Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Remember My Name

Fame
Director: Alan Parker
Cast: Irene Cara, Paul McCrane, Anne Meara
Released: May 16, 1980

Oscar nominations:
Best Editing - lost to Raging Bull
Best Score - Michael Gore (won)
Best Original Song - Michael Gore and Leslie Gore for "Fame" (won)
Best Original Song - Michael Gore and Leslie Gore for "Out Here On My Own"
Best Sound - lost to The Empire Strike Back
Best Adapted Screenplay - Christopher Gore (lost to Bo Goldman for Melvin and Howard)


I wonder what Freddie Prinze Jr. thinks about this movie. Because his dad is sure mentioned often throughout it. I've heard of Fame, but I've never seen it until now. The closest comparison I can come up for it is Center Stage or Camp. This is about the New York City High School for the Performing Arts (a bit of a mouthful for a school name!) that focuses on the arts such as acting, dance, and music for young students. We start with the auditions so presumably it's very prestigious to get in, but don't let that fool you...this is no Julliard. First of all, a lot of the kids who made it weren't that great as it feels like they will take anybody and it seems like this school is way overcrowded, so I don't think they're very exclusive in who they choose! We see a lot of different kids auditioning and literally everyone but one makes it into the damn school! I guess they had to have somebody not make it so we get a scene of what that looks like. 

It doesn't surprise me that this was a TV show in the '80s...it ran for six seasons. I've never seen one second of it so I don't know anything about it, but I assume it was a precursor to Glee with all the singing and dancing. The movie follows a handful of students through all four years of their high school career and even at a little over two hours long, there still seems to be a lot of unanswered questions. There's just too many characters and subplots to squeeze into a 2 plus hour movie. The movie does a good job of showing how gritty New York looked in the late '70s.

Let's meet all the characters we follow, shall we? Most of them intermingle with each other. There's Doris, a meek, shy girl who auditions by singing. She's okay at best, but her mother is crying during her audition, I mean tears are streaming down her face like her daughter is freakin' Adele or something. I know she's her mother, so of course she's going to think her daughter is the next big thing, but my God! Her reactions is ridiculous! When we first meet her, Doris has the worst hairstyle I have ever seen in any movie, ever. Her hair is curly, she has bangs, and she's wearing pigtails. It's like, no, honey, no. All three of those should never be on one person. This movie was filmed in 1979, so of course we're going to see a lot of atrocious hairstyles and clothes. Her hair does get a little better once she starts school. Speaking of people with bad hair, she meets Montgomery (played by Paul McCrane, the only member of the young cast I was familiar with...he would go on to have a pretty good TV career; he played Dr Romano on ER and Jack Bauer's brother on 24), another acting student, who has this curly red mop on his head that looks good on nobody. Later on in the movie, it gets a little more manageable but I guess they'e trying to tell us the people with bad haircuts are the ones with no friends? Doris meets Montgomery on the steps outside the lunch room and they bond over being the only students not in the lunchroom at the time. Seriously, that lunchroom crowd was ridiculous. This school is obviously overcrowded (as they will literally let anybody in!) and maybe this was before schools divided lunches into groups, but every freaking student at this school eats lunch at the same time (and they only have a half hour!) From Doris's pov, we see how crowded and chaotic the cafeteria is. The musicians are practicing their instruments, the dancers are stretching, the actors are rehearsing, there are students reading or working on homework (how can they even concentrate, I don't know!), but most of them are just talking and horsing around. This is one of about four or five dance/song numbers where a little ditty is sung about the lunch lady and the food she serves. Yes, it is as stupid as it sounds. Doris can't move an inch without bumping into somebody so that's when she goes out in the hall and sees Montgomery on the steps and they become friends. They practice acting exercises with each other and this includes a scene where they're walking down a busy street and Doris is pretending to be blind and is holding a walking stick while Montgomery is assisting her. Someone puts a quarter in a cup she's holding and she offers to buy Montgomery a cup of coffee...with a quarter! Well, we have certainly come a long way since 1980!

Rounding out the acting posse is Ralph Garci who embellishes his resume. He's the jerk of the group and at a stand-up comedy routine (where he is painfully unfunny...and I don't think that was supposed to be intentional!), he claims he is a "professional asshole." I always assumed Fame was a light-hearted song and dance movie, but this movie gets dark. Ralph has a little sister who gets "attacked" by some junkie. Whether that means physically or sexually or what, I don't know, but that was a place where I didn't expect the movie to go. He starts dating Doris and they go see The Rocky Horror Picture Show. Doris, who has always been shy, is super proud of herself when she goes up front to dance to The Time Warp...where there are about fifteen other people up there dancing too. Not that big of a deal, Doris, excuse me, Dominique. She wants to change her name to Dominique DuPont to sound young.

The acting teacher tells that that 50,000 people call themselves actors, but only 500 make a living at it. He wants his students to think of their most painful memory and give a monologue about it. No, thank you. Montgomery talks about his sexuality and comes and Ralph talks about when his idol, Freddie Prinze, died. This is about one of four mentions when he's mentioned. Well, at least in 19 years he can see his son star in She's All That! Apparently he went to the school they attend so I guess this is a real school? I should mention this happens before his sister is brutally attacked.

Irene Cara plays Coco and up and coming dancer/singer. Obviously Irene Cara is probably best known for singing "What a Feeling" from Flashdance which is an amazing song. She also sings the title song from this movie, which, I admit, is catchy, but it is so outdated with all the synthesizers. It also won the Oscar for Best Song over "9 to 5" by Dolly Parton which I think is ridiculous. You never hear "Fame" anymore on the radio, but they'll still play "9 to 5". I think the Academy was on the wrong side of history with that choice. Another song from Fame was also nominated, so I'm surprised they didn't split the votes.

Bruno Martelli, a music student who likes to play around with electronic music (and carries all these bulking machines and amps around all the time...imagine what he could do in the day and age with a Mac!) is the one who created the music and his father, a taxi driver, stops in front of the school and blares the song from the speakers on top of his cab. All the students come out and start dancing and singing....there must be about 200 of these idiots stopping traffic in the middle of the day as they jump up on cars and are just in the way while they get honked at. This scene infuriated me. I absolutely hate when there's any traffic and if a bunch of effing teenagers started streaming out of their school and onto the street and were holding up traffic because they had to dance to a song....I'd be running them over. There is no need to hold up traffic in a busy city. Absolutely ridiculous. This one guy in a truck yells "Move your f*cking parade!" and I was totally on his side.

Coco meets this sleazy guy at a diner who recognizes her as a dancer from some Broadway play and tells her she could go on to better things because she has a "beautiful face and a delicious figure"....eww....He wants to invite her to a screen testing and, seriously, how naive is this girl? Of course he ends up being some amateur porno director and just wants to film her with her top off....which she does, while crying the entire time.

Leroy is a character who originally wasn't auditioning. He was there to help a friend who was...she's literally the only person who doesn't get in and she is pissed when she finds out. I don't blame her, I would be pissed too if everyone else who auditioned got it and they danced just as crappily as I did! My gaydar was pinging hard on Leroy...he was wearing these short shorts and this weird cropped vest and in another scene he's wearing a crop top with his name on it. However, all the women were falling over themselves for him while he was dancing..he was rubbing his crotch, then his butt. Seriously, is that supposed to be a turn on? It's really gross. His audition scene is the only scene Debbie Allen is in. She was much more of a bigger component on the TV show. (Janet Jackson was also on the TV show). Every girl seems to be in love with him and he gets a rich girl named Hilary pregnant and she has to get an abortion. It was obvious they cast the girl as a dancer first because she was a great dancer, but a terrible actress!


Leroy clashes with an English teacher named Mrs. Sherwood played by the late Anne Meara (aka Ben Stiller's mom). She doesn't like him because he brings his "ghetto blaster" (her words!) which are headphones with what looks to be a turn table on his desk. Seriously, these late '70 kids had it ROUGH! And I thought having a discman was a pain in the ass! She tells Leroy that if he can't pass his academic classes, he can't dance. We find out that he can't read...but since he can dance, he can get in! There is one crazy scene where Leroy gets super mad at Mrs. Sherwood, calls her a f**king b*tch, then proceeds to go out in the hall and start breaking all these class trophy cases...and NOTHING HAPPENS TO HIM! No suspension, no being expelled, nothing. It is absolutely asinine. This school is way too tolerant of their students. Later on, they will come to an understanding, although it will take a few more screaming matches to get there.

Then we have another dancer, Lisa, who is always being chastised by the dance teacher for "not sweating enough" and while she enjoys dancing, isn't ambitious about it enough to make it into a career. The teacher tells her she's not a good fit for the class and while at a subway station, Lisa is about to walk in front of an oncoming train, but at the last minute just kicked her dance clothes on the tracks.

I think I mentioned everybody. As you can see, there are a lot of characters and some get a lot more screen time than others.

The movie ends with the graduation ceremony where we the final song and dance scene.I assume it's the graduation ceremony, but nobody is wearing their robes and caps. I guess there was a re-make of this film in 2009 which I had no idea. 

Thursday, November 1, 2018

Bubble Girl

Everything, Everything
Director: Stella Maghie
Cast: Amandla Stenberg, Nick Robinson, Anika Noni Rose
Released: May 19, 2017


This is a subpar movie based on a mediocre book. The only reason I was aware of the movie is because I read the book. The only reason I read the book is because I read the author's other book called The Sun is Also a Star which I really liked and that's why I decided to check out her first book. I wouldn't say Everything, Everything blatantly rips off from The Fault in Our Stars, but there are a lot of similarities. They're not just both young adult novels about two teens meeting and falling in love, but in both books the teens have medical issues, it's just one of then who has a health problem in this story while they both had cancer in Fault. 

Maddie (Amandla Stenberg) is an eighteen year old girl who has SCID - severe combined immunodeficiency. If you've ever seen the Bubble Boy episode of Seinfeld then you know what it is, although while Maddie isn't confined to a bubble, she is confined to her house in Southern California (which is really nice since her mother is a doctor). Everything in the house is always kept clean,  the door is air-locked, her nurse is the only person from there outside who is allowed in and she has to wash her hands thorougly before coming into the main part of the house. Despite her mother (Anika Noni Rose) being a doctor, she sure does have a lot of free time to spend with her daughter. True, technically her daughter is her patient, but something tells me she doesn't get paid for taking care of her. They spend time a lot of times playing games and watching movies. In her free time, Maddie reads a lot and posts book reviews online. She takes online classes for school. She's into architecture  do so she builds a lot of intricate models of different buildings. I guess when you're confined to staying indoors, there's only so much you can do. 

Things get more interesting when a new family moves in next door from New York and a romance soon blossoms between Maddie and the boy, Ollie (Nick Robinson). Of courser their bedroom windows face each other and Ollie writes his phone number on the window so they can start texting each other....although they use IM in the book, which is a little surprising since the book came out in 2015. Does anyone remember IM? I used to use it all the time and now I wouldn't even know how to get it on my computer. I will say the movie was clever in how they filmed the text conversations. There are a lot of these sprinkled throughout and instead of just having the literal text come up on the screen so we can read what they're talking about, they have Maddie and Ollie having a dialogue in one of Maddie's models. 

I feel like if most teen guys found out that the girl they had a crush on was confined to living indoors forever and wasn't allowed to touch other people, they would find someone else, but not noble Ollie. He likes Maddie and thinks she's beautiful and he is going to pursue her. There is absolutely no chemistry between the two actors so I never bought they had this great romance. While her mother is at work (finally!), Maddie convinces Carla, her nurse, to let Ollie come over. She tells him as long as they keep a distance between them. Now does Carla stay in the room to supervise the two teens madly in love with each other (and she knows how Maddie feels about him)? No, she gives them their privacy and of course they end up standing only inches apart from each other. They end up kissing the next night when it's Carla's day off of work and Maddie's mom is at work. 

In the book, there is a whole thing about Ollie's father being a drunk and angry all the time because he was fired from his previous job (the reason they moved) and taking it out on Ollie's mother. This is barely glossed over in the movie. When Maddie sees Ollie's dad pushing around Ollie, she runs outside to help him. (Really? What does she think she is going to do?) She's only outside for less than a minute and it's her first time being outside since she was diagnosed with SCID as a toddler. Between that incident and Maddie's mom finding something that Ollie left at the house, she soon finds out that her daughter has had company over and fires Carla and hires a new nurse who is super strict. Not only is Ollie forbidden to step foot in the house again, but Maddie must cut all ties with him and can't even text or speak to him on the phone anymore. 

She decides that she would rather live her life despite all the consequences than not live her life at all and buys two airplane tickets to Hawaii (she applied for a credit card online). She chooses Hawaii because she wants to see the ocean. Uh....she even mentions earlier in the movie that she only lives three hours away from the ocean and has never seen it. Exactly! Why are you wasting your money on plane tickets to Hawaii when you can literally take a day trip to see the ocean? She talks Ollie into going with her and he agrees. Of course he is concerned about the health risks, but she sells him a lie that she's been taking these trial pills and they've been helping her. 

We get the obligatory montage of them in Hawaii doing all the cliche Hawaiian things: going to the beach, cliff diving, dancing at a luau, roasting a pig, eating a pineapple, walking through a volcano - well, maybe not all of those were shown, but we see Maddie having a great time as she experiences being outside for the first time. The next morning after a cringe-worthy sex scene (they didn't even show anything, but it was still super uncomfortable - probably from the lack of passion since it was like platonic friends having sex...ewww), Maddie feels faint and is rushed to the hospital. Her mother is called and rushes to her side.

When we see Maddie wake up, she is back in her bed at home. Not sure how long she was in the hospital, but it was probably for a few days. Maddie knows she must break up with Ollie for good because it's not fair for him to be in a relationship with her. Her mother supports her decision and tells her she's doing the right thing. 

I think now is a good time to go into spoilers, so if you haven't read the book or seen the movie and really care that much, then be warned! SPOILERS AHOY!

Perhaps you've already figured out the little plot twist. To me it was clear that there was nothing wrong with Maddie and she never had SCID. This is the most obvious when she rides on a plane from L.A. to Hawaii and is perfectly fine. Planes are just metal tubes filled with germs...they have to be a literal death trap for someone who really does have SCID. There's also the fact that she spent all that time outside on the beach and she's touching Ollie a lot. True, she does get sick, but her doctor in Hawaii tells her it's because her immune system is underdeveloped from not being exposed to outside elements her entire life. She never had a life-threatening illness. So while I did correctly predict that much, I never in my life suspected that her mother was purposely lying to her daughter for her whole life and keeping her from leaving the house. Maddie realizes this when she ransacks her mom's office looking for any documentation about her illness, but can't find any at all. Maddie's mom confesses that she had a scare with her when she was a baby and while everything was okay, she was convinced that something was wrong with Maddie and she had to protect her from everything, especially after her husband and son were killed in a car accident. (Again, something that is featured more prominently in there book and glossed over in the movie). I don't know if we were suppose to feel any sympathy for the mother (probably not since Maddie didn't seem to), but she is cray-cray! She treated her own daughter as a prisoner, never ever letting her leaver her own home! They never mention the M word, but her mother totally had Munchausen's right? I'm surprised Maddie didn't realize it being a movie buff and all. Surely she's seen The Sixth Sense, right? 

One thing that doesn't make sense is that Carla tells Maddie that she always suspected that something may be up and that she thought that Maddie may have never been sick. (Though to be fair, that might just have happened in the book and not the movie; I really can't remember if we get this scene in the movie). So if that's the case, why didn't she alert the authorities? I suppose she didn't want to step on any toes, but she's a nurse and probably never saw anything really truly wrong with Maddie, so you would think she would want what's best for her and that would probably mean not being cooped up in her house all day, no matter how amazing her house is. 

In the book, we see Maddie's mom going to a therapist and trying to get help, but that doesn't happen in the movie. Instead Maddie flies to New York (where Ollie has moved back to with his sister and mother) and they are reunited. I guess Maddie is going to live with him and his family now? Or are they going to get their own apartment together? Yeah, they don't really tell us what's going to happen to them, just that they're back together and we're supposed to be happy for them. So...good for Maddie, I guess? She isn't sick and she no longer has a relationship with her crazy psychotic mother.