Have Your Remake – and Eat It, Too?

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So I’m all for a good remake. I guess. Although it’s curious because don’t we always think that older people know nothing when it comes to their condemnation of our youthful faves?  When I was a kid, I resented people for criticizing movies because they were “bad remakes” – even though I was frequently unaware they were remakes in the first place. For example:  Heaven Can Wait?  Saw it in the theater. Thought it was magnificent…had no idea it had been done before. Against All Odds? Terrible, but gloriously kitsch, spawned a song that played on every radio station in America once an hour for about nine years  — had no idea this was also a remake. The Champ – endearing and yes, a remake. My point is I remember people saying that most original movies were better. Right, I thought. As a teen I hated that  “They don’t make ‘em like they used to” line, which I found ludicrous. Then I got a little older, saw a few more, and became slightly less certain. Scent of a Woman was a remake, and not a bad one. Godzilla was also a remake and it was awful.  I did know Sabrina was a remake of one of my top 5 movies ever, but I didn’t know they could ruin it quite so thoroughly and completely. And then of course you age a teensy bit and –  bingo! –  you sound just like  the old people who you thought were so ludicrous. I’m pretty sure I announced to anyone who would listen that remaking The A-Team and The Karate Kid would be an utter waste of time. However, everyone seemed to enjoy both of them. Clash of the Titans was hugely successful. Dinner For Schmucks doesn’t count because everyone I know who saw the original (and I ain’t one of them) is far too highbrow to watch this version. Arriving in theaters soon we have two hotly-anticipated flicks: True Grit (100% concentrated Oscar Bait) and Arthur (with Russell Brand,  maybe notsomuch O.B., but likely fun). There are now entire websites devoted to the four-hundred-and –sixty-seven-beloved films currently in the remake pipeline – for better or for worse – but today I want to mention just one of them. Because they’re remaking a film that, while it didn’t get particularly good reviews, seems iconic and perhaps the kind of thing they might want to leave alone.  (Nor do I have a good reason, really  – I just think the original should remain as is.) See, reportedly Baz Luhrmann, the man behind Moulin Rouge and Romeo + Juliet (which I guess could be considered a remake of sorts) is hard at work. He’s a genius, and a much-admired director who’s done incredible things for Australian cinema and so on. He even made ballroom dancing cool among young people long before Dancing With The Stars appeared (with Strictly Ballroom). So now the question is – should he really remake The Great Gatsby? Oh, and he will. There’s no doubt about it. He’s even started workshopping it with Leonardo DiCaprio and Tobey Maguire (as Gatsby and Nick) and Rebecca Hall on hand playing Daisy. So now Hollywood types are saying that Hall isn’t a lock, and of course there are about a zillion Young Starlets who would trade their left (willowy, pore-free) arm for that part. But really, should they make it? I know it’s huge in school and movie studios love making things where they know everyone’s down with the plot already, but still. And of course Leo is fabulous, and Tobey can be too, and whoever they get to play Daisy will be all dewy and blinking and trembling and lovely. I just wish once in a while Hollywood would let something iconic (the 1974 Robert Redford, Mia Farrow, Sam Waterston version) stay as it is. Frozen in our memory. For no other reason than that. But maybe that’s the point. So Baz will remake Gatsby and the whole thing will be gorgeous and tragic. And of course I’ll go see it. But I won’t really want to. Largely because with few exceptions they don’t always make them like they used to.

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