Sunday, April 6, 2014

The Wizard of Oz

MNM #204
Olivia Newton-John, that great Australian singer actress, has accepted the part of Amneris in my new theatrical extravaganza, Aida on Ice, which will shortly tour to an ice rink near you. Her first rehearsal with us is later this week so I felt a need to learn a bit more about her homeland, in order to make her feel welcome. I have not been quite so successful with Andrea Boccelli, my other co-star, as I have quite forgotten all of my high school Latin; I understand, however, that Australians speak at least some English so it should be a bit easier with darling Olivia.

My knowledge of Australia has been limited to the Alps and Salzburg and other locations from the film version of The Sound of Music so I asked my friend, Nurse Lynn, where I could turn for more information. He suggested I might check my local video outlet for a documentary film on Australia, or Oz, as the natives call it. Therefore, after rehearsal this evening, off I went to the local Blockbuster and asked the clerk for an Oz movie so could learn a thing or two about the land called 'Down Under'.

My friendly Blockbuster customer service representative, an adenoidal adolescent with acne, a tattoo of an ankh on his neck, and some wisps of hair on his chin that gave him more than a passing resemblance to the three Billy goats Gruff, went off to the shelf and came back with a film entitled The Wizard of Oz of which I had never heard, assuring me that this was by far the best Oz film and that I should be able to learn a good deal from it. I toddled home with it, poured myself a nice tot of Laphrohaig single malt scotch, and slipped it into the home theater system in my private screening room, the one tastefully designed to resemble the interior of the Blue Mosque at the Topkapi palace.

This seems to be an older film as the first section is in black and white, or rather, sepia tones. Budgetary constraints must have forced them to shoot some reels on other than color stock. It gives us the world as viewed by Dorothy, who lives on a farm with her uncle and aunt where they seem to grow chickens and pigs. From the flatness of the landscape, I assume that this takes place somewhere in the outback, maybe outside of Alice Springs, even though they keep referring to Kansas, which I thought was somewhere outside of Chicago. Anyway, Dorothy has a pet platypus with long hair, and when an evil neighbor threatens to take the lovable little creature away, she sings a song about rainbows and bluebirds (allusions to the scenic beauty of the Alps?) and then decides to run away from home.

Before she can effect this plan, however, there is a windstorm with a tornado that looks like a nylon stocking hanging from a piece of fishing line and her house is whisked off to another part of the country. The film's budget must have been increased as all of a sudden, we're in glorious Technicolor and in suburbia. At least I think it's suburbia as it's mainly semi-detached houses and a lot of really small people. Perhaps these are the famous Aborigines. Australians seem to be a happy lot as they do a lot of singing and dancing, wear colorful native costumes, and their leaders look like escapees from The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, especially the one in the poufy pink dress who travels around in a bubble. I shall have to write a letter to our local transit authority asking them to look into this technology as it seems much more comfortable and sanitary than the LA County bus system.

Dorothy then heads off for the city, called the Emerald City, which I assume is probably Sydney. I had not heard this nickname before, but think it must come from the gorgeous green waters from that famous harbor. On the way, she picks up some traveling companions whom I assume our allegorical figures for natural resources. The first is a straw person, standing in for agriculture, the second a tin person, standing in for industry, and the third, a furry person, standing in for sheep and cattle ranching. Eventually the foursome arrives at their destination, which is bright green and looks like a forest of upside down test tubes. I do not recall this view of Sydney being used in other pictures and found it somewhat appealing, although I was disappointed in the lack of shots of its many alluring water features and famous opera house.

The inhabitants of Sydney, all fashionably garbed, are portrayed as indolent and slothful so Dorothy immediately makes her way to the Prime Minister who has a swollen head and a lot of pyrotechnics. He sends her and her companions off to the mountains in search of a broom. Why he didn't just send them to K-Mart is not explained. They eventually acquire it, melt some sort of cackling escaped mental patient and eventually the pink poufy lady sends her back to her home in the outback, older and wiser and with a lovely new pair of red shoes that I would just die to have. They'd go so well with the Skimbleshanks gown from my GlamourPuss collection of haut couture.

The film has certainly opened my eyes to certain aspects of living in Australia to which I was completely ignorant. I'm looking forward to chatting with Olivia regarding some of the native music and dance and costumes. I also have learned quite a bit about Australian attitudes towards friendship, family, and the need to be satisfied with what one has. These attitudes are heartwarming, if perhaps not the best for creating a vibrant capitalist economy which requires a certain level of envy and obnoxious materialism. I'm going to go back to Blockbuster later this week to see if they have any other films about Oz. Friends tell me there's a new one out that looks at their correctional system. If I can get inspired enough by that gorgeous scenery and aboriginal charm that came through so well in this film, I just might be able to do for Australian culture what Michael Flately did for Irish culture with Riverdance.

Pig sty falling. Crystal ball gazing. Large lollipop. Clouds of sulfurous smoke (localized volcanic activity?). Yellow brick road. Living apple trees. Stuporous poppy field. Out of season snow storm. Mock coronation. Hot air balloon ride. 

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