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'Fame' (1980) is brilliant. It's got all these qualities that made the late
70's movies so great. It is proud of its directness and not ashamed of being
over the top.
What really matters here, is the journey, not the destination. Ignorant idiots with soap opera mentality, will never realize that 'Fame' is about the struggles, anxieties and triumphs of these young people, not about their careers.
Ironically enough, none of the very talented actors of 'Fame' made it in Hollywood. 'Fame' marked the end of an era. The end of artistic freedom and experimentation and the beginning of commercialization and political correctness. It's the last statement of a generation that had a voice of its own.
High school. Years and decades later, some look back on it with
fondness, others with embarrassment. But few find it easy to forget.
It's one of the most critical phases of our lives, when changes come
fast and furious whether we're ready or not. No longer children, not
yet adults, irresistible forces buffet us, pushing and pulling us in
"Fame" did its best to capture this turbulent, chaotic period for its cast of young characters. For the most part, it succeeded. It meandered, but did feel like a slice of life. This movie holds a special place in the hearts of the Class of '80. We had just bid farewell to the sensational '70s, and soon to the end of three or four stimulating and sometimes difficult school years. We were headed out into the cold, cruel world, leaving home for college then parts unknown. As we approached our watershed event, this newly released movie was like a two-hour yearbook for us. We couldn't escape the titular song on the radio. That was us up there on the screen. Those were our friends, rivals and classmates as we had faced our own dreams, frustrations, successes and failures. Except that theirs were peppered and punctuated with lively tunes from Michael Gore.
It's especially poignant for those who attended any of New York City's other elite, top-tier high schools, especially Stuyvesant, Bronx HS of Science or Brooklyn Tech. Like the kids here, we were considered the best of the best. We had no auditions, but instead rigorous entrance exams. More than the Performing Arts kids, we were expected to change the world, although not necessarily become famous. Like them, not all of us made it. But the pressure cooker environment fostered extraordinary camaraderie and esprit de corps, not unlike the toe-tapping "Hot Lunch Jam" in the cafeteria. On our own graduation day, our spirits soared almost like the jubilant crescendo in the rousing finale. The film leaves us fittingly on a single, triumphant note at the end of "I Sing the Body Electric," pointing to the blindingly bright, boundless future and all the promise it held.
"Fame" couldn't have been set anywhere else. This story would never have worked in a small or suburban school. Los Angeles has a stronger identification with movies and television, but NYC is a mecca for all of the arts. Home not only to what was then called PA, but also world-renowned Juilliard, NYC is a cultural center unmatched by any other city in the world. "Fame" is also a time capsule of the rest of the city of the time, showing the seediness, grit and grime that was endemic of a New York still struggling back from the fiscal crisis that had nearly bankrupted it. But most of all, it showed the vitality, since muted by the inroads of Giuliani, Disney and tourism. Having it filmed in and around an actual NYC school - although not the real PA - helped give it a wonderful sense of verisimilitude.
What I wouldn't give to be young again. But with "Fame," at least I can remember what it was like.
A recent survey of children in the UK re-enforced the notion put forth
by this film 27 years ago. That being more than anything else, young
people want to grow up to be somebody famous. It used to be doctors and
firemen that kids wanted to be. Now, everyone wants to be famous. Fame
is a story of a group of kids accepted into the High School for
Performing Arts in New York City. We seen them first audition, then
take classes and learn about life for the next four years. The film has
a lot of fine qualities, but ultimately leaves you feeling a little
Alan Parker's bold directorial style fits the story pretty well. The film has been classified as a musical, but more than anything it is a drama. Musical numbers and dance routines break out here and there, and Parker keeps them as close to realistic as they really could have been filmed. The acting is for the most part top-drawer with a few exceptions. The pacing is a little off, particularly toward the end of the film, but by that point, the story has already taken a few wrong turns anyway.
First off, the auditions at the beginning of the film should have weeded a couple of the principle characters out. It seems unlikely that anyone would show up and audition for one department, then stumble their way through admissions to another. Some of these people just don't look that talented or interested to begin with. Once the first year of classes gets going, the film settles into a nice groove. The interaction between students and teachers is very well handled, and it leaves you wanting more. The film begins to lose itself later on as we see more and more of the students' lives out of school. Some of these people just aren't worth caring about.
The film's biggest mistake is making the Ralph Garcy character so prominent. This guy is a boorish; self-centered jerk. A "professional a-hole" as he proudly declares on stage during his comedy routines. The audience is supposed to somehow feel for this guy and his tragic personal situation, but I was just hoping they'd throw his butt out of school. Irene Cara, Maureen Teefy, Paul McCrane and the late Gene Anthony Ray are the people you'll care about by the time this film is over. Try as I might, I still can't develop abs like Gene Anthony Ray had in this film.
Overall this film is good. It is memorable, interesting, and full of daring scenes and performances. It runs maybe a little too long, and perhaps some of the wrong characters get fully developed while others kind of hover in the background. The musical numbers are great, and there is even a surprise or two waiting to be discovered by the time the film is over. Though not perfect, Fame will be a film that lives on in one way or another for many years to come.
7 of 10 stars.
I LOVE this movie.
It is way too bad they don't make movies like this any more, and that teenagers are more amazed by a bunch of trashy movies with big name actors and big time special effects, but not big time plots and characters.
I'm 15 years old, a teenager in the "nothing 90's" (oh, so it's 2000 now, who gives a care?), and being a lover of musicals, 80's high school movies (The Breakfast Club, Sixteen Candles, etc.) and those sort of things, I was recommended this by a "Fame fanatic", my aunt.
I knew after the audition scenes that this was a perfect movie for me. It follows the lives of tear-jerkingly believable characters of several different backgrounds. I laughed, I cried, and I bought the soundtrack. The acting is so excellent that the first time I saw it, I'd forgotten that these were not real living, flesh people, only actors.
There a some flaws, however. There are a few gaps in some of the characters, and the movie should have went on for another 30 minutes, although it was already about 2 hours and 30 minutes (which it didn't feel like). It is also outdated, and you sometimes can't help but laugh at how much it is.
If you've never seen this movie, and you are a fan of musicals, arts, and realistic teenage movies, run, don't walk, to a local video store.
Hopefully, Fame will truly live forever!
My rating: **** (out of 5 *'s)
I truly hate musicals because music numbers just start out of the
sudden and usually spoil scenes, but this one is completely different -
it's simply brilliant. Plot perhaps isn't any challenge for the
viewers, but the simplicity of people life stories makes this movie
I've seen it at least dozen times and still I'm not tired with the plot, characters or music (I just love the soundtrack - it's the only soundtrack that I've really wanted to have and most probably will remain the only one that I owe).
For me it's a must-seen kind of movie, great characters compiled with entertaining songs and a lot of things to think about after the movie end.
This movie showcases a LOT of incredible talent. Fantastic performances throughout. The movie also is a great story about potential and how people use, abuse or ignore it in themselves. This is a story about students who look like they are all headed for fame and fortune. It shows the pitfalls along the way. We learn that talent is not enough. We also learn that many fall short and give up along the way. As an adult who was a teenager back when this movie first came out, it is a very bittersweet look at potential in us all and has us examine what we did with it in our lives, are we where we thought we would be? Yes, this movie is dated, it is over 20 years old, it HAS to be in some regard. But the story is timeless and will rank among classics of teenage movies and also always have a warm spot in the hearts of adults who grew up in the era. Highly recommended. Would make a great double feature with "Gold Diggers of 1933" just to show contrast and to see how Broadway has changed over the years.
Alan Parker's 'Fame' beautifully showcases college-life of eight
aspiring artistes. Many seem to have a problem with the open ending and
ponder on questions like what happened to Coco after the porn shoot or
what happened to Ralph and Doris etc. However, I think this works well
as it points to the uncertainty of their future as that's how life is.
The point was to show their struggles during the college years and
Parker captures that very well making it easy for the viewers to relate
to and bringing a nostalgic feel.
'Fame' starts with some audition scenes which are hilarious. Then it shows which candidates are selected and that's when the story starts. Though it is labelled a musical drama, it doesn't follow the traditional musical genre. The songs do not appear out of nowhere. They are well situated within the context of the film and quite nice to listen to. 'Fame' also has that wild 70's feel. If this movie is the last of the 70s then it 'rounds' up the decade well.
The actors, most of them in their 20s, do a fine job. There are those who are shy, naive and afraid, those who are wacky, wild and a little reckless and those who put a front but all these characters are striving for their dream which is to become an artiste. The actors brilliantly demonstrate this. I particularly liked Barry Miller, Paul McCrane and Maureen Teefy who play the three close friends and Irene Cara who as the vulnerable singer Coco.
I had heard a lot about 'Fame' but I was under the impression that it would be a flimsy musical. I got a chance to watch it last night and I was certainly under the wrong impression. Even though many won't appreciate it, To me it is great.
Although the traditional cinema musical, generally based upon a
successful Broadway show, went into something of a decline in the late
seventies and eighties, this period saw the rise of a new musical genre
based around dance and pop music. Like "Saturday Night Fever" and its
sequel "Staying Alive", "Flashdance", "Grease" and "Dirty Dancing",
"Fame" is an example of this trend. The original title for the film
was, apparently, to have been "Hot Lunch ", but this had to be changed
when director Alan Parker realised that there was already a
pornographic film with the same title. The change was doubtless one for
the better; I cannot really imagine Irene Cara singing "Hot Lunch! I'm
Gonna Live Forever!"
The film follows a group of students through their studies at the New York High School of Performing Arts, which was a real institution at the time. It is split into sections entitled "Auditions", "Freshman Year", "Sophomore Year", "Junior Year" and "Senior Year", and hence takes place over a time-span of some four years. The opening scenes have something of the feel of a "fly on the wall" documentary about them, As the film progresses we get to know the various students and something of their stories. New York, of course, is a famously multi-ethnic city, and the film-makers were obviously keen to reflect this racial diversity by including at least one representative of most of the city's various ethnic groups (Jewish, Hispanic, Italian, Black, Irish and WASP).
Dance student Leroy Johnson struggles with his academic work, which at this school is given equal weighting with performance, because he is illiterate. Lisa Monroe, another dance student, is dismissed from the course for not working hard enough, and switches to the drama department. Montgomery MacNeil, a drama student, comes out as gay, probably a more daring plot-line in 1980 than it would be today, when it is virtually compulsory for every high school drama to have a token gay character. I wondered if his Christian name was a reference to the gay film star Montgomery Clift.
Raul Garcia, an aspiring stand-up comic, prefers to be called Ralph Garcey in order to hide his Puerto Rican background. His great ambition is to be the next Freddie Prinze- not the future Mr. Sarah Michelle Gellar, who would only have been four years old in 1980, but his father Freddie senior, another Puerto Rican comedian who died in 1977. Unfortunately Ralph seems to feel that the best way of achieving this ambition is to ape Prinze's self-destructive lifestyle.
"Fame" was clearly popular in the early eighties, spawning a television series and a stage musical. That irritatingly catchy theme song provided Cara with a huge chart hit. The basic concept is obviously still thought to be a viable one, because there has been a recent remake (which I have not seen). Yet like many of the musicals of this period, although not perhaps as much as the likes of "Saturday Night Fever", the original film seems rather dated today. (The one which seems to have held up the best is "Grease", probably because that was always intended as a defiantly deliberate anachronism, being twenty years behind the times even when it is made).
The song-and-dance numbers are lively enough, even if the music is not always to my personal taste. Yet there are other reasons, quite apart from its old-fashioned feel, why "Fame" is not my favourite film. One is that, despite the film's apparent aim of celebrating New York's ethnic diversity, too many characters are seen in terms of ethnic stereotypes. (African-Americans are bolshie with a bad attitude, Hispanics ditto, Jewish mothers are domineering and over-protective, etc.)
Another reason I didn't like the film much is that too many of the characters are just too obnoxious to care about. I would agree with the reviewer who found Ralph a "boorish self-centred jerk" but unlike that reviewer I found several of the other characters equally unpleasant. I could not sympathise with the bad-tempered, petulant Leroy and his frequent outbursts of rage, mostly directed at his long-suffering English teacher. Nor with Ralph's girlfriend Doris Finsecker, as keen to deny her Jewish identity as he is to deny his Hispanic one. (She renames herself "Dominique DuPont", largely because she knows this will annoy her mother). Nor with the bone-idle Lisa.
Irene Cara's character Coco Hernandez is difficult to sympathise with for another reason; not because she is a jerk but because she seems too naive to be true. She is taken advantage of by a man posing as a film director who offers her a "screen test"; she turns up at his apartment even though he is played as an obviously sleazy sexual predator. (Had he seemed more plausible this plot line would have had more credibility). Montgomery is one of the film's few likable characters, but the film does not concentrate on his story to any great extent. He largely functions as the school's kindly agony uncle, a shoulder for his heterosexual classmates to cry on.
My final complaint about the film is that there are too many main characters. Even the film's two and a half hour running time is inadequate to do justice to all these stories, some of which could have provided enough material for a whole film in their own right, and few of them are fully developed. Alan Parker has made some excellent films, including "Mississippi Burning" and "Evita", but "Fame" is not really one of them. It is perhaps ironic for a film with this particular title that few of its stars, except Cara, went on to achieve any great fame of their own. 5/10
In New York, a group of freshmen join the High School for the
Performing Arts after being well succeeded in their audition. For four
years, their dreams, deceptions, success, love and personal dramas are
disclosed though the insecure Doris Finsecker (Maureen Teefy), the
homosexual Montgomery (Payl McCrane), the aggressive Leroy (Gene
Anthony Ray), the hopeful Coco (Irene Cara), the ambitious Ralph Garci
(Barry Miller) and their friends until their graduation day.
Twenty-eight years ago, "Fame" was a great success, with the story of teenagers seeking a spot in the show business, and I loved this movie and the soundtrack on CD. I have just watched "Fame" on DVD, and presently I would say that it is a good movie with a great potential only, but with too many flawed subplots. The story follows too many characters and leaves many situations without answer. I do not know whether Alan Parker had edition problems to reduce the running time of this movie, but what happened, for example, with the ballerina that goes to a clinic for abortion? What happened with Leroy and his teacher, did he fail due to his grammar problem? What happened with Coco after undressing her blouse in the apartment of that crook? The musician that plays synthesizer and his proud father are left behind in the subplot. Anyway, "Fame" is still a delightful entertainment and a cult-movie for me. My vote is seven.
Title (Brazil): "Fama" ("Fame")
"Fame", about teenage kids in Manhattan's School for the Performing Arts, looks right, feels right, and it sometimes sounds right--but too soon the film becomes a muddled soap opera about talented children reaching too far for their stars. The large cast does good work, and director Alan Parker has alert eyes, but sharper editing might have left some of Parker's pretensions out of the mix. After one student admits to being homosexual (not just once, to a girl student, but twice, to his entire class and teacher), he is seen in tight close-up putting on lipstick; this is done for a sniggering effect, which is stupefying once you realize the ENTIRE CLASS is dolled-up to look like characters from "Rocky Horror". The gay kid, bullied by the class loudmouth, isn't the only one we see humiliated. This manufactured slapping-down is then used several more times, against the promising disco queen, the wealthy white ballerina, the talkative dancer, the stand-up comedian, and the illiterate who may not graduate because of his failing grades. It's a big, smelly cart full of aged clichés. If people respond, it's due to the cinematography (which captures some of New York's squalor and dusty classrooms with a bracing realism), the propulsive soundtrack, and the cynical-funny talk. The characters are quite a different matter; probably resembling no real student at the actual school, they are plot-mechanisms, their pitfalls punctuated by a director who can almost be heard saying, "Look! See!" ** from ****
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