Friday, March 4, 2011

Ars longa.... ipsum iteratque

I had a recent conversation with a Reader who was lamenting (sight unseen, mind you) the remake of True Grit -- based on his assertion that he "liked the real True Grit."  We have addressed this topic before.  There is very little wrong with the 1969 version.  There is absolutely nothing wrong with Hamlet (that a good stadium cushion can't resolve). And you can not count the number of times it is performed annually  (at least, Google can't) and that's not counting how many high schoolers are still mumbling through the Soliloquy.  We used to call it the Silly-old-query.  We were hilarious.

I am reminded of Joni Mitchell's plea to the audience when they cried out for "Both Sides Now," that when a painter makes a painting, he makes a painting.  And no one ever says, "Hey, paint a Starry Night again, man."

Painters repeat themes all the time, of course, and if stories were to be told only once, we would just have the one Madonna and Child, one Pieta.  It may interest you to know that the Cohen Brothers purposely did not view the Henry Hathaway (who's that, now?) film.  It was their intention to adapt the Charles Portis novel, not the John Wayne film.

We who love films have our beloved treasures.  I myself will not see the 2004 Manchurian Candidate, or Vince Vaughn's Psycho, though I completely understand his interest in taking it on.  I have never seen Steel Magnolias, though it is exactly the kind of movie I would see because I saw it performed off-Broadway and want nothing to taint that experience, especially not someone force-feeding Julia Roberts a hard candy.

I have no need for a new Parent Trap, but I understand why a kid would.  Why else do we keep making Sara Crewe?

On the other hand, I would line up for a remake of A Few Good Men, with some less movie-star actors.  The Human Stain was bizarrely miscast and should be re-made immediately. I am still waiting for an apology for Harriet the Spy.   But I do not wonder why they (they) have to remake everything, anymore than I wonder why we keep recording The Christmas Song.  (I wonder it far less, to tell you the truth).  In this very space, we compared Ten Commandments versions, without even tackling TWO musical versions featuring Val Kilmer.  Talk about your remakes.

Some remakes fail in the attempt (The Women); some knock it out of the park (Ocean's Eleven).  The Cohen brother's True Grit is better filmmaking, without making the original look dated or amateurish (sorry, Annie, I might mean you). 

Up Originality, I say!  All the way.  But there are only so many storylines in the human experience, after all, and don't you wish you had written Of Mice and Men?  Gregory Maguire is making a living out of re-imagining stories we know by heart (and we get it, Greg.  enough already).

This seems like a good place for some lists.

Remakes that work
Member of the Wedding (1982)
The Birdcage
The Champ
Freaky Friday
A Star is Born (1954)

Remakes that don't
Member of the Wedding (1997)
Billy Jack Goes to Washington (shed a tear, Running Deer)
A Star is Born (1975)

Sequels that are better than originals
The Empire Strikes Back
The Wrath of Khan (a sequel AND a remake)
Toy Story III
Silence of the Lambs (Manhunter... unwatchable)

Sequels no one needed
The Two Jakes
The Evening Star
Anything Else American Pie

Please just stop making
Robin Hood
King and I
Sara Crewe/Little Princess

I give up fighting

1 comment:

  1. The 14-year break (from Tootsie to Mission Impossible 1) makes it impossible for me to have an opinion on any of these movies, but I am glad that you were there to see them all. Clearly you either get out more than I, or you really use your Netflix account in a very good way! Watch on!


Comments Build Community! We thank you for yours. Spam comments are not welcome and will not be posted.