Monday, February 11, 2013

News: Skyfall, Godzilla and Oz

Down, but not out,...
Out on video is Skyfall!
After taking the British honor for Best British Film of 2012 last night, the "Bond of Bond films" arrives for home viewing this week! Bond fans will enjoy counting the classy references to Bond's previous films, while it races to the brink of fast-paced drama today. For heavens sake, if you haven't seen it yet, do! Also out on video this week is The Perks Of Being A Wallflower, The Sessions, The Man With the Iron FistsBullySilent Hill: Revelation (which I thought was well done) and the critically acclaimed  The Kid With a Bike
The question the film will ask of viewers is, "What makes Oz, a simple Kansas man, 'Great' and Powerful?'" Knowing from sources that Oscar is a man of questionable morals and ethics before going to Oz, what we will see is his conversion--the making of a hero, not just someone who is born great, but someone who becomes "great" through their free will and determination to do the right thing--which might be why the title of the film in the poster above is in gold: gold must be purified. Like the golden treasure he is promised if he vanquishes the evil facing the land, Oscar's soul must become "as good as gold" (thoroughly purified of all greed and self-motivated intentions), ridding himself of all evil before he can rid the land of evil. Therein, dear reader, is the real reward of capitalism of which I believe the film will be reminding us: we have the power to become what we want to be, and no one just "makes it" rich in America, the journey to fulfilling our dreams has to make us worthy to achieve our dreams, and--like Oscar having to tend to Oz before his own desires--we must do what is good for America before we seek our own fame and fortune.  So, is the witch "updated" according to the image above? Yes and no. First, the Wicked Witch of the West was chosen as a villain for today because film makers know that we know her, so she has to be recognizable to us, but we also have to see ourselves in her (yes, ourselves) so we can know what we must overcome interiorly in order to not be like her.  
Released this week is the newest trailer for Oz: The Great and Powerful (this link takes you to and, if you scroll down just a wee bit, you can view it (sorry, I wanted to have it for you here but I can't find it anywhere else!). Being released March 8--just around the corner--in 3D, a few details have suddenly made this a far more complex film and has increased my anticipation to see it even more! Here is a brief clip teasing you with what I mean:
"I didn't realize how complicated all this was," Oscar Diggs (James Franco) relates, and neither did we: of the three witches Oz meets, two of them are wicked, and only one good. Being a man of dubious morals himself, Oz has to figure out who is good before they destroy the kingdom. Why is this film being made? Why is The Wizard of Oz being "remade" but with a new twist (like Mirror, Mirror, Snow White and the Huntsman, Hansel and Gretel Witch Hunters, Jack the Giant Slayer and Maleficient next year)? At least two things are going on in this film to which we must be alert.
"Where's your broom?" Oscar asks Theodora (Mila Kunis) when they meet, to which she responds, "You don't know much about witches, do you?" and this lack of knowledge is exactly what the two evil witches will exploit in the film, yes, two witches. In the 1939 classic, starring Judy Garland as Dorothy, Dorothy's house lands on the Wicked Witch of the East, leaving Dorothy to battle the Witch of the West. Because America was on the brink of World War II in 1939, and all great art is prophetic, I interpreted the Witch of the East to be World War I, when America defeated the German foe threatening the world; Dorothy asking Glinda, when the Witch of the West appears, "I thought you said she was dead?" and Glinda responding, "This is her sister, and she's even worse," was the realization that we thought intrnational evil died in World War I, but now, the greater threat of Nazism had appeared and it was even more dire than WWI. The two bad witches in Oz: The Great and Powerful will have a similar relationship; possibly, they might be bad capitalism and socialism, in the way that bad capitalists make the seeds of socialist revolt possible. Glinda (Michelle Williams), who plays not only Oscar's love interest in Kansas, but Glinda the Good Witch of the South, tying the homeland with the fantasy land.
 First, someone we thought was dead has been resurrected.
And that someone is the Wicked Witch of the West, that we believed to have died in 1939 (please see my explication of the great classic A Call To Arms: The Wizard Of Oz and World War II). We see a brief example of this in The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey with the Necromancer and all the Nazi/Soviet soldier-zombies raised from the dead in Resident Evil: Retribution and the dead being raised in the upcoming Evil Dead. Granted, Oz:The Great and Powerful doesn't give us a resurrection like in the 2009 Sherlock Holmes with Lord Blackwood, however, we know Dorothy kills the Witch so that makes both the Witch of East and West "the walking dead" because we know they die. Quentin Tarantino uses this device in Pulp Fiction (which had first been used in the classic Sunset Boulevard) of a "dead man talking" with Vincent {John Travolta} because, with the film's non-linear storyline, we have all ready seen Butch {Bruce Willis} kill Vincent) and The Hobbit employs the same technique with Sauron whom we know must be killed in The Lord Of the Rings. To some degree, we also see the aurochs being "resurrected" from their icy graves in Beasts of the Southern Wild.
And now our second point.
An iconic moment in the film at the corn field. The doll isn't just a doll, she's a China Doll, and all ready we know two important things about her. First, we have seen previously that she breaks her leg and Oscar puts it back together again (the leg symbolizes the will, so she might symbolize the weakening will to continue going on in their fight); this is because, as in the original when the people from Kansas populate Oz for Dorothy, so this version does the same, and the China Doll is a girl in a wheelchair. This is fascinating because--as you know by now--children symbolize the future, so the future being bound by a wheelchair--and being carried over into Oz--might be a reference to then-President Franklin D Roosevelt who himself was wheel-chair bound due to polio. It was the thesis of both The Hunger Games and Gangster Squad that Roosevelt would have made us a socialist country instead of a captialist one if fighting the Nazis hadn't made us hate socialism so much,... I think we hate socialism because it's a lousy system, but that's my estimation of the situation. Again, this understanding is only a possibility for the film. In the original version, Dorothy comes to the cornfiled and there are three roads for her to choose: how to know which road leads to Oz? The same situation appears to be retained in the image above, although they know the way and must consciously decide.
If you don't want to know what happens before going in to see the film, skip down to the part about Godzilla now; I don't want to spoil the film for those who like surprises, but I prefer knowing before so I can catch more--again, stop reading now if you don't want a spoiler. The second important point for us to make is the destabilized identity of the witches: Glinda is both the love from Kansas and the Good Witch of the South, whereas Theodora (Mila Kunis) is also the Wicked Witch of the West and Evanora (Rachel Weiz) is the Wicked Witch of the East. 
This is what is important about Theodora: her "modern" clothing. That's not the fashion of the Depression-Era 1930s, nor of the land of Oz itself. Since her primary color appears to be red, that should reveal to us her marked attribute. Red is either the color of love--because when we love someone, we are willing to shed our blood for them--or the color of anger because we have loved something falsely/possessively. Since we know she "turns" evil, or is all ready evil and hiding it, it could be that she falls in love with Oscar but Oscar loves Glinda, so Theodora goes bersek; this is just a possibility; another possibility is that she loves power, or money, or the munchkins who do not return her love, etc., which leads us to the second point: that flying "thing" in the upper-left of the poster. That "thing" is unnatural. It's like a fairy stripped of its beauty, or a baby that wasn't carried to full-term. I guess that is the embryo of what will become the "flying monkeys" of the Wicked Witch's army we know so well from the original: while it starts out looking harmless and innocent, it is the seed of what becomes evil's main force. When watching the film, we will have to keep in mind that Theodora is the first person Oscar meets in Oz. Why the name 'Theodora?' History's most famous Theodora was the wife of Justinan I and a woman of considerable power. Because she had been a prostitute when Justinian met her, (whether true or not) she was believed to be a beautiful woman with insatiable lusts for everything, an image many students of history will summon each time they hear her name in the film. What about Evanora? She might be bad capitalism symbolicaly because she isnt "even" in how she works: there are feasts and there are famines in capitalism, and excess and poverty are attributes we might look for with her. About Oscar, his last name is Diggs, and that accurately describes the two paths before him: he can either be a "gold-digger" and get whatever he can, or  he can "Dig within himself" to find the gold buried in his own soul to save Oz.
We're seeing this trend in films, the "who we thought someone was but isn't" is now a contemporary theme (including Hansel and Gretel Witch Hunters, the upcoming GI Joe Retaliation and Resident Evil, to name a few). We have to ask, is there someone in America today who presented themselves as being one person but has proven to be someone different from what they said? 
Why does Oscar hate the dark forest? We all do, unless you are a saint. Traditionally (and still today, as we see in both The Hobbit and Hansel and Gretel Witch Hunters), the "dark forest" is the place within our own souls where our own sins and wounds are which must be confronted, our darkest secrets and greatest shortcomings, and none of us like that one bit. It's where we find the self that isn't our self, and so we have to kill that imposter so we become strengthen (this battle was well-accomplished in Silent Hill: Revelation). The dark forest tidily introduces the theme of "harship" or "suffering" into its discourse, one we find in Rise Of the Guardians, Les Miserables, Wreck-It Ralph and Beasts Of the Southern Wild, that is, suffering is necessary to make us better people. Oscar doesn't get the treasure of Oz until he proves himself worthy of it because--as discussed above--becoming worthy is the treasure. If we didn't become worthy of what we achieve in life, we would be just like those pictures in Savages, Lawless, Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter, Looper, Lincoln. On a different note, the flying monkey is voiced by Frank, the circus assistant to Oscar in Kansas and, possibly, a reference to author Frank Baum.
For different reasons, it should not come as a surprise that Godzilla is being re-made; what may shock you is that celebrated Indie-actress Eliabeth Olsen (Martha, Marcy May, Marlene & Silent House) is the female lead. Confirming her part in the film, Olsen described the re-make as a "heavy drama." I have always considered Godzilla, the original, as a heavy drama: post-Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the Japanese lizard that destroys Tokyo can only symbolize America-as-destroyer, and the tons of money the film raked in demonstrates the cathartic nature it provided. As other monster-destroyers started appearing on Japan's shores, the people actually started looking to Godzilla for help, reflecting how Japan feared the "monsters of socialism" encrouching its Asian neighbors and the realization that the country which once nearly destroyed them, the United States, was now the one protecting them from that political danger (for more, please see Jaws & the Cleansing Of America because Jaws the shark was the American symbol for what the Japanese had done to us).
Olsen at the 2012 BAFTA awards.
At least two references have all ready been made to Godzilla in films as of late: The Amazing Spider Man and The Cold Light Of Day. Both recent references invoke America's international role-post-World War II so the bantering about of a name usually associated with a political monster (the USA) should not surprise us nor that the monster has been "resurrected," like the Wicked Witch of the West, to help us with our problems today.
Eat Your Art Out,
The Fine Art Diner