Wednesday, June 03, 2020

FAME isn't always what it's cracked up to be

Scrolling through upcoming movies I could record and watch during this quarantine siege I noticed that HBO was showing FAME. I always loved FAME. Great music, some wonderful performances, Irene Cara, and really evocative of those exciting days of starting out. I always thought it would be great to go to a high school like that. Only trouble is, I can’t sing, dance, play instruments, or act so what the hell would I do? They didn’t have a section for potential baseball announcers.

So when FAME showed up on my menu a few nights later, my wife and I sat down to watch it. First we were surprised to see Kelsey Grammer in it. I don’t remember him in FAME. And Kelsey has always looked older than he is, but here he looked really old. Then Bebe Neuwirth was in it. She looked great. But I never knew they worked together before CHEERS. How did that never come up?

The movie continued. The story and the steps seemed right, but I said to my wife, “I guess it’s been a long time since I’ve seen this movie, but I don’t remember any of this.” She felt the same.

And we were fifteen minutes into it and I was saying, “Where is Irene Cara?”

So finally I went to imdb and discovered we were watching the 2009 remake. There was a remake in 2009? I have absolutely recollection of it.

I also can’t recall ever watching ten minutes of a movie I thought I had seen but hadn’t.

Lesson learned. When setting up recordings, check the year.

We watched the rest of the reboot of FAME. Meh. I look forward to finding the original. But isn’t that true in most cases?

Other reboots to avoid:

THE HEARTBREAK KID
THE OUT OF TOWNERS
ARTHUR
THE IN LAWS
THE PRODUCERS

65 comments :

Andrew said...

Other reboots to avoid:
Live action versions of classic Disney cartoons.

marka said...

One thing I read on your blog that has stuck with me is the idea of not doing remakes of successful movies, but instead remaking movies that had a good idea/concept but wasn't good. I don't need to see a different version of Heartbreak Kid or Citizen Kane.

But I suppose you'd have to understand WHY the original movie wasn't good and it doesn't sound as though movie studios are filled with people who actually understand film making any more.

Lemuel said...

Another one to avoid is THE WICKER MAN. "Not the bees!"

Arlen Peters said...

The question in my mind is always: why remake an iconic film? They are NEVER as good as the original. Spielberg has a remake of WESTSIDE STORY coming up. I ask why. Then I noticed that it was just announced a remake of the film version of FIDDLER ON THE ROOF. All I have to say about that is OYYYYYYY!

Troy McClure said...

I saw the FAME remake at the cinema. It was boring, but I remember thinking at least I had the iconic theme song to look forward to, but no, of course they had to do a modernised remix that sounded nothing like it.

The only thing I liked about it was Bebe Neuwirth.

McAlvie said...

Yeah, that's always the way with remakes. I have no idea why they remake already popular hit movies. It lacks imagination, and they rarely recapture that particular magic that made it a hit in the first place. The whole "updated for a new audience" excuse never made sense to me.

An exception would be Arsenic and Old Lace. I recently saw the original movie with Tony Randall, whom I usually love, and it had a very, almost unrecognizably young Boris Karloff who reprised his role in the remake. But while it was a pleasant comedy, it is a shadow of the Cary Grant remake. Randall can be very funny, but Grant's comedic timing is amazing.

The In-Laws. If you had not seen the original, it would pass. It's fine, really. It just doesn't capture the magic that Falk and Arkin brought to it, mostly because they were Falk and Arkin. I read once that the script was written for them, because they wanted to do a movie together, so it makes sense that it was such a perfect vehicle for them. They are clearly enjoying themselves enormously.

Barry Traylor said...

I can never understand why they remake a movie that was excellent. They only one that comes to mind that was a good idea is THE MALTESE FALCON. It was made two times before John Huston did it right in 1941

E. Yarber said...

They really should put large banners across the covers of remake discs: WARNING: THIS IS NOT THE MOVIE YOU WANT TO SEE, or maybe just title them I CAN'T BELIEVE IT'S NOT ROLLERBALL.

Rockgolf said...

How...fleeting.

Curt Alliaume said...

In the original, Irene Cara performs the ballad "Out Here on My Own" solo on the piano. After she finishes and Lee Curreri's Bruno character compliments her, she's got the perfect comeback line: "Sentimental shit."

The surprising thing to me is "Out Here on My Own" was the second single from the Fame soundtrack, and became a top 20 hit in the same version as the movie. I'm surprised a record exexcutive didn't insist on overdubbing an orchestra or two; songs that sparsely arranged almost never charted in 1980>

https://youtu.be/gY4O0b32uhQ

Rays profile said...

Well, they are gonna live forever ... reincarnated as new actors.

Pete Grossman said...

Wow! That's surreal! Perhaps reflecting the times we're going through. Agree about all those remakes. Just bad. Lots of great talent in them, but why, oh why were they ever made? That's a rhetorical question of course.

This question isn't though - are there any great remakes you can recommend?

Be healthy and safe.

Bud Wilkinson said...

Another reboot to skip - The Goodbye Girl.

Tom Asher said...

The Heartbreak Kid (yes, the remake) is one of my wife's favorite movies. It's absolutely awful.

Craig Gustafson said...

I saw the trailer for the remake of "The In-Laws" and decided to never in hell watch that movie. "The In-Laws" is sacred. When movies were still reasonably cheap, I went to the movies 20 times in the summer of 1979. Eight were "The In-Laws" and nine were "Monty Python's Life of Brian."

When the new one came out, the reviewers all compared the remake to the original. Arkin called Falk and said, "We're getting better reviews now than we did when the movie came out."

McTom said...

Comedy is subjective of course, but I don't understand the widespread hate for the "Producers". As a full-on musical, it's a fundamentally different animal than the brilliant original, and imho, it stands on its own just fine. But naturally, your mileage may vary...

Glenn said...

We're past the days of people finding fame through actual talent. It's all reality tv, sex tapes and "influencers".

Andrew said...

THE LADYKILLERS
What were the Coen brothers thinking?

Cowboy Surfer said...

Same experience thinking I was going to watch the original FOOTLOOSE movie.



VP81955 said...

If it's any solace, this is nothing new. "My Man Godfrey" (1936), arguably the greatest screwball comedy of them all, endured a Technicolor remake in 1957 with David Niven (who wasn't in the original William Powell film, but had a supporting role in a 1938 "Lux Radio Theater" adaptation with Powell and Carole Lombard) and June Allyson (no Carole she). Why remake a Depression-era classic -- one with an underlying social message at that -- in the midst of '50s prosperity? The epitome of pointless.

Other great '30s comedies were also remade in the postwar era:

* "Libeled Lady" (1936, Powell, Loy, Harlow, Tracy) was remade as "Easy To Wed" (1946, Van Johnson, Esther Williams, Lucille Ball, Keenan Wynn).
* "True Confession" (1937, Lombard, MacMurray) was remade in '46 as "Cross My Heart" (Betty Hutton and Sonny Tufts!).

Anonymous said...

What is the difference between a reboot and a remake?

Beside the Maltese Falcon
The Wizard of Oz
the Man who Knew Too Much
His Girl Friday

they are out there, just not common. Its rare for a modern remake to be better.

Rockgolf said...

Only remakes I can think of that improve on the original: The Bourne Identity (originally a TV movie), and maybe 3:10 To Yuma.
Titanic, if you take the same plot & setting, different characters.

Tom said...

Also avoid any of the seemingly endless series of remakes that Steve Martin felt the need to make: Pink Panther, Bilko, Father of the Bride.

Anonymous said...

The exception might be literary "classics." Every generation should create a "Hamlet," "Little Women," and "Pride and Prejudice." I enjoyed the Gene Kelley "Three Musketeers" but the 1970s one with Michael York and the rest of that great cast still seems the best to me. Yet I still enjoy the recent "Three Musketeers" television show. Olivier was a good Mr. Darcy (although not Greer Garson as Elizabeth.) I thought the 1970s BBC version of "Pride and Prejudice" was very good but loved the AMC miniseries with Colin Firth. The Keira Knightly movie is good as well. Also, there have been many great Sherlock Holmes versions over the last century from movies to television.
Kathryn A librarian

Tom Galloway said...

And sometimes it does work; His Girl Friday as a remake of The Front Page. The second, but not the first, remake of Planet of the Apes.

Question; how is a movie remake different in concept from a play revival?

Anonymous said...

Friday Question: What plays, novels or movies should be remade every generation?
What movies or television series that maybe did not work the first time should be attempted again? For instance, is there a current star or special effects technology that might allow a successful remake of a project that did not work the first time?
Kathryn A Librarian

Mike Doran said...

A Few Random Thoughts:

- In 1980, when Fame was made the first time, it would be entirely possible for Kelsey Grammer and Bebe Neuwirth to both be in it.
They were both at the starting gate back then: Grammer acting on stage, and Neuwirth as a dancer.
When I read the start of your post, I thought maybe that was the case; I never saw the remake.
Here's a fun fact: the first time I ever saw Bebe Neuwirth on TV, I didn't know it.
In 1981, The Edge Of Night had a storyline about a dance troupe - and Neuwirth was one of the dancers.
She didn't get any dialogue, just one of the troupe, but the members did get a cast credit after one episode.
(Oh , one of the other dancers was a teenage kid just getting started on TV: Lori Loughlin - but that's another story …)

For McAlvie:
Arsenic And Old Lace has been done on TV four (4) times.
The Tony Randall version (Hallmark Hall Of Fame, 1962) was the third TV version.
Oh, and Boris Karloff (born in 1887) was 75 when he appeared in this version.
Fun Fact: this was the third time Karloff played Jonathan Brewster in a TV production of Arsenic; he'd done it before in 1949 (early live abridgement on CBS), 1955 (Best Of Broadway on CBS), and the '62 version as noted above.
Karloff had signed to do another version for ABC, but his final illness forced him to drop out; when the show was produced in 1969, Fred Gwynne stepped in to take his place.
Well, Arsenic And Old Lace is a perennial; it gets revived on stage all the time.
Sometime in the '70s, I saw a national tour play this at the Shubert Theatre here in Chicago, where the live audience loved it (me included).
James Macarthur was Mortimer (last minute sub for Gary Sandy, who'd taken ill).
Jonathan Frid (just out of Dark Shadows) was Jonathan.
Larry Storch was Dr. Einstein (Lorre throughout).
Jean Stapleton was one of the aunts (I can't recall who the other one was just now).
… and admit it - all of you who know the play are casting your own remake right now.
(And wouldn't Kelsey Grammer be a perfect Mortimer?)

Bob S. said...

I much prefer the 1973 Michael Crichton/Yul Brenner Westworld to the HBO series. Futureworld is great too - that has Blythe Danner.

RobW said...

Little Women may be one of the few stories that has been filmed multiple times yet none of them have been duds - they all have a fanbase.

Douglas Trapasso said...

Never saw the remake; it lost me as soon as I learned it was shooting for a PG rating not the R the material deserved. And then in a totally WTF moment, the remake brought Debbie Allen back (great!) but had her play A COMPLETELY DIFFERENT CHARACTER. Where was Lydia Grant when we needed her most?

scottmc said...

Fortunately, while the Douglas-Brooks version of The In-Laws pops up from time to time, the Russell Brand version of Arthur seems to have vanished. That way people won't accidently stumble upon it. Adding to your list, I would mention Sabrina- Bogart & Holden over Ford & Kenner.

Michael said...

A minor note of disputation on The Producers. The reboot, if I am correct about what you are referring to, was a movie version of the musical. It was not well done as movies go. It was almost as if they wheeled cameras in to film the Broadway show, which is actually what they should have done. THAT said, it is a change to enjoy the musical numbers, although they made the horrible decision to cut a couple of them.

flurb said...

I revere Denzel Washington (and his was the second remake!), but the first THE TAKING OF PELHAM ONE TWO THREE is the best one. By yards. Walter Matthau is fantastic, and he's not even, strictly speaking, the lead: he's surrounded by great character actors - Jerry Stiller, Robert Shaw, Martin Balsam, Kenneth MacMillan, Tony Roberts, Doris Roberts... There are no foolish acts of derring-do, but believable errors that ratchet up the tension, and yet it's also hilarious, which is due to the comedians in the cast and Peter Stone's terrific screenplay. Oh, and David Shire's music is perfect.

MikeN said...

I thought this would be a post about a movie you loved as a kid turns out isn't very good when you watch it now.

Mike Bloodworth said...

T.G., you beat me to it.
M.B.

YEKIMI said...

The Peter Falk/Alan Arkin of "The In-Laws" remains one of favorite funniest movies to this day and Richard Libertini as Gen. Garcia put it over the top for me. I remember watching it in the theater as tears of laughter ran down my face.

Mike Bloodworth said...

Never saw either the original "Fame" or the remake and I hated the TV show.

I have a friend that liked the remake of "Twelve Angry Men" with Jack Lemmon better than the first one.
I still prefer the original...as unrealistic as it is.

M.B.

sanford said...

So not all remakes are bad. I liked the original True Grit, but I thought the Jeff Bridges version was very good. And Hailee Steinfeld was better than Kim Darby and Matt Damon was better than Glen Campbell. Heaven Can Wait was a remake of Here Comes Mr Jordan. The only difference was that Warren Beatty was a football player and not a boxer. I love both of those movies. To Be or Not to Be was remade with Mel Brooks and Anne Bancroft. I thought that was good. This is kind of a cheat. The Fugitive was a remake of the the tv show. And the other way around Friday Night Lights was a remake of the movie. I don't think I would agree with many on this list. https://collider.com/galleries/ranked-best-movie-remakes/ Here is a list of remakes from IMBD. There have been quite a few. Some I have seen the first and not the second and vise versa and some not at all. I don't know if these are ranked in any particular order. I am sure some of them were bad the first and second time around.https://www.imdb.com/list/ls029773457/

Anonymous said...

The first reason is money, commerce. The business end of show business. Execs can show spreadsheets with financial performances of hits. That justifies a remake. If the remake fails, they are in the clear either way. If the remake fails, they can blame the creatives.

Next, it's career-based. No one on the rise can build a multi-million-dollar, big-butt-bonus career out of old stuff. This way, they get their fortunes off of someone else's previous risk.

And more than anything, it's to make the films more "relevant" to today's mores and wider, diverse audiences. Most often this is a good thing, and well intentioned especially by the creative team, but sometimes it is just part of the marketing.

George said...

I'm surprised that "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" hasn't been brought up yet.

One idea that has been tossed around social media recently is to remake a classic from another character's point of view. It's been done in books with "Ender's Game" and "Ender's Shadow", or in "Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead". Maybe Casablanca from Captain Renault's point of view? Wings, where Roy Biggins is the hero?

Buttermilk Sky said...

VP81955, you forgot TO BE OR NOT TO BE. After Brooks and Bancroft sing "Sweet Georgia Brown" in Polish, I turn it off.

PSYCHO. What was the point? To see the blood in color? (Hitchcock used chocolate sauce.)

Linda Pasley said...

I enjoyed the intelligent comments, but am wondering--with one exception--if any women---but as commenters and actors--had anything to say?

DBenson said...

Saw "Fame" at the theater. My impression was a big, handsomely produced TV pilot. I was very annoyed that story points framed as important were not only left unresolved, but often forgotten altogether: The traumatic encounter with the creepy photographer? Zero visible affect on the character. The girl who gets an abortion? Vanishes from the movie and nobody notices. The dancer who's functionally illiterate? He shows sympathy for a distraught teacher and his possible expulsion is never mentioned again. The composer who doesn't like people hearing his music? Something changed offscreen and he's enthusiastically present in the finale.

I understand that movies can't and generally shouldn't try to tie up every single loose end. But you at least acknowledge the ones that demanded audience attention, even if it's something vague like "not much hope here" or "now that he Gets It, he may be on a different road".

Wendy M. Grossman said...

The worst for me are Hollywood remakes of foreign films. The Tom Hanks list yesterday tossed up one of the worst: THE TALL MAN WITH ONE RED SHOE. The original, THE TALL BLOND MAN WITH ONE BLACK SHOE is *so* brilliantly funny. (And I suspect THE WIRE and BREAKING BAD writers had seen the lengthy, no-dialogue search scene that occupies a chunk in the middle...) Having said that, THE WOMAN IN RED with Gene Wilder, Gilda Radner, and Kelly LeBrock was more fun than the original, PARDON MON AFFAIRE. May be the only time.

wg

Wendy M. Grossman said...

P.S. The mention of THE GOODBYE GIRL reminds me that Quinn Cummings, who did such a terrific job as the kid, has a grown-up career as a comic writer. Her Twitter feed (@quinnsy) is very funny on the subject of actresses' dresses during award shows...and her appearance on Mark Maron's WTF podcast is worth listening to if you're curious about how she got from child actress to sane adult and her thoughts on show business.

wg

71dude said...

Dont forget to avoid the 1980 update of THE JAZZ SINGER, with Neil Diamond performing in blackface.

Patrick said...

Flight of the Phoenix remake is to be avoided.

Anonymous said...

@71dude
Neil diamond performing in blackface might have been one of better parts of that movie.
That just might be the worst movie Olivier was ever in.
What's below dreadful?

gottacook said...

I just read that Bruce Jay Friedman died today (3 June), age 90. Ken, I know you were a fan. My favorite short stories of his (besides "A Change of Plan," the basis for the original Heartbreak Kid by Neil Simon) were the fable-like ones such as "A Foot in the Door," "The Big Six," and "For Your Viewing Entertainment."

tavm said...

After the 1933 version got everything right, was there really a need for remakes of King Kong from 1976 and 2005 even though the latter was made by Peter Jackson?

Liggie said...

Re: "The Bourne Identity"; The Matt Damon 2001 version wisely used a different plot and setting than the 1983 Richard Chamberlain miniseries, which was relatively faithful to the Robert Ludlum novel. With the 2001 post-USSR Russia less of a military force than in the miniseries' Cold War production era, Bourne needed a different adversary than a foreign bogeyman. The military guys who turned Bourne and others into controllable killing machines served that purpose quite well. (Also, Damon and Franka Potente made for a more authentic Bourne and Marie than Chamberlain and Jaclyn Smith.)

In an entirely different tone, how does the "Hairspray" movie musical compare to the original John Waters non-musical?

Kosmo13 said...

I know Hitchcock's "Shadow of a Doubt" is considered an all-time classic, but I enjoyed the TV re-make "Strange Homecoming" so much more. Robert Culp is at his best as the Joseph Cotten character and Glen Campbell makes up for his embarrassing work in the original True Grit.

Rob D said...

I think the term “remake” should be reserved for a re-interpretation of an original work in the same media. So, yes, the movie FAME (2009) is indeed a remake of the original film from 1980.

Movies based on novels or plays are another beast entirely. They’re all adaptations to begin with. To me it seems ridiculous to say HAMLET (1996), for example, is a remake of HAMLET (1990). (Unless we know for a fact the maker of the latter film made the idiotic decision to base it off the previous movie and not the original play! Which would be reflected in the movie’s writing credits anyway).

thirteen said...

Sometimes a film is remade by the original makers so they can keep someone else from remaking it. Cf. "Lord of the Flies."

Sean MacDonald said...

I have a reversal of this experience to mention. Remember the 2007 film "Bridge to Terabithia" (based on a book of the same name)? Well, it came and went at the theaters, but my girlfriend at the time and I wanted to see it. So, when shopping at Wal-Mart, we saw a DVD of the moive "Bridge to Terabithia" so I bought it and we started to watch it.

It started slow. And it didn't seem to be as interesting as the TV commercials had made it seem. And then I looked more closely at the DVD packaging. What I had bought was instead the 1985 "made for TV" adaptation of the book. It was... not what we were expecting or hoping for.

Later, I watched the 2007 film (the remake, as it were) and it was much better. Maybe not great, but still much better.

Tony.T said...

The remake of The Producers is not terrible.

Tony Tea said...

The remake of The Producers is not terrible.

Frank Beans said...

If you're an Irene Cara fan, check out the soundtrack the 1970 musical THE ME NOBODY KNOWS. Seriously.

It may be very dated, but it's a piece of its time and the music is superb. Many of the actors (including Cara) went on to THE ELECTRIC COMPANY or SESAME STREET--back they were innovative.

James Van Hise said...

In many ways I prefer the remake of Flight of the Phoenix because it is better crafted as a story. After seeing the remake, TCM showed the original, and it really dragged and characters just stood around arguing a lot. But the ending of the original is better. In the remake they just take off in the makeshift airplane but in the original we actually see them arrive at an oasis and run into the water. Much more satisfying.

TimWarp said...

As a kid in the 60's, I grew up watching and loving the Rat Pack movies. Since my daughter really liked the new "Oceans" movies, I thought I'd show her the original Ocean's 11. OMG it DRAGGED. It was deadly deadly dull. So maybe remakes aren't *always* a bad idea.

(BTW I loved "Sweet Georgia Brown" in Polish.)

Dave H said...

The Footloose remake was really bad. Now some will say that the original was not exactly Oscar worthly but it's considered a classic 80's musical and it had a good cast with catchy tunes but the remake was just a waste of time and had unappealing lead actors. Dennis Quaid is actually in it. I hope he was at least paid nicely.

There was a remake of the Poseidon Adventure which was terrible. Starring Kurt Russell and Richard Dreyfuss. Stay away from it. A paycheck film for both I presume.

Jeff said...

The majority of movies are mediocre, so of course when a remake isn't any good everyone says "Remakes all suck". But this only holds true until tomorrow when a remake comes out and it's an excellent movie.

Dixon Steele said...

I always enjoyed the Neil Simon comedy SEEMS LIKE OLD TIMES, but it seems to be very inspired by THE TALK OF THE TOWN with Cary Grant, albeit more of a comedy.

In a way, it really is a remake (same studio) if not officially...

mike schlesinger said...

FAME was one of a number of UA/Orion pictures that MGM remade when they had nothing else going on. Others include ROLLERBALL, ROBOCOP, AMITYVILLE HORROR, PELHAM 123, CARRIE, POLTERGEIST, HERCULES, DEATH WISH, THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN, etc. Except for the two Denzel pictures, which may have broken even, all sank without a trace.

Brandon Gray said...

I think the only remake I've seen that was decent was "The Crazies" with Timothy Olyphant. I actually didn't know it was a remake until a while later. I take that back; I did like Redford's "The Great Gatsby" and Pacino's "Scarface". But, most remakes have been completely uninspired, unnecessary, and edgy because, hey, it's the mid-2000s (*cough*The Longest Yard*cough*Bad News Bears)