Movie’s Better: The Wizard of Oz

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Here’s a tough call. A perennially beloved book (the mega-smash Harry Potter of its day) is also considered one of the best movies of all time.

And timely as well! Our patrons voted for The Wizard of Oz over Singin’ in the Rain and Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs in the category “Family Musical” for the Best of the Best series we’re screening at the branch on June 26th. Take a look at the poll here.

Opinions, however, are split on whether the adaptation improves the book. The topic is so divisive, that they’re even split from the same review source.

The book came about when L. Frank Baum was telling stories to the children in his Chicago neighborhood. Word has it, he was stumped for the wizard’s name and, glancing at his “O-Z” file cabinet drawer, Baum had an epiphany. A reviewer over at Common Sense Media (a terrific resource in finding age-appropriate media for young ones) says it’s got “magic, great characters, tongue-in-cheek humor, a good deal of sturdy American self-reliance, good deeds and kindness rewarded, and a cheerful appreciation of hucksterism…” …and that Hollywood ruins this elegance. However, the same site also says: “Everyone should see The Wizard of Oz multiple times in their lives; it’s simply a must-see film.” Further, a Boolean Google search for “Wizard of Oz” “better than the book” returns some 7,510,000 hits!

So, take a look at The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, and come watch The Wizard of Oz — at the Evergreen Branch on Wednesday, June 26 (1:30 for screening and discussion, 6:30 for just the film). Then decide for yourself. And take a look at http://www.epls.org/films/ to vote on upcoming screenings in the series. For now, get ready for the screening by reading this article detailing all of the changes the book and movie went through before it became the 10th best movie ever made and the one Everett Library patrons like you voted as best of all family musicals.

Alan

Movie’s Better: Part I

I stand before you, dear reader, to settle a debate that has raged since time immemorial (or, since movies immemorial anyway):

The book was better!

Yeah, yeah, yeah. In many cases it is…but not always. Lots of times, the director brings something across in such an artful, evocative, deeply affecting way, that the author (who can deliver plot and story, but can’t draw a character to save his life) was incapable of expressing.

This isn’t exactly revolutionary. Although it does at least confuse, if not outright anger, book lovers there are lots of people who prefer an adaptation to its source material. As of the writing of this post, 663 books have gotten as many as 949 votes from the folks on Goodreads passionate enough about their selected film.

The Godfather was first published in 1969, at which time, Kirkus called it a “A Mafia Whiteoaks,  bound for popularity, once you get past the author’s barely concealed admiration for the ‘ethics’ and postulates of primitive power plays.”  In other words decent genre writing, but nothing groundbreaking.

Generally considered (nearly the) best American film ever madeThe Godfather received decent praise initially – mostly in line with surprise that it was actually any good, that it didn’t ghoulishly dwell on mob murder and stereotypes nor act as a Mafia “Whiteoaks.” Here are some examples:

Jay Cocks, Time Magazine: “In its blending of new depth with an old genre, it becomes that rarity, a mass entertainment that is also great movie art.” Although he would later foolishly pan a sequel that some consider superior,Vincent Canby raved “Francis Ford Coppola has made one of the most brutal and moving chronicles of American life ever designed within the limits of popular entertainment.” Roger Ebert: “Coppola has found a style and a visual look for all this material so ‘The Godfather’ becomes something of a rarity: a really good movie squeezed from a bestseller.”

One of his great movies, in fact. A good book, a great movie. The Godfather is fine genre writing, favoring scope over depth. The book has lived many lives, spawning 2 sequels by the author and another couple by Mark Winegardner, most recently as 2007 — generally not so great. Similarly, a lot can be said for the fat a movie must trim, such as character-defining genitalia descriptions. Bottom line: The Godfather is beloved for what it spawned; the book has diminished and since become universally considered inferior pulp to the expansive, artistic films it spawned.

Alan