Want to hear something amazing? Look around on You Tube today for a video of Jennifer Hudson performing “Over the Rainbow” last night in Central Park. Hudson was featured during a live show preceding Netflix’s free outdoor screening of “The Wizard of Oz” in celebration of the film’s 70th anniversary. Hudson took the outdoor srstage at the Rumsey Playing Field, and unleashed “Ease On Down the Road” and “I Believe” with unprecedented power. But the precision and soul of her “Over the Rainbow” was startling. She’s turning into the great R&B diva of the new generation.
It’s hard to imagine that “The Wizard of Oz” and “Gone with the Wind” were each released in 1939, and directed more or less by the same man, Victor Fleming (he had help on each of them). Now “Oz” returns in a remastered DVD with glorious color and sound. It’s so good that Netflix didn’t mind putting it up on a big drive-in screen in front of 4,000 people who sang along, laughed, cried, and applauded in the middle of scenes last night.
Name the 10 best scenes in film. Certainly one of them, maybe the best, is Dorothy opening the door of her tornado tossed Kansas house, all black and white and dusty, to the spectacular color of Oz, the yellow brick road, Glenda the Good Witch, the Munchkins, and the ruby slippers. Seven decades have passed, but this was Dorothy opening the gate to a new world. Fleming’s film never stops from that moment to the one in which Dorothy and her pals ‘ Bert Lahr seemed more exceptional than ever last night as the cowardly Lion ‘ are first ushered in to see the Wizard. There’s no CGI, no fakery. Just awe that Fleming pulled this off, and burned down Tara almost simultaneously.
The remastered Oz is a two-disc set from Warner Home Video, released yesterday. I’m going to pick it up immediately, along with books by the great New York Times movie writer Aljean Harmetz on both “Oz” and “Gone with the Wind.” My new theory about “Oz” is that Toto is really the central character. More than Dorothy, Toto is is always in jeopardy and driving the action forward. Jacques Derrida could have a field day with this dog. His name means “all” or “altogether.” Brilliant! Maybe Harmetz can explain it for us.