Tag Archives: Wizard of Oz

If Boys Don’t Cry, Then Why, Oh, Why Can’t I?

(A few weeks ago, I contributed this post to the Film Experience blog–my first guest post!–and I’m only just now getting around to posting it here. Normally, I’d link to it, but I’ve added a few images and altered the copy enough that I’m posting in its entirety below. But I still heartily recommend visiting the Film Experience blog!)

Twelve years ago, when I was a sound editor in NYC, I had the good fortune to meet with director Kimberly Peirce to discuss her film, Boys Don’t Cry. I don’t know if I was ever seriously considered to her supervising sound editor, but I was flattered nevertheless. And talking to her about her great film-in-progress was really a privilege.

I always looked at the film—the story of transgender male Brandon Teena–as interpreting Brandon’s tragedy as a Pinocchio story: someone who wants to be a boy is severely punished for lying. I suppose I thought that because of moments like this:

Lord knows Peter Sarsgaard and Brendan Sexton III’s characters scared me as much as these guys did in Pinocchio.

But in Peirce’s very incisive audio commentary, she refers much more to The Wizard of Oz as point of reference. For example, during Boys Don’t Cry’s opening credits, Teena has just “become” Brandon and goes to meet a date at the skating rink. Peirce explains that Brandon’s entrance to the rink is the final step of his mental transformation:

“We…set up a shot sequence that made you feel like you were walking inside the landscape of your fantasy. It was a…structure inspired by The Wizard of Oz:



A shot of the character;





a shot of the landscape she walks into;





the door opening;





the character going through;





and us going right through that door with them.”



This clip I made helps illustrate her point. It has Peirce’s commentary, Brandon’s “passage to manhood,” and Dorothy’s entrance to Oz…


Peirce’s entire commentary is riddled with these awesome examples of how she uses the camera to transform Brandon’s experience—as best as she can imagine it—into a cohesive film. To hear her thoughts on the difference between fantasy and reality; self-loathing as a by-product of an oppressive environment; Brandon’s self-destruction; etc, makes it very clear that the film’s impact was no mistake.

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Me and the Colorful World of Oz

Time to tell you a little about myself. As a lifelong fan of Film and Music who was immersed in it professionally for a long time, I think I have some observations you might find interesting or entertaining.

For a half-dozen years, last century, I was a sound editor for independent films in NYC, and since then I’ve produced docs and non-fiction television TV. Briefly, I was generating bonus content for DVDs. In other words, I’ve had all kinds of experiences, some with celebrities old and new, and those escapades will figure into my posts (my Tales of Scorsese are bottomless). But mostly I’m going to dissect films and songs that I love, frequently griping about aspects and trends that annoy me. Also, I’m a big supporter of audio commentaries, and when I hear something especially cool on one, I’ll post portions.

To the Velvet Underground fans out there, my URL is a semi-obscure VU reference, but in this context, I’d like to think that I’m peeling away the layers of art, both high and low, and revealing the wonderful riches underneath. And hopefully prompting some nice discussion as well.

But, hey! Enough of my yakkin’. What do you say? Let’s boogie!

We all remember the moment in The Wizard of Oz when Dorothy leaves her home and enters Oz, especially because it takes us into the color portion of the film. And the geeks reading this probably already know that those first 22 minutes of the film were broadcast in B&W–instead of the original sepia—until 1989. And the observant folks know that the first shot in color has the door frame to the house painted in sepia so it appears to be in B&W until Dorothy opens the door…

But I just noticed this and think it’s really awesome: The woman who opens the door is not Judy Garland. It’s her stand-in wearing a sepia version of Dorothy’s blue-and-white dress:

Then when she steps back out of frame, Judy Garland walks through the door:

I love shit like that. Smart problem-solving. In-camera, on-location problem solving.

And please don’t take this as a rant against computers or CGI or the way they make films now. I’m just enamored with the fact that I’ve seen this film many, many times and never noticed that aspect to the shot. I was always too busy looking at the sepia-painted walls around the door!

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