Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Running out of word-combinations & The Hollywood Remake Cycle

The great linguistic shortage of 2123

I remember when I was young, on the bus to highschool; saying to a person beside me that 'one day we will run out of ideas for movies and just start remaking old movies with new people'. At the time I was startled by the prescience of my discovery. It made complete logical sense to me that at some point, probably within my lifetime, we'd see more and more remakes of old movies. 

Though I didn't realize it at the time, it was an already not unheard-of practice. Tremendous classics ( that had often even started as radio plays ) had already be remade in several instances. Miracle on 34th Street, for example.

""Macy's department store declined any involvement with this remake, so the fictitious "Cole's" was used as its replacement. Gimbels had gone out of business in 1987; hence it was replaced by the fictional "Shopper's Express""

[[Already here we can see the medium revealing much more protectionist dis-interest on the part of the big corporations that had survived to the first 'hollywood remake cycle'. Very few companies survive to 100 years in the history of the world. After that the decrease in surviving businesses in exponential to where there are only about 2000 companies in the Western world that are 200+. Obviously in America this is quite rare aside from Banks and Petrolium Co's]]

However, even though the practice was not unheard of, it was far from a normative part of the Hollywood offerings as it is today. It seems that today, all you have to do is recast a movie that did well in the past and voila ! The truckloads of cash start rolling in. While I have enjoyed some of the remakes that have been produced, I have not particularily found that the practice holds much legitimacy to me. For example, one might hope that with such a re-make culture in the movies, there would be obvious and notable improvements in the story, casting selections or whatnot. Too often the only improvement is the quality of the CGI work - which has certainly advanced to tremendous levels. 

As someone who takes a more broadly cultural interest in cinema, I find the trend disturbing. We all know the old maxim that 'the medium is the message', well I cannot think of a more apt use of it than in consideration of this re-make culture we have at the cresting of the 21st century. 

When we examine the classics, we see strong and often (now) offensive themes. These movies are great because in many instances they actually spurned people into thinking about important cultural issues in new ways, or acted as a great artistic catharsis for a popular sub-cultural niche'. Watching them in reflection, we can also see the changes that have manifest in our own day, and make some insightful judgements about the validity of our notions of progress, etc. 

Today, American films seem concerned with absolutely no such pretence. Movies are too often, simply "vehicles" to get the starts and producers from the cozy life of a film-set to the cozy visits with their banker friends. 

While I certainly appreciate the plethora of opportunities that the film industry provides the serfs, both in edu-tainment value and spending of production budgets; I am herein only trying to address the shift from focusing on hard stories to the strictest sense of absolute motivation for profit. 


Many interesting movies have also emerged over this era. Movies that may purport to rebuff my thesis here; The Interview, Three Kings, Syriana, An Inconvienent Truth, The Insider,... it can be said of all these films that they represent new expressions of thought based on events that did not previously exist wherein to even be  expressed, etc; the basic idea here being that there are still some new and hard-hitting productions which receive wide acclaim and commercial success while maintining integrity that I percieve as lacking. Also there have been several interesting and completely new works to emerge like Fight Club or Birdman which are premised on topical material that was previously not employed. I must concede these points. There is still some excellent work that is produced. But as an overall tally of output, it must also be conceded that the % of material generated from the "remake" model has increased. 

Wherein, the truly new material must have decreased. 

Part of this whole problem seems to be linguistic to me. In a movie, you have person(s) x, who must go to place(s) y and perform z to have x2 happen, and so on. There are, linguistically, a certain number (though I am sure it is high) of truly interesting stories that we might consider worthy of filmographic record. Once that is reached, once enough wild and surprising stuff has happened to enough people, etc., we sort of have to start over with the whole thing. When considered in this way we can see that there are only enough variations of stories at present to sustain an industry of todays scale for about 20-30 years. 

So we might consider here a few things. 

World population in -35 years.

2015 - 35 takes us to about 1980.

4.44 Billion
Lets take a second to examine the film industry in 1980.

Best Picture - from 1979 (presented in '80)
Kramer vs Kramer - a film about some interesting new laws that were emerging at the time. 
From 1980 - Ordinary People - a film, again, about massive state apparatus now being a pivotal feature in elements that would have previously been considered personal affairs, etc.

So these movies, we can see, rely on absolutely minimal 'special effects'. They are story drived about new societal phenomena that many many people were starting to deal with (or hear about others dealing with). The full results of the massive expansion in federal agency that had exploded under the Nixon model - truly transforming the American cognitive and legal landscape for an - as yet - undetermined amount of time. 

So, legal dramas may continue to be a driver of new thought in film for some time. Also I would say new tales from new warzones (or even more recent ones that the population is generally unfamilliar with like American Sniper). Outside of this, the landscape looks bleak in the world of fiction. LOTR and GOT have provided some relief from the drought of new content through some revival of the fantasy genre, but these departures seem short lived for the viewing public. Indeed LOTR is quite an old story just being REMADE in the newest of mediums, and GOT relies on complete sensationalism as a heavy fundamental of it's TELEVISION production material. Now we even see here something new whereby the TV demands is outstripping the content creation - effectively completely sacrificing intellectual integrity strictly to produce more flash and smoke. 

no man, that's not The Rainmaker I meant at all :P

Lets take a look at the population and films of recent time; 

best picture 2013 
Argo: A film about a hostage situation in Iran, I think. I haven't watched it as I fear these sorts of movies like Hurt Locker and Argo are sort of propoganda pieces to keep people supportive of our efforts to occupy foreign nations in deserts far far away.

2014:12 Years a Slave. I did see this, I thought it was a touching and troubling portrait of an important historical era. I didn't 'enjoy' the film because it was very dark and highly sensational in nature and I felt that Brad Pitts character fell flat, but the rest of the cast, the emotional sincerity and the hard issues it attempted to tackle were all appreciated. Also - it's funny that the blackout thing is happening considering that 2 years ago the best picture was very greatly made up of a showing of a spectacular black cast who perfectly transported us through the complete atrocities of the injustices of the system of slavery in America. Also, Cuba Gooding Jr. won an Oscar once just for being a completely loveable character who perfectly portrayed his role in a transcendent way... he didn't win because he was Black and people don't always lose because of it either. (To completely digress here, I saw Straight Outta Compton and I think that it should really be at the heard of this debate as those guys produced and acted supurbly - but it WAS nominated for screenplay and the rest of it while well performed and produced is obviously not going to get much attention because they swear in it, portray the police as racist in a time of high tension already today, and all were very new to mainstream exposure of the likes of Oscar IMO. Being in that film should be a badge of honour they wear all through their careers. Also, the screenplay might win in a fair contest too, so then SOC would be an Oscarwinning film already.... but I digress)

And so we have circled back to the heart of the problem, wherein todays expression of the culture of film heavily transposes the notion that we are completely prepared to sacrifice all sense of story or helpful developments expressed through film- we will sell it out to make it flash-bang full of cash - in a heartbeat. 

CGI and absolute sensationalism rule the day today. A deep story and the dissemination of hardcore and useful information is far from the pulse that drives todays media.

However, again, this is simply a symptom of a culturally deprived society IMO. We can watch 1000 movies a month now for basically nothing. We're getting old-hat with this stuff. What will the next great endeavour of interest be once we've satisfied outselves on watching stories of others and porn. After that, what is there for these internets to do for us ? Personally I look forward to a potential future where computers connected to the interet are basically cash machines for the citizens of nations who's successful management by government will result in hearty Basic Income Guarantees for all citizens. Meaningful work and discourse amongst the general population, and a sincere effort to colonize off world - where the current and heroic tales of contemporary explorers of that day will drive a peaceful expansion of the human race deep into the stars.... then we'll have some new stories. And a new world right here to enjoy on many more levels - as our ultimately revered homeland - than we do presently. 

I really hope we all get our shit together and start talking and living with purpose. I really do. If not we'll be sitting ducks stewing in warm water for the other options that quickly approach. I still think there's time for this little blue dot to pull it's socks up. Here's to it. 

No comments:

Post a Comment