Friday, June 30, 2017

Now Playing

The remake of The Beguiled looked lush and mysterious. I like the actors in the film. However, I am unlikely to see it in the theater. I saw the original with Clint Eastwood in the role of the wounded Yankee soldier. Although it would be an interesting exercise to read the novel -- which I never got around to doing -- and then see the remake, I'm sure I won't. I'll wait to watch this version one winter evening while curled up on the sofa.

I love movies, but these days -- with limited time -- when I go to the theater to see a movie, I want a film that won't play as well on my television at home. Last weekend, a couple of friends and I saw Wonder Woman.
Special effects like that require a big screen.  And there are some movies that simply deserve to be experienced in the theater because they are quiet and thoughtful.

But getting back to remakes -- I don't think I would ever go to see a remake of To Kill a Mockingbird. I regretted seeing the remake of Psycho. But this in not to say either couldn't be done well. I'm just protective of movies I love. That list includes Double Indemnity.

On the other hand, there is Scarface. I have the fascinating experience of introducing undergrads in my Crime and Mass Media course to classic crime films. When I say Scarface, they say "Al Pacino". They are always surprised to learn that there was a 1932 film. First, we watch clips from the 1932 version, set during Prohibition. Then we turn to the 1983 film set during the Mariel boatlift.  The city is now Miami, not Chicago. Cocaine fuels Tony's rise to the top. The Hollywood Production Code has been replaced by the movie rating system, and the movie is hyper-violent.

Or, Cape Fear -- based on a John D. MacDonald novel -- first version starring Gregory Peck as a lawyer whose family is under siege by Robert Mitchum, one of the scariest actors around. Then the remark with Nick Nolte in the role of the attorney, but now with a dysfunctional family, a wife with whom he is in conflict, an adolescent daughter who is easy prey for Robert De Niro. Gregory Peck manages to defeat his enemy without killing him. Nolte, on the other hand, has to kill De Niro, who for a moment seems to be as hard to stop as a slasher in a serial killer movie. Remember that scene in Fatal Attraction, when Glenn Close pops back up in the bathtub?

I think remakes are worth seeing when the filmmaker goes in a different direction and offers commentary for a new audience. But I am bothered by the fact that modern audiences may have less context for movie watching than theater audiences used to bring to the experience. Of course, movies are intended to be fun. But they do also offer a window into our society. And we may misinterpret if we don't know what came before.

I'm looking forward to losing myself in a few more movies before school begins again. And I'm going to be spending some quality time with TCM.

Any thoughts about remakes? What summer movies on your "must see" list?

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