Let’s face it: Hollywood has pretty much given up on new ideas. Sure, there will always be the auteurs and storytellers of the film festival and awards show circuits, but the bank isn’t really backing anything but proven brands. From the recent spate of TV adaptations of classic films (Fargo, 12 Monkeys) to the never-ending onslaught of blockbuster comic book adaptations to the almost perverse studio impulse to reboot ANYTHING that was once successful (Fletch? REALLY?!?), the trend doesn’t seem to be reversing any time soon. And so, if this is the world that we live in, we might as well make the best of it. Here then is Zouch’s list of (inevitable) remakes and our fantasy pick for the director who could truly turn them into something worth revisiting.
Paul Thomas Anderson’s Titanic
While it’s difficult to land a sticking criticism to a movie that both won Best Picture and was the greatest box office phenomenon of its era, the Titanic remake could certainly use a lot more grit under its fingernails (and losing the Celine Dion ballad is just the tip of the iceberg, if you will…) The grand scope of There Will Be Blood and Magnolia proved long ago that PTA can helm an epic, despite how intimate and off-centre his films can be, and it would be thrilling to see what he could do with a James Cameron budget and the full power of a major studio behind him. Anderson’s Titanic plays out as an Altman-esque ensemble piece, revolving around a desperate and mostly unlikable Irish artist’s quest to make it in America, a man who had been only hindered by his tremendous ego until the ship started to go down. The romance is still there but it’s depraved and awkward, and acts are punctuated by intense ragtime crescendos and crash zooms. If Phillip Seymour Hoffman was still alive, he’d be the drunk, eccentric ship captain. Oh, and every frame looks fucking beautiful.
Quentin Tarantino’s Indiana Jones
Since Tarantino has essentially built his empire on his own brand retro-sploitation, I think it’s best to give him a beloved classic with SO much potential for pushing-NC17 guts and glory. It’s right in his wheelhouse: there’s the stoic Nazis, the bloody whippings, the racial tensions, the feet of Jones’s sexual conquests and a few well-placed contemporary pop songs right as Indy really gets into the swing of things. Speilberg’s original adherence to Hollywood convention will be deeply respected, though totally perverted, and it’s time we see the adventuring archeologist swear and screw and spill some blood. So long as Tarantino can resist his Achilles heel and the audience isn’t subjected to overlong, self-important dialogue exchanges between a cantankerous Harrision Ford (AS IF Tarantino would cast a new actor) and inevitable bad guy Christoph Waltz, we have on our hands a summer hit for the whole (adult) family.
Spike Jonze’s Groundhog Day
As timeless as Groundhog Day is, the movie also reeks of early 90’s studio filmmaking, from it’s glistening polish right down to its opening credits theme song “Weatherman” which might as well have been sung by Randy freakin Newman. If it weren’t for Bill Murray, this movie would likely be shelved right next to other Harold Ramis fantasy-scenario comedies Bedazzled and Multiplicity; instead we celebrate it for brilliant farce that it is. But how amazing would it be to have the story retold with same deadpan avant-garde aesthetic that crafted Being John Malkovich and Where the Wild Things Are? Since his classic dog-mask video for Daft Punk’s “Da Funk,” Spike Jonze has proven himself a master of approaching the abstract as ordinary, as though his camera lens were the straight man to his usually bizarre content. In Jonze’s Groundhog Day, Phil’s surreal predicament plays out like an art-pop nightmare with a tasteful score, handheld cameras, genuine terror and the irreverence the concept deserves.
Noah Baumbach’s The Breakfast Club
The Breakfast Club is so pure and honest, yet so laughably dated and preposterous that it really is in a class of its own amongst other 80’s teen dramadies. Noah Baumbach, the hipster-auteur responsible for masterpieces The Squid and The Whale and Frances Ha, is the contemporary American master of films in which familiar (and sometimes stereotype-busting) characters say devastatingly honest and hurtful things to each other, so he’s a natural fit for the remake. In Baumbach’s version there is no glass-shattering weed mosh or synchronized dance routine, though there may be a jock so worked up that he breaks a glass with his hand and needs stitches, and an attempt at a choreographed dance routine that leads to a shouting match and painful revelations. “Don’t You Forget About Me” and the rest of the crucial mid-80’s soundtrack remains untouched though, of course.
Michel Gondry’s Mary Poppins
Michel Gondry has proven himself best – in film, documentary and music video – when exploring the possibilities of the post-modern urban fantasy and pushing the audience’s imagination. His penchant for practical effects and the deadpan approach to the bizarre found in his crowning achievement, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, would therefor be a natural fit for a story about a magic nanny upending the lives of a buttoned-down banker and his bratty kids. Even better if it remains a musical, though Gondry will have Bjork compose the songs (can you imagine their two minds colliding on Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious?!?)
Nicolas Winding Refn’s The 40 Year-Old Virgin
This may seem like the oddest pairing of the bunch, but let me paint you a picture: in a series of mostly-wordless vignettes set to throbbing and semi-ironic synth jams, we see the sad, sometimes-funny story of Andy, the 40 year-old old virgin. The guys at his work are a mess of noisy hyper-sexuality, his comic-driven fantasy life is rich and dark, and eventually he must come to terms with his condition with the help of a very liberated and tech-savvy grandma, whose children are also unnervingly sexual. It’s LA in the summer, and the temperature is unbearable. He gets vomited on in a car, which eventually crashes (sexily). Swap Paul Rudd for Baby Goose and we’ve got a Refn classic, I swear.
Xavier Dolan’s Stand By Me
Xavier Dolan, the young Quebecois auteur has been quite prolific in his short career, releasing five acclaimed films since 2009 that all examine misfits in some way or another, from his own experience as a gay teenager in suburban Montreal to a transgender love story to a psychological thriller about a man tortured by a family full of demons. Stand By Me, the beloved 1986 Rob Reiner drama, gives Dolan a lot of material to work with, studying the bond formed between four boys that are all tormented at home or by the rest of the world. Dolan has to keep the story set in Oregon (like Americans are going to show up in droves for a movie in French!) but by aging the boys a year or two the possibilities for sexual exploration and hormonal tension add yet another layer to the complex drama. When it comes to loss of innocence and intimate human storytelling, Dolan is the man.
Harmony Korine’s A Clockwork Orange
From Kids to Spring Breakers, no one does teenage depravity quite like Harmony Korine. How beautiful and dismaying a prospect could it then be for the writer-director to tackle perhaps the 20th century’s most dystopian youth tale? Fully realizing his own near-future London in contemporary terms but stripping away Kubrick’s caricaturization of the gruesome violence and sexuality (or at least instilling it with the terror it deserves), Korine would make the story equal parts daydream and nightmare, yet hauntingly familiar. Now I remain a huge fan of the original 1971 film and the novel as separate entities, however I think the frank and surreal possibilities of the story in Korine’s hands are incredible.
David O. Russell’s Citizen Kane
Who better to handle the epic life story of a fast-talking megalomaniac than fast-talking megalomaniac David O. Russell? His recent trifecta of blockbusters – The Fighter, Silver Linings Playbook and American Hustle – showed a prowess over sprawling storytelling and enormous characters that makes Russell a perfect fit for one of the most famous American films of all time. Again, it’s tough to knock the original film as it’s pretty much the foundation of all contemporary film study, so Russell’s remake is far from a literal transcription of the original. As opposed to staying at arm’s length from Kane, the ultimate media baron, Russell instead takes us uncomfortably close, getting inside the head of a man that no one else around him could relate to. The story takes on an even grander scope set in an era of true corporate oligarchy and social media. Jennifer Lawrence’s show-stealing role as the sassy Spanish housemaid gets most of the fanfare, but Bradley Cooper (or Christian Bale) gives an equally intense performance in the lead.