Wednesday, April 6, 2011

The Biz

They've remade Arthur?


The original wasn't worth watching!

What was the original good for? A song. A chance to hear Sir John Gielgud swear like a sailor.

Honestly, Hollywood needs to get a clue.

This is nowhere near enough to hang a whole post on. Normally I would just chuck it into an email to my old friend BC. But Hollywood has become, if not a sore subject, at least a dead end between the two of us.

It doesn't matter if I write to him about a picture that I liked. It doesn't matter if I write to him about something that I didn't like. Hell fire, it doesn't even matter if we completely agree: the other night I wrote to tell him that I'd just metaphorically "walked out" on Spider-Man 3 because it was such a dreadful movie; in response, I got the same tirade that I always get from him these days when the subject of Hollywood comes up. Really, it amazes me that he has the patience to retype it so often.

The thing is, crap like remaking Arthur and True Grit and Mildred Pierce, crap like Hop and Sucker Punch and The Three Musketeers -- It doesn't just make it hard to argue a contrary position, it makes me not want to do so.

The movies get made, and people actually pay money to go see them. As long as that keeps on happening, it doesn't matter if people come away from the experience feeling cheated. What counts is the voting with money.

I don't believe that it's as fundamentally simple as BC appears to think. I believe that, in particular, young people are struggling with the culture that they've been given to live with. My last girlfriend, lo those many years ago, had a teenaged son and daughter. One afternoon the son had friends over and we all sat down to watch a movie.

It was Little Nicky, with Adam Sandler.

I'd never seen a Sandler picture before, so I was open to checking it out. The kids, all of them, told me "This movie is so funny! It's so funny! You've got to see this!"

Well, as the movie unfolded, it came as no surprise to me to discover that it wasn't funny at all -- rather, it was one of the dumber pieces of junk that I'd seen up to that point.

What surprised me was the reaction from the kids. They just sat there with blank looks on their faces.

I said to them, "I thought you liked this movie. I thought you said this was funny!"

All of of them nodded and affirmed, like True Believers, "Oh, it is, it is!"

I did not say it out loud, but I thought it: But, you aren't laughing. You're not giggling, chortling, snorting. You're not even cracking a grin or a faint Mona Lisa smile. You look as bored as I feel.

Shortly after that, I left the room. Better to spend time with C____ than to misguidedly attempt to "bond" over something as puerile as Little Nicky.

But now I think that they believed the movie was funny even though they weren't laughing. I think they believed it was funny because that's what they'd been told, and none of them had anything better to compare it with. I believe that those poor kids had never been exposed to real comedy, and so they took what they were given at face value.

I can only hope that some of them have been exposed to TCM by now. But I doubt it.

We're Americans: and so we are all very well trained to eat whatever shit we are served. So inevitably, the culture is doomed to suffer and endlessly spiral into -- not mediocrity, because we are already long past that point -- how can I put this politely?

Jacques Cousteau, "The Sea King," once said that he did not eat shellfish of any kind, "and you wouldn't either, if you knew what they ate."

So much of our culture is now made up of shellfish eating other shellfish eating other shellfish that it's sometimes hard to see a way back.

The difference between BC and myself is, I haven't given up on it. Still willing to view selectively, and rely on my instincts to steer me away from most of the junk.

Maybe it's because I've met so many people on Facebook and in life who are not willing to eat whatever shit they are fed, who do care about story and who love good movies and good books and can tell the good from the bad.

Maybe it's also because some projects still manage to get made that are worthy of being made. It doesn't happen so often as it used to, but it does happen. I wrote about Jean-Pierre Jeunet a couple of weeks back and think that he's a great example: all the more because he uses all the techniques, the modern and the primitive, including all of the CGI tools that are misused and abused by people with less talent: he shows us that the tools can be used for Good in the hands of an artist.

As long as there are people like that working in the industry, and thriving, I won't give up on the Dream Factory entirely. . . no matter if Peter Cook's Devil from the original Bedazzled often seems to be in charge.

-- Freder.

1 comment:

  1. Ah, I share your dismay (at times). And I do agree about "Arthur" - not funny the first time. But - and I'm taking a deep breath here and coming from a positive place - if every original was the end, we'd never seen another Shakespeare play (or film). I tend to be cranky about re-makes of classics (not Arthur - who cares?) - but I try to approach them as without the original lurking in my mind. Agreed that is sometimes really hard! I did like "True Grit" for many reasons (nice to see a real western, good acting) and am hanging in with "Mildred Pierce." Totally agree that the "comedies" are just dismal, but look at all the money they make! Hollywood plays to the adolescent mentality and if you are anything remotely resembling a grown-up, either in age or taste, better beat it to TCM! And - if anyone gets the bright idea of re-making Citizen Kane - I'm outta here!


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