Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Hollywood remakes are ripping off my memories.

Some friends and I were discussing the issue of Hollywood remakes recently and one of them asked me the question "Why are you so opposed to it?" I've only seen a handful of remakes I liked, the rest of them just plain sucked. I was left with the question, "Why?"

A great number of the movies on the remake list have originals to which I have some emotional attachment. For example, True Grit, Dirty Dancing, Footloose, Red Dawn, Carrie, My Fair Lady, Pet Sematary, The Birds, A Star is Born, War Games, An American Werewolf in London, The Shining, Angel on my Shoulder, The Amityville Horror, The Warriors, All Quiet on the Western Front, and Scarface are just a few. These films and others have a sentimental value to me.  Most of these films remind me of a part of my youth and watching them brings back fond memories of days gone by. I'd like to hold on to those memories. It almost seems as if watching the remake takes away from the memory. An example of this is True Grit. I heard nothing but rave reviews about it and it is probably a very good film, but the original with John Wayne is very dear to me. My dad loved that movie and he was a lifelong John Wayne fan. We used to watch The Duke's movies together and there were times we could turn down the sound and quote lines verbatim. I know in reality, watching the sequel doesn't take away those fond memories I have with dad, but I can't help but feel that a part of my history, my memories are being ripped off.

One of the movies that comes to mind which I did actually like remade is Titanic.  Titanic was made in 1953, 1958, and 1997. Each movie was based on the same event but what made each film unique was the portrayal of its characters. I can watch all three movies and not be bored even though I know what's going to happen to the ship. I'm more interested in the characters and their stories than I am the sinking ship.In this case, I think it's possible to tell the story from different perspectives and be enjoyable to watch each time. It is especially impactful knowing that this was a real and very tragic event in our history.

One of my favorite movies of all time is Mildred Pierce, starring Joan Crawford and Ann Rutherford. It was remade with Kate Winslet a few years back. I know the remake won all kinds of awards but I refused to watch it. Nothing compares to watching Joan Crawford and Ann Rutherford go toe-to-toe in that film. Every time I watch their scenes I'm still on the edge of my seat yelling "Just slap the ungrateful bitch!" It's just that good. Kate Winslet may have been good but I prefer to remember this film they way it was originally intended, with Joan Crawford, Queen of Hollywood in the lead role. My mother and I used to watch this film together every time it was on and still, to this day, when it comes on, we wind up sending each other a note on Facebook or making a quick phone call to tell one another it's on. You can't top that with a remake, you just can't.

The Amityville Horror and the Omen are two fantastic and suspenseful movies which both bring back amazing memories for me. Their remakes sucked. Some people may have liked them but I thought they were a waste of time and talent. Both of these movies were reminders to me that really cool modern technology doesn't necessarily make a film better. Both of these films were exact duplicates of their originals and the acting was not even in the ballpark with the originals. I'm sorry but Ryan Reynolds scariest most psychotic look can't compare with James Brolin's maniacal George Lutz, no way. Not even in the same competition. And what about Gregory Peck and Lee Remick?  How on earth could we compare Liev Schreiber (and I like him!) and Julia Stiles to them?  Perhaps Hollywood doesn't want us to compare.Maybe they're hoping we don't compare the films. That's easier said than done. You just can't forget something when it's that good.
Though this film was not a part of my memorable youth, I'm mentioning it here for a different reason. It's the cult classic titled "Les Diaboliques" by Henri-Georges Clouzot, starring Vera Clouzot and Simone Signoret. Now, years back I had not seen it prior to watching its remake "Diabolique" with  Sharon Stone and Isabelle Adjani. For the most part, I thought the latter was a good movie, that was until I saw the original. The original is in French with English subtitles and it's just simply amazing. The way this movie was filmed, in black and white, the cinematography is unrivaled by its remake. The overall feel of the original is dark and dreary, and is perfect. When I finally saw this film, I couldn't believe how far its remake, the one I initially saw, fell short. Because everything in the remake mirrored the original, with the original being far superior, I had to ask myself  why they even remade the movie in the first place. There was absolutely nothing added to the remake that makes it a better quality film.

The burning question many of us have is why? Why remake movies? The first thought that comes to mind for me is that in an age where making movies is so damn expensive,  maybe it's cheaper to take an old script and just reshoot it. However for the remake, sets have to be built, costumes designed, locations found, so is there really any cost-savings? I would imagine there's some savings in not having to come up with a new concept but still there's costs involved in filming. 

So again, we ask, why? One reason might be that remaking older films with newer technology could make them more attractive. The 1950's saw a ton of really bad science fiction and horror films (my mother, being a baby boomer, can attest to this!) and so all you have to do now is remake it with hot actors and really cool technology and it'll be a hit. (By the way, War of the Worlds is a fine example of this though in the end, I didn't care for the remake, even with all its fancy technology).  Another reason might be the possibility of a better remake through better acting, perhaps taking a "B" film with "B" list actors nobody even heard of and turning it into a blockbuster using today's "A" list actors. Yet another reason is money. Hollywood is catering to a younger generation of filmgoers and there are thousands of films that that generation has never seen. It's a virtual bottomless pit of opportunity. Just take an old film, modernize the script, add some popular actors and wallah...instant movie! Apply this to the movie "Les Diaboliques".  What young person is going to sit down and watch an old French film with subtitles? 

The only valid reason I can see to remaking a film is if somehow, remaking it will improve the quality and tell the story in a more creative manner. I can't see remaking a film just because you can, this just serves no purpose. It's not creative to use different actors to tell the same story. Remakes should be better than the original, they should add a different perspective, a new focus, something that makes the story unique and worth telling a second time. So far, we're seeing very little, if any uniqueness, creativity, new focus, and different perspective. So, for the time being I'll be avoiding most remakes especially if they are remakes of films I really enjoy. In a world that is so fast paced, where we are constantly on the go, moving quickly, and not taking enough time to appreciate the important things, I need something  that keeps me grounded and reminds me that there was once a time when I wasn't as old as I am now and things were not always so complicated.


  1. I couldn't have said it better myself! And you're right about "Les Diaboliques". It was so much better than the remake. There are times when black and white sets the mood for the story.

  2. Jessica, one of the reasons I don't like remakes is that the originals back in the day relied on alot of mind imagery - you had to think about what was happening, because it wasn't really being shown. The prime example of this is, of course, PSYCHO! A bunch of girlfriends and I went to see this when we were Juniors in HS. We were so terrified by it that our plan to sleep out in the yard was immediately ruled out and we spent the night on her parent's living room floor! NOW every little action is shown so there is no chance to imagine anything. We grew up using our imaginations - we listened to weekly radio shows - can't even remember the names, but I think Gene Autry and Roy Rogers started out as radio shows. It was just fun to try to 'see' what was happening! I miss that. I've never been much of a movie fan, like you and your mom, but I do agree with you about Titanic. It was the only movie I went to in Sitka (n 14 years!) and it had the surround sound. Very spooky to listen to the ship creaking behind me! Used my imagination on that one! We rented tons of movies to watch at home, but we felt like going to the movies was just too expensive and it was a ratty little theater! Very good article!

  3. I agree with you Jessica. There is no reason to do the remake UNLESS you have a different take on the story. To remake a film scene for scene with different actors is just a waste of time,talent and money. And while you can change the story,don't disrespect the core audience that allowed you to make your film in the first in the Mission Impossible and S.W.A.T. remakes where they changed two main characters into heavies. I found that rather insulting fresh,respect the source material and cast it wisely.

  4. Remaking an original takes patience and real talent. In the end, it could be superb IF it's done right!!