Ellon Cinema Day reviews

THE latest in the series of Cinema Days was held in the Victoria Hall, Ellon, on Sunday. The two films on show were Oz – The Great and Powerful and Hyde Park on Hudson. Here Ellon Cinema Club member Vicki Morgan gives her verdict.

“I was initially unsure how I would enjoy “Oz, the Great and Powerful”. It has been so long since I watched the 1939 original that I had forgotten the plot, and the last “Oz” film I watched was “Zardoz”, which certainly can’t be considered to be the highlight of Sir Sean’s career. “Oz, the Great and Powerful” is a prequel to “The Wizard of Oz”, taking place some two decades prior to Dorothy Gale’s adventure, and tells the story of how the Wizard came to be in Oz and the rise of the Wicked Witches of East and West. Oscar Diggs (James Franco) is a womanising conjurer in a travelling circus who has to make a rapid escape in a hot-air balloon after seducing the circus strongman’s wife. The balloon is engulfed by a tornado, and Oscar wakes up in the land of Oz, where he is hailed as the Wizard who has been prophesied to deliver the population of Oz from the evil hold of the Wicked Witch. The plot then follows Oscar’s adventures in Oz, as he finds personal redemption whilst leading the population of Oz to deliverance.

There are several nods to the 1939 film, the film is in black and white until Oscar arrives in Oz, the travelling circus is called “Baum’s”, there are references to a lion, a scare-crow, and a tin-man, and Oscar the Wizard bestows gifts to his companions at the close of the film. Dorothy’s parentage is even alluded to.

As a prequel, obviously the Wicked Witches survive so there should be no awkwardness for the BBC should the soundtrack enter the charts. There is an annoying sidekick, Finlay, a flying monkey dressed in a bell-boy suit. There is also the now ubiquitous CGI scene of a haphazard journey, this time down a river, perhaps a thinly veiled advertisement for Disneyland’s latest ride? There are moments of thought-provoking sadness as well as light comedy. Were there any scary bits? Perhaps a few, but none that an average five-year old would not be able to deal with. Worth a watch – 7/10

Hyde Park on Hudson

Based on the private letters discovered under her death bed, the film uses the words of President Roosevelt’s distant cousin, Margaret “Daisy” Stuckley to tell it’s story. Struggling against the hard times of the American Depression, Daisy is suddenly summoned by the President to provide companionship and escapism from the stresses of his role. With an unhealthy disregard for the suspension of his stunning cars, the President takes Daisy on off-road jaunts across the fields and woodland of the surrounding countryside of his holiday home and from here their relationship becomes more than just platonic. A weekend visit by King George VI and Queen Elizabeth then comes to the fore and relationships from all quarters are tested and challenged.

There were elements of this film that I really enjoyed. The way the young royals were portrayed could have been pushed a little too far towards the comedic but Director Roger Michell got it just right. You felt their awkwardness as they were constrained by their royal protocol and their embarrassment, as they were met face on by the brashness of the American culture. It was clever to mirror the disability of the President’s paralysis with the debilitating stammer of the King and I thought Samuel West performed the royal role very well. What didn’t work as well were the two stories running parallel throughout the film, that of the affair and the royal visit. Neither had enough focus and I feel the film would have benefited from concentrating on just the visit and perhaps using the memoirs of Daisy for just that rather than her relationship with Roosevelt, which to be honest, wasn’t that exciting.

For me this was a story about keeping up appearances. Roosevelt keeps his appearances just right for the press, for his household and for each of his mistresses. The royal couple’s behaviour are bound tightly by protocol and etiquette and even Daisy is acting out her innocent role of hired companionship. By the end of the film the characters are more open and relaxed with each other, the President and “Bertie” are friends, Daisy has accepted and is settled in the knowledge that she is one of many mistresses and Britain has secured support from the States against the Nazis. All by the eating of a hot dog……Worth a watch – 6/10“