Old is the New New

It seems that everything today is a remake.

Last week we were at the very enjoyable remake of Clash of the Titans, and this is just one of 38 planned movie remakes in production or recently released that you can find a more exhaustive list of here.  Nothing necessarily wrong with that, and I’d like to draw on an article by Brian D. Johnson to get into the swing of things.

He notes the following:

Hollywood loves to cannibalize itself. Every summer, the studios plunder past glories with sequels, prequels, reboots—and remakes. The most shameless of those ruses is the remake, which makes a virtue of unoriginality. It begs the question: why remake a perfectly good movie? Usually the motive is crassly commercial—to reproduce a proven hit for an audience unaware of the original because it’s too old, too obscure, or in French. Sometimes a remake is an auteur’s arty homage, such as Gus Van Sant’s shot-for-shot facsimile of Psycho (1998)—or, more perversely, Michael Haneke’s shot-for-shot American clone of his own German-language Funny Games.

Like sequels, remakes tend to be inferior to the originals. Prominent stinkers include star-driven vehicles like Swept Away (Madonna), Get Carter (Sly Stallone), The Nutty Professor (Eddie Murphy), Vanilla Sky and War of the Worlds (both with Tom Cruise). But some are classics in their own right—most famously The Wizard of Oz, which was a remake of a silent movie, and The Magnificent Seven, a western based on Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai. Then there are the customized knock-offs of genre films by classy directors, like Brian De Palma’s Scarface, David Cronenberg’s The Fly, and Martin Scorsese’s The Departed.

Most typically, however, a Hollywood remake is akin to urban gentrification—you jack up an old property and renovate it with a contemporary setting, bankable stars, state-of-the-art filmmaking techniques and a fresh coat of topical sentiment. That’s certainly the case with The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3.

(Taken from an article published on Mcleans here)

While we seem to be living in a remix world, whereby everyone is choosing to ignore intellectual property rights, and yet demand to consume more and more content, Culture seems to be eating its own puke, at this stage.

Real, original ideas seem to be thin on the ground now, from a rehash of ‘We Are The World’ for Haiti Earthquake victims to the extensive list of movies we have already seen being regurgitated endlessly.  Samples in music are coming from ever more recent sources, and it seems as though the global well of creativity is drying up.

It is possible that this is a side effect of how subconsciously connected we all are now, thanks to social media and web 2.0, however the lack of clear, fresh and new ideas is something that is disturbing when Popular Culture contains less and less of them.

It is apparent that in these turbulent times it is indeed a risk for a major record label or Hollywood studio to generate new fables and icons for our times, when it is easier and less of a potential risk to rehash Knight Rider, or The A Team, or whatever, providing there is a favorable enough buzz when they leak stories of intent for same on ‘in the know’ blogs etc.

Combine all of this information, and set it against a backdrop of living in a world even Orwell couldn’t have dreamed of from the point of view of constant surveillance, amid constant reported threats of terrorism (Eurasia is at War with Eastasia etc) and where there is always the Huxleyesque Soma available in head-shops to legally and herbally take the edge off, while you’re constantly digitally connected and simultaneously being updated on the morose sameness of everything as Capitalism implodes in an economic Tsunami  and Globalism advances ever closer to the triumph of delivering homogeneous blandness across every frontier, and the picture doesn’t look good.

We are in desperate need of a strong, new Popular Culture to reflect the unique problems we face in today’s world, and the solution to this is not to keep retreating to a safer historical period, whose outcomes we are more comfortable with as they have long been played out.  This is yet another form of escapism, and the dumbing down of all Culture will leave us without the tools to even assemble the thoughts necessary to survive modern life.

I look forward to the new generation of Visionaries finding a voice, and funding, and some sort of viable Distribution Channel to be able to live in some degree of comfort while doing great and important work, but that seems lees and less likely, unless radical change occurs soon.

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