When the spirit is upon N.Y. Times critic Manohla Dargis, whether in positive or negative mode, it’s always a great read. So I love her disemboweling of Sam Raimi‘s Oz The Great and Powerful, and especially this graph:

Oz the Great and Powerful is exactly the kind of extravagant misfire that professional pessimists offer as proof that ‘they’ — as in the big studios and that amorphous easy target called Hollywood — don’t make movies like they used to. One of the delightful things about the original Wizard of Oz film is that it turns a girl’s reverie, specifically her dream of escape and her own imagination, into a beautiful metaphor for movies. When Dorothy opens her front door onto a Technicolor wonderland, the moment evokes what a 1930s moviegoer might have experienced when watching a color film for the first time. Come into this magical place, the filmmakers and, by extension, Hollywood itself seemed to be telling the audience, and share in this dream — a dream called Oz that we also call the movies.

“The studios sometimes still gamble on fantasies that sweep audiences up and away, though often the biggest-budgeted releases are war movies in superhero drag or cartoons about characters whose adventures, much like that of Oz in this telling, track like therapeutic journeys (follow your dream of self-actualization) instead of transcendent excursions (just dream!). Loaded with special effects, big bangs and generic narrative beats, these movies nonetheless sometimes take you where you’ve never been before. Mostly, though, like Oz the Great and Powerful, these fantasies drag you back to the same dreary, heavily trod destination, to the same exhausted formulas, gender stereotypes, general idiocy and a mind-set that values special effects over storytelling. Yes, companies make movies for shareholders; they have for decades. But who is the audience for the numbly mistitled Oz the Great and Powerful?”