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Despite his success as the director of the first three Spider-Man movies, not to mention his cult classics Evil Dead I and II and Darkman, Sam Raimi is anything but self-aggrandizing. In a press conference at Thursday for his upcoming film Oz: The Great and Powerful, Raimi confessed that he is keenly aware of the shortcomings of his films, no matter how well they fare commercially.
“From every movie I make, I learn what not to do,” Raimi said in a news conference at San Diego’s Bayfront Hotel. “I make a thousand mistakes and I’m painfully aware of them — it’s not like you have to recognize, oh, what was my mistake here? I’m always aware of where I make wrong moves. So it’s helped me move forward, and I’ve learned a lot of lessons.”
Raimi’s previous film was Drag Me to Hell, a pitch-black comedy that achieved cult status among his fans but flopped at the box office. When asked what he took from the experience of that film — a pet project — and applied to the populist mythmaking of Oz, he observed that it was tough to pinpoint how one affected the other. “I took thousands of lessons from that picture, but I can’t think specifically of any of them,” Raimi said. “But the type of comedy that film has, that dark comedy, is just a completely different thing than this film.
“This is a very straightforward family pictures — I would say it’s a classically Disney type of movie.”
Oz: The Great and Powerful aggregates stories and vignettes from all of L. Frank Baum’s Oz books and creates a sort of origin story for the iconic wizard. Raimi indicated that his own learning process dovetailed nicely into the film’s central themes. “It’s about finally recognizing that the things you do in this world have consequences and how to be the best person you can be,” he said. “It’s about recognizing those mistakes we’ve made and moving past them and growing into something better than you were when you started out.”
That said, he revealed that Oz will feature much of his trademark humor, albeit more in terms of revealing character than simply cracking audiences up. “There’s a sense of humor, but it comes from the whimsical nature of Baum’s great world, and the characters. The main character, James Franco, is a little selfish as the story begins, and his shortcomings are often a source of the humor.
After cutting his teeth on the Evil Dead films, Raimi developed a recognizable filmmaking style, using the camera in a kinetic and mobile way. For Oz, he said that that technique works more in tandem with the storytelling than in the past where he injected it viscerally into a scene to heighten the drama or comedy.
“As opposed to the camera doing gymnastics just for thrills and chills’ sake, we’re really trying to describe the fantastic world of Oz,” he said. “I think when the camera is moving — those more dramatic types of movements — that’s more to show the depth of a canyon in Oz, or the height of a waterfall.
“The camera’s movement is used to describe the beauty and the fantastic beauty of an impossible place.”
Oz: The Great and Powerful opens nationwide March 8, 2013.
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter: @mtgilchrist
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