Friday, December 10, 2010

A New Genre: The Prospective Movie Review

Maybe it's wildly unfair of me, but as soon as I saw the commercial tonight for director Julie Taymor's forthcoming version of Shakespeare's "The Tempest", I thought, "it'll be a dud". The commercial showed Prospero having been changed from a male to a female; and while, strictly speaking, that in itself isn't enough to torpedo a movie, I have a sinking feeling about it all the same. The father-daughter dynamic - obviously heavily dependent on the sex of each character - is crucial to the story; change dad to a mum, and it's almost a given that Shakespeare's enchanting and powerful tapestry begins to unravel. Certainly, Hollywood's history of destroying classic tales by trying to "update" essentially unimprovable and timeless story lines and characters only inflamed my sense of foreboding; and when I later caught Taymor's interview with Stephen Colbert, it only aligned with what I'd thought two seconds after I saw the commercial.

Though few people in Hollywood seem to grasp it, structurally changing classics in order to make them "relevant" is generally a VBI (very bad idea); after all, the reason why any story is a "classic" is because it is inherently immune to becoming irrelevant. A classic can, I suppose, be neglected by people who find things like Youtube clips of gerbils eating their own young or people falling off of ladders more entertaining, but a classic, by definition, doesn't become irrelevant. In fact, the only time classics smack of irrelevance is when the artistically mediocre, desperate to think of themselves as contemporary colleagues and peers of the original genius creators, torment us with their dull-witted versions of them. So bottom line is, I'm giving this new version of "The Tempest" a thumbs down. I hope, when I see it, I find myself to be very wrong, because it's been my favourite Shakespearean play since I first read it in Dr. McNamara's political theory class seventeen years ago (that went fast!).

On the other hand, a forthcoming remake of the John Wayne classic True Grit, directed by the Coen Brothers and starring Matt Damon, will no doubt be terrific. The Coen Brothers of course are a sure bet, so I'm not saying anything that most people don't already know. I mean...good script, good actors, and good director, means good movie.

So there are my two prospective movie reviews: The Tempest is dudsville, True Grit is great.

9 comments:

Jenna said...

I'm going to take a wild stab and say you actually are "pre-reviewing" this movie based on watching the interview with Julie Taymor that Stephen Colbert did last night...in which case, this is actually a POST-review based on an interview that already aired, rather than a pre-review of the movie yet to come. Taymor ALREADY said on "The Colbert Report" that the dynamics between her movie "Prospera" and Miranda, as mother and daughter, would be different than Shakespeare's classic interactions between Prospero and Miranda. Which just makes you a kind of plagiarist, rather than a prescient pre-reviewer.

ANGIE K said...

Its true your blog has affected me. The statement of gerbils eating their young is disturbing and I hope untrue, however it took me back to when I was 17 and had a pet hamster with red eyes. I had two and they were supposed to have been the same sex. Well one had babies and then next morning they were all gone and the father was hanging upside down in the cage. For all these years I thought he had eaten them and was hanging upside down to avoid the vengeance of the angry mother. Now I realize that she probably ate them and was going after him! This has led me to watch a horrific YouTube video of a mother eating her young. Confirming to me, that yes, I was right to never permit my children to have hamsters and yes they are horrible pets. I'm either healed or retraumatized. Not sure yet. Will let you know.

Polly Bodell said...

I have a soft spot for John Wayne. On Dan's desk we have a nicely framed photo of Dan and his three brothers with John Wayne. Dan and his brothers were out on the beach one day and happen to meet him. They chatted with him for quite a while and got this picture. This was just a few months before John Wayne passed away.

John Wayne really was a stiff actor at times, but i loved his movies and True Grit was certainly one of his best. The movie is so identified with him that initially I would think a remake would fall short of the original....then I watched the trailers... Wow! It definitely will be awesome!

Tal, you have to come up with some purely unique Bachman signature, like Siskel & Ebert's thumbs, for all your movie reviews. lol

PaulaLA said...

Julie Taymor's take on Shakespeare's "Titus" (1999) was brilliant, so I will be unable to resist seeing this combination of one of my favorite directors paired with my very favorite author. Taymor to me seems as close as anyone can get to constitutionally incapable of directing a "dud." Does seem rather odd, though, to switch gender on Prospero. Could be brilliant, or could be lame.

Would be very interesting to see if you agree with yourself after experiencing the film!

Peter Greenaway's 1991 take on this, "Prospero's Books," was pretty fantastic. You might want to check that out on DVD by way of comparison.

Tal said...

Hi Jenna,

Last night, I saw the TV ad for "The Tempest" (which is how I knew it was being remade), in which Helen Mirren is Prospero, and thought, "Oh God, not again...not another classic ruined...I feel a blog entry coming on!". I then saw the ad for "True Grit", and it was *on*.

But before I posted this entry, "The Colbert Report" came on. I posted this anyway (and without mentioning Colbert) because everything here was conceived prior to watching it, and it never crossed my mind that my post would constitute plagiarism, since as I said, nothing in it depended on the Julie Traymor interview, and was conceived prior to me watching it...

I don't think I am particularly "prescient" - nothing I've said here is anything other than a pretty pedestrian guess. Hollywood has a long history of changing classic stories, and those changes, I think I can say, *never* work.

Maybe I should re-write this entry to accommodate your arguments...

ANGIE K said...

'Paraphrasing' may have been a more appropriate word for Jenna to use if in fact her assumption had been correct.

smile said...

Glad to see you are still around. :)
Happy Holidays to you and yours.

smile said...

So...were you right?

Polly Bodell said...

@Smile - I would think that Tal called it right. "The Tempest" had one Oscar nomination for Costume Design, while "True Grit" had ten nominations including Best Actor, Best Supporting Actress, and Best Picture. I loved the it!