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Remakes today are a dime a dozen. This fall alone will have a number of high-profile remakes, including Footloose, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, The Thing and this weekend's Straw Dogs. The weird thing is, as much as most moviegoers complain about remakes and the lack of original ideas out there, most of those films are very highly anticipated.
It's true that original movies are more exciting. But the fact is remakes are generally popular and profitable. It's easier and safer for a studio to put out something proven and familiar than to come up with something new and potentially risky.
We're both of the opinion that original movies are great. But why fight the inevitable? And hell, if a remake can bring attention to an underseen classic, what's to complain about? So, with Straw Dogs out tomorrow, a remake of the classic 1972 film starring Dustin Hoffman, we present six other classics that could be worthy of a remake.
Intolerance: Love Struggle Throughout the Ages
Both shrouded in controversy for many of its themes and held in notoriety and admired for its contribution to early silent film and film editing, “Intolerance” is a flawed mess of a masterpiece. Set amongst four parallel tales of moral dilemmas (Christ’s crucifixion, the siege of Babylon, the St. Bartholomew's Day Massacre and a “modern” crime story) we drift back and forth, with each time and place visited more rapidly until everything climaxes in a coup de gras of rapid-fire editing. When first viewing D.W. Griffith’s three-and-a-half-hour epic in film class, I was astonished and transfixed by the grand sets, the crispness of the cross-cutting narratives and the jaw-dropping set pieces, a feat that would be deemed a triumph in modern Hollywood let alone a film from 1916. However, what also struck me was its potential for a modern retelling, one with streamlined interconnected tales, sound and actual performances. Like all the choices on this list, a look would need to be handled with the upmost care, but even more so with “Intolerance” as it is ripe for the soulless blockbuster treatment, not the revamp that would best suit this early Hollywood classic.
John's Two Cents: Haven't seen it (though it'll be going in my Netflix queue on your recommendation, Simon). Your argument sounds valid, though I'd be concerned a remake could erase some of the original's emotional power if it's given the big-budget treatment.
Though forever held in a state of pseudo-distain by yours truly for taking deserving Oscars’ from two vastly superior 1994 awards nominees, Pulp Fiction and The Shawshank Redemption, I also find Forrest Gump trite and at times infuriating in its whimsical treatment of heavy subject matter; an actors showcase elevated beyond its substantive means. That being said, I think there could be room for a more dramatically potent adaptation of Winston Groom’s novel; preferably not scribed by Eric Roth. Though I know personally of not a single soul who is in the same boat as I am with my only generic admiration of “Gump”, critics have certainly been taking a second look at a film gushed over at the time of release. Its Rotten Tomatoes score has dipped to a 71% from its initial acclaim; a rating beaten by many of this very summer’s blockbusters. Again, I digress as just because a handful of film reviewers have panned a Best Picture winner is no reason to rush back to the cutting board but for the sake of this feature, I say take an axe to the forest.
John's Two Cents: Wasn't this one already remade? I think it was called The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.
Simon's Retort: Despite another screenplay by Eric Roth, I found “Benjamin Button” to be a much better film than “Gump.”
John's Last Word: Me too.
All About Eve
The 1950 Best Picture winner features some of the best performances and dialogue ever. What's to improve upon? Nothing much, honestly, but All About Eve's themes about youth and the fickle ways of show business are timeless. You saw them touched upon last year in Black Swan. So what to do? Maybe Glenn Close as the aging star, Carey Mulligan as her young admirer who gets a little too close (no pun intended), bring in Aaron Sorkin to reinvent the film a bit for the 21st Century. Sounds like a hit to me.
Simon's Two Cents: I think you hit the key to a potentially good remake, John, in that if the subject matter is still relevant and the source material is strong you will have a much more effortless time updating a classic. And frankly, we should just let Sorkin write everything.
The Lost Weekend
Another Best Picture winner — this one from 1945 — is considered one that's lost some power over time. It looks at a struggling alcoholic who goes on a bender, and though alcoholism is certainly still a big problem, it doesn't carry the same edge it once did. Imagine a powerful new version of this film, directed by someone like Spike Jonze or Charlie Kaufman, that follows a young man or woman who, instead of having an alcohol problem, is on hallucinogens. That would allow for some really gritty and surreal moments, and a film that's much more 2011 than 1945.
Simon's Two Cents: A good number of Best Picture winners lose their potency after crowned the accolade(s); in some cases only a few years afterwards. The Lost Weekend is one of a handful of very early Academy winners I have not had the pleasure of seeing, but this does sound like material that could translate well into a modern update. Leaving Las Vegas showed just a few decades ago that even a study of alcoholism could still be potent, so I support your tweaking of the addiction to something more of our age.
The English-language debut of French New Wave master Francois Truffaut, Fahrenheit 451, remains one of those odd “classics” that nobody really seems to rave over but is still held in some state of the untouchable. Adapted from a novel by Ray Bradbury, a remake was rumored back in the mid 2000s from Shawshank Redemption director Frank Darabont with Tom Hanks to star as the new-regime fireman Guy Montag — but to no avail. The story of this man of the law who falls in love with the now-forbidden medium of literature in a dystopian future is ripe for adaptation again, as the intriguing themes and layered characters can easily construct a film supremely different from other adaptations. The source material not withstanding, Truffaut’s stab at “451” displayed its fair share of faults (perhaps a result of deviating from his native tongue), among which include some shaky performances and a score at times so out of place it seems to shout its existence to you. If anything, Fahrenheit 451 is a prime example in showing that a remake can be a positive thing, not to mention that there should not be some all-encompassing force field around any movie made before 1980.
The Great Dictator
The comedy of Charlie Chaplin is timeless, and few would disagree that The Great Dictator is one of Chaplain's best and most enjoyable pieces of work. But how many younger moviegoers would be interested in a black-and-white film lampooning Hitler? So why not take the themes in Chaplin's 1940 classic and apply them to today's geopolitical climate, making a fiery political statement, like Chaplin did, for a new generation? The War on Terror is one of our generation's most complicated and tragic events. But if laughter really is the best medicine, perhaps a quality satire is just what we all need—something in the vein of In the Loop.