“Nobody puts Baby in the corner.”

A few blog entries back, I made my feelings known about what seems to be the popular new past time in Hollywood – remaking and rebooting everything under the sun.  I thought for sure they’d hit rock bottom with the remake of Footloose (and it’s beloved soundtrack).

I was wrong.

Recently, it has been announced that the powers that be in Tinseltown have decided to continue their blasphemous campaign by daring to take on the 1987 classic Dirty Dancing.

And here I thought they learned their lesson with the colossal flop, Dirty Dancing – Havana Nights.

Again – I was wrong.

For those of you who were not a frizzy haired, big toothed, homely teenaged girl with a unibrow in 1987, you may be asking yourself why on earth would anyone get their panties in a bunch over this nonsense.  It’s just a movie.  A stupid movie at that.

Maybe it is a stupid movie by today’s standards, but in the context of the time and to the targeted audience, it was pure brilliance.  In 1987, I was a frizzy haired, big toothed, homely fifteen year old girl (with a unibrow that defied imagination).  I knew little of the world outside my safe and secure life on a military installation.  The school year before, I’d moved from Germany and was lucky enough to have fallen in with an amazing group of kids just like me.  All of us Air Force brats plopped down in the middle of nowhere Texas and left to fend for ourselves among the native population.  To say that we suffered from culture shock would be a gross understatement.  We were awkward, quirky and marched quite happily to the beat of our own drum.  That year, and the following year, the group of us – five in all – spent a lot of time hanging out around our housing development, the SAFB library, the BX food court (don’t ask) and torturing our collective families by invading their peace – and their refrigerators.  Bobbi’s mom had the best snackage by far, and that’s usually where we landed when we wanted to stay up all night and watch movies.

"Dirty Dancing" 1987

We had our list of usual suspects:  The Outsiders, Top Gun, Girls Just Wanna Have Fun, Can’t Buy Me Love, St. Elmo’s Fire, The Breakfast Club, Back to the Future, Howard the Duck, Flashdance, Pretty in Pink, Sixteen Candles…the list was endless.  But our go-to movie, the flick everyone could agree on time after time was Dirty Dancing.  What was it about this film that captivated us?

We could relate to it – at least on some level.

Here was this girl who was not so unlike ourselves – a little homely, a little awkward, striving to live up to her family’s expectation – the good girl; the apple of her father’s eye.  She thinks she has it all figured out until in walks the over-confident, sizzling hot bad boy with a leather jacket slung carelessly over one shoulder.

Swoon.

She would never be the same.

And neither would we.

As we sat noshing on junk food in the dead of night, we were spellbound not only by the raw sexuality of this film (as is depicted in this scene), but also by the emotional journey these two characters took us on.  It was a roller coaster ride.  Scene after scene, we watched as this ordinary girl and trouble filled young man waged a war within themselves, struggling against their blossoming feelings and the confines of their prospective situations.  It was a journey that saw them lay their souls bare, tested their budding trust in one another, and finally brought them together in a spectacular over the top dance sequence.

All set to a soundtrack that rivaled even that of my beloved American Graffiti.

What is there not to love about this movie?

How on earth could anyone think that the onscreen magic of Jennifer Grey and Patrick Swayze could ever be recreated?

Why must Hollywood make a mockery out of every coming of age film from my formative years?

Can they not just leave well enough alone?

Another Remake?

So, with everyone throwing around words like remake, reboot, prequel, and sequel, my head is spinning.  I’m so confused by it all and it makes me wonder if the creativity well in Hollywood has finally run dry?  Do the powers that be think the viewing public so incapable of espousing something new and fresh that they must look to the past for the next great flick?  Or maybe it’s not them.  Maybe it’s us.  Are our imaginations so stunted that we are truly inept at embracing anything other than storylines and characters we already find intimately familiar? Frankly, I find it all exhausting and a bit of a blow to my intelligence.   That’s not to say I’m immune to it all.  I loved the Star Trek reboot.  What self-respecting, closet geek didn’t?  Tron Legacy, anyone? Bond? Well, it did take me a while to get on board that reboot.  Though, my issue was more in the casting than the direction of the franchise. I eventually did come around to the idea of Daniel Craig filling the Bond shoes – even if Quantum of Solace did suck ever so slightly.  Okay.  A lot.

Then there’s the Footloose remake.  It’s a remake and not a reboot, right? Again, I have no idea but I do know that there can be absolutely no logical reason to futz around with that flick.  Kevin Bacon = Ren McCormack.  Period.  End of story.  Any remake, reboot, sequel, prequel – whatever – is doomed to failure and will likely tarnish the good name of a perfectly wonderful 80’s classic –  again.  Do Hollywood executives not remember the debacle that was Fame circa 2009?  Or that monstrosity that was 2004’s Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights?  The next thing you know, they’ll be remaking Flashdance and Top Gun.  Oops…too late.  Top Gun is slated for 2013.  Excuse me while I beat my head against my desk.  Pure blasphemy. But wait – there’s more.  At a theater near you this summer, you will have your choice of remakes and reboots (define them how you will – I’m tired of trying).  You will be treated to fresh offerings of Fright Night, Conan the Barbarian 3D (because 3D makes everything better – not), Spy Kids 4 in 4D (oh goody – the added bonus of seeing a sucky movie AND getting wet), Final Destination 5 (they haven’t gotten there yet?), Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark, and The Smurfs (also in 3D – *sigh*).  Next year you can expect to be dazzled with remakes/reboots of Spiderman, Superman (entitled Man of Steel), the next Dark Knight film (Batman) and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (because as Americans, we have to do things our way).    And of course, for all you stoners out there – Bill & Ted 3 appears to be a go. Again, I ask:  Has Hollywood run out of ideas?  Or have we lost our willingness to embrace new ideas; thereby, giving writers no choice but to give us what we already know?

My Character Inspiration

“All characters are based on elements of a writer’s personal experience.”  Robert Holdstock

I’ve always been a watcher.  No, not in that creepy Keanu Reeves (The Watcher) sort of way.  My watching tendencies come more out of an innate curiosity of what makes people tick.  I often sit and wonder at the lives of the people I come in contact with on a daily basis.  Are they rich?  Poor? Do they have a good marriage?  A good job? Are they nice or more of a self-centered prig?  Do they have mannerism that I find interesting or repulsive?  Why did they pick those shoes to wear with that blouse?  Are they a secret spy?  A terrorist?  A serial killer stalking their next victim? 

For instance, take the man from Starbucks my writing group observed last night.  He was tucked away in one of the room’s only comfy chairs, “reading” a self-help book.  I say this with air quotes because, although he had the book open in front of his face (and I mean literally blocking his face), he was talking on his bluetooth.   At least I assume it was a bluetooth because surely he wasn’t sitting in Starbucks, pretending to read a book AND talking to himself.  What the heck was this guy all about?  We all took a peek at him and speculated.  Was this man a secret spy?  Perhaps he was sent to observe the man across the room wearing a nondescript baseball cap and typing feverishly on his laptop.  Or perhaps he was waiting for that girl he met on that dating site and hoped to impress her with his choice of reading material.  Or maybe he was just a douchebag hiding behind a book we all knew he wasn’t interested in reading and talking way too loud on the phone.  I ruled out secret spy right away –  Jason Bourne he was not – and settled on the latter. 

This is what makes people watching so fascinating to me – speculation and the “what if” game.  Like the woman I see at the gym every so often with the ginormous…um…let’s call them ta-tas.  I see her float past me during my hour-long, 27.9 mile ride to nowhere.   I am always shocked and amazed that she can walk with such impressively good posture – shoulders down and back, perfect alignment over the hips, head up.   I don’t know much about physics but I would certainly think that she is defying gravity in her ability to remain upright with such a disproportionate top load or maybe she has a spine made of steel.   Hadn’t thought of that possibility until just now, but I digress. 

As she passes me, I always look around expecting to see a Bravo camera crew trailing behind her, catching her every move for the yet unannounced new addition to the series – The Real Housewives of Denton County.  I am forever disappointed that she is all alone because who wouldn’t be tickled pink over another Real Housewives to add to the DVR lineup.  No?  Just me?  Hm.  It is a this point that my mind begins to ask questions.  Is she a stripper? A kept woman? A kept woman who used to be a stripper?  Sydney Bristow in costume preparing to take down the membership manager who is really an arms dealer using 24 Hour Fitness as a front?  I always thought he looked a little questionable.  I’ve been meaning to run him through public data. 

The peculiar man from Starbucks and the buxom blonde would both make great supporting characters in a novel.  Neither would make it to the end of the book alive, but we all need those expendable characters to keep the story flowing.  Right?  You know I’m right.   But what about those instrumental protagonists?  My former history professor is character inspiration gold.  Not in the sacrificial lamb sort of way but as leading man material.  He looks like a young, very thin Ben Affleck with nerdy glasses and displays some distinctive and, often times, funny tics.  He is a brilliant historian, versed in his discipline with more than his fair share of passion on the subject.  He paces the room as he lectures, his voice getting louder and more animated with every breath.  Sometimes I feel like I am in church (if i went to church – don’t judge me) because his voice will suddenly boom and reverberate off of the four walls of the small room.   This is always the point in class where the devil inside me rejoices because his sudden increase in volume will cause the snoozers to jump out of their skin, knock their empty spiral notebooks onto the floor and look around in wide-eyed shock.  Maybe that’s why he does it.

He says “right” after every couple of sentences and he’s not asking a question.  He just says it.  Maybe it’s a Minnesota thing.  He is also shamefully disorganized and clumsy, dropping piles of unbound, coffee stained lecture notes onto the floor so often it becomes such a part of the daily routine that students don’t even notice anymore.   I see him not as this odd, little professor teaching me a freshman level history course, but as the lead in a romantic suspense novel.  Perhaps, the absentminded professor schtick is just a cover.  What if he is a super secret spy, a member of an off the books black ops team only activated in times of great crisis (are you seeing a pattern here)?  What if he will have to team up with the to be announced, tough as nails female character to save the world?  What if he is just what he seems, a quirky intellectual who is inadvertently dragged into some sinister plot?  Better yet, what if the bodacious blonde from the gym and the obnoxious dude from Starbucks are assassins bent on killing the president of the community college (the president that reminds me of that lawyer).  The professor stumbles upon the plot becoming a target himself, then he must team up with the aforementioned compelling character, eliminate the blonde and the Starbucks dude to save the president’s life and dismantle the bomb hidden beneath the library atrium with only his knowledge of World War I trench warfare tactics to guide him. 

Or maybe not.

Characters are the driving force in every story.  Without them, there is no point to putting pen to page.  Next time you are at the grocery store, standing in line behind that lady with one too many kids who wants to pay with an actual paper check, take a look around you.  See, that man in the next aisle?  No, not him.  The other one.  Yes, the one with the carton of milk and toilet plunger.   Take a good look at him.  Ask yourself:  Who is he?  Why is buying milk and a toilet plunger?  Could he be a super secret spy?  A terrorist?  A serial killer hunting his next victim?  Oh crap!  Did he just smile at you?