But the Highway is not Paved with Yellow Bricks

Dear Erin,

Well, no Coke and Kit Kats, but I did make good progress on a bottle of Hendry wine and a bar of spicy Moonstruck chocolate. I followed your suggestion and did a little bit from each list. I’m glad you made progress on your projects; I know that feels good.

On Sunday, Charles got back earlier than I had expected; he was home before I got there after church. So, although I had many more productive plans for that day, we went off and had fun instead. We drove down to Santa Cruz, which was sunny and almost warm – a first in my experience. We did lunch, a movie, and finished up with a treat from my favorite coffee place.

The movie we saw was Oz, the Great and Powerful, which I want to keep calling “Oz, the Great and Terrible.” I’m pretty sure that’s not a subconscious indictment of the movie, just a memory of dialogue from previous Oz-es. I had heard mostly unenthusiastic reports of this movie before I went, but it turned out to be much better than I had expected.

For one thing, the visuals are delightful. From the opening credits, which are black and white paper carnival figures and scenes, to the giant emerald and ruby flowers of Oz, which look like they would be even more highly enjoyable by a viewer in an enhanced state of perception, it’s all a treat. Many of the colors just glow, as do the witches themselves. The white clothes and castles are very white; the reds are velvety; the enchanted fog looks good enough to eat. The Emerald City is almost as much of an Art Deco fantasy as the scenes of The Great Gatsby that were previewed before the movie. There’s even a treasure chamber there so full of gold that Oz (James Franco) actually imitates Scrooge McDuck and splashes down into it. So, for pure eye candy, the movie is worth experiencing: It’s not quite on a level with Pushing Daisies in that department, but PD is the pinnacle, and Oz comes within shouting distance, so that’s a respectable accomplishment.

Secondly, the female characters were more interesting than I had been led to believe. I will make no comment on Franco, other than to say that at least I didn’t spend the entire movie wanting to smack him. But the witches were pretty cool. Theodora (Mila Kunis), at first, is radiantly innocent and open, clearly having been saddled all her life with a reputation for evil that she tries to believe is not true. Yet her failures in controlling her temper lead her to worry that perhaps she really isn’t a good person. Her magical transformation toward the end is too over the top and turns her into a cartoon; I didn’t feel that the cackling really arose organically, and I’m not really sure why they felt they had to destroy her beautiful eyes. Her sister, Evanora (Rachel Weisz), was brittle and cleverly manipulative. The only problem I had with her was her choice of headdress: green feathers that flopped around like tiny wings on top of her head. Looked like she was always thinking about taking off. Glinda (Michelle Williams) was a five-year-old’s dream: blond, sparkly, dressed in white, and traveling by bubble. She even has the voice of a kindergarten teacher. But she holds her own in the nice knock-down, drag-out with Evanora at the climax, a fight that was reminiscent of the battle between Gandalf and Saruman in LOTR.

Everything else was pleasant if not terribly memorable. The sidekicks were cute; the helpers were heroic; the wicked-witch-defeating solutions were clever (enough). Oz’s tricking of his allies at the end seemed kind of pointless, but maybe the point was there and I just didn’t see it. It was nice to see elements from the book, although they played a bit fast and loose with some of the details, as I remember them. But that’s pretty much par for the course in any movie that is related in any way to a book (again, see LOTR).

All in all, an enjoyable way to spend a Sunday afternoon. I wouldn’t insist that it must be seen in the theatre, it would be fine as a rental. But a fine and pleasant entertainment, and I’m pretty sure you would like it. Put it on your list.

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