Director: Alan Parker
Cast: Irene Cara, Paul McCrane, Anne Meara
Released: May 16, 1980
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.
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 out 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, an 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 glass 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.