Everyone gets hot under the collar about remakes. As I write this several cracks are being taken at remaking one of the all-time most beloved movies ever – which will most assuredly create controversy. But first, I need to backtrack.
I went to Vegas last weekend. Which, if you live in Los Angeles is a quick getaway- type trip akin to well, whatever destination you can go to that feels close enough to warrant a spur of the moment visit from home. If you live in New York or Philadelphia it’s about like going to the Jersey Shore. And when I first came out to the west coast I was STUNNED at the frequency with which people went to Las Vegas. Any excuse. You’re with friends throwing back cocktails on a Friday night and suddenly you hear the alpha drinker say, “I know – let’s go to Vegas tomorrow!” at which point everyone’s nodding in agreement and plans are made. And even though I’m silently mouthing the phrase “I know — let’s go somewhere tomorrow that’s really hot and shred $20 bills twice an hour!” — I’m certainly not immune to its odd charm, either. Plus, standing next to Tony Bennett Sunday afternoon at one of those You Are Here Information Booth Maps in the Caesar’s Palace Mall was also pretty fun. And even though I feel like he must own a fair amount of Vegas real estate, he was clearly as flummoxed as I was by the map of shops. But here’s the thing: today I was reading about this new Wizard of Oz movie and coincidentally I’ve had The Wizard of Oz on my brain all week. Beginning with Vegas. Not because I felt like I was in the Emerald City. Not because I felt like I’d been trapped in some creepy journey-dream. And not even because I spied more than one pair of ruby slippers on both women and men strolling through the casinos. Rather, I thought about the classic film because I don’t really play cards much or gamble, so whenever I find myself in Vegas I only play the nickel or twenty-five cent slot machines. That’s about all I can handle. On this trip I managed to find the perfect Wizard of Oz slot machine. With each quarter you got lots of spins until a strange green light took over the whole bank of machines and suddenly the Wizard himself was talking to you, announcing that you had indeed earned six additional spins. Having watched that movie about 1600 times, the notion of earning another spin seemed far more gratifying than any old diploma, or heart pendant, or can of WD40. Of course I knew I wouldn’t win anything valuable, but the machine was totally intriguing because then various characters began to address me directly with every spin. It felt good to be cheered on by the Tin Man, even though my quarters were only feeding an already plump casino. The Cowardly Lion gave me the courage to part with an entire dollar bill. And Dorothy wished me the best, although really and truly, what could she do?
I spent lots of time at that slot machine. My friends played cards, and sometimes I would go sit with them but I’d always return to the Wizard of Oz machine because somehow hearing those voices and the cool green light made me feel oddly at home in the strange and utterly artificial place they call Vegas.
So hearing about the new Wizard of Oz movie made me a little nostalgic. In that way you feel when someone references an old film you coincidentally just watched. Only I didn’t see it; I played it. I fed it money. But still. They just began shooting Oz: The Great and Powerful and it’s from Disney and it’s the prequel to the W of O – only it’s imagined from the point of view of the Wizard himself. Played by James Franco. It’s also directed by Sam Raimi (who made Spider-Man 1-3, and all the Evil Dead movies, among others). Franco’s character – the young Wizard — finds himself in a strange land where he encounters several sisters who also happen to be witches, played by Rachel Weisz, Michelle Williams, and Mila Kunis. Now, with Disney behind it and that fabulous cast, they could very well pull this off. What do you think? Do you mind Hollywood meddling with a classic? Will you go see it? For today, let’s see how you feel about its cast.
1) James Franco
2) Michelle Williams
3) Mila Kunis
4) Rachel Weisz