Movies That Changed My Life: Part 1

Howdy folks, and welcome to my new limited series about the ‘Movies That Changed My Life.’ As some of you may know, I am a filmmaker, and have been a lifelong cinephile. Along the way, there have been a handful of films that have changed my life, one way or another. Whether they inspired me to pursue a career in filmmaking, picked me up when I was down and inspired me to continue that pursuit, or helped shape my like, taste, and style in filmmaking, the films I will be highlighting all mean a great deal to me.

To kick us off, follow me down the yellow brick road and let’s talk about the first movie that changed my life – which is also the first movie that I remember watching as a 4-year-old.

Courtesy of MGM
Courtesy of MGM

The Wizard of Oz holds a very special place in my heart as it is the first movie that I remember watching as a child. I remember being swept up in the wonder of the Land of Oz – all of the bright colors, animated characters, all of it. The songs were infectious, I loved Dorothy and the gang, and the story was simple enough for me to follow. I was so enamored with the movie, as a matter of fact, that my parents often tell the story of how I would ask them and/or my grandparents – whoever was watching me at the time – to rewind the movie and play it for me again.

Believe it or not, English is my second language, as I grew up speaking Spanish – not learning to speak English until I was in Kindergarten – and I would always ask for “la bruja! la bruja!” which means “the witch!” in Spanish. That was how I communicated to my parents that I wanted to watch The Wizard of Oz. They also like to tell the story of how I tortured them on a 3-plus hour road trip by having them play the soundtrack over and over and over again.

I watched this movie so much as a child that I wore down the card board sleeve the VHS came in until it was barely able to hold the tape.

My fondness for the film grew the older I got, however, as I watch it every time it’s on television, saw the digitally restored re-release in theaters, and buy whatever the latest “Special Collector’s Limited Edition Box Set” is released – to date I have the 70th and 75th Anniversary sets on display at home, as well as a framed 11″x 17″ poster.

Courtesy of MGM
Courtesy of MGM

Considering that fantasy films are not my cup of tea and fantasy is my least favorite genre, it’s hard to pinpoint exactly what it is about The Wizard of Oz that really drew me in in the first place. Perhaps at first it was the awe of the spectacle that my 4 year old brain just couldn’t compute, but then it evolved into something more. As I got older, I started to see the craft behind it and pick up on things.

Things like all of Dorothy’s friends on the farm being Scarecrow, Tin Man, and Cowardly Lion and the evil Ms. Gulch was the OG cinema villain Wicked Witch of the West. Or perhaps it was the brilliant stylistic choice of switching from black and white to color once Dorothy crash lands in Oz to contrast the differences between being in Kansas and Oz.

How the aesthetic between Oz and Kansas went beyond the obvious color palette and how all of the scenes in Kansas were in sharp focus, while the scene in Oz were a softer focus – giving us the illusion that Dorothy being Oz was indeed a dream.

Or the infectious soundtrack with such classics as “Follow the Yellow Brick Road,” “Ding Dong the Witch is Dead,” and of course, “We’re Off to See the Wizard.” Or the many classic, transcendent lines like, “I have a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore,” “There’s no place like home,” “Follow the yellow brick road,” and “I’ll get you my pretty, and your little dog too!”  Or maybe it’s how lovable all of the characters are.

From the Lollipop Guild to Dorothy and the gang, there’s just something about all of them that makes them feel relatable and you want them to succeed and be safe.

Courtesy of MGM
Courtesy of MGM

Whatever it may be, The Wizard of Oz is the first memory I have of getting lost in a movie and being transported to another world and forgetting about life for awhile. It started my love affair with the movies and the profound affect they can have on people. This movie definitely changed my life and got me started on the path that I’m now on and it will forever hold a very special place in my heart because of it.

I can’t wait to show it to my children the same way my parents showed it to me.

Thank you for joining me on my first entry in the “Movies That Changed My Life” series. I’ll be back next month with another movie that left an impression on me. As always, find me on Twitter, Facebook, or my movie group so we can discuss any and all things movies!

This is Jovanni, last survivor of the Nostromo, signing off.


Jovanni Ibarra