Thursday, November 17, 2011

FAME (1980)

(May 1980, U.S.)

Every once in a while when I'm writing my blog posts, I have to occassionally remind myself to look back on a particular film of the past when it was considered a work of originality and true performance back in "the day" or in the past years of my childhood. In simpler words, watching Alan Parker's original version of FAME again during a century that has so far seen way too many movies and television shows where high school kids and so-called "tweenies" are constantly singing and dancing and dreaming of being the next bullshit version of Lady Gaga (I hate, hate, hate that pig!) or whatever else. FAME came out in 1980, and up until then, teenage musicals had been more or less restricted to GREASE (1978) and "beach blanket" movies of the 1960s. I myself haven't been in high school since 1985, but I can surely guarantee you that the four year experience is NO damn musical!

Truth be told, I cannot consider FAME your traditional musical. Yes, there's singing and dancing and yes, the film's music soundtrack was as big as the ones for SATURDAY NIGHT FEVER and GREASE preceeding it. But these are not students breaking out into song and dance in the traditional sense. When they sing, dance and play instruments, it's part of their education and their dreams of fame and stardom. But unlike the kids you may be painfully subjected to on the Disney Channel, these kids are not always happy and many of them have R-rated dark and painful secrets and experiences that they need to bring out of themselves. These inner emotions are what will ultimately bring out the talent and passion they keep inside, be it music, drama or dancing. These are kids you actually WANT to listen to and come to care about during their four year committment to their studies at the New York High School of Performing Arts. Some will succeed and many, many will fail, even the best and the brightest of them. We'll never know which ones, but we're going to watch them do the hard work and and painfully suffer along the way.

Watching the opening segment of AUDITIONS is what I've frankly found the most intruiging of the film. Your eyes, ears and senses are nearly overwhelmed by all the talent and capabilities of these young hopefuls and it's all happening at the same time. You also feel for the impatience and punchiness of the teachers as they have to spend days auditioning kids who are all there for the same dream, whether they have any talent or not (some simply do NOT!). I would also call particular attention the film's performances of Barry Miller playing Ralph Garci and Irene Cara playing CoCo. Miller had already previously impressed me in SATURDAY NIGHT FEVER (1977) and anyone who remembers FLASHDANCE (1983) knows what Cara did for it. It's a shame, though, that she never really made it in film, because I think she's pretty damn good in FAME. I also can't resist the sequence of the traditional midnight performance of THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW at the now defunked 8th Street Playhouse in New York City. I got to experience that once...just once.

I didn't see the 2009 remake of FAME (big fucking surprise, right?), but I can almost understand Hollywood's need (and greed!) to remake it when you consider all of the previously-mentioned crap in the movies and television that has, frankly, sickened me ever since AMERICAN IDOL went on the air. The remake was inevitable for sure and it completely tanked at the box office and with audiences. Good!!!

Favorite line or dialogue:

Montgomery MacNeil: "Look, all anyone ever promised you was seven classes a day and a hot lunch. The rest is up to you, Ralph. I mean, back in the Middle Ages, actors, they didn't even wanna bury us."
Ralph Garci: "Well, they do now."
Montgomery: "Not if you're good."
Ralph: "How do you know? How do you know if you're good?"
Montgomery: "Maybe you never know. You just hang in, I guess."

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