Tag Archives: the wizard of oz

The Wiz, Live! (a Quick Review.)

For the third time, NBC has brought a musical into our homes, LIVE. And like Dorothy’s three clicks of her heels, the third time has seemed to be the charm, as The Wiz, Live! Was a triumph, to say the least.

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Right away, the giant LED screens provide an elegant, yet drab background of the Kansas farm. You know you’re in for a fun ride, once we arrive to Oz.

The book (the script) is new here, with Dorothy struggling with wanting to go “back home” to Omaha. She doesn’t like her new school and thinks Aunt Em works her to the bone. Aunt Em loves her anyway, and tries to tell Dorothy home is not a place, but where you are loved. Dorothy’s parents are gone, but Em does the best she can. And before we know it, a Tornado whips up Dorothy and her house and, you know the rest!

Here’s my quick review:

  • Amber Riley was just perfect as the bubbly Addaperle, whom welcomes Dorothy to Oz. Props to the costumers who put her in blue, this is a nod to the original Oz book.

 

  • Wow, the Scarecrow (played by Elijah Kelley) was funny here. I loved how he was trying to rush Dorothy along once they met Tin Man. And, let’s give praise to Elijah’s singing as well as that great back flip he landed!

 

  • Shanice Williams was a fabulous Dorothy. The new book gave Dorothy some spunk. Her line to the crows, “I already killed a witch this morning, and I wasn’t even mad at her!” was great and she delivered it well.  Also, this is almost silly to say, but come on, we know her singing was OFF THE CHARTS. Man, that version of “Home” was just beautiful. Judy Garland has some competition there.

 

  • I hate to bunch them together, not because they weren’t fantastic on their own, but I loved the Tin Man and Lion. Ne-Yo had a distinct accent and fantastic movement. David Alan Grier made the Lion his own and his comedy shined through.

 

  • One of the most chilling moments in this show was new— when Dorothy is trying to find the yellow brick road, and her dead mother calls out to her. Her mother is trapped in a tree, and to get her down, the mother advises Dorothy to give her the magic silver shoes. Of course, we find out “mother” is really a creature of the forest, trying to trap Dorothy, who is saved by the Tin Man. This was just a brilliant moment and I can see it being used in other productions.

 

  • The Emerald City being set up as a nightclub was interesting. I loved the dancing once we got inside. Just wonderful.

 

  • Queen Latifah. What can I say? Having a female Wizard works here, and she was just great all around. Although, I didn’t like how it is she, and not Dorothy, that help the three friends realize they have brains, a heart, and courage. Dorothy needs to always be the one to tell her friends they’ve had what they sought after. The Wiz is a fake, how does she know?

 

  • Mary J Blige had me worried in press footage. She didn’t seem evil, at all. But, I was happy to see she was screeching and stomping, in brilliant fashion. Not just a singer saying lines, she was acting. Her melting was great, and the purist in me loves they actually threw water on her, and not Glitter.

Now, onto some negatives:

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  • Uzo Aduba was alright. She came across as “the wicked’s glinda”, you know, kind of flighty, silly. And look, I know singing is tough, but she was flat here and there. But, what was very off putting was her hair. Now, here me out. In press footage, Glinda had blond curly hair, to go with her her gold dress. But, Uzo came out in what I think was her actual hair, with little gold jewels in it. It’s not that it looked “bad”. But I’m wondering if getting her in that dress was taking to long and they scrapped the wig. Her look definitely seemed unfinished.

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  • Toto. Oh, man, Toto. Where was he? NOWHERE. He came and barked at the farm hands and seemingly missed the tornado. I absolutely hate a production that ignores Toto. And The Wiz, Live! Took it to a new level. He didn’t even go to Oz. Well, that’s a new one.

 

  • Lastly, after Dorothy sang ‘Home’ and returned home, we literally saw her in Kansas for 5 seconds. The production still had twenty minutes left. We needed a ‘moment.’ Aunt Em rushed to hug Dorothy and Toto, who we hadn’t seen in three hours, jumped in Dorothy’s  arms and… that was it.

Overall, this production was magical. This certainly was the best of the three and it being about Oz was a treat for me, since that’s one of my favorite things. (See what I did there?)

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The Summer Tradition.

In the year 2000, I rented the film Psycho. No, not the original, but the 1998 remake. I knew of the 1960 version, but for whatever reason, I rented the remake. Having not seen the original, I enjoied what I saw, because there was no precursor. When the film ended, I had this overwhelming drive to imitate the shower scene. (That is the scenarist form of flattery, you know.)

The Poster for the 1998 remake of ‘Psycho.’

My father was a filmmaker and he had a video camera. My father said he was up for filming a little something, but I’d need a script before anything could happen. So, I quickly typed up a script in a day or so. Of course, the story was different. “Marion” was now “James” and “Norman” was now “Norma.” My step mother was up for anything. So she’d play the part of the crazy killer.

So, the next day, we spent probably four or so hours filming. When we had finished, I hooked up my dad’s camera to his Sony Vaio and opened Movieshaker, a movie editing software.

I spent another long amount of time placing the footage together and adding music. The finished product was placed on DVD and we watched it in the evening with soda and popcorn. It wasn’t very good, but it was a family activity and gave us a good laugh.

My Aunt, Janet, saw the film a week later, with me in attendance. When it had finished, she tuned to me and said, “Gosh, that looked like fun! I want to be in a movie!” I’m not sure if she was completely serious. But, I was impressionable and I had been biten by the filmmaking bug.

That summer, nearly the entire family became involved in the process. I had written a 30 page script called “Daisy the Crazy Lady”, about a woman escaping a mental institution and causing trouble for a boy and his aunt. Again, the idea might have been campy— but everyone had fun making it. A few weeks later, we had a premiere, with popcorn and soda. It was from this moment that a summer tradition had been born.

We made a film every summer for ten years. The majority were purely original ideas, while three were based on fairy tales. They weren’t Oscar material by any means, but they became a love for the family. The grand finale was a version of “The Wizard of Oz”, a story I absolutely love. By this time, everyone knew what they were doing. I am very proud of that film and the work that went into it. That was in 2010. By this time, almost all of the ‘actors’ were warn out and had said “Oz” was there last.

I missed the tradition instantly. I wanted to keep going, but you can’t make a movie without actors.  So, I thought up a great idea. I’d write a script to do with friends! That, however, is another story entirely.

Six of the ten films are online for you to view. Here’s the first part of “The Wizard of Oz”

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The Wizard of Oz (Andrew Lloyd Webber Version) Review

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When I heard that someone had decided to ‘rework’ THE WIZARD OF OZ, I was abhorred. The classic tale of the lost farm girl in a magic land has been around for 75 years, and has still held up. But, it was  inevitable that eventually, someone  would take a pen or a piano and put their magic touch on this fantastic established work.

Written by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Jeremy Sams, this THE WIZARD OF OZ may have “Over the Rainbow” and “We’re off to see the Wizard”, but you’re not going to see the classic film brought to life on stage. You’re going to see something that isn’t quite right— something that’ll leave you feeling uncomfortable instead of enchanted.

The Acting:

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Danielle Wade, who won the role of Dorothy through a reality TV competition, is deserving of the ruby slippers. This girl has a stunning voice. While there are elements of Garland’s Dorothy, Wade makes the part her own and is probably the best actress I have seen as Dorothy. When ‘Over the Rainbow’ finally arrives, time slows, and you are reminded why you came to see this show.

Jamie McKnight is the Scarecrow. He’s likeable and has new material to work with. His singing is great and he’s limber. The only thing is with the new material, Jamie decided to yell a few lines as to appear childish. I didn’t much care for the yelling.

Mike Jackson is one of the best Tin Men I’ve seen. He nails the compassion down pat and is an excellent tap dancer. I never really liked the Tin Man much. But during this show, I was almost always finding myself enjoying his acting out of the three friends.

Lee MacDougall is a fine actor and does the part of the Cowardly Lion justice, but there are issues here that I’ll discuss later.

Jacquelyn Piro Donovan is a funny witch, making us laugh with some good one liners and has a pretty good cackle.

Robin Evan Willis is a fantastic Glinda and has an angelic voice.

The show follows the same basic plot of the classic film. But, some songs are emitted, new ones are added, and all the dialogue is new. You’ll hear the classic, “I’ll get you my pretty” and “There’s no place like home,” but, for the most part, you’re going to see a slightly more spunky Dorothy, an extremely stupid Scarecrow and a very unwelcome characterization of The Lion.

Let’s talk about the new songs first.

The Songs: 

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The first new song is ‘Nobody Understands Me”, a catchy tune Dorothy sings. Aunt Em and Uncle Henry just don’t understand Toto is in danger, and in my opinion, is the best new song. While not particularly needed, it is catchy and reiterates Dorothy’s feeling of not being heard.

The second new song is ‘Wonders of the World’, sung by Professor Marvel. The song is meant to give The Wizard something to sing and reenforce the idea that there is something better than Kansas. But, perhaps just a fault no person can escape, the scene is something you NEED, but it’s never entertaining. I will say the new script brings more humor along with The Wizard, so it’s not as boring as it has been in other productions.

After ‘Wonders’, we hear what we are familiar with… “Follow the Yellow Brick Road”, “If I only Had…” “The Merry Land of Oz” and so on. But, when the Wizard demands to be brough the Witch’s broomstick, we have a song… “Bring me the Broomstick.” This is the one addition that absolutely needs to be thrown in the trash. It’s not a fun song and it slows the story down to a halt.

Next, right before Dorothy is captured by the Wicked Witch, The Witch sings ‘Red Shoe Blues’, a drab, lounge-ish tune about how the slippers will make her powers stronger. The song is okay. But it’s nothing special. Some shows have had the Witch sing ‘The Jitterbug’, which is a nice fit and frankly, a much better song.

The last song that is added is “Already Home” sung by Glinda, just before Dorothy clicks her heels. This song is actually pretty good. The melody is magical and the lyrics are quite clever.

Home is a place in your heart/ Every Journey take you back to where you start.

All in all, the trouble here is you just can’t top the original. Music or songs. The original music is classic and no song will ever top ‘Over the Rainbow.’ These new songs can stand on their own, but don’t match the creativity of the work done by Harold Arlen and E.Y. Harburg

The Script: (Called the Book for stage shows) :

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The new book is where the real problem is. Some editions are welcomed:

Dorothy isn’t entirely a ‘damsel in distress’ and has some spunk, the Wizard is really funny, and there is some nice banter between The Witch and Glinda.

You’ll also see that the Scarecrow is extremely stupid here. He can never remember what it is he wants from the Wizard. This was different, but it leads to a lot of comedy from the actor playing the Scarecrow, and he had me laughing.

But, there is one characterization brought on by new lines that is absolutely tasteless. In this production, the Cowardly Lion is gay.

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He never directly states it, but ‘jokes’ are said to humor us:

“I’m a proud friend of Dorothy’s”

“The Lion Sleeps tonight”

“I’m a Lion in Winter!”

You could argue there was some “hint” in the original the Lion might in fact have been gay. The word “Sissy” is in his song, and he does get a perm at the Emerald City… Those two things are from the original. But here, the entire character of the Lion is built around his purposed homosexuality, even being told by an Emerald City Guard, “My wife runs the spa! You’ll love it!”

During “If I only Had the Nerve” when the Lion Sings, ‘I’m just a Dandy Lion”, he leans on the Tin Man’s shoulder and the Tin man slowly backs away.

In a time when gays are struggling to earn the right to marry and face constant discrimination, why must we play up the stereotype? And in THE WIZARD OF OZ, no less. Judy Garland was a gay icon, (hence, ‘friend of Dorothy’s) and many gays identify with her journey. The fact that Webber and Sams felt the need to write the Lion this way is beyond me. Sure, maybe it gets a laugh. But it’s deplorable. This is the major problem with the production and I strongly suggest a re-write.

The book also has a completely messed up change. When Dorothy is saying good bye to her three friends, just before she returns home, she says to the scarecrow, “I think I’ll miss you most of all.” It’s a tender moment. But, NOT HERE.

“Hey, we were with you too” says the Tin Man.

“Yeah, Thanks a lot!” pipes the Lion.

The couple sitting in front of me looked at each other at this moment, and the woman made an expression like, “What the hell was that?”

Again, this was an attempt at humor, but it falls flat. It makes the Tin Man and Lion look like assholes, and in THE WIZARD OF OZ, the only person you want to hate is the Wicked Witch.

Speaking of the Witch— In Kansas, when Miss Gulch arrives, you’ll soon realize she doesn’t have a basket on her bike. She threatens Dorothy that she wants the dog destroyed and she’ll “be back in one hour” with the order from the sheriff. But, after she rides off, Dorothy runs away immediately.

The fact that Toto is never torn away from Dorothy’s arms changes the narrative completely. Having Miss Gulch threatening her just isn’t enough. Having Toto placed in the basket and seeing Dorothy cry is the strongest element in Kansas. But here, Toto is never taken from Dorothy. It’s something that needs to be there.

Another thing about Toto, which I’m not sure is written in the book or some kind of animal trainer decision—

Where’s Toto? 

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Toto is absent from the stage. A LOT. Now, I’ve seen productions with stuffed animals and I’ve seen productions with real animals on a leash. The dog playing Toto was extremely well trained. He’d sit on a stool for a few minutes or he’d run away, right on cue. When he wasn’t sitting or running he was on a leash. But, the strange thing was, Toto was often taken off stage and absent for long periods of time.

In Munchkinland, The Wicked Witch arrives— and little Toto is MIA. This is usually where Dorothy scoops Toto up and hugs him for dear life… and we all know the Witch will get Dorothy and “her little dog too”. Well, Toto magically ran on stage about 15 seconds before the Witch was to threaten to get the little dog.

I feel there was something more here, because, at Emerald City, Dorothy is told “No dogs allowed!” when she tries to go to the Wizard’s throne room. Toto was then taken off stage and absent until midway of the Haunted Forest scene.

If you want to give the animal a break, I have no problem with that. But, when you give the animal a break needs to be decided carefully. Toto has GOT to be with Dorothy during the Munchkinland sequence… he can’t just run on before the Witch is suddenly to mention him. The amount of breaks ‘Toto’ had made it seem like Dorothy didn’t care about her little dog at all. I mean, it just didn’t make sense.

This show has promise. But, in its current state, it comes off like a work-shopped musical. It needs a major overhaul.

Final Verdict: The production looks nice: beautiful sets, costumes and some CGI effects for the Tornado. But, while the production is visually appealing, its book has got some serious diarrhea.

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Fish Fingers with Custard.

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A blue box.

I had seen it somewhere before. I was puzzled, however, because I’m pretty sure in ‘The Wizard of Oz’, the Wicked Witch of the East is killed by Dorothy’s house, not a blue box. Of course, my interest was peaked. This blue box was in Oz. How did it get there? And what was it, exactly?

So, I did what anyone would do, which is type something into Google. “Blue Box” yielded results, but nothing that provided an answer. I looked at the drawing again  and noticed the word “police” on the blue box. So, I typed in “Blue police Box.” Google produced what I wanted to know in a fraction of a second.

I was looking at the TARDIS.

Within the next five minutes, I was able to discover the TARDIS was a time machine and used by The Doctor. ‘Doctor Who?” I literally wondered, I swear to you. I was so curious as to who he was. You may not know, but I am an avid Oz fan. I have seen nearly every adaptation of the story. I was shocked to see I had somehow missed something where a Blue Police Box makes its way to Oz. “TARDIS” “Time Machine” and “Doctor” had only been in my mind a few seconds before I realized this wasn’t directly related to Oz, but was a separate entity. But, this didn’t phase me. I was still interested.

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The logo of the program, from seasons 1 to 4.

So, I did some quick reading. DOCTOR WHO was a show that had been around for twenty some years, then ended, then was brought back in 2005. It also had a huge following. I came across a photo of 11 different actors playing the same man. Something you don’t see every day.

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All the actors who’ve played ‘The Doctor.’

But, everything kept directing me to a “Matt Smith.’  Mr.Smith was the actor portraying the 11th version of The Doctor.  I saw a few things saying he was the ‘best’ and very ‘quirky.’ I was sure I’d run into spoilers, so I stopped reading. I was going to watch the first episode and see if it was any good.

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A little girl investigates a strange noise in her backyard.

I watched The Eleventh Hour with fascination, as a young girl met with a zany gentleman, who wanted an apple. He said he loved them, but spit his first bite out. He then asked for yogurt.  He gulped it in his mouth, but spit it up. “I hate Yogurt! It’s just stuff with bits in,” he said.  Next came bacon, beans, bread and butter— none of those did the trick. Finally, he helped himself to fish sticks and some custard. (Or  as the Doctor called them, “fish fingers…” ) I was almost in a trance— the food, the bright colors, the strange man, and this cute little girl.

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The Doctor with Amy Pond.

Once the strange man had satisfied his hunger, the little girl shows him a crack in her bedroom wall. And, we soon learn, this crack is not just in the wall, but the universe!

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This not your ordinary crack in the wall.

To make a long story somewhat short, I watched the first episode completely and wrote on my Facebook about it. That’s when my cell beeped at me.

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We can’t break the law, can we? “You can’t start with 11. You won’t understand what happens. You need to start with nine,” I was later told.

So, I started at the beginning. With Doctor Number 9. Just in case you are lost, when The Doctor is severely injured, his physical form ‘regenerates.’ The result is a totally new appearance, with the occasional slight change in personality. This was the real-world solution to keeping the character alive, but giving reason for the actor to change. Normally, a new actor playing someone else’s character is a big no-no. But, here, it works.

The Doctor uses the TARDIS to travel through time, as well as space. The Doctor always finds himself in a time where something isn’t right, and he must correct it. He is aided by many female companions throughout the series, all of whom eventually develop feelings for him.

My point, I suppose, is that DOCTOR WHO is a wonderful show. The writing is especially good. The majority of the time, an episode kept me interested with plots that were so imaginative and often included twists and turns I never saw coming. In addition, the show largely pays attention to its own mythology, rarely falling into the recon trap. (Rewriting established ideals for the sake of story.) Lastly, while the show follows a ‘monster of the week’ format, there is always a lager plot thread that completes by the season finale. There was a show some years ago, called DOLLHOUSE. Its first season also followed a ‘monster of the week’ format. However, fans disliked that a “larger plot thread’ seemed to never be present. DOCTOR WHO manages to do both, and it’s quite genius.

If you like fantasy, time travel, action, drama, comedy— do yourself a favor and check this show out.

It’s one of the shows I wish I could write for.

It’s simply brilliant.

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Oz, The Great and Powerful

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Anyone who knows me, knows I’m an avid fan of THE WIZARD OF OZ.

The 1939 film was the first film I saw, thus creating this unbreakable bond. As I reached childhood, I related to Dorothy’s loneliness and her wish to go some place new and magical. The Wicked Witch and her monkeys never scared me. I loved the songs, (minus King of the Forest) and I jumped with excitement every time Dorothy threw that bucket of water.

And now, here we are in 2013. And a new film has arrived. There have been others, but none have matched the popularity of the original. The closest to that kind of fame is the musical WICKED, A reworking of The Wicked Witch of the West.

Admittedly, when first hearing about “Oz” I wasn’t excited. With the original film, I found The Wizard boring and fast- forwarded through his parts. I thought, “Why would we be interested in his story?” Reviews for the film were not positive, mostly attacked Franco’s performance,

But. Anything “Oz” I will see at least once, as that “world” or “fandom” is my favorite.

I left the theatre pleasantly surprised. I hadn’t read reviews in full, but had heard the story was “not there.” I disagree. It was clear that this was a story of man attempting to find the goodness inside himself. Above this morale, it was a film about a magical land where Wicked Witches were so close to overthrowing a good one. Trust me, even for a person who isn’t necessarily a fan of The Wizard of Oz, there is a story here that you can follow easily.

Also with the story, I loved the twists that the writers took. In case you aren’t aware, “Oz” is actually like Harry Potter— there are a series of books that build onto the first story. While this film does include many of the books details, there are a few things that the filmmakers created on their own.

SPOILERS AHEAD—

The main difference and perhaps most interesting change is the origin of the Wicked Witch of the West.

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In this film, she doesn’t start out wicked, or green even. She’s a good witch, although, a little naïve, I would say. This good witch eventually feels betrayed by the Wizard and when she is tricked into eating a poison apple, her goodness is drained and she becomes what we know her as: A broom flying, black cloaked, green-faced wicked woman. This is what I loved most about the film. The Wicked Witch of the West is a famous character and these “changes” were welcomed and there’s a tint of humanity with her. The idea is she wasn’t always wicked.

Lastly, one must talk about the allusions to the original film—

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Kansas is black and white, Oz is in color— and, Kansas characters have Oz Counterparts. That was a nice little nod to the 1939 film.

The film has done so well financially, that a sequel is already being written. The question on everyone’s mind is in fact, will the next film be a retelling of Dorothy’s journey? There’s much more material to go off of, but it just seems that Dorothy arriving to Oz is the most logical step. At the very least, if the filmmakers were following a chronological time line, Dorothy would come next. But, it’s anyone’s guess.

Here’s where I get personal. You see, it’s been a dream of mine to bring the book version of Dorothy’s story to the screen. I have no intention of remaking the 1939 film. But I love the story so much, I wanted to make a film on it. The book is very, very different, so I felt it was justified.

Part of me is saddened that this Oz film has arrived. Because, it ultimately means Hollywood very likely will bring Dorothy Gale back to the screen. Again, there have been Oz films since the original, but none have reached a level of love or popularity of the 1939 film. I wanted to be that writer that pitched to the producers that we need an oz film. But, it seems someone else has already done it.

If in fact Dorothy’s journey is what we see next, there a few bumps in the road that I wonder how the creators will fix. Firstly, in the Kansas sequence, Oscar talks with a woman named Annie. Annie mentions a John Gale proposed to her. She’s going to say yes. GALE Is Dorothy’s last name. So, it is safe to say we met Dorothy’s mother. But, the trouble is, Dorothy lives with her aunt and uncle. Now of course, everyone has a mother. But, are the filmmakers planning to give us a 40 minute prologue on how Dorothy ends up with her aunt and uncle? Is Dorothy going to witness the death of her parents? As far as I know, her parents are never mentioned in the book.

Secondly, we have Evanora.

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While not specifically stated, it’s safe to assume she is in fact THE WICKED WITCH OF THE EAST. If you don’t know, this is the witch that has the magical slippers and gets killed by Dorothy’s house. It’s assumed she’s the East witch because one, she’s wicked already and two, her sister is the wicked witch of the west. The trouble is… nowhere in the film did Evanora pull out magic slippers. The only thing she had was a jewel around her neck that when destroyed, revealed her true form. So, again, the question is, If Dorothy shows up in the next film, where will the magical slippers come from?

Lastly, and this is the biggest issue… is Glinda.

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My issue with her is the fact that she knows the Wizard is a fraud. In knowing this, why would Glinda allow Dorothy to travel to the Emerald City, just to be let down? Now, look, in the book and most likely in these new films, Glinda is not the Witch that meets Dorothy in Munchkinland. It’s the unnamed Witch of the North… but she is absent from this first film. And while Glinda may not be the one to first meet Dorothy— This Glinda appeared to have an “all knowing” power. She knew what was going on in Oz. Even if you take this power away— a little girl killing one of the worst witches is news that surely would travel to Glinda. How does Glinda allowing a girl go see a FAKE Wizard fit into her goodness? I also had a huge problem with Glinda and The Wizard sharing a passionate kiss. In fact, all three witches seen in the film have a crush on the wizard. A little “tension” between any of these witches and Oz are fine— but a full blown romance? It just doesn’t fit. Especially with Glinda. She isn’t that type of character. At the end of the film, she fell into pure love interest territory and kissed the hero. But, in the context of who she was, it made no sense.

And so, now we wait. We wait to see just what the next film will bring. Will Dorothy’s house fall from the sky? In all honesty, if another Oz film is to be made, that’s what I’d pay to see. I’d love to see Dorothy’s story again. And, I wonder just how it’ll all work out.

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