Hominy & Hash
IF IT'S NOT A RERUN, IT'S A REMAKE
by Constance Daley
American Reporter Correspondent
St. Simons Island, Ga.
ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. -- Nobody forgets to give Yogi Berra credit for first uttering, "It's deja vu all over again." But, day after day, it's repeated -either in conversation, news reports or in this article itself.
Is there nothing new? I don't mean news of the day, economic forecasts or reports, sports, crime, and in general, reports on the human condition. Basically, I'm thinking of the creative arts.
Three of the movies raking in the money this weekend were done before, albeit "Batman Begins" is a prequel - and a long time in coming. It's nice to see the Dark Knight brought into the light, but it's not new. It's just full of special effects showing the destruction of the city, when we once had to imagine what "demolished the city" meant if the bad guys were doing their dastardly deeds.
"Bewitched" is Hollywood's story of remaking the successful television series of the Sixties into a motion picture. They inadvertently hire a witch to play the witch, Samantha. This presentation is on a wide screen in color - the only true difference from the old black-and-white weekly half-hour series.
"Mr. and Mrs. Smith" has great-looking leads playing a husband and wife who have secrets from each other. In 1941, "Mr. And Mrs. Smith" had great looking leads playing a husband and wife who have secrets from each other.
Ah, time for Yogi's famous line: deja vu all over again. This time around we have Angelina Jolet and Brad Pitt; in 1941 we had Carole Lombard and Robert Montgomery. The secrets were different; the hijinks were just as outrageous. In 1941, it was funny to pit husband and wife against each other in a game of one-upsmanship. This week's opening was again a husband and wife pitted against the other in a deadly game of killing the one before being killed by the other - they are both hired assassins.
In both cases. Mr. and Mrs. Smith discover somewhere along the way they are rekindling the spark in a marriage they really do want to preserve. The earlier picture in basic black and white had smart, snappy, dialogue; this later picture on wide screen in full color, has special effects and a car chase. Oh, there are face to face looks from one of these beautiful people toward the other and then back again, but the looks seem insincere; the action shots are implausible.
Each of these motion pictures is billed as: "A bored married couple .. who discover... ," but the current film can't even find its genre. Whatever you want, it has: Action, Adventure, Comedy, Romance, Thriller. It is rated PG-13 for violence, sexual content, language, adult material.
I wondered what it would take to rate it "R" - and decide it is the lack of blood. The Smiths are banged around amid broken concrete, snapping cables, sideswiping cars, broken glass and runaway trucks. But there is no blood! I guess we bleed in silence not in sound-around Dolby Sound.
The Broadway Theater is constantly bringing back musicals that proved their staying power a generation or two before. The script and the score remain the same and they usually are box office successes once again. New generations of theater goers enjoy seeing the show on Broadway and it appears the financial backers will only put their money into a sure thing.
Where does that leave the creative minds of today, writing and composing shows that never see a stage because no one will take a chance on work untested?
"War of the Worlds" is opening in movie theaters and it's based on Orson Welles' Mercury Theater radio broadcast of the late Thirties. The nation listened in horror as the invasion by aliens was made so real they ran from their New Jersey countryside homes, gripped in panic, in fear for their lives.
Although I admire Steven Spielberg's work, the previews I've seen tell me Tom Cruise is no Orson Welles and the transfer from an audio event to a digitalized production is not going to fare well. It's too predictable. What I see on the screen, all so "in my face" with special effects, cannot compare to the visuals that play out in my imagination.
This week in New York a 30-day run of old films begins. The series is called "Paramount Before the Code," referring to a time in the early Thirties when Hollywood designed "lots of movies to titillate and lure radio listeners into movie theaters."
To be this summer's feature of the Film Forum, these movies, chosen to show what it was like before the Production Code's edict against "depictions of boozing, infidelity, and a fetishistic obsession with garter belts (everyone here, from the gals in "Girls About Town" to Betty Boop, peeks at silk-stocking tops)," as New York magazione put it, will probably enjoy a great run.
Cole Porter wrote of exactly those times: "In olden days a glimpse of stocking was looked on as something shocking now, goodness knows, anything goes."
We've had the "anything goes" for a decade or two now and, obviously, titillation amuses us more than Harvey Keitel's frontal nudity shocked us in the movie "The Piano." On television, the late night prime time NYPD Blue's showing a full view of David Caruso's naked frame and then Dennis Franz's live action in a working girl's bed can now be seen in rerun in the afternoon time slot.
Hollywood is tempting us away from the small screen; television is dragging us back offering the same sleaze.
Is the entertainment industry only giving us want we want or do we want more and more, again and again, of what they are giving us? When I go to the movies today, I pay the price of admission and leave my own imagination at the door. When I go out into the world again after time spent being shocked by sound and fury on screen, I race to a book store where I can still find something offering action, adventure, romance, comedy and/or thrills. All I need is my imagination and I just picked that up at the door.