Quick: recast "The Wizard of Oz" in your head with contemporary stars. Okay, you better stop before you get nauseous. The exercise had my head spinning faster than a field of poisoned poppies.
Thank the good lord that Robert Zemeckis, the wizard behind Forrest Gump, Back to the Future and the tragically underrated Death Becomes Her, has opted out of directing a remake, say news reports. And without a director of his caliber, the studio is unlikely to proceed.
But we're not home free yet, my pretties. Two major "Oz" projects are still underway with major directors attached. If we're still discovering hidden gems in the original (like the one I'm about to reveal), who in their right mind would repave the yellow brick road?
Sam Raimi, who famously created the gory Evil Dead horror films before directing Spiderman, is set to direct Oz, The Great and Powerful, the backstory of the wizard's life before floating into the emerald city. The only possible upside for what sounds like a terrible idea: Robert Downey Jr. is in negotiations to play the wizard.
What if I told you Drew Barrymore was playing Dorothy in an "Oz" flick? Would that be worse than Diana Ross in The Wiz? Couldn't possibly be. But the project now underway smells just as lame as Ms. Ross' cinematic misfire.
Barrymore is set to direct (and possibly star in) Surrender Dorothy, a modern-day tale about Dorothy's great-great-granddaughter, in which the young lass must use the power of the ruby slippers to battle the Witch of the West. Who, umm, got liquidated in the first film, as I recall. Gag me with a broomstick, people. I feel like I should take to the streets and start some sort of civil unrest before these projects get much further.
The 1939 The Wizard of Oz includes a scene in the haunted forest as Dorothy's friends set out to rescue her from the castle. They carry weapons, like a butterfly net and a can of insect repellent. What is the scarecrow carrying? You have one paragraph to answer.
The film has had longtime impact on the lives of queer people like me, who grow up trying to find community, friends, and a place to call home, while constantly steeling ourselves against malevolent forces out to do us harm. The classic has been studied and interpreted as much as any film ever made. Done thinking?
The scarecrow is carrying a gun. A pistol. I made this discovery at about four in the morning one night during college, while fried on psychedelic mushrooms with friends and watching television. "The scarecrow is packing!" I remember screaming, and trying, trying very hard to figure out if I was hallucinating or if, in fact, the scarecrow was armed like Magnum P.I. Throughout the early morning I made frantic phone calls to people who did not share my sense of alarm.
Today my highs are no longer chemically induced, but thrills beyond imagining are as close as my DVD collection. Give me Judy Garland, warm sepiatone, and a haunting ballad for the ages, and my heart and mind are way up high, beyond the rainbow.
Why, oh why can't they leave well enough alone?