Sunday, February 1, 2015

Remakes and Misogyny

I'll admit, I never warmed to the idea of a remake, reboot, whatever of the film "Ghostbusters." I think they kind of nailed it 30 years ago. And I understand that everyone has a movie here and there for which a remake sounds sacrilegious. Some people eschew remakes altogether believing that the original movies can never be topped. 

I understand that, though I believe that sometimes the originals can be topped. And if not topped, the remakes can at least provide a quality all on their own. Ever since I was a child and saw the 1949 version of "Mighty Joe Young" on the 3:30 movie after school I've been a fan of that film. When I heard Disney planned to remake it, I doubted it would work. When I saw the 1998 remake, I loved it. 

There are many movies remakes that I've enjoyed. And some that I've absolutely hated.

To me it all depends.

But "Ghostbusters"...I don't know maybe it's because it's one of my favorite films of all times. But I think there are other forces at work here. As I explain in my post on the film's 30th anniversary, the film was a perfect storm of creativity yet, at the time, it seem to come out of nowhere. Along with the comedy it had elements of science fiction, paranormal, horror and even romance that could have been an absolute mess if it hadn't been so perfectly blended. I don't think, in terms of "Ghostbusters", that blend can be successfully reproduced. Even the original creators had a difficulty recapturing that energy. I enjoyed "Ghostbusters II" enough, but it was obviously lacking in something. 

The boys take Lady Liberty out for a spin in "Ghostbusters II"

Who knows, maybe the first movie's success lay in the audacity of the attempt to mix these elements together to begin with when no one was quite sure how it would be received. 

Whatever it was, "Ghostbusters" was a movie simple in its premise (three guys bite off more than they bargained for); technical in its detail (thanks in large part to Dan Akroyd's sincere interest in the paranormal upon which he unabashedly relied), with an epic, world-saving battle at the end that they still managed to throw some memorable humor into. All this glued together with perfect timing. 

In short, when making this movie: They came, they saw, they kicked ass!

I do not think that can happen again. For example, this, from the Daily Beast, is the plot idea being tossed around for the "Ghostbusters" remake: 

"Feig said that this reboot would unequivocally not be a sequel, and that the humans wouldn’t be afraid of ghosts at the start of the film because they haven’t encountered them yet. He also said the villain would be a convicted murderer—hopefully played by Peter Dinklage—who turns into a ghost during a botched execution. (Morbid! Love it!) This apparently will give Dinklage’s character the power to raise an army of ghost villains, which could be famous people throughout history. 

"Feig’s idea is also that the Ghostbusters work for the government, but in a tortured relationship kind of way: their organization keeps being disavowed because it would be ludicrous for the government to endorse ghostbusters. He wants Saturday Night Live’s Cecily Strong to play their bureaucratic nemesis, who, according to Vulture, is 'always saying terrible things about them in press conferences and then apologizing to them behind the scenes.'"

Oh please, let the hilarity begin. 

No, seriously, let the hilarity begin cause I can't really see it in that convoluted mess. Of course, I know, the plot will change as production goes on. Details added and subtracted. But if this is the bedrock upon which this movie is to be built, it does not bode well.

Let's consider the casting. A big to-do was made about casting an all-female cast for a "Ghostbusters" remake (which, in itself, becomes a bit of a schtick and if you aren't happy with the casting you run the risk of being accused of misogyny). So it's been decided that the four Ghostbusters will be Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Whig, Kate McKinnon and Leslie Jones. People are creaming themselves over the cast. Lindy West (in her blog piece on the misogyny of not liking an all-female cast) refers to the choices as:
"...a stunning ensemble cast of some of 2015's most hilarious and sought-after comedians."


"That is the most indomitable fucking comic dream team of all time."

Which isn't at all how I'd define that cast. In fact, since we're only one month into 2015, perhaps we can give it a few more months and track down some other names for this project. Melissa McCarthy can be funny when she's not Tammy-fying up everything. Kristen Whig generally leaves me cold. And the other two SNL alumni, McKinnon and Jones, while eliciting a chuckle from me every so often, do little else on a show that grows increasingly unfunny every year. I would hardly call this a fucking comic dream team. Comic nightmare maybe.

Despite its outrageous subject, the original "Ghostbusters" relied upon a great deal of subtly to make its humor work.

I'm seeing anything but subtle with this remake.

West seems elated though, and has apparently decided that guys not entirely on board with the idea are driven by misogyny. Of course there are guys who are upset by this because it's an all-female cast. But there might actually be some guys out there who just aren't overly happy with who was cast, (though I'm sure that's hard for West to grasp since this is apparently her fucking comic dream team).

As for myself, well I'm a woman who has long called for roles in which females kick some ass, physically, mentally and comically. There's a reason that "Xena: Warrior Princess" remains one of my favorite shows. (And by the way, when they decided to make a strong female character, the producers didn't just recast Hercules as a woman. They created a whole new strong female character) 

But don't pretend that the casting of an all-female Ghostbusters brigade was anything less than calculated on the part of the producers. They've been pumping up interest in the project by tossing around the possibility for well over a year. They're not doing it to address gender imbalances in the movies. They're doing it cause they sense a trendy tidbit they can milk. It's as much a gimmick as deciding to redo "Ghostbusters" is to begin with. To me, hailing an all-female cast is not that different than bemoaning an all-female cast (both are making a big deal of something that shouldn't at this point, be such a big deal). 

In her piece, West states: "I can't even tell you what it would have meant to me, as a child, to watch a movie about four hilarious female scientists. I'm thrilled that my kids will get to grow up in a world where people actively work to rectify gender imbalances..."

I agree. So here's a challenge to her and all creative minds out there: Rather than piggy-back onto the concept (and success) of an old movie, create an original idea about four hilarious female scientists. Rather than trying to rewrite the past, why not take charge of the future? Rather than chiding people for not wanting a movie they enjoyed to be redone, why not slam the studio redoing it for not taking that supposed "fucking comic dream team" and creating a whole new movie for them?

Then maybe you'd really have my attention.

In the meantime, I guess we'll see what we'll see with this project. I can say this: Thirty years later, people still quote lines from the original "Ghostbusters." I can't imagine that happening with this remake.

Because thirty years ago...

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