Friday, March 03, 2006

Cure For Bad Movies?

Movie remakes seem to rile a few film fans. Certainly, they can get some down well enough and they obviously tend to renew interest in the original (or the definitive if more than two versions exist), but most people think of a new remake as tedious and unimaginative best and terrible at worst.

Sometimes the memory cheats and we think more highly of the original, but that's probably the exception to the general rule.

Think of the following:
  • 101 Dalmations
  • Charlie (Willy Wonka) and the Chocolate Factory
  • Dr. Dolittle
  • Freaky Friday
  • Guess Who('s Coming to Diner)
  • The Italian Job
  • King Kong
  • The Manchurian Candidate
  • Miracle on 34th Street
  • Night of the Living Dead
  • Oceans 11
  • Planet of the Apes
  • Psycho
  • Rear Window
  • Sabrina
  • Scarface
  • The Thomas Crown Affair

Which versions of those films would you rather see?

Sometimes the remake changes enough of the basic story (or even most of it) to create a pretty interesting take on the original. Some films finally get to have the right polish thanks to techological advancement in filmwork, sound, stunts, and special effects.

Doug Gamble ad NWO approaches the subject from a different angle. Remade films probably seem watered down for a perfectly different reason... something other than the lack of creativity and originality.
Most of Hollywood's former leading men have been replaced by boys. Starring roles that used to feature guy's guys now go to punks. Damon and Affleck are not worthy to wipe the dust from Butch Cassidy's bicycle.

I am embarrased to say that while Butch and Sundance sits on my DVD shelf it remains unwatched. Yes, I have yet to watch the film. Perhaps I saw some of it years ago on television or even cable, yet that doesn't count in my eyes. I've got to see it.

That said, the idea that someone wants to put Matt Damon and Ben Affleck in the roles of Butch and Sundance is jarring and annoying. (Even if Robert Redford is a mega-Lefty like Matt&Ben... I'm going with Redford on this.)

Gamble's idea works well enough in terms of most leading ladies. Audrey Hepburn... a legend, and Julia Roberts couldn't come close on her best day. Sure, we have Streep and Close and Dench and some other very fine actors (again, many of which are on a social-freaking crusade) but we don't often expect them to play the leading role anymore. Leading ladies are (for better or worse) younger and more attractive. I'll take Judi Dench's lively and dynamic performances any day of the week (and if you look at photos of her from her youth, she's a strikingly beautiful woman... much like Audrey Hepburn!) but we're not going to get her to star as Ilsa in a remake of "Casablanca".
As someone who became a teenager in the late 1950s, my movie heroes were larger-than-life figures like John Wayne, Humphrey Bogart, James Cagney, Robert Mitchum, Jimmy Stewart, Marlon Brando, Clark Gable, William Holden, Gary Cooper, Randolph Scott, and others of that mold.

Compare that lineup to the likes of Leonardo DiCaprio, Brad Pitt, Ashton Kutcher, Tom Cruise, Heath Ledger, Justin Timberlake, and the aforementioned Damon and Affleck. It's like sizing up a good steak next to a plate of tofu. And while Tom Hanks has been compared to Jimmy Stewart, as versatile and easy to take as Hanks is, he's no Stewart.

The old Hollywood stars, above all, were adults. They had a steely maturity and craggy features that made them look like they had lived a life that delivered a few hard blows along the way, just like our dads. Many had served in WWII. And they all looked different from one another.

I like some of DiCaprio and Pitt... but their best work is ahead of them. (Especially when you consider "Titanic" and "Interview With the Vampire".)

Who is cool in Hollywood? Tom Cruise and Heath Ledger? Dean Martin's drunk routine has more class and cool than all of Hollywood's leading men put together. Who is sexy in Hollywood? Salma Hayek's cute but she can't act her way out of a wet paper bag. Smoldering gazes and sultry looks? Vacuous stares and clueless expressions, more like it.
Sure, there are still a few old-school actors around, including Jack Nicholson, Robert DeNiro, Al Pacino, Gene Hackman, and Redford and Newman, but they are dinosaurs in contemporary Hollywood. Clint Eastwood is one of the few senior citizens who has managed to remain "cool."

Okay, Clint IS pretty cool.
"Michael Moore and I actually have a lot in common - we both appreciate living in a country where there's free expression," Eastwood told the star-dotted crowd attending the National Board of Review awards dinner at Tavern on the Green, where Eastwood picked up a Special Filmmaking Achievement prize for "Million Dollar Baby."

Then, the Republican-leaning actor/director advised the lefty filmmaker: "But, Michael, if you ever show up at my front door with a camera - I'll kill you."

The audience erupted in laughter, and Eastwood grinned dangerously.

"I mean it," he added, provoking more guffaws.

Not that I'd ever want Moore to actually die that way, but I'd love to see him crap his pants from Clint uttering just one of his many famous movie lines.

(I don't care how old Clint, I mean Mr. Eastwood is... that man could snap many of us like a damn twig. My father-in-law is his age and could do the same... so could a good friend of mine, G.H.)


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