October 14, 2009

The Nation’s Third Oldest College Newspaper

Volume 80, Issue 4

New 'Fame' movie: Will it really live forever?

New 'Fame' movie: Will it really live forever?

New 'Fame' movie: Will it really live forever?

The ˜80s brought in a flood of dance movies -- "Footloose," "Girls Just Want to Have Fun," "Flashdance." However, one of the movies that started the decade off on this new craze was "Fame" in 1980. While it was not strictly about dancing, it did have the wonderfully random bursts of dancing in the most awkward of places (although dancing in the streets in New York City may be on a bucket list or two).

"Fame" is set in a performing arts center, where students are studying music, dance and theater. While the food at Gally may not inspire students to sing about the wonders of pizza logs or Jazzman's coffee, Alan Parker (director of the original film) remarked in an interview that "knowing these kids, (random musical acts) could happen."

The 1980 version of "Fame" follows eight students from their first audition at the New York City High School for the Performing Arts, all the way to their graduation. As the audience is taken in by each student, they are able to see personal growth, the hard truth about finding fame, and the promise of success. It is as if they are watching the students transform from shy freshman to potential performers before their eyes.

The film sparked such a following that two years later, a successful television series, featured four of the original cast from the film version launched from 1982 to 1987.

Now, as films are slowly being remade for newer generations, it was only a matter of time before cult classics fell victim to this latest trend. The 2009 version of "Fame" offers new issues, new faces, but the same story. The audience is taken yet again through the audition process, and continues to follow the lives of eight students from their freshman to senior year. However, the newer version was definitely watered down. The 1980 version received an R rating, whereas the 2009 was rated PG.

Both versions of the film equally show the lives of eight students, which is an interesting direction for any film. Often times, there is still a leader of the bunch, or a student who stands out above the rest. Yet, both films decide to represent each student without outshining another.

The problem with this technique is that, because no one character takes control of the film, they all end up meshed together.

Looking back at the film, it is hard to discern who did what or what happened to whom. Some storylines may be more impressionable than others, but it is the event that is remembered, not so much the character.

Despite this slight setback, these powerful scenes offer a glimpse at what each student faces through their academic career, and what can be expected with their chosen profession.

The 1980 version does not shy away from the nitty-gritty issues that plague these students' lives. From addiction and failure, to embracing the world and breaking free, it is clear that fame is not always as glamorous as many may believe.

The 2009 version is different because it focuses more on their academic woes than any personal strife. It also seems as though many of the dramas are not any more serious than classic high school drama.

Moreover, the original film really showed tremendous growth of the students. Doris (Maureen Teefy), for example, went from the quiet wall flower who nearly fainted in her audition, to embracing the world of acting. The latest version depicts character growth through the aid of hair extensions. That is the only really growth that is shown for the characters.

If studios are going to remake a film, their objective should be to make it stand out from the original. Give it some "wow" factor that the first one did not possess. The remake of "Fame" had some scenes that were exact replicas of the original. New scenes did not add any content, and the scenes that were deleted or slightly changed just made the film like any other high school drama dance flick. The ending of the remake was more grandiose. However, like the original, it just ended. No follow up on their fame, just graduation.

The differences between the 1980 and 2009 version were too few and far between, and is just another reason why this remake is unjustified. In addition to the lack of originality, the title theme song is only played during the end credits. The original song won an Academy Award. The new film did offer some homage to the original by opening up with the voiceover, "You want fame? Well, fame costs. And right here is where you start paying, with sweat," the remarks spoken by Debbie Allen (who plays the principal in the remake) from the television show. Unfortunately, this is not enough to redeem the film, especially since many will not have caught this shout out.

"Fame" (1980) launched the careers of several of its cast members, including Irene Cara (who sang both the "Fame" song and the theme for "Flashdance"), Paul McCrane (who later played Dr. Romano on "ER"), and Debbie Allen. It is hard to predict if the cast of this new film will be so lucky. Regrettably, I do not think they will live forever, since I have already forgotten their names.

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