February 15, 2014

"Everything is now based on something else."

An interesting proposition, stated in the abstract, it's proffered as Reason #2 for "Why Hollywood Still Makes [Remakes]."

Has originality become impossible? Is the freshest approach to be up-front and clear that you're copying?

21 comments:

EMD said...

I've pitched a bunch of new ideas to "Hollywood" but inertia is against anything without a built-in recognition or audience.

Patrick O said...

Originality has always been rare. Cultural memory remembers the new.

Jules Aimé said...

Why is originality taken to be important in the first place? Shakespeare's plays were all based on something else.

I'd say the real problem with these movies isn't that they are remakes but that they aren't very good remakes. What this is telling us is that Hollywood can't deliver anymore.

Saint Croix said...

Remakes and sequels are symptoms of Hollywood in-breeding. It's so incredibly difficult for new artists to break into Hollywood. And without new artists, you're not going to have new art. It's like Hapsburgs having sex with Hapsburgs. You end up with Hapsburg Jaw. Or, in the case of Hollywood, A Very Brady Sequel.

Farmer said...

Jules Aimé said...
Why is originality taken to be important in the first place? Shakespeare's plays were all based on something else.


Exactly. Remakes are fine, especially when the original wasn't very good.

People are too obsessed with a desire for originality in their art, and they don't even understand what it means. Originality isn't doing something that's never done before. It's doing what's been done before, but in a way that only that particular artist can do it. It requires an allegiance to one's own perspective, not an entirely unique story. Between Homer and Aeschylus and that gang, the Gospel writers, and Shakespeare, all the stories we can tell have been told. Now it's just a matter of how well you can tell them.

William said...

I'd like to see a remake of The Bonfire of the Vanities not because the first one was so good but because it whiffed so completely. They could probably make a good movie of that book. I'm sure that someday someone will make a good movie out of The Great Gatsby. The mportant thing is to keep trying.

Edmund said...

Most Hollywood films have gotten so expensive that the studios need some kind of a security blanket to cling to. Remakes are the current security blanket. Adaptations of books or short stories have always been done - you can have a presold audience. (And as Jules pointed out, much of Shakespeare is based on other works.)

That said, there are still some studios that will greenlight smaller, less expensive original films.

Of the Oscar best picture nominees this year:
0 - based on fiction from another medium
3 - original (Gravity, Her, Nebraska)
6 - based on news story/real life (American Hustle, Captain Phillips, Dallas Buyers Club, Philomena, Twelve Years a Slave, Wolf of Wall Street)

Hagar said...

What was originally written as sort of a theater play with stage actors is not going to be improved by making it look "more real."

rhhardin said...

Morality is based on originality.

J Lee said...

As the cost for making a normal mass-market movie has gone up, the studios want to eliminate the risk factor as much as possible. That tends to drop the original stories down to the independent/art house level (though the major studios have in the past 10-15 years created their own art-house labels to deal with the situation).

However, if you can come up with an original story that can hit 1-2 of the currently trendy issues within the filmmaking hierarchy, you can still get more money and a big promotional budget. But those movies also tend to tank at the box office, because they focus on what Hollywood wants to make, not what the public wants to watch (see every anti-Iraq war movie with big-salaried stars during Bush's second term for an example). That leading the same studio heads to rely even more on remakes or already-popular secondary sources, where they know there's a connection to a larger pool of ticket buyers.

LarryK said...

Simon Reynolds wrote a whole book on this topic, called "Retromania: Pop Culture's Addiction to its Own Past"

http://www.amazon.com/Retromania-Pop-Cultures-Addiction-Past/dp/0865479941

I can't begin to summarize it, it's dense and not an easy read, and it's almost completely about music rather than 'culture' - but it is fascinating

Richard Dolan said...

An interesting proposition? Only if you find nearly meaningless pablum interesting.

At its core this little dictum about 'everything now being based on something else' plays off an incoherent notion of originality. Have you noticed that everything anyone says or writes uses language as a given? Even fresh formulations only make sense against a backdrop of accepted meanings for the words in play. And it's been a truism for centuries that the pictorial and plastic arts are a long conversation over time using and reusing the same forms and structures. So what's different now?

An original statement, artwork or anything has always been based on something else. Such originals only have meaning and are susceptible to being understood because they take for granted that vast 'something else' that creates the context and associations which allow us to find a spark of originality in them.

mccullough said...

Remaking Total Recall and Robocop seems dumb.

St. George said...

The Maltese Falcon that everyone knows starring Bogart was a remake.

Casablanca was an adaptation of a play.

The 1939 Wizard of Oz was the fourth filming of the book.

Et cetera

and

et cetera

Sam L. said...

I blame the end of the studio system and their associate theaters. Lots of movies required lots of actors and all kinds of technical support to fill those theatres. Actors and technicians had time to learn their jobs, or get fired. Now, every movie is a crap shoot.

Howard said...

If you want to watch something that has the veneer of originality and has a quasi-literary style, try cable/internet television. Independent film is drying up, although the Brits manage to cough up a picture or two that my controlling wife will let me see after I've cleaned the bathrooms and scrubbed the floors.

Big MegaConglomoCorp Hollywood works on the blockbuster model and the executives make all the greenlight decisions. It seems to work for them and it is a free market, after all. Those damn leftists are sneaky that way. They want communism for teabaggers, dirtbags and the gay while they buy lazy-faire capitalism for themselves from congress.

Eric said...

Most Hollywood films have gotten so expensive that the studios need some kind of a security blanket to cling to. Remakes are the current security blanket.

It's a false sense of security, though, if that's what everyone is doing.

tim maguire said...

I think that's an excellent reason to do away with copyright.

richardsson said...

I wrote several screenplays in the early 80's. I got in the door and got read in several places. In the end, I got some very good advice from both the agents and one of the studios. Write books, I was told. In this business, you don't own anything and nobody wants to pay for it anyway.

The Godfather said...

It's not just Hollywood. In fact, Hollywood is a paradise of originality compared to Broadway. What's playing on the Great White Way? Lion King, Wicked, Phantom of the Opera, Mamma Mia, Les Miserables, Chicago, Caberet, etc., etc., etc. (this is a reminder that at the moment The King And I is not on Broadway).

In 1986, my first wife and I were in London and decided to go to the theatre. We asked the concierge at our hotel what shows we could get tickets for, and one was Phantom Of The Opera. We'd never heard of it, so we got tickets to a drama starring, as I recall, Brian Bedford. When we left the theatre at the end of the show we looked across the street and saw smoke and steam coming out of the theatre across the way. That was the climax of Phantom Of The Opera. That was 28 years ago.

PianoLessons said...

Welcome to Plato folks - this was his whole point....2.400 years ago (or so) LOL