So, 2019 is under way. A new year and all the usual noises about resolutions and good intentions, but usually all these soon slip into the repetitious bad habits of the years gone by.
For my part, I want this year to herald in a new era of creativity and originality; please no more remixes, remastered, rebooted, re-imagined remakes. It’s been a thing in fashion for ages, where old trends eventually turn full circle and become à la mode again. In the 1980s, my dad used to insist that his flared slacks from 1971 were not “embarrassing”, as I termed them, but would return to glory and eventually, they kind of did, if you lived in some on the trendier parts of London or went to art college. Other stuff is timeless, such as a Levis’ trucker jacket or a pair of Adidas Stan Smiths.
However, in music, television and film, we seem to have (hopefully) reached saturation point with remakes and new versions. Some of it is a rejuvenation of a tired old formula, usually involving an injection of celebrities, such as the new version of “Come Dancing”, which is a very long way now from the teeth, tails and sequins of its ballroom dancing competition roots back in the 1970s. Similarly, “X factor” is really just an updated version of “New Faces” (Tony Hatch and Mickey Most, anyone?). “Dancing on Ice” has been resuscitated after a five year break and “Who Wants to be a Millionaire?” similarly returns after being missing, presumed dead.
Over Christmas, it all seemed to go into overdrive. At the cinema, the hit film was “Mary Poppins Returns”, a remake of the Disney classic, memorable for the prim Julie Andrews and the awful Cockney accent of Dick Van Dyke. Twelve months earlier, the hit film was “The Greatest Showman”, in itself a new version of “Barnum”, but before the dvd was barely on the shop shelves, a bunch of struggling popsters decided they could do better and released a new album with their own versions of the songs from the film. Luckily, this year we managed to escape yet another version of Band Aid’s “Do They Know It’s Christmas?”, which was attempted by other acts in 2007, 2011 and 2014. There was controversy this year over the lyrics to the winter classic “Baby It’s cold Outside” , with some radio stations deciding the lyrics inappropriate and refused to play it. The song was originally recorded in 1949 by Esther Williams and Ricardo Montalban, but did you know it has been covered a whopping 363 time since! (Surely you must remember the Rod Stewart and Dolly Parton version….?)
The other big film of the season was “A Star is Born”, with Bradley Cooper and the cross-eyed Lady Gaga. This is a remake of the remake of the remake, with versions of the same film having already been made in 1937, 1954 and 1976. Other remakes spawn their own sequels, which then become reboots themselves and soon the original concept is lost among new casts, new directors, new versions, such as Batman, Superman, Spiderman, even Star Wars. (As I type this, I am trying to think of a recording or a film that has eclipsed its original version, I’ll let you know if any come to me by the end of the piece.) Sometimes, the franchaises get merged and you get “Batman versus Superman”, “Alien versus Predator” or “Avengers Assemble” which is all your favourite superheroes in one film and not a car rally for enthusiasts of the family car, made by Hillman in the 1970s?!?!?!
I struggle to get my head around the thinking for remaking or rehashing someone else’s idea. Is it because you are trying to jump on the bandwagon of someone else’s creativity and emulate their success, because you don’t have the ability to come up with the idea yourself and want to make a fast buck? Or, it is hubris, where you think, “Yeah, that was good, but I can do better”?, somehow belittling the original effort? (I still haven’t thought of a remake/reboot that exceeded the origin, by the way.).
My wish for 2019 is to se much more creativity and originality. New film makers with new ideas and new faces. New bands recording their own songs. Commissioning editors bravely screening new ideas on our television screens. But my heart sinks as I read in my newspaper today that already they are planning not one, but two sequels to “Mary Poppins Returns”. I’m going back to a darkened room and watch my “Carry On” box set….