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The Hollywood Insider Matilda, Childhood Films Remakes By Auteur

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Photo: ‘Matilda’

Disney announced last week that ‘West Side Story’s Rachel Zegler will be starring in yet another remake, this time of Disney’s first feature-length animated film ‘Snow White.’  Riding on the curtails of ‘Cruella’s success, the news is no surprise as fans have been told to expect a remake of every Disney classic. Not every remake is created equal; most of the time they are dreadful reminders of the greed at the heart of industry filmmaking. There are several signs pointing to ‘West Side Story’ being an exception. Firstly, the fact that it is based on the musical itself, not the film version is a small consolation, nonetheless helpful. Second, the film version itself, although beautiful and breathtaking at times, is dated in its non-Hispanic casting and musical voiceover choices. Third, it is directed by one of the giants of American Cinema, our very own Steven Spielberg. Spielberg is the king of blockbusters and creator of so many classics. Any remake is likely to be in good hands when those hands belong to a visionary. 

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 What if other critically acclaimed directors, auteurs even, decided to take on remakes? 

It’s a rhetorical question, the answer, in reality, is definitely, “No, no, God please no.” However, wouldn’t it be great if a film you loved as a child was interpreted in a fresh way by a solid director to satisfy you as an adult? We were blessed with Nancy Meyers’ 1998 version of ‘The Parent Trap.’ Her distinct style did wonders and gave us major vineyard envy. If remakes are here to stay, we might as well have fun with them. Here’s a look at some possible childhood film remakes that will hopefully exist only in our dreams. 

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‘Holes’ – Coen Brothers 

This is the most natural one to place, stemming from me actually having to look up who directed ‘Holes’ recently because it reminded me so much of a Coen film. For one thing, the film already stars one of their collaborators, Tim Blake Nelson, who starred in ‘O Brother Where Art Thou’ and ‘The Ballad of Buster Scruggs.’ The dry Western landscape, southern accents, rough villains wearing cowboy hats, and mythical storytelling elements are a perfect recipe for a Coen classic. Take out that idyllic pool party ending and the only ingredients missing are a few curse words, some grittier violence, and a protagonist who is not that great of a person. 

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‘Matilda’ – Wes Anderson 

To be clear, Danny DeVito’s directing skills are applaudable in this quirky hilarious film about a girl whose love of reading turns into telekinetic powers. DeVito’s ‘Matilda’ messes around with color, architecture, and matter-of-fact delivery of certain wild lines. The most natural director to elevate these elements is Wes Anderson, who lives for quirky stories about damaged people. He’s already adapted one Roald Dahl story, ‘The Fantastic Mr. Fox’; his Matilda could even work well as a stop motion film. For a man who loves literature and loves to showcase literature in all his films, an allegory for getting kids to want to read does not sound that far off. Alas, a film adaptation of ‘Matilda the Musical’ is already underway at Netflix. 

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 ‘The Lizzie McGuire Movie’ – Sofia Coppola

Again, already an excellent film, and actually holds up to this day. The Lizzie McGuire booty shake was a cultural high point, but, if there’s anyone who is passionate about women being themselves and going on spiritual journeys it’s Coppola. If you think about it, ‘Lost in Translation’ is basically the ‘Lizzie McGuire Movie’ for an older audience. In Coppola’s version, the relationship at its center would be Lizzie and Isabella, as the similar looking but very different girls bond and grow with different perspectives on how life is and how it can be. We would get some great shots of Lizzie staring out from the hotel roof thinking about her uncertain future, triple the dreamy Rome sequences, the fashion show would be extended, and the revenge against Paulo would be way more intense (poison mushrooms anyone?). Coppola comes from an Italian family, I’m sure she knows a thing or two about capturing Rome’s romance. 

 ‘How The Grinch Stole Christmas’ – Guillermo del Toro

Hear me out on this one. What is more del Toro than a non-CGI monster, misunderstood by the world, an outcast who is really just lonely, but with a true darkness in him that comes out if necessary? If ‘The Grinch’ were to take a dark turn, del Toro is the man to take it there. The true meaning of Christmas and the hypocrisy of the townspeople are all fair game for this auteur who loves to tell mythical stories with political connotations. Is Mayor Mayhew even an elected official? How long has he been in office? These are all valid questions we need answered in a remake. Max’s backstory is also a mystery, del Toro’s experience pulling on heartstrings will definitely come in handy there. Jim Carey has already proved his capability with drama as well, his reprisal of the role is necessary to this remake. 

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‘Freaky Friday’ – Lulu Wang

To be fair, the 2003 version of ‘Freaky Friday’ is already a remake of the 1976 version. If we’re going to ‘Star is Born’ this one, might as well be with a director who is capable of relaying family dynamics and the struggle of generational splits. Wang could bring some serious depth to this story about a mother and daughter who struggle to understand each other. Wang’s version could turn into a story about real problems between first and second-generation Americans. Not to mention the mysticism of the film is rooted in fortune cookie magic. I feel like some authenticity when it comes to representing Chinese culture would be helpful considering fortune cookies aren’t even Chinese. 

 Closing Thoughts

As great as these films are, there is a clear distinction between the childhood/young adult films of the late 90s/early 2000s mentioned above, and those of the 80s. In reality, the above films could be remade, and it wouldn’t be as major of a crime as say a ‘Breakfast Club’ or ‘ET’ remake. The reason why that is is pretty clear: John Hughes and Steven Spielberg. They are two directors with a distinct style who put their irreplaceable flare into all their films, no matter how young the audience. Maybe I’m onto something after all. 

By Jacqueline Postajian

Click here to read The Hollywood Insider’s CEO Pritan Ambroase’s love letter to Cinema, TV and Media. An excerpt from the love letter: The Hollywood Insider’s CEO/editor-in-chief Pritan Ambroase affirms, We have the space and time for all your stories, no matter who/what/where you are. Media/Cinema/TV have a responsibility to better the world and The Hollywood Insider will continue to do so. Talent, diversity and authenticity matter in Cinema/TV, media and storytelling. In fact, I reckon that we should announce “talent-diversity-authenticity-storytelling-Cinema-Oscars-Academy-Awards” as synonyms of each other. We show respect to talent and stories regardless of their skin color, race, gender, sexuality, religion, nationality, etc., thus allowing authenticity into this system just by something as simple as accepting and showing respect to the human species’ factual diversity. We become greater just by respecting and appreciating talent in all its shapes, sizes, and forms. Award winners, which includes nominees, must be chosen on the greatness of their talent ALONE.

I am sure I am speaking for a multitude of Cinema lovers all over the world when I speak of the following sentiments that this medium of art has blessed me with. Cinema taught me about our world, at times in English and at times through the beautiful one-inch bar of subtitles. I learned from the stories in the global movies that we are all alike across all borders. Remember that one of the best symbols of many great civilizations and their prosperity has been the art they have left behind. This art can be in the form of paintings, sculptures, architecture, writings, inventions, etc. For our modern society, Cinema happens to be one of them. Cinema is more than just a form of entertainment, it is an integral part of society. I love the world uniting, be it for Cinema, TV, media, art, fashion, sport, etc. Please keep this going full speed.

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Author

  • Jacqueline Postajian is a contributor at Hollywood Insider. A lifelong cinephile, she hopes to put her passion for film analysis and discussion to good use by using her platform to shine a spotlight on often overlooked films and filmmakers. Like everyone at Hollywood Insider, she believes in the power of good film journalism as a way to broaden audiences' horizons and facilitate conversation. Her interests lie mostly in female filmmaking, independent film, studying Classical and New Wave Cinema, and has a passion for theatre.

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