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Hollywood Green or “Everything Old is New Again” by JAY

Posted on August 28th, 2009
Posted on August 28th, 2009


Recycling is all the rage these days.  In my neighborhood up in the Pacific Northwest, it’s almost a religion.  In Michigan it’s actually mandatory – but at 10¢ a can, who’s complaining?  Yep, taking a discarded resource and reshaping it into a usable commodity for a fraction of the cost of producing new materials is nothing new.  In fact Hollywood has been doing just that for decades. 

Aging directors trying to recapture past glory as well as a new generation of posers, hacks and music video wanna-bes are churning out re-sequels, post-prequels, reduxes, recuts and remakes at a blinding rate.  And who can blame them really?  What with sliding ticket sales among a movie going public with little comprehension of artistic merit and the attention span of a schizophrenic squirrel, the studio exec with his or her finger on the green-light switch is more likely to give the go-ahead to project with a proven progeny than an untested treatment.  And after almost a hundred years of movie making magic, Tinsel Town has all but reached the point of virtual recycling self-sufficiency.  Meaning that the studios have enough back catalogue in their libraries at this point to keep them in remake heaven from here to eternity.  Be they good (“Casino Royale”, “The Departed”), bad (“Planet of the Apes”, “City of Angels”) or ugly (“The Dukes of Hazard”, “Into the Blue” a.k.a. “The Deep”), these recycled cinematics share the enviable commonality of being able to vault over the costly, time-consuming process of development and go almost straight into pre-production. 

Be that as it may, remakes never posed much of a problem for me due to the fact that most of the stuff being remade was either utter crap in the first place (i.e. “Swept Away”) or the remake itself was instantly forgettable (i.e. “Swept Away”) or they bombed and therefore bolstered the position against egregious remakes (i.e. “Swept Away”).  But this innocuous law of diminishing remake returns is slowly, almost imperceptibly, being replaced by a haphazard, anything-goes mentality where no film – no matter how venerated – is safe.  Imagine if you will Michael “Boom Boom” Bay turning “Star Wars” into a “Smokey and the Bandit in Space”.   Or what if Pitof took the directorial chops he showed in “Catwoman” and unleashed them on “The Wizard of Oz: Wichita or Bust ”?  Why these might be extreme hypothetical examples of the horrors of reduxion, the dangers posed by unchecked and crazed remaking is very, very real. 

Submitted for your reprisal are a few films that I feel are just fine the way they are but are currently trapped in an eddy of the unimaginative cesspool that is the Hollywood remake waitlist.  And if history is any guide, these fine originals will suffer rather than benefit under the weight of an ill-advised reconstruction:

Why films that are deemed campy are immediately piled atop the remake slagheap is a mystery.  But there’s campy and there’s dated and these two terms are in no way synonymous.  Take “Logan’s Run” for example.  While the futuristic costume design looks like Cirque du Soleil threw up on Schprocket (“Touch my monkey!”), the film had some pretty spiffy FX for its day; garnering an Academy Award for Special Achievement in Visual Effects.  Staring Michael York, the late-great Richard Jordan and Jenny Agutter of “An American Werewolf in London”, this film chronicles just one way of reconciling the Earth’s exhausted resources and exploding population.  In a nutshell: when you reach the age of 30, you die.  When Logan 5 (York) and his comely companion Jessica (Agutter) learn the truth, they run (get it) for the hills in an attempt to escape certain death. 

If all of this seems recently familiar its because “Logan’s Run” was as of late bastardized by schlock-jock set destructor Michael “Screech” Bay in his abysmally rendered “The Island”.  The only difference was that in the Bay version it was organ harvesting and not depleted fossil fuels or scarcity of food that initiated the death edict.  I’m not confident a new director would be able to add anything new to the Michael Anderson original.  Plus I think Shia LeBeouf and Megan Fox have the running in terror market pretty much cornered. [P.S. from Coop, “The Island” was also a remake/ripoff of the 1979 film “Parts: The Clonus Horror”]

Next on my “Hands Off” list is the 1966 François Truffaut classic “Fahrenheit 451”.  Based on the novel by Ray Bradbury, “Fahrenheit 451” (the temperature at which paper ignites) is about a super-repressive society in which books – all books – are banned and burned upon discovery by Kafka-esque firemen with nifty finned leather helmets whose fire truck looks like a stripped down Le Car.  While I’ll grant that this film, like many produced in the UK of the 1960’s, suffers a bit from pacing problems and low production standards, it is after all a film about books (see “The Ninth Gate” for an example of this problem).  But “Fahrenheit” suffers more from being categorized as science fiction due to its futuristic setting.  And I apparently missed the announcement stating that all subsequent sci-fi flicks contain a healthy dose of hand to hand combat.  I can just picture the Frank Darabont fight scene now as a shirtless fireman kung-foos it out with an elderly bibliophile over a first edition of “Treasure Island” atop a double-decker bus while racing through the chunnel.  (Oh he’ll try it, trust me).  This film is a hallmark of social irony and political paranoia which, while prevalent at the time it was made, would be completely lost on a younger generation to whom book banning is only a concern in South Carolina and Kansas.  I say let “Fahrenheit 451” stay just as it is.

And then there’s “Near Dark”.  With this remake I have a big problem.  This gem of a vampire flick came in under the radar in 1987 and has garnered a huge cult following.  The cast is strong (Lance Henriksen, Jeanette Goldstein, Bill Paxton) and the love story between the vampire temptress (Jenny Wright) and good old boy Caleb Colton (Adrian Pasdar) may look strangely familiar to Twilighters.  (Guess we now know where Stephanie Meyers mines for ideas outside Nickelodeon).  There is a harsh reality inherent in this depiction of vampires that has been lost to modern audiences.  The teen-fluff “Twilight” and the eye-rolling “True Blood” have all but destroyed folkloric vampire legend; tending to show creatures of the night not as demented phantoms of evil but as pretty un-people who do little more than bitch about each other like a blood-sucking “Melrose Place”.  These later day vampires are androgynous pansies who pay no price for the gift (or curse) of immortality – it’s just so super fun! 

The vampires in “Near Dark” on the other hand deal with their nocturnal constrictions in a real and bloody manner.  There is pain and suffering in their experience and they don’t get even prettier when sunlight hits them.   And the people that cross their paths die in some very gruesome ways.  We, the movie going public, need two things from current and future producers working in the genre of horror.  One: bring back werewolves – and make it good, dammit!  And two: stop turning vampires into whinny pusses who have taco night and play scratch games of baseball in the rain and portray them as R-rated supernatural killers rather than PG super dreamy prom dates.  For the love of God!

But the sad truth is that remakes, particularly the skin-crawlingly bad ones, will continue to take up screen time at the local Cineplex as long as there are teenagers willing to plop down their hard-earned allowances on milquetoast dreck and as long as Sean William Scott continues to keep his SAG card.  And with a never-ending supply of production companies and directors lining up to make (or remake) these cine-bombs from an almost limitless supply of films (and 70’s TV show) from which to choose, I don’t see this celluloid epidemic ending any time soon. 

-Jay

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