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Entertainment & Media

Your Local Film Nerd Reviews - The Wizard of Oz (1939)

Jasmine Roberts

Volume 4 Issue 2

January 16, 2024

Your Local Film Nerd Reviews - The Wizard of Oz (1939)

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The 1939 musical film, The Wizard of Oz, is complete and utter craftsmanship at work, creating a lovely movie that has transcended time and still finds space within our hearts. Through whimsy and spectacle, this film was able to tastefully use Technicolor, beautiful costuming, and intelligent, yet playful original songs, to create a deeply magical film that details some of the most heartfelt truths, innate to all of us, while continuing to breathe life into the absurd. Starring the late Judy Garland and directed by Victor Flemming of Gone with the Wind, this movie wonderfully crafts a childlike glee that continues to thrive, even through the hardest of conflicts. Flemming uses the book and his imagination to curate a film worthy of all its accolades. As this was my first time watching The Wizard Of Oz, (In fact the only reason I was going to review this movie, was because of the behest of my mother, which I am greatly thankful for... Thanks, Mom!) this was my first impression of the film that I hope will promote your own playful, colorful whimsy and help you realize the true magic within.  

Dorothy, a farm girl from Kansas, and her Cairn Terrier, Toto, find themselves transported to a new land, with the help of an ever-foreboding tornado. After killing the sister of the Wicked Witch of the West, Dorothy is tasked by the Good Witch of the North, Glinda (my favorite character), to journey across the land in search of the Wizard of Oz, who will take her back home to Kansas, and keep her from certain death due to her possession of the magical ruby shoes coveted by the Wicked Witch. On her way, she meets three eccentrics, The Scarecrow, The Tin Man, and The Cowardly Lion. Together, they leave for The Emerald City, wanting to find not only the wizard but also happiness for themselves. 

From the beginning, this film grants us the pleasure of viewing such a beautiful piece of art. Each color is fully saturated and vibrant, and care is expressed in each stroke of paint brushed upon a canvas for the scenery, in ways modern-day CGI can never fully emulate. From the Yellow Brick Road to the Emerald City fortress, this film used great creativity to portray such a fantasy without the help of modern technologies. The costumes of characters, such as Glinda, were such a divine presence in the movie. I was beginning to wonder if replicas could be bought for my own closet. It was obvious that every button and stitch of the Munchkins’ or Eccentrics’ costumes were scrutinized meticulously, which is shown in the way the backdrops and dressings promote a sort of escapism, similar to that of Dorothy. 

 I have a great affinity for actors. From the beginners who struggle to express strong emotion without punching a wall, to thespians who have dominated the Hollywood scene even post-mortem, I have always believed that a bad script, does not inherently ruin a film, but instead, it can be elevated with the help of talented actors. I am happy to say that the actors in this movie are wonderful in all the best ways. I have seen, time and time again, how some actors can be when playing whimsical roles. Unnatural and frigid are the usual descriptors I use, but this movie shows how the fantastical can be masterfully played, with the right actors. Judy Garland was sixteen when filming this film, and you can feel it. She is so free and careless, yet stubborn, confident, and courageous, it is not hard to understand why she is so apt to follow the rules of the land. Billie Burke, who played Glinda, allowed herself to freely connect to a character who I believe is hilariously detached from the environment around her, as she is completely unfazed by the Wicked Witch threatening Dorothy. This woman is utterly done with everyone’s madness and finds contentment in sending little girls off to harrowing quests, a psychopath indeed. These two are not the only ones that have attracted my attention, either. The three eccentrics were also gleeful in their performances and greatly contributed to this fantastical epic. 

The ideas in this film are very complex once one has peeked through the mystical veil and has found themselves genuinely inspecting each frame. I have watched many dissections of this film, as anti-capitalist, and as an honest criticism of the government, and to that I agree, but this is not the brick road we will be departing on today, instead I found the concept of the hero’s journey and the great escape, to be prominent themes. As humans, we find ourselves living like rats in our society, forced to follow a race where nobody hears us and nobody cares, so we are stuck with the voice in our head of self-hatred and doubt. To live such a boring life leaves you to be consumed by pain and anguish, but to have the ability to escape into a world of magic and mystery, so those terrifying hurdles meant to faced in the real world are filtered into a reality where everything makes little to no sense, with a few gumdrops on the side, is refreshing. A universe like the one in the film allows struggles to be faced head-on and rebirth to arise from those ashes. The opening song of this musical, “Over the Rainbow”, fully encapsulates the meaning, as Dorothy imagines a world away from her black and white origins in Kansas. 

This film was based on a child’s book, and in that vein, I realized how remarkably it illustrates how children process trauma. As Dorothy finds herself in a dilemma, in which her cruel neighbor wants to take Toto away, the adults around her seem too to care little about the situation, a tornado comes into her town and destroys all she knows. The girl full of life has consumed and processed these strong feelings into a separate world, one where all the people of her reality are turned into characters, embodying what they mean to her in the real world. Such delicate minds, like those of children, need time and patience to comprehend such pain and agony, and thus the brain turns to a concept that is a bit comprehensible, like good and evil, and dancing people, a place where there is more gratification than pain. Even adults do this. Running away from home for Dorothy is like running away from the gruesome realities of adulthood for adults. It’s the only way we stay sane in such an insane civilization. 

As Dorothy travels closer and closer toward the Emerald City, we join her in meeting three of the eccentrics and comrades on her journey, depicted as, the Scarecrow without a brain, the Tin Man without a heart, and the adorable, opera-singing Lion, who is without courage. These faults of the characters are universal. We all feel these ideas about ourselves, whether truthful or not. We put so much blame on ourselves that it is hard to see humanity inside ourselves. We find it hard to understand that perfection has long been eaten out of existence. We can only change from within and not from how we want to portray ourselves to those who might shame us for existing. The Scarecrow considers himself without a mind yet is clever enough to find a way to get apples from the angry talking trees. The Tin Man says he has no heart, yet frequently cries when a situation becomes distressing, and the Lion had the courage to come on such a dangerous way-worn trip in the first place. These characters say they don’t have certain traits, but their eyes have been so blinded by the fog of society, that they have ignored these attributes within themselves.  

This is amplified even more at the end of the film, but for anyone who desires to watch the film due to my review, I will leave it be and hope the themes are discovered personally, especially those I have not thought of myself. 

Overall, this movie was brilliant, and I am deeply grateful to my mom for requesting I watch it and review it! This one is for you. 

10/10 Horribly Singing Jasmines 





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