Wednesday, April 3, 2013

OZ: THE GREAT AND POWERFUL Womanising Coward

Oz poster Oscar (James Franco) is a magician struggling to find love and earn a living in Kansas with the travelling carnival. When Oz climbs into a hot air balloon in order to escape the fury of a romantic rival, he gets swept away in a twister, landing in the mysterious land that shares his name. He is greeted by Theodora (Mila Kunis), who takes him to claim his throne in Emerald city as the prophesied Wizard of Oz. But there is a bit of a mix-up about who are the good and bad witches. Ultimately, Oz must find the goodness in himself to lead the good people of Oz into battle against the wicked witches.

Design

The design team on OZ THE GREAT AND POWERFUL did a magnificent job matching the overall look of the film with what audiences will associate with previous "Wizard of Oz" stories/movies/musicals. The set designs capture the art deco style of the original Oz books by Frank L. Baum (1856-1919). The sleek lines that were so fashionable in the early years of the 20th century pervade many aspects of the film, from the opening titles to the architecture. The result is a vintage classic look in a whimsically magical fantasy setting.
"OZ THE GREAT AND POWERFUL" In Disney?s fantastical adventure ?Oz The Great and Powerful,? Oscar Diggs (James Franco) lands his hot air balloon in a pond in the Land of Oz and encounters the witch Theodora (Mila Kunis). The film, produced by Joe Roth, directed by Sam Raimi, written by Mitchell Kapner and David Lindsay-Abaire, stars James Franco, Mila Kunis, Rachel Weisz, Michelle Williams and Zach Braff.  ?Oz The Great and Powerful? opens in U.S. theaters on March 8, 2013. © 2012 Disney Enterprises, Inc.
Unfortunately, some of the design choices also represent conflicting visions of Oz. When Oz first lands in Oz, the lopsided countryside looks like something straight out of Dr. Seuss. China Town, on the other hand, displays the fanciful imagination of Oz's creator, Frank L. Baum. At other times, the film is similar to Tim Burton's CHARLIE AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY (2005) or ALICE IN WONDERLAND (2010). If the look and feel of the art deco style had been applied to every aspect of the production, including sets, special effects, and costumes, the film would have had a solid coherency that is lacking in this final product.

Oz land of 

Special Effects

The special effects used to produce the sets will feel rather dated in a few year's time. Although director  Sam Raimi chose to use some practical sets to help the actors get their bearing (rather than using a green-screen throughout), too much of what the audience sees is CGI-generated. It therefore lacks the realism that could somehow make the land of Oz that much more magical. It might seem like a contradiction of statements, but magic cannot seem real if it is so obviously magic. Does this make sense? As is so often a danger when combining real actors with CGI character and scenery, the film has a mottled effect.

Costumes

 Another flaw that will date this film in years to come is the costume design. When Theodora (Mila Kunis) shows up in tight leather leggings and high-healed boots that are so in vogue right now, we can predict that they will look absurdly ridiculous in ten years. The same can be said of Glinda's (Michelle Williams) ball gowns and Evanora's (Rachel Weisz) sweeping frocks. The reason Dorothy's iconic gingham dress became so iconic was its timeless simplicity and universality. Casting/Acting James Franco walks through this film being not as witty as Robert Downey, Jr. and not as off-beat as Johnny Depp. The performances of Mila Kunis, Rachel Weisz, and Michelle Williams are about as brilliant as the urbanity of their clich├ęd characters. I thought Finley the monkey was voiced by Billy Crystal, but it's really Zach Braff.

The Man

Oz OzOz has very few redeeming qualities at all. I can list them on one hand: 1.) he shows remorse when he is unable to make the wheelchair-bound girl to walk again and 2.) he repairs the legs of China Girl. That's about it. His salient characteristics are primarily negative:
  • He's a hopeless womaniser. He hits on every girl he meets and lies to them by giving each of them a music box he claims belonged to his grandmother.
  • He is a really bad boss. While working in the carnival, he treats his partner like crap, barking at him and denying his friendship. He does the same to Finley the monkey in Oz.
  • He is a coward. He doesn't want to go to China Town when it looks like the town is in distress. His reaction to most dangerous situations is to freak out, scream like a sissy, and run away.
  • He is greedy beyond reason. 
The film glorifies a jerk. He only becomes a hero because he is able to con the people into believing he is brilliant. This is a story about good marketing. "Hey kids, even if you are stupid and have no morals, you can still find success if you can convince people to like you!" Oz is more like an Italian politician than anything else. He is the worst Mad Man. He makes me want to barf.

The Women of Oz (Warning: I am about to lose it.)
"During the years that I spent running Walt Disney Studios, I learned about how hard it was to find a fairy tale with a good strong male protagonist. You've got your Sleeping Beauties, your Cinderellas and your Alices, but a fairy tale with a male protagonist is very hard to come by." (Producer Joe Roth)
What has this man been smoking!?!? TOY STORY, ROBIN HOOD, PETER PAN, FOX AND THE HOUND, 101 DALMATIANS  FINDING NEMO, ALADDIN, CARS, PETE'S DRAGON, THE JUNGLE BOOK, DUMBO, BAMBI, MONSTERS INC., WALL-E, TREASURE PLANET, THE LION KING, A BUG'S LIFE, PINNOCHIO, THE SWORD IN THE STONE, HERCULES, RATATOUILLE,  LADY AND THE TRAMP... need I go on? And just look at the variety of these male roles when compared with the stock Disney princess fairy tale love story. It's a complete joke!

Oz witches 

The Bitchy Witches

According to pop culture (this movie included), women can't be friends and work together. Even if they do, they are constantly at each other's throats as rivals. Their cooperation is fuelled by jealousy. Bad women use any brains they have to wreak havoc because they've been slighted by love. Does any of this sound familiar?

Glinda: The Manic Pixie Dream Girl (Anita Sarkeesian)

Although it is clear that Glinda has intelligence as well as goodness, she absolutely needs a man to lead her people out of danger. I never understood why, in the original WIZARD OF OZ (1939), why Glinda, with all her magic and goodness, was not able to stop the Wicked Witch of the West herself. Glinda is the essential "good wife." She is gorgeous, kind, loving, selfless, relatively intelligent, and she has an undying faith in her man, despite his obvious shortcomings. Her biggest hero in the world, other than her lover-boy, is her dead father. She makes me want to barf.

China Girl

Legit - this girl doesn't even have a name. Talk about the objectification of women! Like all women she is very delicate, so if you do not protect her, she will break - literally. This girl is literally a doll. Like all women, she uses tantrums and tears to get what she wants. But she also epitomizes innocence and purity. Like all women, she misses her dead father more than anything else. All she wants in life is a family. She makes me want to barf.

Oz china girl

*A Note on Race

Three men work for Oz in Oz: a monkey, a tinker without a name, and an ornery dwarf called Knuck. Two of these three people are black. The other one is a monkey. Um... that is not cool.

Margaret's Rating

This film offers an intriguing alternative to the origins of the Wizard of Oz epic. Like the musical "Wicked," it cleverly employs motifs from Baum's books and from the iconic 1939 THE WIZARD OF OZ. It was nice to see the familiar images that have come to represent the Oz franchise: flying monkeys, poppy fields, yellow brick road, Emerald City, the use of sepia for the Kansas scenes, etc. The flaws in of gender miss-representation do not necessarily reflect badly on this movie in particular, but are more indicative of the sexist attitudes that pervade Hollywood filmmaking. One need only read down the credits to see that there is far too much testosterone working on this movie. There are a lot of reasons to like this movie, based on design and whimsy, but I am unable to give it a perfect score. The best I can do is 6/10.

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