Friday, July 22, 2005

On Movie Ratings 

The other night, we watched Back to the Future again, which I had not seen in many years. Holy crap, I said to myself, he said said "Shit!" I heard "shit" at least 5 times, and there was an "asshole."

Now, I remember being shown this movie when I was 6 at the YMCA. So I was like, "Wow, I never knew this movie was PG-13." Cuz, you know, you can bust out a few "shits" and still slide in as PG-13, you know, when it's funny and Will Smith is saying it. So imagine my surprise when I checked, and Back to the Future was actually PG. How times change.

Speaking of movies rated R, Wedding Crashers is fantastic. It's rated R, it's hilarious, it's charming, and it's much better than you expect.

Notes on Charlie and the Chocolate Factory 

I'm trying to think of other examples of memorable musicals being remade, and I can't. The oompa loompa song? Everyone knows that song, right?

Anyways, this movie is a remake, so I believe I've already written about that. The only reason for this post, really, is to point out that Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is a sort of really obvious allegory about proper child-raising technique. I mean, I shouldn't have to point this out; it's like a kiddy version of Se7en.

So the irony dial was at 11 when this little kid behind us talked throughout the movie. Not that he was carrying on a conversation, but he would blurt out his little observations really loud, like "He got small!" or "He's got braces on!" I don't know how old this kid was, so maybe he's a genius for his age, but I distinctly recall from as long as I can remember, it was made very, very clear to me that you do not talk during a movie. Can't recall ever going to the movies and feeling free to just shout out something like "It's a river of chocolate!" while the movie is showing a river of chocolate. The parents seemed to think this was cute or something, because they made no effort at all to hush this kid.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

On Remakes 

Have you ever seen a movie that intrigued you with some original notion, but for whatever reason just failed to come together and you couldn't truthfully call it a "good movie" in the end? David Fincher said that the reason we get bad movies is that every one is the prototype; you're figuring out how to make it work as you make it, but by then it's too late. Occasionally a good concept just fails to come together for whatever reason, and it's not necessarily anyone's fault.

You might think that this sort of movie would be the perfect candidate for a remake. Occasionally, this sort of movie has been remade with spectacular results; a movie that you thought "Why would anyone remake that?!" only to be pleasantly surprised by the potential that some creative person saw in some piece of crap. The Thomas Crown Affair, The Italian Job, Father of the Bride, The Ring, Invasion of the Body Snatchers, and True Lies all spring to mind; even if they didn't turn out amazing, they managed to add something fresh to the originals.

If you think this way, you'll never make it in Hollywood. At least, not these days; Defamer summarized last weekend's box office as "remake, new idea, superhero movie, remake, superhero movie." What Hollywood instead prefers to do is take their most successful movies ever and squeeze out a little more money: why not just make it again?

This is obviously a really bad idea. A movie that was fortunate enough to turn out really well is unlikely to go as well if you try it a second time. Yet, these movies seem to have an audience, and often do make money. After all, if you want to find the True Lies out there, you might have to sit through some Psychos. Still, there's nothing really illogical about this behavior from the studios so far. If you have a good property, and you understand why it worked, why not do it again? You might be able to open a movie up to an entirely new audience who might not have been able to relate to its original, due to age or language or a woefully small budget or what not. Or, you might just have some original spin on a good idea (like The Magnificent Seven vs. The Seven Samurai).

What I don't understand is why Hollywood can't just stick to the formula that made the original so great. Perhaps it is some unconscious guilt at how little they're doing for the movie, but invariably, when they're remaking a great movie, they must always make the same remake mistakes. The most common one of which is attempting to expand on the original material.

An interesting case study for me is Abre Los Ojos versus Vanilla Sky, because they were made just a few years apart, and had the same actress playing the same role. Abre Los Ojos is a damn fine film, by my estimation, and very original. All that is good about Vanilla Sky, down to some of the very striking shots, are from the original. However, when they remade it, the remake wound up 20 minutes longer (and it felt like it was 40 extra minutes). Every little offhanded remark that a character makes in Abre Los Ojos, little things that add flavor and depth to a character, is expanded into a ridiculous subplot in the remake. An offhanded remark about his business partners being out to get him is blown into a running subplot, and a nervous statement on the edge of a cliff about fear of heights is turned into an almost debilitating neurosis from the very beginning of the movie. It's silly.

In general, flashbacks and prologues are added to expand on the background of some character or place. In general, doing this sort of thing doesn't add anything important, and horribly screws with the pacing. Imagine, for example, a fantastical, whirlwind tour through the world's most amazing chocolate factory punctuated with boring flashbacks to Willy Wonka's childhood!

Or, another way to feel like you're earning your keep is to change the ending (also a typical book-to-movie change). You could turn a beloved character into the villain (Mission Impossible), or add another sequence after the original end. Obviously, this rarely improves on a good movie, but for some reason, studios just can't help themselves.

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