Hollywood is so bankrupt of ideas that it seems all it can do is:
films from the past, altering and adapting them for dumbed-down audiences or
what filmmakers assume are dumbed-down audiences, and make them politically
correct (e.g., The Four Feathers, Clueless, the latter based on Jane
Austen’s Emma, Cape Fear);
“prequels” and “sequels” to proven blockbusters (e.g., Star Wars, The Matrix, Alien);
characters from past films for “new” stories (e.g., any Bond film
made after Sean Connery’s last one, including Connery’s last one, Never Say Never Again);
literary classics or would-be classics or imaginary classics for children,
morons, yuppies, and pubescent adults who get tingles up their legs from CGI
effects (The Hunchback of Notre Dame,
The Matrix, The Terminator, etc.), ensuring they are also politically correct.
environmental disaster films, or nuclear threat films, or anti-business films.
historical films that are politically correct, regardless of the era,
mythology, legend or historical accuracy, (e.g., Shakespeare in Love, The
What caused me to write this was the release of the newest Oz film
(the last one, called The Wiz, was patronizingly
adapted for “black” audiences), Oz
the Great and Powerful. I won’t bother reviewing the sorry “prequel”;
Ann Hornaday of the Washington Post
skewers it to my satisfaction. L. Frank Baum is
based” on something else. When a studio boasts that a film is
“based” or “loosely based” on an original source, film or
book, it means that a claque of rewriters and highly paid hacks have treated
the material as their own creation and tweaked it beyond recognition.
(1948), a fairly well-done suspense thriller, stars Ray Milland as a crime magazine editor
who fools around with his boss’s mistress (Rita Johnson) and subsequently is enmeshed
in a cover-up of her murder by his boss (Charles Laughton). It is based on
Kenneth Fearing’s confusing, multi-first-person novel (1946) of the same
name. The film is superior to the novel because its scriptwriters essentialized
the plot elements in the novel and still told the same story. Otherwise, the
novel would have been impossible, and, indeed, impractical, to project on the
screen as a straight narrative.
agents activate a sleeper agent in the person of Kevin Costner as a Naval
officer who fools around with the Secretary of Defense’s mistress (Sean Young)
and subsequently becomes enmeshed in the mistress’s murder by the Secretary
(Gene Hackman). Apparently all this was planned by the infallible and
omniscient Soviets (the Soviet Union would collapse two years later). The film
made no sense, nor did it make sense for Harper Collins to republish Fearing’s
novel with a picture of Kevin Costner and Sean Young canoodling on the front
cover, when inside is Fearing’s novel with no references in it to Soviet
sleeper moles or Naval officers, untouched by editor or screenwriter. A reader
expecting torrid sex scenes between Costner and Young would be sorely
disappointed, if not confused.
in a bookstore the same year it was republished as part of the remake’s
promotion, and mentally noted that Kenneth Fearing, his name featured
prominently at the bottom of the front cover, died when Hackman was an
unpromising actor at the Pasadena Playhouse, and while Costner and Young
presumably were in kindergarten having their diapers changed and their hands
messy with finger paint. It was like having ordered a Gevalia coffee maker and
opened the box to find an hourglass made in China. Deceptive packaging supreme.
solicitation on a public street. It is about the new Emerald City, Washington
D.C., the metropolis of OZeroland. I herewith present a précis of my own
“remake” of The Wonderful
Wizard of Oz.
is a magical place where every wish can be granted, every desire fulfilled, and
where faucets run with milk and honey. Toto in a basket is an optional feature.
I’ve left out the dog because any movie that features a cute dog is angling for
the sympathy vote.
her house was swept up in the tornado of the subprime mortgage collapse, and
deposited unceremoniously on the Wicked Witch of the Gay/Lesbian Fiscal
Magicians Alliance, Barmy Cranks. Grateful Munchkins remove his ruby slippers
and present them to Dorothy. The sparkling slippers have no magical powers;
they are just nice-looking fashion accessories.
Munchkins how she can get home. She is told by the Munchkin spokesman, Karney
the Geek, that she will need to ask the Wizard in the capitol, Emerald City. “Just
follow the Paper Money Trail…I mean Paper Money Road,” says Carney the
Geek as he adjusts his ill-fitting glasses on his nose, “and you can’t
Scarecrow, and the Tin Man on her way to Emerald City. The Tin Man and the
Scarecrow are already there and part of the political establishment. The Cowardly
Lion is a rogue predator forbidden to enter the great metropolis. He will be
visions of sugar plums and cheeseburgers and fairies who flit about making
dreams come true with flicks of their magic wands. The Wizard hides behind a
giant fold-out changing screen where he uses an amplifier to sound like James Earl
Jones, and changes between his swim trunks, golfing shorts, and suits. He also
sneaks in a Marlboro behind the screen because nobody is allowed to look. The screen
bears in flashing neon lights the Wizard’s famous “Two Steps Forward, Two
Steps Back” emblem, a disc showing serrated rows of red poppies and a
by his electorate of Munchkins, the chief residents of Emerald City. The
Munchkins vote for him early and often every Election Day, because otherwise
they will be rounded up by the Winkies to be carried off by the flying monkeys
and dropped into the Tidewater and washed out to sea. The Munchkins know where
their bread is buttered – what little bread and butter are covered by their
ration cards – so they vote for the Wizard and hold mass Wizard Appreciation
Days to show their undying loyalty. Many Munchkins have actually died of that
loyalty, but there is a “gentlemunchkin’s agreement” to never discuss
such things. It’s not good for morale.
Bank system and Secretary of the Treasures Department, and wishes he had a
brain, at least one that isn’t made of sawdust. The Tin Man, with whom he
shares a sumptuous office, starts up Ma and Pa shops that receive felonious
subsidies, or wishes they received felonious subsidies, or could benefit from laws
that would protect them from competition so they couldn’t be accused of having
accepted felonious subsidies after having failed anyway. The Tin Man regards
himself as an entrepreneurial farmer, although an unlucky one, because all the
“seed” money vanishes into the earth, coaxed there by nefarious Jinns
and poltergeists, strange creatures over which even the Wizard has no power.
meat-eater, and stalks Dorothy on the Paper Money Road on the way to Emerald
City, waiting for the right moment to pounce. The Cowardly Lion has been asked
by auto unions, the SEIU, the NEA, and the Honorable Society of Sloths to be
their king because he can terrify Tea Partiers, gun-owners, wrong-headed patriots,
and other recidivist enemies and creatures who roam the Forest of Poppies and
despoil it. He will get around to that once he’s had Dorothy for lunch.
Mighty Joyoung, is the consort of the Wizard. She urges Munchkins to plant and
subsist on organic gardens, although it is rumored among the Munchkins that she
gorges herself during secret banquets paid for by the Munchkins, who receive in
exchange, to keep them quiet, rations and food credits and extra bonus
teaspoons of sugar and spice when the Wicked Consort is in a good mood. Emerald
City’s nutrition policy is, “To each according to his appetite, to each
according to his stomach size.”
amusement of the Munchkins. Once she hefted a three-hundred pound pumpkin and
tossed it fifty feet. It landed with an indecorous plump on the person of Manuel
Ramses, mayor of Emerald City. Ramses, an ambitious and respected Munchkin,
felt offended and left Emerald City to become mayor of Rotgut Town, a metropolis
in OZeroland terrorized by the Wicked Witch of Weathermen and the Warlock Ayers.
The Munchkins were not so much impressed as made afraid by the Wizard Consort’s
display of physical prowess.
and sold into sex slavery to the King of the Musselmen Empire to the East, with
whom OZeroland maintains an uneasy truce. She shares an ornate hall with a bevy
of renewable virgins, and little word of her fate reaches the Munchkins, who
the Wicked Witch Who Would Be Wizard, dislikes the Wizard and is always
plotting to take over Emerald City. Her machinations occupy the pens and quills
of the Royal Scriveners of Emerald City’s official newspaper, the Emerald City Blather.
The Royal Scriveners, whose managing editor is Munchkin George Stepinfetchit, ceaselessly
speculate on this Witch’s plans and intentions without ever reaching a conclusion.
Munchkin Services, and disallows all Munchkin ailments but death. She is
constantly ringing a golden bell when a Munchkin dies, and to let the Munchkins
know that another zinc penny has been saved for the greater good. Sybil Alias
employs a panel of cheerleading Munchkins who jump up and down in Emerald
City’s Silinsky Square at the sound of the bell, yelling, “Cost Savings!
Cost Savings!,” performing extraordinary back-flips and thrilling
temper and sharp tongue. It is rumored
that she, too, possesses enormous strength, and arm-wrestles the Wizard over
what new policies and decrees he should make. Mantha Sunshine, the Be Happy While You Labor Witch,
is the least popular among Munchkins, because even though she is responsible
for the morale of her minions, she forces them to work under terrible
conditions and at odd hours, even after the sun has gone down and the cows have
come home. All the Munchkins smile when she conducts snap inspections because
they know what will happen to them if they don’t.
Wicked Witch of the Magic Gavel. She constantly patrols the streets of Emerald
City, striking unsuspecting Munchkins on their heads to see what’s in them. She
is always smiling because her bright, shiny face has been stretched backwards by
her masseuse and pedicurist. In her sanctum is a color photograph of her idol,
the Cheshire Cat, a creature from another fairy tale.
pants, a heavy Rolex watch, and usually barbered facial hair made stylishly smooth
with snake oil, although often Munchkins cannot decide whether the Presence is
of the male persuasion or a witch. The Tin Man and the Scarecrow hope to become
full-fledged Warlocks and be bestowed with their own magical powers so that the
actions they take actually work. There are almost as many Warlocks as there are
Munchkins, but, for all the Wizard’s miraculous powers, nothing ever seems to come
out right. Warlocks are always forming committees to study why very little
works, and this necessary step is a constant distraction from their
but refrain from even whispered dissension because they know that at the first
sign of dissatisfaction, the Wizard would unleash on them his army of
carnivorous flying monkeys and other indescribable monsters. Most feared of the
Wizard’s forces are the be-goggled battalions of Winkies, formidable in their oyster
shell armor plate uniforms and ruthless when ordered to restore order with
their deadly black Munchkin swatters, even when there is no disorder.
and Tweedledum, foreigners on permanent loan from another fairy tale, who speak
in echoes and often finish each other’s sentences in astounding feats of
circular logic. At the suggestion of Tweedledee and Tweedledum, the Wizard
ordered that Munchkins may not own swatters, because they claim that Munchkins
are safer without them. The Munchkins protested, asking how they were to take
care of flies and cockroaches. They were told that the Winkies will take care
of them, but they never arrive in time.
night, Tweedledum and Tweedledee steal away Munchkin children to roast over
fires and consume them with unseemly chortles and burps, washing down their
meals with illegal poppy seed wine. The Warlock of Discredited Urban Legends,
Snopes the Snoot, works tirelessly to keep Munchkin minds on the straight and
very, very narrow. It was he who, after
a great effort, finally convinced the Munchkins that the Winkies did not kidnap
a renegade Munchkin in the dead of night because he made an illegal, slanderous
movie called “The Innocence of the Wiz.” He proved that no such movie
was ever made, thus breaking the rule, to the Munchkins’ universal approbation,
that one cannot prove a negative, and that the dastardly Munchkin was hauled in
for littering and eight unpaid parking tickets.
fabulous little towns on the outskirts of the metropolis. These are strange,
un-Oz-like named towns
called Fairfax, Alexandria, Arundel, Arlington, and Bethesda. The Emerald City Blather
reported that these
and other small hamlets
are rich beyond the average Munchkin’s dreams, in fact, richer than any other
town or city in OZeroland, because all the dedicated, selfless, magic-making
Witches, Warlocks and Wizards and their staffs and servants, not to mention
their friends and advisors, the tenacious Lobbyguiles, ride their swift zephyrs
to Emerald City to govern and watch over the populace of Munchkins. Most of the
taxes and fees and imposts collected from Munchkins in Emerald City are
magically transferred to these legendary towns, allowing their residents to live
in unimaginably ostentatious opulence.
this. Her sight is fixed on the gleaming, shimmering green towers of Emerald
City, which somehow never grows closer no matter how quickly she walks. Should
she ever reach Emerald City, she will be in for a jaw-dropping surprise. Her ruby
slippers will be confiscated because she never made them. She will learn that
the Munchkins there subsist on a diet of rice and old shoes, and that the standard
clothing of Munchkins consists of sandwich boards or wooden barrels to preserve
aside from the problem of gaining an audience with the fickle Wizard, who is
often busy with affairs of state and bribing his caddy to “adjust”
his score card. He cheats at golf, not for himself, but for the greater good of
OZeroland, so that Munchkins can be proud of a Leader who is excellent in all
Wonderful Wizard of Oz. I think it’s doable as a feature film. Don’t you? Perhaps
one or two editing passes might be required. Casting should be a piece of cake.
Financing, ditto, for a studio could always dip into that $450,000 tax break
granted to Hollywood. Salaries and residuals might be a problem, but we could
always turn to George Soros to cover cost overruns.