>> Thursday, August 13, 2009

So apparently MGM is remaking Red Dawn. 'kaaaaaaaay....

Anybody of a certain age remembers Red Dawn, probably not so much from its stint at the theaters so much as for the fact that it became a staple of cable television. In the 1980s, as HBO and Showtime began to expand and cable TV went from being a newfangled luxury to becoming a household staple, the premium cable channels not only didn't offer a lot of original programming, they also didn't offer very much by way of formerly theatrical movies, and it often seemed like each premium channel maybe only had one movie it was showing at all during any given month--I mean that you'd turn on the TV and flip to HBO or Showtime and, oh look, they're showing ______ again, you'd turn off the TV and turn it on again a few hours later and it would be ______ again. Anyway, for months or maybe even years, Red Dawn was that movie, a ubiquitous presence that people around my age probably saw hundreds and thousands of times, just because it was on. It became a touchstone, a reference point for an entire generation--which is presumably what MGM is thinking with the announcement of a remake.

The thing is, it's not a good movie. Red Dawn as a cultural touchstone for thirty-somethings is in the way of a bad inside joke. Making a snarky reference to "Wolveriiiiiines!" isn't a matter of respect or nostalgia, it's... well, you know, it's snark. It's ironic.

I don't think this is even a liberal/conservative cultural divide thing, either, with conservatives taking the film seriously and liberals not-so-much: one of the best uses of Red Dawn's ludicrosity (if that isn't a word, I'm making it one) was the South Park episode "Grey Dawn," with the conservative Trey Parker and Matt Stone milking Red Dawn's ridiculous premise for all it was worth by replacing the Russo-Cuban invasion force with old people (an invasion of paratrooping old people being more plausible than a Cuban incursion into Colorado--I mean, look, see, it could actually happen).

Did anyone other than the director who made it and the critics who hated it take Red Dawn seriously? Maybe Carl Ellsworth, who's apparently writing the remake; then again, maybe Ellsworth just doesn't believe in badmouthing his newest project--that would actually make more sense, though he did say:

As Red Dawn scared the heck out of people in 1984, we feel that the world is kind of already filled with a lot of paranoia and unease, so why not scare the hell out of people again?

Reading that, I can't help thinking about the best scene in A Hard Day's Night, the one in which George Harrison stumbles into an ad exec's office and is mistaken for an actor auditioning for a campaign promoting some grotty new shirts. The exec casually tosses out his trump card--that George will get to work with "Susan"--only to be horrified when George refers to her as "that bird on TV who's always getting things wrong... we all point and laugh when she comes on" and confesses that he and his friends sometimes write and send her fake fan mail telling her how "gear" and "fab" she is. As far as I know, Red Dawn didn't scare anybody in the 1980s--we all pointed and laughed when it came on, and quoted the movie's catchphrases at singularly inappropriate times and howled, and speculated on when a sequel might finally come out.

Which does, I guess, suggest one way in which Red Dawn redux might be successful after all--I suppose if it's campy enough it might enjoy something like the recent "success" of Tommy Wiseau's brilliant, evocative, penetrating The Room, a movie that redefines the art of film.

But let me ask: am I wrong? Is there anybody out there who ever took the original Red Dawn seriously? And is there any chance that a post-9/11 remake that attempts to tap into contemporary "paranoia" and "unease" will be anything other than a parody of a sham of a joke? Do tell.


Dr. Phil (Physics) Thursday, August 13, 2009 at 2:28:00 PM EDT  

Funny -- Red Dawn has been showing up a lot in the last year. AMC apparently thinks it's a classic? At least I think I ran past it on AMC. (grin)

Dr. Phil

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