Every week, IndieWire asks a select handful of film critics two questions and publishes the results on Monday. (The answer to the second, “What is the best film in theaters right now?”, can be found at the end of this post.)
Last weekend saw the release of “Overboard,” a contemporary remake of the 1987 comedy of the same name.
This week’s question: What 1980s movie (comedy or otherwise) would actually benefit from being remade, either because the story left room for improvement or because it might be transformed, complicated, and/or made newly resonant by a modern perspective?
Mark Harris (@MarkHarrisNYC), Vulture
I recently rewatched David Lean’s 1984 film “A Passage to India,” which has many brilliant things in it (Judy Davis gives a remarkably nuanced and well-judged performance, often playing between the lines of the script) buuuuut also has Alec Guinness doing brownface, and hinges on a woman’s discomfort with her own sexuality that leads to a false accusation of sexual assault that takes on added fuel from racism and colonialism. The movie combines about seven different sticks of dynamite labeled #problematic, and while I was watching it, my first reaction is that nobody is ever going to want to touch this again. My second reaction was, I wonder if someone could–if it would be possible, without turning E.M. Forster inside out, to reapproach his novel from a vantage point that would have been completely alien to Lean. I’d love to see the right filmmaker try.
Charles Bramesco (@intothecrevasse), Freelance for Vulture, the Guardian, the New York Times
The ’80s being rife as they are with great comedic premises sullied by shockingly regressive gender politics, there are just so many options to choose from. Why not go with “Weird Science,” perhaps the grossest of all the libido-fueled teen boy misadventures that filled out the decade? Instead of a couple of nerds using technology to build a better bimbo — a thing that I understand is now happening in real life? — recast the leads as homely-but-hornt distaff high schoolers. Never mind that unreciprocated female sexual desire is inexplicably rare in the film world, just think of the comic potential! A young woman’s ideal man-piece would be a physical specimen, sure, but he’d also have such high-tech features as “being able to admit when he’s wrong” and “actually listening.” It may sound like a trade between one set of stereotypes for another, but there’s a real emotional undercurrent along with the look-how-far-we’ve-come jokes. “Weird Science” is the story of two deeply pathetic, confused young people, and wouldn’t it be nice if the film containing them was aware of that as well?
Rafael Motamayor (@GeekWithAnAfro), Flickering Myth
“The Last Starfighter.” After the success of “Ready Player One”, this one should be obvious. 80s nostalgia, an arcage game, aliens, cool space fights! “The Last Starfighter” wasn’t as big a success when it was first released, and it isn’t big enough that people will complain that the new faces don’t look or sound like the original actors. They can also get that sweet merchandising money by making a tie-in video game!
Edward Douglas (@EDouglasWW), The Weekend Warrior
I know that it’s generally frowned upon by film critics to respect, appreciate or God forbid enjoy remakes of any kind — we’ll see how “Suspiria” fares later this year–but even some of my most beloved movies from the ’80s, many which have stood the test of time in the 30 years since I first saw them, could be remade in order to modernize them.
Martin Scorsese’s “After Hours” is one of my all-time favorite movies, and it hand a huge impact on my decision to move to NYC just years after it came out. I still love it exactly as is…. and YET…. there’s so much potential for someone to find a clever way to remake it for today’s audiences. For instance, if someone from out of town came into NYC in this day and age and for some reason lost their wallet and smartphone, would they be able to get back to where they came from? Would anyone help them? Would they meet a similar number of modern-day weirdos as Griffin Dunne did in his quest to get back uptown on the fateful night covered in that movie? You get a good young comic actor, maybe someone like Ansel Elgort or Miles Teller (or maybe even someone younger?) as a young guy from Jersey or elsewhere coming into the city for the first time, and see how they’d fare in the big bad city without a smartphone. Would they be able to survive? It seems like fodder for a lot of great comedy with the right script and cast …. in other words, HANDS THE EFF OFF, ’cause this one’s mine.
Carlos Aguilar (@Carlos_Film), Freelance
Examining and disputing core biblical principles with plenty of creative liberties, Krzysztof Kieslowski’s “The Decalogue” (Dekalog) is an episodic masterpiece that’s still as poignant and incisive as when it was first released in the late 1980s. Fundamentally, there is no need for these miraculous 10 segments to be remade; however, it would be hugely compelling if they were revisited in the context of how the world works today. Even if human fears, aspirations, and desires are still the same now, technology, globalization, and progressive thinking might have changed the way these canons apply to how we interact in 2018, as opposed to how we did 30 years ago. The morally complex narratives Kieslowski crafted still speak to us profoundly, but revamping them to include the advancements and horrors humanity has experienced in the last few decades could make for something revelatory. Having one director conceive them all is also part of its allure, but with the current production models it would likely be a collection of filmmakers tackling this like an anthology. Perhaps it would turn out to be a subtler version of what “Black Mirror” is doing.
Q.V. Hough (@QVHough), Vague Visages
Martin Scorsese’s “The King of Comedy” would benefit from a remake, only the original director and star must stay the same. Released in 1982, the film comments on celebrity adoration and shortcuts to fame, as Robert De Niro’s Rupert Pupkin seeks to become America’s next great stand-up comedian.
Don’t get me a wrong, director-star duos like Adam McKay/Ellie Kemper or Donald Glover/Childish Gambino (!) could make a truly *hilarious* remake, one that would appeal to millennial viewers. But I’d like to see a more challenging film in which Scorsese and De Niro poke fun at 2018 celebrity culture and perhaps raise some difficult questions about social media psychology and how we may be perceived in 35 years. For example, what exactly motivates Rupert Pupkin in 2018? Does he want attention to validate himself and pursue creative opportunities? Or does he want attention so that he can manipulate online conversations while filling some type of personal void?
Or how about this: “The Prince of Comedy” featuring Rupert Pupkin’s son; a 250-minute dramedy about social media politics and privilege.
Christopher Llewellyn Reed (@chrisreedfilm), Hammer to Nail/Film Festival Today
Number 1 on a list of 1980s films to be remade would be the collective output of John Hughes. As a child of the era, I loved movies like “Sixteen Candles” (1984) and “The Breakfast Club” (1985), without reservation. With the benefits of age and greater sensitivity, however (not that I put myself forward as a paragon of enlightenment), I recognize the myriad of racist (Long Duk Dong, anyone?), sexist (the harassment of Claire by Bender) and homophobic issues throughout the work. The situations, themselves, still have appeal, so perhaps some clever soul could update them for the 21st century. Number 2 on my list would be “Back to the Future.” How much fun would it be to now look backwards at the 1980s from the perspective of today, and then jump forwards 30 more years.