I’m just not a big fan of Hollywood. For too long in lieu of a good story, studios have fed us multi-million dollar special effects along with high-priced and over paid actors who take every opportunity to berate middle America for being, well, middle America. Hollywood and the media in general have become increasingly and openly hostile toward flyover country. It is hardly a wonder that movie ticket and DVD sales have plummeted in recent years.
There aren’t many films that I’m even interested to watch and rare indeed is the film I’ll bother to sit through more than once. Among the few notable exceptions are movies like Gladiator and Serenity. Through the telling of a great story and an ambitious score usually reserved for big budget productions, Dorothy and the Witches of Oz finds itself on that short list. I have come away with a much greater appreciation for independent films.
I attended a showing on Friday night, but I enjoyed the film so much that I went back Saturday to see it again and to meet some of the people in and behind the movie. As I chatted with the digital effects artist, she summed up her experience working on the project for me as “…a labor of love”. To you, Laura, and the rest of the cast and crew, I tip my hat. You guys did a great job.
From the synopsis:
Children’s author Dorothy Gale makes a decent living continuing her grandfather’s series of Oz books. When a new agent enters the scene, Dorothy moves to New York city. In the midst of a major business deal for her books, Dorothy discovers that her books are not based on her imagination, but on repressed memories. While Dorothy struggles with the revelation, she is forced to confront The Wicked Witch of the West, who has descended upon the Big Apple, determined to settle an old score.
Starting with the release of the film, Dorothy and the Witches of Oz has taken an unusual approach. Typically a movie opens in LA and New York before being released to the rest of the country. The creators of Witches decided on the opposite. Instead of the big cities on the coast, they are taking the film first to places not normally on the Hollywood radar – Phoenix, Louisville, and Kansas City. They are taking their movie straight to the people.
With no distribution company and no typical marketing budget to promote the film, the crew is traveling around the country, attending screenings and taking audience questions. I had the opportunity to watch the film and meet some of the cast and crew at a screening in Kansas City the other night.
Much like the acclaimed BBC series Sherlock, Witches transports Dorothy and her friends into the present. Along the way, she discovers that the people in her daily life are the characters from the story. The film is filled with fun and entertaining pop culture references to Atlas Shrugged, Planet of the Apes, Back to the Future, and more than I was able to catch even watching it twice.
Set in modern day New York City, all grown up Dorothy (Paulie Rajos) is a children’s book author, writing about the fantastical world of Oz where good and bad witches battle for control of the Emerald City. Dorothy’s agent Billie (Eliza Swenson, whose credits also include writing, producing, and composing the amazing film score) brings her to a pitch meeting with an actress, cast to play the little girl in a movie version. Sipping a martini at 9 in the morning, the actress wonders aloud how the little girl dresses and suggests that she’d look fabulous in black leather.
One of the first real hints that this isn’t your typical Hollywood fare, Dorothy squashes that notion by reminding everyone that the girl in the stories is a child. Witches flatly rejects the pop culture meme that an 11 year old girl is sex object. “She’s a little girl,” Dorothy says. She wouldn’t dress like that.
Unlike Despicable Me, this is a film I want to take my nieces to. I want them to see Dorothy’s kindness and her courage. Even though she feels defeated, and crying says, “I’m not the girl in these letters, or in those books. That’s somebody else.” — she doesn’t give up. I want them to stay to the end to see how it turns out, because it is in the final scenes that we truly find the gem of a film that demonstrates everything good about flyover country and her people.