I say this all the time so my love for anything/everything Oz-related is obvious. It might be my number one obsession. So when a big screen version of the film was showing down the street from me at the Roxie, I jumped at the chance, bought my tickets, and headed off to watch it. I've never seen it on a movie screen and I feel like most people haven't either. Needless to say, it was fantastic. I walked home through the mean streets of the Mission whistling "If I Only Had A Brain." Quietly of course, very quietly. And with a defensive swagger.
Evan Schwartz, the author of this amazing new book on L.Frank Baum was there to open the film. The synopsis for the book is below, his blog is here, and there's a fun Oz questionnaire (which I had to retake multiple times to get correct) on his website.
"Finding Oz tells the remarkable tale behind one of the world's most enduring and best-loved stories. Offering profound new insights into the true origins and meaning behind L. Frank Baum's 1900 masterwork, it delves into the personal turmoil and spiritual transformation that fueled Baum's fantastical parable of the American Dream.I learned a ton of tidbits and facts just from the twenty or so minutes that Evan spoke, so I can safely assume that the book will be chock full of amazing stories. He provided a questionnaire that included stuff such as "Where did Toto get his name?", "Why is Professor Marvel in the movie?", and "Why does the Wicked Witch melt away when Dorothy throws water on her?"
Before becoming an impresario of children's adventure tales -- the JK Rowling of his age -- Baum failed at a series of careers and nearly lost his soul before setting off on a journey of discovery that would lead to the Land of Oz. Drawing on original research, Evan I. Schwartz debunks once and for all popular misconceptions and reveals how the people, places and events in Baum's life gave birth to the unforgettable images and characters, from the Yellow Brick Road to the Emerald City to the dual view of witches -- as both good and wicked -- that reflected the life of Baum's mother-in-law, the radical women's rights leader Matilda Joslyn Gage.
A narrative that sweeps across late 19th century America, Finding OZ ultimately reveals how failure and heartbreak can sometimes lead to redemption and bliss, and how one individual can ignite the imagination of the entire world."
-Finding Oz: How L. Frank Baum Discovered the Great American Story-
Every question from the list and from the audience was met with a detailed and informative answer from Mr. Schwartz. I was really impressed and astounded. In one answer, he talked about how the Wicked Witch represents our inner fears and that by having her defeated by something as innocuous as water, it highlights how our goals can be achieved just by washing those fears away. (Highly paraphrased btw)
I was dumb and didn't stick around to buy and get a copy signed. But I'll definitely be reading this book as soon as possible.
Also, my screenwriter friend told me that he uses The Wizard of Oz to teach movie structure. Apparently it's got a solid and perfect structure. Seventeen minutes in, the tornado hits. Thirty minutes in, the yellow brick road. The act one to act two transition when they first visit the Emerald City is exactly in the middle of the movie. The low point is at ninety minutes when the balloon flies away, etc. I had never paid attention to that timely pacing and it was great to have it pointed out to me.