Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Visual vs Print: End of Oz

I'm in love with the MGM film, The Wizard of Oz, as I have always been since I was three years old and was terrified of the Wicked Witch! After reading the novel though, I found many differences and information that was not provided in the movie...which is a good thing. There is a big significance between the two endings of the works, since it entails the "moral of the story" and serves to wrap it up.

One difference I thought is worth discussing is the Wicked Witch's death. In the movie this is the beginning of the end, the climactic moment. Contrastly, in the novel, it occurs on page 154 in a book consisting of 261 pages, so there is still about 100 pages to go after her death (clearly not the ending). As well, in the movie it was a huge scene where Dorothy and her friends are running for their lives and all the guards have them surrounded. The witch wants to start with the scarecrow and begins to set him on fire. As this happens, Dorothy reaches for a bucket of water (conveniently right behind her) and throws it upon the scarecrow to extinguish the fire. By chance, she hits the Wicked Witch as well and the witch dramatically deflates and gives her finals words while she wails and melts away. This scene is very different in the novel. The witch plans a trick to have Dorothy stumble on an invisible iron brick while simply walking in the hall. She successfully stole on of the silver slippers and denied giving it back to Dorothy. In Dorothy's anger, she dashed water at the witch on purpose, but not knowing it would anialate her, and the witch began to melt. Dorothy apologizes for her causing the witch death and the witch gives a detailed explanation of how she was in disbelief that Dorothy was the one to cause her demise. This scene is very anti-climactic with the apology, the extended conversation between Dorothy and the witch WHILE she's melting, and the reason behind the throwing of the water.

After the witch is killed in the movie, Dorothy and her friends immediatly appear before the Great Oz (but we know that time has passed by use of film techniques). He is revealed as a fraud, but still gives each character a placebo of their desire and offers to take Dorothy home with him on his hot air balloon. When she does not succeed in leaving with him, Glenda immediatley appears traveling in her pink bubble (like a bubble blown up from pink gum) and tells her how to get home. In the novel, all of this is lengthened completely and there are many more villains to pass before they reach Glenda such as the fighting trees, the spider in the forest, and the Hammer Heads. Throughout the film, the Wicked Witch of the West is identified as the main villian from beginning to end. She stalks them on their entire journey to Oz and once she is defeated, no more villains approach them. The book is different in that is does not identify one clear cut villian and I feel it was a good thing to cut it from the movie and have one complete antagonist.

Getting more specific, Dorothy uses a famous phrase in the film, "there's no place like home," while this is non-existent in the novel. In the works original form, the book, she requests, "take me home to Aunt Em!" This is a minor detail, but in the film it makes a huge impact upon audiences and the entire story. This gives the story a moral and wraps it up nicely for the viewers to understand exactly what the moral is. In the novel she phrases it differently which lacks the dramatic effect given by the film.

She also becomes very fond of the scarecrow compared to everyone else; he is her favorite and she expresses this in her farewell to them in the film. Though, in the book she shows empathy towards him equalivalent to the other three. She kissed the lion and the tinwood man, but hugged the scarecrow because his face is painted and in the end the narrator says, "she found she was crying herself at this sorrowful parting from her loving comrades." Contrastly, in the film she states that she will miss the scarecrow the most, singling him out while in the book she cries about all of them. I feel the movie creates a bond between the two to show not only friendship but best friends and like in most hollywood movies, a wing man/right hand man.

Lastly, a major change from the book to the movie is the dream plot provided by MGM's version. When Dorothy arrives clicks her heels she is, what I would call teleported (witht he cirlces and music), back to her bed where Auntie Em is trying to nurse her back to health with Uncle Henry. All the men who live in Kansas by the farm also appear, including the magician, and she tells them how she went to Oz and they were all there with her! Basically, it is concluded that it was a dream. Though, in the Baum's book, Dorothy appears back in Kansas standing in front of their newly built house. Aunt Em rushes out to her asking where she has been! This shows that she has not been present and asleep while in Oz. How long does it take to build a house? She must have been gone for a very long time as well. I believe MGM made it a dream to make the story more believable and to keep her in the house during the entire Oz adventure since it might be an eerie thought for young children watching if she really was gone for months. Also it shows that one doesn't have to go on a long adventure or runaway to learn that "there's no place like home." They can have a disturbing dream or thought of losing the ones they love and should be able to recognize where they belong.

All in all, I prefer the film version of this tale. Baum provided a great source, but MGM adapted it to be a classic.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

To Sequel or not to Sequel?

After our discussion on the film Return to Oz, which is the sequel to The Wizard of Oz, I started thinking about sequels in general: Why are they made? Is it a positive or negative effect on the series as a whole? Is the original better than the sequel? My definite statement on sequels is they commonly destroy the essense of the original film and disturb the memory associated with that particular story.

Obviously, most people would agree that Return to Oz was an awful addition to an amazing film. My personal opinion on this adaptation would have to be that it was unecessary and made me angry to have to call that place oz and that girl Dorothy. My experience with the original MGM version was amazing. I watched the film back to back everyday for about a month when I was four years old and it was a big part of my childhood. I had the slippers, the dress, the warn out VHS cover, and the songs that were anthems in my younger days. My parents would use these tunes and apply them to certain routines of life that made me laugh and obey, for example taking a bath and washing my hair. When I was four I hated getting my hair washed since the soap would sometimes drip in my eyes, so my dad made up a song for it and I couldn't wait to sing along with him. I really admired Dorothy and wished to be in Oz like her with my own little Toto.

After viewing Return to Oz, it had a sort of Schaunkmier effect (not as drastic) in which everything bright and wonderful about the original turned dull, dismal, and dark in this film. It was more sinister and had tacky additions that seemed out of place and tested my ability to relate. Overall this sequel tarnished some memory of Dorothy's journey to Oz.

In the spirit of this month (October), I will use the Disney movie Halloween Town as another example. This movie was one I looked forward to every October in Disney's "31 Days of Halloween" tv program. That and Hocus Pocus!

Halloween Town was not a well made movie in terms of graphics, but the plot was simple and magical. It was about a girl, Marnie, who learns from her grandmother that she is a witch and needs to go to Halloween Town (where her grandma lives) to complete her training. Marnie follows her grandmother on to a bus that transports her to Halloween Town. This would be her portal to the other world in terms

of our class discussions. There was also a conflict in the movie that had to be solved and Marnie was the one to save Halloween Town along with her little brother and sister. So, this movie not only transported you into a different realm, but also had a point to the story.

This movie has two sequels. The first sequel has the same cast/actors but features them as older. They are presented with a similar problem and solve it once again. Though I felt it was a bit more quirky and did not have the magical feeling the first one gave me when Marnie first arrived in Halloween Town and saw all the foreign arrangments of this world. The third addition to this movie was the worst one! They didn't even use the same characters or actors and it was called Halloween Town High so the setting was a highschool rather than the magical town that was given to me as a child. I found this dissapointing and stupid. I get upset when I watch that movie.

I feel that sequels are usually unecessary and lacking in the initial feeling that sparks ones id (Freud) and makes a child dream of places and wish to be there! Sequels just don't have the same effect as the original film, in a negative way.

Friday, October 15, 2010

"The Dorothy's" Group Presentation!

My group including myself, Owen, Alex, Gina, and Gabe, did our presentation on the children’s novel The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum and MGM’s film adaption, The Wizard of Oz. I felt our group worked great together and we all enjoyed the company as well as having funny/ thought provoking discussions when we got together(which was 3 times outside of class). I think Owen was the organizer of the group meetings and even sent out emails with the notes of our meetings which were very helpful. During the actual meetings, I felt it was a process of summarizing the book so everyone was on the same page, throwing lots and lots of ideas out there, organizing what topics to include and eliminate, and then figuring out how to present it in a manner that would engage the class. We all had something to bring to the presentation and in our preparatory discussions, though Gabe did not attend the first two he definitely made up for it when he came the day of and had a lot to talk about. We decided to split our conversation up into six thought provoking questions for groups to answer: If you were Dorothy would you go back home to Kansas? Why did they make Dorothy older in the movie? Why for the movie was Oz made into a dream? In the movie why are the witches roles expanded? Do the scarecrow, tin man, and lion really lack in what they want? And compare Dorothy to Wendy and Alice. Gina came up with this idea and during our presentation I felt it went really well and our classmates gave a lot of input which I was very happy about. We each were assigned to a question but during the discussion and especially during the presentation we really all collaborated in answering the questions. Alex also came to every meeting and contributed a lot of ideas and knowledge to our discussions. I really enjoyed all the people in my group and had a great experience with each of them. As for my part, I think I really got over my nerves and was able to be a key presenter in class and during the discussions outside of class I participated and shared my ideas and knowledge with my group members. I can’t say I was a leader during the preparation, just an equal member, but I think I did a really good job for the presentation which is rare for me! My question was about the tin man, lion, and scarecrow really lacking what they seek, but I participated in pretty much all the other questions as well. The only part of the presentation that didn’t go so smoothly was the beginning when we were trying to organize the groups. I think this was due to nerves and not communicating to our classmates how it was going to work. Though after about a minute we got the hang of it and I really didn’t think it was anything to take note of because everyone was just settling in. I was really proud of all the members in my group! They stepped up during the presentation and gave a lot of their time during the week to prepare for it. Overall it was a nice experience with good people, lots of laughs, and a great story from my childhood =)