Re-make Believe

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A significant part of pop culture has always come from remake and reinvention. Ask Madonna about Marilyn and Lady Gaga about Madonna. Or question The remaining Beatles about Little Richard. How about Steven Spielberg, Martin Scorsese and Francis Coppola on Akira Kurosawa?   Perhaps Brian DePalma vis-a-vis Alfred Hitchcock or Quentin Tarantino re Sergio Leone.

We all have our influences (and not all of them are good). One can’t help but be affected, consciously or not, by what has come before. In fact, even when you’re not appropriating, copying or paying homage it is likely the purely original idea you came up with has been done in some related form by someone else you don’t know about who is not you. As I’ve learned in therapy and in life, we human beings are individually unalike and yet collectively more similar than any of us suspect – or even want to admit. No wonder someone long ago – and probably long ago before that – said there is nothing new under the sun.

... and sometimes that's OK!

… and sometimes that’s OK!

And yet…

…It has come to my attention this week that we are drowning in… how can I say it… an unreality of make believe. This is not about remakes of endless superhero movies; the faux presidential daily vomits of The Republican Apprentice; or even the film version of one of the world’s most profitable gaming apps of all time – The Angry Birds Movie – debuting at THE #1 position at the box office this weekend. Nor is it about it achieving a B plus Cinemascore – which puts it far above the average college or high school graduate these days.

Instead, it is about a chipping away of the real. It concerns us not being able to separate the world of make believe and pretend with what really was or is – even when the truth is right before our eyes.

NBC’s The Voice – one of my favorite TV shows and one of America’s top 10 faves (Note: Clearly, I’m not the only one who fantasizes being a diva) – had a special event planned for its Tuesday finale show. And this would be a long planned duet between one of its star judges, Christina Aguilera and…WHITNEY HOUSTON. No really. They were going to duet – as in together sing – a melody of two of Ms. Houston’s most famous songs. At least that’s EXACTLY the way it was being billed.

American Idol featured Celine Dion with Elvis in 2007... so even THIS isn't an original idea!

American Idol featured Celine Dion with Elvis in 2007… so even THIS isn’t an original idea!

Yes, Ms. Houston did die more than four years and no, NBC has not made a deal with some 12 year-old prodigy who has figured out how to raise a living version of our most lauded dead. Well, not exactly. What did happen is that a 35 year old Greek billionaire and his ironically titled company, Hologram USA created a an image of Whitney Houston singing her signature I Have Nothing song and it was to alternate with Christina Aguilera singing I’m Every Woman. Unfortunately – or perhaps luckily – the duet was given the kibosh at the last moment by the Houston estate, which noted that with artists of the caliber of Ms. Houston it must be perfect and apparently it – was not. Of course, what it really IS – that’s anyone’s guess.

You'll have to save all your love for something else.

You’ll have to save all your love for something else.

Since writers are sticklers for a certain precision of words and/or language, may we be precise here? The planned performance was not an event television live duet between a living songstress and a deceased one. That is impossible. Instead it was an engineered medley between a flesh and blood person and an image/recording of a dead one.

A living thing cannot be real simply because we wish it to be so.

In the same way a lie cannot be true merely because we have chosen to think otherwise.

Gospel of Constanza

Gospel of Constanza

This is particularly important to remember in the 2016 election year – or for that matter any other year.

Engineering the past is a tried and true position every writer takes whenever they sit down to the page and come up with any story that is even vaguely personal. As artists, we tell a story and often that involves rewriting what is to a version of what you would want it to be or fantasize it was or could be. But it is sold as such – a fiction – an invention – it is not oddly positioned as some sort of 21st century – reality.

HBO debuted a very fine movie this weekend about the uneasy alliance between Pres. Lyndon Johnson and Dr. Martin Luther King’s fraught collaboration to pass civil rights legislation in the 1960s entitled All The Way. While it is a bit odd for us baby boomers to watch Breaking Bad’s Bryan Cranston pretending to be the drawling Texas president we remember as children it was also just as strange to view The Hurt Locker’s Anthony Mackie saying made-up words in the cadence of a civil rights leader whose dulcet tones we can still recall in our mind’s eye all those years ago.

A different type of resurrection

A different type of resurrection

However, this has always been what film and television is about – an acted rendering of a version of reality. It’s not as if we’re watching current Pres. Barack Obama having a conversation with Dr. King and HBO advertising to the public that it is actually happening. Or that ABC has a Diane Sawyer special booked where she will indeed interview the late Pres. Johnson on what it was like fighting the powers-that-be in the first year of his presidential administration.

It is this next, not so subtle step in blurring the lines with a hologram that is not only a bit creepy but more than a bit dangerous. It’s one thing to attend the Mr. Lincoln exhibit in Disneyland but it is a whole other version of the stars and stripes when the world begins to think that it just spent 15 minutes with the most lauded and perhaps famous member of the centuries old Republican party. At that rate, one day we might not be able to recognize the grand old party or even its next president – or proposed president. Because by that time everything will be its own custom-made Disneyland – and carry as much truth as any image from Hologram USA.

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Who Ya Gonna Call?

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Women are often accused of being more emotional than men but certainly we guys can get just as hysterical – even more so – if given the right issue.   When forced to provide examples the more macho among us might cite topics as varied as the rampant terrorist attacks in the Middle East, the way the movie American Sniper portrays them or how to enforce the minimum weight requirement of a professional football without interfering with what MSNBC commentator Steve Kornacki explains away as the edge EVERY team tries to get in a game. (Note: Yes, he’s the only openly gay, New England Patriots fan that I ‘ve ever heard of).

Talk nerdy to me

Talk nerdy to me

As for me, I don’t know much about football but I do know a lot about men – having been one for all my life and, well, for a lot of other reasons. And I can testify that this week there was one more undeniable item added to the hysterical, emotional and just too damn bad list for many of them us. What is it? Well, the planned reboot of the 1984 classic film Ghostbusters with AN ALL FEMALE CAST – what else could it be?!!!

I mean – How dare they???

Oh, don’t get me wrong – I LOVE the idea. Not only because I find Melissa McCarthy, Kristin Wiig, Kate McKinnon and Leslie Jones all HILARIOUS but because I like anything that upsets the power of the patriarchy that I never felt a part of. Not to mention the other reason. I didn’t really love the original and um, well, never actually found it particularly all that funny.

Seriously Chairy??

Seriously Chairy??

Wait, wait. It isn’t that it’s NOT funny. It’s just that it wasn’t my cup of green tea. The same way I never liked mashed potatoes and find both whipped cream and Jell-O sort of revolting whether served separately or together. Don’t even get me started on ambrosia.

Call me a freak, and many have, but this is my truth. However, it is not the truth for several generations of guys who have somehow grabbed onto the Ghostbusters franchise as some sort of weird touchstone of their youth that is not to be tampered with under any circumstances. Sort of like women would feel about similar enduring female buddy film franchises such as — ummm — is there one?

Well you ain't getting a sequel from us

Well you ain’t getting a sequel from us

I suppose this is the overall point if one is to suppose anything about something so ludicrous as the Twitter and social media outcry against a male director like Paul Feig (Bridesmaids) daring to reimagine a 30 year-old movie.

And no, I don’t think the Alien movies count. Besides – what guy would dare to play Ripley anyway aside from James Franco? As for mainstream rom-com series franchises, they always have males in the co-starring roles. So don’t even think about that.

Here's Francooooo

Here’s Francooooo

(Note: And yes, I realize someone out there will be writing in with a male Sex in the City remake and I for one would be in full support. But only if Steve Kornacki could play Samantha instead of James Franco – who undoubtedly will be granted that part, too. Unless they go with another Hemsworth brother – are there any more or can we make do with the two we already have?

Why yes of course! Meet Luke Hemsworth... the short one.

Why yes of course! Meet Luke Hemsworth… the short one.

You know you’re in trouble on the stage of public debate when the only prominent person on your side of the argument is Donald Trump. Just this week he took to video and ranted out loud:

…Now they’re remaking Ghostbusters with only women – what’s going on???

This was right after he screamed at us that:

They’re remaking Indiana Jones without Harrison Ford!! You can’t do that!!!

And thanks to the power of photoshop we know exactly what that would look like.

And thanks to the power of photoshop we know exactly what that would look like.

Well, it could have been Charlize Theron if I were either George Lucas or Steven Spielberg, Donald, so perhaps you should be grateful. (Note: Don’t tell me there is even a one of you wouldn’t like to see her with a whip). Not to mention, how long does poor Harrison have to keep wearing that leather jacket in the 120-degree desert heat? Till he’s the same age as the temperature? That couldn’t be any worse than Charlize OR Chris Pratt, the actor who is rumored to be the new studio choice to step into his boots.   Which begs the question of whether Michael Keaton should still be playing Batman, Tobey Maguire could still get away with Spiderman or if you really want to see today’s Hayley Joel Osment in even a walk-on in any proposed Sixth Sense reboot. I mean, next to those images James Franco starts to look fresh.  Sort of.

Of course, we haven’t even addressed the real jumbo jet of the elephant in the room – how we’ll all feel when we actually do see Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher and Mr. Ford all grown up and then some in the newest and latest chapter of Star WarsThe Force Awakens – when it actually does arrive in theatres this December. No, there is no James Franco joke to insert here – unless any of you have one. Though I’d wager he’d have one.

I can literally be in anything!

I can literally be in anything!

My favorite male objection to this looming remake la femme worldwide web debacle came courtesy of a rant that was picked up by the fabulously la femme website Jezebel.com, which I often click to for information on this sort of thing or even when I need a laugh (evidence here). And the rant comes from the Twitter handle: halfcastpodcast, who if one is to believe his accompanying picture, is just some guy living in Brooklyn. It goes like this:

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Half, do you ever plan to date a woman again? Or are you merely content with the 79 views the last video you posted on your YouTube channel received?  That’s even less than the number of people reading this hipster, feminist and, to make it a trifecta, very gay post. Though who am I kidding? Even if it weren’t, I have the sense that we’d still beat you in the key demographic of 18-54 year-old men AND women with disposable incomes, the ones who really count in the real world these days anyway – and they most certainly include more than a few hipsters, not to mention feminists. #GhostbustersLaFemme4EverSucka$$$$.

I don’t mean to be too harsh. After all, I was quite upset several weeks ago when I found out that one of my favorite Hitchcock movies, Strangers On A Train, is being reimagined at Warner Bros. by Gone Girl writer Gillian Flynn as a starring vehicle for Ben Affleck. To me this would be like the American people hiring Sarah Palin to reinterpret the Declaration of Independence for Indiana Congressman Aaron Schock (Note: Look him up. Or better yet —).

Is this crossing the (party) line? #CongressmanBeefcake

Is this crossing the (party) line? #CongressmanBeefcake

Still, it does feel like all of us men could loosen our grip on humanity just a little. It’s admirable to be a fighter for the issues you believe in but as you get older you begin to realize what’s even wiser is to pick and choose the right battles. Hopefully Mr. Trump, Mr. Half and all the rest of the aggrieved masters and misters of the universe out there will begin to realize this soon so #Hillary2016 doesn’t have to spend such a large chunk of her time educating them. There’ll be a lot more pressing matters she’ll have to attend to as the decade rolls on.