DID YOU READ

Why no film should be considered unremakable

MSDINOF EC012

Posted by on

The Telegraph has a slideshow this week entitled “Films that shouldn’t have been remade.” The list, inspired by the news of an impending remake of the ’80s comedy “Police Academy” (because the brilliance of the original “Police Academy” cannot be improved upon, I guess?), includes such inessential cinema as Jan de Bont’s “The Haunting,” Brett Ratner’s “Red Dragon,” and Wolfgang Petersen’s “Poseidon.” There’s one or two films on the list I don’t mind — F. Gary Gray’s “The Italian Job” strikes me as innocuous, well-crafted fun — but on the whole, it’s hard to argue than any of these films are better than, or even equal to, their original texts. If any of them were erased from existence, very few people would care. Hell, nobody would (except maybe Jan de Bont, Brett Ratner, and Wolfgang Petersen).

Still, I’m having a really hard time with the title of this piece: the films that shouldn’t have been remade. Yes, anecdotally, these movies turned out pretty poorly. But hindsight is always 20/20. Just because the results were bad doesn’t mean the idea was bad. And remaking a film — even a classic — isn’t necessarily a bad idea.

I realize that most remakes are symptomatic of creative bankruptcy in the studio system. I realize that most exist purely to cash-in on the name recognition of a popular cinematic brand. I believe that film lovers should fight for more originality in their movies. But putting up arbitrary limitations is the wrong way to foster creativity. Movies have enough rules already. The best movies are the ones that break all the rules. Even, sometimes, the rules about what should or shouldn’t be remade.

We could very easily make a list of movies that shouldn’t have been remade but were, and turned out pretty well regardless. There was no reason to remake “Invasion of the Body Snatchers,” but Philip Kaufman’s version from 1978 is just as or maybe more vital than Don Siegel’s original from 1956. By 1978, the McCarthyism that fueled the allegory at the heart of the ’56 version was long gone, which is why on some level you could say it shouldn’t have been remade. But Kaufman found new subtext to graft onto the pod people motif and he made the pod people themselves way scarier than they were in the first film. That’s two “Invasion of the Body Snatchers,” both of them excellent.

In explaining why Nicolas Cage’s version of “The Wicker Man” shouldn’t have been made, The Telegraph‘s Mark Monahan says the 1973 “Wicker Man” was “too strange, too original, too of its time ever to brook a remake.” We could probably say the same of Akira Kurosawa’s “Yojimbo,” which became such a good remake — 1964’s “A Fistful of Dollars” by Sergio Leone — it practically invented an entire genre, the spaghetti Western. F.W. Murnau invented the vampire movie with 1922’s “Nosferatu.” Does that mean Tod Browning’s “Dracula” from 1931 — which is essentially a remake — shouldn’t have been made, too? If it hadn’t, that would leave us without Bela Lugosi’s magnificent and iconic Dracula — to say nothing about Christopher Lee’s Count in the Hammer films of the 1950s and ’60s, or Klaus Kinski’s in Werner Herzog’s incredible “Nosferatu” remake from 1979.

Do the bad remakes outweigh the good ones? Absolutely. But the bad sci-fi movies outweigh the good ones, and the bad legal thrillers outweight the good ones, and the bad of any artistic medium outweighs the good of any artistic medium. Remakes aren’t necessarily the best place for cinematic invention — but that doesn’t mean they render cinematic invention impossible. One of Monahan’s “shouldn’t have been remade” titles is the 2011 version of “The Thing.” But the 1982 “The Thing” by John Carpenter was itself a remake of a pretty damn good 1951 thiller called “The Thing From Another World.” The story’s the same, the setting’s the same, even the title card is basically identical. Nevertheless, Carpenter remade it into what some, including this author, consider one of the best horror films of all time. So why should the 1982 “The Thing” exist and the 2011 “The Thing” not exist? The same motivations — i.e. the desire to make a good movie and the desire to make money — drove both productions. One turned out great, one turned out not so great. That’s the gamble of moviemaking. And, to my mind, the brilliance of Carpenter’s “The Thing” is all the proof I need why it’s a gamble worth taking.

“But Matt,” you’re saying, “there’s got to be some movies that are so perfect that they should be untouchable.” “Citizen Kane.” “The Godfather.” “Seven Samurai.” Oh wait, they already remade that one.

And that’s my point. I wouldn’t be dumb enough to remake any of those masterpieces myself, but I’d be mighty interested to see the results of the crazy person who would. Some films shouldn’t be remade? No. What we really shouldn’t do is restrict what filmmakers should or shouldn’t do.


Featured content:

The 20 best job-quitting scenes in movie history


Do you think certain films should never be remade? Which ones? Tell us in the comments below or on Facebook and Twitter.

Carol Cate Blanchett

Spirit Guide

Check Out the Spirit Awards Nominees for Best Male and Female Leads

Catch the 2016 Spirit Awards live Feb. 27th at 5P ET/2P PT on IFC.

Posted by on
Photo Credit: Wilson Webb/©Weinstein Company/Courtesy Everett Collection

From Jason Segel’s somber character study of author David Foster Wallace, to Brie Larson’s devastating portrayal of a mother in captivity, the 2016 Spirit Awards nominees for Best Male and Female Leads represent the finest in the year of film acting. Take a look at the Best Male and Female Leads in action, presented by Jaguar.

Best Male Lead 

Christopher Abbott, James White
Abraham Attah, Beasts of No Nation
Ben Mendelsohn, Mississippi Grind
Jason Segel, The End of the Tour
Koudous Seihon, Mediterranea

Watch more Male Lead nominee videos here.

Best Female Lead 

Cate Blanchett, Carol
Brie Larson, Room
Rooney Mara, Carol
Bel Powley, The Diary of A Teenage Girl
Kitana Kiki Rodriguez, Tangerine

Watch more Female Lead nominee videos here.

IFC.com’s 2011 Holiday Gift Guide

IFC.com’s 2011 Holiday Gift Guide (photo)

Posted by on

As we approach the festive holidays, surely one of the most important questions is what exactly to pick up your gadget-loving relatives. Luckily IFC is here to help. We’ve sorted through stacks of movies, music, video games, comic books and gadgets to filter out the best gift offerings of 2011. From the return of George Lucas to the original “Walking Dead” and touchscreen-compatible winter gloves, prepare your wallets and take a gander below.



HOME | MOVIES | MUSIC | VIDEO GAMES | COMICS | GADGETS

Watch “The Spielberg Face,” a director’s signature defined

Watch “The Spielberg Face,” a director’s signature defined (photo)

Posted by on

Think you’re busy? Steven Spielberg has two movies opening in the same week. Stanley Kubrick used to take a decade to make a single film. Spielberg’s got two of ‘em — “The Adventures of Tintin” and “War Horse” — opening within four days of each other. That’s crazy.

All this Spielberginess means it’s a good time to to consider the man’s filmography. Kevin B. Lee from Fandor has done exactly that with an absolutely first-rate supercut and video essay entitled “The Spielberg Face.” Inspired by an article on UGO by Matt Patches, the video compiles and analyzes dozens of examples of what Lee describes as “maybe the most singular visual element to his films:” strikingly powerful dollying close-ups of human faces as they gaze, usually in wonderment, at something remarkable.

Kudos to Lee (and to Patches) for defining something fundamental about Spielberg’s movies that was sitting there quite literally staring us in the face all this time. If someone’s looking to pick up their scholarship and carry it further, I think there’s more work to be done here on the context of these faces and the impact of all this looking on these characters’ psyches. Lee identifies the “anti-Spielberg face” as a phenomenon of the director’s post-9/11 work, when the act of looking begin to takes on horrifying dimensions (like Dakota Fanning’s character in 2005’s “War of the Worlds”). But that’s far from the first Spielberg Face with negative consequences for its wearer. The most famous Spielberg Face in history might be Rene Belloq’s ecstatic expression as he gazes into the Ark of the Covenant in “Raiders.” He’s certainly performing the wordless stare of “child-like surrender” that Lee describes, and we all know how that works out for poor Belloq: not too good. In fact, everyone in the presence of the Ark dies except Indiana Jones and Marion. Why are they spared? Because they resist the urge to look. They don’t give in to the blissful temptation of the Spielberg Face.

I think there may have been a darker side to the Spielberg Face all along. Most of the examples that immediately jump to mind are moments of horror or sadness: Belloq goes kablooey, Roy Scheider witnesses Jaws in all his bloody glory for the very first time, the children spying the T. Rex in “Jurassic Park,” Elliott watching E.T. leave forever. Though Spielberg is often considered a sentimental filmmaker, his work has always been tinged with darkness. Maybe that subject can be the basis for the next Spielberg video essay. It’s at least worth a look.

What’s your favorite Steven Spielberg movie? Tell us in the comments below or write to us on Facebook and Twitter.

Countdown to Top Ten 2K11: “We Need to Talk About Kevin”

Countdown to Top Ten 2K11: “We Need to Talk About Kevin” (photo)

Posted by on

Countdown to Top Ten 2K11 is a column with one simple goal: to help you decide what films you need to see before making your end of the year top ten list. Each installment features my thoughts on a critically acclaimed 2011 movie, a sampling of other critics’ reactions, the odds of the film making my own list, and the reasons why it might make yours.

This time we’re covering “We Need to Talk About Kevin,” the disturbing story of a mass murdering kid and his shell-shocked mom. But will this mother-son drama end up as the big daddy on your year-end top ten list? Let’s find out.

Movie: “We Need to Talk About Kevin”
Director: Lynne Ramsay
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 84%
Plot Synopsis: A woman struggles to come to grips with her teenage son’s brutal crimes, which have left her a pariah and an outcast in her hometown.
What the Critics Said: “A bleak meditation on the inexorable power of nature,” Dana Stevens, Slate
“Easily 2011’s grimmest motion picture,” James Berardinelli, ReelViews
“Part horror, part drama, part cautionary tale,” Laremy Legal, Film.com
Were They Right? It might not be the absolute grimmest motion picture of the year — “I Saw the Devil” wasn’t exactly an uplifting portrait of humanity at its best, either — but it’s definitely in the discussion. This is a two hour journey into the soul of a broken woman. Her son is a murderer and everyone she knows hates her because of it. She hides in her house, drinking away the pain. In other words: you can leave your funny bone at home when you head out to the theater for “We Need to Talk About Kevin.” You won’t be needing it.

But while the film is grim, it never becomes tedious or depressing. That’s because Eva, the woman grappling with all that guilt and self-loathing, is played by Tilda Swinton, one of the best actors in the universe and, true to form, she delivers an incredible performance here. The movie bounces back and forth between Eva’s past and present, and in order to differentiate the time frames Swinton wears two different looks: short, hip hairstyle in the past; long, drab ‘do in the present. But Swinton’s so good at demarcating the two Evas with posture and body language that she doesn’t need the visual shorthand (or short hair, in this case). You can even tell which Eva you’re watching without watching at all. If you closed your eyes during the movie and just listened to the way Swinton modulates her voice, you’d know where and when you are. She’s fantastic.

The series of kids who play her devil spawned son Kevin are excellent as well, especially elementary-school-aged Jasper Newell, one of the most convincing bad seed psycho-tots I’ve ever seen onscreen. Kevin, it seems, was just born evil. He cries non-stop as a baby, won’t talk as a toddler, then refuses to use the toilet because he prefers to make his mother clean up his crap. Then again, Eva may not be completely innocent here (I, for one, would have reconsidered my husband’s purchase of an archery set, especially after my son started shooting arrows at my head). A self-described “adventurer” and world-travelling author she was clearly uncomfortable in the role of mother and never really warmed to her baby the same way her husband Franklin (John C. Reilly) did. The mental chess game between mother and son is riveting, and because we always know Kevin’s endgame, it’s absolutely chilling too.

Director Lynne Ramsay’s work with Swinton is incredible, but I was less enamored with some of her stylistic choices. The complex editing structure in which sound and images trigger sudden jumps between memory and reality effectively conveys the feeling of living in one time while being trapped by memory and guilt in another. But too often the trigger is the massive splatter of red paint that someone douses on her house and her car. So many scenes feature Eva cleaning up that paint, scrubbing and scraping and sanding it until her hands are caked in blood-like redness. It’s an effective visual representation of her unshakable grief, but it’s also a bit too on-the-nose. On the other hand, I found the final conversation between Eva and Kevin way too obtuse and anti-climactic. The whole movie builds to a confrontation that resolves nothing. I’ve no doubt Ramsay wanted to suggest that some of life’s worst horrors have no explanation. Maybe that’s viewpoint is just too grim for me.

Worthy of an Oscar Nomination For: Best Actress (Tilda Swinton), Best Editing (Joe Bini).
Chances of Making My Top Ten: The strength of the structure and the acting make it close, but the ending might keep it off. I’d say its chances are slightly worse than the chances that the woman who brought her baby to the theater with her to see “We Need to Talk About Kevin” regretted that decision.
It Might Make Your Top Ten List If: you’re a big Tilda Swinton fan; you dig time-drunk character pieces; you believe children are evil and have been searching for a movie to show your spouse to ensure he or she never asks you about having kids ever again.

“We Need to Talk About Kevin” is now playing in New York and Los Angeles. It expands to more theaters in January.

(more…)

Powered by ZergNet