Thursday, July 30, 2015
E! Online and a number of other entertainment news outlets are reporting that music superstar Beyonce has been offered the role of Glinda - a move that could result in massive ratings for NBC. According to Entertainment Weekly, however, Beyonce has declined multiple offers from NBC, though it's still possible that she could end up signing on. If not, the role could go to Uzo Aduba, star of Netflix's Orange is the New Black. But for now, "Beyonce is only a rumor," says producer Craig Zadan.
shameless campaigning for the role across Twitter, YouTube, and even the New York subways. "I feel like I'm the one to do it," she said in an interview with Playbill, "and I just want Kenny Leon and whoever else who is doing it to let me prove it to them. Give me the opportunity, and I will make them so proud and inspire the world with that role."
Personally, I share many people's concern that Brandy, 36, might be too old for the part (though, in her defense, Diana Ross was 34 when she played Dorothy in the 1978 film). Having said that, I do think that she should be given a chance. She's not quite as much of a "household name" as Queen Latifah or Mary J. Blige, but she would bring some more star power to the production and she's clearly got the talent and passion for the project.
So, who else could we see in NBC's Wiz? Audra McDonald is a good bet, as she appeared in The Sound of Music Live! for the network in 2013. I also wouldn't be surprised if actor/comedian Craig Robinson, best known for his role as Darryl in The Office, joins the cast, given his relationship with NBC with the upcoming sitcom Mr. Robinson. If you ask me, he'd make a pretty great Lion. Other names that have come up among fan discussions include Whoopi Goldberg, Broadway stars James Monroe Igleheart (Aladdin) and LaChanze (If/Then), Fantasia, and even Usher.
Wednesday, July 29, 2015
The Speckled Rose of Oz by Donald Abbott
Another book set before the events of The Marvelous Land of Oz, Abbott gives the Scarecrow, Tin Woodman and Cowardly Lion another adventure as the wicked Poison Oak and Sir Wiley Gyle (brother of the Wicked Witches) try to turn Oz into a swamp by killing the Speckled Rose of Oz.
Abbott is imaginative here, even if the flow of his stories is still a bit too uneven. Not highly recommended, but not one to avoid either.
The Unwinged Monkey of Oz by Peter Schulenberg
Paramount the monkey has a problem: he was born without wings! Having had enough of feeling like he doesn't belong, he runs away from home and encounters some strange new friends, such as a man who inexplicably turns into a Gump but has no memory of either life, and a cavern full of people made of wet clay. Along the way, Paramount gets wind of a plot by a wicked witch and does what he can to stop her.
Schulenberg improves over past stories by including an antagonist. That said, the antagonist is defeated fairly easily. Still, Schulenberg definitely knows his Oz and clearly displays it here.
The Patchwork Bride of Oz by Gilbert M. Srague
A short story sees the Scarecrow and Scraps get married. There's a nice twist at the end.
Only complaint? It's far too short. It should have been a centerpiece in a book of short stories, not a book of its own. Still, if you can track it down, enjoy!
Sunday, July 26, 2015
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You can also subscribe to the Royal Podcast of Oz at the podcast website.
Saturday, July 18, 2015
Download this episode (right click and save)
Also, you can subscribe to the podcast at the Royal Podcast of Oz website!
Wednesday, July 15, 2015
Baum rarely puts such emphasis on the vulnerabilities of male characters again. Jack Pumpkinhead is cautious of his head, as he's very aware that it can spoil. The Frogman puts up a facade of being a wise man when he knows he's just a overgrown frog and the Truth Pond makes him admit this. In addition, Baum's boy characters have often been criticized as not being as well-developed as the girls.
Last year at Oz Con International, I was on a panel about Baum's boys, and while the host was skeptical about our views, John Bell, Paul Dana and I all seemed to think that Baum's boy characters weren't badly depicted. Button-Bright has ADHD or perhaps Aspbergers, Ojo has depression, and the thing is, that's perfectly okay in Oz.
It is no mystery that Baum believed in early feminist ideals. He had great respect for his mother in law, Matilda Joslyn Gage, founder of the Woman's National Liberal Union. Many have pointed to his depiction of female characters in the Oz series as evidence of his feminism. But a good part of feminism has been relieving society from ideals that over-glorify the role of men. This means that not only should women be held in equal esteem and allowed to be who they want to be, but men are free to be only themselves instead of living up to an idealized image.
I think this ideal of feminism is quite evident in the Oz series: strong male characters can be strong male characters. Vulnerable male characters can be vulnerable male characters. They are not trying to live up to some ideal. Women are allowed to be strong or vulnerable and one is not used to shame another.
For this reason, I think, we can point to one reason why the story of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz appeals to gay men: it is a story about empowerment that is not based on gender. Any character is allowed to be who they are, whether they want to improve themselves or just remain as they are and are thought of as worthy members of society.
Tuesday, July 14, 2015
Now, I mean, to be honest, Tarsem Singh also directed Mirror Mirror, a heavy revising of the story of Snow White that altered the story so much, Snow White doesn't even bite an apple. But that movie was also highly entertaining, kind of like a more family-friendly Terry Gilliam film.
But while the director seems capable of handling Oz, fans are wondering if the series is a good idea or not. I can tell that already, the series will be decried by some Oz fans, probably even a majority. While I have my own apprehensions, I'll reserve my judgement and thoughts until I actually see the show.
And if it's bad... Well...
Bring it on!
Keep trying with Oz, Hollywood. Keep reworking and seeing what works and what doesn't. Perhaps one day, you'll finally find that perfect intermediate between what makes L. Frank Baum's work tick and what makes good film and television.
And while I don't think Emerald City quite sounds like it'll be the one, it nonetheless sounds interesting, and I'll keep an eye open for it.
Sunday, July 12, 2015
The series at hand is The Land of Stories by Chris Colfer, who is popular for playing Kurt Hummel on the TV series Glee. However, he branched out into writing with a screenplay titled Struck By Lightning and later got it produced, and also went into publishing with a novel adaptation of the screenplay as well as the series at hand.
One of Napoleon's armies was attempting to march to the fairy tale world, but were fooled by the Brothers Grimm into a portal that was inactive. However, the portal is now active, and an army of thousands is arriving in the fairy tale world. With only a little time, the fairy tale kingdom must muster its forces to fight the invaders and a threat they haven't faced in centuries: a dragon.
And yes, the first book they have to enter is The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. They manage to get to a slightly different part of Oz and have the Tin Woodman join them as they hurry to stop the Masked Man from meeting the Wicked Witch of the West. However, things aren't going to be quite so easy. Their journeys will also lead them to meet Peter Pan, the Queen of Hearts, Merlin and Robin Hood.
Since Colfer's take on Oz is supposed to be them actually entering the book, he has his work cut out for him sticking to Baum's world. (So note, they don't actually go to Oz and mess up the story, they enter a realization of the book.) Colfer wisely limits his character use to just the Tin Woodman and Wicked Witch (with brief appearances by Dorothy and her family early in), and sticks to character quite well, actually. The Wicked Witch doesn't make much of an appearance, but Colfer describes her in a manner matching W.W. Denslow's pictures.
Colfer's writing style is quite enjoyable. His biggest strength is characterization, having a wide array of characters in his books. There's the lively Mother Goose, who has a wide variety of acquaintances when she visited "the Otherworld" (our world, as C.S. Lewis would call it) and enjoys a supply of "bubbly" with her giant goose Lester. There's renegade Goldilocks and her love Jack (who once climbed a beanstalk) and Queen Red Riding Hood who enjoys pretty dresses and high culture. And there's Froggy, who is seemingly based on a popular fairy tale, but also seems to owe a little wink and nod to a more obscure Oz character, the Frogman. And that's just some of the major characters in the series!
There also seems to be an overarching plot in the series, but to discuss that further might drop too many spoilers. It might be coming to a head at the end of Beyond the Kingdoms, or else we might be in for a huge twist.
Overall, I'm really enjoying the series and would recommend it to any Oz fan who might want to try some more recent fantasy series aimed at today's youth. (And, y'know, Chris, if you ever wanted to write an actual Oz book... we wouldn't say no...)
Wednesday, July 08, 2015
One of the big contributors to this new line of Oz books was Donald Abbott, who preferred to illustrate his stories in a manner copying W.W. Denslow. (Books of Wonder had Abbott illustrate their new edition of Dot and Tot of Merryland, which led to some fans incorrectly thinking that they'd used the original Denslow illustrations.)
It tells how Oscar was blown to Oz in his balloon and how he faced off against the Wicked Witches despite having no power, how he built the Emerald City and how Glinda helped him without letting him know who she was. It also tells how the Wicked Witch of the West got the Golden Cap and gives a peek at the origins of the Scarecrow, Tin Woodman and Cowardly Lion (even though I think all of them appear way too early in the Oz timeline to really work with the Baum stories).
I suppose it's a fine enough story, but so little happens (the book is less than 100 pages) that it's rather cut and dry. And a more satisfying account of the Wizard's dealing with Mombi was already told in Hugh Pendexter III's "Oz and the Three Witches." Joe doesn't list this Abbott story on his timeline at all.
Blinkie the Witch of the South awakens the Sand Serpent: a beast that was created to protect the Land of Oz by patrolling the Deadly Desert, but had its mind poisoned over time and then turned to attack Oz. It was put to sleep with the legendary Amber Flute, but only one person knows where that is: the villainous wizard Ozwaldo. Can the Scarecrow, Tin Woodman and Cowardly Lion trust a villain as they fight another villain?
While rather simple (Abbott cannot write a great plot twist), it was an enjoyable adventure story for our friends.
Monday, July 06, 2015
The first Oz film I encountered after the MGM film was The Wizard of Oz, a twenty-six minute cartoon produced by Golden Films and something called the American Film Investment Corporation. Wizard was one of six animated films based on a fairy tale produced by Golden Films in 1990 and 1991 - all released direct-to-video and often packaged to resemble Disney titles.
This was before I even knew that the MGM film was actually based on a book, so I assumed that this cartoon was just a short, animated remake of the film with some odd changes and additions. Though there are a number of elements from the book present in this adaptation (like the Silver Slippers and the Kalidahs), the voice acting and a lot of the dialogue are pretty similar to the 1939 film. Dorothy, for example, sounds so much like Judy Garland that the five-year-old Angelo assumed it was the same voice.
As you would expect, the animation is not particularly impressive, but it's watchable. I've never cared much for the character designs, though I guess it's good that none of the characters were drawn to resemble their MGM counterparts. The Good Witch of the North and the Wizard are probably the least appealing: the former looking oddly masculine, and the latter dressed in cliched sorcerer attire.
In the end, this is a harmless film. Sure, it's a little uninspired and simplistic, but it's short enough (and affordable enough) to be worth watching at least once if you haven't before. You can buy it on DVD for less than $1.00 here.