Thursday, January 20, 2011

Hopeless Pawns - Why Bad Remakes Happen

So the other day I was talking to illustrator, philosopher, and Texan Alex McVey about movies and got on a rant about these goddamn remakes that keep happening. I will try not to go into it here, as frankly it's the same position just about everyone has. No one likes them. My only contribution to that particular argument is that will go off on one of my trademark Gavin rants where I have a palsy attack/stroke in the process. Doesn't really come through in blog form. I do have something more readable to add to the discussion, though. I've identified the source of this problem.

It's the usual suspects, of course, that dynamic duo of Money and the Madness of Crowds.

The Money thing is easy. Most movies these days require lots of financing, given how expensive they are to make. And the banks that do the financing make a lot of demands, like A-list stars ... and one of those demands is often a ready-built market for the movie. So if it already has a brand name toy or game, or comic book associated with it, then great (hence all the damn comic book movies - at least some of them are good). Everyone knows this, kinda, so I didn't just blow your mind there.

See, you can just remake a movie that everyone has already heard of. Boom, instant recognition. You might think this wouldn't work as well. After all, people who liked the original will be pissed off, so a lot of your potential audience is already not interested. And there's not enough loser kids who haven't watched enough good movies out there to make up for them. But here's where the Crowds part comes in.

Every damn conversation I have overheard (I listen to people around me talking all the time) that involves one of these remakes goes like this:

A: "Oh, did you hear, they're remaking Citizen Kane."
B: "No way!"
A: "Yeah."
B: "Wow! That sucks! Why are they doing that? It's going to suck. Why remake a movie that's already so good?"
A: "I don't know, money, I guess."
B: "I hate money."
A: "Yeah."
B: "So you gonna check it out?"
A: "Yeah, probably, you wanna come?"

And ... scene. For the record I just used Citizen Kane as the ur-example of a movie that it would be wrong to remake, that's a real long list and so I just shot for the top. I don't know if there is a project in the works or not, I'm pretty sure there isn't. But I wouldn't put it past 'em.

Anyway, that's the problem right there, America. You all bitch about these movie remakes -and then you go see them "to see how it turned out". Way to go, dumbasses. This is like me telling you I'm going to hit your sister and you'll have to pay me fifteen bucks to see it happen, and then you do to make sure she's okay. The trick here is, don't go see the goddamn movie.

This is one thing the shiny new generation out there running around today doesn't understand quite yet, I guess because they haven't been running around long enough. They keep talking about things like "crowdsourcing" and using Google to do things like suggest searches for them based on what other people have looked for, and that's all great to a point. If you're looking for something that's already really popular, or researching a problem a lot of other people have had, things like that are great, because you can get right to what you want.

But the reason this concept was untapped for so long is that, in general, Crowds are dumb, not smart. The only reason they can appear "smart" is because at times their momentum becomes so powerful that the only way to act rationally is to be irrational.

Imagine you're caught in a stampeding crowd. The rational thing to do is to proceed calmly to the exit - but everyone else around you is racing towards it! The only thing to do is to be totally irrational and join in the race just to keep from getting trampled. This is what I'm talking about.

I see this happen all the time, though nerds are the worst at it. They will bitch and moan about something, like, just as an example, the recent trend of motion gaming. Then they go out and get one because all their friends want to drink tequila and dance to bad music from after I stopped caring about new music (for the record, about the time that songs "featuring so-and-so" became really popular instead of just an occasional thing, and the whole "X vs. Y" thing I still don't get started happening). It can start to make you feel like it's pointless to fight the Universe, that there is no such thing as free will, that we are all hopeless pawns of destiny.

So, in conclusion to this thought, fuck the Coen Brothers and their remake of True Grit. Their movies are overrated and they have now crossed the line. Oh, and for the record? I'm not seeing it.

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