On the Subject of Remakes

There are few topics that get movie fans riled up quite the way the subject of remakes does.  Some people don’t mind them and are glad that they get people talking about the original versions again.  But then there are others who hate remakes because they could never live up to the original, because they show a lack of creativity, etc.

Personally, I’m not inherently against remakes because sometimes they can be done well.  After all, The Maltese Falcon, A Star is Born, The Letter, Waterloo Bridge, The Man Who Knew Too Much are all classics that are best known in their remade forms.  Or sometimes the remake offers a twist on the original that helps it to stand on its own.  A more modern example of that would be the 2007 version of Hairspray.  I really enjoy both versions of Hairspray, but the 2007 version is so different from the original that I tend to think of it independently from the 1988 version.

Even though I’m not totally anti-remake, I can’t help but roll my eyes when I hear that yet another remake is in the works.  Most of the time, they just seem so completely and totally unnecessary.  King Kong was fine the way it was, we really didn’t need Peter Jackson to come and turn it into a three hour movie.  Other times, I think the casting is atrocious.  Not too long ago, there was some talk of a remake of The Thin Man starring Johnny Depp as Nick Charles.  I do like Johnny Depp, I just think he’s all wrong for the part.  The recent news of a remake of A Star is Born starring Beyoncé and directed by Clint Eastwood definitely falls into the “atrocious casting” category for me.

I don’t really have an issue with A Star is Born being remade since, after all, my favorite version of that movie isn’t the original Janet Gaynor version.  I’m not even particularly bothered by the idea of Clint Eastwood taking on a musical.  Hey, he’s Clint Eastwood, I figure by now he’s earned the right to try directing whatever genre he wants.  I just really wish they would  have gone with an actual actress to remake it with.  What I’ve seen of Beyoncé’s acting has been, at best, pretty mediocre.  The other big issue I have with it is that it has all the makings of painfully obvious Oscar bait.  All of Eastwood’s recent work has been pretty major Oscar bait and Beyoncé so very desperately wants to be a triple threat, Beyoncé teaming up with Eastwood is the most incredibly desperate ploy to try to win a Best Actress nomination I have ever heard of.  It’s like she never got over being upstaged by Jennifer Hudson in Dreamgirls, which was really supposed to be a vehicle for Beyoncé, so now she’s trying to work with someone the Academy has an awfully hard time saying “no” to.  It all just comes off as ridiculously lame to me.  And I really hate to use the word “lame” to describe a Clint Eastwood project.

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7 comments

  1. I’ll admit I shed a couple tears when I heard about this remake. I too am a fan of the remade Judy Garland version and find it particularly offensive to remake this film that was so pivotal in her career. She was perfect for that role whereas Beyonce should not even be considered an actress. That movie is not about singing–that’s incidental to the thoroughly dramatic and demanding plot. If they do go through with this, whomever plays the male lead will surely steal Beyonce’s thunder as Jennifer Hudson did in “Dreamgirls.” Beyonce is just not a film star –a statement which in itself explains why she should not lead a movie called “A Star is Born.”

    1. I think what made Judy Garland’s performance so flawless is that she didn’t just play the part, she had actually lived through a lot of things that her character goes through. She understood Esther in a way that nobody ever will be able to replicate. And you’re exactly right, the movie isn’t about singing. It doesn’t even necessarily have to about a singer since Janet Gaynor’s Esther was an actress, not a singer.

      This remake was the subject of yesterday’s IMDB poll and I was pleased to see that the vast majority of people thought it sounded like an awful idea.

  2. I have to admit my unpopular opinion….I like the Janet Gaynor version of “A Star is Born” best. But the Judy Garland one is good too.

    But I mean really? Beyonce and Clint Eastwood? That is HILARIOUS. I feel like Eastwood would have no patience for her in a movie, especially since everything she’s been in except “Dream Girls” has bombed. It probably has to do with the fact that she’s a terrible actress.

    Anywho, another remake of “A Star is Born” is like beating a dead horse. The Gaynor and Garland ones were good but then it was remade again with Barbara Streisand in the 70s.

    I understand you are never going to have a completely original idea. I mean look at all of those pre-code movies? How many of them were about wayward women working their way to the top with sex? But none of them were blatant remakes either.

    1. Oh yeah, I can think of a lot of movies I enjoyed, but I’d sure hesitate to call them totally original. Like how many times Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland made the same basic movie over and over again. Or how Strangers May Kiss is basically The Divorcee with the names changed and “happily married” changed to “happily unmarried.”

  3. Great discussion, everyone, on a deliciously hot topic! Clint Eastwood has proven himself to be a highly versatile director, and yes, there’s his background in musicals (Paint Your Wagon, etc.) but I have to agree with everyone else here: the question is… WHY?

    The story, as you said, has been told oh so many times, and has been told absolutely perfectly. I’m actually a huge fan of the Janet Gaynor original, but since we’re talking about musicals here: as far as musical you simply cannot IMPROVE on the flawless symbiotic chemistry of Cukor’s film with Garland. That film’s magic blend of words and music and emotion really are benchmarks in musical filmmaking. What Eastwood is thinking to achieve here is beyond me.

    Especially with the casting of Beyonce. Baaaaaad idea, Clint. If Beyonce had any truly intuitive talent as a bona-fide actress, instead of dropping 30 pounds to play the star in Dreamgirls she would have gained 30 pounds to play the Jennifer Hudson role: the role with the depth and the passion and the grit.

    (Ok. Getting off my soapbox…;)

    1. I always seem to forget about Paint Your Wagon! So I guess he does have a little experience with musicals after all. I don’t know if it’s fair to blame Clint for the casting on this, though. There’s been talk of doing a remake of A Star is Born for quite a while now and she’s always been attached to the project, but I don’t think Clint got involved until recently. But still, the question remains of why Beyonce? Out of all the real actresses out there and even out of all the unknowns looking for a big break, was Beyonce seriously the best they could do?

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