Friday, June 27, 2014


My knee-jerk reaction when I hear that a movie I love is about to be remade is typically: “THEY’RE GOING TO RUIN THE ORIGINAL! I LOVE THAT MOVIE! IT DOESN’T NEED TO BE REMADE!” Writing this is going to prove a bit therapeutic for me, because no matter how much I try to think this through, I still start to get a little flustered when I see that a beloved movie is going to be re-imagined.

But allow me to play the role of devil’s advocate (I’m talking to myself here). 
How could movie remakes be a positive thing?

Well, in the end, I think that would depend on the quality of the new film. The idea that these movies are automatically going to be terrible, or they shouldn’t be remade, does need to be revisited. 

1. Most importantly, everything has been remade, and everything will be remade, according to the tradition of Western storytelling. I’m not trying to sound overly pompous here, but the idea that “nothing is original” has a lot of truth to it. The stories that we love typically follow the Aristotleian plot model, and many books we love have a formulaic approach to their presentation. More often than not, we are recycling the same Ancient Greek and Sumerian stories (insert another ancient civilization, throw some parables and myths in there, mix them into a pot, and you’ll see too many similarities, though this may cause discomfort). The Hero’s journey story of Odysseus, the forbidden love-lust young-angst chronicle in Romeo and Juliet; sprinkle some sparkly vampires or pirates or aliens, and you’ll see that simply the presentation is one of the only things that has changed. So if we get over the idea that movie remakes are ruining the original… then we should just stop telling stories and stop making movies altogether, because if it’s been done before, then we shouldn’t do it… and nearly everything has been done before (please don’t throw rocks at me if you’re thinking about David Lynch movies or William S. Burroughs’ fiction, because I said nearly everything).

2.  Movies have sentimental value to us—sometimes we love movies that a lot of people hate because we made an emotional connection to its content. Everyone’s entitled to their opinion, and you’re entitled to disagree with me on this point: As an educator, I stand in front of a classroom full of people, and once in a while, someone will just shout something to the effect of, COUNTRY MUSIC SUCKS, or, I HATE JUSTIN BIEBER. Meanwhile, someone in the class loves country music or Bieber. If they are a quiet person, they will say nothing and not engage with a stronger personality, but on the inside, they have already developed a negative perception of this person (I’ll explain why in a moment). A more aggressive person will begin to argue with them. Since music and movies have sentimental value to us, it can be offensive to suggest that something someone loves so much outright sucks, because then you essentially attract a group of “followers” who agree with you and want to partake in your art-trashing. Okay, I know we live in a hyper-sensitive culture, but I think if you’re going to announce that something absolutely sucks, then be prepared to have discussion about it, not an argument. I think people typically have a breakdown in the discussion-argument department. I am going to say something that will blow your mind: since movies and music have sentimental value, calling someone out on the things they enjoy on an emotional level is like telling them that their faith is bullshit. Yes. I said it. I’m comparing someone’s love for something to religious faith. I suppose this is another statement that can move tabled for further discussion, but I will say that when we can admit that the movies and music we enjoy while growing up do in fact shape us in some way (we “identify” with it), and if we can admit that love is a variation of worship (especially courtly love…), then I think it’s safe for me to make a connection between faith and art. 

3. A lot of movies have been books before. Duh! If I wanted a movie that was “true to the book”, I would just read the book. I have my own visuals, I have the story I love… so why I should I care if it’s an exact replica of something I’ve already experienced? I personally love it when films deviate from the source material, or put a different spin on the concept. I’ll never forget when people were upset that Prometheus didn’t have too many of the xenomorphs… if I wanted to watch Alien, I have it on DVD. I’ve read all the Song of Ice and Fire books that have been published so far, and as much as I have loved the books, I think the television show does a lot of things better. I dislike The Walking Dead as a television show, though at first I liked all the differences from the source material (I just started to really hate the show, but that is how I feel about it, I didn’t say IT SUCKS, which kind of indicates that anyone who likes it has bad taste). I can bring up several examples, but let’s remember than a movie is a story, and the story  is often written as a screenplay; if we suggest that a movie remake is another rendition of a story, then it’s no different than a movie that portrays a book. A movie can do something different with the same story, and I think it holds true when we talk about remakes and reboots.

Here are a few remakes/reboots that I personally enjoyed. I looked forward to seeing a couple of them, hence why my knee-jerk reaction has been somewhat hypocritical:

1. Halloween 
2. (Insert movie title) by Quentin Tarantino
3. Scarface 
4. The Ring
5. The Departed
6. Dawn of the Dead
7. Night of the Living Dead (Tom Savini)
8. Evil Dead
9. A Fistful of Dollars
10. The Thing (John Carpenter)

What are some movie remakes you loved? What are some that you disliked? 

Monday, June 16, 2014

Depression and Creativity Collide

Grant Wamack, rapper, writer, and existential warrior of the cosmos, has just dropped his new novella, A Lightbulb's Lament. Since the bizarro genre is a literary phenomenon that uses metaphorical devices to explore our emotions and our society, Grant discusses the role of depression in the creation of a hero so many of us want to be; a hero who is the figurative warrior against personal darkness--Mr. Watts. 

Blog Postage (Lit Edition)
by Grant Wamack

Let's flashback to my freshmen year in college. I just moved out of the dorms and eased into a studio apartment in the heart of Northern Illinois University's campus. I was getting pretty good grades,  some of my short stories were beginning to be published, I had good friends who made sure I was making moves on the regular, I was finally able to get away from my dad's overbearing presence, but still... there was something nagging at me. Doubts about the future, terrible luck with women (even though I was surrounded by the “hook-up” culture), and most importantly I was still uncomfortable with myself. 

Cue existential crisis and questions. Why the fuck am I an English major?  I don't want to be a teacher. Why am I trying to please my Dad by majoring in English? I'm so much more than that. More than this. These thoughts would go on and on and I would sink into deeper levels of depression, dragging anyone in my immediate circle down with me. Everyone was partying on the weekends and I'd be in my room battling the black dog raging inside my head. 

Late nights spent alone watching Salad Fingers, consuming tons of weird fiction as a form of escapism, recording my first rap mixtape Heavenly Fridges, and lots of cathartic writing. It wasn't enough though. I had to do something to expel this energy. 

I carried a small notebook in my back pocket for ideas (I still do), and one day while working at Home Depot, I was struck with the image of a gentleman with a lightbulb for head and a world full of darkness. It was so compelling that I fleshed out a loose outline over the course of the next week. Earlier that year, I finished my first bizarro novella, Notes from the Guts of a Hippo, which was a major feat for me since I could barely write a 5,000 word short story. However, I had an idea and it had to be written. Not just to prove to myself that I could do it again, but to fix this depression holding me back.

It might be important to note that I've always been interested in magic, rather it be on stage, hoodoo, mysticism, astrology, or numerology. I thought of this as a ritual of sorts. I thought if Mr. Watts, the main character, could bring light to this fictional world that it could possibly bring that figurative light to my world as well. There's this idea if you work on your inner world, it will directly ripple out into the physical plane. 

Did it work? 

In a lot of ways yes; I'm in much better shape mentally thanks to affirmations, better eating habits, good friends, and self love. Mr. Watts represents a turning point in my life; his journey is my journey. All of us have moments of self-doubt and identity confusion, but I know there is a light in the darkness...

You can also check out his lyrical experimentation/exhibition...

Grant Wamack writes weird fiction, raps, and weaves dreams at night. During the day, the Navy employs him as a Mass Communication Specialist, in other words, a "super" journalist