Fireside Chat #13 (Spring ’06)


You know who says that movies today aren’t what they used to be? Old people. But you and I not to trust a generation that judges a film’s worth based how easy it is to fall asleep to and how often the protagonist calls his mother.

Movies are better than they’ve ever been—that’s a fact. The action is more intense, the jokes are edgier and the stars are sexier. And now the excuse to see any movie made before 1986 has been stamped out with one word: the remake.

In the last year we’ve seen incredible reincarnations of “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,” “King Kong,” and most notably, “Bad News Bears,” all of which have been light years ahead of their predecessors.

After all, The Golden Rule of Remakes is this: “Any film that is remade will be better than the original.” If the remake wasn’t an improvement, what would be the point of it?

It’s not the stars’ faults that old films are so terrible. Sure the actors don’t look as good, but it just wasn’t possible. Back in Marilyn Monroe’s days, cosmetic surgery hadn’t even been invented yet, nor had bulimia.

And it’s not the screenwriter’s faults. Plenty of fine scripts were being churned out before 1986, like the screenplays for “Ben Hur” and “Bloodsport,” but often these scripts called for the kind of jaw-dropping action sequences that did not yet exist. Did you know that the original script for “Casablanca” called for a final showdown between Humphrey Bogart and a team of CGI Nazi robots? They had to do a rewrite when the director asked what CGI was.

Not that I’ve seen “Casablanca.” No, I adhere to The Silver Rule of Remakes, which is, “Any film worth seeing will be remade.

This isn’t as difficult as you would think. Even supposed classics like “The Godfather” have been alluded to and satirized by the likes of “The Sopranos” and “Shark Tale.” Until Tim Burton puts his own dark spin on the series, I can get the “best of” quotes from other sources.

If the fault for the poor quality of old movies lies with anyone, it’s with the inventors who didn’t come up with the technology fast enough. Thomas Edison, I’m looking in your direction.

But I’m not here to point fingers at the dead. All I can say is thank goodness for George Lucas. Every time I get bored as I watch “Star Wars: Special Edition” because Yoda is on some Buddhist rant about clearing your head of distraction, the film cuts to a scene of spaceships blowing each other up and my interest is renewed. Then, when making the new trilogy, Lucas was smart enough to make his characters so stoic and unrelatable that there was nothing to distract audiences from the bowel-dropping action sequences.

Despite all the insurmountable evidence, still there are those who claim to prefer the original films. These snooty naysayers can be characterized by their thick-rimmed glasses, unnaturally black hair and, when questioned about any musician, writer or comedian, their tendency to say, “I prefer their early work.” 

We have a term for them: Old people in training.

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