Pop Culture Princess

Pop Culture Princess
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Monday, September 21, 2009

The follies of recreating Fame

As Dennis Miller would say,I don't want to go off on a rant here but has Hollywood become allergic to original concepts the past few years? If it's not a video game,TV show or a remake,a fresh new screenplay doesn't seem to have a snowball's chance in hell of getting green lit.

The ones that do and yet don't fall into one of those three categories are chock full of rehashed cliches and clumsy dialogue familiar to anyone who's watched more than a week's worth of Nick at Nite reruns-perhaps,that's the show business way of going "green".

I don't mean to be so grumpy but this week,the needless remake of "Fame" opens up and it's irking me a little. I remember seeing the original decades ago and it made quite an impact on me.

The idea of a school where you could pursue your artistic ambitions particularly full time was magical to me and part of the appeal of the whole film was the down to earth tone taken with the multiple story lines as we followed Coco,Ray,Doris and many of the other supporting players thru a four year education in art and life.

While I'm sure that this new version has plenty of talented young people on board(along with the likes of Kelsey Grammer,Charles Dutton and Bebe Neuwirth as their teachers),the overall look and feel of the movie has such a glossy coating that any nuances in plot and character may be easily lost by the blinding "High School Musical" energy poured all over it. That's the impression I get from the trailer,at least:



Part of the difference in style may be due to the director;Alan Parker manned the helm for the first Fame and he's always kept to a realistic tone when it comes to his films.

His other well known look at young people trying to make their mark in show business,The Commitments, is pretty much in sync with Fame with it's working class vibes and cast members who look a lot more like your friends and neighbors than a group of kids waiting to audition for the CW:

That type of film making was still in vogue in 1980,when Fame first appeared in theaters. Those realistic,almost documentary feel to mainstream films were the fashion by the mid 1970s,thanks to folks like Mark Rydell with his fictional wink and nod to Janis Joplin's legacy,The Rose and Robert Altman with Nashville.

Speaking of Nashville(a movie I must confess to having not seen),another big tribute to the performing arts that also showed up in 1980 with similar earthy tones was Coal Miner's Daughter,the Loretta Lynn biopic(which I not only saw but read the book as well).

Michael Apted,another Seventies from the arthouse to the big studio leagues director,was the man behind the curtain here and his tendencies toward a more natural approach to visual story telling definitely enhanced this film which earned Sissy Spacek a well deserved Best Actress Oscar:

Some might think that such back to basics film making is strictly old school and wouldn't click with today's audiences but I have my doubts about that.

A good example is the 2006 movie Once,that received both critical acclaim and a strong fan following,not to mention scoring a win for Best Song at the Academy Awards over the trifecta of songs from Enchanted(still wish "That's How You'll Know" got the nod but I can't resent such a sweet little number from getting it's kudos here):

What I'm ultimately trying to say here is that while some gloss and glitter is fine and in some cases,necessary for a show biz saga,the same broad stroke of the brush doesn't apply to all of them.

It would be great to see both on film and in Hollywood in general the goal that places like the Performing School of the Arts works hard to give it's students;helping promising young entertainers to showcase their talents in material that is as fresh and new as themselves,along side some classical influences from the past. That would be worth singing the body electric about,at the multiplex and elsewhere:

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