Sunday, July 28, 2013

The Great (film) Debates vol. 87

What a wonderful wiz he was...

Let’s assume we remake The Wizard of Oz, who should direct and what do you hope they do differently?


Panelist: Tennessee Jed

Michael Mann has to direct and Jan Hammer would do the film score. Move it to a good blue state city like New York City, and above all get rid of the WASP-like family value Republican characters. I'm kidding of course, but seriously, don't remake it. Why do that when it stands up so well after all these years? (See the GWTW post.)

Panelist: ScottDS

As we speak, Sam Raimi is actually directing a prequel film titled Oz: The Great and Powerful. But when it comes to remaking the original, I would suggest either Alfonso Cuarón or Guillermo del Toro. I was tempted to suggest Tim Burton, who would no doubt use visual effects to have Johnny Depp play the Cowardly Lion, the Scarecrow, and the Tin Man. (I bet you can see it in your head now!)

Panelist: T-Rav

Okay guys, let’s be honest—you know this movie is just screaming for a Tim Burton remake. And in that case, I want a more prominent role for the flying monkeys.

Panelist: BevfromNYC

NO!! Let’s not assume this. If someone actually tries to remake The Wizard of Oz I will personally go to their home and slap them in the face. They will probably cast Lindsay Lohan as Dorothy and make it “multi-cultie” and I will have to do bodily harm to someone. ‘Nough said about that!

Panelist: AndrewPrice

Johnny Depp with a dead Munchkin on his head... Jerry Bruckheimer... fighting robots. Just kidding. How about Quentin Tarantino doing a nonlinear version like Pulp Fiction. "You know what they call a Big Mac in Oz?"

Comments? Thoughts?

41 comments:

Floyd R. Turbo said...

For the sake of the post... because this -- like Casablanca seems untouchable to me (I know of course they're not)

I'd let Joss Whedon have a crack at it... someone with a popular touch but who also appreciates the inherent weirdness of it all...

I can't really think of a thing I'd change... the movie encapsulates its story so well...

AndrewPrice said...

Floyd, You know what's strange to me? On the one hand, this film screams out to be remade in new and creative ways. It just seems like that kind of film that has amazing and limitless possibilities.

On the other hand, the film itself is so perfect that I know nothing can ever compare, so a remake is kind of futile... almost insulting.

K said...

Funny you should bring this up. Just watched a high res version of it this weekend on Amazon rental - probably in response to the fecal soup being distributed in the theaters this week. Since I haven't seen the film in about 10 years and a low res version at that, the experience was almost like seeing a brand new movie. It struck me as wonderfully fresh - particularly it's non-ironic approach to traditional values while also retaining a light tough with a sense of whimsy.

Who could re-do WOZ? No one. Any more than someone could re-do Star Warz 4. They caught lightening in a bottle. All the contemporary attempts to capture some of the magic have been pathetic failures. best considered without being compared to the masterwork.

Tennessee Jed said...

what is sad to me, is I can't seem to even remember making those comments. Sounds like me, though. Haven't been on line for a couple days, but it seems like there is a consensus building for "don't do it at all, but if you must, let Tim Burton do it weird.

Since the question was originally asked of the panelists, I'd like to see a re-make where they somehow work in Weiner, Huma and Hillary. Weiner as the green faced bad witch, Huma as the killed witch whose house fell on her, and Hillary as a flying monkey.

ScottDS said...

Man, how long ago did I write this answer? Sam Raimi's movie has been on Blu-Ray for at least a month!

I hate to be That Guy but The Wizard of Oz is one of a handful of classics that I really have no need to see ever again. (Another one is E.T. oddly enough.) What can I say? Once was fine. Plus I've seen this movie parodied more times than I care to admit that it's as if I've already seen the film a dozen times.

Mycroft said...

Even as a child, I was never a huge fan of Wizard of Oz. Then I had kids of my own...
They watched the blasted thing a dozen times per week for weeks!
And you know what? I didn't hate it. In fact, the dialogue and songs were still as enjoyable after hearing them a hundred times.
I can't think of any other movie that can say that.

tryanmax said...

The idea of Tim Burton remaking classic fairytale films is always better than the result. (Alice in Wonderland, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory) Incidentally, Burton directed a pilot for a show titled Lost in Oz which didn't get picked up. I just found it on YouTube and will report back after I watch it (which won't be immediately).

But people still think Burton remaking these things is a great idea. Kinda like how failing cities keep electing Democrats in hopes of something better.

Sam Raimi's Oz was abysmal. Aesthetically, it captured the essence of the classic film, but that just make its shortcomings that much more intolerable. Performance-wise, it was at the level of a high school production. The one where the script was some aspiring English-major's senior project. And you're only watching it because your sister's kid is on the tech crew, so you don't really know any of the kids on stage. Which means you're just trying to make it to the cookies and punch at intermission.

So, in answer to the question, I would probably put my money on a virtual unknown to deliver the goods. Somebody who is staking their career on putting out something that isn't schlock. I can't think of anything I'd have changed, but I'm sure a new set of writers could come up with something.

Dave Olson said...

If Hollywierd ever gets serious about a WOZ remake, I hope someone kidnaps Tim Burton and holds him in a basement in Cleavland for a few years, either until the insanity passes or someone makes the damn thing and it flops. This way we won't have to suffer through Johnny Depp playing some quirky Johnny Depp character we've all seen before.

The current fetish for remakes, sequels, and reboots is what is killing movies. Sometimes it works, such as Batman Begins or Casino Royale or even, going back a bit, The Addams Family. More often than not, we have to sit through Psycho, Land of the Lost, The Man of Steel, or Breakin' 2: Electric Boogaloo. (Sorry, couldn't resist.)

Anyway, as has been said before, the classic WOZ was lightning in a bottle and should never be remade or rebooted or re-imagined by the hacks who usually get $200 million for their tentpole projects. Even when they break even or make money, as Oz the Great and Powerful will likely do once it gets to the home entertainment market, they just aren't that good.

At this point, I'm going to destroy my entire premise by observing that WOZ itself was a remake. A second remake, even! Two silent versions had been made in 1910 and 1925, the latter of which starred Oliver Hardy as "The Woodsman". (Thank you, IMDB.) But the 1939 version was made when Classic Hollywood was at the height of its creative prowess, with a pre-war, pro-American worldview. Anything made today would be a cynical, progressive pile of cinemanure.

Anyway, I say all this without having read the original book on which it was all based. A remake that was faithful to the novel may be an interesting period piece. It was full of allegory about agrarianism vs. industrialism (the brainless vs. the heartless, get it?) and east vs. west.

tryanmax said...

Okay, one of these days, someone is going to have to sit me down and explain to me what was so awful about the Psycho remake, because I'm not seeing the problems.

tryanmax said...

BTW, I saw Pacific Rim and it delivers exactly as promised: giant m.f.ing robots mixing it up with giant m.f.ing monsters. If you're looking for something other than that, you're in the wrong theater.

To those looking for a little more insight, it's basically a live-action anime. Like, straight up.

BevfromNYC said...

Dave - I believe that the word "cinemanure" deserves a spot in the Commentarama-nary. that's a great new word!

BevfromNYC said...

Not to kind of change the subject, but who thought that James Franco could or should play the great and powerful Oz?

tryanmax said...

Bev, while I agree that Franco is not a particularly obvious choice, I do have to give him a touch of credit. He looked like he was putting his heart into it. It's just that one can only work with what's been given. Mila Kunis, on the other hand, totally came off as the pretty girl in high school who always gets the lead role even though she can't act her way out of a paper bag.

BevfromNYC said...

Tryanmax, I agree. It was just a bad remake. As usual though the supporting characters were much more entertaining.

Jason said...

The problem with remaking TWOZ is that I fear it will get turned into a Narnia/Lord of the Rings rip-off where Dorothy is a prophesied chosen one that will lead a revolt against the Wicked Witch of the West, which was pretty much the plot of Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland and now that I think about it, that was the plot of Oz: The Great and Powerful!!

The Judy Garland movie is too iconic to be remade. It’s not like Alice in Wonderland, where it can be reproduced again and again without an iconic adaptation to have to live up to.

Now, could someone adapt the OZ sequels, of which there are many? You bet. Disney gave it a go with the great Return to Oz, which was probably too ahead of its time to be successful. Have Dorothy go on new adventures and bring in other OZ characters like Ozma, Jack Pumpkinhead, the Nome King, the Patchwork Girl, all those characters that the general public doesn’t know about and haven’t been so well-defined by the 1939 movie.

AndrewPrice said...

Jed, We're nearing the end of the last set of questions. So it's been many month since you answered this. Which reminds me that I need to send out more questions ASAP.

A remake with Hillary would be great. Though I'd prefer to see Bill Clinton as the Munchins... all of them.

AndrewPrice said...

K, There is something amazingly special about this film and you could never repeat it. Perhaps that's why no one has tried directly? Maybe there are just some films that can't be copied?

AndrewPrice said...

Mycroft, WOZ has a very high re-watchability factor. Nothing about it seems to get old. It's really kind of amazing if you think about it. And it's amazing how many of its lines have made it into the culture and now appear in other films, songs and books regularly.

AndrewPrice said...

Scott, I see this film about once a year and it never grows old.

AndrewPrice said...

tryanmax, I'm not a fan of Burton versions either. He's a one trick pony and his vision isn't interesting to me... it's just "establishment weird." If you were going to remake this film, I definitely think you need to pick someone with a real vision or someone with a great new spin on it. I don't think you can do a straight up version or just a "weird" straight up version (Burton).

Cookies and punch.... yum.

AndrewPrice said...

Dave, I don't think reboots are a problem so much as bad reboots are a problem and a lack of anything else.

The original book is very different than the film and would not make a good movie. It's not at all what people think.

AndrewPrice said...

tryanmax, The remake of Psycho was completely pointless. It felt like exploitation... "let's make the exact same film scene by scene only with new actors... then we'll profit!!" It was pointless and cynical.

AndrewPrice said...

tryanmax, That's what I thought Pacific Rim would be, but people kept telling me "no, no, it's more than that." I'll see it when it hits HBO.

AndrewPrice said...

Bev, We should definitely add that to the Commentarama-nary!

As for Franco and Kunis, neither impressed me. Neither felt right for the parts somehow.

Tennessee Jed said...

are you saying, Andrew, that you would be afraid to cast Weiner in the "roll" of the wicked witch, for fear he might "pull out" at the last minute. Still, paint his face green, put a floppy black witch hat on him and voila .....

AndrewPrice said...

Jason, I think the problem goes back to the fact that we are in the age of the villain. Every film now needs a villain, which means every film needs a hero to save the little people from the villain. It's everywhere in film now. It's really kind of pathetic.

As for the sequels, there is a lot of material there for "a franchise" and I'm a little surprised no one has tried it yet.

AndrewPrice said...

Jed, LOL! In truth, Weiner strikes me more as The Great And Powerful Oz (a faker who hides behind text messaging) or as a winged monkey... all politicians are winged monkeys.

Seriously though, couldn't you imagine a hundred midgets with their faces digitally altered to appear like Bill Clinton all singing about being members of the Lollypop Guild?

ScottDS said...

Andrew -

Burton was always "weird" but the establishment (whatever that is in this case) saw that and co-opted it. Burton now has to move on to something else and it looks like he is.

I don't blame him for his imitators.

Jason said...

“As for the sequels, there is a lot of material there for "a franchise" and I'm a little surprised no one has tried it yet.”

It’s actually quite funny when you consider how Hollywood will remake book adaptations like Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory or try to stretch one book into multiple movies (Twilight: Breaking Dawn, Harry Potter and the Deadly Hollows, The Hobbit), and here you have 13 OZ sequels written by Frank Baum alone that are nearly completely untapped. And they're in the public domain, no less! Anybody could do them.

T-Rav said...

Jed, I honestly didn't remember answering this question either, so don't feel bad.

Andrew, the RLM guys gave Pacific Rim a surprisingly positive review, so I don't know, it might be good.

AndrewPrice said...

Scott, Burton is "weird" in a very safe way. Maybe he wasn't the first time, but since then he's become very banal. He takes no risks. He does nothing unexpected. He just makes everything dark and evil looking even as it is no different than anything else.

AndrewPrice said...

Jason, the only think I can think is that since those properties don't already have a history of success, Hollywood isn't interested in stealing them.

AndrewPrice said...

T-Rav, I'll check it out when it hits HBO. The RLM guys are normally pretty good.

Outlaw13 said...

I guess I'm alone in thinking that Sam Raimi did a pretty good job. Oh well, I enjoyed OZ the Great and Powerful...but I wasn't expecting much.

Hollywood would do well to quit remaking films (and here's a novel suggestion) try making more new stuff.

Rustbelt said...

Honestly, I'm not sure if the word 'remake' can really be applied to the WOZ, since it's based on a book. As tryanmax noted, the story had already been filmed twice when the 1939 movie came out. And there are other versions I've seen or heard about since then. Most have been animated (there was one really good one that stuck closer to the source materal and included several details cut from the 1939 film- the many forms or disguises of the wizard, the witch's raven and wolf armies, and the Good Witch of the South- but for the life of me, I've never been able to find it.) And then there are the live action versions like 'the Wiz' ('70's blaxplotiation film) and 'Tin Man' (SyFy min-series version starring Zo...Zo...I'm not going there.)
I guess what I'm saying is that the story has been filmed several times like most classic fairy tales. But like trying to compete with Disney's best fairy tale animated films, no version of WOZ can live up to the 1939 movie. It's not like they didn't try. Rather, it's like K said- in 1939, they caught lightning in a bottle.

It's kind of like Dracula. I went to Wikipedia and gave up trying to (forgive the pun) count the number of versions, sequels and variations. But think about it. Is Francis Coppola's 1992 version a remake of the 1931 film starring Bela Lugosi? Nah. They're just different versions, focusing on different material from the novel, Stoker's play version, and plenty of material added for the heck of it. (Hm...could best version of Dracula be a Great Film Debate for this coming October?)

AndrewPrice said...

Outlaw, It's all about decreasing the risk... repeat what's already been proven to work.

AndrewPrice said...

"I'm not going there" LOL! Good man. Tin Man was actually the first time I realized just how worthless she was as an actress. "Oh, my parents were killed? Huh. Wow. I am really upset by that. (yawn)"

Good point about the difference between remakes and just doing it again. It's hard to call something a remake when it's done 60 years late in a completely different way from source material other than the first film.

Rustbelt said...

Oh, and speaking on the subject of the 1939 film's re-watchability, Ray Bolger was asked several times about the film's ongoing popularity. Bolger played the Scarecrow in the film. He later stated that it was a stage version of the book that he saw as a child that inspired him to become an actor. When he was cast in the movie, it was originally as the Tin Man. Bolger then begged the producers to allow him to switch roles with Buddy Ebsen and play the Scarecrow. The producers, thankfully, granted his wish. (Ebsen, it should be noted, suffered a severe illness due to the Tin Man makeup and had to be replaced by Jack Haley.)

Anyway, to get back to the point...Bolger was asked, because of the increasingly frequent showings of WOZ on TV, if he ever got royalty checks from the film. He answered, "Nope. Just immortality. I'll settle for that." I think he called it right.

Dave Olson said...

@Bev: thanks for nominating my portmanteau for addition to the Commentarama-nary. As far as I know, I came up with it on my own so there are no copyright issues to iron out. I used it here at least once before, I think when we were challenged to say something nice about Episode I. (Another sequel.)

djskit said...

John Boorman re-made it alreday in 1974 - It was called Zardoz.

Zed even flies over the rainbow to a magical world and throws water on the Wicked Witch of the Tabernacle. Give me a few more minutes and I could come up with more...

AndrewPrice said...

djskit, Zardoz. LOL! Wow, what a turd of a movie. Thank God the fashion sense never caught on either... except in Borat.

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