Archive | April, 2013

What the F-65?

22 Apr

Say ‘Goodbye’ to all of this…and ‘Hello’ to oblivion.

– Richard O’Brien as Riff Raff in The Rocky Horror Picture Show

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Okay, congratulations to Tom Cruise for yet again defying the naysayers. Cruise’s Oblivion opened over the weekend and handily blew away the competition, earning 37 million dollars–more than double the #2 movie, 42, which earned 17 million. Not bad. Cruise’s sci-fi odyssey has already earned over 100 million worldwide, but it’s no longer surprising when big-budget action spectacles do blockbuster business with international audiences. Indeed, film producers and studio execs count on it. Just barely more than a year ago, Cruise was riding high on the wave of success thanks to the phenomenal comeback known as Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol; however, he has also suffered some setbacks, both personally and professionally, in the interim. Regarding the latter, he earned wonderful reviews for a standout supporting performance in last summer’s  tribute to 80s “hair bands,” Rock of Ages, but the movie, overall, was panned by the critics (deservedly so), and audiences stayed away in droves. The scenes with Cruise were like a whole different film from the rest of the tacky formulaic drivel. He not only had the swagger, he also demonstrated some surprisingly strong pipes.  (Michael joked that Cruise’s portrayal suggested what Jim Morrison might have been like if he had not died at such a relatively young age.) No matter,  Rock of Ages was a colossal failure.  Jack Reacher, his holiday offering based on Lee Child’s best selling series of mystery novels about an unlikely soldier-of-fortune, initially divided Reacher fans, many of whom thought Cruise was pretty much miscast from top to bottom. Even so, Cruise had Child’s full endorsement, the reviews were better than those for Rock of Ages, and while Jack Reacher was no blockbuster, it eked out a respectable 13 week run in the theatres and, once again, performed much better overseas than in the states.

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Still, if you think this article is a love-letter to Cruise, you’re mistaken. Did I enjoy Oblivion? Of course, I did, but almost in spite of Cruise rather than because of him. Based on an unpublished graphic novel by director Joseph Kosinski and Arvid Nelson, the story is set in 2077, several decades after Earth is attacked and pillaged by so-called scavengers. Now, as the last remaining earthlings prepare to start all over on Titan, Saturn’s largest moon, Cruise’s Jack Harper dutifully monitors the harvesting of Earth’s water supply. He does this with the aid of a fantastic flying contraption (a rather phallic marriage between a helicopter and a motorcycle), a host of drones (talk about timely), and a female partner (played by Andrea Riseborough, above).  But wait: aren’t Oscar winners Morgan Freeman and Melissa Leo featured in the trailer? Well, sure. Now, go see the movie because that’s all of the plot I’m divulging. I’ll be frank. Oblivion doesn’t serve an airtight script, but I enjoyed it anyway because it’s suspenseful and not ALL the major plot developments are given away in the trailer. Plus, the story is rather thoughtful in its own way. Still, that’s not even the thing I love most about it. What the movie is…..is visually arresting–and for good reason. Kosinski filmed sections of the movie in Iceland to take advantage of the island-nation’s richly photogenic terrain and its stunningly beautiful skies, made possible by the fact that summer sunlight lasts for up to 24 hours. This is no dank noir-ish downer, but a brilliantly gleaming slice of sc-fi heaven, and that’s especially worth noting for two great reasons. 1. The cinematographer is the great Claudio Miranda, who just won an Oscar for lensing Life of Pi. 2. The movie is among the first to be produced using the new Sony F65 4K digital cinematography camcorder. I’m not even sure I can explain how the camera works, but I don’t think that even matters. What matters is that the images are super-sharp. I’m pretty sure I read somewhere that the camera is good for shooting in IMAX format. Good to know. Oh well. Even the lesser reviews have given the movie props for its “look.” The Hollywood Reporter praised it as “an absolutely gorgeous film” that, like Miranda’s Oscar winner,  seamlessly meshes “live photography and effects.” Plus, some of the fans have been posting on the IMDb about how the nighttime pool scene is especially enticing, aided as it was by the score credited to French duo M83.

Still not enticed? Maybe the following featurette will prompt you to reconsider. Maybe not.  Well, I’m just glad I got to see Oblivion on an impressively large screen at one of my not-so-neighborhood theaters. Here’s the deal. I wanted to see the movie because I’m all about all things Tom Cruise, but I was so dazzled  by the visuals that I had to stick around long enough to see the closing credits as the movie had no opening credits. I immediately recognized cinematographer Miranda’s name because he’d just won the Oscar. That further sparked my interest to learn more. When I came home, I started reading about the making of the film, and I was intrigued to find out about the F-65 and some other cool things, and that’s what I want to share about why you should say ‘Hello’ to Oblivion….

Thanks for your consideration…

Oblivion at Box Office Mojo: http://www.boxofficemojo.com/movies/?id=oblivion.htm

Oblivion review in the Hollywood Reporterhttp://www.hollywoodreporter.com/movie/oblivion/review/435551

Kosinski on shooting in Iceland: http://herocomplex.latimes.com/movies/oblivion-cruise-kosinski-set-for-hero-complex-imax-screening/

F-65 at Creative Planet Network: http://www.creativeplanetnetwork.com/dv/feature/4k-future-oblivion-captured-sony%E2%80%99s-f65-cinealta-camera/62146

Cruise’s Bubble Ship in the Los Angeles Times:   http://herocomplex.latimes.com/movies/oblivion-tom-cruise-bubble-ship-spacecraft-design-form-follows-function/#/7

Cruise, Kosinski, and Freeman in the Los Angeles Times: http://herocomplex.latimes.com/video/oblivion-tom-cruise-joseph-kosinski-on-partnership-morgan-freeman/

More cool behind the scenes stuff: http://nofilmschool.com/2013/04/oscar-winning-claudio-miranda-oblivion-sony-f65/

In Appreciation: What Remains…

15 Apr

I was quite saddened to hear about the death of the great actor-comedian Jonathan Winters a few days ago (04/11). He was a true genius, a giant, but, of course, his was not the only high-profile entertainment related death in the past week or so.  Famed movie critic Roger Ebert passed away earlier in the month after a long, brave, and quite public battle with cancer.  Ebert’s death is another reminder that movie critics, whether in print or on the air, are no longer as esteemed as they once were. After all, how many can you name? These days, critics don’t wield the same power that they used to, thanks mainly to the Internet, in which word of mouth on a film spreads instantaneously, and bloggers specifically though I usually don’t bother with reviewing current movies too much, except during awards season, but that’s a different story.  Anyway, RIP, Roger.

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^ Jonathan Winters (1925-2013)

Winters, on the other hand, was a personal fave.  I used to love watching him on all those TV variety shows, game shows, and talk shows in the 1960s and 1970s on up through the 1980s, I guess.  I’ll tell you what. I had the  pleasure, or luck, of standing in line next to him one day several years ago at a gift shop in Montecito, CA. He was  dapper (I even think he wore an ascot), and, yes, reserved. I was in absolutely in awe of him, but I absolutely did not stare, nor did I initiate conversation. He had a huge presence, and I could tell he just wanted to tend to his business without a lot of fuss. I haven’t met that many celebrities in my life,  but I have met a few. Some of them, John Waters especially, really enjoy interacting with fans. Kathy Bates was also an engaging woman; however, Winters was not like that. Well, as I said: he was a genius.  Even so, in spite of all his accolades, including an Emmy (for his supporting role in the Randy Quaid sitcom Davis Rules), a Golden Globe nomination, a Golden Laurel nod, a TV Land “Pioneer” Award, a Lifetime Achievement honor from the American Comedy Awards, and a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, Winters was never nominated for an Oscar. Well, of course, not every talented person who works in front or behind a camera earns Oscar recognition.

Still, Winters did have the distinction of appearing in two big hits that were also major Oscar contenders:   1966’s The Russians are Coming, The Russians are Coming earned 4 nods, including Best Picture and Best Actor (Alan Arkin); 1963’s It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World received 6 nods, nothing for Best Picture; however, Winters was, as noted, nominated for a Golden Globe.  Not bad, not bad at all, Of course, an entertainer of Winters’s stature hardly needs validation from the Academy, but knowing his work is somehow part of the Academy’s honor roll is a nice touch. The nicer touch is that his work remains, and we can watch Winters on YouTube and on DVD; plus, we know that he influenced, and still influences, many younger comedians and/or actors, most spectacularly I would say, Robin Williams with whom he worked on TV’s Mork and Mindy back in the day. Thanks, Jonathan, and rest in peace.

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^ Annette Funicello (1942-2013)

Earlier in the week, on April 8, “America’s Sweetheart” Annette Funicello passed away at the age of 70. Like Ebert, Funicello had also braved a long and public health crisis. In her case, it was multiple sclerosis.  Funicello was only 70, younger than my mother, but she’d been in the public consciousness almost all of her life, beginning with her stint as one of the Mouseketeers in the original incarnation of Walt Disney’s Mickey Mouse Club.  Per the IMDb and other recent reports, Funicello was scouted for the series by no less than the man himself, and when the series was over, the perky teen star was offered a contract to keep working for Disney, which she did–at least for awhile.

As a blossoming young woman, she reinvented herself by co-starring with Philly pop-crooner Frankie Avalon in a series of so-called Beach Party movies released by Samuel Z. Arkoff and James H. Nicholson’s cut-rate American International Pictures in the swingin’ 60s. Those films, which capitalized on both the surfing craze and the rock-n-roll movement, were nothing more than mindless fluff about teenagers, presumably college students, who hung out at the beach, danced, sang, flirted, broke-up, made-up, and engaged in all kinds of improbable shenanigans. Though the series featured lots of curvy girls in bikinis, and cute bare-chested guys, their sexual thrills were pretty tame compared to a lot of offerings from the same era–and definitely compared to today’s sexy flicks. And that’s not a judgment. I merely want to make a point.  To say the critics hated the Beach Party movies would be an understatement, but kids loved them. I know because I watched them anytime I had the chance. That’s the thing. The movies were more childlike than anything else. Real college students of the era probably had better things to do than worry about Annette and Frankie, so the flicks’ real appeal was likely to the preteen set.  Anyway, those films obviously made money, or Arkoff and company would not have kept making more of them, not to mention a host of clones.  Still, Frankie and Annette were always fun to watch, and that was enough for a time (or for the times). Of course, there really isn’t a such thing as an endless summer, so even when she could no longer convincingly play a big-haired teen, Funicello frequently appeared on scads of TV shows and eventually became the TV spokesperson for Skippy brand peanut butter, and that was all good because who wouldn’t trust America’s sweetheart?

Like Winters, Funicello was a one-time Golden Laurel nominee, and she has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.  Her filmography also includes one–minor–Oscar contender: 1961’s Babes in Toyland. Disney’s first live action fantasy-musical, based on Victor Herbert and Glen MacDonough’s  1932 operetta, pairs Funicello with dreamy Tommy Sands and also stars Ray Bolger, Ed Wynn, Tommy Kirk, and a very young Ann Jillian. Though a reported box-office flop, Babes in Toyland nonetheless secured Oscar nods for Bill Thomas’s colorful costumes and George Bruns’s score. It was also a Golden Globe nominee (for Best Musical/Comedy) as well as a WGA nominee (Ward Kimball and Lowell S. Hawley); the soundtrack was Grammy nominated as well. Not bad. Funicello also starred in Disney’s popular The Shaggy Dog, starring Fred MacMurray; she also sang on the soundtrack for 1961’s The Parent Trap, Oscar nominated for Best Editing and Best Sound.

In the late 1980s, Funicello and Avalon reteamed for one last Beach Party extravaganza: Back to the Beach. Two years later, the duo enjoyed a cameo in one of my all-time favorite guilty pleasures, but, I’m getting way ahead of myself. In the meantime, rest in peace, dear Annette.

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^ Ruth Prawer Jhabvala (1927-2013)

Finally, the passing that most stunned me was that of someone much less known than Ebert, Winters, or Funicello, and that is the great novelist and screenwriter, Ruth Prawer Jhabvala.  Who? Jhabvala, hardly a household name, was one of three key players in what was once known as Merchant-Ivory Productions. I know, right? You think it should read “Ivory Merchant,” but I digress. At any rate, the trio  of producer Ismail Merchant (born in India), director James Ivory (born in America), and screenwriter Jhabvala (born in Germany) began making films in the 1960s with the adaptation of Jhabvala’s own novel, The Householder (1963), followed by Shakespeare Wallah (1965). By the 1970s, the trio was winning raves for the likes of such indie offerings as Roseland, set in Manhattan’s famed ballroom (with a cast that includes one-time Oscar winner Teresa Wright, along with Lou Jacobi, Geraldine Chaplin, Christopher Walken, still largely unknown outside of New York, and Helen Gallagher, an Emmy winner for her work on Ryan’s Hope);  The Europeans, starring Lee Remick in an adaptation of Henry James’s novel, arrived in 1979 with costumes–by Judy Moorcroft–worthy of an Academy nomination .  By the 1980s, Merchant-Ivory was enjoying a nice long run as critics’ darlings and specialty house faves, what with the likes of Heat and Dust, starring Julie Christie in an adaptation of Jhabvala’s own Booker prize winning novel, and The Bostonians, another Henry James adaptation that boasted a bold–and Oscar nominated–performance by no less than Vanessa Redgrave; the cast also included Christopher Reeve, Linda Hunt, Jessica Tandy, and the formidable Nancy Marchand.

The Merchant-Ivory films were generally celebrated for their “tastefulness,” for attracting respected acting talent, for seemingly rich and authentic costume/production design on meager budgets (frequently netting Oscar nods and/or wins), and for Jhabvala’s wonderfully economical screenplays drawn from literary classics (especially E.M. Forster and Henry James).  Now, it is true that Jhabvala did not write every single movie released under the Merchant-Ivory banner. It is also true that, even though she was widely regarded as essential to the outfit’s success, she never achieved full-parity with the two males, that is, the company remained Merchant-Ivory rather than Merchant-Ivory-Jhabvala. On the other hand, it’s also true that with all their team’s success stories, Jhabvala achieved something that neither Merchant nor Ivory were able to do: she actually won Oscars for two of the trio’s major Academy Award contenders…

Jhabvala won her first Oscar for 1986's A Room with a View (which seemed to play forever, locally, at the Inwood theatre), adapted from E.M. Forster's comedy of manners involving British tourists in Florence.

^ Jhabvala won her first Oscar for 1986’s A Room with a View (which seemed to play forever, locally, at the Inwood theater), adapted from E.M. Forster’s comedy of manners involving British tourists in Florence.  The film’s romantic leads are played by Julian Sands (l) and Helena Bonham Carter (r) while the supporting cast includes such vets as Judi Dench, Denholm Elliott, and Maggie Smith. It also includes one of Daniel Day Lewis’s earliest film performances. A Room With a View garnered 8 Oscar nods, including Best Picture, Best Director (Ivory), Best Supporting Actress (Smith), and Best Supporting Actor (Elliott). Of those, statuettes were ultimately awarded to Jhabvala for her screenplay and for the film’s costume and production design teams. The movie also earned accolades from, among others, the National Board of Review and the British Academy of Film and Television.

Between 1986 and 1992, Merchant-Ivory released a handful of films, most notably Maurice (pronounced Morris), based on a posthumously published E.M. Forster homoerotic love story. Maurice starred James Wilby, Hugh Grant, and Rupert Graves. Jhabvala did not pen the screenplay, but she was back on board for the production of 1990’s Mr. and Mrs. Bridge, based on two semi-autobiographical novels by Evan S. Connell about growing up amid conservative affluence in Kansas City Missouri during the 1930s and 1940s. The title characters were portrayed by longtime real-life couple, and acting giants, Paul Newman and Joanne Woodard; the latter reaped a well-deserved Best Actress nod for her performance, which I thought approached perfection, but she lost to Kathy Bates (Misery).  After seeing Mr. and Mrs. Bridge, which was partially lensed on location in Kansas City, I decided had to visit the city for myself to see if it was/is as beautiful as it is depicted in the film. It took more than a decade, but I was not the least bit disappointed.

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Jhabvala claimed her second Academy Award for 1992’s Howards End, another Forster adaptation that covers class consciousness and family loyalty.  Merchant-Ivory vets Helena Bonham Carter (top right), Vanessa Redgrave, and Rupert Graves were joined by Emma Thompson and Anthony Hopkins, fresh from his Oscar victory for The Silence of the Lambs. The movie was a huge art-house hit, once again enjoying a healthy run at the Inwood theatre before an expanded awards season run the following year. It earned 9 Oscar nods, including Best Picture, Director (Ivory, again), and Supporting Actress (Redgrave). Thompson won Best Actress, and besides the award for Jhabvala, the film also secured a win for Best Art Direction-Set Decoration (Luciana Arrighi and Ian Whitttaker).

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^ Remains of the Day (1993): The last of the Merchant-Ivory group’s trio of Best Picture nominees is also perhaps its most emotionally devastating, thanks to the splendid, and Oscar nominated, leading performances by Anthony Hopkins (l) and Emma Thompson (r). Based on the Booker prize winning novel by Kazuo Ishiguro, the story examines the increasing tension between household staff members and the mighty, if fading, aristocracy at a magnificent estate at the dawning of World War II. The top-notch supporting cast includes Hugh Grant, Christopher Reeve, James Fox, Ben Chaplin, and Lean Headey. Oh, this one is so good that it hurts.  Again, it scored a bunch of Oscar nominations, 8 total including Best Picture, Director (Ivory), Best Adapted Screenplay (Jhabvala), and the aforementioned Hopkins and Thompson; however, this time the film failed to win a single award as it faced tough competition in key categories from the likes of Schindler’s List, The Piano, and even The Age of Innocence. Still, Jhabvala’s 2 for 3 track record with the Academy is most impressive.

After the release of The Remains of the Day, the Merchant-Ivory group never again achieved another breakout success though each of the films has its own admirers: Jefferson in Paris (1995) starred Nick Nolte as, well, you know, and Thandie Newton as Sally Hemings; Surviving Picasso (1996) featured a lesser Anthony Hopkins performance but served as marvelous showcase for beautiful Natasha McElhone; The Golden Bowl (2000) arrived with an all-star cast that included Uma Thurman, Kate Beckinsale, Angelica Huston and Nolte. One of my best friends heralds it as among the very best of the Henry James adaptations. Le Divorce  (2003) was a rare contemporary outing starring Kate Hudson and Naomi Watts. I think the M-I influence can be seen in such varied movies as The Painted Veil (2006), Letters to Juliet (2010), and even The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (2012). What these films share with the M-I predecessors, besides exceptional performances (especially by top-tier actresses),  period finery and/or  scenic locations, are the recurring themes of love, loss, regret, happiness, cultural contrasts, and class consciousness.

I was always fascinated by the Merchant-Ivory people. They managed to make movie after movie, year after year, through five decades; some were hits, others not so much, but the team always found money and talent for their projects; moreover, as already noted, their movies were reportedly made on micro-budgets, yet they always managed a lot of bang for their bucks. Ismail Merchant, who passed away in 2005,  had a reputation as a marvellous chef who often cooked splendid meals for cast and crew; he and Ivory were personal as well as professional partners,  and the two of them along with Jhabvala, also married, reportedly lived and worked in the same brownstone in New York City. I can’t find the article in which I first read that, but I think it was in the same piece that Jhabvala offered some advice that any screenwriter needs to know, which is that writing novels is art while writing screenplays is craft. I understood it as soon as I read it, and with Jhabvala boasting prestigious awards for both her novels and her movie scripts (not to mention her longevity), I took her words, so to speak, to heart. Good call, Ruthie.

Thanks….

 

“The Something of the Something”

2 Apr

Well, I won’t be going to watch the mammoth box office smash Oz the Great and Powerful (200 million + domestically…and counting) anytime soon, and not just because I’m hooked, almost as much as anybody can be, on the 1939 musical adaptation of Frank L. Baum’s original, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (simply retitled The Wizard of Oz for film) though there’s always that, of course. Furthermore, I hate to say it because I’m generally a fan of James Franco, as the new film’s titular wizard, but after repeated viewings of the trailer, I just think he looks miscast. Woefully miscast. Still, that’s not my main issue. Now, I want to be perfectly clear about something. I well understand that I should not criticize a movie I have not seen, so, okay, I cannot criticize it per se; however, I do have one major issue with this new film, and it’s a biggie.

To clarify, this new Oz film is set many years before either Baum’s original novel, published in 1900, or the classic 1939 adaptation. Reportedly, and I’m referring to various articles I read during the pre-opening publicity blitz, the movie borrows bits and pieces from Baum’s initial book as well as its many sequels. Okay, so far, so good. Additionally, it includes multiple allusions unique to the 1939 film (obvious to anyone who has seen the trailer), and that’s the crux of the problem to me. Specifically, in Baum’s original, Dorothy’s magical journey and the land of Oz itself are absolutely presented as real events and places. She does not wake up two hours later to discover it was all only a dream, yet that is exactly what happens in the famous film version starring the incomparable Judy Garland.  Her version of Oz, which sometimes varies from Baum’s, is just a way for her subconscious mind to deal with some of her anxieties, and many of the major players in her dreamworld have clear correlations to the people in her waking life. Done!  In that case, it makes no sense to me that that so much of the new Oz movie, which is NOT presented as a dream, in keeping with Baum’s original, should look so much like the dream of girl for whom Oz only existed as an imaginary place. What’s up with that? Why, for example, does the new film even ape the earlier offering’s style choice of opening with an extended sequence in sepia tones before switching to breathtaking color once the action shifts to the magical land of Oz?

Is it simply a misguided attempt to pay homage to classic Americana, a rip-off, or  just more evidence of Disney’s greed? To clarify, I sometimes think the people who run the Disney conglomerate won’t be happy till they own pretty much the whole worldwide entertainment industry. To clarify, the 1939 film was an MGM production, but that didn’t stop Disney from trying its hand at a sequel in 1985. Now, by being careful in what it chose to “borrow” from the previous movie, Disney has its own Oz franchise–to go along with its recently acquired Star Wars franchise. See what I mean? Isn’t it enough that Disney has decades and decades worth of classic animated films and theme parks to generate revenue? Why does there always have to be more–especially when “more” often means “somebody else’s”?

Oh well, hey, remember a number of years ago when there was much ado about striking similarities or coincidences between the 1939 Wizard of Oz and Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon album (from 1973)? I read all about it at the time, but I never sought the experience myself. I mean, it was interesting…but not THAT interesting.  Well, along those same lines, probably going back as far as 1994, maybe 1996, I have long seen an almost eerie connection between The Wizard of Oz, a 1939 Best Picture nominee, and, oh yes, The Silence of the Lambs, the 1991 Best Picture winner. Go head, laugh;  snicker if you must. I have. Indeed, I have even joked that they were actually  the same movie.  Before you read any further, I want to add that I never read another article on this subject, and that these ideas are all uniquely mine as far as I know. I have shared some of this with friends off and on for lo these many years, but this is the first time I have ever attempted to commit them to some kind of text.

I think you will find this quite amusing if you’re willing to just go with it….

Shall we begin?

The first time the audience sees Dorothy Gale (Judy Garland) in The Wizard of Oz (1939), she is running--outdoors.

The first time the audience sees Dorothy Gale (Judy Garland) in The Wizard of Oz (1939), she is running–outdoors.

Silence 2 Stalk

The first time audiences see Clarice Starling (Jodie Foster) in The Silence of the Lambs (1991), she is running–outdoors.

Now, I know what you’re thinking. This is all a big coincidence, right? Well, consider the following:

  • In The Wizard of Oz, Dorothy Gale is an orphan being raised by relatives (Aunt Em and Uncle Henry) on a farm.
  • In The Silence of the Lambs, Clarice Starling, now grown, was orphaned as a child and  briefly lived with relatives (cousins) on, yes, a farm. Okay, maybe it was a ranch. Whatever.

Oh, and since it’s hard for me to write about movies without referring to the Oscars, please, don’t forget that Judy Garland won a special “juvenile performance” Oscar for The Wizard of Oz (and making cinematic history with her glorious rendition of “Over the Rainbow”) while Foster likewise captured the 1991 Best Actress Oscar for The Silence of the Lambs.

Now, where were we? Want more?

  • Significantly, Dorothy Gale runs away from her aunt and uncle’s farm  just as Clarice ran away from the farm where she lived.
  • Additionally, animals figure in both characters’ plans to run away. Dorothy’s dog, Toto, is seized by meanie Elmira Gulch as punishment for what she believes is an outright attack by the little dog. When Toto gets away from Miss Gulch, he returns to Dorothy who believes she has no other choice but to save Toto (from being seized yet again) and herself by running away from the farm forever. In Clarice’s case, her attempt to run away is thwarted when she tries to save just one lamb from the ranch’s springtime slaughter.

Here’s where it gets a little more interesting:

  • In the dream sequence that forms the basis for most of action in The Wizard of Oz, Dorothy revisits the trauma of her dog being taken away from her. In her dream, a witch, who looks a lot like Elmira Gulch (both played by brilliant character actress Margaret Hamilton), snatches Dorothy’s dog away from her–and threatens to kill it.
  • In The Silence of the Lambs, Clarice Starling revisits the trauma of trying to save one helpless lamb’s life as she fights to save one particular young woman’s life from a stark raving serial killer (masterfully played by Ted Levine); there’s also a little dog involved too.

Still intrigued? Consider some of the other parallel structure of the stories.

  • After being transported via tornado to Oz’s Munchkinland, Dorothy incurs the wrath of the Wicked Witch of the West (note the alliteration) by first inadvertently killing the witch’s sister, and then finding herself in possession of the dead witch’s magical ruby slippers. In order to both get back home and escape the Wicked Witch of the West’s treachery, Dorothy seeks the counsel of a mysterious, powerful, shady, and brilliant wizard; eventually, Dorothy comes face-to-face with the witch in her spooky lair and destroys the witch herself.
  • As an FBI trainee, Clarice Starling is given an opportunity to help advance her career by helping a senior agent in the bureau.  In short: Clarice is asked to help put an end to a treacherous serial killer named Buffalo Bill (note the alliteration) by first seeking the counsel of a mysterious, powerful, shady, and brilliant–and deadly–doctor, Hannibal Lecter; eventually, Clarice comes face-to-face with Buffalo Bill in his spooky lair and kills him herself.
While in Munchkinland, Dorothy interacts with the offical Munchkin coroner who pronounces the Wicked Witch of the East, "not only merely dead, she's really most sincerely dead."

While in Munchkinland, Dorothy interacts with the official Munchkin coroner who pronounces the Wicked Witch of the East, “not only merely dead,” but also “really most sincerely dead.” Similarly, in The Silence of the Lambs, Clarice Starling interacts with the staff of a funeral home and FBI officials to conduct an autopsy on a recently discovered body that is also most sincerely dead.

How about this?

Remember how in The Wizard of Oz Dorothy, accompanied by her three companions (the Scarecrow, the Tin Man, and the Cowardly Lion) must proceed down a dramatic corridor, accompanied by equally forceful music,

^ Remember how in The Wizard of Oz Dorothy, along with her three companions (the Scarecrow, the Tin Man, and the Cowardly Lion), slowly proceeds down a long dark  corridor, accompanied by emotionally stirring music, as she prepares to meet the Wizard??  Now, in the clip (below)  from The Silence of the Lambs, notice how Dorothy, I mean, Clarice, proceeds down a long dark corridor as she prepares to meet Dr. Lecter. Notice how even though Clarice is technically alone, she passes three–three–of Dr. Lecter’s fellow inmates in the corridor before reaching his cell.

Now, here’s the best part…

Ozhead

When Dorothy finally sees the wizard, he’s represented as, well, a dramatically lit giant talking head, consistent with at least one of the wizard character’s manifestations in Baum’s original text.

In a most intriguing directorial choice by Oscar winner Jonathan Demme, Dr. Hannibal Lecter, played by Oscar winner Anthony Hopkins, is most often framed in tight, tight, closeups, thereby rendering him barely more than a giant talking head with dramatic lighting.

In a most intriguing directorial choice by Oscar winner Jonathan Demme, Dr. Hannibal Lecter, played by Anthony Hopkins, yet another Oscar winner, is most often framed in tight, tight, closeups, thereby rendering him barely more than a dramatically lit giant talking head. Coincidence?

Oh, and what about this tidbit?

In The Wizard of Oz, the villain of the piece (the Wicked Witch of the West), surrounds herself with weird flying creatures. In this case, it's those creepy winged monkeys.

In The Wizard of Oz, the villain of the piece (the Wicked Witch of the West), surrounds herself with weird flying creatures. In this case, it’s those creepy winged monkeys.

In The Silence of the Lambs, the villain of the piece (Jame Gumb aka Buffalo Bill) surrounds himself with weird flying creatures. In this case, it's those creepy "death head" moths.

In The Silence of the Lambs, the villain of the piece (Jame Gumb, aka Buffalo Bill, played by Ted Levine) surrounds himself with weird flying creatures. In this case, it’s those creepy “Death’s-head” moths.

^ "I'll get you my pretty."

^ “I’ll get you, my pretty.”

Well, that’s just all of it for now. I could go on with another 2-3 examples, but I’ll stop and let you recover first.  I hope one day to write a book about this–or maybe just a fancy-shmancy academic article.  Obviously, more research is needed, and that takes time and patience; after all, there’s much consideration to be given about the ways in which the texts differ. I think it would be cool to do a video compilation in order to further demonstrate my points. That also takes time, maybe money. One thing I also need to do is to perfect a thesis statement of some kind in order to give this exercise context, or gravitas, so it’s not random and clever, but the idea still fascinates me.

Dr. Lecter (to Clarice): "What does he do, this man you seek...he covets."What does the Wicked Witch of the West do? She covets.

Dr. Lecter (to Clarice): “What does he do, this man you seek…he covets.”
What does the Wicked Witch of the West do? She covets.

Oh, and the very title of this article is something of an homage–but not to either film necessarily. I noticed that even the titles of the two texts are similar: The Wizard of Oz and The Silence of the Lambs. See? The something of the something, basically; however, “the something of the something” actually refers to a line in Alfred Hitchcock’s Rope (1948), in which a dotty society matron (Constance Collier) struggles to remember the name of a show she saw recently. The best she can come up with is “Something of the something,” which the character played by star James Stewart ribs her about periodically. Anyway, if the something of the something fits…

Thanks for your consideration….