Tuesday, September 22, 2009

There can be only one (scratch that)

"There can be only one."

Unless there is a remake. In which case, there can be only... two.

Yep, that's right, it's official. Highlander (RT-66), a cult classic if ever there was one, is being raped and pillaged. Sort of fitting, actually, when you think about it that way.

I mentioned this new law a while back that seems to have been passed here in Tinsel Town — that no new material can be developed, filmed or made. Upon further consideration, I think that may not actually be how the law goes. I think it's more something like this: for each film made based on original material, no less than 3 remakes must be in development and no less than 2 remakes must be in some stage of production.

Luckily, there are still some mavericks scheming and plotting to make original films (see 500 Days of Summer, RT-87, for an example). On the other hand, that adage, "if it worked once, it'll work again," or maybe it's this one: "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" seems to be this town's guiding principle. Empirically, it feels like about a five-to-one ratio, remakes to originals. But that's just me.

What brings on this tirade you ask? Luckily not a third remake of Sabrina (I don't think I could survive that) — no, today it's the news about Highlander, which is being repackaged, reimagined and remade. Why? No, really, why? I mean, the movie is a veritable cult classic, spawning one of the most classic movie lines of all time.

Matching Justin Lin, one of the newest up-and-coming action movie directors (Fast and Furious) with sribes Art Marcum and Matt Holloway (Iron Man) sounds like a fab idea. Why not have them cut their teeth on something we haven't seen before — I mean, we surely know the writers are up to the task.

What is it about Hollywood suits that makes them just love that brick wall? They must love it, to bash their head against it so persistently. Over and over and over again, never apparently feeling the pain. And I mean that. Because it's not like that brick wall is sprouting ticket sales and money. No, no, no. Not at all.

In this corner, we have the "Originals" weighing in at 600 lbs and ready to defend their championship, while in the other corner, we have the "Remakes," weighing in at just under 200 lbs, but stubborn as all get out. The "Remakes" just don't know when to quit:

Sabrina: Billy Wilder (1954) - 93, Sydney Pollack (1995) - 60
Love Affair: Leo McCarey (1939) - 86, Leo McCarey (1957 as "An Affair to Remember") - 64, Glenn Gordon Caron (1994) - 32
Charade: Stanley Donen (1963) - 91, Jonathan Demme (2002 as "The Truth About Charlie") - 33
(Let me point out that Audrey Hepburn starred in the original Sabrina, Cary Grant starred in "An Affair to Remember," and both Audrey Hepburn and Cary Grant starred in the original Charade. Mark Wahlberg as Cary Grant? C'mon, you try saying that with a straight face.)
Psycho: Alfred Hitchcock (1960) - 98, Gus Van Sant (1998) - 37
The Bad News Bears: Michael Ritchie (1976) - 92, Richard Linklater (2205) - 46
Born Yesterday: George Cukor (1950) - 95, Luis Mandoki (1993) - 25
A Star is Born: William Wellman (1937) - 100, George Cukor (1954) - 100, Frank Pierson (1976) - 46

The originals beat the remakes by an average of 50 points per film. Fifty. Five zero. I myself would call that a rout, an ignoble defeat, an a$#-whupping of no small proportion.

And whether you blame it on the screenwriter, the director, or the dangblasted producer who put the whole thing together, I'd also like to point out that from a casting and talent perspective, The Bad News Bears traded Walter Matthau for Billy Bob Thornton, Born Yesterday traded Judy Holliday (in an Oscar-winning performance, no less) and William Holden for Melanie Griffith and Don Johnson, and A Star is Born traded Judy Garland (in an Oscar-nominated performance) and James Mason for Barbra Streisand and Kris Kristofferson. Honestly, need I say more?

And before you get all het up, yes, sure, there are exceptions - Ocean's 11 (1960) gets a 48, while Steven Soderbergh's witty 2001 remake earns a well-deserved 81. But I maintain those exceptions are few and far between.

There can be only one. Except when there are two. That's show biz, baby.

1 comment:

Mike said...

OK I agree, however you should have posted at least some counter examples, just to be fair.

Freaky Friday 1977 (68)
Freaky Friday 2003 (88)

I thought The Italian Job might be another counter example, but it's not 1969 (87) vs 2003 (73), however there are a few others.