The Hamilton Spectator

Where are the original stories?


Netflix’s new series, “Ripley,” is an inadvisabl­e, no, indefensib­le, remake of the last remake, “The Talented Mr. Ripley,” 25 years ago, which starred a radiant Matt Damon, sneering Jude Law and frowning actress/retailer Gwyneth Paltrow.

The original was a rollicking beauty of a strongly plotted movie, which proved that suspense hits the audience harder when the actors are gorgeous. It makes them even more sinister.

So why remake it? Why remake anything? Why not produce original work based on exciting new scripts from bright, enthused writers and frightenin­gly clever directors? Because such people are hard to find and expensive to nurture, and remakes are easy.

The new “Ripley” couldn’t attract stars, so they miscast anyone available. The wonderful Andrew Scott of “Fleabag” was unable to deliver silent evil, Dakota Fanning was a bore and a child of Sting played the obnoxious Freddy Miles so ineptly that it became clear that nepo babies are B-grade remakes. There’s a lot of it about.

The series was so dull that it was filmed in black and white to make Italy look retro-stylish and stretched out so slowly that I could feel my hair growing. A movie it was not, but it worked as a collection of scenes of Rome and Venice filmed in dark shadows.

So I watched it with the sound off, closed-captioning on, always a sign of dashed hopes.

In 2023, we were offered ridiculous things like a new Indiana Jones, starring an elderly Harrison Ford with a remade face, a remake of the 1973 “The Exorcist” and “Wonka,” a prequel to Willie Wonka before he owned the chocolate factory.

This year, it’s as usual more boy-men action movies with Stallones and Cruises, a remake of “The Omen,” another “Planet of the Apes” sequel, and a new “Nosferatu” because the 1922 groundbrea­king silent horror film was too quiet. There’s another “Dune” because why not, and another biopic of Amy Winehouse because she’s still dead.

Maybe all this started with that pointless 1998 shot-forshot remake of “Psycho.” But I think it’s a new virus in western entertainm­ent. Take the sex creep Prince Andrew who was further disgraced in a BBC interview. Now Netflix has made a drama out of a remake of the interview.

The autofictio­n phase was a remake of authors’ actual lives passed off as fiction, so you could dig in the knife without fearing libel. The current memoir craze is scraping the barrel, packed with con artists and drama queens.

Your divorce is not interestin­g. Neither is your healing journey. Neither are secondgene­ration Canadians reconnecti­ng to their ethnicitie­s because Canada is too hard.

Please, write something fresh. The best fiction is invented. Ten years after “The Goldfinch,” Donna Tartt must have a Fabergé egg of a novel on the way. I want more singular comic tragedies from Russian-American novelist Gary Shteyngart and more sheer inventiven­ess from Canada’s great Emily St. John Mandel, writer of “The Glass Hotel” and “Station Eleven.”

Modern life is, daily, a fresh cup of strange. Write that. The black afternoon of the eclipse shocked me more than I realized, a harbinger of doom. On Nov. 7, the U.S. may elect its own Putin, a stupider one. A hot winter began killing plants; I feel like an Oklahoma farmer in 1935, with a hole in his hat and handful of dust, wondering if 2024 will earn a nickname ending in “-bowl.”

We never needed great art more, but it’s failing us. Instead we get movies based on kids’ toys. The artistic factory system has blocked young writers, artists and filmmakers — underpaid and underhired — in favour of cheap blockbuste­rs.

AI will make this so much worse. Fresh ideas come from smart humans. We need better rendering of this eerie world reflected back at us.

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