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When the American Film Institute announced the 100 best American movies, I don’t think anyone was surprised that The Wizard Of Oz made the top ten. The film is not only a great movie; it is a deeply loved movie. Many can remember the first time they saw it. Me? I was about six years old. This was on the big screen, at the Culver Theater which, unbeknownst to me, was less than two blocks from where The Wizard of Oz was made. I guess you can say that Oz was sort of in my own backyard.

What makes this movie so appealing and popular? There are many reasons. The most obvious: The Wizard Of Oz was wonderfully made and is one of a kind. Nothing else looks like or sounds like it, and all of the characters, from Dorothy herself to the Wicked Witch, the Munchkins, Scarecrow, Tinman, Cowardly Lion, and even Auntie Em and Uncle Henry have become icons, instantly associated with this one film.

Another reason is that the story is about something to which children and adults can all relate on an emotional level. Think about it. The Wizard Of Oz is a story about a girl who feels misunderstood and is separated from her family in a terrible storm. She struggles to find her way home but has been stranded far, far away from the family farm in a very strange place. She is hopelessly lost and gets assistance from three individuals who, in their own ways, struggle as much as she. How many of us, in our own way, can relate to this scenario? At different times in our lives and in our own ways haven’t most of us been just as lost somehow, felt out of place and have shared our lives with others who seem just as mixed up as we?

As it is for a lot of people, The Wizard of Oz is a very personal movie to me. As a child it was the most wonderful and the most scary (remember this was in the late 1940's) thing I had ever seen. As a kid I wanted to go on this great adventure down the Yellow Brick Road. Years later I sometimes identified with the Cowardly Lion; at other times I felt like the Wizard hiding behind the curtain ("I’m not a bad person, just a bad wizard"). At one point, as a young adult, when I was overwhelmed and feeling depressed and vulnerable, I felt like Dorothy, lost and wanting to be rescued. I can remember at that low point seeing the movie on t.v. What struck me then was what Glenda told Dorothy, after all the girl had gone through to get home, only to be left behind when Professor Marvel took off in his air balloon:

"You don’t need to be helped any longer. You’ve always had the power to get back to Kansas."

"Then why didn’t you tell her before?" the Scarecrow had demanded to know.

"Because she wouldn’t have believed me....She had to find it out for herself."

I also had to find things out for myself, and I did, with help in therapy. That was a turning point for me. Many years later I rediscovered this and summarized these thoughts in the booklet Getting Unstuck, A Guide For Breaking Out Of Self Defeating Patterns. In this booklet I point out that real change can only occur when a person is confused, feeling discomfort, and in the right place at the right time, i.e., not only looking for new answers but encountering experiences inconsistent with what one’s normal ways of thinking would predict. We have to be motivated (in Dorothy’s case, wanting to go home), the old way of thinking no longer works (Kansas logic didn’t apply to Oz), and we need to have the right type of experiences to expose us to new realities in such a way that we can change our automatic assumptions and beliefs. When Dorothy ended up in Oz, she became part of that place’s magic as was the way in this land. The "other side of the rainbow" was a very different world with dissimilar rules (including unique laws of physics). Her journey down the Yellow Brick Road continually exposed her to these distinct realities so that at the end of her journey she knew the ways of the land of Oz, had realized that even she was different, and could believe that clicking her heels three times would send her home.

The Wizard Of Oz
is a wonderful movie to see, especially when a person is overwhelmed and in need of hope and encouragement. Of course, there are some who have become bitter with life and lost their dreams. They will use their hard-core cynicism to bludgeon any positive experience they (and anyone else around) might experience watching this movie. Don’t let them spoil the experience you might have. (If you are one so cynical, try to put that acquired shell of disappointment and disillusionment aside for a couple of hours and try again to know possibility and marvel.)

In the beginning of this review I mentioned that Oz was sort of in my own backyard. Actually it was behind a great wall and fence that separated M.G.M. from the rest of the world. I never actually went beyond that wall until I was an adult. Still I dreamed about Oz as a kid and found other things that were accessible to me in my backyard that gave meaning and joy. A point that the movie makes is that it’s not what’s in our backyard that’s important but what we make out of what’s in our backyard. Dorothy said that if something’s not already in our backyards we never really lost it in the first place. If you look carefully at the Oz that Dorothy experienced you will discover that the place was a reflection of what she knew in Kansas. The people she was drawn closest to (Scarecrow, Tinman, Cowardly Lion) were colorful versions of people back home. The problems she had there were the same problems she had when the movie began.

As you watch, don’t try to analyze The Wizard Of Oz. (I’ve already done too much of that here.) Let the movie talk to you about life and learning to see the possibilities in yourself and in a sometimes confusing and frustrating world. If you see it with another, share your experiences and observations.

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Portions of this review were previously included in Getting Unstuck: A Guide For Breaking Out Of Self Defeating Patterns,  Copyright 1995 Claremont Behavioral Studies Institute

Not rated by the M.P.A.A.

Available from MGM/UA HOME VIDEO  
The booklet Getting Unstuck: A Guide For Breaking Out Of Self-Defeating Patterns is an aid for those who are caught in some undesirable life pattern. You might also find the booklet helpful to read after seeing The Wizard Of Oz. For only $3.00 plus shipping and handling you can have this booklet mailed to you within two days! Check out this booklet NOW!

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Last modified: 18 March, 2009