Sunday, May 11, 2008

More film crap

I was going to leave a comment in the last post, but it was getting rather long, so I decided to make a new post of it. Here's my response to DrX's comment defending remakes. For one thing visual storytelling styles and structures are NOT dramatically different now than they were 50 years ago. What is popular may be dramatically different, but the influences all go back to the great eras of film. Let's take Tarantino for example. His films have had as much influence on popular film making of the past 15 years as anyone, but there really isn't anything revolutionary or new about his style. Same with Scorsese. They are both incredible film buffs who developed their style from watching the greats, and watching those films (the originals) you gain a much greater appreciation of not only those, but of the films that they have influenced.

Now, I see remaking a great film on par with remixing a great song or repainting a masterpiece. Sure, other people may be able to paint the Mona Lisa with as much, or more skill than DaVinci, but it will never be a masterpiece. And anyways, what the hell is the point? The masterpiece is already there for everyone to see, why remake it? Now, there are exceptions. Special effects have obviously gotten better over the years, and some older films could benefit from it. I have no problem at all with George Lucas reediting the original Star Wars films to add CGI and give said films a more modern feel. The problem is, currently films have an awful tendency to rest on their impressive special effects and are completely substance free. The Time Machine and Planet of the Apes are two big reasons I hate remakes. The shame is, films like this are so goddamn awful that it completely discourages people from watching the originals, which were great movies. Flawed, maybe, but still an infinite amount better than the remakes.

Now, one more thing before I go. Right now it seems the main driving force behind sequels is laziness. Why bother with original ideas when you can remake a film that has a familiar name already? Just add some CGI and explosions and you're all set. Now, there have been good remakes, and they all seem to have something in common. They took an idea from the original film and developed it's own identity and maintained some originality. I'm thinking of Reservoir Dogs or 12 Monkeys or A Fistful of Dollars or The Magnificent Seven. I mean, let's take The Magnificent Seven as an example. It may surprise you that I included it this list especially since it was a remake of maybe my favorite films of all time, Seven Samurai. Now, there is no point in remaking that film as is, since it is pretty damn near flawless, in my opinion. What The Magnificent Seven did was to just take the basic plot and add it's own characters, and completely different scenery and time, thus making it it's own film. It didn't try to improve the original, it was more of a homage to it. I'm not saying it is anywhere near the brilliance of Kurosawa's greatest film, but it stands on it's own merits as a successful film.
I guess that's all for tonight. Feel free to yell at me in the comments.

28 comments:

kevthegreat said...

Actually, let me add one more thing. I have an issue with reediting films. The film was created with a specific vision of the artist, and to edit it is destroying that. A great artist will bear his/her soul in their work, and to edit that is a shame. I am a big believer in taking it for what it is. Sure the film may be flawed to you, but if that is how the artist wanted it, it should stay like that. I guess the problem now is that very very few directors have the right to final cut of their films, so the version that actually gets out is a bastardized version, or some directors are just shit (great job on the prequels Mr. Lucas! Asshat...)

So, I guess who decides what films are untouchable or not? Ah, I don't know, but when people go fucking around with films I love, I'm gonna bitch them out for it, unless they somehow succeed in making something entertaining. But expectations become incredibly high when you mess with a masterpiece, so I'll most likely be pissed off.

DrX said...

OK, in the first paragraph you just restated what I was getting at. You're right in that pretty much every usable film technique was developed a long time, but what is popular is different now than it was. I was clumsy in that wording.

Anyway, your problem is you have this weird feeling that by re-editing a "classic" film, you're destroying something, which just isn't the case. The original still exists, sitting on your DVD rack, or available on NetFlix. (Unless it's edited at the studio and the original never sees release. But that's not what I was talking about.) I'm thinking more about a guy taking a film and editing it on his computer to alter the story structure for whatever artistic purpose. The re-edit may not reflect the director's intention, but oh well. That would be the point. And I don't see why that's a problem.

(That is why studio asshats re-edit movies, because while the director may aim for artistry, the studio aims for money-making ability. What's funny is that it's completely narrow minded, since a great film will make much more money over the long term on ongoing DVD sales, play on TV, etc...)

And, anyway, whenever massive numbers of people get together to make a film (or any creative endeavor), somebody's vision gets compromised. Maybe the director can't get the shot he wants because the cinematographer can't figure out how to do it. Maybe the director didn't use the shot that the cinematographer spent a week setting up. Maybe the director didn't like the way the hairdresser did the hair on the actress. Whatever. Why is the director's vision so sacrosanct in the first place?

kevthegreat said...

See, I think a great director is one that can maintain his vision and intent throughout the movie making process. I really don't see the point in changing that vision. If you want to create art, then create it. Great art is, above all things, original.

DrX said...

So are photo collage artists wrong if they don't always take their own photos to use? There's something legitimate in recycling imagery that your audience is already familiar with, and that invokes an emotion or mental imagery.

The same could be done (and has been done) with film. Film is not sacred and untouchable, no matter who makes it or why.

kevthegreat said...

I must not be explaining myself well. Every film can be considered a collage, as they are bits and peices taken from the influences of the artist. I have no problem with this. This is how art works. What I do have a problem with are remakes that are too lazy to add anything, and are there to just copy a formula that worked once, which is what a large majority of them do. I also have a big problem with people, other than the artist who created it, reediting a film. To me this just shows a complete lack of respect for the artist, unless you edited it in a way to make it completely original from that film. Yes, I'd like to edit out the very begining and very end of Saving Private Ryan, as I think the film would benifit greatly from it, but I think it's better to leave it as is. It gives me a better veiw of who Speilberg is, which is a frustratingly sentimental, emotional manipulator. So be it. That's what the artist is, and he has every right to express it, and we have I have a right to bitch about it. But if that's how he wants his film, then that's how it should be.

DrX said...

>I also have a big problem with
>people, other than the artist who
>created it, reediting a film. To me
>this just shows a complete lack of
>respect for the artist, unless you
>edited it in a way to make it
>completely original from that film.


I understand what you're saying. I just don't think it is necessarily disrespectful. It might be, it might not be, depending on how it would be done. We'll just have to agree to disagree.

kevthegreat said...

OK, so it should be ok if I call your kid Natalia since I like that name better than Mia, right? I consider your choice of names for your daughter to be flawed, so I will change it.

DrX said...

You can call her whatever you want. It won't change the fact that her name is Mia. It's on her Social Security card, birth certificate, etc. Sometimes I call her Cutie-pie, or Sweetie. Her name's still Mia. You don't have the power to irrevocably change that, just as I can't irrevocably alter a film - the original will always be there, unchanged.

kevthegreat said...

Sure, her name won't officially be Natalia, but what if I have a lot more press coverage than you and whenever I talk about your kid I call her Natalia, so that everyone in the world will now know your daughter as Natalia? That wouldn't piss you off? It' your kid, you have the right to name her what ever you want, and people should respect that. Who the fuck am I to rename your kid?

Mikey OOO said...

Your posts are very long and I have a short attention span. Thus, I am just going to throw this in here, even if it doesn't belong. I liked Ocean's 11. Now, I haven't seen the full original, but the remake was entertaining. Considering the technology used in the remake wasn't close to developed during the time of the original, the "Clooney" version did have its own touch.

Mikey OOO said...

And another thing. Harold & Kumar 2, was just like the first movie. Which would be ok if you have not seen the first movie. But since I had (and plenty of times - its a riot), it was the same jokes, but with a different aspect. Instead of being chased by the police, they get chased by the klan. Instead of a digitalized cheetah, they had a digitalized deer. instead of Harold in love with the girl, it was Kumar. Instead of the scarey gosphel mechanic with a hot wife, they had a scarey insecticious farmer with a hot wife. If you are going to do a remake, find some new jokes. Not the same jokes, just recreated. Needless to say, while it was funny, I was dissapointed.

kevthegreat said...

Ugh, sequels are a whole other argument...

phishbone23 said...

But if Natalia becomes very famous, at some point in her life, she can let the world know she is Mia and then it would create new interest in who Mia was....if she does not become famous as Natalia, then she is still Mia. Kev, you created a Win-Win situation!

kevthegreat said...

People have to be famous to have a name?

phishbone23 said...

Stop being literal...asshat!

phishbone23 said...

Has there ever been a movie remake that has been completely and utterly copied??? That would be pointless as you could just show the original again. I think anything that comes out is still an idea that is attached to the artist that produced it. It may be based on a previous rendering, but I don't think someone is just doing it to blindly copy art. It is a testament to the idea that everyone experiences life in their own way and no one else has the right to stop them from experiencing it. I think X is correct....If you slap some paint on a copy of a masterpiece, it still could be art and the original is still in tact anyways.

kevthegreat said...

Gus Van Sant's remake of Psycho was a shot by shot duplication, and still managed to suck balls. See, my biggest problem with remakes is that they almost always suck and then cast a poor light on the original for those who have yet to see it. Let's say you watch the Planet of the Apes remake without seeing the original. After watching that hideous crime against humanity, would you make an effort to see the original, or would you assume that it must suck, too?

kevthegreat said...

There's already enough biased against any film that's over 20 years old. People automatically think a remake must be better than the original since we have better special effects, and people back then were stupid and lame. I don't think I've ever tried to watch one of my favorite movies with someone who didn't groan when they realized it was either in black and white or subtitled. And forget it if it was a silent film! I guess my whole point of these arguments is: People! Get over your dumb hang ups and watch the classics! Ignore the remakes, because they almost always suck! DON'T FEAR BLACK AND WHITE OR SUBTITLES!!!!! You're missing the greatest films ever recorded.

kevthegreat said...

By the way, this is how I hoped the blog would be when I started it. Great discussion guys! Keep up your comments in the future! I still won this one, though. And, to anyone lurking, feel free to join in any discussions and call us nasty names. It's all in good fun.

phishbone23 said...

I think the problem lies within the term "remake". I kind of think that it should be phased out in terms of artistic terminology. Ultimately, a remake by definition would mislead people to belive that it IS the older movie again. Since that mere definition would make it pointless and possibly illegal, I think we should can the term and call them something like artistic interpretations. Or "inspired by"s....just like perfumes/colognes!

kevthegreat said...

But most remakes aren't "artistic interpretations". They are more like commercial applications. Take a great idea from a good movie and dumb it down in order to make it more palatable to mass audiences.

DrX said...

Kev, you're placing way too much absolutism on "good" and "bad". There may be academic pursuits to catalog good and bad movies, or filmmaking techniques, or whatever. But I think that's mostly all bullshit anyway. I enjoy watching the greatest ever blaxploitation film "Black Shampoo" more than I enjoy watching "Citizen Kane." I can appreciate Welles' abilities as a revolutionary filmmaker - way ahead of his time. But "Citizen Kane" doesn't have a bad-ass dude banging white chicks and fighting mobsters with a chainsaw. "Black Shampoo" has some of the world's worst acting, some very poor technical aspects to its direction, etc etc., but man, it's an entertaining film.

What set you off though, is re-editing. Let me give you an example from photography. Several years ago at the Getty Museum in LA had an exhibit called "Departures." It had several artists who were to pick an piece of art already at the museum, and make a new piece of art in relation to it. One guy picked this famous ancient mummy-like sculpture of Kouros, that was kind of controversial because it may be a modern forgery. He made a copy of it out of painted styrofoam, and photographed himself hanging out with the statue at home, or jumping on a trampoline with it, and doing all kinds of random shit. And called teh series "Kouros and Me." Funny, but also deep. Now, surely bouncing on a trampoline was not the vision of the artist who carved the original Kouros. Is that "wrong" in the Kev school of art?

There's no reason you can't do the same thing with film. Is Mystery Science Theater wrong? They are purposely desecrating the artistic vision of (bad) directors.

DrX said...

Regarding remakes: Remakes are just retellings of the same story. This is our cultural heritage as human beings. Stories worth telling get passed down from generation to generation, and get altered/refined/tweaked in the process. Sometimes, when you get far enough away from the original source, the story is taken as fact (Bible anyone?). So movies, as one of our culture's primary storytelling media NEED to be remade for new audiences to keep a valuable story or idea alive.

The Matrix remake to come out in 2030 is going to be fucking awesome.

kevthegreat said...

re reediting:

Look, I'm not saying art can not be created from recycled material. It obviously can. My problem is with reediting a film to make it more appealing to you. I think it shows a lack of respect for the artist who created it. It's like going into an art exhibit and telling the artist, "You know, I think I'd like this sculpture better with a hat." and then putting a hat on it. You should respect the vision of the artist. Now, if you were to create a completely original work of art from that sculpture, then more power to you. Same with film. If you just want to reedit "Easy Rider" to have a happy ending, then I say you're a douche for doing that. If you want to edit Easy Rider and produce a completely different film from it, then aside from the legal issues with doing that, I say go for it.

kevthegreat said...

re: Remakes

Look, these stories that are being retold, they are there for anyone to see. There is no reason to retell a majority of these stories, because they were told so well the first time. The reason many remakes are produced is because there was a great movie that has a small audience because it is old or foriegn so a studio buys the rights and makes a shitty Hollywood blockbuster from it. If remakes were made for the sake of art, I'd have no problem. Instead, it is a process of taking a movie, raping it of it's originality and any controversial tones in order to make money.

DrX said...

But, Easy Rider with a happy ending IS a completely different film, don't you think? Wouldn't that seriously change one of the central messages of the film?

DrX said...

Remaking a film isn't always "taking a movie, raping it of it's originality and any controversial tones." (I won't argue that it's not to make money.) That's a serious over-reach. I think that Scarface, War of the Worlds, The Fly, The Magnificent Seven, and in some ways Dawn of the Dead, are all films which I really like, but also like the originals quite a lot too. Sometimes for different reasons.

kevthegreat said...

I'm not saying all remakes are horrible. I even gave just a few exceptions in this post of remakes I liked. There are always exceptions. I mean, I am actually looking forward to the remake of The Day the Earth Stood Still, just as I actually did look forward to the remake of Planet of the Apes. I hope I'm not so immensly dissapointed this time. Some films, especially those in the SF genre, lend themselves to potentially good remakes.

The problem I have is that remakes tend to be a bastion for unoriginal hack studios looking to make a buck on an already established name. Since they own the rights to the film, they can do what they want, but I'm still gonna be pissed and bitch when they destroy the reputation of a classic by putting out shit with it's name attached. But, obviously, there are exceptions. I don't consider War of the World one of those exceptions, though. I thought the remake totally dropped the ball on a film that really did need a remake.

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