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Patrick Goldstein and James Rainey
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'Oldboy' revisited: Are Hollywood remakes always a bad thing?

When I wrote a post recently about the collapse of negotiations between Mandate and DreamWorks over a deal that could have led to a Steven Spielberg-directed remake of the Korean cult thriller "Oldboy," I expected to get feedback from Spielberg detractors and "Oldboy" partisans. But what really surprised me was the huge outpouring of vitriol toward American remakes in general. It was nearly unanimous: If you let Hollywood remake a movie, they'll only mess it up.

2005_oldboy_psp_poster_001 Jack Meoph (btw, nice user name -- who do you think I am ... Bill O'Reilly?) seemed to sum up Hollywood loathing the best when he wrote: "Please keep away from this film Hollywood, you will only ruin it with your homogenized group think."

STWSR chimed in: "Why would you take a seemingly brilliant almost perfect film and RUIN IT!"

And Mike added: "Name one Hollywood remake that was even marginally better than the original?"

Well, actually, I could name a few. Let's start with Steven Soderbergh's "Ocean's Eleven," which is light years better than the hapless '60s original. I'd defy anyone to say that James Cameron's "True Lies" wasn't far more involving than Claude Zidi's original "La Totale!" And while the original Norwegian version of "Insomnia" is a well-made film, it would be hard to argue that it's any better than Chris Nolan's 2002 remake. The original "Infernal Affairs" is a really good movie, but Martin Scorsese's remake, "The Departed," completely stands on its own as a terrific thriller.

In fact, I'd argue that John Carpenter's 1982 version of "The Thing" is a classic, clearly far more ambitious and fully realized than the Christian Nyby original from 1951. So I'm wondering -- isn't this something of an unfair knee-jerk reaction against the obvious Hollywood stinkers that have often poisoned the well for remakes?

If anyone wants to make a more in-depth case against remakes, I'd happy to hear about it. But does Hollywood really have to keep its mitts off all films from other cultures, especially if a talented filmmaker wants to take a shot at reimagining the film in a new setting? I mean, not every remake has to turn out like "Vanilla Sky," does it?  

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I agree that the examples you mentioned are typically superior remakes of the originals. However, in the case of Oldboy, or even Let the Right one in (for example), I suspect that the remakes are only attempting to capture the market share that these popular and terrific films had, rather than use those stories to make another superb film. Perhaps also in this case not enough time has elapsed since the original, and it's hard to imagine that the remake will add anything fresh to this superb film.

Okay, I'll bite... what artistically could POSSIBLY be gained by the rumored English-language remake of "The Lives of Others"? There is absolutely no point whatsoever to that project.

I'm gonna come out of the closet here and state that OLDBOY just ISN'T that good IMO.

I've watched it twice (oh yeah, cheers to me!) and the last reel is just too implausible to swallow.

Was it Bob Towne who said that an audience will forgive you for anything the first 20 minutes but nothing during the last 20... yeah. Like that.

And let's be serious here Patrick, put the Hollywood Remakes on a scale and weigh them against their originals... only then can you best support an argument of yay or nay for continuing the practice.

But what we can say for certain is that there's a thousand A - Z level Hollywood screenwriters out there with hard drives full of original material that won't see the light in a dark cinema because the powers-that-be keep trying to sell guys like me the same soup...

That one's from Mr. Ebert, I think.

Several years ago, I attacked the resistance to studio remakes of foreign films for an indieWIRE article, called "Why Studio Remakes Don't Suck; U.S. Versions Rebound Foreign Originals, From Korea to 'Insomnia.'" For those who are ardent fans of remade films, here's an angle that you might not have considered of why it's not always such a bad thing:

Since the days of abundant art house cinema has passed, and mono-culture set in, I have no issue with remakes of foreign films that go largely unseen in America.

I do have issue with the industry's lack of originality when it comes to new, domestic films. When creativity takes a backseat to repetition, we all suffer.

Typical internet fanboy knee jerk reaction, if I dare say. I'm pretty sure most of them have not even seen the foreign original. There is also a taboo against criticizing foreign films. 'Group think'? Let's say many irate fans have been too swayed by popular acclaim to see the films as anything otherwise. And I am speaking as a foreigner myself.

I never realised that the departed was a remake. What a remarkable film. My favourite example of a remake which far outshines the original is "Traffic" starring Benicio Del Toro. Desrved oscar winner. Maybe we should wait untill Old Boy is completed and only then evaluate it!

There are a few remakes that wind up better than the originals, The Thing certainly comes to mind, but how about another great Howard Hawks classic, Scarface? Back in the '70's, it was all about modernizing and updating the movies, making them dated years later (A Star Is Born, King Kong). Scarface followed that as well, but it not only wound up ahead of its time, but is now a modern classic that like a lot of movies rediscovered years later was not well received when it first came out. Both The Thing and Scarface were also blasted for being remade in the first place, like how could Hollywood crap on such great classics, but both are now classics in their own right.

Exceptions to the rule. There's an infinity of worthwhile scripts out there waiting to be made. Stop it with the remakes/reboots/re-BS.


Check out the remake of Out of The Past.
That remake sucked big time.
Both THING movies can stand on their own.
For the most part American remakes stink.
And your unaware of how Frank and the boys
made and paved the way for the remake.
God and we are talking millions of dollars and tec and COLOR.
Some of you dont know what black and white film is.

Jimmy Gee

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