Watching "The Wizard of Oz," I can't help noticing both the quality, and the optimism, of the production. The dialogue is effortlessly, casually, scintillating. This wasn't supposed to be a high-brow production; yet the scripting is first-rate, economical, clever and humorous.
The movie reflects, also, an optimism about the future, and a confidence about the culture that it represented. It is produced by a society that -- without any aggression or threat -- believed itself to be humane, sophisticated and accomplished. It looked forward to the future to come.
The film is utterly unapologetic about advocating virtue and opposing vice. No falderall about "respecting alternate points of view" -- it believes virtue is something everyone wants to acquire -- and should!
There is an innocence about the film: the filmmaker feels no need to depict sexual tension between, say, the Tin-Man and Dorothy -- or, for that matter, the Lion!
Here's what I think: I believe our American culture was on a rising trajectory, until the 60s -- then it hit the skids. We've had some upticks since then; we've had some good moments in music, a few bright spots in literature, and our film industry is still capable of great things (and awful things) -- but I think our culture, as a whole, reflecting the society -- has not yet gotten back to where it was.
I may simply be reflexively nostalgic. I may be wrong. I am not fatalistic -- I don't buy the "inexorable decline" way of thinking -- I have no idea what lies ahead (I veer between optimism and pessimism and am not insightful enough to know which is more probable).
But I do find old movies an eye-opener. Do you?