Thursday, March 14, 2013

Remaking A Classic

Bo Catlett: You broke into my house, and I have a witness to it. 
Chili Palmer: What? 
Bo Catlett: Only this time it ain't no John Wayne and Dean Martin shooting bad guys in "El Dorado." 
Chili Palmer: That was "Rio Bravo." Robert Mitchum played the drunk in "El Dorado." Dean Martin played the drunk in "Rio Bravo." Basically, it was the same part. Now John Wayne, he did the same in both. He played John Wayne.
Bo Catlett: Man, I can't wait for you to be dead.

-- Get Shorty (1995)

Remaking a classic is a tricky business.

It requires exquisite balance, because old farts like me who loved the original are very likely predisposed to hating the very idea of someone else putting their grubby mitts all over "Casablanca" or "North by Northwest", while a newer audience might not be willing to drop $12 on a 2013 flick that still moves like something from the Eisenhower Administration.

Sometimes it works and you get the "The Front Page" reassembled into "His Girl Friday", or "The Big Sleep" brilliantly transmogrified into "The Big Lebowski". Also, being a fan of "Seven Samurai" in no way interferes with my pleasure in watching Yul Brenner and Steve McQueen trying to outflank each other in "The Magnificent Seven".

But Jesus Christ with a Herbert Lom twitch, who the hell thought it was a good idea to mess with "The Planet of the Apes"?  Or to let Adam Sandler within several hundred miles of "The Longest Yard"?  And yet someone somewhere sitting on a load of cash looked at a gem like "The Day The Earth Stood Still" and said, "You know what this really needs?  A jillion dollars of CGI and a block of wood named Keanu Reeves larded on top of it!"

Well I don't make or finance movies, but I do watch a lot of them for fun and I have observed that if want to succeed in the remake business your chances are measurably improved if you pick a minor classic -- something that a most people never saw in the first place or disliked enough during its first run that they have willed themselves to forget it -- and then borrow the spine of its plot and some of its key casting ideas, while updating the special effects and pacing enough to make it feel modern.   

Hey, maybe even flip around the race or gender of a main character to fizz it up.

Say, for example, you want to tell the story of The Very Angry Libertarian who publicly takes on a wild, out-of-control President who has begun promiscuously lobbing bombs into foreign countries for Obviously Sinister Reasons!

First, of course, you begin with the original -- the classic -- 
 

-- because the template has already been worked out for you: A noble liberty-loving lawmaker named "Paul" is reluctantly forced to attach himself to whatever mob passes his way (Yes I will vote for impeachment!) despite the fact that he knows that the parade itself was corruptly conceived and executed by people he loathes (Yes, I knows the specific charges are a load of hogwash and the prosecutor is a partisan thug) but fuck that! because handy mobs that come fully equipped with tar and feathers and bloodlust who are willing to ride his hobbyhorse don't just come along every day. And if they want to impeach the Democratic President for bullshit, well, at least they're willing to impeach him over something so count him in!

Fade to black.  

Roll credits.

Unfortunately, young filmmaker, although Congressman Paul's high-altitude flyover of American foreign and military policy (fucked in the head since forever) has a lot of merit, you can't just Gus Van Sant your epic remake shot-for-shot because, sadly, the intervening years have blown a several, fairly large and problematic holes in the original story-line.

For example, while "Osama bin Laden" and "Al Qaeda" might have sounded implausibly Bond-villainish back in 1998 to the casual observer, as it turned out, Congressman Paul's assessments that there was "no threat" and that Bill Clinton had fired missiles into Afghanistan for purely nefarious and narrowly partisan motives -- had spent $200M and criminally jeopardized the lives of brave American troops (who the depraved Slick Willie had never liked anyway) for no reason other than to distract people from his personal problems -- were not strictly, as they say, true:
"In August 1998, President Clinton ordered missile strikes against targets in Afghanistan in an effort to hit Osama bin Laden, who had been linked to the embassy bombings in Africa (and was later connected to the attack on the USS Cole). The missiles reportedly missed bin Laden by a few hours, and Clinton was widely criticized by many who claimed he had ordered the strikes primarily to draw attention away from the Monica Lewinsky scandal. As John F. Harris wrote in The Washington Post:
In August 1998, when ordered missile strikes in an effort to kill Osama bin Laden, there was widespread speculation - from such people as Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) - that he was acting precipitously to draw attention away from the Monica S. Lewinsky scandal, then at full boil. Some said he was mistaken for personalizing the terrorism struggle so much around bin Laden. And when he ordered the closing of Pennsylvania Avenue in front of the White House after domestic terrorism in Oklahoma City, some Republicans accused him of hysteria.
Which is why, having been shown to be horribly wrong in both his assessment of threats to America and the motives which he imputed so emphatically and categorically to Bill Clinton, Congressman Paul public apologized, resigned from public office and was never heard from again.

Because, y'know, Honor! 

Also Freedom!

The second major plotting problem comes when the story line moves a fraction of an inch away from presidential action and over to the question of congressional oversight. Because, whether or not the president acted in good faith and however much contempt your audience might rightly have for Democrats...who in their right fucking minds would buy for an instant the notion that the Republican Party as it exists today can be trusted to impartially investigate anything.  

Remember, that once upon a time not so very long time, the actions another White House -- a Republican administration which did shit that was not merely legally sketchy but explicitly illegal and impeachable -- were actually investigated.  

It took years and years and millions of dollars.

And eventually some small measure of justice was meted out.

Until, of course, the outgoing Republican president delivered a hearty, Christmas Eve "Fuck You!" to the justice system and pardoned all of his little traitor friends:
December 25, 1992

By DAVID JOHNSTON

Bush Pardons 6 in Iran Affair, Aborting a Weinberger Trial; Prosecutor Assails 'Cover-Up'

Lawrence E. Walsh's Statement on the Pardons
Six years after the arms-for-hostages scandal began to cast a shadow that would darken two Administrations, President Bush today granted full pardons to six former officials in Ronald Reagan's Administration, including former Defense Secretary Caspar W. Weinberger.

Mr. Weinberger was scheduled to stand trial on Jan. 5 on charges that he lied to Congress about his knowledge of the arms sales to Iran and efforts by other countries to help underwrite the Nicaraguan rebels, a case that was expected to focus on Mr. Weinberger's private notes that contain references to Mr. Bush's endorsement of the secret shipments to Iran.

In one remaining facet of the inquiry, the independent prosecutor, Lawrence E. Walsh, plans to review a 1986 campaign diary kept by Mr. Bush. Mr. Walsh has characterized the President's failure to turn over the diary until now as misconduct.

Decapitated Walsh Efforts
But in a single stroke, Mr. Bush swept away one conviction, three guilty pleas and two pending cases, virtually decapitating what was left of Mr. Walsh's effort, which began in 1986. Mr. Bush's decision was announced by the White House in a printed statement after the President left for Camp David, where he will spend the Christmas holiday.

Mr. Walsh bitterly condemned the President's action, charging that "the Iran-contra cover-up, which has continued for more than six years, has now been completed."

Mr. Walsh directed his heaviest fire at Mr. Bush over the pardon of Mr. Weinberger, whose trial would have given the prosecutor a last chance to explore the role in the affair of senior Reagan officials, including Mr. Bush's actions as Vice President.

'Evidence of Conspiracy'
Mr. Walsh hinted that Mr. Bush's pardon of Mr. Weinberger and the President's own role in the affair could be related. For the first time, he

charged that Mr. Weinberger's notes about the secret decision to sell arms to Iran, a central piece of evidence in the case against the former Pentagon chief, included "evidence of a conspiracy among the highest ranking Reagan Administration officials to lie to Congress and the American public."

The prosecutor charged that Mr. Weinberger's efforts to hide his notes may have "forestalled impeachment proceedings against President Reagan" and formed part of a pattern of "deception and obstruction." On Dec. 11, Mr. Walsh said he discovered "misconduct" in Mr. Bush's failure to turn over what the prosecutor said were the President's own "highly relevant contemporaneous notes, despite repeated requests for such documents."
...
This is the same party who would, a few month later, begin their eight year mission of slander, character assassination and Congressional witchhunts to overthrow the duly elected Democratic President at any cost.

This is the same party who would eventually impeach that duly elected Democratic President over trivia.


This is the same party who would -- without missing a fucking beat -- steal the next presidential election and then lend their full-throated support to their newly appointed President as he roared his way through eight years of crime, criminal incompetence,  treasury-busting profligacy, corruption and outright treason.


This is the same party who would then convene a summit of it's top leadership on the day the  new Democratic President was inaugurated in order to figure out the most effective way to block, sabotage and hopefully overthrow that duly elected Democratic President at any cost.


See the problem?

You can dress your epic remake up all you want -- exchange a "Ron Paul" for a "Rand Paul", swap the white Southern Democratic President with the strained marriage and the grabby hands for an ascetic black ex-law professor Democratic President with a family that anyone would love to share a back yard with -- but you cannot seriously expect an educated, well-informed audience to believe that the Republican Party as it actually exists here and now could possibly be trusted to police any of the activities of any Democratic President without fear or favor, constitutionally and in the best interest of the country.

So what you're going to need is an audience predisposed to ignore all of the decades of relevant history that has led up to this moment.  Who somehow sleepwalked through Iran/Contra, the hunting and impeachment of Bill Clinton, the theft of the 2000 election and the first half of the Bush Era in a political stupor deep enough to believe that everything was basically A-OK and the country was "essentially on the right track" until, say, 2004:

Like, for instance, this guy (emphasis in the original):
...
The whole point of the Preface was that, before 2004, I had been politically apathetic and indifferent - except for the work I was doing on constitutional law. That's because, while I had no interest in the fights between Democrats and Republicans, I had a basic trust in the American political system and its institutions, such that I devoted my attention and energies to preventing constitutional violations rather than political debates. From the first two paragraphs:
I never voted for George W. Bush — or for any of his political opponents. I believed that voting was not particularly important. Our country, it seemed to me, was essentially on the right track. Whether Democrats or Republicans held the White House or the majorities in Congress made only the most marginal difference. . . .
I firmly believed that our democratic system of government was sufficiently insulated from any real abuse, by our Constitution and by the checks and balances afforded by having three separate but equal branches of government. My primary political belief was that both parties were plagued by extremists who were equally dangerous and destructive, but that as long as neither extreme acquired real political power, our system would function smoothly and more or less tolerably. For that reason, although I always paid attention to political debates, I was never sufficiently moved to become engaged in the electoral process. I had great faith in the stability and resilience of the constitutional republic that the founders created.
When the Iraq War was debated and then commenced, I was not a writer. I was not a journalist. I was not politically engaged or active. I never played any role in political debates or controversies. Unlike the countless beloved Democrats who actually did support the war - including Obama's Vice President Joe Biden and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton - I had no platform or role in politics of any kind.
I never once wrote in favor of the Iraq War or argued for it in any way, shape or form.Ask anyone who claims that I "supported" the Iraq War to point to a single instance where I ever supported or defended it in any way. There is no such instance. It's a pure fabrication.
At the time, I was basically a standard passive consumer of political news: I read The New York Times, The New Yorker, The Atlantic: the journals that I thought high-end consumers of news would read and which I assumed were generally reliable for getting the basic truth.What I explained in the Preface was that I had major objections to the Iraq war when it was being debated:
During the lead-up to the invasion, I was concerned that the hell-bent focus on invading Iraq was being driven by agendas and strategic objectives that had nothing to do with terrorism or the 9/11 attacks. The overt rationale for the invasion was exceedingly weak, particularly given that it would lead to an open-ended, incalculably costly, and intensely risky preemptive war. Around the same time, it was revealed that an invasion of Iraq and the removal of Saddam Hussein had been high on the agenda of various senior administration officials long before September 11.
Nonetheless, because of the general faith I had in political and media institutions, I assumed - since both political parties and media outlets and journalists from across the ideological spectrum were united in support of the war - that there must be some valid basis to the claim that Saddam posed a threat. My basic trust in these institutions neutralized the objections I had and led me to passively acquiesce to what was being done ("I believed then that the president was entitled to have his national security judgment deferred to, and to the extent that I was able to develop a definitive view, I accepted his judgment that American security really would be enhanced by the invasion of this sovereign country.").
...

18 comments:

Pinkamena Panic said...

Ol' Righteous Glenn just knows where the butter for his bread comes from and is willing to position himself wherever he needs to. He's every bit as much of a nihlistic opportunist as the centrists, but won't ever be called on it by his legions. Odd how they decry that behavior when they supposedly catch us doing it - almost as if they were projecting...

Kevin Wood said...

all that said, I would pay $12 to see a remake of Treasure of the Sierra Madre starring Brad Pitt, Ed Norton and Harrison Ford or a remake of For Whom the Bell Tolls that was as true to the book as the original with Pitt or Norton, Salma Hayek, Benico Del Toro as Pablo and I-don't-know-who as Pilar

Roger McCarthy said...

Even the original sequels to Planet of the Apes were to my mind utterly redundant (although I did kind of enjoy the bomb-worshippers in Beneath and Escape had that great reveal at the beginning).

A faithful adaption of the rather Swiftian Pierre Boulle novel with its naked human pets on leashes and apes in twentieth century dress driving cars and having dinner parties would be fun though - but I suspect only the French would be daring enough to attempt it and they're not exactly noted for their cutting edge CGI and SFX.

And lets not forget Robocop, Total Recall and Judge Dredd (remakes of which I have any intention of seeing) and the Spiderman and Batman franchises that will evidently get rebooted and 're-imagined' every decade now.

And don't get me started on the new Star Trek which amounts to nothing more than pissing on Gene Roddenberry's grave.

Hamfast Ruddyneck said...

I find it amusing to see the third Two Minutes' Hate directed against Glenzilla this week on this blog.

I will find it interesting to see if the fauxgressives have actually figured out how to shout loudly enough to drown out the rebukes from their own consciences, or the dying screams of swarthy moppets.

Zipperupus said...

Hamfist:

Quit appropriating the work of artists you don't understand to defend an opportunist.

For Glenn and the majority of his acolytes, history began in 2004. Suddenly, the United States was beholden to sinister forces. Suddenly, The Lord of The Rings, 1984 and Brave New World made sense.

In this history, there is an easily recognizeable cast of white hats and black hats. And the best part is, simply by being the loudest and most vituperative critic of the black hats, you are blameless and sinless. You are right and everyone else is not only wrong but complicit with evil.

What will never pierce your veil of jargon and a priori notions, Hamfist, is that I can agree with Glenn 100% on his facts and disagree with his narrative. His narrative is wrong. Terribly, epically fucking wrong. His narrative would put progressive and liberal priorities at the mercy of libertarian ideology.

Glenn has found a solid workable niche. He just puts it in service to libertarianism. You can spend all day finding things wrong with a system. That is a valuable service. The problem arises with the recommendations.

But, Hamfist, you won't look beyond your own righteous indignation and your highlighted dog-eared copy of 1984 that underlined "Orthodoxy is unconsciousness" twice without recognizing the irony.

Anonymous said...

I admire and support Driftglass. I also admire and support Glenn for similar reasons.

I do not understand the claims that GG is a libertarian. I do not know who Hamfist is, or what is the problem Zipperupus has with him.

Is this an argument about who was right first?

clandee

Hamfast Ruddyneck said...

@Clandee: Perhaps Zippy thinks GG is a Libertarian because the predominantly-Libertarian site Antiwar.com sometimes carries GG's columns.

"Is this an argument about who was right first?"

I suspect this is primarily an argument about the alleged necessity of staining our souls with innocent blood by turning a blind eye to the crimes of the Empire, because a member of "our" party wears the imperial purple now.

Secondarily, it is one specific instance of the argument in the ranks of the anti-conservatives which has alternated between loud and soft since 2008--an argument not so much about Obama, but rather the Obama Phenomenon of 2008, between those anti-conservatives who embraced the OP and we anti-conservatives who remained skeptical of it, thinking it reeked too much of cultic enthusiasm and Madison Avenue psy-ops.

Off topic: Captcha really needs to use brighter photos for its numbers.

Matthew Stephens said...

I think GG identifies himself as a libertarian, or at least as a 'civil liberties' advocate. He's comfortable dealing with the Cato Institue, Reason magazine, and other places that (apparently) render him odious and/or an enemy of liberals and progressives. His latest bio on Salon.com describes him as "a former Constitutional and civil rights litigator" in addition to being an author.

He's noted for his excoriating folks in the mushy middle (phrasing mine) for abandoning civil liberties (especially of vulnerable and/or visible minorities) in favor of compromise and political pragmatism. He is sarcastic, but has a lawyer's lack of a sense of humor.

He and DG might have found common cause in their distain for centrists and hypocrites, in some alternate universe. IMHO.

Anonymous said...

Driftglass, that was brutal. If I were to run for public office I would get you and Charles Pierce to write my negative ads. You two have a gift for making people you don't like look bad. Your targets do make it easy.

Vic78

Anonymous said...

There is no such thing as a "classic" movie.

Batocchio said...

I wrote a long comment, but Paul Carr hits the most important stuff.

Compound F said...

and yet still, Democrats countenance it all; and commit their share. Wonder why. Ever wonder why?

Do you ever wonder if there are systemic, intractable problems facing the empire? Energy, for example. Debt-based finance. That give rise to rampant law-breaking on both sides; yes, I said it! The truly powerful don't give a rat's ass about George Wallace or gay rights.

You attach yourself to attacking Greenwald, who, like it or not, is more principled than any fucker in Congress, and most fuckers in the tubes.

btw, you never really say why you support democrats in these times.

E.g., I dare you you to defend the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Not on your life, pal. And that goes for just about everything else. Torture, fraud, war crimes. Every crime so blatant it would make the ninth circle of Hell cringe for their tissue-thin betrayals.

What more do you need?

Yeah, every president and congress in my lifetime should be in jail doing hard time.

I suggest you now go after Chris Floyd with unrepentant fury.

then give arthur silber a dig in the ribs, a stomp stomp on jon schwarz, ian welsh punched in the ballz, of course, stirling, a kick to his beautiful head; go ballz to the wallz; sock marcy wheeler in the solar plexus; kick jon turley in the neck; go out of your way to stab dave cohen with an ice-pick; throw richard heinberg into a wood chipper; chop gail tverberg off at the knees. Pulverize john michael greer. Let stoneleigh and ilargi run smack into the teeth of your smile. Go, man, go.

Fuck them all. We don't need people who are not real democrats.

yer cookin', baby.

Pinkamena Panic said...

Nihilists, Dude.

Hamfast Ruddyneck said...

I thought I knew what nihilism meant, but Pinkie Pie uses it so often that I decided to look it up, to see if I had remembered wrongly.

Merriam-Webster-dot-com defines it as:

(1) A viewpoint that traditional values and beliefs are unfounded and that existence is senseless and useless.

(2) A doctrine that denies any objective ground of truth and especially of moral truths.

Neither of these seems to fit Compound F or any other critic of Obama and his party found on this blog. Rather, they seem to be angry that moral truths are being violated: Collateral homicide of bystanders while killing alleged enemies of the Empire is wrong, cutting benefits for the old and sick while fat cats pile up obscene profits is wrong (Obummer's eagerness to give away SS and Medicare), failing to punish grand theft is wrong ("too big to fail" and "too big to jail"), and so on.

I deduce that the Pinkie Pie definition of nihilism is "Refusal to swear fealty to the Dinocratic wing of the Property Party and its current leader". -_^

**********

I apologize for not providing a link, but I lack the cyber-savvy to make links on bare-bones blogs which don't allow copy-and-paste.

Compound F said...

It seems like Herr Doktor Hamfast Ruddyneck takes my point well.

I also think DG is heading for the Mother of All Andrew Sullivan "What I Shoulda Known Then" Moments if he keeps up this business of attacking extremely viable critics.

Frankly, watching DG's talent flushed is not something I'd look forward to seeing. I suppose this is something resembling another (a second) seriously, querulously gobsmacked reaction from a regular reader.

It wouldn't be the first time I was wrong to make a character call, but my eyebrows can't go much higher than this without me relaxing them for good with a long shake of my head.

Even if Greenwald is a relative "greenhorn," by his own forking admission, he's stands head and shoulders above so many for his relentless focus, not to mention his ability to provoke responses from from the hapless media dorks. Ha! For that alone, mon semblable.

The Id of Baal said...

Jeebus, but you are pissing in the wrong person's pond.
Are you so lost in your world of shadow and light vis-à-vis the republican/democrat myth that Greenwald, of all people, becomes a target of yours?
He snipes. You throw bombs into the crowd, hoping to kill only CPAC attendees and David Brooks enthusiasts. You, of all people, dare now speak of nuance, a middle (bipartisan) way, to understanding the current administration's lawlessness and pissing on The Constitution?
IOKIYBO?
The current moderate republican who now holds the office of POTUS gets a pass for the crimes you've spent your whole life decrying because your party member assumes them?
Greenwald has done more in the last month to alter the hypocritical views held by both left and right than you have in a lifetime of nipping at Andrew Sullivan or David Frum's heels.
And he's been doing it for years.
But he gives Rand Paul a nod for broaching the drone subject on the Senate floor and he becomes Ming the Merciless to your sci-fi geek ass.
I can only imagine your caterwauling, final-line-in-the-sand outrage if GWB had proclaimed such a power as Obama fiats now. And you would have been right.
Which is why you are wrong now.
And by picking a sissy slap fight with Greenwald over him being more famous than you, you sound like a petulant little bitch who didn't get asked to prom.
Is it always about you being overlooked? Or is it about the ruination of our country?
Again, he always eats your lunch. Put down the pom poms for the Democrat Party. They no longer share our interests.
Keep with the Gingrich/Munchausen Photoshops and leave the debate for the adults until you realize there are no more teams with which to ally.
"The Guardian" awaits your copy and the inevitable spelling and grammatical errors with a big red pen.

Pinkamena Panic said...

Greenwald today, in short: "I can support Racist Rand on being against That Ne- I mean TEH DROOOOOOOOOOOOONEZZ!!!11ELEVENTY and yet not support his latest fuck-dem-wimmenz bill 'cuz it's not hypocritical of me to hold others to a higher standard than I hold myself." And naturally his ultra-white, ultra-bedicked, ultra-privileged base is clamoring for it.

By the by, Compound Fucked, thanks for admitting that Glans Greenhorn's mission in life is to be a CATO troll looking to "provoke responses". Good to know you acknowledge what we've already said. Now maybe you could come to your fucking senses and stop supporting the little liberturd?

Or maybe you could leave. I'm sure DG won't miss you - certainly those of us who aren't Greenwhores won't!

K. Freed said...

Wow. I do so love the pseudo-poetic sophistry offered up by the Greenwald bum washing Paultards flinging poo from the peanut gallery.

As if these Libertarian clones are somehow a sea apart from the GOP. "Both sides... blah, blah... WE, alas, mere spectators, constitutional conscientious objectors, hover unsoiled above the fray, innocent as the day we were born..."

Bullshit. You're a bunch of Cato Koch sniffers, just like Greenwald, who are in the business of conning gullible liberals to cast future votes in the general direction of right-wing tea baggers of the extremiest kind: they who happen to be of a distinctly Paulish persuasion. And if you can't quite manage that, you can always convince just enough idiots on the left, by pushing just the right buttons, that voting really is overrated. Meanwhile, your fellow baggers run to the polls and subsequently vote in the most unprincipled prosperity gospel preachin' religious zealots to be hauled out from under the nearest pile of rocks. Civil liberties my arse.

The jig is up, Paultards. Mark the date on your calendars.

DG: They doth protest too much;)