Monday, February 23, 2009

Unnecessary Remakes...

So, last night it was Oscar Night. I always think I'm not going to watch them and then, somehow, I usually do. This year, I wasn't sure. I'd only seen one of the Best Picture nominees. Living in a small town in Ohio definitely limits my access to the small movies like "Milk," and even "The Reader."

Still, I had seen "Slumdog Millionaire" and really enjoyed it so I did have some interest in the nominees. Also, I decided to invite a friend over so we could have a Snarky Oscar Party which is the absolute best way to watch the Oscars.

The ceremony was its normal long, drawn-out self. I think they tried to condense it this year but it was still a little too long. I mean, really, do we need a recap of all the films that came out this year? Do we really need to remember that "The Love Guru" even existed?

I liked Hugh Jackman as host, mostly because I like Hugh Jackman. I think they took a little too much advantage of the fact that he's a singer/dancer because wow, they made him sing and dance. The opening number was ok but the one in the middle of the show with Beyonce...well, we could have done without that overblown chorus line. I was a little disappointed that Christian Bale wasn't there because that would have been awesome but it wasn't bad anyway.

Anyway, I'm not actually planning to dissect the ceremony. More, to bring up a complaint that has been irking me for some time. At the end of the ceremony, they showed clips from movies that will be released in the coming year. One of those clips was for a movie intitled "State of Play" starring Russell Crowe, Ben Affleck and a slew of other big names. For those of you who've never heard of it, it's a remake of a fantastic BBC mini-series of the same name. It starred Bill Nighy, James McEvoy, John Simm and some other good British actors.

Here's my problem. The mini-series was fantastic. It's set in the world of journalism and the pace is incredible. The acting is steller. The setting is perfect. So why are they remaking it? I know, they think they can make some money from it, put some big names in it and have a new hit. To me, that's greedy laziness. We already have a great version. Why not spend all the money from production, salaries and advertising on, oh, I don't know...something new?

There's been a rumour for years that Hollywood has run out of original ideas, that's why they keep doing remakes. I don't buy that for a second. I think Hollywood has become lazy. I think they don't want to take a risk on something new because they can remake something that's already been a hit once. Of course, these remakes rarely are the smash hits they're supposed to be. Anyone remember "Psycho"? What a lackluster remake that was. Vince Vaughn, normally a good actor, could not replace Anthony Perkins and it turned out to be a joke.

I even had a problem with the remake of "Pride and Prejudice" starring Kiera Knightly that was so critically acclaimed. It was...ok. I get that it was a nice condensing of the book and that Kiera played a decent Elizabeth Bennett. However, I still say the BBC/A&E mini-series with Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle wipes the floor with the movie version.

I know, I know, TV mini-series aren't the same as going to the movies to see something on the big screen. I agree. Yet, nowadays, in cities like L.A., it's getting to be about $14 to watch a movie in the evening. Around here, it's up to about $7, I think. Add concessions and drinks and it's easily at least $20 for a night out. When you pay that type of money for entertainment, you want to be entertained. You want to see something amazing. Most of the time, you aren't.

I'm not a fan of remakes. Sometimes a story/movie is re-imagined and though the story remains, the remake is something new, something different. That, I can live with. Yet it's movies like "State of Play" that bother me. It may turn out to be a good film. However, I don't want to see it because I love the BBC version. If that version had been, say, German and they were remaking into an English language version I might be able to deal with it but that's not the case. It's also not the case that the British accents are the thick ones, the ones that are hard to understand for unfamiliar ears. No, it's a perfectly great mini-series that is now, most likely, going to be a mediocre movie. I mean, seriously, Ben Affleck is in it. He has his uses in Hollywood but acting really isn't one of them.

I am being a little too harsh, I know. I think this is because, once again, it all comes down to being a writer. I will say that I'm relieved that so far, publishing houses aren't having novels rewritten because the originals are 'dated' or need to be more sensational for today's audiences. Yet, I also used to aspire to be a screenwriter. In some ways, I think, for a new screenwriter, one who hasn't managed to break into Hollywood, it's even more defeating than being an unpublished novelist. Though the amount of novels being published yearly has dwindled, though it's harder and harder for a new writer to even get his or her manuscript looked at, we still get to be original. We get to see new writers breaking in and that gives us hope.

With Hollywood, that's not the case because the studios want instant success. They want to hire people to rewrite perfectly good scripts that don't need to be remade so that they can remake a film. New screenwriters get to see lackluster remakes being produced, they get to see scripts from big-name writers succeed and they can't even get anyone to read their new work, to take the chance on a new voice that maybe, just maybe, might be the new "Slumdog Millionaire," the next "American Beauty."

They're also remaking "Fame." Sadly, I get that one. When I was a young 'un, I adored the tv show of "Fame." I used to want to go to a school like that one more than anything, even though I couldn't dance, sing or really act. The show is horribly dated now but maybe they think the Jonas Brothers/High School Musical crowd needs that inspiration too. I don't like it but I get it.

I still don't get the "State of Play" remake just as I didn't get the "Pride and Prejudice" one a few years ago. If the original isn't broken, it shouldn't need fixing in a remake. I do think there are exceptions. Take the U.S. version of The Office. I confess, I was horrified when I heard they were remaking the British one. Yet, really, they weren't remaking it. They were re-inventing it, making it work for American audiences by breathing new life into it. The premise is the same but it's different. I don't hold out such hope for "State of Play."

So, that's my rant for today. I'll try to be more positive tomorrow. Unfortunately, I'm about to leave for the DMV again so positivity is a little hard to find at the moment. With all luck, I'll be a registered Ohio driver by tomorrow. If not...well....I'm sure you'll hear about it.

Happy Monday.

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