The Final Post

How Do You Review The Arts?

Reviewing the Arts is more than just giving opinion. It is more than walking through a Gallery and writing about what you saw. The first thing that I learned in my Reviewing the Arts course at Columbia College Chicago is that a writer needs cause to write a review, whether it be a gallery opening, movie sequel, or Album release a writer must always give the audience a reason to read their review. In any review there must also be identification, such as a bit of background, dates, locations, pretty much the “who, what, when, where, and how much” or anything else that will help the reader better understand the topic of review. Also important are a good strong eye catching opening and a show stopping closing that delivers main idea in an attention grabbing fashion. When reviewing the arts it is also difficult to know when to add 1st person, without making the review too much about yourself as the writer. Keeping 1st person to a minimum allows the content to be as subjective as possible without telling the reader what to think. There are many different types of art to review and, ultimately, you will either write positive or negative reviews. Neither type is wrong, there simply must be evidence to back up the content. Think about every aspect of the topic, if it is a newly released album take into account the title of the album, the artwork, arrangement of songs, titles of songs, sound, instruments, lyrics, and previous albums and background of the artist themselves. A well rounded review will swim fluidly though all different aspects of a topic without drowning the reader in opinion of one specific feature. So how do we review the arts? Carefully, analytically, thoughtfully, humorously, but most of all honestly. Pictures and links don’t hurt either.

Thank you so much for a great semester.

Advertisements

Rube Goldberg’s Ghost: Confounding Design and Laborious Objects

Pull Lever. Twist this. Crank here. The exhibit in the Glass Curtain Gallery of 1104 South Wabash, Rube Goldberg’s Ghost: Confounding Designs and Laborious Object asks their guests to interact with the unique contraptions inspired by Rube Goldberg’s complicated technical art. As much a fun concept this is for an exhibition, the execution and presentation of the “interactive” pieces lack in the aesthetics department. The artists created some very original, thoughtful and experimental designs pointing at social commentaries and bureaucratic systems, however it is debatable weather the presence of the largest moving pieces contribute to the exhibition or distract from it.

Image

Focusing on the good, the packet at the front desk of the gallery is a wonderful, colorful and informative pamphlet explaining everything one needs to know about the exhibit in an interesting and structured way. It provides a history of Rube Goldberg as well as examples of his work for viewers who, like me, may not be previously familiar with his cartoonist artwork of impossible machines. Perfectly illustrating this is a film by Joseph Herscher entitled The Page Turner, which is literally a Rube Goldberg machine brought to life on film. An ornate centerpiece entitled Venue for Advanced Conflict Resolution by Graem Whyte is a geometric “crumpled up” ping pong table invites the viewer to attempt to “play” and like many other pieces features an underlying socio economic meaning and function underneath the art. This piece as well as a very interested sculpture by Juan Angle Chavez entitled Last Breath that involves carved wood as well as found objects to create the most visually stunning piece in the exhibit. This piece as well as every other piece in the exhibit has profound hidden bureaucratic messages Rube Goldberg would be proud of.

Image

It is the pieces that start moving that, while with great intentions and creativity, pale in comparison to the rest of the work. For example, Mark Porter’s Autohaemorrhaging Actuator has an intense concept of auto defense response replication of animals activating a spraying reaction. However the execution is noisy, messy, and jumbled. While it was an amazing idea to use bright neon colors as the “spray” and an innovative design to make the piece motion activated, the structure looks sloppy and uninviting. On the same note, Conrad Freidburg’s A Great Daydream uses intricate engineering within three separate display boxes, which uses crafted wood and interactive levers to move around ball bearings depending on the viewers maneuvering, however the balls rarely do what you wish them to. In a gold plate on the box, the words “to relish the cumulative result of your human power upon the mechanisms produced in honor of a document that allows for its own destruction, should it prove necessary for the public good.” This piece is thoughtful, reminiscent of Rube Goldberg and intricate, however the execution leaves more to be desired.

Image

The essence of Rube Goldberg’s cartoonist art is impossibly complex structures, that are way to intense for reality, much like some of the pieces in this exhibit. However this set back does not discredit the experience of the entire show. The thoughtfulness and social commentary is enough for anyone to experience such an elaborate and informational exhibit.

Classically Integrated on Michigan Ave

Image

As a school, a museum, a café and an advising center, 600 S Michigan is the mecca of multitasking architecture. As the epicenter of Columbia College Chicago, the Alexandroff Building on the corner of Michigan and Harrison encompasses the schools concept of integrating the students of the college with the bustling, up and coming urban environment around them. The first floor windows of the building dawn the Columbia College name and motto of “Live what you love” as well as large professional photographs of laid back college students doing exactly that providing inspiration to the numerous students walking down the spacious and beautiful sidewalk on Michigan avenue.

            The building was built in 1906-1907 by Christian A. Eckstorm and features classical revival architecture. In its time it was considered a skyscraper but now juxtaposed to a futuristic, geometric glass building, 600 S Michigan Avenue is the quintessential example of Chicago’s famous architectural contrast. Also in pleasant contrast is the Bright red brick color with the lighter white color of the top and bottom most floor of the building. The building was bought by Columbia College in 1975, and housed the school library as well as an auditorium. Most of the Marble in the front lobby has lasted through the years, but so much has changed.

Image

            Since its birth, the building was renamed after its president in 1947, Mike Alexandroff, who used his tenure to expand the school spatially and academically. The 15-story building is no longer home to the college library, which expanded further and relocated down the street, but it is home to the Museum of Contemporary Photography located on the first and second floor. The Museum of Contemporary Photography was founded in 1984 and is home to a permanent collection as well as fluctuating exhibition from up and coming artists. Another unique feature within this amazing building is the Ferguson Memorial Theater which seats 180 people, offices, classrooms and even a café.

            Acting as the campus center this building well represents the school with such a classic design with a modern artistic flare. Located in the heart of Chicago on Michigan Avenue, students get an amazing view of the city from the building, which helps to reinforce Columbia College’s mission to integrate each graduating class within it. It is not uncommon for this Film/Video building to play host to students working with equipment right outside its doors which invites onlookers to inquire as to how to get involved, once again working with the city around them to advance their careers.

Image

            This building has a regal, professional, and integrated visage, which allows students to assume that the Alexandroff building is the quintessential Columbia College Chicago facility. The building is not only for students, as the Museum of Contemporary Photography is open and free to all and is currently featuring an exhibition entitled “Spectator Sports” until July 3rd. It can be quite remarkable when a building successfully combines campus pride, one of the best photography museums in the mid-west, and an entire film and video department in one space, but it is even more remarkable that space is functionally relevant with beautifully classic architecture. 

Urban Reality in 1104

“Columbia conducts education in close relationship to a vital urban reality and serves an important civic purpose by active engagement in the life and culture of the city of Chicago.” When one trudges down windy South Wabash Ave, there is no mistaking the presence of a creative institution, shaping future artistic professionals within its urban walls. Unique graphic design and “Columbia College” insignia upon the sides of multiple buildings prescribes the South Loop as Columbia College Chicago’s stomping ground. One particular building in particular encompasses the college’s mission of “urban reality” situated farthest south at 1104 S Wabash.

Image

            This building, upon first visage, is a beautiful eight floor, terracotta style structure with large, full-scale windows on the first floor. If it weren’t for the large orange letters laden across the large windows spelling out the school’s name, this building would blend in seamlessly with Chicago’s hodgepodge of pre-modern architecture. However Columbia has modernized this building from the inside out, using colorful fire escapes, and the lime green interior of the first floor, which is more than plainly visible from the street.

Image

 On-lookers passing by are able to sneak a peak inside to see a wide open study area near the front door flooded with natural light through the large windows. Also visible on the first floor further back is a cozy stage and eating area, perfect for curious passers by to catch a glimpse of entertainment from within. When one enters the building, they will find the Glass Curtain Gallery to the left where multiple art and film exhibitions are held, it is always convenient to be able to stop by and see what students of the college have been working on. The first floor of the 1104 S Wabash building is inviting and illustrious, keeping students connected to the urban outside environment.

This building is not only well structured on the outside, but is also well organized and set up on the inside. Each floor has a specific purpose within the building corresponding to respective classes, or concentrations. There is a floor designated for animation, foundations, and location sound and so on, as well as an elevated computer lab on the 1st floor. 1104 S Wabash is considered the “film building” of the college but is not restricted to specifically film related purposes. It is not uncommon for music performances and poetry readings to occur on the 1st floor stage, once when I visited this building there was even a “Blogging Workshop” for prospective bloggers of the school.

            Historically this building was commissioned by Mary Ludington for the American Book Company in 1980, and the frame was built to withstand the weight and vibrations of the printing presses. This is practical for use of the film department because of the mass amounts of film equipment and hardware located on each floor. The film cage (located on the fifth floor) is open to specific students to rent equipment from and houses scads of heavy lighting and camera equipment. Students who study in this building rent equipment from the cage and go out working on various projects within the city. This building lives up to the college’s reputation of integrating its students with the city of Chicago not only by the architecture, but also with its accessibility. 

Re/image/in Circles (revised)

Re/image/in Circles, reimagine circles, reimagine mediocre artistic over-convolution. Re/image/in Circles is a combinative exhibit by Columbia College Students who are involved in the college’s “Technology of the Circle” course … whatever that means. The exhibit features annoyingly abstract print work, standard photo shop, and visual performance hinting to a relationship between them. Upon entering the exhibit the works seem unfinished bordering vapid creativity, and as I continued through empty room,in the northeast corner on the first floor of 33 E Congress, the words over complicated and sporadic added to the list.

Image

“Through the use of live performance paired with video projections, Re/image/in Circles investigates physical questions such as how we can extend ourselves through one another, how the human body can be leveraged as a technology, and how the tactile becomes the visual.”

In the North East corner of the first floor in 33 E Congress from April 4th to May 3rd you will have the opportunity to experience this sensory exhibit for yourself although you may be the only one. Through the many times I pass this room on the way to the elevators in the buildings, I have never seen a person in this exhibit. Upon entering the room you are greeted by a huge block of text describing the exhibit and its intention, leaving no room for inquiry by the audience. The exhibit begins with digital prints of an actual dancer and laser like beams of lights by Ryan Mallegni, throughout the exhibit we see this theme reoccurred in small-disconnected pieces until finally we see the final work strategically spliced together to form a conjunctive piece, which is a tad redundant. Braulio Martinez created a nice photo shopped piece entitled “smoke screen” which featured a dancer manipulated into smooth, detailed trails of smoke that sort of create a time lapse photography effect which proved to be the most visually pleasing piece of the entire show.

Image

Understanding that the concept of this piece is the connection between visual performance and the decisions behind it, these pieces find new meaning in an otherwise boring exhibition. However the execution of the work within the space may have been what was lacking. There was an interactive touch screen piece (entitled Verve Cosmogram) that when you touch the screen, little to nothing happens. The soundscape, designed by Nelson and Rory McSweeny, coming from above was abruptly loud and over compensating at times especially because it was motion activated. Also, if you are viewing the exhibit during the day time it is hard to see the projected “Light Emitting Dancers (LED)” a piece by Andrew Smith and Graham Heath as well as the silhouette box stationed at the end of the exhibit featuring a tall white box I am assuming should project the viewers silhouette  onto the white screen in front of them. I could not tell if the silhouette was supposed to be seen from the opposite side of the screen by other audience members…because there weren’t any. All in all there is nothing to be gained or lost by visiting this exhibit, just confusion, loneliness and over complication.

Image

Dancers:

Margaret Bouffard, Sarah Bunker, Ariel Huffman, Megan Pavelka, Luis Segoviano, Christopher Smith

Artists:

Graham Heath, Jo Hickey, Kris Kuta, Ryan Mallegni, Braulio Martinez, Rory McSweeny, Devon Nelson, Asako Oishi, Andrew Smith, Truman Smurr

Dave Chappelle’s Block Party

Image

“I’m rich, Bitch!” a line used exuberantly by Dave Chappelle’s Rick James character on the hit comedy show Chappelle’s Show. Unfortunately the phrase lost it’s luster and gained a whole new meaning when Chappelle started struggling to convey a deeper message through his comedy, ultimately leading to his shocking walk off set during filming of the 3rd, now last, season of the show. Amongst all of the hype and news surrounding this “break down” it became clear that after signing a $55 million contract, the pressure of conformity that accompanied a contract this huge settled in and Dave claimed to have lost touch with his community. You can sort of see an undertone of this sort of struggle within the late sketches on Chappelle’s show. After all of this drama, is it true that Dave Chappelle is ready to re enter the comedy scene?

From this lost connection and staggering struggle came the illustrious and refreshingly down-to-earth film “Dave Chappelle’s Block Party”. When news of this film hit the papers, it was apt for people to assume the film would be nothing less than a two hour episode of Chappelle’s Show, however this Wattstax inspired documentary/comedy/concert movie was so much more. Although the film may look, to the naked eye, sloppy and selfishly put together but there are many different ideas and undertones circulating through the film. Everything from the editing, to the songs chosen to highlight, to the small asides are in the film for a reason, to serve a greater purpose, the one Chappelle tried to illustrate in his sketch comedy show, a devotion to and love for culture.

Dave Chappelle’s Block Party, released March 3, 2006, opens with a small comedic bit from Chappelle himself then evolves quickly into a behind-the-scene-esc look into the invitation, preparation, and execution of a free Block Party hosted by Chappelle on the corner of Quincy and Downing Street in Brooklyn, New York. The camera follows Chappelle while he walks in his hometown of Yellow Springs Ohio inviting an array of inhabitants to the block party, giving them a golden ticket that includes transportation. Dave also invites a marching band from Ohio to accompany an artist at the Block Party concert. In Brooklyn, while checking out the site of the up-coming concert, the crew interviews a couple in front of the ‘Broken Angel’ house. This couple becomes a sort of focus of the documentary as well as their enormous makeshift home that they have been rebuilding for 40 years. Accompanying the film aspect is the music, a glorious performance crafted by Dave Chappelle with the intention to create the concert he has always wanted to attend. Artists such as Mos Def, Common, Erykah Badu, John Legend, Jill Scott, Kanye West and many others lined up to give Brooklyn a hip-hop show like no other. The Roots Crew held down back up as well as their own slot, while a reunited Fudgees headlined with the long anticipated return of Lauryn Hill.

There is a lot going on in this film with the music and the ‘Broken Angel’ house but the film still collects all of the main ideas into an organized, cohesive piece of art by the hand of Director Michel Gondry. He used techniques to ensure that a specific message was shining through such as the nonlinearity of the plot and the use of the same scene more than once. Snapping back and forth between concert and rehearsal, the invitation process in Ohio and audience reactions during the Block Party concert helped to keep the viewer focused on the sense of community and interpersonal relationships from person to person. Gondry chose to highlight an interview of two boys from Ohio, talking about their incident with a man using a very derogatory term towards them regarding their skin, therefor acting extremely thankful to Chappell for sending them to an area with rich cultural and musical history they can relate to.

Image

Relating to music is a prominent theme throughout the film, Chappell’s reliance on music to ground him and the way that this specific music brought so many people together. Brooklyn specifically is rich in hip-hop history having been the birthplace of artists such as Big Daddy Cane and Jay-Z, choosing to use a location so rich in hip-hop culture was very much intentional. The artists, as well as the line up, have some significance but there is something more when you are watching the set. Hip-hop has a very distinct ability to unite and speak to not only a select audience but also an entire community of people. Dave Chappelle speaks openly about his adoration for Dead Prez, and their quick lyrics that aren’t played on the radio because they do not conform to modern society. “Uh, who shot Biggie Smalls If we don’t get them They are gonna get us all I’m down for runnin’ up on them crackers in they city hall”. Also the women in the line up such as Eryka Badu and Lauryn Hill write such beautiful lyrics about music and how it moves and even kills softly, but it is more about the way they sing. Rappers and Hip-hop singers sing from a place of sincerity and throughout the concert even through multiple mediums the emotion in the music is palpable.

This film is a film of community, of being together and doing enjoying life for life. Common, Mos Def, The Roots Crew all are extremely successful performers who teamed up with Dave Chappell to put on a “jam” style performance where a lot of the artists worked together. The Roots Crew played behind almost every artist, and Eryka Badu made an impromptu appearance during Jill Scott’s set. A marching band from Ohio plays with a top hip-hop recording artist with emcee Dave Chappelle filling in gaps with different stand up comedy moments. All together this film brings a community together to the epicenter of hip-hop history, Brooklyn NY, for the main purpose of Dave Chappelle to give back to his community. “I’m Rich Bitch” is nothing if the jokes you use to get rich are being taken the wrong way by ignorant and light-minded people. Dave Chappelle’s Block Party was an interesting looking into a different side of Dave Chappelle, one whose love for his own community isn’t over shadowed by obviously exaggerated jokes.

Image

Foals “Holy Fire” (revised)

Image

Foals’ new album Holy Fire is much more diverse and intricate than their previous albums but most of all, this album finally adds organization into their list of strengths. The listening experience becomes more of a journey rather than a scavenger hunt. Magnetic indie rock band from England, Foals, is known for their relaxed, airy vocals seamlessly paired with complicated syncopation that occasionally ventures over the boarder into jam band tendencies. The expectation based upon the release of their debut album released in 2005, Antidotes, as well as the elusively catchy “Total Life Forever” was almost cookie cutter when it comes to the structure of songs; syncopated introduction flawlessly smoothed into reverbed vocals, complete with complicated guitar riff jam. However this new album breaks the mold and truly shows Foals’ ability to be diverse and still hold true to themselves.

Image

The album starts off with a mystical instrumental track entitled “Prelude” which opens the listeners pallet, taking them on a dynamic journey of relaxation and sudden explosion provided by guitar effects and island shakers, creating the perfect cruising music. This effectively alerts the listener to the peaks and dives awaiting them in later tracks such as “My Number”. This song catches a wave with up beat tempos and dueling guitar melodies, which elicits the involuntary response to bob one’s head. Commending the album solely on their guitar riff originality is easy, however it is the simplicity in the added instruments that sets the album ablaze. On tracks such as “Late Night” and “Out of the Woods” Foals demonstrate their proclivity for percussion, creating a mix of plucks and taps with different string and wood instruments, cut at odd yet perfect points with soothing vocals and guitar patterns pulling every brush stroke together to one extraordinary work of art.

What sets this album apart from others is how strategically the tracks are placed within it. When listening to every song in sequence the listener gets a perfect balance of perky and solemn, sweet and sour, inspirational and catchy avoiding a dreaded “skip” from track to track. “Inhaler” is the first track after the prelude witch is catchy and at some points grungy in its guitar effects and harmonies, leaving a salty kind of after taste, then “Bad Habit” is sweet with synthesizer and long smooth melody and clear hook. This album has a knack for playing with the listener’s perception. An seemingly up beat and soothing song is entitled “Bad Habit” with lyrics of “cause I’m a bad habit, one that you cannot shake” This is an androgynous album that is much more than meets the eye, encouraging the listener to take more of initiative in interpreting their own meanings in each song.

Foals new album Holy Fire not only surpasses past albums but also divulges into a wider range of musical intricacy. The music is relaxing yet exciting, catchy yet different, and in all honesty is full of contradictions, but it is all of these contradictions that make the album so dynamic and appealing.

Foxygen: We are the 21st Century Ambassadors of blah blah blah hipster music (revised)

Image

I’m talking to my grandma who lost her arms in the war

The aliens and armory that bond hers to God’s door

Now you think that I don’t know but I know you to know quite well

That I caught you sipping milkshakes in the parlor of the hotel

… WHAT?

Not so dynamic duo, Foxygen, recently released their sophomore album with Jagjaguwar entitled “We are the 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace and Magic”, a title alluding the listener to the out-there-crazy-original-one-of-a-kind-unique sound awaiting them within the record. Except this out-there-crazy-original-one-of-a-kind-unique sound is a fallacy, the entire tone of the record swivels around psychedelic soft rock with familiar track effects and indecipherable lyrics which ultimately leave the listener with the feeling of “…where have I heard this before?”

22 year olds Jonathan Rado and Sam France have been experimenting together since their early high school years in L.A, and will no doubt continue to experiment until they rifle through all of the albums that inspire them and finally come up with their own playful sound. Recently in an interview with pitchfork, the duo proclaimed:

Image

“We love 60’s and 70’s music; we can’t relate to modern music very well. I don’t even know any new bands.”

Without diving into the overwhelming “hipster” feeling of that statement, there is no denying that simply listening to their single “shuggie” any listener could come to that very conclusion.

The first song on the record, “In the Darkness”, is reminiscent of Sgt. Pepper’s era Beatles mixed with the early sounds of The Rolling stones and The Velvet Underground. I was reminded by the end of the album of a toddler with water colors who cant decide what color to use so he just smears it all into a mucky brown. There is an excess of vocal effects and wide range of random musical instruments, all performed by the duo and their back up drummer and bassist. With so much manipulation and so many random instruments, there is an enormous difficulty to replicate such playful sound live with only four performers rendering the team inconsistent.

Speaking only of the record, the quality is adequate, producer Richard Swift did as best he could to organize the hailstorm of instruments resulting in a tolerable mix. The band plays around with dramatic tempo changes and transitions, delays and vocal effects that, in my personal opinion, distract from the lyrical “genius”.

hipster music, a delicacy all its own. “Hipsters” are a sub-culture of men and women who reject social norms and tend to know way too much about a certain subject, in this case, music we normal folk have never heard of. Foxygen is the exact type of music Reckless Records would play in the heart of wicker park, desperately calling out “HIPSTERS ASSEMBLE!”

The Lorax

ImageImage

The wonderful world of Dr. Seuss met the elaborate 3D animated world of Illumination Entertainment Production, and created an harmonic family film loosely based upon one of Theodor Geisel’s social commentaries disguised as children’s book “The Lorax”. Director Chris Renaud had enormous shoes to fill given the success of “Horton Hears a Who” and “How the Grinch Stole Christmas”, which both catered nicely to their target audience of innocent children as well as pleasing hardcore Dr. Seussians. The story began in Sneedville, where young Ted (Zac Effron) traveled beyond the gates of evil businessman O’Hare’s (Rob Riggle) plastic tree and bottled fresh air gated community. Ted sought out the Once-ler (Ed Helms) to find a real, living tree for his crush Audrey (Taylor Swift). Ted then meets the Once-ler (Ed Helms) who dives into an elaborate flashback of his experience with the Lorax (Danny DeVito). On March 2, 2012 audiences were immersed in a bright, colorful 3D universe in which one could reach out and attempt to feel the soft, fluffy truffula trees, yet this 3D world translates so well and just as sensory currently streaming on Netflix. Needless to say the animation on this film was out of this world, every set seemed elaborately life-like with extreme attention to detail in regards to lighting, texture, and movement. Sensations such as a cool breeze and wet flannel pajamas are so well animated it seems the viewer is looking in on a strange alternate universe.

What added to the animation was the screenplay, written by Ken Daurio and Cinco Paul, both of Whom wrote for “Horton Hears a Who” as well as “Despicable Me”. The Lorax stands out with its constant reference to Dr. Seuss as well as childish humor mixed with hidden jokes for adults. Cinco Paul was also collaborated with artists such as John Powell and Ester Dean to create a playful soundtrack, which transformed the eco-friendly story of “The Lorax” into a musical. Now, theses songs were by no means dynamic, on the contrary they are extremely vapid, but they were disgustingly catchy and kid friendly. The songs also acted as an artistic outlet for the voice actors of this film to showcase their singing talent.

Joining the iconic ranks of Jim Carey and Steve Carell, Ed Helms was absolutely inspired, portraying both a young naïve Once-ler entrepreneur, as well an old, creepy, guttural version. His amazing vocal abilities were shown in his portrayal of the different characters as well as his milky soothing singing voice. Obviously, Danny DeVito was the voice of the stout Lorax with the large mustache. Who else would perfectly portray the short grumpy speaker for the trees? Rob Riggle portrayed the evil O’Hare adequately; his groggy, gangster-esque persona supplied an antagonist to Zac Efron’s protagonist portrayal of Ted. Efron was believable and refreshing as innocent yet curious Ted. Swift could have been replaced with anyone but it was exciting for kids to see her name roll down with the credits. Everyone who worked on “The Lorax” played to their strengths; beautiful animation, creative writing, and a growing legacy of hilarious, multi-talented lead actors.

Running Time: 1 hour 26 minutes

Now streaming on Netflix

 

Return to Awesome ’80s Dark Fantasy… I mean Oz

Image

I enjoyed all 118 minutes of Disney/Walter Murch’s 1985 follow up film to The Wizard of OZ, granted I was not the target audience and I also have an affinity for dark fantasy films from the‘80’s. Disney’s Return to Oz failed to meet their target demographic, claiming to be a children’s movie yet features some uncomfortably dark material. This film drew inspiration, albeit loosely, from L. Frank Baum’s books Ozma of Oz and The Marvelous Land of OZ as well as mimics, again loosely, aspects of the 1939 Oz film.

The film begins months after Dorothy (Fairuza Balk) comes back from her first visit from OZ, where Aunt Em (Piper Laurie) seeks help from a doctor for Dorothy’s sleepless nights due to “dreams” about a foreign land. While in the gothic clinic, Dorothy meets a mysterious blonde girl who gives her a small pumpkin as a welcome gift. While a storm rages outside, the ominous Nurse Wilson (Jean Marsh) dressed in all black escorts Dorothy on a hospital bed with hauntingly creaky wheels to Dr. Worley (Nicol Williamson) who attempts to perform electro shock therapy on her to rid her of all “dreams” of OZ but the power goes out and Dorothy escapes with the help of the mysterious blonde haired girl. After a brief chase through the woods, Dorothy finds herself washed up on the beach in OZ where the Nome King has taken all the emeralds back to his mountain and turned everyone in OZ to stone.

The skeleton of this film conveys nuances of the first in the way that characters from OZ mimic characters from Dorothy’s Kansas. Jean Marsh plays both the ominous nurse Wilson as well as the evil Princess Mombi of OZ and Nicol Williamson (Dr. Worley) doubles as the Nome King. Things that Dorothy remembers from Kansas, weather terrifying or comforting, also manage to mirror into her Oz adventures. For example, the Wheelers who are reminiscent of the flying monkeys from the 1939 OZ roll around on all fours with hauntingly creepy wheels for hands and feet, reminiscent of the creaky wheels from the hospital bed in Kansas. Also, the pumpkin that the mysterious blonde girl gives to Dorothy in Kansas mirrors Jack Pumpkinhead in OZ, I especially love this connection because it announces Dorothy’s imagination toward imaginary objects and her motherly instincts.

The film emphasizes “living”, all specifically “living” things in OZ turned to stone by the spell which is why non-living metal wind-up soldier Tic-Tok, one of Dorothy’s companions, was still functional. This emphasis on living suggests that even in Kansas, Dorothy wasn’t truly living and needed to go on this Journey through OZ to restore her zest for life. Overall I loved the effects of this film and the dark cinematic Never Ending Story kind of feel. I was entertained the entire time and enjoyed looking deeper into the story to find the hidden imagery and continuity. The only negative thing I would say is that I wish Jim Henson were involved, also it doesn’t seem too much like a children’s film … even though it did bring the child out of me.