Dear Readers, this post is for the They Remade What?! Blogathon, the event runs October 9-11, 2015. Visit our event host Phyllis Loves Classic Movies to see the full event roster and be sure to check out my fellow talented bloggers as we take on the “oh-so-notorious” remake!
Ring-a-ding ding baby!
Bring out the mixed drinks, sweeties, and make them doubles, ’cause today we take a swingin’ trip to Coolsville.
Sometimes it feels like there aren’t any fresh ideas left, every movie (and Broadway musical) is a remake of an earlier idea. Most remakes are a mediocre version of a better product, like Sabrina (1995)? The Haunting (1999)?? Rosemary’s Baby (2014)??? Oy, don’t get me started!
Some remakes are preposterous, bearing such little resemblance to the original material you wonder if they purchase the rights merely to obtain the title. Like Dark Shadows, thinking about that film can cause heart palpitations!
Most remakes are terrible, you just want to jump up and shout, “why can’t people just leave well enough alone?” Am I right? Of course I am! Think I’m wrong? CHARLIE AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY? CLASH OF THE TITANS? PSYCHO? ‘NUFF SAID!
But I work in theater, so I am in the remake business. Almost all Shakespeare’s plays are based on older tales, and heaven knows my old pal Willy (oh yes, he and I are on a first name basis, you didn’t know that, did you?) wrote the best versions of that material.
I am all for remakes, provided they make sense, they are relevant, and they add something new to the existing material.
Scarface, Casino Royale, and Cradle Will Rock* are more entertaining in their second incarnation. They are “smart adaptations”, filmmakers taking dated material and making it relevant for contemporary audiences. *Cradle’s source material is a play, not a film.
It is harder to remake a film, make it relevant, make it entertaining, and maintain the spirit. But Ocean’s Eleven definitely got it right!
Both Ocean’s 11 and Ocean’s Eleven are comedies about 11 men robbing several casinos in the course of one night.
I will concede the original Ocean’s 11 has a more iconic cast. All five The Rat Pack members are in this film, Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis, Jr, Peter Lawford, and Joey Bishop all together on screen. How cool is that, right? But technically, Ocean’s 11 is Ocean’s 5 (Sinatra, Davis, Martin, Lawford & Richard Conte) because no other characters get enough screen time for you to remember their names or like them. Even their old pal Joey Bishop has a forgettable part.
But today, you could never find a cast that cool, and it is ridiculous to try because that brand of cool just doesn’t exist anymore. Luckily, the filmmakers of Ocean’s Eleven recognized this. Rather than replicating a classic, they reinvented it, clarified the script, cast very good actors, and gave a slight nod to the original.
Frank Sinatra plays the leader “Danny Ocean”, in the remake the filmmakers cast George Clooney as “Danny Ocean”. Clooney is nothing like Frank Sinatra, but Clooney’s presence gives the film a bit of “Old Hollywood Charm”!
Angie Dickinson plays Danny’s faithful estranged wife “Beatrice” in the original. Beatrice puts up with a lot. When she receives a phone call from a vindictive “other woman” it makes her “love him all the more”. (Ooh, doesn’t that make you cringe?) Julia Roberts plays “Tess”, Danny’s ex in the remake. Tess is a worthy opponent.
Sammy Davis Jr. plays “Josh Hamilton” in the original film and Don Cheadle plays “Basher Tarr” in the remake. Cheadle won a Golden Globe for playing Sammy Davis, Jr. in the 1998 film The Rat Pack. Cheadle’s presence gives a nod to contemporary Rat Pack fans, but Hamilton and Tarr are different.
Dean Martin plays “Sam Hamilton” the one Ocean trusts completely, the one who wants Danny and Bea to get back together, and the only one who questions Ocean’s motives. In the remake, this character is “Rusty Ryan” played by Brad Pitt.
Peter Lawford plays “Jimmy Foster” soon-to-be stepson of famed criminal “Duke Santos” played by Cesar Romero. Matt Damon plays “Linus Caldwell”, son of famous thief Bobby Caldwell. Jimmy is a spoiled rich boy trying to get out from under his mother’s thumb. Linus plays the young kid, trying to get in with the cool crowd.
The other major characters are less analogous to the original characters so making a comparison is difficult.
Basic Plot & Major Shifts *SPOILER WARNING*
In the original, they are motivated presumably by greed, in the remake Danny wants revenge against the guy that stole his wife, casino owner Terry Benedict (Andy Garcia).
In the original when team member Bergdorf (Richard Conte) dies of a heart-attack, they put the money in his coffin to ship the money back to San Francisco, however Bergdorf’s wife opts for creamation, the money is destroyed. Bergdorf’s character is by far the most sympathetic throughout the film and his death was sad. No one shows much emotion for Bergdorf or respect for his body. Once they did this, I hoped they would not get the money.
In the remake, you don’t want them to get caught.
The original film embodies the kitschy Vegas I imagine, tacky flocked wallpaper, well-dressed patrons, Louis Prima and Keely Smith headline one club, and Dean Martin sings at the piano in a tiny wood-paneled lounge. Sadly, Las Vegas is nothing like this! It is just hordes of tourists in “vacation clothes” amidst bizarre and opulent architecture. Vegas’s kitsch factor is now a slick factor. The remake reflects this new slick Vegas, but the production design is 1970s retro. A nod to the past, but superannuated compared to the original material, again signifying, they aren’t trying to reproduce the original material, they are re-inventing it.
I love that both films end showing Las Vegas in the morning.
If you go to Las Vegas, you’ll understand why I love this.
At night, Las Vegas is gorgeous and magical, anything can happen.
During the day, it is arid, dry and weird. The illusion is gone. The day transports you back to reality.
Just as Ocean’s 11 embodies the 1950s and 1960s Las Vegas spirit, Ocean’s Eleven embodies contemporary Las Vegas, and while I yearn for a retro Vegas, I prefer the remake to the original.
Whoa, whoa, whoa! Hold Up, Summer! You prefer the remake?
Yup! Here’s why:
- In the remake the motive is clear, we know why Danny Ocean hits the casinos.
- The supporting characters are stronger and likable.
- The script is smarter, clearer, moves faster.
These two movies despite sharing a similar title, and two teams robbing Vegas casinos led by “Danny Ocean” are completely different.
But to be honest, Ocean’s 11 doesn’t showcase the big three (Sinatra, Martin, Davis) at their best.
We never hear Frank Sinatra sing!
Dean Martin sings “Ain’t That A Kick”, but he is sober and not improvising. The one thing I love most about Dean Martin is he always looks like he is making things up as he goes along.
Sammy Davis, Jr. sings, but his song is not one of his best, he just belts the phrase “EO11**”, or “Everything on 11” according to answers.com. Others suggest EO11 is a scat phrase like “Do-be-do-be-do”, no one really knows.
No one really knows except Bob Gilmer! Bob has offered an explanation of the mysterious phrase EO-11, “When the dice land on 11 on the crap table, the stick-man announces, “yo-eleven”. This is to make certain that the base dealers don’t mistake it for “seven” and start grabbing up all of the bets that would be losers. As you might imagine, this could create a lot of chaos.Many dealers modified it to “ee-o-leven” which is what is used in the song sung by Sammy.”
Thank you, Bob! Mystery solved!
Now if you want to see the big three at their best, you need to catch a pre-recorded live performance because they were as bawdy as all heck. I highly recommend this video, click here: Frank Sinatra Spectacular!
Be sure to visit Phyllis Loves Classic Movies and check out the rest of the blogging event!
And don’t forget to mark your Calendars, in January I host the France on Film Blogathon!
Ciao for Now, Dearies!