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Hell in Oz by Richard Hell

By Yasmina Tawil

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Screen Slate is a website and daily email service that curates a listing, sometimes with commentary, of films playing at repertory theaters, museums and galleries, festivals, film clubs, etc., in New York City. In other words, it’s not about commercial first-run movies, but about “moving image culture,” as the site sweetly puts it. “It does not feature advertising, and all recommendations are presented in earnest,” it promises. I am a subscriber (it’s free), and an awed supporter. Last year, after five years of the site’s daily operation, all volunteer, on no budget, Jon Dieringer, its super-heroic and mild founder and chief operator, held a successful Kickstarter campaign raising over $20,000 to expand services. He invited me to take part by providing a brief introduction for a film of my choice at a private showing for certain donors. I agreed. The screening was held at the Anthology Film Archive (another friend of Screen Slate) just before Christmas. The movie I chose was The Wizard of Oz. Below is my intro for it (I should mention, to clarify something in the intro, that I brought in four and a half minutes of music to be played, on repeat, in the theater as attendees trickled in: a bootleg rehearsal room recording of Keith Richards on laid back honky tonk piano, and Bobby Keys on sax, performing “Somewhere Over the Rainbow,” with Keith rasping the eight or nine words of the song that he could remember):

I had a surprisingly hard time picking out what movie to screen tonight. I lean towards bleak, usually low-budget, noirish movies. For instance, when I’ve had the chance to introduce screenings before, I’ve chosen Bresson’s The Devil Probably, Welles’s Lady from Shanghai once, and Touch of Evil another time, Robert Aldrich’s great Kiss Me Deadly, Wong Kar Wai’s 2046… Like that. Also it would be logical to pick a movie that’s not too commonly seen. But it’s Christmas—or whichever festive winter holiday—and I knew both that the Screen Slate crowd would already be familiar with anything I picked, and that everything’s available online now anyway—there aren’t any obscure movies anymore—so I decided to take the opposite tack and pick one of the happiest, most widely seen and popular movies ever. Big budget too. It doesn’t show up in celluloid 35mm in theaters often, though, and it is a masterpiece and I’ve always loved it.

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