John Ramsey Miller

On my mind.
Films this week.

I have eagerly anticipated the Cohen Brothers’ remake of TRUE GRIT. Maybe I’ll see it this weekend in the majamboplex, but more likely when it comes out from Netflix. I’m sure I’ll like it better than the John Wayne version. I sustained brain damage from being exposed to Glenn Campbell’s acting in the original. I think Matt Damon will do some better in Glenn’s role. And there was the fact that Kim Darby played a girl half her age. I know the Cohen Brothers’ version will be in all ways superior, because (face it) John Wayne played pretty much John Wayne in every single movie he ever made. In every Western the Duke even wore the same Colt single action Army with the yellowed ivory grips, the same hat and vest and probably the same boots and socks. Don’t get me wrong, I liked everything about John Wayne and I’ve seen every movie he ever made.

John Wayne was an icon in an age when men were actually men and the only feelings they admitted to were horny, hunger and thirst. He was not an actor with a great deal of range. Can you see him playing the femiguy doing the John Wayne walk in Le Cage Aux folles? But I digress. Charles Portis wrote TRUE GRIT and it appears to be in and out of print. Great book by the way. I suspect whoever has the rights to publish it now will run off a few copies for those who didn’t read it originally––like 99.9 percent of American readers. I see they released it on Kindle in November of 2010. Duke won an Academy Award and a Golden Globe for playing Rooster Cogburn. Had it not been for the new film, I doubt they would have rereleased it. Portis has written other books including NORWOOD and GRINGO. The latter is a slurish title that is blatantly offensive to WASPS may have to be re-released under a softer title, like THE WHITE ANGLO-SAXON PROBABLY PROTESTANT FROM NORTH OF THE US BORDER WITH MEXICO.

Back to the point. Here’s the thing. Duke purists hate the fact that anybody would dare remake TRUE GRIT since HE was in it and got that Academy Award for it. That is actually more because they were to a man afraid that Glenn Campbell might return to reprise his role.

Normally I hate film remakes because I think that, while it is not often the remake is better than the original, remakes are already a property the studio doesn’t have to pay for, there’s already a script to go by, and the film was almost certainly successful. Remakes of foreign films into American films are another pet peeve of mine, although I would rather see a film without subtitles or a good dubbing. I think Hollywood takes the easy (and most profitable) path when they can. Imagination is so draining and threatening to the non-imagining types who think they are. And a new film has no track record.

Last week John Gilstrap blogged about the Huck Finn edition that loses the “N” word in. I thought about that one a great deal, and I can see clearly the Twain teacher guy’s point and John’s as well. What I wondered was if the scholar guy gets royalties from the cleansed version, since he’s taken a work that clearly in the public domain and altered it using find and replace on his computer. I seem to recall that Faulkner’s family actually published some of Bill’s books in their original/ original form (before editing at Random House) so the family could start the clock over again. But again, I digress…

I have been spending a lot of time with my four-year-old grandson (we’re best pals because we have a common enemy) and he insists we watch all three Jurassic Park movies every time he is here and not necessarily in the proper order. After I realized I could go line for line with the actors (including the grunts and squeals of the Velosciaptors). I ordered all three Toy Story DVDs and they came on a slow ship from Hong Kong. I got those today, and I’m going to buy a variety of childrens films else I will sour on Buzz Lightyear and Woody.

Last week, Rushie and I watched Ron Howard’s “How The Grinch stole Christmas” Forget changing two words in Huck Finn. Ron Howard expanded the book well beyond anything Dr. Seuss imagined. I understand the author’s wife liked the movie script. I’m sure she didn’t mind the money either. Howard invented subplots, added characters and dialog. What would Theodore Seuss Geisel have thought about the final films? I thought the movie sucked lemons through a bird’s nostril. I discovered that Grinch was voted Worst Christmas Movie Of All Time and was also a financial flop. Jim Carey and one child actor almost saved the film from being totally embarrassing. All I saw of Cary were his yellow and red eyes––all of Mr. Carey to be seen that was not latex and green.

Is it so wrong to remake a classic? If it works and exposes a new generation to movies they wouldn’t normally see, especially old films in black and white. How about we remake “To Kill A Mockingbird, with either George Clooney or Tom Hanks as Atticus Finch, Denzel Washington as Tom Robinson, Billy Bob Thornton as Boo Radley. How about Scout, Jim, Dill? Give me some child actor’s names.

Who would you cast in a remake of Casablanca, Jaws, Lawrence Of Arabia, The Ten Commandments?” Pick your favorite film that shalt not be touched and give me the cast.

12 thoughts on “GRIT IT BABY!

  1. I loathe remakes and I refuse to watch them.

    For me, what makes a movie or a television show is the original actors that brought it to life (that’s why I can’t watch anything but the original Star Trek, no matter how many reincarnations the franchise goes through). When the magic’s done, it’s done. Don’t try to recreate it, because it won’t happen. Period.

    Not that I feel very strongly about that or anything. 😎

  2. The Ten Commandments, which itself was a remake, has been remade in at least two or three versions as mini series. While none of them approach the Charleton Heston version, at least I enjoyed Burt Lancaster as Moses in one of them.

    I thought Peter Jackson did a great job with his remake of King Kong. I love that film and have all three versions on DVD.

    When I heard they were going to remake True Grit, I cringed, for all the reasons you mentioned. But I did see it and it was wonderful.

    I don’t mind remakes, and if I enjoyed the original, I go see the remake. Few are superior, but all of them are just different.

    It’s like books that are made into movies. I heard Lawrence Block at a book signing once say that the film Burgular, with Whoopie Goldberg, didn’t bother him in the least. His original book was still available to read as he wrote it any time.

    I can watch the Duke as Rooster Cogburn any time, and also enjoy Jeff Bridges’ wonderful take on the character.

    Which is good, since he owes much penitence for the second version of King Kong!

  3. Bite your tongue, Miller! The day “they” remake Jaws will be a sad day indeed. My two favorite movies are Halloween and Jaws. Before you all laugh at Halloween, I encourage you to go back and watch the original. This was the movie that gave birth to the slasher film, however, there’s hardly a drop of blood in the first film. The suspense is built via Hitchcock with music and imagination. Sometimes what you don’t see is scarier than what you do.

    When Rob Zombie remade Halloween I was scared. It turned out to be a totally different version (VERY dark) of the original and more along the lines of a throw-away slasher flick/snuff film. You can’t mess with such a powerful original. Halloween introduced a new genre. Jaws introduced the summer blockbuster. Movies like that cannot and should not be remade. I wouldn’t put True Grit in that arena. I’m looking forward to the new version. We’ll see.

  4. for remakes, i think of ‘LITTLE WOMEN’….the first in ’33 with hepburn….the next in ’49 with taylor….and then the 3rd remake with sarandon and ryder. i do like the first two, and not so fond of the 3rd. actually, i think sequels are much more annoying than remakes. take GWTW and the sequel, SCARLET. that Hollywood board meeting should have gone….”ok, who will play clark gable’s role?”. that should have ended the conversation right there, right now! and that embarassment of a book and movie would have died a rightful death. IMHO, anyway. [you know, the art is subjective thing]

  5. I think what makes a remake work depends on who does the remaking. If it’s for money, it will almost always be a flop. If for love of the original, then it more-often-than-not will be good if not great.

    Generally, most remakes are for money at some level and thus most are also inferior to the original. Thus, I tend to avoid them having been burned before.

    And the Ron Howard ‘Grinch’ really was awful. I can’t think of another remake that was worse at the moment.

  6. John, if they can remake POLICE ACADEMY (upcoming), SPIDERMAN (upcoming), and HALLOWEEN II (released in 2009) , then they can remake anything. You know that when they start remaking sequels, the well is running very dry.

  7. Lawrence of Arabia is a true epic and I can not imagine anyone trying to reprise Peter O’toole’s singular performance.

    Your query reminded me of a little film that i believe would be appreciated by many who have never heard of it. I don’t think it was a big money maker but is one that would be appreciated by modern audiences.PG rated I would guess.

    “Breaking Away” is a funny, touching film. A feel good film but not syrupy. Very much overlooked imo. Consider hecking it out if you’ve never seen it.

  8. I have seen Breaking Away probably six or seven times. Truly a great one, and probably best not remade. I don’t know how anybody could top Dennis Christopher’s performance or Paul Dooley as his father. Plus I seem to remember Dennis Quaid being in it.

  9. The new True Grit movie is not a remake of the original movie, it’s a remake from the book. While a few of the same scenes were in it, I did not feel as though I was watching a remake and enjoyed it very much.

  10. I heard a while back that a studio was considering a remake of Red Dawn from the eighties. I’m torn, that movie helped me decide to join the Marines & defend against the coming red tide way back when. I’d be afraid that in the wrong hands it’d be reverse politicized and come across badly.

    Another movie I’d like to see redone is “All’s Quiet on the Western Front.” I’ve read the book, saw the original and the 1979 remake, but think it would be a very good remake if done by Hanks & Spielberg.

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