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THE VELVET WIZARD OF GLAM
Written by: Brandon Judell

What does a 1970's teenager in love with a glam rock star have in common with a little girl named Dorothy and her pal, a scarecrow, who croons:
"I could while the away the hours
Conversin' with flowers
Consultin' with the rain.
And perhaps I'd deserve you
And be even worthy of you
If I only had a brain . . . ."

Well, seeing Velvet Goldmine and The Wizard of Oz within the same week, one can't help but be rocked by the similarities. Hopefully, this conclusion won't cause Frank L. Baum to rotate in his grave. We're certain however that Ms. Garland would drink to it.

Like Dorothy in Kansas, teenager Arthur Stuart (Christian Bale) is stuck in a barren part of London in the early seventies. His rustic ma and pa sit downstairs endlessly watching the telly, hardly speaking to each other, let alone to him. If you discovered haystacks outside their windows, you wouldn't be surprised.

In his room, though, Arthur has a map of his own Emerald City. Well, sort of. The LPs, the news articles and posters of his idol, singer Brian Slade (Jonathan Rhys-Meyers), carry him to a new world. Brian is a larger than life Wizard whom the boy feels can transform him from a nobody into a hipster. The closer he can get to his androgynous hero, the more courageous Arthur feels. The more likely he'll be able to reach happiness.

Arthur's not alone in his dreams. Mandy (Toni Colette), an American swinger with a fake British accent, looks to Brian for love. For a heart. She marries him.

Curt Wild (Ewan McGregor) also needs Brian, but for his brains. To restart his career. To put aside his drinking. He becomes Brian's lover and his career is rekindled.

But each person learns to his regret, the great Brian Slade, like the Wizard, is a fraud. His magic is less than ephemeral. It doesn't exist. The star has built up a great image, but there is nothing behind the facade. Each dreamer has to learn to stand on his or her own two feet just as Dorothy, the Lion, the Tinman, and the Scarecrow do.

There are however good fairies in each film to ease the pain of the knowledge that into each life a little reality must fall. Glenda, as you might recall, advises: "Close your eyes and tap your heels together three times. And think to yourself, there's no place like home." Jack Fairy (Micko Westmoreland) embodies the spirit of Oscar Wilde, which he passes on to inspire and salvage his bruised friends. There are also Munchkins (groupies) here and witches (managers), but more important there is a form of redemption for Arthur.

Arthur's dreams help him come to understand who he really is as Dorothy's made her appreciate Kansas and her family. Reality isn't really that bad when you look at the glass half full.

Mr. Wilde might have disagreed. He once said: "A dreamer is one who can only find his way by moonlight, and his punishment is that he sees the dawn before the rest of the world." But I'd argue: "Isn't dawn often the loveliest part of the day?"

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