BFG (2016)

  •   Freshest WOO moment: “I am your humbug servant,” says the word-bumbling BFG to the Queen of England.  We all remember this scornful accusation hurled at the great and powerful Wizard of Oz when Toto revealed he was nothing more than a humble little man ‘behind the curtain’.
  •  The film and trailers showcase an open window, the curtain blowing inward, the tempting light and Sophie’s irresistible urge (despite sensible warnings to herself) to peek out.   She spies what she ought not to have seen, resulting of course in the giant being forced to abduct her.

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    Top to bottom: BFG, Wizard of Oz, Poltergeist
  • They fly in soaring leaps against the moonlit blue sky recalling shots from E.T.  Transcending reality by means of flight to enchanted lands is standard Spielberg/WOO fare.
  •  I was amused by the scene where the squadron of British helicopters must follow BFG to the land of giants.  In other Spielberg projects such aerial armies hearken back to flying monkeys.  Here he reverses himself and they are portrayed instead as a promenade of solidarity for Sophie’s cause.  Natch—flying monkey references always denote evil.
  • This seems like a good time to point out Spielberg’s essential theme: Sophie’s overwhelming desire to return ‘home’, complicated by the conflict that ‘home’ is no longer safe from marauding giants.
  • Leading of course to the requisite ‘quest’, to stop the evil giants.
  • Steven’s mysterious recurring green goo gets another cameo as Sophie emerges from the snozzcumber.
  • The set for BFG’s house is whirring with cyclonic motion, spinning water wheels, circulating wheel barrels, even Steven’s beloved bicycle re-tooled as a hand mixer to whip up the ingredients for the queen’s dream.
  • Finally I must point out yet again prodigious use of red and yellow, (Steven’s homage to RG color space?)  I noted it first with the little red jacket Sophie turns inside out to spare BFG his painful memories.  Its subtle tones of scarlet and ochre enhance her chameleon goldish-red glasses and her blushing lips.  Later I detected that even her shabby nightgown was sporting a faded pattern of red and yellows. The pigment duo boldly moves to multiple repetitions of crimson and gold at the queen’s palace: the guards, servants, walls and carpets.
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BRIDGE OF SPIES

  • Steven’s return to an emphasis on red and yellow set design in his latest undertaking jumped out at me right away. If you check out my remarks on his early films, you will note he tended to hit hard on the Technicolor pairing of ruby slippers and yellow brick road hues featured in Wizard of Oz. Here, the introduction to downtown Brooklyn lingers on red and yellow signage. Note the red and yellow paint on the artistic spy’s desk. As the movie progresses, you will see red and yellow wallpaper in the Donovans’ house as well as a faded version in the dumpy apartment in East Berlin. Courtrooms and embassies, both stateside and abroad, are resplendent with crimson and gold. Add to the list the neon motel sign where the pilots are recruited. Even the climactic phone booth provides a glowing backdrop for our hero with its eye-catching palate.
  • A playful WOO reference by insurance lawyer/negotiator Donovan crops up at the beginning when he uses the example of a tornado destroying someone’s house rather than the more typical scenario of fire or flood.When James Donovan first encounters Rudolf Abel, Spielberg silhouettes Tom Hanks against the blaring light of windows in the background. It happens again in court and in Vogel’s office. If you’ve explored my website, you know that the bright light which lured Dorothy into Munchkinland foreshadows danger lurking ahead for the protagonist.
  • When James Donovan first encounters Rudolf Abel, Spielberg silhouettes Tom Hanks against the blaring light of windows in the background. It happens again in court and in Vogel’s office. If you’ve explored my website, you know that the bright light which lured Dorothy into Munchkinland foreshadows danger lurking ahead for the protagonist.
  • The oft-used device of ascent and descent from normality to a whole other dimension of reality is touched on when Lt. Francis Gary Powers soars over then crashes down into Soviet territory. Steven makes the most of cyclonic motion with the spinning exploding chaos of the doomed aircraft. Note the camera sees it from above, much as we see Dorothy’s rooftop twirling downward.
  • Berlin, east and west, exhibits an air of hopelessness by use of subdued dreary colors, a Kansas air of greyness.
  • The Amblin’ bicycle makes its first cameo in East Berlin as Pryor attempts to execute an escape through the last portal of the famous wall. It pops up again—complete with Miss Gulch’s whimsical basket—as a means of delivering mail in the embassy.
  • In the embassy bike scene, listen for the bell ringing. AHA! This is the Glinda chime moment. Pay attention now; you are about to be treated to a crucial plot twister…Sure enough, immediately afterward, Donovan confides his bombshell to the hapless ambassador’s assistant: the deal must include ‘two for one’ or there will be no deal at all.
  • An interesting prop appears on Vogel’s desk; it is the same hourglass that we saw on Indiana Jones desk in Kingdom of the Crystal Skulls, a smaller version than the Wicked Witch’s sand sifter that terrified Dorothy.
  • Through a train window, James Donovan is assaulted by the horrific sight of refugees being gunned down as they try to scale the wall. He relives this memory at home in Brooklyn when from a subway window he sees a gang of boys leaping a chin link fence. Normal scenes surveyed through windows take on surreal undertones in Spielberg fare like Dorothy’s bedroom view of the world caught up in a tornado.
  • Check out how at the end James collapses diagonally across the bed. It is very reminiscent of Dorothy’s position after her bedroom window knocks her out. When he awakens, we are assured he will find himself safe at home again.
  • How and why does Steven Spielberg decide which projects he’s interest in taking on? Like Wizard of Oz, the story usually involves the theme of someone wanting or needing to return home again. Certainly that is the case for these three ‘spies’. ‘Is home really safe?’ —another question Steven likes to play around with comes up again in this film. The Donavan household undergoes a lot of safety angst not only from cold war propaganda, but due to the community’s disapproval of James’ quest. Ah, yes, the quest, the lending of a helping hand to get someone home where he/she belongs comes straight out of Wizard of Oz.
  • Finally we meet again the trickster. Only through James Donavan’s clever manipulations will the main characters be able to attain their noble goals. To complicate this obvious theme, we even have layers of tricksters like the CIA agents’ insistence that James appear to be acting alone, like the Soviet and East German official’s similar insistence upon no traceable government involvement.

SUGARLAND EXPRESS 1974 (wrote & directed)

  • If you haven’t seen this in a few decades like me, it’s worth re-watching. Somehow I mis-remembered it as a Smokey and the Bandit farce—which it definitely is not.  Great character development throughout.
  • Spielberg wrote the script based on an actual event. Did the project appeal to him specifically because it centered on an individual quest that attracted a huge procession of followers, even well-wishers? Check out two scenes: one where Lou Jean asks for hair curlers etc. and the one where they drive through the center of town’s impromptu parade. This pageantry echoes back to Munchkinland and Emerald City, both of whose populations cheered Dorothy on to her adventures with the same pomp and enthusiasm. See The Terminal, Joe vs.the Volcano, Twister, The Color Purple, Catch Me if You Can for other calvacades.
  • By the way, there is a small sign outside the parade town that reads Val Verde, Spanish for Green Valley…symbolizing Emerald City?  
  • Early on is the favorite backlit moment when innocent Baby Langsdon opens the front door of the Sugarland house. Interior of house is dark and shadowed, outside is brilliant….alluring but full of danger. That is the classic image of how Dorothy enters OZ. Langsdon’s father will be fatally shot right out there. The scene is Lu Jean and Clovis hair sugarlandrepeated later with grownups at the door: however, they perceive the threat and begin to collect the fragile vases.  See Saving Private Ryan, Close Encounters, 1941.
  • After the massive police car pile-up, Lou Jean suddenly realizes her errand is no longer just a personal mission. All the hoop-la will not fade away once she’s accomplished what she set out to do. “Clovis, honey, don’t do no good runnin’ from a tornado,” she prophecies. There will be no safe place for them, just as getting home was not enough to prevent the twister’s power from sucking Dorothy up into its maelstrom. See WOO, Empire of the Sun, Close Encounters, Catch Me if You Can, (1941)  for other instances where ‘home’ did not live up to its illusion of safety.
  • Steven’s love of kids and bikes is spotlighted. At one point, a bunch of mischievous boys ride through the center of a roadblock despite the cops’ protestations. At another, the vigilante complains when he finds his flashers have been commandeered to adorn the handlebars of his son’s bike. See Munich, Adventures of Tintin, Amistad, 1941, Always, Super 8, War of the Worlds, Empire of the Sun,The Goonies, Sugarland Express, Jaws, Inner Space.
  • cop car promenade sugarlandThere is a predominant color palate in this film of red and yellow. Clovis has red hair, Lou Jean blond. Clovis wears a red and yellow plaid shirt. The interior of the Sugarland house is done in red and yellow. Red and yellow fringe decorates the Car Dealership’s lot where they spend the night. The motor home is red and yellow, inside and out. The TV/radio van that inspired all the publicity is red and yellow. Before they enter the downtown parade, there is a lingering shot of the yellow traffic signal with its red light shining. As they proceed, the interior of car is aglow with red roses juxtaposed against yellow gold stamps. Many shots of crowds show extras dressed in stand-out reds and yellows. Just before Lou Jean, Clovis and their hostage crash the final time, you see red road signs against golden turf. The entire film features gold and red sunset skies. One of the enduring Clovis red yellow sugarlandimages of WOO is the close-up of Dorothy’s ruby slippers with the yellow brick road as the backdrop. Schindler’s List, Jaws, 1941, Joe vs. the Volcano, Twister, Inner Space, Jurassic Park, Used Cars, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.
  • Do I even need to point out that the entire caper is to get Baby Langsdon home to his real mother where he belongs? See Empire of the Sun, A.I., Hook, Saving Private Ryan, War of the Worlds, Close Encounters, Catch me if You Can, The Color Purple, Poltergeist, Jurassic Park (to Grampa) and WOO (to Auntie Em).
  • NOT WOO BUT… Let me urge you to sample this early Spielberg if for nothing more than to check out the scene where Lou Jean points out Roadrunner playing at the drive-in next-door. Clovis provides his own soundtrack for her amusement. When Coyote takes his final dive, Clovis foresees his own demise. Absurdly awesome.

A.I. ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE 2001 (wrote & directed)

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Ahhhh….the mother-lode of WOO!

  • Professor Marvel’s (AKA Wizard of Oz) hot air balloon has a cameo role as the rounder upper of expendable robots for the flesh fair’s show.
  • Gigolo Joe with his tap dancing on road and curb—not to mention his clever patter—brings off a respectable homage to Scarecrow’s, Tinman’s, Lion’s best song and dance antics.
  • Going to Rouge (red) City to ask Dr. Know=going to Emerald City to ask Wizard (rouge alternative to ruby as in slippers?) See The Terminal, Minority Report for other quests to find ‘wizards’.
  • ‘All roads lead to Rouge City’=Follow the yellow brick roadstill-of-jude-law-and-haley-joel-osment-in-a.i.-artificial-intelligence-(2001)-large-picture
  • Dr. Know appears in explosion of light, however only his head and hands show up. The Great Oz too appears as a talking head. Both are tricky fellows who don’t play fair all the time. Dr. Know counts off the first bogus question unfairly and his answers to the others aren’t quite correct. Professor Marvel/OZ  was a manipulator/showman pretending to know more than he did. See See Empire of the Sun, The Color Purple, Lincoln, Munich, Saving Private Ryan, A.I., Always, Goonies, Jaws, Catch Me if You Can. Schindler’s List  for tricksters.
  • Teddy is as loyal a companion to David as Toto is to Dorothy.   Like the little dog, he is occasionally very helpful getting David rescued—like at flesh fair.
  • The quest imposed by Dr. Know on David to find the Blue Fairy (to become real so Mommy will love him and let him come home)=Dorothy’s quest to witch’s castle to fulfill wizard’s bargain to get her home. For more quests, see Always, Amistad, Joe vs. the Volcano, Tintin, Poltergeist,
    Twister, Sugarland Express, Lincoln, War of the Worlds, Minority Report, The Goonies, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Saving Private Ryan, Munich, Jaws, Inner Space, The Terminal, Schindler’s List, Super 8, Raiders of the Lost Arc, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, Catch me if You Can, Always, Twilight Zone the Kick the Can episode,
  • Home references abound. “If I become a real boy, can I come home?” “After I find the Blue Fairy, then I can go home.” “Teddy, we’re Home!” almost verbatim Dorothy’s, “Toto, we’re home!” “Mommy, we’re home.” See Jaws, War Horse, The Terminal, Sugarland Express, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Empire of the Sun, Catch Me if You Can, Saving Private Ryan, War of the Worlds, Super 8, 1941, Amistad, Minority Report, Hook, Poltergeist for other characters anxious to get home to safety.
  • The Blue fairy’s gentle voice is so reminiscent of Glinda, good Witch of the North.  With creepy, modulated kindness,  both sorceresses pound in nail-hard facts.  Your mommy’s dead. The witch is after you. The road is long. You had to find out for yourself.
  • David sleeps at the end, home at last with Mommy dying. He goes to a place ‘where dreams begin’. Dorothy sleeps as tornado strikes, then after clicking heels of ruby slippers, wakes up at home, ‘her dream ended’. Where is home really? Here in physical world or there in dreams? See Joe vs. the Volcano.
  • Tinkling wind chimes in a window signify magic is coming…David will find Mommy waking up. This pre-magic moment (or significant change coming moment) presaged by a tinkling sound appears in many Spielberg films. You will remember that we always knew Glinda was coming when we heard the chimes begin.  See Always, E. T., The Color purple, Jaws, Close Encounters, Empire of the Sun, Super 8, Twister, Twilight Zone, Joe vs the Volcano.
  • Check out the  Gone with the Wind  scenery look-alike when Gigolo Joe is silhouetted next to a tree as robots scavenge for parts in the dump. (see War of Worlds, War Horse). For a long time I attributed this scene and several others in various Spielberg pictures to GWTW.  Recently though, I realized the small bridge where Scarlett shelters in creek with horse as the Union army crosses is awfully similar to one seen in Wizard of Oz when Dorothy runs away to Professor Marvel. Victor Fleming directed both films so it seems plausible that he found a double use for that particular bridge…and maybe the set with the tree and split rail fences as well? I realize King Vidor directed much of WOO, especially Kansas scenes, but does that preclude possibility that Victor and he occasionally shared sets?  Is Steven purposely doing the same thing?

TWISTER 1996 (PRODUCED)

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  • Hello, Cyclone!  You will see a cow(or two) flying by mooing just like in Dorothy’s version and a boat—minus the fisherman. In fact, producer Spielberg’s tornado is chockfull of goodTwister cow stuff.   I think I even spotted the insane tractor trailer from Duel!  See War of the Worlds, Super 8, Poltergeist for more cyclonic ‘clinking, clanking, clattering collections of caligenous junk’.
  • The intro shows a defining moment in Jo’s childhood when a tornado unexpectedly strikes in the middle of the night.  On her bed is a Toto-like terrier named Toby who, despite scampering at Toto-speed, almost doesn’t make it into the storm cellar. See The Adventures of Tintin.  Also see War of the Worlds for another unsafe storm cellar!
  • Is it me or does Jo’s old farmhouse sport that ‘air of grayness’?  Re-occurs when Bill prepares  ‘Dorothy’ in the hailstorm; there is a shot up the curving, hilly road with fence-posts.  The color washes away to black and white and—for a moment—viewer is back in Kansas. The absence of color hints things may get a bit hopeless. See E.T. the Extraterrestrial, War Horse, Schindler’s List, Twister, Joe Vs. the Volcano, Twilight Zone the Movie Kick the can Episode, Poltergeist. 
  • The telemetrical prototype is named ‘Dorothy’.
  • Looked to me like the footbridge Jo and Bill cower under during first tornado was identical to  Victor Fleming’s old fave in WOO and GWTW. See A.I. for more detail on similar sets.
  • At the drive-in, Bill’s new girlfriend is in her room when a gust suddenly blows the window curtain inward.  This is a classic Spielberg sign that life is about to radically change for her as it did for Dorothy after the bedroom window knocked her out cold.  Sure enough, Melissa breaks up with Bill moments later. See Empire of the Sun, Catch Me if You Can, Hook, Twilight Zone the Movie Kick the can Episode, Joe vs. the Volcano, Poltergeist. 
  • We glimpse Judy Garland on the TV at Aunt Meg’s house before the F-5 hits.
  • Aunt Meg’s artwork consists of giant whirligigs that chime conspicuously to warn us the Big One is coming.  When Jo gets the idea of how to make the measuring devices inside ‘Dorothy’ fly, we hear chimes.  Chimes sound again when the pinwheels fly up inside the twister.  WOO always forewarned us of Glinda’s approaching magic with chimes.   See Always, A.I., E. T.,The Color Purple, Jaws, Close Encounters, Empire of the Sun, Super 8, Twister, Twilight Zone, Joe vs. the Volcano, Poltergeist.
  • At one point, in F-5 you will see an exact replica of Gales’ farmhouse roll by on its side—an amusing twist on the classic shot of its rooftop from above shown in WOO and other Spielberg films. See Minority Report, Raiders of the Lost Arc, Close Encounters.
  • The main characters dash on foot through a field of sunflowers…a sure sign they will prevail over trials ahead.  Certainly the WOO companions did after surviving the poppies. Fields test characters and generally mark turning points in Steven’s works. See Always, Saving Private Ryan, The Color Purple, Lost World Jurassic Park.
  • Interesting references to Sugarland Express: the entourage of rival black SUV’s that dog Bill’s company echo back to that long line of cop cars.
  • Also a repeat of the red and yellow color scheme can be found at the drive-in.  See Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, Schindler’s List, Jaws, 1941, Joe vs. the Volcano, Inner Space, Jurassic Park, Used Cars, Sugarland Express, Poltergeist for other homages to the red and yellow commercial for Technicolor devised by WOO.
  • Also Jo and Bill defy Lou Jean’s opinion that ‘it don’t do no good runnin from a tornado‘ by doing exactly that! See  Minority Report, War Horse, WOO for references to “Run, Toto, run”.
  • Despite the utter destruction wreaked by the F-5, the conclusion shows a family’s home unscathed. The haven untouched. Sanctuary. See See Twister, Close Encounters, Empire of the Sun, Catch me if You Can, Minority Report, Amistad, The Color Purple, Munich, Poltergeist, The Terminal for safety of home.

THE TERMINAL 2004

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  • Viktor Navorski meets and befriends three steadfast companions in this nether world Terminalbetween Krakozhia and New York City just like Dorothy did in Oz. Mulroy, Enrique, and Gupta represent the qualities of Scarecrow, Tinman, and Lion. Enrique searches for his heart (love of Dolores). Paranoid, fearful Gupta searches for the courage to return to his family in India and face imprisonment. Mulroy is the brainy one. He keeps Gupta’s silliness in line—much as Scarecrow reigns in Lion—and he imparts savvy hints to Viktor to help him survive in this often hostile environment. See Goonies.
  • Of course Frank Dixon plays the Wicked Witch of the West, trapping Viktor out of sheer meanness and his own desire for power/promotion.
  • Viktor’s goal is to find a ‘wizard’, in this case the virtuoso jazz musician whose signature will complete his father’s collection. See A.I., Minority Report
  • Gupta uses a mop to delay the Krakozhia flight, affording Viktor time and opportunity to get his wish and go out into NYC. You will recall the witch’s broomstick was the tool required by Wizard as compensation for the companions’ wishes to be granted.
  • As Viktor promenades down the center of airport toward his exodus, he is encouraged and cheered on by his companions and bystanders, again much like Dorothy in Munchkinland and Emerald City. See Joe vs.the Volcano, Twister, The Color Purple, Catch Me if You Can, Sugarland Express, Used Cars
  • In the climactic parade scene, on the upper level, the camera flashes upon a distinctly yellow floor like yellow brick road. However close-ups do away with the pigment.
  • At the end, Frank’s security guards—like the witch’s soldiers in the castle—are only to happy to defy previous orders and former protocol.  They let the captive go free.
  • Gupta triumphantly reassures Viktor from tarmac that everything is okay; he is returning homeSee WOO, A.I., E.T., Super 8, Jaws, War of the Worlds, Empire of the Sun, War Horse, Saving Private Ryan, Sugarland Express, Hook, Close Encounters, Catch Me if You Can for other characters’ touching faith in safety of home.
  • Viktor initially complicates matters when he refuses to confirm he is ‘afraid to go home’. Pure at heart and untouched by Frank’s evil influence, or those overthrowing his country’s government, he can never accept that home is anything but a safe place for him. Dorothy shares the same viewpoint despite events to the contrary like Miss Gulch and the tornado. See above notation for characters with equally naïve notions about the sanctuary of home. See Twister, Close Encounters, Empire of the Sun, Catch me if You Can, Minority Report, Amistad, The Color Purple, Munich, Poltergeist
  • The film’s finale has Viktor confidently answering the cabbie’s request for a destination, “I am going home.” If he doesn’t exactly close his eyes, he certainly narrows them. See WOO Dorothy’s ‘no place like home incantation’, Empire of the Sun, A.I.
  • Krakozhia: some say the country is named after Krakow…maybe…but is also pseudo-anagram for Kansas and Oz.

SCHINDLER’S LIST 1993

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  • Famous for the moment this black and white film moves to color. Wizard of Oz was also renowned for that trick. Note: I do think on his serious films, Steven uses a very light hand when sprinkling in his bit of WOO flavor. I get why he sometimes has to be sly or vague about it. No use risking spoilage of delicate material. So if you think I am reaching on some of my examples…maybe you’ve got a point…or maybe he purposely inserted it so deep that it would be perceived only subliminally.
  • I wonder if Spielberg didn’t originally intend to put the little girl in red shoes, but decided to fly under radar and use the red coat instead. He does finally use the red shoes in Saving Private Ryan. No accident that the hues Steven features in this film when B&W goes to partial color are yellow hair and red coat.  Those two primary colors defined WOO’s commercial eye appeal.  They were specifically chosen to make the most of a brand new process called Technicolor.  The yellow brick road contrasted better with red so Baum’s silver slippers became ruby ones instead.  See Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, Jaws, 1941, Joe vs. the Volcano, Twister, Inner Space, Jurassic Park, Used Cars, Sugarland Express, Poltergeist for other highlights of red and yellow.
  • WOO’s creators wanted to create an ‘air of grayness’ for Kansas scenes, meant to imply a sort of hopeless environment, hence Dorothy’s wish to go over the rainbow.  Steven employs that air of grayness throughout this film to emphasize the plight of the persecuted. See E.T. the Extraterrestrial, War Horse, Twister, Joe Vs. the Volcano, Twilight Zone the Movie Kick the can Episode, Poltergeist. 
  • Note too the sepia tones that accompany Schindler’s color sequence.  WOO’s intro was filmed in sepia but televised in B&W, so fans know it both ways.
  • There are a profusion of key scenes framed by windows… but camera slips over each with the barest gliding touch. Steven decided not to make a big deal of them so neither shall I. See WOO, Empire of the Sun, Catch Me if You Can, Poltergeist, Lost World of Jurassic Park  for other surreal glimpses through windows.  Like Dorothy’s peek into the center of tornado, everyday sights take on a bizarre twist.
  • Oskar Schindler is the consummate trickster. Spielberg returns again and again to the mischievous enabler in so many of his films.  An honorable protagonist often needs some underhanded finagling to achieve his/her goal.  In WOO, Professor Marvel (AKA Wizard of Oz, Gatekeepers 1 and 2, Driver of horse of a different color) often uses his guile to the betterment of all.  In the case of Schindler, our rogue transcends to martyrdom. By his willingness to get dirty, Schindler achieves a noble goal at great personal cost, the sacrifice of his purity. His soul may never be at peace with his former deeds. See Empire of the Sun, The Color Purple, Lincoln for other benevolent tricksters. In both Munich and Saving Private Ryan the protagonists’ missions carry out the virtuous aims of invisible tricksters. On a lighter note, you also find tricksters in WOO, A.I., Always, Goonies, Jaws, Catch Me if You Can, Joe Vs. the Volcano.

WAR HORSE: 2011

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  • When Joey is rescued from the barbed wire and brought back to camp, snow begins to fall…and that begins the healing for both horse and Albert from Devon. In WOO, snow falling on poppies is the antidote to their poison. Glinda banishes  the sleeping death and secures the companions’ momentary release from witch’s evil influence. Snow revives Dorothy and the lion, cures them and sets them back on the path of life, eventually to find their way home.
  • Going home (to Mom) once again shines as the beacon for the main characters (boy and horse) in this movie. See Empire of the Sun, A.I., Sugarland Express, Hook, Saving Private Ryan, War of the Worlds, Close Encounters, Catch me if You Can, The Color Purple, Poltergeist, Jurassic Park (to Grampa) and WOO (to Auntie Em).
  • When Colin walks through No Man’s Land, he is reciting a prayer for courage, like a mantra…the Lord is my shepherd. This is reminiscent of the WOO mantra ‘lions and tigers and bears oh my’. See Minority Report for another mantra.
  • No Man’s Land recalls the landscape where the witch’s castle was located, dark, bleak, and barren. We reach for courage in a terrifying, evil world. Also I am reminded of the Kansas landscape, black, grey and white, tumbleweeds deserted roads before the tornado strikes. This ‘air of grayness’ was an effective device in WOO to portray hopelessness. See E.T. the Extraterrestrial, Schindler’s List, Twister, Joe Vs. the Volcano, Twilight Zone the Movie Kick the can Episode, Poltergeist
  • Bells ring at the announcement of end of War as they do in Lincoln at passing of 13th.   It’s a WOO thread: “Ding-dong, the witch is dead.”  Evil has been extinguished. Triumph of the perseverant!
  • The sweet, chubby German who reluctantly must do his job—warhorses under his direction will die pulling artillery—looks suspiciously like the tenderhearted Gatekeeper of Emerald City, AKA gatekeeper for Oz’s Hall. Same center part in middle of slicked down hair, mustache, and body type. Same sentimental character that disobeys orders to help hero.  If he had a slightly bigger part, I’d call him a trickster.images-6
  • This German hollers out ‘Run! Run!’ to Joey, the horse, encouraging him to escape. Dorothy hollers to Toto at witch’s castle, “Run Toto, run!” See Minority Report, Sugarland Express, Twister.
  • At the end, when Joey and Albert get home, look at the sunset scenery for a very GWTW homage to Victor Fleming who also directed WOO.  See A.I., War of the Worlds.

RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK 1981

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  • The Nazis brandishing eagle topped staffs and banners are like the witch’s guards with their lances parading in front of her castle gate.
  • The pet monkey all dressed up reminds you of witch’s flying monkey troops in costume. This little beast proves equally untrustworthy; he betrays Marion’s hiding place and leads to her capture.  For more flying monkeys, see Raiders of the Lost Ark, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, Minority Report, The Lost World of Jurassic Park, The Adventures of TinTin  
  • Marion is trapped inside a basket like Toto.
  • The weird spirits inside the Ark of the Covenant appear in smoke and are sort of human, sort of scary, like Oz’s head in great hall. See Lincoln
  • The cover of the Ark—when it finally falls back on top to trap the spirits inside— twirls down exactly like Dorothy’s spinning house did when it fell from sky.  Check out camera angles from above.Raiders Ark
  • Nazis get melted after looking at the power inside ark— evil departs world— witch melts in WOO. See Lost World of Jurassic Park
  • In this film as in Super 8, Indy infiltrates enemy territory by appropriating an enemy uniform, the WOO trick to get Lion, Tinman and Scarecrow through witch’s gates. Note how a hat flies up during struggle; clothes did this in WOO too. See Catch Me if You Can, Super 8Raiders Ark2
  • Indy ducks out of soldier’s marching line. Super 8 dad does same… as do WOO companions after getting over drawbridge.
  • Indy reminds me of Scarecrow in the scene where he crawls under moving truck and is dragged. His body is as delightfully indestructible as the pratfalling straw man’s. Spielberg jokes about this afterward in the ‘what part of you doesn’t hurt?’ scene. Remember Dorothy asking Scarecrow about his injuries after she gets him down off the post? And how Scarecrow bounces back after being ripped apart by monkeys? Apparently Indy’s aches and pains aren’t as bad as he makes out, since he and Marion end up doing more than sleeping together. Young Indy is presumably conceived?

JAWS 1975

  • Jaws_045Pyxurz Alex’s mother appears in the midst of the harbor’s competitive chaos.  Everybody in town is debarking.  They hope to win a fabulous bounty for catching the man-eating monster. Mrs. Kintner is dressed all in black. Like the Wicked Witch of West, she cleaves through the center of crowd.  You recall how the Munchkins hailed Dorothy in raucous celebration until witch sucked their joy away?  The bereaved mother has same effect here. With vitriolic demeanor, she confronts Martin in an angry threatening speech, beating him down as the witch did Dorothy.
  • There are several clinking, tinkling interludes in this movie that warn you the shark is coming, like the WOO signal  that let you know Glinda was on her way.  Unlike the soundtrack music that tricks you sometimes…this prescient clinking is never wrong. The buoy rings as the girl goes for her dip, a warning the shark is going to get her.  Before Alex and Tippett get chomped listen to the background music for orchestral chimes.  Those two won’t escape.  There are no chimes in the famous roast beef scene because the fisherman escapes, but you will hear them at the pond when the helpful man falls out of his boat and becomes shark bait.  Listen for a flat drumming knell when Hooper dives around Ben Gardner’s disabled boat before he finds the gory corpse. Even when Orca’s crew is chasing and being chased, despite music implying danger, suspenseful clicking of fishing pole, beeping of monitor, you only hear the chimes to verify doom.  No chimes when shark initially toys with broken boat but when they tie on three barrels, Jaws gets mad.  He goes after them and then the chimes sound.  Someone is going to pay.  When he eats Hooper’s cage the chimes are silent; Hooper will survive.  When the ship is sinking and the bell tolls, Quint will soon be a dead man.  The bell rings again right before Martin shoots the gas canister that blows the shark to smithereens at which point you will hear a profusion of happy chimes while pieces sink!  See Always, A.I., E. T.,The Color Purple, Close Encounters, Empire of the Sun, Super 8, Twister, Twilight Zone, Joe vs. the Volcano, Poltergeist.
  • I have seen this film dozens of times, two or three at the movie theater when it first came out.  It is one of a handful that never fails to suck me in as I try to click by.  I thought I had noticed everything WOO until recently I became aware of the heavy use of red and yellow color scheme: Amity’s billboard, beach decor, costumes the extras are wearing, Ben Gardner’s boat scene, the man’s red and yellow dinghy on the pond, Alex’s yellow raft covered in blood, yellow barrels, red lifejackets, the Orca herself.  And here’s an interesting detail: the Orca’s paint job changes frequently.  Watch how she starts out with yellow letters on a red transom.  Then she goes to an all red stern with black hull…perhaps as a better backdrop for yellow barrels?  At one point before the boat burns, the stern even seems to turn yellow!  WOO, one of the first color films ever made employed its eye-popping hues to best advantage, most notably ruby slippers against the yellow brick road.  See  A.I., E. T.,The Color Purple, Always, Close Encounters, Empire of the Sun, Super 8, Twister, Twilight Zone, Joe vs. the Volcano, Poltergeist.
  • On the 4th of July an army of bicyclists debark from the ferry.  See E.T., Munich, Adventures of Tintin, Amistad, 1941, Always, Super 8, War of the Worlds, Empire of the Sun,The Goonies, Sugarland Express, Inner Space, Used Cars.  If there’s a way to squeeze a bike in, Steven will find it… even in a film that is set primarily on water!
  •  Quint, of course, is the lovable trickster.  His methods are questionable, especially when he destroys the radio that might have saved them all.  But Martin’s quest to kill the monster would not have been fulfilled without Quint’s maniacal manipulation.  See Empire of the Sun, The Color Purple, Lincoln, Munich, Saving Private Ryan, A.I., Always, Goonies, Jaws, Catch Me if You Can.
  • The happy ending shows our survivors coming in sight of home as they swim. See references to safety of home, Empire of the Sun, Close Encounters, Catch Me if You Can, Amistad, The Terminal, Munich, Saving Private Ryan, Poltergeist etc.