In an ongoing series, Lumičre asks a diverse range of film critics about the movie(s) that got them into movies.

BRANNAVAN GNANALINGAM: As a kid I used to spin around and then imagine as my head would swim that I was in a tornado like Dorothy. When the Scarecrow was given his diploma, I’d shout at him and say “it’s a right-angled triangle not an isosceles triangle”. I debated whether the Munckins represented the Lollipop Guild or the Lollipop Kids. I had a pathological fear of poppies. I wondered if there was a witch of the south (only confirmed once I read the original book by L. Frank Baum). I actually wanted an army of flying monkeys (cue the best ever Simpsons gag). No movie has had so much impact on my love of film – Jurassic Park a possible other contender – as The Wizard of Oz had.

It symbolised the best things a movie could do – it was funny, it was well-paced, it was well-structured, it had great music. Above all though, it was magical. It was the ultimate children’s film. I got shivers when Dorothy goes from black and white to colour (admittedly I’d often fast forward the black and white parts). I didn’t care if Munchkinland was full of plastic plants, painted sets and licentious midgets, it still feels special.

I had always hoped that I’d never get to the stage where I say they don’t make ‘em like they used to. However, as I wade through seemingly never ending smug and “post-modern” children films, it’s easy to pine for the simple pleasures of The Wizard of Oz. The moral of the film ends up saying instead of wishing you were something else, you’ll find everything you need in yourself already. And it didn’t need to go through hip pop-cultural references or covert “adult” jokes to get there.

Watching it recently seems to confirm all that too. The colours, the acting, and the songs still hold up today (though the Lion’s “If I was King of the Forest” is a rather strange song). The wide-eyed innocence of Judy Garland is still wholly believable despite the tragic exploitation by Hollywood that happened throughout her life. Scarecrow and the Tin-Man (who is exceedingly camp) are performed so well, it’s hard to imagine these actors weren’t originally envisaged in the role. Toto is an adorable wee dog. And, Margaret Hamilton’s performance as the witch is still rather terrifying – no wonder children when they saw Hamilton on the street for decades afterwards would cower in fear.

I remember a time when The Wizard of Oz would be on TV every six months or so. I’d watch it every time, despite already owning a very worn videotape. It’s sad to see it rarely played now – it’s a magical piece of cinema and one which certainly helped establish for me, how great a film can be.

Brannavan Gnanalingam is a former features writer and film editor for Salient, currently reviews films for The Package, and is a regular Lumičre contributor.