OscaRank: Friend “The Social Network”

29 01 2011

Did my dad just poke my mom?

Sometimes people are just plain jerks. Sometimes people are misunderstood. Sometimes people are just at the right place at the right time standing upon a precipice of the Next Big Thing (right Brock Lesnar? Obscure Wrestling Reference Warning!).  And then sometimes people are just so socially awkward that they come across as misunderstood jerks because they happened to come upon an improvement to an idea at the exact right time. I’m talking about how Facebook took the MySpace motif and gave it enough of a twist to make it interesting.

It happens all throughout history. Houses became improvements to caves. Guns became an improvement to pointy sticks. Labradoodles became an improvement to the bulky Labrador and wimpy poodle. Pizza became an improvement to picking up scalding cheese in your bare hand. Blackberry Messenger is an improvement to ICQ. Firefox and Chrome are improvements to NetScape Navigator. The list goes on.

It’s not stealing an idea if it’s an improvement of an existing idea.

The Social Network is an improvement to an existing movie formula. It takes the silly competitive drama that’s only found in university and combines it with a story of potential stolen intellectual property. Then wordsmith Alan Sorkin braids a true story with large strands of fiction.

No. This isn’t a 100% factual account of how Facebook co-founders Mark Zuckerberg, Eduardo Savarin, Dustin Mokovitz and Chris Hughes founded THE most influential website in history. This is a Hollywood dramatization of that story.

Here’s a secret. Life is boring. 98% of people’s lives (mine included) would be one big test pattern or the original Slap Chop commercial like this:

What Hollywood does is this as represented by DJ Steve Porter:

I think I’ve made my point.

So let’s be fair and look at this movie as what it is: entertainment.

The real star of this movie isn’t Jesse “I’m not Michael Cera” Eisenberg or the constantly surprising Justin Timberlake. Yet, each of their performances are levels above anything else I’ve ever seen them in. Eisenberg plays the socially awkward Zuckerberg who introduced and updated the best version of a social network around today. Think about that for a moment…it’s like Carrot Top actually making of of his toilet seatbelt for Taco Bell toilets an improvement over a regular toilet seat. I might’ve just compared Zuckerberg to Carrot Top. I apologize to both…but regret nothing!

The real star in this movie is the adapted script written by the incomparable Alan Sorkin (A Few Good Men, Sports Night, The West Wing) from Ben Mehzrich’s nonfiction book “The Accidental Billionaires”. The story is honest in it’s portrayal of collegiate life as a young twenty-something. The hazing, the acceptance, the need to be different and break out of whatever shadow you may be under, the sex, the drinking, the parties, the embarrassments and the quick assumptions. Sorkin’s smart script deserves every accolades it receives.

The actors, as talented as they are, would’ve needed to be very bad to not be able to follow the nuances that were put into the script. Not to say the cast couldn’t have made it their own…my point is that like a great recipe, sometimes you don’t need to add another dash of cilantro for it to taste good. Sometimes the writer is just good enough with his creation that the actor just needs to say the words with a medial level of competence and they’d have a Bobby Flay entree. Other times, the actor needs to become Bobby Flay to make it work.

The Social Network is intelligent, funny, enjoyable and, in moments, cringe worthy in that “Kevin says something unintentionally stupid on Wonder Years” kinda way.

And with Oscar nominating it for 8 naked golden dudes (Best Picture, Best Actor – Eisenberg, Cinematography, Directing, Film Editing, Original Music Score, Sound Mixing, Writing -Adapted Screenplay), the Academy is expecting big things from this one. As of this writing, they are the buzz to win it all this year…but I disagree. Amazing movie but see my other reviews to see which ones I think are better…

…a-choo!!!!!…(King’s Speech and True Grit)…a-choo!!!!!!!!!

9 inappropriate Pokes out of 10

When Rankatron analogies go wrong....





Enter…the Oscars.

26 01 2011

O.S.C.A.R. - Only Some Can Always Reap

It’s that time of year folks.

A time where celebrities who worked so hard during the year can get some critical gratification from their peers. Sometimes this translates as great viewing for the average viewer…sometimes not.

It’s the 2011 Oscar Nominations.

Now, I’m not going to go down category by category and explain WHY my opinion matters on this. Nuh-uh. If you want this, go check out a billion other websites. But I may release my Oscar pool at a later time for you to peruse without comment…or you can comment. This is a free Blogiverse.

I will focus on what I do best: movies.

Here’s how it works. In years past, I’ve waited for the Best Picture nominations to come out and then proceed to watch every single movie on that list before the Oscars broadcast to see how wrong the Academy has gotten it. That would give me about a month to watch. In the pre-2009 days, this would be only 5 movies. Completely doable. But since they introduced 10 in ’10, I had to do some pre-research (presearch?) to anticipate who should be on this list so I can knock some of them off before hand.

Thankfully, this year I’ve seen 6 of the 10 nominees. I will be releasing blogs on my usual days with my reviews (Wednesdays and Saturdays) until all 10 have been seen. Then…I’ll make my pick in a final blog the Saturday before the Oscars broadcast.

This entry will stay at the top of my Home Page until after the Oscars as a means to reference the reviews. To find the reviews, just click on the “REVIEW” link beside the movie name and the magic of the Rankatron will bring you right there. If there’s nothing there, you can click on the name to see the trailer.

Now that you know the rules of Dis Game, here’s the list of Nominees for the Oscars 2011 and my preliminary impressions:

So there you have it…oh there’s a hand in the back…what was that? Yes. I’ll still be doing newer reviews of things in between all of this. I realize not everyone loves the Oscars.

All other questions will need to be reserved until the end of the proceedings after the Oscars.

Enjoy!

 

The Rankatron shows Oscar who's got really got the bigger "Awards".





OscaRank: Getting the Oscar takes “True Grit”

23 01 2011

Cross-examining Lawyer: Mister Cogburn, in your four years as US Marshal, how many men have you shot?
Rooster Cogburn: Shot? Or killed?
Cross-examining Lawyer: Let us restrict it to killed so we may have a manageable figure!

True Grit gets under your fingernails as a hard-riding Western full of well-defined and colourful characters. Every person in this film seems to be a slightly over-the-top caricature of some personality you’d see in a border town in the Old West. The over-zealous lawyer. The shifty trader. The posse of bad guys (who really could’ve stepped out of Back to the Future Part 3). The uber-confident ranger. But the two most memorable are the over-the-hill gritty Marshall Rooster Cogburn and the electrifying teenage daughter bent on avenging her father’s death.

Let’s start with the former: Rooster Cogburn played superbly by Jeff Bridges who may possibly be one of the most underrated and under-utilized actors in Hollywood. His movies are either home runs (like the Big Lebowski, Crazy Heart, Seabiscuit), cult-like hits (TRON, Iron Man), or complete bombs (K-Pax). But one thing you can never take away from Bridges is that whatever character he’s given, he immerses himself fully so the only thing you recognize is that truly unique Bridge-esque rasp he’s perfected. Jeff Bridges pulls off a version of Rooster Cogburn that very well could be better than John Wayne’s version (and which won him the Oscar in 1969). I can’t 100% confirm this because I haven’t seen the original in ages and only barely recall it. Bridges probably won’t win the Oscar this year for Best Actor but it’s simply because of Colin Firth in the King’s Speech…but y’never can tell.

As good as Bridges was, the true star of True Grit is for 14-year old sensation (and unknown), Hailee Steinfeld, who plays the plucky Mattie Ross. She commands every scene she’s in…which is pretty much the whole movie. No actress I’ve seen this young has portrayed so much range since Ellen Page in Juno. It was a true crime that she didn’t get top billing in True Grit since she plays easily the second most important role besides Bridges. She falls behind Bridges, Matt Damon, and Josh Brolin. I know I have to think about this from the promoters POV where they have to decide before a movie releases if people will go see a Western starring Bridges and Steinfeld or a Western starring Bridges, Damon and Brolin. I give them that. What would be an even bigger crime would be if young Hailee didn’t get and Oscar nom AND the win for Best Actress.

I also realize I said the same thing after watching Juno while talking about Ellen Page.  Here’s that quote:

Ellen Page, for her range and her courage to take on such a role, deserves the Oscar. And even if the movie itself doesn’t win Best Picture this year, I will honour it by giving it my highest score ever, a perfect 10…take that Academy!!!

So I could be wrong. The Oscar eventually went to Marion Cotillard for her role in La Vie En Rose. In retrospect, Marion’s role was good but not great like Page’s. And Best Picture went to No Country For Old Men…it was warranted.

Back to True Grit.

Matt Damon as the Texas Ranger LaBoeuf provided a slightly dim-witted but good-hearted foil to Rooster and Mattie’s sharp insights.

Most of the humour of True Grit comes from the no-holds-barred racism in the movie. It reminds us just how absurdly racist views were back then and by simply keeping to the realism brought forward intentional “unintentional” humour. For example, (spoilery but not relevant to the plot in any way) near the beginning, there’s a hanging about to take place with three prisoners: two white, one Native. The two white prisoners were allowed their soliloquies of humility and regret which each stretched a couple minutes before the black hood was placed over their heads. When we got to the third prisoner (the Native), he thought he would be given the same opportunity and went into his speech but was cut off mid-way through the first sentence by a hood before all three where hung. The pure lack of respect made me feel uncomfortable but felt incredibly guilty how juvenile folks really were back then. OK…so that description doesn’t sound THAT funny. But I never said this was a comedy.

True Grit is a snapshot of reality in the 1800’s. I’m sure someone watching a movie about our time concerning gay rights in a few hundred years will react the exact same way.

As the race for the Best Picture Oscar is beginning to take form and we’re finally seeing the possible horses up for nomination, it is difficult to know who will win. I think it will come down to a matter of preference in style for the potential viewer. But with the Coen Brothers at the helm (who won Best Picture for the aformentioned No Country For Old Men, friendo) and Stephen Speilberg as Executive Producer, this one may just have the edge.

9.7 half bitten tongues out of 10

True Blood Grit





Rankotopia for January 19, 2011

19 01 2011

Brought to you by crazy animals, Armageddon, iPhone beer canons and this adorable penguin of Doom.

Awhile ago back in that tender year of 2010, I had done something called Random Ranks where I take some things from the news and just go all crazy on it. Some of the stuff you’ve heard before…others are just some obscure but interesting stuff found in the ether that either made me laugh, think or go WTF!

I’ve rebranded this little quick-fire version of the Rankatron as Rankotopia: a place where news goes before the jury of me.

Speaking of juries, first up:

Cat is summoned for Jury Duty in Boston

Quote of the article:

Anna filed to have her pet disqualified from the service requirement on the grounds he is “unable to speak and understand English.”

You read that all right…an actual feline is going to be considered for jury duty. This is the most action a cat has taken a human role since Toonces (from SNL). The most ridiculous part of this entire story? The appeal was rejected! This poor kitty…as of the writing of this entry…is going to have to court, sit in a box and deal with a bunch of crap. (pause) I guess that’s not too much different than what a cat normally does doing Jury Doody. I mean, what is the court actually thinking here? I imagine when and if poor Sal (the cat’s name) goes through selection process I have to trust one of them is smart enough to look at the cat and say “C’mon…” Unless that case was against Toonces…hmmmm.

Man Sues over Mynah Bird’s Insults

 

Think about it. 😛

 

Best Quote: He says they trained the mynah bird to call him a “clueless big-mouthed idiot” every time it saw him.

Am I the only one who finds this article kinda funny? It’s really rude from other guy’s POV…but I really ask: how long would it take the neighbours to train a Mynah bird to say that? Gotta respect that much commitment.

Mammoth ‘could be reborn in four years’

It's name is Dyson.

Finally, we can have Flintstone vacuum cleaners! And um…haven’t these scientists learned ANYTHING from Jurassic Park? Does this count as the “Dead will rise again” thing from Revelations in the Bible? There’s nothing in there saying that it HAD to be God that did this. The good news is that if we pull this off, we’re just a few years away from re-forming the original cast of 90210. What? Sorry, my producer is talking to me. They’re not? Are you sure? They were pretty old in the tv show. Oh. I take that back then.

And finally, a video for you all that just makes me proud to live in a world where this can be created:





12 Angry Men vs The Rankatron (Real Time!)

15 01 2011

The original sausage fest!

It’s happened again.

I walk in at the last moment from grocery shopping to discover that one of my unreviewed Ultimate Rankatron movies is playing on the TV in less than 3 minutes to spare. And like last time during “It’s a Wonderful Life vs The Rankatron“, there was something else one that I would’ve preferred watching…but my honorarily duty to complete this list falls to you, my humble Rankers.

Unlike the previous incarnation, I didn’t have the luxury of commercials. So before I get started, let’s run down some stats:

  • Adapted from the play written by Reginald Rose.
  • Released in 1957 starring Henry Fonda  and directed by Sidney Lumet (Dog Day Afternoon, Network)
  • The film runs in real time (how apt!) during the jury room scenes (which takes up 93 minutes of the 96 minute running time).
  • No characters are given names in the play or movie with the exception of the very end when Henry Fonda’s character is given as “Davis” and the old man’s name is given as “McArdle”.
  • Fonda’s only film as Producer.
  • The first scenes in the jury room are filmed with wide-angled lenses but, as the movie progresses, the shots become close-ups from a lower angle to portray the feeling of claustrophobia in the small room.
  • Nominated for 3 Oscars (Best Director, Best Picture, Best Adapted Screenplay) but lost all three to The Bridge on the River Kwai.
  • Remade in 1997 starring Jack Lemmon in Henry Fonda’s role. The dialogue and action is identical to the original but with updated cultural references. And by Monsterpiece Theatre:
  • Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor declared this movie as one of her influences and that the wide-ranging assumptions would never be allowed in an actual jury. Party pooper!

So let’s get into real-time with 12 Angry Men. With the exception of additional editorial notes found in brackets, everything was written as I watched the movie.

6:57pm – Football. Football. Football. Football. Football. Football. Playoff Football. 12 Angry Men. Football. Foot… d’oh! I gotta do it.

7:05pm – Took a few minutes to get settled. Hey, is one of the jurors a young Bob Hope? (Checking infotron…nope. Guilty of assumption.)

7:06pm – If I didn’t already know the movie and play, I would’ve been bored by the dull beginning. But I know it and it will be AWESOME! (Note: I should be unbiased in this review but I can’t…I love this movie.)

7:07pm – Ed Bagley???? Related to “Six Feet Under“‘s Ed Bagley Jr. Yes!!! (This cancels out my earlier assumption. Back in the positive.)

7:08pm – I’ve never seen the 1957 version before. Just the great 1997 version with Jack Lemmon doing his best Fonda impression.

7:10pm – So far everything right down to the choreography and dialogue is identical to the 1997 version…or should I really say the other way around. It’s not like there’s a time machine involved here where Reginald Rose went to 1997 and saw the movie then traveled back to 1954 to write his version. But why does he have a DeLorean???

7:13pm – First vote. 11 Guilty. 1 Fonda. Time to play the Game.

7:15pm – The dialogue is AMAZING. “I think if we’re putting some kid to death, we owe it to him to talk about it.” I know I got that quote wrong but the paraphrased version should be used on any judgment that serious.

7:23pm – Love the little things. The guy rushing to get to the Yankees game keeps looking at his watch periodically all the time. Could almost be a drinking game. Watch out for it.

7:25pm – It’s like a dance but with words. Every single comma and period is important to the characters who say them. This should be required watching for anyone in the entertainment industry who wants to write, act or direct. The nuances are great.

7:29pm – What movie plays at 11:30pm? The midnight showing of the new Harry Potter or Star Wars flick?

7:31pm – THE SWITCH BLADE. One of my favourite scenes in the movie. And one of the most pivotal points in the script.

7:34pm – Vote 2. 10 Guilty. 2 Fondas. The shift begins.

7:56pm – OK. OK. So I’ve slacked on notes for a half hour. I’m guilty for flicking to the playoff football game just to see the score…and someone called me to chat about some stuff (angry people by one of those strange coincidences that life dishes out sometimes)…but I still watched the movie…sort of.

8:01pm – 43 seconds is a LOT different from 15 seconds when murder is on the line. (Sounds a lot like a the Princess Bride line).

8:02pm – “I’ll kill ya.” “You don’t really mean that do you?” I love this movie!

8:04pm – Vote 3 (maybe 4 because I didn’t notice if there was one during my 20 minute hiatus). 6 Guilty. 6 Fondas.

8:06pm – YEAH!!! Give it to him Old Guy!!!! Boo-Yaw!!!! (I should note here that you’ll need to watch the movie to get some of this).

8:11pm – A single drop of sweat to the unflappable dude who’s memory isn’t as good as he thought.

8:14pm – Switchblade Part 2: the Blade Strike Back…but at a different angle.

8:17pm – Yankee guy switching to Not Guilty just “because”…don’t do that in real life unless you’re under the age of 6…and even then.

8:20pm – Vote 4 (or 5). 3 Guilty. 9 Fondas.

8:21pm – Hail Mary play (sorry I had flicked to football briefly for the score) and a fight! I wonder if all jury rooms are that heated.

8:25pm – Vote 5 (or 6). 4 Guilty. 8 Fondas.

8:29pm – The Glasses divots on the side of the wearer’s nose. “Could they be made by anything other than eyeglasses?” said the Old Guy with probably the most unintentionally creepy smile I’ve ever seen in a movie.

8:31pm – Vote 6 (or y’know). 1 Guilty. 11 Fondas.

8:33pm – Awesome final monologue by the last Guilty guy as a plea for mercy. I’m gushing in its emotionality. I’m pretty sure that’s not a real word.

8:35pm – And the Fondas have it!!!!

8:36pm – Nice touch at the end with Fonda helping get the coat of the last Guilty guy. A sense of respect on a battle fought well. Would Superman have done the same thing to Lex Luthor?

I don’t watch this movie nearly as much as I should. Every time I see it (or the 1997 version), I’m in awe of the dialogue. You need captivating words in order to make a movie with little action be considered one of the best of all time and this still lives up to it.

If you’ve read this and have never seen the movie, trust me in saying that you haven’t been spoiled. The beauty of 12 Angry Men is in the execution and interaction of all these characters. If you’ve enjoyed this movie once before, you already know what I’m talking about.

As a side note, I got to watch the last 3 minutes of the football game to see the team I wanted to win hold on to the victory thanks to defense. I’m sure Henry Fonda had something to do with that too. He’s amazing!

9.6 Fondas out of 10.

Vote "Not Guilty' or Mr. Stabby will get to work





SModcast: Birth of a KeviNation

12 01 2011

They're reading your MINDS!!!!!

I’ll admit it.

I missed the appeal of Clerks the first time around. Partially because I grew up in a little Canadian Atlantic jetty known as the Maritimes where the biggest concert we’d ever experienced up to 1994 (when Clerks first came out) was The Beach Boys at the locally famous Parlee Beach. First-run theatres which showed little limited-release titles didn’t fully exist except in Halifax. I don’t recall if Clerks was ever released in Halifax. I knew for sure that a name as mundane a “Kevin  Smith” wasn’t anywhere near my radar.

Also, add to the fact that 1994 was an AMAZING movie year. Check out this All-Star lineup:  The Shawshank Redemption, Forrest Gump, Pulp Fiction, Dumb and Dumber, The Lion King, Interview with a Vampire, True Lies, The Mask, Ace Ventura, Naked Gun 33 1/3,  City Slickers 2, Beverly Hills Cop 3, Major League 2, The Crow, Four Weddings and a Funeral, Hoop Dreams, The Hudsucker Proxy, Natural Born Killers, Reality Bites, The Santa Clause, Speed, Star Trek Generations, and Time Cop.

Sure, not all were classics but just think about how many of those movies are staples that still appear on TV? How many of them still resonate today? It was no surprise that a small movie like Clerks could be buried in the Hollywood-Machine. It’s also no surprise that Clerks would rise to be to rival any of these movies from a lot of foul-word-of-mouth.

Clerks was smart, witty, insightful and, above all, engaging…despite being only shot in black and white.

Just like Kevin Smith. A chubby white Jersey-boy with a dark side.

Which brings us to SModcast.

Earlier in 2007, Kevin Smith decided that it would be fun to record some of his musings. For years before this, he did speaking engagements just as a means to get out of the house. His shows had developed a cultish following as did his movies. So he and his good buddy, Scott Mosier (whom he met in film school in Vancouver), decided to put on a podcast. What to call it?

Smith-Mosier Podcast? S.M. Podcast? SModcast.

What’s SModcast like? The easiest way to explain it is to pay attention to any of the dialogue in any of Kevin’s movies and take away the plot. That’s SModcast. Or just check out this clip of the live SMODcast they did in Brantford, Ontario in ’09 to honour his hero, Wayne Gretzky. Video bad…but audio GOOOOD.

No holds are barred. No subject is taboo. With show titles like “Fisting Flipper”, “Harry Scotter and the Hefty Swallow, Part 1”, “Guybrator” and the “Live Nude” series where they record live in front of an audience, you can guess what you’re in for. Offensive? Perhaps. Hilarious? Always. Questions? No doubt. Why am I using a writing short cut to further the progress of this blog? Because I’m writing it last minute.

You’ll hear stuff that you and your buddies only talk about in private but never hear in any format…until now (and since 2007).

Kevin and Scott’s SModcast gained so much notoriety that they begin broadcasting in front of a live audience at SModcastle, a 50-seat theatre on Santa Monica Boulevard built purely for podcasting. This is a first of its kind…as far as I know.

Their SModcast is a weekly show that appears via iTunes every Sunday and, as of 2010, has always been one of the most popular podcasts on iTunes.

And for anyone who doesn’t like to listen to stuff with their ears, you can read the transcripts of the SMODcasts with your eyes with “Shootin’ the Sh*t with Kevin Smith: The Best of SModcast”.

The inception of the SModcastle also opened up a world of podcasts for he and his friends such as (the “*” means it was chosen as “Best of 2010 on iTunes”:

  • *Hollywood Babble-On with Kevin Smith and Ralph Garman – Hollywood News through the snarky views of Garman and Smith
  • *Jay and Silent Bob Get Old – Smith and Jason Mewes talk about the wonders of age and growing up
  • *Tell ‘Em Steve-Dave – Kevin’s friends, Brian Johnson and Walt Flanagan, take the helm.
  • Plus One – Kevin and his wife relive love, life and surviving married to Kevin Smith.
  • Puck Nuts – all hockey talk with Brian, Walt, Ming and Jeff.
  • Tom Green Live at the SModcastle – It’s the Tom Green Show. Not the Green Tom Show.
  • Blow Hard with Malcolm Ingram – He’s gay. He’s 300 pounds. He’s Malcolm.
  • Plus a ton more!

I can’t claim to have listened to all of them but I’ve listened to SModcast loyally for years and you can’t go wrong.

So if you’re looking for a piece of old skool witty Kevin Smith when his movies were as smart as he was before he went through that phase of either trying too hard or got neutered by the Hollywood-Machine (I can’t decide which) until he seemed to find his movie voice (sorta) again in “Zach and Miri Make a Porno“, check out SModcast and the others on his SModcast Podcast Network. Are there rules on run-on sentences? Why do I keep asking questions in my own narratives? Damn it!

Also, I should mention, they’re 100% free. And if you’re reading this sometime in the future where they’re not, I blame Kevin Smith. Yes…YOU Kevin Smith. I can’t hate you. You’re cool. But I’ll blame you with distant admiration.

End of gushing moment.

8.9 pink limpies out of 10

As you can see, only Seth likes unprotected Bananas...





The Wizard of Oz vs The Rankatron

8 01 2011

And this is a bunny rabbit.

When I first started this movie, I was tempted to pop in Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of Moon to see how true this alleged myth is. Does the Dark Side of the Moon really place the happy-go-lucky Wizard of Oz in a warped light? I was thinking this because I was skeptical if a movie I loved so much as a child could still maintain my interest. The only parts I truly remembered where fuzzy scenes of dancing scarecrows, flying monkeys, catchy choruses, lions and tigers and bears. Oh My! But would that be enough to keep me going?

My apprehension abated when I realized, from the gravity that Judy Garland commanded on the screen, that I’d have no trouble being pulled into this amazing world.

First, let’s all take a walk through the Kansas cornfield of trivia before we take a whirlwind into Oz:

  • Based on the L. Frank Baum story, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, written in 1900.
  • Directed by Victor Fleming (Gone With The Wind) and released in 1939 to only a modest reception.
  • Stars Judy Garland as Dorothy, Ray Bolger as the Scarecrow, Jack Haley as the Tin Man and Frank Morgan as The Wizard.
  • Won two Oscars (Best Original Song, “Over the Rainbow”; Best Original Score).
  • Nominated for Best Picture but lost to Gone With The Wind (also on the Ultimate Rankatron list, I might add…or I did add).
  • Differences from the novel to the movie: The original novel called for Dorothy to wear Silver Shoes but, to take advantage of the new innovation of Technicolor, production changed them to Ruby Slippers. The novel treated Oz as a real place but the producers felt that the audience wouldn’t be able to relate to a straight fantasy tale and made Oz only a part of Dorothy’s dream.
  • Shirley Temple had been in the running for the role of Dorothy but when the director heard her sing, he opted for Judy Garland instead.
  • W.C. Fields was considered for The Wizard but negotiations fell through due to money before signing Frank Morgan.
  • One version of the script had Dorothy have a singing duel with a selfish Princess of Oz with Dorothy winning because of her jazzy tunes but this was later dropped.
  • Buddy Ebsen (Jed Clampett from the Beverly Hillbillies) had been cast as the Scarecrow and Ray Bolger had been cast as the Tin Man originally. But they swapped roles due to Bolger’s passion to become the Scarecrow to which Ebsen had no problems. At this point in filming, Ebsen had already recorded all of the Scarecrow’s songs. So Bolger re-recorded most of the songs except during “We’re off to see the Wizard” where the voice of the Scarecrow is Ebsen’s.
  • Ten days into the shoot, Ebsen suffered a reaction from the silver powder makeup which he had inhaled and coated his lungs. He had been hospitalized in critical condition. Jack Haley had been hired to replace Ebsen as the Tin Man. Though one scene in the film still shows Ebsen’s Tin Man when he, Dorothy, Scarecrow and Lion sneak into the Witches castle.
  • “Over the Rainbow” was almost cut from the movie as it was deemed to slow and serious for a movie of this nature and producers felt it was demeaning to Judy Garland to sing in a barnyard.
  • Judy’s daughter, Liza Minnelli, did a sequel called Journey Back to Oz in 1974 but was received poorly. Also starred Milton Berle, Mickey Rooney, Ethel Merman.
  • Michael Jackson and Diana Ross starred in a really terrible musical remake called The Wiz in 1978.
  • Disney released a now-cult classic, Return to Oz, in 1985 which is surprisingly entertaining in that Tim Burton kind of way.
  • Sam Raimi is working on a prequel for 2013 called “Oz: The Great and Powerful” basing the story on how the Wizard made it to Oz. Robert Downey Jr is rumored to be the lead. Yes…this is all true.
  • Robert Zemeckis is in line for a possible remake to the Wizard of Oz for 2014. Some movies shouldn’t be remade. This is one of them. I for one hope this never happens.

As you can tell, this movie has had an amazing cultural influence. From the Simpsons, to Family Guy, to Lost, to Glee, to best-selling books, to cartoons and gay empowerment emblems, the Wizard of Oz is one of the upper echelon movies in history. Few others came claim this much breadth.

To this day, the movie plays in its original format with minor digital updating. The Wizard of Oz is treated more of a cherished heirloom instead of simply an amazing movie. And thanks to some smart deletion of some scenes like this really terrible dance routine by the Scarecrow we are left with a classic:

It seems as I watched that every scene has been spoofed or paid homage to in some form or another. I don’t mean this to be a cavalcade of videos…but look at this amazing video by Bobby McFerrin with his rendition of Over the Rainbow (then watch the rest of the silly video):

I found myself tapping along with every musical number. I felt like a kid again. Or rather…a juvenile adult.

Judy Garland was/is an amazing actress and singer and would still hold her own today. If she was one of the young starlets today, no one would be able to touch her level of talent and maturity. It’s difficult to imagine anyone else improving on Garland’s Dorothy. Of course, we all said the same thing about Jack Nicholson’s Joker before Heath Ledger came around. Perhaps improving on it would be near impossible but a different take might be more realistic. Don’t think it can happen? How about lil’ 6 year old Connie Talbot singing “Over the Rainbow” a couple of years ago? 92 million YouTube watchers can’t be wrong…

The Vaudevillian physical comedy definitely holds up over time. The simple yet engaging story is timeless. And the last half hour with the confrontation with the Wicked Witch and the Flying Monkeys is much darker and scarier than I remembered. Not in that horror way. More like in that Disney villain way. Dark enough to creep you out but not so dark that you’ll be trying to saw your arm off to get out of the room.

The Wizard of Oz is near perfect with little faults that could be overlooked because of film technology at the time. The special effects are equivalent to something you might see in a shadow puppet show…but does it really matter? For what was done, I forgive this little limitation.

Just as I hope you forgive me for the video explosion on this review.

So what are you waiting for? Reclaim your childhood and watch The Wizard of Oz, right now! I won’t keep you.

9.7 double rainbows out of 10