Monday, March 30, 2015

A Fistful of Thoughts...about stealing thunder, mocking subtitles and basically all things unnecessary!


Ok, so this isn't going to be your typical (or at least my typical) Fistful of Thoughts.  I skipped last week in favor of announcing my Fistful of Moments blogathon, and will probably be skipping next week when I post the recap post filled with all those amazing links (you guys are outdoing yourselves, and I'm so happy about it!), so I really wanted to get one of these to you today.  The problem is that work is REALLY busy and I am finding myself working on posts for days on end because I have no time to get anything done, and I have posts that need to be wrapped and done for tomorrow, Wednesday and Thursday...and I'm still working on them!

BUT, I have been thinking about something lately and I really wanted to talk with you guys about it.  We talk about remakes a lot, not necessarily here, but as a cinephile community we can't help but talk about it because every year we are bombarded by remakes and sequels and remakes of sequels (oh god, have we gotten those yet, because they'll be coming I'm sure) and so it's a topic of conversation.




But I've been thinking more specifically, how are we feeling about this current trend of taking a well received foreign film and rushing to give it an American remake?  It's kind of ironic that I just posted my review for Force Majeure because I heard over the weekend that they are planning an American remake of the film, with Julia Louis-Dreyfus in talks no less!  First, that casting is kind of awful, and anyone who has seen the film would probably agree with me, but why is this happening at all?  Are we as Americans being told that subtitles are not good enough for us?  I just can't understand this idea or this need.  I remember back in 2012 when Harvey Weinstein purchased the distribution rights for The Intouchables and he immediately announced that he was pushing to have it remade in English, which almost gave this impression that we should wait, not even bother seeing this movie that was receiving so much critical attention, because we'd be getting one we didn't have to read very soon (in fact, Kevin Hart and Colin Firth are set to star...and I'm speechless).  They did with with Let the Right One In and most famously with The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, and so I ask...why?  Even Michael Haneke pointlessly remade his own film, Funny Games, altering nothing, with an American cast.  It would be different if these films were decades old, but most of these critically acclaimed foreign films are being remade in English within a few years time, some the following year!

Why aren't we remaking classic foreign films?  Why are we so stuck in the immediate present?

And I know that some of these remakes work.  In fact, I personally think that Fincher's version of Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is even better than the Swedish version, but it wasn't necessary, and even I (as a fan) can admit that.

And then we have this other issue of Martin Scorsese circling the idea of filming Macbeth.  I don't like this.  As we are well aware, we are already getting a film version of Macbeth this year, from Australian director Justin Kurzel, starring Marion Cotillard and Michael Fassbender.  I find something almost offensive about Scorsese, this HUGE director, coming out with this news before Kurzel's film is even seen.  It almost comes across like "don't worry that this nobody is trying his hand at this classic, for I'll be there to save the day soon" and I find that kind of irritating.  Why can't we just see how Kurzel's film comes off first?  Why can't we just allow Kurzel to have his moment (Snowtown Murders was a very well made film bursting with potential)?

Why do we need two Macbeth's so close together?


So, what are your thoughts?  Do you think that foreign films are beneath American audiences?  Instead of American studios and American directors grasping at foreign ideas in an attempt to make them their own, shouldn't they be helping to promote those foreign films to American audiences?  Shouldn't we be urged to expand our cinematic horizons?  Why do I have to drive over an hour to find a theater that will show a foreign film on one of their screens for a week's time?  Why can't my local theater carry it...or is it because we'll have the American version soon enough, so why bother?

Do you think that we need more than one version of these stories, and so closely together at that?  

Do you think that bigger name directors should allow these new directors, these fresh voices, their time to shine?  Instead of snagging the spotlight, shouldn't directors like Scorsese be supporting the likes of Kurzel?

End rant.

Also...

Here's What I'll Be Reading Today:

Jenna & Allie review Lets Be Cops
Wendell reviews Jimi: All is By My Side
Rhys reviews Frozen Fever
Jay reviews Mother and Child
Katy reviews Before Sunset
Paskalis reviews Birdman
Irene reviews What Maisie Knew
Shane reviews Cupcakes
John reviews Breathless

34 comments:

  1. No offense to Americans, but it strikes me like many of you simply think what's American is the best. It's like Americans need to make everything their own - so they remake foreign TV shows and movies. When it comes to movies it's actually less of an offense than TV shows - the idea to remake Luther is just preposterous, also remaking English stuff to make it American is probably the dumbest thing, isn't it? It's the same fucking language for God's sake. I much much much preferred Dragon Tattoo and Let me In to originals, but the trend of taking a popular foreign movie and remaking it in America really makes American filmmakers seem kinda petty.

    As for Macbeth, I don't why you assign malicious intent to Scorsese? Maybe he just always wanted to make this film, regardless, I don't think it will happen, he always has tons of projects and most of them don't see the light of day.

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    1. What you said about Americans is true...and sad.

      As for Scorsese, I didn't mean to actually assign any malicious intent, for I don't believe there is any, but the timing is just bad and it would have been nicer to have let this information (it was actually Branagh that hinted at it) wait until Kurzel's film was released. Scorsese's name garners so much attention that an announcement like this could overshadow and even cause some to not bother to see Kurzel's film, and that is a shame.

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    2. Well to be honest they really are dropping the ball on Macbeth - no trailers, very little promo stuff. i see no reason why anyone should keep quiet here, it's not like he is saying this a month before premiere

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    3. Fair enough, but I still don't like it :-P

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  2. It's a really interesting topic! As a casual film-watcher, I admittedly steered clear of foreign films, I didn't get the appeal of concentrating on reading subtitles for just under two hours. I mean, if I wanted to read, I'd pick up a book!
    However, since starting to blog and expanding my horizon, I saw my first ever foreign movie not too long ago and thought it was amazing, and I'm much more open to watching more now.
    - Allie

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    1. I love American films...but foreign films are, more often than not, much better.

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  3. I am an American and can admit that our collective ego is simply massive. What Sati says about us is true. We feel like everything must be made with us specifically in mind as the target audience. As a whole, we just don't do foreign films. We can't be bothered to "read" a movie. No matter how good a foreign film is, it just doesn't exist to most of us until it's made in English. Take the case of The Intouchables. Solid film that raked in $426 million worldwide. How much of that came from US audiences? $10 million. That means it was a big hit with the arthouse crowd. Sadder than that, this makes it the third highest grossing foreign language film released in the US in the last five years. By and large, we just don't watch them. Studio execs know this so they're not putting their money behind such risky propositions. The $10 mil sounds nice when you realize it played on less than 200 screens nationwide, but is that even enough to cover distribution costs a major studio would incur putting it in theaters across the land? With an American remake, you often get some well-known names involved in a premise that you already know works elsewhere, but know quintuple the appeal due to having it in English. On top of that, many of those griping about it being too soon on the heels of the original will go see the remake just out of curiosity. In other words, as far as Scorcese is concerned he's probably thinking who cares about letting this other guy have "his moment" when no one in this country is going to watch his movie anyway? or at least it won't be seen by enough people to matter. On top of that, we're talking Shakespeare which everyone is constantly taking a stab at.

    I'm actually with you. I don't think we need multiple versions of the same movie, but we're both die hard film buffs out to watch anything and everything that comes out. There aren't enough of us to give the theaters and studios as much profit is needed to make them change the way they do things. No need showing the critically acclaimed foreign flick and have it play to mostly empty auditoriums when you'll at least have them half-full for just about any crappy American action flick.

    Great thought provoking post. And thanks for the link love!

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    1. So much truth and shame (on us, Americans) in that first paragraph. It really does show the size of the American ego that we can't just embrace film from every medium for what it is (amazing) and what it isn't (American).

      And you're so welcome!

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  4. The remaking of foreign films isn't really a new thing, Ingrid Bergman's Hollywood bow in Intermezzo was in a remake of the Swedish version in which she had starred only three years previously, but the American film market is more globally successfully. I can't say if that's right or wrong but it's so ingrained I don't know if it could even be changed now.

    I'm fortunate in that I live relatively close to a major city that has a chain of arthouse theatres so I can see them with ease if I want to but I'm not sure that even if they were more accessible to the general public they would necessarily attend more frequently. These theatres are in the middle of a metropolitan area within easy walking distance and their attendance numbers by and large are not huge so I can't imagine people in the suburbs getting in their cars and making the trek to the multiplex to see something more avante garde. I know a great many of my friends, even the ones who are willing to watch films that might be out of the mainstream, are between resistant to flat out unwilling to watch a film entirely in another language. Most say they go to the movies to relax and having to read as well as watch a film doesn't do it for them.

    As far as Scorsese directing Macbeth, he hasn't signed yet and he frequently looks at projects and then walks away. What surprises me the most about the whole thing is that Kenneth Branagh will be starring but not directing himself and it's a proposed version of a celebrated production he did recently. If Scorsese does undertake it I can't see it making it to the theatre for a couple of years, that is kind of a small window but how often does Hollywood announce competing versions of the same material at the same time and frequently those movies come out even closer together with the first one out of the gate usually making out best.

    Speaking of remakes the most horrifying one I heard of lately is the entirely awful proposal of a new A Star is Born with Bradley Cooper both starring and first time directing and Beyonce in the lead. Egads!!! There are so many things wrong with the idea it boggles the mind.

    First of all a big budget musical is no starter kit to learn how to direct a movie for crying out loud. Cooper should be attempting a small personal drama to get the feel of the process, musicals are a tough genre that defeat even some of the best directors.

    The canvas of Star is so much about its two main characters that if you get that wrong the whole thing will collapse and Cooper is wrong, wrong, wrong for Norman Maine. I like him as an actor but he's too young and his brand of charm is more puppy doggish(is that even a word?). Norman requires a bruised world weariness and bit of wear around the edges, someone like Brad Pitt or Javier Bardem. Then there is Beyonce, ugh!, she's pretty and sings well though I've never been knocked out by her and Esther is suppose to be a wonder of the age giving off that little jolt of pleasure that denotes an immense talent...she's not that. Then there's her acting which is at best pleasant but Esther is a complex role requiring some heavy dramatics, I just can't see her succeeding in it especially with a first time director. Most dreadful of all though is that they plan on using the Streisand version as their template!! I love Babs but that version is soooo bad, coarsening all the delicate beauty of the story into a foul mouthed bore, it even blew the ending!! I weep.

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    1. Like I said, I'm not really calling for a cease and desist with regards to remakes for foreign films, but can we at least let some time go by first?

      I hope that that Star is Born remake remains lost in the shuffle because that sounds horrendous. DiCaprio was attached or at least in talks for a while, but the whole 'Beyonce' casting is just wrong...so wrong. This isn't 'The Bodyguard', although you know that's what they want to make it.

      Hopefully it is one of those films that is always lingering in the background but never actually gets made.

      Oh, what could have been :-P

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  5. I can't stand Hollywood remaking Euro/Asian films, basically making 'em the Caucasian version of most of them. I mean, there are exceptions of good remakes but a lot of them are so unnecessary and pointless. A lot of nuances get lost in the Americanized version of things.

    As for Scorsese's Macbeth, I read that it's still a long ways away, as both Scorsese and Kenneth Branagh (who's probably gonna be writing and possibly acting in it?) are both very busy in the next year or so. So I think we won't see THIS Macbeth for another 2-3 yrs at the earliest. I hear your quibble though, I don't know why Hollywood likes to do multiple films in the same theme so close together. A few years ago we've got the same White-House-under-attack movie in the same year!

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    1. I love the point you make about the nuances being lost. You're so right! When these films are made overseas, there are a lot of political and societal aspects that play heavily into how richly they are fleshed out, and all too often (unless the story is told exactly the same, just in English) those touches are lost in translation since they don't apply here in America.

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  6. Good point!!! I'm guessing all the execs in Hollywood lack the imagination to go back and watch those classics. You'd think if they worked in the film industry they'd be more interested in the classics than contemporary films of any kind. You can learn a LOT from those early films.

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    1. Yes, I'd love for this to become a thing and replace that new thing of remaking last year's foreign breakout film (or rebooting yet another superhero franchise).

      Like, let someone remake Breathless by Godard!

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    2. Well, that wouldn't be too hard. You could probably put Michael Bay on that and it would still be better than Godard's version.

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    3. LOL, I made that comment with you specifically in mind and was hoping you'd see it ;-)

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  7. I'm not a fan of foreign remakes either. It's just lazy. Though Julia-Louis Dreyfus is an amazing actress. I'm not sure if she is up to the task for a remake of Force Majeure. Colin Firth in a film with.... Kevin Hart? Fuck off! I ain't seeing that shit. I hate that midget. He's not funny.

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    1. I like Julia-Louis Dreyfus...but she seems like an awfully odd fit for this particular story/film.

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  8. To be fair, Hollywood remaking movies is hardly anything new, and nowhere near as recent a development as people make it out to be. As long as there have been studios, there have been remakes, some of them critically acclaimed (The Maltese Falcon, an icon of film noir and widely considered a gem of the Studio Era, was actually a remake of another film released in 1931). Remakes can go wrong very easily, but the ones that work show precisely why some people do them. I'd say the most successful remakes are often the ones that, rather than simply retelling the original story with new actors, aren't afraid to try new things with the material. Both versions of True Grit tell basically the same story, but approach it in radically different ways, as can be seen just by looking at Mattie Ross (compare Kim Darby's more human interpretation of Mattie as a tough but inexperienced young woman to Hailee Steinfeld's interpretation of her as a terminator-like killing machine).

    As for transnational remakes, that's a tricky subject altogether. I haven't actually seen the remake of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, so I can't comment on its status as a movie, but at the same time I have always derided its redundancy. A lot of people say that version was actually pretty good but the only reason it got made was because Hollywood didn't like the fact that a Swedish film was getting a lot of attention on American soil. Granted, it didn't work out so well the last time that happened with I Am Curious (Yellow), but... yeah... there isn't much of a comparison to be made there. Of course, that said transnational remakes can be good, but I guess it's a question of what the remake adds to it. Is it just the same movie with American actors or do they actually try to find something different do with it.

    Also, thanks for the mention. I'm a bit surprised you'd want to read my article on Breathless how much you love the director and my own feelings about his work are legendary among film bloggers (and around my university campus). I figured you'd be able to work out pretty easily what my position is on that film.

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    1. Oh, I know it's nothing new. Remakes were always a part of cinema and will always be a part, but I just wish that studios would be less concerned with remaking successes and be more concerned with maybe taking a great idea that was poorly executed and actually making it a success.

      And leave foreign films, at least the recent ones, alone.

      And you know how I feel about opinions from fellow bloggers. Even if we don't agree, I am happy to see everyone's opinion on film because it is opinions that make the world go round.

      That, and you are a great writer, so I'm always pleased to read your work.

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  9. It's funny that you bring this up because my hubby and I are getting sick of all the remakes. My hubby says that the Americans have no more imagination so they are ripping off the foreign films and I might have to agree with him. I actually think the executroids who think this all up are dummying up the average North American. Granted there are many North Americans who would not even look at a foreign film never mind paying to go and see it. It's sad actually because normally the American version is not as good. I love Martin Scorsese since he is a major player in film restoration and is a true lover of film but to redo MacBeth...I am picturing De Niro and his usual gang playing it up, not in a good way, and seeing tons of up close blood and slayings. They have always remade pictures like The Maltese Falcon, Sadie Thompson and Of Human Bondage (used these older films) but these older films still seemed more original than the films being made today. I love the original "The Day The Earth Stood Still" but I can't even look at the remake because Keanu Reeves is in it and they made a big love scene which just makes me shake my head. Your questions are valid but, in the end, the all might dollar is what drives this industry. The old studio bosses loved the dollar but they also loved making movies. These numnuts in charge only look at the buck

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    1. "but they also loved making movies"

      This is what is missing today!

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    2. That is so true and it is missing today so the films suffer. There was such a range of film genres back in the day which we sorely lack now

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    3. How many raunchy comedies and cheap horror movies do we need?

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  10. I have a long-standing pet peeve about unnecessary foreign remakes. My theory is that Americans are too lazy to read subtitles. :-P

    Thanks for the link!

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    1. I always get kind of pissed off when someone, even a friend, tells me that they don't like foreign films because they don't want to read a movie. To me, this is just offensive.

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  11. I'm not a fan of American remakes at all. It's like they think Americans are too dumb to read subtitles, and that always bothered me. Not all remakes are bad, and the ones that are at least bring attention to their foreign counterparts and that helps more people check them out. I'd rather see foreign films get bigger theatrical releases here so maybe the stigma of "reading movies" will die down. I have a lot of friends that feel that way about subtitles, but when I forced so many to watch Pan's Labyrinth, they got over it. It can be done!

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    1. My wife is anti-subtitles too, which irritates me, but my daughter loves them. She just feels the movie, which is really what you need in order to be a true cinephile. A real lover of film will never scoff at subtitles!

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  12. I was just watching a great interview with Scorsese and Coppola where both were talking about what you are discussing here. With the American public feeling agitated at having to read when watching a movie. As Wendell was saying, our collective ego is massive. Yet, at the same time, it makes everything seem so much smaller than it really is. There are so many cultural experiences out there that can be translated through film. Why just stick to American films? Why not broaden your horizons? It's really a shame hearing this reductive view of cinema. It is capable of so much more and affecting you in ways that some American films could never affect you. Americans are just not willing to let it.

    As for Scorsese, his work with the World Cinema Foundation, his championing new talent, are all highly admirable. I think Sati and John Hitchcock are on point in saying many of Marty's projects never see the light of day. The Dean Martin biopic. The Sinatra biopic. etc.

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    1. So much yes all over that first paragraph!

      And as for Scorsese, like I said, I wasn't really attacking him as much as the perception received or the damage that can come from his hands in that pot. He is such an advocate for film restoration and really the preservation of cinema in all it's forms that you can't knock him or really single him out as a deliberate antagonist in this cause, but the timing is ill and even without his intention, damage can be done.

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  13. Ugh. I just can't with all of these foreign remakes. (Though, speaking of Scorsese, The Departed is a fantastic remake.) Is it really so hard to read a 2-hour movie?

    I'm actually kind of excited about the Macbeth news. Kenneth Branagh revealed it, so I don't see it as Scorsese taking Kurzel's spotlight. Besides, if Silence doesn't come out until next year, Scorsese's version might not be out until at least 2 years after Kurzel's. I'd be very interested to see both versions.

    Foreign film distribution has always been a nightmare. I'm sure theater chains would lose money on most foreign films, so I can see why they don't bother. It sucks for cinephiles, though. I'm always hoping for a compromise from the studios - VOD.

    It's too bad original films are usually considered indie or art-house projects. Remakes are so tiresome.

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    1. RIGHT! Give it time!

      That being said, if someone wants to remake Blue is the Warmest Colour with Scarlett Johansson and Carey Mulligan, I'd be all for it.

      And I'm also all for VOD releases for every movie, ever, since it's so much easier for me than going to the theater :-D

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  14. I'm Romanian but I don't hate remakes. Now consider this, first was a Wizard of Oz film in 1925 and then The Wizard of Oz in 1939. The Maltese Falcon was first made in 1931 and the the remake was made in 1941. Remakes aren't always bad or unnecessary. Like Funny Games U.S. The original was great but the remake was better executed. I mean the acting and the cinematography made the film better. Now I AGREE. The remake of an foreign film is usually unnecessary but I can understand why Fincher made a remake. The original is the exact type of Fincher crime thriller story. Now I hate to say but Let Me In is a shitty remake.
    You know maybe Hollywood should stop remaking stuff because I think the majority of remakes are shitty. You heard about The Secret in Their Eyes remake. Sounds pretty awful to me.

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    1. I don't hate all remakes, but I do find the need to remake something that JUST CAME OUT to be annoying. Foreign films may not be household staples in the US (they should be), but there is growth in their consumption here, and if studios continue to push out American remakes of every foreign film to garner acclaim then we'll have a real hard time just getting US distribution for those films, and that concerns me.

      Thanks for stopping by! I have no desire to see the Secret in Their Eyes remake, as I kind of hated the original.

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