Recipe for Bad Remakes

upcoming-disney-live-action-remakes_1516641182-b

Disney has been trending on reboots for a while, hasn’t it? From Sleeping Beauty to Cinderella to Beauty and the Beast, they insist on translating their animated features to live-action remakes, whether we asked for them or not. Most of the time, they range from passable (101 Dalmatians, Cinderella) to absolutely terrible (Maleficent, Beauty and the Beast). What is it that makes them fail almost every time these days? What is it about the art of the remake that’s so bad? Well, I’ve got three theories, so let’s take a look.

#1: Bad remakes misunderstand the original source material

Almost none of the Disney animated movies are original stories. They take a lot of liberties here and there (*cough* Pocahontas *cough*), but the stories are almost always loosely based on a fairy tale, a folklore, or something else. And the thing to remember is, no matter how many liberties they took, the best of these animated movies stayed true to the heart of the original story—or at the very least, they reflect what we love about the original source material. The Beast in Beauty and the Beast is meaner, more unrefined, and more aggressive than his original counterpart, but the theme of seeing more than what’s there is still present in the animated movie. And as much as I believe that Cinderella is done to death, I will acknowledge that the animated classic (while not the greatest version) shows how kindness, perseverance, and faith are more rewarding than we give them credit for.

Sadly, the remakes have a habit of forgetting that they’re an adaptation of an adaptation. They’re more concerned with glorifying/”fixing” the animated movies than engaging with the source material. The live-action Beauty and the Beast is an almost shot-by-shot remake of the animated movie, down to its first teaser trailer. It looks like the story and sounds like the story, but it fails to portray the story. It fails to recognize that the characters and relationships were more captivating and magical than the song numbers and animation. Because of this, the chemistry between characters is so weak that we as audience members can’t get invested, and thus the movie is reduced to an emotionless cash grab.

On the flip side, the live-action 101 Dalmatians is more effective than we originally gave it credit for. The book was a story about cute puppies, the animated movie was about cute puppies, and the remake is about cute puppies. The adults have more prominent roles in the live-action movie, and Glenn Close as Cruella DeVil is a national treasure. But the heart of the story (the adoration for puppies) is present in every version. The remake didn’t need to give the adults an attention-grabbing drama. It didn’t need to make Cruella more unscrupulous than she already is—she wants to kill puppies, for crying out loud! It knew how to tell the story, and it knew how to do it right.

#2: Bad remakes always play it safe

This one kind of ties in to my next point, so I won’t focus on it too much. But it’s worth pointing out the myth that Hollywood has run out of ideas. For a few years, we didn’t see a lot of original stories trending. They were overshadowed by spinoffs and reboots and sequels and callbacks to the 90s. But the myth is exactly that—a myth. There are still tons of original stories that can explore what it means to be human, and thankfully we’ve been successful in the last year or so. As stressful as world events have been, they’ve reshaped the way we connect with one another through different modes of art, and the art of storytelling is more alive than ever before.

#3: Bad remakes put money over artistry

Many of us grew up with stories—both in books and in movies. They’re a break from daily life, they give us something to invest in outside our own sets of joys and problems, and they influence the way we think and feel about the things happening around us. Because of this, classics like Willy Wonka, Cinderella, and others hold special places in our hearts.

That said, it’s easy to forget that Hollywood is—first and foremost—a business. And the thing we have to remember is that even the best of those in business are most likely to make decisions that will financially benefit them the most. Sadly, most of these decisions involve taking shortcuts, undermining hard work, and overlooking passion for the work itself. Just as dancers are passionate about dancing and authors are passionate about storytelling, businessmen and women are passionate about making money. Because of this, they’ll take anything we love and exploit the living snot out of it. That’s what’s happening with these reboots, that’s why they’re terrible, and that’s why the trend of bad remakes will continue for the foreseeable future.

Despite the bleak outlook, good remakes are possible. We’ve seen it with 101 Dalmatians, the Lord of the Rings series, and Cinderella with Brandy (nice try, Lily James, but no cigar). We could see more like these in the future, but it’s not likely. What can we do in the meantime? Celebrate original stories as they come out. There’s a reason Shape of Water and Get Out won Oscars. There’s a reason Children of Blood and Bone became an instant bestseller. We still have a million stories to tell, a million experiences to share, a million perspectives to explore. So let’s get started.

Advertisements

Ten Random Facts: Avengers

Avengers-Infinity-War-Trailer

So apparently Marvel decided to bump its release date for Avengers: Infinity Wars from early May to April 27 (only fifteen days from the release of this blogpost). To celebrate its early arrival, I’ll be sharing some trivia about the heroes we know, love, and in some cases laugh with.

  1. During the first Avengers movie, Iron Man actor Robert Downey Jr. improvised many of his lines, including—but not limited to—offering food he happened to have on set, and the line “Doth Mother know you weareth her drapes?”
  2. Shawarma scales increased after the release of the first Avengers.
  3. According to Loki actor Tom Hiddleston, the code name for the first Avengers was “Group Hug.”
  4. In Avengers: Age of Ultron, Natasha Romanoff gets a scene where she talks about how she was sterilized during her training as an assassin. During the filming of this movie, Romanoff’s actress—Scarlett Johansson—was pregnant.
    1. Sub-fact: to hide Johansson’s pregnancy, she had stunt doubles who bore such a strong resemblance to her that they supposedly confused Chris Evans (Captain America).
  5. In Age of Ultron, Aaron Taylor-Johnson and Elizabeth Olsen co-starred as twins Pietro and Wanda Maximoff (“he’s fast and she’s weird”). Prior to this movie, they had both appeared in the 2014 movie
  6. Evidently, Age of Ultron included Stan Lee’s favorite cameo.
  7. Joss Whedon (director of the first two Avenger movies) claimed it’s difficult to juggle so many characters who come from different storylines and universes. Because of this, he opted not to direct Infinity War or next year’s Avengers Movie.
  8. In the past, Wolverine actor Hugh Jackman expressed an interest in reprising his role in a Marvel film (he wanted to see his character fighting Iron Man). Though he’s moved on to different projects, Jackman still wants to see Wolverine and Iron Man fighting each other.
  9. At least two characters who change their look for Infinity Wars are Natasha Romanoff and Captain America.
  10. Infinity Wars will be the 19th movie in Marvel’s arsenal, with a grand total of (according to Thor actor Chris Hemsworth) 76 comic book characters making an appearance. Have fun!

Sources used:

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0848228/trivia

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2395427/trivia

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt4154756/trivia

http://www.slashfilm.com/avengers-infinity-war-characters-list/

Top 11 Nostalgia Critic Editorials

When you think of online personalities, who comes to mind? For me, it’s the Nostalgia Critic. Since 2008, he’s posted reviews of movies from the past. When he’s not losing his mind over bad screenplays, he’s losing his mind over bad comedy. If he isn’t going crazy about strange CGI or poor decision making, he’s going crazy about bat credit cards. It’s almost impossible to imagine the Nostalgia Critic without a freak out coming to mind.

But that’s not what this post is about. This post discusses the times where his serious side comes out to discuss topics in film-making or dissect what worked or didn’t work in certain movies. To put it simply, this is about his editorials.

Since I’m sharing video links, I’ll only talk about it when I want to say something he hasn’t already touched on. But for the most part, I’ll just let his editorials speak for themselves. With that in mind, let’s take a look at the top 11 Nostalgia Critic Editorials.

#11: Where’s the Fair Use?

Over the last few years, there’s been a lot of controversy going on with YouTube channels getting copyright strikes. Sometimes it’s just for posting movies without Hollywood’s permission, but other times channels got hit just for talking about these movies. Here, the Critic explains what the law says, how it’s being exploited, how YouTube is handling it, and the Critic’s own experiences with battling claims and strikes. While he’s had some of those resolved and he’s managed to put reviews back up, this is still an ongoing issue for many YouTube users.

#10: Why Do We Holiday Too Early?

#9: Top 11 Strangest Yet Best Couples

#8: Can Hype Kill a Good Film?

#7: Is White Washing Really Still a Thing?

#6: Should We Scare Our Kids?

#5: When Is Something So Bad It’s Good?/Can a Film be so Good, it’s Bad?

Since they’re somewhat tied together, it only made sense to have them share a spot.

#4: Top 11 Good Things from the Star Wars Prequels

#3: When Does a Joke Go Too Far?

#2: WTF is with the ending of The Graduate?/Does Romeo and Juliet Suck?

Again, they’re pretty similar, so they share a spot.

#1: A Farewell to Roger Ebert

Ten Random Facts: Series of Unfortunate Events

snicket

Of all the children’s books in the world, Lemony Snicket’s Series of Unfortunate Events is among the most intriguing. Even after thirteen books, two adaptations, and several spinoffs, much of SOUE is still filled with unsolved mysteries and unanswered questions. But that doesn’t mean we don’t know anything about what went on in creating the story. And since October is the month of creativity and imagination, it only seems fair to share a few fun facts on one of the most imaginative pieces of writing. So let’s not waste any time and dive right in.

  1. To underline the theme of misfortune, the entire story is dedicated to the number 13. There are thirteen books in the series, each book has thirteen chapters (minus the last book, which features a fourteenth chapter as an epilogue), the title of the series has twenty-six letters (which equal thirteen when divided by two), and the last book was released on Friday the 13th. To carry on the tradition, Netflix’s was released thirteen years after the film adaptation, also on Friday the 13th.
  2. Catherine O’Hara appears in both adaptations of SOUE; she plays Justice Strauss in the movie, and Dr. Georgina Orwell in the Netflix series.
  3. Several anagrams and alliterations are used throughout the series, though the Baudelaires don’t draw attention to them until the eighth book in the series (Hostile Hospital).
  4. Though both the movie and Netflix show VFD members carrying spyglasses, they’re neither seen nor mentioned in the books.
  5. Throughout the books, the author either mentions or alludes to several other real life books and authors. Among these references are Herman Melville, Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland, TS Eliot, and Melville’s book Moby Dick.
  6. Daniel Handler published the books using the pseudonym “Lemony Snicket.” But he’d been using it much earlier during his personal life—ordering pizza, creating a fictional identity, etc.
  7. Handler never planned on writing children’s books, partly because he thought they didn’t treat children like adults. After a conversation with his editor, he changed his mind and wrote Series of Unfortunate Events, books he wished he’d read when he was ten years old.
  8. The point of SOUE is that the world is always complicated, but learning about it makes it easier to live in. Another book that makes a similar point is Dr. Seuss’s I Had Trouble in Getting to Solla Sollew.
  9. A family with three children is a trend throughout the series. Three Baudelaires (Violet, Klaus, Sunny); three Quagmires (Duncan, Isadora, Quigley); three Denouements (Dewey, Ernest, Frank), and three Snickets (Jacques, Kit, Lemony).
  10. When asked about his books, Handler either doesn’t answer the question directly or tells readers not to expect answers.
  11. A handful of other characters have either described Violet Baudelaire as “pretty” or “lovely.” Notably, the only thing we know about Violet’s physical appearance in the books is that she has long hair, which she ties up when she wants to focus.
  12. On the DVD case of the 2004 movie, the plot description reflects those of the books (“You shouldn’t read this,” “A few reasons why you’ll either hate or love this story,” “Throw this away immediately”).
  13. Among other spinoffs, there is also a promotional pamphlet called 13 Shocking Secrets You’ll Wish You Never Knew About Lemony Snicket.” The thirteen secret simply reads “He is finished.”

Sources used:

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt4834206/trivia

http://mentalfloss.com/article/69126/11-not-so-miserable-facts-about-series-unfortunate-events

https://www.buzzfeed.com/eleanorbate/the-world-is-quiet-here?utm_term=.nck7MRBll#.yrbJVd3ll

When is a Story a Classic?

Classic-Literature

Victor Hugo’s Hunchback of Notre Dame. Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird. What do all these stories have in common? They’re all considered classics. But have you ever wondered when a story becomes a classic? Why is Pride and Prejudice considered a classic, but not Mansfield Park? Why is Harry Potter starting to be called a classic, but not Hunger Games?

When I first started asking about the “bar of storytelling classiness” (not the best name I’ve come up with, but I don’t care), I started briefly brainstorming. My first three theories were popularity, legacy, and message. However, popularity didn’t seem like a strong enough qualification—at least, not on its own. Not every classic leaves a legacy behind, nor do they all preach an important moral.

At that point, I decided to contact my admin Ashley and ask for her thoughts. Her first thought was that we reread classics over and over. But we both agreed that, while this is true for stories like Lord of the Rings and Sherlock Holmes, the same could not be said about Anna Karenina or Hunchback of Notre Dame. Then she suggested the traits that appeal to audiences, remarking that there are different categories for classics.

So then I asked which traits could relate to different audiences over long periods of time. And that’s when it finally hit me: a story becomes a classic when it appeals to something in us that is not only human, but also universal. Sometimes they say something profound about what it means to be human, though they don’t always have to. The Princess Bride is a classic because it appeals to our craving for humor and satire. Treasure Island and Dracula are classics because they appeal to our longing for adventure and adrenaline. And romance by itself is a classic genre because it appeals to our desire for intimacy and emotional connections.

But when they do say something about humanity, it becomes a classic when it strikes a chord in us. Lord of the Rings relates to how easy it is to feel hopeless, but reminds us that we can always find hope. Christmas Carol shows how simple sources of lasting happiness can be found anywhere. Frankenstein shows the tragedy of unrestrained ambition. Gone With the Wind is (and I cannot believe the words coming out of my brain as I write them) a classic because it reminds us that passion isn’t always logical or virtuous.

To put it simply, classics are examples of storytelling at its best. When done well, storytelling is a universal art that reminds us we have more in common with the people around us than we realize, even if we come from different cultures or speak different languages. It reminds us that two people with different sets of beliefs have more in common than we might think. It showcases the best and worst of humanity by being realistic but still maintaining faith in ethics. A story becomes a classic when it becomes a well-known timeless reminder of what it means to be human.