24 June 2013

Oz the Great and Powerful Impaneled

Yesterday I moderated a panel at the Winkies Convention on Oz the Great and Powerful and its place in the history of Oz movies. The distinguished panelists were:
I laid out the topic by noting that Oz the Great and Powerful is the first financially successful cinematic version of Oz since 1939 (and perhaps, depending on how much one interprets Hollywood accounting, ever). Journey Back to Oz, The Wiz, and Return to Oz were all box-office failures, though the last has since won a cult following. But Box Office Mojo says that as of last week Oz the Great and Powerful has taken in nearly $500 million worldwide.

At the same time, Rotten Tomatoes says that both critics and audiences are split on the movie’s merits, with rankings hovering around the 60% approval line that defines the difference between a ripe red tomatoes and a messy green splat.

The discussion was lively, with Caroline pointing out the problematic ways that Oz the Great and Powerful treated its female characters. While working hard not to work blue, she noted how Oz seduced women by giving them cheap music boxes. On the other hand, Caroline said that China Doll was the most appealing character in the film.

Freddy pondered whether Oz the Great and Powerful would eventually gather a following like Return to Oz from people who watch it in childhood and find it speaks to them. But is there enough in the movie about a twentysomething hound dog to appeal to kids? I asked Peter about the visual effects. This is the first Oz movie in the era of CGI—but did the filmmakers put that technology into creating a world as obviously artificial as MGM’s matte paintings?

The audience offered great comments and questions. A lady wearing Theodora’s ruby ring pointed out how the three witches’ powers were color-coordinated with their outfits. Sam Milazzo asked how Theodora’s name related to Dorothy’s, which leads to larger questions of whether the movie’s Emma Gale will become Aunt Em or the Wizard and Glinda will become parents of that Oz’s Ozma. We all pondered whether this movie is a dream that no one’s yet woken up from.

I delayed calling on Carrie Hedges, president of the International Wizard of Oz Club, to ensure that she would have the last word. She spoke about how the many versions of Oz each bring their own fans to the overall mythos. And if the Wizard offered her a music box, Carrie said, she could gladly take it. That brought down the house and closed the convention in a lively way.

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