Stardom isn’t normal. It’s familiar, even commonplace—ever-present not only in the realm of actors, singers, and other pop entertainers, but also in the overlapping circles of athletes, politicians, tech “visionaries,” and ambiguously skilled celebrities-as-celebrities whom Americans love to ogle, aggrandize, belittle, and resent. The impulse to idolize is as old as the gods, of course. Jesus was a superstar some time before Andrew Lloyd Webber came around.
The Wizard of Oz was intended to hit the same audience as Snow White, and won’t fail for lack of trying. It has dwarfs, music, technicolor, freak characters and Judy Garland. It can’t be expected to have a sense of humor as well—and as for the light touch of fantasy, it weighs like a pound of fruitcake soaking wet. Children will not object to it, especially as it is a thing of many interesting gadgets; but it will be delightful for children mostly to their mothers, and any kid tall enough to reach up to a ticket window will be found at the Tarzan film down the street.
Cliff Robertson died the other day. He was 88, and I suppose he was what is called an establishment figure. Long ago he had won an Oscar for his performance in Charly (1968) about a retarded man who is given an experimental drug that lets him find genius (and his doctor, Claire Bloom) but then slips back to being a fool, and he was perfectly OK in the film if you can manage to sit through it now, in which case you may surmise that nearly any actor in that begging role might have won the Oscar.
Dusty!: Queen of the Postmods By Annie J. Randall (Oxford University Press, 219 pp., $24.95) We do our best to keep up, those of us tottering into the back of The New Republic's book once a fortnight. So I have my work and my life as well as those of my wife and children. I have revenues to raise and taxes to pay. On Super Bowl Sunday, I cared just about enough to watch the game, though I was more certain to watch Chelsea versus Liverpool, live, in the West Coast morning. I hope to read a couple of books a month. I worry, but I like to have time for doing nothing.
One of the most emotionally affecting moments of Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow comes, unfortunately, during the closing credits, when jazz vocalist Jane Monheit sings "Over the Rainbow." It's a wistful, haunting rendition that plays beautifully off Judy Garland's Wizard of Oz version, becoming at once old and new, an homage and an original. It's this challenge, of simultaneously conjuring the classics and offering something fresh and vital, that largely eludes Sky Captain, released on video today.