The movie remake is a time-honoured Hollywood tradition, making Hollywood the only place on earth where people get paid to plagiarise. Like the biopic, the remake is a hit and miss genre of film. Movies get made from plays, books, comic books, video games and even other movies (remember Gus Van Sant’s shot for shot remake of Psycho?) . It seems the screen writer can steal ideas from anywhere as long as the studio pays enough for the rights to the story and characters. It’s not enough to remake an idea once, either. Just look at Shakespeare, who, along with Dickens, is one of the most stolen from writers on the planet. The story of Romeo and Juliet has been told 13 times since 1900 is various movies, and that’s not including movies that don’t use the title Romeo and Juliet, but still “borrow” the storyline.
One of the latest incarnations of the Romeo and Juliet story
I mentioned Dickens as well because A Christmas Carol has been filmed 14 times (again, not including the times that it has been told under a different name) starring a wide variety of Scrooges from Jim Carrey and Bill Murray to George C. Scott and even Susan Lucci.
Susan Lucci as a female Scrooge
It’s not just classics that are remade either. Lately Hollywood has been dipping into the 1980’s to remake movies that can still be seen on cable, like Fame, Footloose and Red Dawn in an attempt to lure the nostalgic movie-goer back into the theaters. Nevermind that most people of my generation (okay… younger than me by 5 to 10 years) are too busy with work and kids to bother going to a theater to see a movie and would prefer to send their kids off to one so they can have some quiet time at home.
The “new” Footloose
I am not a fan of the movie remake in general, but as it is a practice that has been going on forever and shows no signs of stopping anytime soon, I would like to offer up a movie that is ripe for a remake. Building on the success of movies that star people from my parents generation (and older) like Diane Keaton, Meryl Streep, Jack Nicholson, Dame Judi Dench and Robert DeNiro because Baby Boomers are going to the movies in droves, I say why not do a remake of Arsenic and Old Lace?
Carey Grant in Arsenic and Old Lace
Originally a hit Broadway play, this movie has only been remade once in 1969 as an ABC movie of the week, so it has not been done to death. I have even taken the liberty of putting together a fantasy cast for the project. Below is the original cast of the main characters for the Frank Capra 1944 version.
The obvious choice here would be Robin Williams as he has already played Teddy Roosevelt in the Night at the Museum movies, but I would like to offer up Anthony Hopkins as an alternative casting choice (he doesn’t do much comedy, but I think this is an untapped talent that he possesses) as “Teddy Roosevelt” Brewster
If Hollywood MUST churn out remake after remake, I say maybe movie-goers should help them along with some creative suggestions of our own.
What would be a movie you would like to see remade and who would star?
I have long been a fan of biographies of famous and infamous people. I read biographical and autobiographical books, love to watch the biography channel and usually enjoy watching biographical movies.The Hollywood biopic is a hit and miss genre. When it’s done well, there’s nothing better, when it’s done poorly there’s nothing worse. While casting is important in all film genres, it is perhaps most important in the case of the biopic. The actor or actress must, not only look quite similar to the original subject, but they must walk alike, talk alike and have their mannerisms down to the smallest detail, so that even the most discerning of fans can be transported for the length of the film into that person’s life. It’s a genre that can make or break an actor’s career. This past weekend I watched two movie biographies, one that was critically lauded and one that was critically panned. In my opinion, they had more similarities than differences. Let’s start with the, made for Lifetime TV movie, Liz and Dick.
Lindsay Lohan and Elizabeth Taylor
I went into this movie expecting it to be a glorious train wreck and I was somewhat disappointed. Oh, it was an awful movie, don’t get me wrong, but I was expecting it to be bad in a much more campy and funny way. While this movie failed on many levels there were things in it that should be praised, like the hair, make up and costumes, the sets, the classic cars. The whole look of the movie was very well done. Theresa Russell, (an actress who, in my opinion never got her due) as Taylor’s mother gave a solid performance. Grant Bowler (of Ugly Betty fame) was fairly good as Richard Burton, although he could have worked a bit harder on the Welsh accent as his natural New Zealand accent won out more often than not. The entire supporting cast really did their best to rise above a terrible script and a truly horrid performance by the lead actress. The script sounded as if it were written by a 10-year-old with lines like “I don’t loathe you, I hate you!”. Now I am not against the telling of the unvarnished truth, warts and all, but this seemed to have been written for the express purpose of sullying the memory of Taylor and Burton. It was all warts… no all. Speaking of the lead actress, Lindsay Lohan didn’t even seem to be trying to portray Elizabeth Taylor as much as she seemed to be trying to connect some of the events in Taylor’s life to her own. Elizabeth Taylor had a high-pitched, almost childlike, feminine voice, Lohan sounded like a ninety year old Jewish woman sending back soup in a deli. To be fair, that is Lindsay’s natural voice, but when you are portraying someone else, you MUST, at least try to, sound like them… especially when you are using the part as a comeback vehicle. Lohan was too skinny, too freckled and too immature for the part. I suspect that the only reason her name was brought up for the role was that she had previously done a pictorial for Interview Magazine where she was done up as Taylor. There is a vast difference between posing like an icon while in the right styling, make up and lighting for a still camera and actually portraying that person for a motion picture camera and Lindsay does not look enough like Elizabeth Taylor to suspend the viewer’s disbelief. I understand that Lifetime is a small budget network known for schlocky movies of the week, and casting Lohan in this role was, in itself, quite the marketing stroke of genius. They knew there would be millions of people (like myself) tuning in just to see her fail and that was something they could sell to advertisers. After all, there’s nothing the public likes better than to see an actress who is already on the decline, make a fool of herself. To Lohan’s credit there was actually one believable moment in the movie. There is a part where Richard Burton is trying to comfort Elizabeth Taylor who is crying after storming out of her 40th birthday party because a couple of the catty guests said she was no longer a movie star. Lohan as Taylor utters the line, “I’m not a star, I’m a joke.” In this moment Lohan actually connected with the truth, perhaps ironically, but it was a moment of truth in an otherwise hopeless performance.
The other biopic I finally got around to watching this weekend was My Week With Marilyn, a film that received two Oscar nominations and a host of other accolades
Michelle Williams and Marilyn Monroe
As a fan of Marilyn Monroe, I went into this film with mixed emotions. I have read almost everything there is to read about her life. I have seen literally all of her films multiple times. I have watched interviews with her, talking about her life and her work. It was going to be difficult for me to be able to suspend my disbelief enough to give Michelle Williams a fair shake. The movie, as a whole, was not terrible. Like Liz and Dick, the attention to detail was very good and the supporting cast rose above a bad script. Dame Judy Dench was perfection as Dame Sybil Thorndike. Julia Ormond absolutely became Vivian Leigh. Dougray Scott was wonderful as Arthur Miller (although his part was small and poorly written). Kenneth Branagh as Sir Lawrence Olivier was transcendent. The script was an amateurish, mean-spirited and one-dimensional portrayal of every character, especially Monroe, but most of the actors were able to bring more to their portrayals than what was on the page. The story could have easily been written by someone who had never even met Marilyn and had just heard the gossip and rumours of her behavior on set (another case of all warts and no all). It came across as the deluded bragging of a young man who thought himself the only person who could understand Marilyn Monroe. That being said, Michelle Williams’ portrayal did nothing to give any real depth to the part, focusing solely on her insecurities, fear of abandonment and need for approval. Another case of bad casting. Now I am not saying that Williams is a bad actress, quite the contrary, I have enjoyed her in many other movies. It is simply that this role was too big for her, both figuratively and literally. Williams, (like Lohan) was too thin for the part… and the opening scene with her dancing in a sheer gown was distracting if only because of the OBVIOUS padding of her hips and bottom. I couldn’t help but think, several times while watching this movie, that HBO would have done a far better job with it. In fact, I would have given this film much more slack if it had been made for TV, but as it was not and as it was so acclaimed, I was more critical of every little detail. Unlike, Lindsay Lohan in Liz and Dick, Michelle Williams did not ever seem to connect with Monroe (even ironically). The whole performance was a pale imitation and a let down.
Tippi Hedren and Sienna Miller
There have been biopic movies that I have thought were well done. Faye Dunaway as Joan Crawford in Mommie Dearest, Sienna Miller as Tippi Hedren in The Girl, Meryl Streep as Margaret Thatcher in Iron Lady, Don Cheadle as Sammy Davis Jr. and Joe Mantegna as Dean Martin in The Rat Pack, Leonardo DiCaprio as J. Edgar Hoover in J. Edgar and Julianne Moore as Sarah Palin in Game Change. With the possible exception of Sienna Miller (it was almost creepy how much she looked like Tippi Hedren), none of these actors looked exactly like the person they were portraying, but they were able to get past the persona to the person inside and transform themselves into those iconic roles.
Today marks the one year anniversary of this blog. Over the past 52 weeks, there have been 118 blog posts on a large number of topics, prompting 556 comments, 161 followers (not including the 1,415 followers on twitter) and 38,055 page views.
I have blogged about many things over the past year from my three-part series on crimes that shouldn’t be crimes,
It’s been a year of ups and downs, like any other. What makes this past year different is that I get to say thank you to everyone who has spent time here for making this year a year of which I can be proud. Yes, proud… proud of every word, every image and every view that this blog has generated.
Today I pat myself on the back, tomorrow it’s back to ranting as usual.
This is my favourite view, from high atop my soap box.
This week gave us a couple of very clever ads. The first seemed to be unintentionally awkward and funny, the second was very expensive and made no sense. I submit that both were very successful in achieving their end goal.
Let’s start with British Gas’ sponsorship of 18-year-old Olympic swimmer Tom Daley.
Perfect placement for maximum exposure if you ask me.
The incredibly clever placement of the British Gas logo had the internet buzzing and giggling. Yes it’s funny in that, insert fart joke here, kind of way and that’s precisely what makes it so clever and ultimately successful. Had the logo appeared only on the jacket of Tom Daley’s warm up suit, no one would be talking about British Gas, but place the logo on the back of his speedo and you have advertising gold. Talk about bang for your buck.
Speaking of bang for your buck, the folks behind the new advertising campaign for Chanel Number 5, a fragrance so iconic it really doesn’t need to advertise anymore, paid Brad Pitt $7,000,000 to stand in front of a backdrop in a studio somewhere for 30 seconds and read the most nonsensical copy that had absolutely nothing to do with the brand.
Seeing as all of the late night talk shows, the entertainment “news” shows and the blogosphere (including this humble little slice of the web) is talking about the puzzling ad, I would say that its money well spent. By creating possibly the worst ad I have ever seen, Chanel has successfully created their most talked about ad campaign in decades.
After all, the goal of advertising is to get as many people talking about your brand as possible. With these kind of outside the box ideas, both British Gas and Chanel have done just that. Though personally I prefer a little more truth with my advertising like the ad slogans from the movie Crazy People.
Today the folks at Yahoo posted their list of the 25 most iconic dresses of all time Like most lists, I agreed with some of the choices and disagreed with others. Many of the dresses they featured don’t meet the criteria that I would use to define iconic. For me, an iconic dress is one that you could see on a mannequin and immediately recognize not only the dress, but know who wore it.
Some of the choices I take issue with are Catherine Deneuve in Belle De Jour (too plain), Barbra Streisand at the 1969 Oscars (it’s not a dress), Olivia Newton-John’s dress from Grease (wouldn’t recognize it outside of the movie), Jennifer Grey’s Dirty Dancing dress (wouldn’t recognize it outside of the movie), Sharon Stone’s Basic Instinct dress (too plain) and Michelle Williams’ Oscar dress (even after seeing it on the list, I didn’t remember it).
I thought I would post my own list of what I think are the 20 most iconic dresses. In no particular order…
Vivien Leigh in a dress made from the curtains in Gone With the Wind
This dress was so iconic that even a spoof of it became iconic.
Carol Burnett in a dress made from the curtains (complete with curtain rod)
Judy Garland as Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz
Jackie Kennedy’s pink Chanel suit and pillbox hat
Marilyn Monroe singing Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend in the movie Gentlemen Prefer Blondes.
Dorothy Lamour in her sarong dress, prompting men everywhere to say her sarong was so right.
Cher in her Bob Mackie designed Half Breed dress. The perfect marriage of designer and muse.
Jean Harlow in a white, silk halter, making the slip dress famous.
Julie Andrews from the opening scene of The Sound of Music.
Rita Hayworth in Gilda.
Twiggy in a Mary Quant A-line mini dress, defining the Mod fashions of the 1960’s.
Elizabeth Hurley in her career launching Versace safety-pin dress.
Cyndi Lauper having fun in the dress that helped make her famous.
Sara Jessica Parker in this stunning Vivienne Westwood wedding gown from the first Sex and the City movie
Julia Roberts winning the Oscar in style.
Perhaps the most iconic dress of all time, Marilyn Monroe’s white, pleated halter dress from the Seven Year Itch.
Tina Turner’s gold fringed Proud Mary mini dress.
Love it or hate it, you will never forget Lady Gaga’s meat dress.
Although she wore more glamorous dresses in the film, this blue satin number from Gypsy on Natalie Wood stood out and defined the character. “Mama, I’m a pretty girl.”
Proving that even men can wear iconic dresses, Dustin Hoffman in Tootsie.
The colour was the only thing close to being Like a Virgin in this dress on Madonna.
And last, but most certainly not least…
Mary Tyler Moore in a green cut-out dress designed by a hooker in, perhaps, one of the funniest episodes of the Mary Tyler Moore Show.
Every single one of these dresses are dresses I would instantly recognize without anyone in them. They were moment defining, which is what makes them iconic to me.
I admit it. Watching the Fashion Police on Friday nights is a guilty pleasure. For me it’s a mindless distraction from all of the things that get me ranting on a daily basis. Last Friday, they put up a photo of the lovely and pale Anne Hathaway, walking down the street in New York, in the sun, holding a pink umbrella.
The photo that started all the fuss.
The cast then proceeded to rip apart her outfit, as is their usual modus operandi. Kelly Osbourne said that she was trying to look like Audrey Hepburn (apparently this is some kind of sin in Kelly’s eyes), George was defending the outfit, saying it was a great daytime ensemble. Then Joan jumped into the fray and said that her umbrella was pretentious. Then Ms. Joan Rivers, a woman who should know all about the importance of caring for your skin, actually said, “It’s just the sun, it can’t kill you.”
As someone who has had melanoma cancer, I beg to differ. I wish I had understood that tanning beds were dangerous when I was in my early twenties, but at that time everyone touted them as being far safer than sun exposure. My aunt died of melanoma cancer from too much actual sun exposure. The sun can kill you. Now I don’t leave the house, even in the dead of winter without sun block and sunglasses. On sunny days I have no issue with carrying an umbrella (hats just make my head sweat). It’s practical. Not only does it keep the UV rays off of my skin, but I stay cooler in my portable shade.
In the case of Anne Hathaway, as she has recently had her hair shorn, it’s a smart move. You can’t put sunscreen on your head (unless you’re bald) and when your hair is very short, scalp burn is a real possibility. I applaud Ms. Hathaway for being smart enough to take care of her skin. While pink is not necessarily my choice in an umbrella colour, it is a cute way of staying cancer free.
The songwriting team of Leiber and Stoller is responsible for launching the careers of some of the most iconic acts in Rock & Roll history. They wrote songs for the Coasters, the Drifters, Ben E. King, the Shangri-La’s and perhaps most famously, Elvis Presley.
Elvis with Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller
With songs like Is That All There Is?, There Goes My Baby, Yakity Yak, Charlie Brown, Stand By Me, Love Potion Number 9, Poison Ivy, Smokey Joe’s Cafe, Jailhouse Rock and Hound Dog, Leiber and Stoller cemented their place in the Song Writers Hall of Fame, the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and in music history.
In 1958, Leiber and Stoller took a chance on a young session guitarist and former member of the Teddy Bears (of, To Know Him is to Love Him, fame) by the name of Phil Spector.
a very young Phil Spector
It was while working as an apprentice with Leiber and Stoller, that Phil Spector learned the art of producing music. Spector was already a song writer and performer, but it wasn’t until his time with Leiber and Stoller, taught him the production end of the business that Spector really began to shine.
A scant three years later, Spector formed a new record company along with his partner Lester Sill called Phillies Records and it was during that time that his infamous Wall Of Sound technique was born. It was also during that time that Spector employed Sonny Bono as part of his production team. Spector, himself launched more careers than those of his mentors. He gave the world, Sonny and Cher, The Righteous Brothers, The Ronettes, The Crystals and Ike and Tina Turner. Spector also wrote and/or produced music for Dion, Leonard Cohen, The Beatles (Let It Be), John Lennon (Imagine) and The Ramones. Phil Spector earned himself a place in The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1989 and the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2004.
Spector’s personal life was not as successful. Married three times, he fathered five children (three of whom he adopted with his then wife Ronnie Spector of the Ronettes). Spector was getting increasingly reclusive over the years and began to exhibit some dangerous behavior, like brandishing a gun and stealing unreleased tapes while working with John Lennon in 1973 and threatening Leonard Cohen with a crossbow in 1977, to pulling a gun on the Ramones in 1980, during a meeting at his home when they wanted to leave.
Spector’s mug shot
Phil Spector has been the inspiration for several movie characters including Ronnie “Z-Man” Barzell in the 1970 Russ Meyer movie Beyond the Valley of the Dolls. This year, Al Pacino wrapped filming on a HBO movie, where he played Phil Spector. The movie is centered on the relationship between Phil Spector and defense attorney Linda Kenney Baden while the music business legend was on trial for the murder of Lana Clarkson.
Ironically, Al Pacino worked with Lana Clarkson, the actress that Phil Spector was convicted of murdering in 2003. They appeared together in the Brian De Palma/Oliver Stone classic Scarface. Clarkson also appeared in a few Roger Corman films, as well as the movie Fast Times at Ridgemont High.
So, if songwriting legends, Leiber and Stoller hadn’t taken a young Phil Spector under their wing, the world would never have heard songs like, Be My Baby, Chapel Of Love, River Deep-Mountain High, Spanish Harlem, Take Me Home Tonight, Then He Kissed me and You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’. But then, Lana Clarkson would likely still be alive.
Just when I was beginning to think my sense of humour was getting to be a wee bit too morbid, I came across other, like minded, individuals who see death as a way to get the last laugh.
I’m going to start with my three favourite celebrity epitaphs.
Billy Wilder, who directed Some Like it Hot, a movie with, arguably the best last line ever.
TV Icon Merv Griffin
The voice of Warner Brothers animation, Mel Blanc
Then there are some regular folks with a not so regular sense of funny.
For those that love to say I told you so.
For the realist.
For the Scrabble lover.
For the philandering husband.
I just love the fact that his wife outlived him… ah poetic justice.
For the man who loves women.
For the man who loved too many women
For the glass half full type
For the beloved family pet.
Even one for the atheist.
Pretty sure this one isn’t real… but it’s real funny.
That last grave marker is one I would seriously consider getting if I was going to be buried. But, as I am an atheist, I’m donating as much of my body as science will take, then the rest of me (if there is anything left over) is going into the ocean to become part of the food chain.
I will leave you with one of my favourite moments from the TV show Absolutely Fabulous with Patsy and Edina talking about their grave markers.
I love to watch old movies, especially on TCM. One of my favourite parts about watching movies on TCM is the introduction given by Robert Osborne, complete with trivia about the actors, director and film technology. The other night I saw the 1940 movie Too Many Girls, starring Lucille Ball, Ann Miller, Richard Carlson, Eddie Bracken and, making his film debut, Desi Arnaz.
A publicity still for the movie Too Many Girls- 1940
In his introduction for the film, Robert Osborne mentioned that Too Many Girls was originally a Broadway musical, Desi was one of the cast members reprising his role from the play and Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz met on the set of this movie and married later that same year.
Too Many Girls was produced by RKO Pictures, the studio that Lucy was under contract to, and directed by George Abbott. Abbott had an extensive theatre background and was known for hiring Broadway actors to recreate their roles on screen.
Lucy and Desi went on to create and star in one of TV’s most enduring sitcoms, I Love Lucy and start their own production company, Desilu Productions, which, ironically, filmed on a 40 acre lot that they purchased from RKO Pictures.
Lucy and Desi’s union also produced two children, Lucy Arnaz and Desi Arnaz Jr.
Famous TV Guide cover with first photo of Desi Arnaz Jr.
A budding musician and actor,Desi Jr. was quite the teen heart-throb and landed quite a few acting roles, notably his guest appearance as Marcia Brady’s celebrity crush on The Brady Bunch in 1970.
Desi Arnaz Jr. kisses Marcia Brady
Arnaz Jr. loved the girls as much as they loved him. When he was 15, he got an unknown 15-year-old girl pregnant. She gave birth to a baby named Julia Arnaz. The child was kept secret for decades and was later confirmed by a court ordered DNA test that she was Arnaz Jr.’s child. Two years later, when Desi Jr. was just 17, he began dating Patty Duke, who was then 23. A few months after they broke up, Patty gave birth to Sean Patrick Duke (now known as Sean Astin), who has gone on to become a star in his own right.
Sean Astin as Samwise Gamgee in the Lord of the Rings
For the first 13 years of Sean’s life, both Arnaz Jr. and Patty Duke believed that Desi Arnaz Jr. was the child’s father. This apparently, didn’t sit too well with Desi’s mother.
It was not until a DNA test was performed when Sean was 13, that it was revealed that Arnaz Jr. was not the father. (why do I have visions of Maury Povich announcing that?)
So, if director George Abbott hadn’t given Desi Arnaz Sr. his first role in a movie, Lucy and Desi would likely never have met, the landscape of 1950’s sitcoms would have looked very different, Desi Jr. would not have been born, Marcia Brady would have had a crush on an entirely different teen idol and Sean Astin might have been born knowing who his real father was.
Lately I have been feeling very uninspired. Oh, it’s not like there’s nothing going on in the world, just nothing that is sparking my interest. In the past week, we’ve been bombarded with a lot of “news” that I couldn’t care less about.
For instance, I don’t care if some young “actress”, that I have barely heard of, cheated on her overrated actor “boyfriend”. This only answers my question of who she had to sleep with to get famous… directors, apparently.
Who are these people and why does anyone care?
And pardon me if I yawn when I see yet another “story” about Tom and Katie and how they parent their precious Suri differently.
While Katie chooses the, down to earth, taxicab option…
Tom buys his daughter’s love with a helicopter ride.
Oh, and why exactly am I supposed to give a damn about the publicity seeking Jackson family and their so called drama that seems to be occurring just before young Paris’s first movie is about to debut?
The Jackson kids with their Grandmother/guardian/missing person/ not guardian/ co-guardian, Katherine.
Now I may be jaded, but I am just so sick and tired of all of this manufactured celebrity drama creeping into my consciousness. It’s everywhere you look. It’s impossible to escape knowing all the intimate details of these attention whores’ lives. The best part is when they say they want us to respect their privacy. Meanwhile they are tweeting, calling TMZ and giving interviews to US Weekly and People magazines.
Enough is enough. Isn’t there any actual news worth reporting? Isn’t anyone on the planet doing anything worthwhile? If anyone knows of such a person or persons, please let me know, I could really use some inspiration.