It should be said that I am a lover not a fighter, and what I love most is beauty in any form. However, this can result in... overly high expectations. As a person who too often sits on her pedestal of self-righteous judgment, monitoring how the world is "going down the tubes" and martyring herself on the Hellfire of what she deems contemporary incompetence, the articles of this blog will offer my cynical, social, intellectual, and pop cultural observations, which will both serve to vent my frustrations and-- after some counteraction-- convince me that the human race still has a chance. Sometimes you have to remind yourself that "Life is Beautiful," always was, and always will be, even when it isn't, wasn't or won't seem to be. “I still find each day too short for all the thoughts I want to think, all the walks I want to take, all the books I want to read, and all the friends I want to see.” — John Burroughs (Photo of London Library after the Blitz of 1940).

Monday, February 10, 2014


So does Officer Alex Murphy...


Hollywood is an apathetic motherf*cker. 

Pardon my font. Trust me, that was not an easy statement for me to make. Anyone who has known me for .007 seconds knows that cinema has been my life. I’ve devoted over half of my 30 years to it. I'll admit it: I squandered my youth. “Que Sera Sera.” #Hitchcock #Doris Day. (See what I mean)? 

Anyway, this fascination with the movies is what brought me to Hollywood over eight years ago. The idea of contributing to a world that as a child, a teen, and a young adult, I had deemed to be beautiful, and compelling, and full of new ideas, was beyond alluring. I wanted to devote my life to spreading the message that we, as human beings, are all on this sinking ship together. Movies— and all forms of storytelling, be they musical, literary, visual, etc— bridge the gap between humans. Entertainment offers solace. It is the opportunity to experience another version of yourself and exercise your empathy or, at the very least, give your daily stresses a cathartic sigh of relief. 

At least that’s the way I used to see it. These days, unless it’s awards season-- a time during which socially provocative or mentally stimulating films are given a brief day in the sun (in the dark womb of the theater)— there aren't too many released that tickle my pocketbook. Hollywood has, despite Gwen Stefani’s sound advice, gotten it “twisted.” It has traded creation for re-creation, which funnily enough is not conducive to inspiring the average American citizen to devote their recreational time to movie-going. Why pay to see something you’ve already seen, particularly if it wasn’t good the first time? Or second time? Or third time...?

The oft repeated Casablanca quotation, "Play it again, Sam" is actually a very telling cinema trivia faux pas. It's a misquote. The correct line is, "Play it once Sam... For old time's sake." However, this blunder is but one of our many iconic movie moments to have been misconstrued, unconsciously abused, and overly homaged into the realm of cheesiness, which people innocently throw out at parties for a laugh. Hollywood has a tendency to commit this fraud in its own way. It replicates an old idea, old joke, or old storyline to the nauseating point of no return. Except, it does return, over, and over, and over again. Thus, poor, metaphorical 'Sam' will be stuck at that damn piano/laptop pounding out the same old song and dance ad infinitum because, apparently, we are all out of ideas. 

I cannot express how much I was psychologically effected the first time I saw
Robocop without his mask. It blew my 4-year-old mind.

Case in point, the Robocop reboot. Why? Just… Why? Many may recall the original Sci-fi film of 1987. I hope so, anyway, because it's a classic. Sure, you line this nugget up beside Citizen Kane and it doesn't have the same gravity, but that doesn't change the specific brand of excellence it holds within its own time and place. The innovative plot unfolds thus: a cop is brutally murdered his first day on the job, only to have his dead body used as part of a man-robot hybrid experiment to build the ultimate law enforcer. (Pause for effect). 

The writing isn't exactly lyrical, but its sharp and distinctive, which offered the film its own memorable quotes in pop culture history: "Dead or alive, you're coming with me," "I'd buy that for a dollar," "It's only a glitch," etc. When combined with the unique, disconcerting, and violent images of the rising action, you have a pretty package of drama, comedy, mutilation, advanced social commentary, heady and even emotional gravitas, psychological probing, and physical disturbance-- who can forget the comeuppance of Emil, the Toxic Avenger? (Dude got his). Based on this movie alone, we can forgive Paul Verhoeven his Showgirls error. I choose to believe that he directed that movie specifically to make fun of the industry for making it and us for seeing it. I have to believe that to go on. I HAVE TO.

Robocop was special to me growing up, as so many others were of "my era." It was one of the films that, pretentious as it sounds, opened up the world and, with it, my imagination. It wasn't comprised of tawdry mind distraction. It was interesting. It made me think about things-- identity, man vs. machine, consciousness, memory, etc. Heady stuff for a kid, and these themes were all subconsciously delivered through the sublime execution of a story with subtext. It effected the general populous the same way, becoming an unexpected box-office hit. Hooray for Hollywood!

Anything worth doing is a' worth doing right, eh Coppola
This guy isn't sipping the Kool-Aid. He makes his 
own wine. That's class.

Or not, because consequently moviedom did what it always does and made unnecessary sequels to profit off the commodity of the instantaneous Robocop brand. As you probably know, each ensuing re-interpretation got worse. This malarkey, at least, is tolerable. Audiences petered off, indirectly telling the boys upstairs, "Yeah, we're sick of this now." Some may occasionally watch such bastardized, red-headed step-celluloid when they are too bored to care or there is nothing else on TV. The ease of going brain dead can also be a relief. Schlocky films can serve a purpose without taking absolute precedence, and despite the fact that these tag-along sequels can retroactively tarnish a bit of the original film's integrity, they can't diminish any of its lasting power. Rocky is still Rocky after Rocky II, III, IV, V and Rocky Balboa. There were many, many Nightmares on the notorious Elm Street, but nothing will ever beat Johnny Depp being eaten by his bed. Predator II and its sloppy seconds didn't kill the seismic glory of Predator. Thus, these irritations and insults to our intelligence can be overlooked and swept under the communal rug of "meh," while audiences wait for another cutting-edge screenplay to come around and show them something new again.

At least, that was they way it used to be... Now, with the insatiable drive for more virtual "product" and so many venues and mediums from which audiences can obtain entertainment, Hollywood has become manically and neurotically desperate for material, and "raw" material isn't necessary. Reconstituted is fine. Recycled is fine. As long as the resulting, sorry excuses for films have a dead-eyed, bovine audience sitting in wait, the industry can feast upon we little cash cows with fatty au jus. (Great. Now, I'm hungry and annoyed). 

This (absurd) moo-metaphor can be stretched further in that,instead of rebelling against a system that refuses to nurture higher sensibilities by opting to not attend these fly-by-night creeper features, we sit stationary, ignore the bright green Exit sign, and chew our popcorn like cud. It's a 50-50 exchange. People hate being bored, so we accept cheap imitations as amusement, and because we do this, the industry doesn't have an reason to try any harder to get our attention than making another Fast and the Furious movie. (I actually have a theory that Paul Walker's death was a calculated, public suicide orchestrated so he could evacuate from the slipshod series. Poor guy. Sadly, not even his tragic death could stop the franchise. Too soon? I don't care. Those movies are garbage).

I am very emotionally involved in this issue. Overmuch. Hollywood is the sin I live in, and its nonsense is often enough to make me want to tear my hair out. In actuality, I think I may have nearly suffered a complete nervous breakdown because "the movies" had gotten so bad. To combat my dwindling affection, for a solid year, I went to the theater trying to reignite my former appreciation for what I had once deemed to be the greatest collision of all arts. Sadly, the majority of the time, when I exchanged a paper ticket for a chair, I was left to watch sloppy film-flim-flam like The Change-Up. When not even Jason Bateman or Ryan Reynolds have your back, life is bad. 

Two Thumbs Up for this crock? That is one low grading

Still, you have to make amends. This is where we are. The movies are dying in front of us, and as we take root on our couches for convenience's sake-- to watch much better television and to escape the inanity of what currently professes to be cinema-- I think the day we never thought would come may come indeed. The Movie Theatre may become a relic of the past far sooner than we think. Please, someone shoot me before that happens. No, don't. Because then Ashton Kutcher wins.

Nay, I haven't given up hope yet, but there is one glaring abomination that I have never been able to abide; one that curdles my soul and makes me want to spit nails and high kick a mo-fo's head off like a Cobra-Kai! (Not like Daniel'son. He was far too wholesome for such cold-blooded karate murder). What I refer to is the remake. Yeah. I know what you're doing now. You're thinking about Will Smith's brat and that sorry excuse for a revamp, The Karate Kid (2010). You're thinking about the sidebar issue of nepotism and blindfolded filmmaking. You're thinking that greatness can't be duplicated, hence its 'greatness.' You're thinking that a flat-out copy, whether it is "updated" or not, is the height of laziness and is equally impossible to read as anything other than a superficial impostor. And, if you are like me, you are thinking how much you miss Miyagi's Bar on Sunset Blvd. and how much you wish you could go there right now to have a shot of sake in honor of Pat Morita. You're thinking that Jackie Chan shoulda had some respect.

Remakes... They're like the poor man's hot girl. They're tofurkey. They're showing up to a party, hoping to see some familiar faces, but being trapped in a corner talking to that annoying guy who really, really wants to be your friend but gives you the goddamn creeps. They're like eating something on purpose when you know that it's going to give you food poisoning. And probably explosive diarrhea. Why do we do it to ourselves?

This movie should have taken its own advice, shut up, and
stayed away. For shame, Ms. Kidman. For shame.

While it can be said that sequels can sometimes be amazing when they exist as their own, independent vehicles, which admirably carrying on the preceding story-- Terminator 2, Rambo 2, Godfather 2-- the outright re-make rarely does the same, especially these days. Everything is far too pumped up on steroids, due to the aforementioned industry desperation, to be authentic. Remakes are essentially the original movie on cocaine, humping your leg, trying to act like everything's "cool," when it's really, really not. Why can't you just be normal, movie? Why can't you sip some whiskey and chill? Why ya' gotta yell in my face and vomit on my shoes. Why would you do that to me? Why, movie? Why?

During the early studio era of Hollywood, when the mega production companies actually depended on talented writers to provide intriguing product for each market-- their B-movies are today's major movies, in case you hadn't noticed-- remakes were possible. Possible-ish. There were certainly mistakes. As is the general rule, adaptations of great works of fiction are always made and remade, and in this vein, such source material rarely gets old. Do we really need so many Jane Austen movies? No. Was it still interesting to watch Charles Laughton don a hump even though Lon Chaney had already performed his seminal interpretation as Quasimodo in the silent era? Yes. Sometimes, the remake even outshines the original: Love Affair was well done, but more people seem to know and treasure An Affair to Remember. It all comes down to taste, of course, but there were unarguably many commendable efforts "back in the day." For example, I'd rather watch John Huston's The Maltese Falcon than Roy Del Ruth's earlier version. (Sorry, Ricardo Cortez, but no one out-smokes Bogie).

In comparison to these pieces of yesteryear, today's flippant flickers offer a sloppier and less stylized type of remake. Instead of cultivating and maintaining the original story in a new era or approaching it from a different angle, the story is merely trimmed and fashionlessly refashioned into utterly ignorant simplicity. It is modernized, made sexier and allegedly more provocative-- though the haphazard way that contemporary, in your face, yet clumsy sex appeal is used to compensate for the lack of sultry edges between the lines very rarely gets the viewer off-- mentally or physically-- the way the original, more censored version did. I can assure you, I did not want to cut Footloose with Kenny Wormald (who?) and Julianne Hough (high pierced shriek!) when that ass-teroid hit. Even the trailers for that dimwitted regurgitation made me want to kill myself. As it turns out, there are much, much worse things for your body than Bacon...

The fundamental notion these movies get wrong is that it is never the concept alone but the authenticity of its presentation that draws people to it. The biggest hits are the surprise hits. If someone tells you, "Hey! I'm going to shoot you," you duck. If the guy just fires, kablam, you're more apt to have an honest and shocked reaction. As such, the big wigs can plan a big, box-office blockbuster, but the result of their condescending marketing assault is often just a weak and contrived manipulation that doesn't fulfill its promises. The minimized or complete lack of story is generally camouflaged by the standard, sensory-trigger overrides used to draw you in: adrenaline pulsing trailers, the promise of sex, visual distractions— you know, the stuff that takes you away from mundane things like thinking. Oh, and vampires. Gotta have the vampires. The audience is not expected to notice their total disconnection from the plot. This is the confidence the industry has in us. Same goes with remakes. Just take an old idea, so you don’t have to come up with a new one, mash it together with other recycled garbage and refuse, put it in the sausage maker, churn it out, and tell audiences to put the completed wieners in their mouths. No! It's tasty! Who cares what it's made of. Use more mustard!!! (Did you notice my crafty, phallic undertones? Filmographical fallacio: don't do it)!

The senseless non sequitur that proves my point: Psycho vs. Why, yo'?
(I often rap to exorcise my angst).

This mind-numbing numbskullery is utter bull hockey. The great successes of the industry are the happy accidents. People are drawn to the theater in the hope that they’ll see something they’ve never seen before. Yet, instead of living within and promoting this mindset, the industry unfailingly, perpetually misses the point and instead indulges in the height of laziness. There is no room for creativity on a tight budget. (Strange, I thought it was supposed to be the other way around). There is no concern for the enlightenment of the human race on the competitive, Hollywood game board agenda. We are markets, not people. The machine cranks on in Chaplin-like mania a la Modern Times, depriving writers of jobs (and their souls) and audiences of the cultural entertainment we need almost as much as love itself. Entertainment, in the end, in all its forms, is the communication of the universal need to laugh, cry, be heard, be understood, be brave, be elsewhere, etc. No, Hollywood says. No. Just keep whippin’ the wieners out. If that’s all there is on the menu, that’s what people will eat! Hence, the sacrilegious, yearly disaster specials: 

Sabrina (1995) from the Billy Wilder original
A Perfect Murder (1998) from Alfred Hitchock’s Dial M for Murder
Psycho (1998) from the Hitchcock original
City of Angels (1998) from Wim Wenders Wings of Desire
You’ve got Mail (1998) from the Ernst Lubitsch original 
The Bachelor (1999) from Buster Keaton’s Seven Chances
The Haunting (1999)
Bedazzled (2000)
Gone in 60 Seconds (2000)
Thirteen Ghosts (2001)
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2003 and 2013 in 3D)
Willard (2003) #Really?
Love Don’t Cost a Thing (2003)
The Manchurian Candidate (2004)
Fun with Dick and Jane (2005)
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (2005)
House of Wax (2005)
When a Stranger Calls (2006)
The Wicker Man (2006)
The Heartbreak Kid (2007)
The Women (2008)
The Stepfather (2009)
Friday the 13th (2009)
Nightmare on Elm Street (2010) 
The Wolfman (2010)
Arthur (2011)
Straw Dogs (2011)
Total Recall (2012)
Red Dawn (2012) 
Oldboy (2013)
Carrie (2013)
Robocop (2014), etc, etc, etc... 

Were any of the aforementioned films necessary, redemptive of, or an improvement upon their originals? Nah. They are repeated limericks from a lisping tongue. Though a remake that rivals/surpasses the original is possible— The Father of the Bride remake of 1991, for example-- such an occurrence is absolutely the exception and not the rule. Remakes are consistent failures, because they offer little more than carbon copied images with updated furniture. 

It's Pacino day, I guess. While the original Scarface of 1932 had its definite merits,
I think it is safe to say that
Brian De Palma's 1983 remake had a far greater
cultural impact. This is one of the exceptions where vision was able to
mature the story past its predecessor.

The argument could be that the filmmakers who purposefully take on these projects are merely "experimenting" with a story and reinterpreting it as their own vision, just as in staged theatre. Yet, this is inapplicable logic. A film is different than live theater, if only because it has already lived and died. At best, it can only be exhumed, but once it is in the can, it is past the point of transformation, (are you listening Lucas?). A movie is a concrete piece of art that has been solidified in its own unique spot in history. It is an irrevocable statement, not a continuing mutation that is whispered, passed along, and re-birthed by a new cast on a new stage every generation. This metaphor is going out on a limb, but you don't "redo" the Mona Lisa. You can give your impression of it, but that isn't art. It is trying to be art, or more specifically, trying to be someone else's art. In essence, to say that you have another “vision” of the initial artist’s ‘vision’ is the height of artistic masturbation. Rodney Dangerfield was right all along. "People got no respect."

In summation, I will most definitely not be going to see Robocop in the theater, primarily because it is another example of the strange mutation that compels us to watch reality TV. People won’t go to the theater to see Robocop because it looks good, just as they don’t watch "Jerseylicious" to see what those people (whoever they are) have been up to. We watch these pawned programs specifically to see them fail. We watch to see them-- the stories and their characters-- fall on their faces and get everything wrong. We watch to point and laugh. This is just as sick and twisted on our part as the redonkulous product itself.

Sorry, Joel Kinnaman. You seem like a cool dude, and I love you on “The Killing,” but you will never be Murphy. You don’t have to be. He has already been. Sorry you were put in this awkward position, and you too Gary Oldman, and Michael Keaton, and Abbie Cornish… I wish you actors given better material, but as your co-star Samuel L. Jackson would say, “Hollywood is one apathetic motherf*cker.” 

Yes, I am tempted to hate the world…


Goddamn you to Hell, Kutcher. Of ALL the sacred movies
to pollute... Jesus F. Banana-Hammock!

Eff it. What can you do? We are who we are what we make what we watch. We have made our beds with equal participation and are lying in them. Though I often feel underrepresented at the box-office, wondering where my movies are, this is just part of our ongoing transition. Either mankind will reclaim its dignity and earn back its artistic reputation, or the bastardized system we have before us will lead to the total eclipse of what we once knew as moviedom by the next, "better" thing. It’s unfortunate that the magnitude of cinema has been whittled down into easily traded products on the internet and that the awe has left it. At least there are still stories being told— even new ones and good ones never before heard.

I do not hate remakes. They are what they are. That's the way it goes. "That's entertainment." But, I am frustrated by the lethargy behind them. I am tired of hamster wheel business ethics and the invasion of conveyor belt tyranny on both the creative process and the collective human discussion it sustains. Such lackadaisical, mechanical penetration eliminates any chance of the socially and intellectually vital connection between beings that all aesthetic cultivation is meant to offer. You can't think outside the box when said 'box' has no escape hatch through which one can reach fresh air. 'Outside,' therefore, becomes an illusory concept that deprives us of the gift of imagination.

Still, we progress and digress. We win some; we lose some. We currently are entering a world where the weight of things doesn’t seem to matter or impact us with the grand force it once did. Everything is light as a feather, streamlined, and efficient-- business models instead of forgivingly malleable abstractions. The anticipation of awaiting a new release or making room in the ego for that which is beyond your palm's grasp has gone and been replaced with a lexicon of, in this case, countless viewing options available in 3, 2, 1… Such is life. The dangerous sacrifice for the sake of this new order may be our own humility before the artistic work itself, the integrity of the story, and the honest ability of the storytellers and their interpreters. We may begin to view life as totally plasticized and unworthy of all introspection. This scares me, but the immediate access to stories at least conveys the fact that there are limitless stories around us.

I guess it could also be said that, in the realm of remakes, the re-emergence  of an old idea, at the very least, re-introduces the former glory of the original film to modern audiences. This is perhaps the only positive. The Coen Brothers commendably adapted True Grit and reminded people of the preceding John Wayne classic. Martin Scorcese re-adapted Cape Fear, puts his own macabre stamp on it, and stirred up renewed interest in the dark and sadistic original. These exceptions to the rule make those that unfortunately prove it worth enduring. 

At the end of the day, we’re not going to get it right every time, even if a film is a totally new story (i.e. Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen) or a new story that simply feels old because it is so goddamn formulaic and offers no surprises (i.e. 27 Dresses). The fact of the matter is, we are awesome, and we are abysmal. We built Rome; we burnt Rome to the ground. We have a nasty way of being consistent, and we have a sloppy way of repeating ourselves and discarding learned lessons, because we think that they won't be necessary within our own time frame. Even in terms of progressive thinking, we can never surpass ourselves without simultaneously digging our heels in and setting up camp like we've reached The End: We made it. We're here! Everyone stop everything! No need to push further. 

Nosferatu (1979): You I can live with, because ironically,
you don't "bite."

For now, we can rest on the blessed cushions of quality between the circuitous onslaught of artistic monotony. With this assistance, we can endure the humdrum lulls. The goal, I suppose, is protect the mind from this consumption of perpetual cultural misrepresentation. Don’t be seduced by the flashy-flashies and don’t be discouraged when you feel the superficiality of the system failing you and your undernourished brain. Let the BS pass over your far more deserving head like the inconsequential elevator music you can barely hear while on your way to the much better, marrow-digging days. Be the one to cast sentence and not receive it. You have the ultimate power anyway, and sometimes saying "No" to a neon light of "You Want This" is worth the price of in-admission.