographed just as beautifully as anything else he’s done, but ever since its release it has largely been considered a trifle, or even an annoyance. Critics have called Hook full of bad humor, overstuffed with exposition, and devoid of any of the magic of the original Peter Pan tale. Many consider it to be […]

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Shaun of the Dead

We all know what it feels like when a film touches on events yet to come. Usually it’s the best when it’s something that you could only pick up on after already watching the film once before – it’s like a little inside joke you get to have with the filmmakers, a reward for sitting through the movie more than once. At times it’s not even the fact that it foreshadows event in the films, but rather that it’s so subtle that it takes a few goes to even pick up on. Other times are less subtle, but just as fun. This is probably going to have spoilers in it. Just to be clear.

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It’s a seminal element of the human experience. We grab a few friends, hop into the car that has the least chance of breaking down (but will end up breaking down anyway), and go off in search of that bottle of Dom we buried/that porn tape we accidentally made/Brad Pitt and the nearest cliff. It’s the road! The appeal of the freedom promised by the very founders of this fine country themselves. Fresh air, endless pavement, and the anticipation of leaving yourself open to new experiences in towns large and small alike. Will you end up having a fireworks fight in a graveyard? Will you fall in love with the girl behind the counter at Dairy Queen? Will you go skinny dipping as the Summer sun sets in a blaze of oranges, purples and pinks? Not in these films. In these road trippers, the situations are all a bit different. Buckle up and reset the odometer for 12 Unconventional Road Trip Movies.

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Cinespia will be hosting a stellar line up of The Wizard of Oz, The Thing, North by Northwest, and, the cherry on top, Purple Rain.

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What Sam Mendes might be doing when he should be directing Preacher.

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So it turns out that Alice in Wonderland isn’t that wonderful. If you need some actual wonder in your life, check out these 12 films and put on a record by the Oneders.

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