5 More Bad Remakes

1.  Annie.  This is another one I won’t watch out of principle, for reasons too many to list here.  But one reason is enough:  anyone other than Carol Burnett playing Miss Hannigan is a travesty, my friends—travesty!  And anyone other than Albert Finney playing Daddy Warbucks follows suit.  Don’t mess with perfection.


2.  How the Grinch Stole Christmas.  See my feelings on Charlie and the Chocolate Factory for this one:  sweet, whimsical story devolves to dark, crass creepfest.  The worst part is, this movie seems here to stay.  It’s got a huge following, and runs and re-runs on every tv station, at every kids’ Christmas party, in every kids’ classroom from Thanksgiving to Christmas, every single year.  I can’t tell you how many December afternoons have found me volunteering at the elementary school, quietly laminating candy cane collages, only to overhear Jim Carrey’s slobbery drawl blast into the tender young ears of our children as they haplessly eat their lunch.  This gross caricature of the cartoon classic, combined with the smell of “enchiladas” wafting from the cafeteria, is enough to make me wait and eat lunch when I get home.


I prefer this guy.

3.  Love Affair.  (Based on An Affair to Remember, 1957) The fact that you probably never saw this mushy remake of An Affair to Remember speaks well of your good taste, and points to my bad.  (Disclaimer:  my roommate rented it in college, otherwise I’d plead ignorance.)  How is it that, with our generation’s haughty pride in its intellectual progress and verbal savvy, all of our remakes are so much duller than their 1960s predecessors?  Aren’t we supposed to be the clever generation, with our deadpan humor and raw wit?  As with the remake of Parent Trap, the writers of Love Affair obviously have little faith in their audience’s intelligence; they seem afraid to create any tension between the characters, for fear that it will disrupt the romantic (in this case, sappy) flow of things.  You can’t just put two has-been hotties onscreen (Warren Beatty and Annette Benning, married in real life, gag-o-rama), cue up a drippy soundtrack, and expect viewers to swoon when there’s not a trace of harmonic discord to keep us wondering if they’ll ever get together.  Let Annette Benning roll her eyes and mock Warren Beatty a little, just like Deborah Kerr did to Cary Grant in the original.  It’s ok; we get it.  (see:  We Are Smart Enough.)  We know that lovers can tease and get irritated with one another.  Let them be sarcastic and grumpy sometimes; we can relate.  The best love stories always start with two deeply flawed characters.  Pride and Prejudice.  Wuthering Heights.  Casablanca.  Anna Karenina.  (Well, the love story between Kitty and Levin was beautiful.  That whole Vronsky/Anna/throw-momma-in-front-of-a-train thing thing was a hot mess.)


4.  Jane Eyre, 2011 version.  This was the latest remake in a string of remakes–in fact, so numerous are the versions of this film that I’m not sure any of them qualify as an actual “remake.”  But for the purposes of this post, we’ll dice up the 2011 version.

I had a gaggle of girlfriends over for a special viewing, so excited was I to see yet another film adaption of one of the greatest novels ever.  The movie got decent reviews by the critics, but I personally found it painful.  It was beautifully filmed, richly detailed, well acted—with absolutely no chemistry between Jane and Rochester.  It’s like the movie thought of everything except the passionate love story upon which it was based.  And you don’t cast a hottie to play Rochester (Michael Fassbender, yum.)  See #3:  the leading characters can be imperfect.  We know Rochester is supposed to be unattractive; that’s a big part of the charm in his dark but passionate personality.  He and Jane’s plainness is what we love about their love story; it’s all about their their intelligence, their past tragedies, and their connection with each other.  The fact that most people wouldn’t find Rochester loveable is what makes Jane’s doing so all the better.

Versions of Jane Eyre abound, but one of my faves is Masterpiece Theater’s 2007 version (Rochester is so good in this one, I’m willing to overlook that he’s still a bit too handsome.)  Next I want to see the 1996 version with William Hurt.  I heard it was mass creepy.  Yum.


5.  Karate Kid.  I saved this one for last, because there’s a bad movie remake, and then there is blasphemy.  The remake of Karate Kid, starring whats-his-brat Smith, belongs in the latter.  (I can’t believe I missed this one in my first list; my sharp cousin was kind enough to point it out to me.)  I could wax poetic for pages about all the good things turned bad with this remake, but I know you’re reading this when you should be paying attention to your kids or loving on your Hub, so I’ll make a short list in the name of brevity.  (Which is something I seldom do.)  (Period.)

1.  Daniel Larusso was kind, honest, and respectful.



“Dre” is a total brat.

2.  Daniel adored his mother and treated her with respect.  “Dre” despised his mother.  (see #1:  “total brat.”)

3.  Daniel was thankful for everything he got.  “Dre” spat on everything he got. (His name requires quotes, every time.  Just ’cause.)

4.  Daniel was in high school, up against some serious odds and seriously beefy bullies.  “Dre” was a tween brat up against other tween brats.  We weren’t worried for him like we were for Daniel–eleven-year old bullies just aren’t scary enough.  And so we weren’t as thrilled by his triumph.  Daniel was young enough for kids to relate to and old enough for adults to recognize their awkward teen selves in.  Against the Cobra Kai, who couldn’t love Daniel?


5.  The China setting in the remake was too exotic and thus took the relatable quality out of the movie.  That Daniel was a middle-class kid trying to fit into any-high-school USA is something that most of us can relate to.  The whole China thing was too glitzy and global.  (No offense, China.)

6.  The mom in the remake was boring and weak.  Remember Mrs. Larusso?  LOVED.

7.  The “romance” in the remake was a joke–and a kind of a creepy one at that.  I didn’t need to see two eleven year olds make out.  Daniel and Ali’s romance struck the perfect chord of fresh young love; they didn’t take it too seriously, but it was all from the heart.  Loved.

8.  Daniel Larusso was cool without being “cool.”  His clothes were a little frumpy and dated, even for that time period, his glasses were too big, he rode a dorky bike.  But this was his charm.  He was the cool guy without money; cute without trying too hard.  Unlike his bullies, who had the Izods and convertibles, which made them perfectly delicious villians.  This is why we cheered Daniel on: he was the ultimate, loveable underdog.


Irresistable.   “Dre,” on the other hand, claimed supercoolness from frame one.  Bugged.

9.  In the remake, there was no “wax-on, wax-off!” “paint-the-fence up-and-down, side-to-side!”  “sand-the-floor!”  There was no crane kick practice on the beach.  There was no spaghetti-all-over-his-shirt-at-the-country-club.  There was no Mom picking him and his date up in a station wagon that breaks down.  There was no skeleton-clad bullies chasing down a running shower on Halloween night.  And there was no “You’re the best!” signature song at the All-Valley Karate Tournament.  Come on…these iconic moments are the heartbeats of the movie!  Dang it if listing them doesn’t make me want to watch it all over again.


10.  The writing in the remake was terrible.  No–”terrible” lends it too much weight.  The writing was vapid.  Unoriginal, uninspired, unfunny.  I can’t remember a single scene or phrase from this movie.  I just remember a blur of brattiness against a loud and splashy backdrop.  As opposed to the original, which I’ve been able to quote, frame by frame, since it’s release in 1984.  I was eleven years old; the perfect age to fall truly madly deeply in love with both the movie and its hero.  Thank you, Ralph Machhio, for making my middle-school existence bearable.   Love.

The Busy Badge

After a long winter of piano lessons, violin lessons, guitar lessons, karate lessons, three different basketball teams, cub scouts, Young Womens, and various cleaning and decorating projects, I found myself, this afternoon, with two hours of free time.

Two whole hours.

Oh, the things I could do with two free hours!  The kids were gone, the house was clean, and dinner was simmering beautifully in the crockpot.  The laundry was done and the carpool was a blessed 120 minutes away.  I had nothing to do and nowhere to be.  The only thing I had to do was decide how to spend my two free hours.  What in the world would I do?

Well, I’ll tell you what I did:  I panicked.  Why?  Because I didn’t know how to handle the free time.  Shoot, I didn’t even recognize it.

Who has free time these days?  Children and homeless people, that’s who.  Everyone else is busybusybusy!  And if you’re not, you should be.  Because busy equals productivity.  Busy equals ambition.  Busy equals importance–as in, the busier you are, the more important you must be.  Right?

I am not immune to this sordid train of thought; in fact, I wear the Busy Badge whenever I can.  Just ask my sister.  I call her every day ranting about how, even though the kids are in school, I’m “still soo busy!”  Her four young children scream in the background as she clucks sympathetically, graciously validating my busyness when she can’t even get five seconds alone for a phone call.  But validate me she does, because she knows how important Being Busy is to my self-esteem.  I mean, I’m a stay-at-home mother of three children.  If the Busy Badge doesn’t convince people I’m important, what will?


And therein lies our society’s obsession with who’s-busier-than who.  We are all, to some degree, constantly trying to prove our importance—to others, to ourselves.  We may not be spectacular at everything (or anything), but if we’re “busy!” we are at least relevant.  We are contributing, we are needed, we are important.  This may be why stay-at-home moms seem to cry “busy!” so often; they are scared of seeming irrelevant in a season of life that is often dismissed by others.  I’m not saying that stay-at-home moms aren’t busy, because they are.  I’m just saying that they seem to have a special need to prove it.  Busy gets respect.

And I respect Busy, too—to a point.  I respect motivation and hard work and the whole sucking-the-marrow-out-of-life thing.  But I wonder:  could we respect Not Busy a just little bit more?  Could we, instead of anxiously skimming online articles and self-help books about how important “downtime” is, just actually, um, have some?  On purpose and with no apologies?  Could we wear the Not Busy badge with as much pride as we do the Busy one?

I have a new kind of favorite person:  the person unafraid to say “I’m not busy.”  I once had a young mother say to me, “You know, I’m really not that busy,” and I was awestruck.  It just showed such a rare confidence.  She knew her life’s value didn’t hang on how full her calendar was, and she didn’t need to convince others that her schedule warranted approval.  She was one of the few people content to stand still while Busy whipped itself into a frenzy all around her.  I think the word for such people is gracious.  Because they can ignore Busy long enough to ask about you.

Most of us can’t escape Busy; we are adults, and much is expected of us.  But we can knock Busy off it’s twenty-first century pedestal and put it back where it belongs:  as something to be tolerated instead of something to be worshipped.  Then maybe we’ll stop trying frantically to be busy even when we’re not.  Then, when we do get two whole hours of free time, we’ll allow ourselves to use it simply to think.  And surmise.  And remember.  And find meaning.  And feel sorry.  And feel grateful.  And feel, and feel, and slowly, privately, genuinely feel.

And then, having calmed the choppy waters, having paid this kind attention to ourselves, when someone asks us how we are, we won’t need to respond by screaming about all the things we have to do.  Instead, we can draw a breath and say, “I’m good.  But what I really want to know is:  how are you?”  And, no longer ruled by Busy, we can actually listen to the answer.

It’s 2 am

Tonight I went to bed at ten o’clock with full and virtuous intentions of waking up at five o’clock the next morning.  Instead and inexplicably, I woke up at two o’clock (a.m–ugh), eyes wide open and mind ablaze with some pretty hefty internal dialogue.  Such as:

1.  How my dumb dog downstairs knows, with some weird canine intuition, that I’m awake up here, and is now barking from his kennel, soon to wake up the whole family.

2.  How I now have to heave my sleepy self off this chair and go down to silence dumb dog.  (i.e., whisperyell:  Shut up, Maude!)

3.  What an astonishing mess my house is.  And how I’ve been lying to myself all these years, thinking I was a “good” housekeeper with an occasional setback.  The setbacks are no longer occasional, and they are winning.  The exception is becoming the rule, the Servant becoming the Master.

4.  How disgusted I was to see, at the grocery store today, People magazine’s latest “Special Collector’s Edition” dedicated to–who else?–Miley Cyrus.  They called her a “beautiful rebel” and spent the entire glossy volume singing praises about her fabulous haircut (really?), her fabulous wardrobe, and her fabulous “new attitude!”  Funny, I thought that New Attitude was just the Old Attitude, wrapped up in a new, barenaked booty.  (A new, barenaked booty comes arrives on the female music scene about every five years.  It doesn’t take much talent, just a booty, and some barenakedness.)  And don’t you just love the media whitewashes the booty-barers and their booty-baring when appeal to a mass audience is suddenly deemed necessary?  Here is the girl who’s brought soft porn to the small screen, but People, as far as I could tell, paid little attention to that.  Instead, “Mad for Miley!” was splashed across a wholesome looking, fully clothed Cyrus, with captions like “Every outrageous, tongue wagging moment!” beneath.  And don’t you just also love how degrading behaviors are now euphemized with words like “outrageous!” “irreverent!” and (my fave) “naughty!” ?  As if being described with such words is something to be proud of in the first place.  Though many decry Cyrus as a bad role model for young girls, I believe this assessment is too complimentary.  Why lend her the credence of a “role model?”  I don’t dislike Miley Cyrus because she’s a bad role model for young girls; that’s too limited.  Were there no young girls around anywhere, I’d dislike her because she’s a bad, dumb person putting bad, dumb things into our good, smart(ish) world.  Desperate and mediocre, she should be labeled and pitied as such, not given her own “Special Collector’s Edition” of People.  (Not that that’s much of a distinction.  People’s about a half-step above the celebrities they cover.)  But whatev; I’ve spent way too much of my snooze time talking about Miley Cyrus.  She got my goat and took up space on my blog, so I guess the joke’s on me.

5.  How excited I am about the kitchen chairs my mom helped me re-cover today.  It only took me three years to get this ninety-minute project completed.  Somehow, I blame the dog.  (Or Miley Cyrus.)

6.  How updating my chairs has inspired me to update a few more things around the house for spring:  lighter curtains and pillows in my bedroom, flowers on the porch, perhaps even–dare I wish it–a new welcome mat?  I feel a trip to Target coming on soon (I have a sense for these things you know) and truth be told, the anticipation of that is what may be keeping me up tonight.

7.  How I am supposed to meet my running partner at the track in three short hours, after having slept only four short hours.  And how, though she’s wonderfully nice, it would be poor form bail on her.

8.  How, no matter what I eat or how much I run, I am still, always and forever, going to look like me.  And what a damning and liberating revelation that is.

9.  How good Jhumpa Lahiri’s new book, The Lowland, is turning out be.  And how reading Jhumpa Lahiri must be like taking a long draw of heroin, it’s so calming and addictive.  (Do you “draw” heroine?  That was a guess.  Ask Miley.)

10.  How I refuse to put an image of Miley Cyrus in this post, although it would be on-topic, and will instead insert an image of Jhumpa Lahiri.  It won’t get as much traffic, but at least I’ll be able to sleep at night.  (At some point, I hope.)


Isn’t she beautiful?  And so talented.  No, gifted.  (Unlike somebody else we know.)

 10.  How Miley Cyrus, when those two knots are twisted atop her head and her tongue is “wagged” out, looks eerily like the devil.  Like, for real.  Is it on purpose?

11.  How I am ready, now that I’ve vented, to stop talking about Miley Cyrus altogether.  Promise.

12.  How beautiful the movie In America was.  Have you seen it? It’s older (2002) but for some reason it’s beautiful-ness popped into my head as I was lying awake tonight.  Maybe because the female lead in it has super short hair like Miley Cyrus.  (oops–did it again.)  But she’s pretty and nice, and doesn’t have a tattooed kitty on the inside of her lower lip (as far as I can tell), so don’t worry.  At any rate, see this movie if you haven’t.  Outstanding.

13.  How I spent two hours today sitting in my daughters first Drivers Ed class, wondering how life ever got us here.  And how my mother, through a fake smile and forced giggle, suggested that I don’t take my daughter out on any of her drives.  Apparently, my mom thinks the roads should be spared another driver like me.  She claims that in a few years I won’t get off with so many warnings for my speed, um, issues, but I say that as long as there’s Botox and hair dye, bring it on.

14.  How I need to start writing more, and how I should try to do an e-book or something because really, aren’t I getting a little old for this blogging shtick?  And how this will require me to give up some other things in my life, like doing housework and talking about Miley Cyrus.  But see #3:  I’ve already given up housework, and see #4, #5, #8, #9, #10, #11, #12–ain’t no way I can stop talking about Miley Cyrus.  So I guess that instead of writing a real book, I’ll just keep blogging about Miley Cyrus.  It’ll work out.

15.  How, now that it’s 3 am and I’m still awake, I am most definitely going to bail on my running partner in two short hours.  And how, no matter how many times she might ask, I will never, ever be running partners with Miley Cyrus.  Just ’cause.