If the A.V. Club had a "least essential cinema" feature to go with its periodic "least essential albums of the year" feature, my current vote would be on Roman Polanski's upcoming Oliver Twist. Even fighting down the uncharitable impulse to make cracks about Polanski working with kids, even assuming it's terrific for what it is, even acknowledging that I'm judging art I haven't seen, why does the world actually need another adaptation of Charles Dickens' classic? A quick IMDB search turns up 20 other versions of the same story, counting the cheesy-but-charming Oscar-winning 1968 musical. Isn't anyone out there writing new stories? And has the director of Chinatown and Repulsion given up on chilling, meaningful, grown-up, challenging, zeitgeist-ridden work?
What really got to me was watching the theatrical trailer, which makes Polanski's version look exactly like the 1968 version, but with the songs cut and the lights cranked way down. It's as though Polanski went out of his way to find lookalikes for Jack Wild, Ron Moody, and Harry Secombe, to rub in how redundant the whole project is. Or maybe I'm just amused because the trailer mischaracterizes (I hope) the film as a Kolya-style sentimental boy-bonding journey, the kind of film where a sad orphan boy meets a lonely old man and they transform each other's unhappy lives. Maybe that's the original factor in Polanski's version: He only adapted the first quarter of the book, and it ends with the triumphant hug between Oliver and Fagin. Hooray, the orphan found a home! The end! What a happy movie!
At least it'd be new.
Any other votes for Least Essential Cinema of the year? Keep in mind that the point of the Least Essential label isn't just to come up with BAD art it's to come up with art that simply has no real reason to exist. Sure, 90 percent of everything is crap, but at least 20 percent of that crap is also ephemeral, insignificant, and pointless too