Dept. of Excess: The Top Five Things I Forgot to Say While Presenting My Top Five Remakes List on Filmspotting This Week

No. 2 The Fly: Drink deep, or taste not the plasma spring!

Sorry, David: You said the picture’s a metaphor for what, again?

Adam has a habit of introducing the listener voicemails he occasionally plays on the show by saying, “This person expressed this idea more eloquently than I ever could, so . . .” It’s self-deprecating but also slightly silly: Adam is extremely articulate, as anyone who’s listened to more than two minutes of any one of Filmspotting‘s 369-and-counting episodes knows.

But you know what they say about habits: They’re habit-forming!

We had a voicemail about The Fly, my No. 2 pick, that Adam wanted to play, and when he cued me to set it up, I found myself saying what he says: This person is more articulate than me. The key difference, of course, is that I was right. I failed to mention what to me is perhaps the most important aspect of how Cronenberg’s Reagan-in-the-White-House-era Fly improves upon its Reagan-in-Hollywood-era precursor.

Jeff Goldblum is much more like a real scientist in this film than David Hedison was in the original, by which I mean, he’s fascinated by what’s happening to him. (Hedison, of course, lost his powers of speech when he swapped heads and a hand with a fly, so our understanding of his inner life as a man-bug was limited to what he could type with his remaining hand.) Goldblum plays his fascination and even exhilaration, along with the fear of what he’s becoming that he’s working throughout the film to keep at bay.

This exchange between Brundle (Goldblum) and his girlfriend Ronnie (Geena Davis) illustrates all that.

Seth Brundle: The disease has just revealed its purpose. We don’t have to worry about contagion anymore. I know what the disease wants.

Ronnie: What does the disease want?

Seth Brundle: It wants to… turn me into something else. That’s not too terrible is it? Most people would give anything to be turned into something else.

Ronnie: Turned into what?

Seth Brundle: Whaddaya think? A fly. Am I becoming a hundred-and-eighty-five-pound fly? No, I’m becoming something that never existed before. I’m becoming… Brundlefly. Don’t you think that’s worth a Nobel Prize or two?

He is becoming something unprecedented. Insects, after all, have industriousness but no ambition. What do they want with Nobel prizes?

I also like the part early on where Brundle tells Ronnie that even he doesn’t quite understand how his teleportation system works; he’s simply combining existing technologies in a way no else had thought of before. Even in a scenario as gruesome and operatic as this, the film seems to get that at a certain level of innovation, science is more of an art than it is a… well, you know.

3 responses to “Dept. of Excess: The Top Five Things I Forgot to Say While Presenting My Top Five Remakes List on Filmspotting This Week

  1. I love that you’ve expanded on your list. I especially like the comments on Insomnia. It’s a remake that in a lot of ways adds complexity to the original story, but at the same time tones some things down for a mainstream audience. I think it’s a good example of the Nolan sensibility though. A film can be mainstream and entertaining and not too offensive but still be complex and high minded.

  2. The man does his homework! (Still can’t say I like his picks, though.)

    Wonderful job as guest-host, sir. And you needn’t have been nervous: your velveteen voice, measured tones, droll humor, and cinephilia made it seem as though you had been doing it for years.

  3. I was the one who left the voicemail on the Fly. You were the one with the more eloquent exegesis by far, though. Outstanding job guest hosting, and I hope to hear you on there more often.

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