Join 3,512 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


Reduce reuse recycle
February 2, 2011 8:45 AM   Subscribe

Everything is a Remix Part 2: Movies Mind-blowing cuts of how previous films influenced pretty much all of Hollywood's output today. Previously this series examined music in much the same way.
posted by mathowie (46 comments total) 36 users marked this as a favorite

 
Isn't this basically Who Do You Think You're Fooling all over again?
posted by Sticherbeast at 8:58 AM on February 2, 2011 [2 favorites]


Everything is a remix, including "Everything is a Remix Part 2: Movies." I feel my brain falling into an infinite loop.
posted by Mister Fabulous at 9:05 AM on February 2, 2011 [2 favorites]


And that's why the term of copyrights should be extend to 500 years!

Wait...
posted by Horace Rumpole at 9:07 AM on February 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


I mean.. yeah. Did we not already know this? Snappy presentation, but I resent the money request at the end. Why should I pay him to look at more mash-ups of similar-looking scenes from movies? Half the fun of watching movies is trying to recall influences, copying, originality, cliche.. it's why I was able to laugh out loud at Avatar!
posted by ReeMonster at 9:13 AM on February 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


Am I the only one who absolutely cannot see the actual video? Even the "Watch" link returns an error. Anyway it's also on Vimeo here if you run into the same problem.
posted by caution live frogs at 9:13 AM on February 2, 2011 [4 favorites]


Did we not already know this?

Being as they were mostly from the 50s and 60s, I hadn't seen any of the reference movies used in many of the Star Wars scenes. Those side-by-side comparisons were all new to me, even though I knew the actual story was a recycled fable told many times before of a reluctant hero leading a rebellion. I had no idea so much of the film was directly lifted from other works.
posted by mathowie at 9:15 AM on February 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


I love it when I watch a movie and realize that it has been "sampled" into a new work. I was watching The Stendhal Syndrome a while ago and I got a huge kick out of how at least two sequences were lifted into two different Tarantino movies - there's a scene where the heroine fends off an attacker by biting him on his lip and holding (like in Kill Bill), and there's a scene shortly afterwards of a villainous man pursuing her with a gun, but then strangely letting her run off, as he creepily smiles and raises his gun (like in Inglourious Basterds).

I'm also convinced that the opening bank robbery scene from Andrzej Zulawski's L'Amour Braque (an adaptation of Dostoevsky's The Idiot) was an inspiration for The Dark Knight's bank robbery scene, especially because (spoiler!) the money is later willfully burned. There's a similar scene in The Idiot itself, I know.
posted by Sticherbeast at 9:26 AM on February 2, 2011


Wow. This is really well-done. I was expecting some sort of megacut...this is much, much better. Basically, it's tvtropes (WARNING: tvtropes) in short-form video format.

Also, remember. Tropes are not bad. Tropes are tools.
posted by schmod at 9:28 AM on February 2, 2011 [2 favorites]


Also, this guy has a *perfect* "NPR voice"
posted by schmod at 9:32 AM on February 2, 2011 [2 favorites]


I think the thing is, most people making movies were inspired to make them by... wait for it... watching movies.

It's natural for them to be taking what they've seen and to realize that this moment from that film and this other camera move from another movie, plus these other elements, could all be combined to tell this OTHER story, which may or may not itself be derived from elements the person has previously experienced.

Every once in a while, we get a movie with a truly innovative vision, but then its new language is appropriated by moviemakers which follow it. Soon its innovations are standard fare.

It's always a bit of fun to show those learning about cinema (whether they're young people or older doesn't matter) some of the True Source Movies. The three I like to use are Metropolis, Citizen Kane, and Casablanca.

Usually newcomers to these movies view them as full of cliche and nearly corny because of it.

The trick is getting them to realize that all the cliches they are seeing in these movies originated with these films. That everything else has been a quote, and this is the pure wellspring.

And then I show them Duck Soup afterward and they realize that sometimes there is nothing you could possibly replicate from the most truly brilliant of works.
posted by hippybear at 9:48 AM on February 2, 2011 [2 favorites]


This had great art direction, but it was--wait, for it--super cliched (and not in a good trope-y way!). If I wanted someone to tell me that Avatar deployed the same postcolonial guilt tropes as Dances with Wolves or that Star Wars collaged Kurosawa, pulp serials, and Joseph Campbell, I'd read every other piece of online film criticism written online in the last decade. This wasn't smug, but I don't like how he's presenting all this as though he's actually adding something to the conversation. There are a lot of exciting conversations to be had about deconstructing originality, but this wasn't terribly insightful.
posted by johnasdf at 10:01 AM on February 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


What? There are lots of sequels at the moment? & lots of adaptations from sources like comics? Who knew?

Also, film makers take inspiration from other film makers, and Tarantino copies lots of shots from obscure low-budget films? Again, who knew?

It's good that this guy is pointing this out, but I wish he'd use some more unusual examples. I was hoping for a bit more!
posted by DanCall at 10:06 AM on February 2, 2011


Yeah, the video itself was much weaker for picking Lucas and Tarantino as the examples. Talk about low hanging fruit.
posted by Sticherbeast at 10:09 AM on February 2, 2011


Lucas as Kurosawa is old news. But for me Lucas as Reifenstahl (spelling?) was new news. Triumph of the Will!
posted by njohnson23 at 10:19 AM on February 2, 2011


The main problem with the video is how he frames his thesis. He states that all movies are remixes of previous movies, but then includes, among other things, "experiences from our lives" as sources of inspiration in movie. Bam, down goes your thesis.

The reality is films are inspired by a much larger set of influences, but using material from the same medium is much easier.

Speaking of mediums, I feel like showing a documentary is the wrong way to go about this. Far more interesting would be a cross-referenced wiki that is able to show the extent of cinematic remixing in multiple forms:


  • Information on how many movies a given title remixes.

  • Comparison images between two or more movies.

  • Dense infographs showing different interconnections among cinematic works.

  • The potential for such a medium is tremendous, but alas, it's much easier to create a remix of existing michael-moorish documentaries.
    posted by lemuring at 10:25 AM on February 2, 2011


    Lucas as Kurosawa is old news.
    Indeed, and I don't think Lucas ever made a secret of it.
    posted by MrMoonPie at 10:26 AM on February 2, 2011


    This wasn't smug, but I don't like how he's presenting all this as though he's actually adding something to the conversation.

    You are assuming that everyone has had the same conversation as you. There is a high chance that . . . wait for it . . . they haven't.

    The piece is about 5 minutes long and I wouldn't defend it as the pinnacle of film criticism, but if it presents familiar material in an interesting way, is this such a crime? Think of it as a primer for people getting into the concepts, maybe not an advanced discourse on material that experts such as yourself consider bush league.
    posted by jeremias at 10:28 AM on February 2, 2011 [3 favorites]


    When he got to the Star Wars analysis, I had to mentally redub his voiceover with Mr. Plinkett's... It made it much more palatable.
    posted by Cold Lurkey at 10:29 AM on February 2, 2011


    I'm holding out for Everything is a Remix: Books.
    posted by yeolcoatl at 10:56 AM on February 2, 2011 [2 favorites]


    Not really ground-breaking criticism, but it's another piece in the case against Lucas and his post hoc slathering of all the mythological claptrap on what started out as a fun pastiche of movie serials. Star Wars wasn't about myth, it was about movies.

    And yes, someone should forward this to Mr. Plinkett.
    posted by Trochanter at 10:58 AM on February 2, 2011


    I thought this was a case where the quality of execution takes a well-trodden path and makes it seem shiny and new. I didn't read his thesis that movies are based on movies, but rather that creative endeavors largely involve smooshing together existing tropes in new ways, providing a novel context for everything. While this isn't new in the least (Lucas as Campbell & Kurosawa, even Apple vs Xerox PARC), I have never seen it presented in a way that did such a good job of putting me in the mind of the creator who was exposed to the breadth of media instead of just listing the inspirations.

    Also, I was born after Star Wars (but before Return of the Jedi — I'm not a baby), and it actually is valuable to see first hand which movies are before or afterward. I saw Star Wars perhaps a decade before I saw any of the movies that inspired it, and despite knowing the facts, it was still a surprise to be directly shown that Silent Running came out five years beforehand. I guess "space movies in the seventies" just ran together in my head. And the references to westerns were, though unsurprising, still interesting. I can't recreate what it's like to grow up watching these films, and knowing the iconic moments from them like I know 80s action movies.

    I hope to see some mention of The Conformist and Le Samurai in an upcoming part. Damn are those films lovely.
    posted by Schismatic at 11:15 AM on February 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


    Ugh. This is awful. I wanted shot-for-shot comparisons but sat through nothing but whining about remakes. I don't know if it got any better, I had to shut it off when he went all AVATAR LOLWHITEPEOPLE.
    posted by scrowdid at 11:15 AM on February 2, 2011


    I like the series. I think we're getting pretty strident with the "ZJAH, THIS IS SO KNOWN" stuff with every other post. It's like we all seem to think our experiences are universal, like we didn't have a thousand different upbringings in a thousand different places.

    Anyway, I have that crappy little mic he has at the end during the mini-telethon. I swear I must not be using the right software or my sound card sucks because that mic is ass.
    posted by cashman at 11:44 AM on February 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


    I think the thing is, most people making movies were inspired to make them by... wait for it... watching movies.

    I don't think anyone is arguing that, I think the goal and aims for the project are to show how derivative art naturally is, and contrast that with our body of copyright law which is pretty restrictive when it comes to derivative works.

    I may be reading too much into this, but this feels like a much more palatable version of what Lawrence Lessig has been saying academically for the past decade. Reform copyright law by recognizing that much of new art and culture builds on the past. Make it so that's possible and not illegal at every turn.
    posted by mathowie at 12:16 PM on February 2, 2011 [2 favorites]


    Things I found funny:
    - He uses music from Ghost Dog: Way of the Samurai which was itself channelling Le Samouraï
    - He also uses Beethoven's symphony no.7, which was used throughout The Fall/
    posted by djgh at 12:37 PM on February 2, 2011


    Obligatory Picasso quote: "Bad artists copy. Good artists steal."
    posted by fairmettle at 12:48 PM on February 2, 2011


    They're called archetypes, not "remixes". Under this definition, every piece of literature that began with an invocation of the muse or has a hero that goes on a quest would be a remix.
    posted by Pastabagel at 12:58 PM on February 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


    Obligatory Picasso quote: "Bad artists copy. Good artists steal."

    actually that was Strivinsky who stole and remixed that from TS Eliot who said "Immature poets imitate; mature poets steal."

    Meanwhile, Everything is a Remix is not a criticism of any artist - it is meant to be educational piece on the artistic process. He is saying of course artists steal, that's how art (and life) works.
    posted by victors at 1:00 PM on February 2, 2011 [3 favorites]


    ...sat through nothing but whining about remakes.

    If you read that as "whining," I think you're missing the point. Also... there were several shot-for-shot comparisons. Did you finish watching the piece?

    I, for one, knew intellectually about the (for example) Kurosawa influences on Lucas, but seeing them illustrated in split-screen was incredibly illuminating, making the connection obvious to someone (like me) who isn't so intimately familiar with enough films to spot these connections on their own.

    Anyway also the first video in the series is good, too.
    posted by pts at 1:23 PM on February 2, 2011


    Did this guy overuse the whole "...wait for it..." clever pause thing in this video? I haven't click the link yet, but variations of it are popping up everywhere in your "speech" in this thread.
    posted by tapesonthefloor at 1:30 PM on February 2, 2011


    This is familiar territory for any average film buff, but it's well worth the time for it's clear presentation and lovely production.
    posted by nola at 2:04 PM on February 2, 2011


    They're called archetypes, not "remixes"

    Quoted for emphasis. See also Joseph Campbell, Jung, etc.
    posted by exogenous at 2:21 PM on February 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


    Coming this summer: Archetype II: The Remix

    My only complaint with the movies is there's not enough "anxiety of influence" involved. These artists steal blithely; writers steal shamefacedly, knowing a good pastiche is a thin line from plagiarism.

    And it's pretty thin gruel for a complaint, as much film-making is intentional "homage" (which is French for copying. I mean, remixing.)
    posted by chavenet at 2:39 PM on February 2, 2011


    Everything is a Remix is a very snappy title, but as he defines it in the first video
    REMIX: To combine or edit existing materials to produce something new.
    none of the things in this video are remixes. They're cover versions. The material produced is copied from old stuff, but it is freshly produced. There's a difference between putting the Star Wars Imperial March to a techno beat, and having it performed by a ukulele orchestra.
    posted by WhackyparseThis at 3:41 PM on February 2, 2011


    Oh shit, are you human? Fuck, I am human too! shit shit shit, god damn it, we're gonna have so much fucking crap in common. just, just ... get the fuck out. Next! Egads man, the sign says no humans. Ne...
    posted by Shit Parade at 6:08 PM on February 2, 2011


    Reform copyright law by recognizing that much of new art and culture builds on the past. Make it so that's possible and not illegal at every turn.

    I guess "reform" is the key phrase here, because I'm not so convinced this will be beneficial in the long run. On one hand, yeah, unprivatizing the commons and all that, but this is usually justified with the argument that it will drive capitalist innovation and creativity. Even more worrying is the way that all this creativity is immediately exploited for advertising dollars. To me, it looks like capitalism is loosening its grip on copyright because it no longer needs to sell information to consumers; instead, it sells consumers to advertisers.

    If the way we get rid of intellectual property is by turning the audience into the property, I'm not sure we're coming out ahead.
    posted by AlsoMike at 6:30 PM on February 2, 2011


    I think the goal and aims for the project are to show how derivative art naturally is, and contrast that with our body of copyright law which is pretty restrictive when it comes to derivative works.

    Actually, the American notion of Fair Use makes US copyright law among the most permissive in the world.

    No, really. I'm dead serious. Look it up!

    Besides, none of the examples depict anything remotely illegal, nor do they depict anything especially analogous to mashups (which I can only guess is what he means by "remix"; he doesn't seem to know what that word means), so, um, yeah.
    posted by Sys Rq at 12:00 AM on February 3, 2011


    For anybody who didn't watch past the credits, this video was made and narrated by Kirby Ferguson of GoodieBag.tv. If you like his style, I did a round-up post on his "Almost Everything" videos awhile back; they're similar to this one, if a bit funnier and more fast-paced.
    posted by Rhaomi at 4:18 AM on February 3, 2011


    Nicely done but is the fact that Star Wars is a patched together pastiche of older movies exactly news to anyone? Newspaper reviews in 1977 said that and even as a 13 year old I had seen enough old movies to recognize half of them.

    From the Washington Post review (1977):
    He has achieved a witty and exhilarating synthesis of themes and cliches from the Flash Gordon and Buck Rogers comics and serials, plus such related but less expected sources as the western, the pirate melodrama, the aerial combat melodrama and the samurai epic.

    ...

    In "Star Wars," he has refurbished stock scenes, conventions and spare parts acquired from a variety of action movie heroes, which assume an affectionately parodistic and miraculously fresh configuration.
    posted by octothorpe at 5:15 AM on February 3, 2011


    In his review of the most recent Star Trek film, the RedLetterMedia guy makes some interesting comments on remakes - his argument is that most of the recent rash of remakes were put into production because they were intellectual property that already had a bit of brand awareness (mostly through nostalgia) and film studios feel that they need the advantage of that nostalgia to have their films compete with all the other sources of entertainment that surround us nowadays. That's pretty convincing to me.

    The FPP video seems to regard all these modern remakes as a good thing, because "everything is a remix".

    I'm not sure it's that simple. Yes, artists are often magpies with their influences, taking material from here and there and recombining it - but they are usually doing something new too. Any artist always has the opportunity to transform the things they take, however slightly - and when they take that opportunity and make something better than the things they imitated, then they have made a work of art that is interesting, novel and worthwhile.

    This raises another issue. A lot of essays about 'remix culture' tend to deny (explicitly or implicitly) that there is such a thing as quality. But I think that you can have two works of art that both derive from - even imitate - the same original work and one can be good and the other bad. That difference lies in all the other choices that the artist made, other than the choice to imitate something.

    All of which means that I think we need to put the many remakes that have appeared recently in a slightly different box to normal artistic imitation and borrowing. I suspect that all of them were greenlit for the commercial reasons Mr Plinkett (or his creator) describes.

    We shouldn't be proud of them, or put them on the same level as an intelligent and creative reuse of influences like Star Wars, unless they are actually good. Most of them are not. The vast majority just take an intellectual property and slap a fresh coat of paint on it (usually teal and orange). Some of them, admittedly, are made by people who were clearly fans of the original, but it isn't enough to be a fan, either - you have to have something interesting to say. I suppose, conceivably, maybe that might happen with a "Clash of the Titans" or a "Tron", but it seems unlikely: good new works of art tend to flow from good ideas, and "let's remake that show from the 80s that people vaguely remember" is not at all a good idea!
    posted by lucien_reeve at 6:00 AM on February 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


    I was pretty disappointed in this, as it is. It's trivial to anyone with even a Film 101 class on their CV and he seems to be making the same banal point repeatedly. The only thing which makes the banal point interesting is the really excellent choice of clips to show and compare.

    I would have preferred a long-form breakdown of all of Kill Bill, for example, or Star Wars. It would both illustrate the point and illuminate the subject matter immensely.
    posted by dhartung at 9:50 AM on February 3, 2011


    I was pretty disappointed in this, as it is. It's trivial to anyone with even a Film 101 class on their CV and he seems to be making the same banal point repeatedly. The only thing which makes the banal point interesting is the really excellent choice of clips to show and compare.

    a lot of comments here seem to share this general idea...so i'd just say, Baby Steps. MeFi isn't exactly representative of the internet as a whole, we tend to be super nerd-tastic omnivores. Most humans have no idea, and don't give it much thought--i think this easy to digest version of Film 101 is great for the masses.

    Perhaps Kirby can get enough traction with these low-calorie versions to allow him to do something that would have more depth.

    or perhaps someone else can remix his--concentrating on a scene or two and going as deep as they can.
    posted by th3ph17 at 8:56 AM on February 4, 2011


    The side-by-side clips are what makes this good. Sure, there are text lists of 100 references that Kill Bill used, but how useful is that to anyone?
    posted by smackfu at 2:17 PM on February 4, 2011


    They're called archetypes, not "remixes". Under this definition, every piece of literature that began with an invocation of the muse or has a hero that goes on a quest would be a remix.

    This! This is what bothers me about the series. I've been trying to figure it out, and it's just the use of the word "remix" to describe what he's talking about. I mean yes, he's saying nothing new, but whatever. Clearly even here on MeFi there are people who've never seen the Riefenstahl / Star Wars connection. So good for pointing it out in a well-produced and entertaining way.

    But "remixing" is not what he's talking about. It's just plain the wrong word. It would be like saying "Movies are all about editing!" and trying to prove it by talking about the storyboarding process. You could be 100% right, but you won't have proven anything about editing because you're not talking about editing. He is not talking about remixing, he's talking about archetype, genre, and influence. Which are all interesting and worthwhile things to talk about! But talking about them under cover of "remix" is sort of stupid. And also (I have to think) a transparent way to hitch a ride on a topic of more current relevance, in a world where actual remixing (taking literal elements of existing media and cutting them together to form something more or less new) is something we're in the process of working out.

    The first video had some actual remixing in it -- particularly the part about the hip hop and breakbeat. This video has none. Not a single example of remixing. So unfortunately, no, everything is not a remix.
    posted by rusty at 12:02 PM on February 5, 2011


    (The first video's Led Zeppelin segment was also not about remixing, I'd note.)
    posted by rusty at 12:04 PM on February 5, 2011


    Addendum:

    viz, "Kill Bill"
    posted by From Bklyn at 1:50 PM on February 5, 2011


    « Older August 2010: Popular gamer web comic makes ill-con...  |  Why Norway deported its 'Norwe... Newer »


    This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments