I’m not that hard to please movie-wise, really. And I’m not one to cry sacrilege every time something gets altered in the process of being translated onto the big screen. Sure, there are risky remakes, unnecessary sequels, and adaptations that make me nervous but turn out to be OK (the trailer and posters for next March’s Watchmen make me very optimistic). But on rare occasions there are ideas that I am prepared to say in advance, sight unseen, are just wrong.
One such case was Hollywood giving the Demi Moore Scarlet Letter a happy ending — and the producer twisting the knife by talking about how he felt he was liberating the story that wanted to be told from the constraints of the original, presumably lame Hawthorne novel. Another such case, arguably more absurd, is MTV’s planned remake of The Rocky Horror Picture Show.
I am not exaggerating when I say that this may be the worst idea for a film remake I have ever heard. Not because Rocky Horror is the best film ever made — no one really believes that — but because no film (perhaps no work of art in all of human history) is known in such intimate detail by its fans and treasured for each and every quirk. I would be more optimistic if I heard Star Wars were being remade (I might even be relieved to hear George Lucas wasn’t involved so that he couldn’t do any further damage).
And a Rocky Horror remake just gets worse the more you think about it. I mean, either it’s identical to the original — in which case, what’s the point? — or it’s not, in which case, where’s the love? Must we see a Dr. Frank-N-Furter that is not Tim Curry (who deserves a retroactive Oscar for that performance)? A Brad and Janet who are not Barry Bostwick and Susan Sarandon? God help us, a Columbia who is not Little Nell? Why? To what possible end? Will they correct mistakes and missteps? Keep them? There is no good solution.
At least when the very odd Gus Van Sant remade Psycho shot for shot, he was raising questions about whether remakes are necessary and how they should be done. I find it hard to believe MTV has any nobler or more artistic intention than duping a lot of young people into thinking “Newer must mean better!” Let’s get Judd Apatow to redo Citizen Kane while we’re at it (perhaps in 3D). Or have Darren Aronofsky remake RoboCop — oh, wait, that one’s actually happening.
•On an even more nerdy note, I can’t help thinking that people who want to see Richard “Riff Raff” O’Brien, writer of Rocky Horror, in another film have one more reason to check out Dark City, just re-released on DVD on its tenth anniversary. He plays one of the great, gothy villains, Mr. Hand (“Sleep now…”), and has one of the more poignant and believable final scenes in sci-fi-villain history.
•Recent weeks have also seen the release of the concert film Lou Reed’s Berlin, scheduled to close at Film Forum the same night, Tue., Aug. 5, that I’m gathering people at 8pm at Iggy’s Karaoke on Second and 76th for birthday drinking and, at 9pm, singing that might well range from Rocky Horroresque glam rock to dark Velvet Underground numbers.
•Somewhere in between glam rock and karaoke falls my favorite performance from the show Rock Star INXS: rare Tongan-American (Tonga being a monarchical Pacific island of about 100,000 inhabitants) Jordis Unga doing Bowie’s “The Man Who Sold the World,” which friendly ex Koli — who is also gathering people at Iggy’s in honor of her own birthday — is reviewing as possible inspiration. With emotion not heard in the Bowie or Nirvana versions, Unga does the song well — well enough that I was rooting for her early on, but you had to feel for the slimy J.D. (the Richard Hatch of Rock Star INXS) when he suddenly and somewhat unexpectedly found out he’d won in the end (“You are the new lead singer of INXS”) and fell to his knees, overcome with emotion as his life’s ambition was realized.
•But many covers should not happen, and I don’t just mean MTV’s Rocky Horror or the atrocities sometimes committed in karaoke.
For instance, the fittingly-named band Nonpoint has an utterly worthless, emo-ish cover of Phil Collins’ classic song “In the Air Tonight.” Why do people keep doing things that serve no purpose but to fill me with hate?
Since I tend to think a cover should not be done unless it somehow adds to, improves upon, or cleverly reinterprets the original, I am made happier by things like my favorite quartet of great moody/female covers of rougher/male alternative rock songs: “Train in Vain” by Annie Lennox, “Fell in Love with a [Boy]” by Joss Stone, “Sweet Jane” by Cowboy Junkies, and “All Apologies” by Sinead O’Connor — the second Nirvana song of which I’ve had trouble remembering the title recently, by the way. The past is slipping away, but crappy covers don’t help.
ADDENDUM: None of the above should be construed as an argument against the Danzig-ified version of Shakira’s “Hips Don’t Lie,” of course.