So there I was, minding my own business on my flight to L.A. for the GRAMMYS. I had just cued up my iPod to a set of J.S. Bach’s Cello Suites transcribed for harp by Victoria Drake, and I was set to relax as much as I could in my cramped coach class seat..
Then the flight attendant announced the in-flight movie: Fame. Fame? Like from the ’80s, I wondered? But then I vaguely remembered hearing something about a recent, updated version of the story about life at New York City’s High School of Performing Arts. (I do crawl out from under my little classical rock every once in a while!)
I was all set to ignore it and listen to Bach, while maybe glancing at the screen every so often to see how those plucky, aspiring young hopefuls were doing. But I got drawn in by the opening credits, where I saw some names, both familiar and unfamiliar, that intrigued me. I know that Kelsey Grammer, Bebe Neuwirth and Megan Mullally are all fun to watch, at least. Bach isn’t going anywhere, I thought, and plugged my earbuds into the armrest.
Much of what was captured in the movie was the sheer joy of practicing and performing one’s art, be it acting, dance, filmmaking, or music of whatever genre, and the impulse to continue doing so in the face of adversity. I don’t think we hear enough about that these days. I don’t know if we ever have, now that I think about it. Probably because it sounds hokey and clichéd and self-help-y, and doesn’t lend itself to some of us humans’ best beloved pastimes: criticizing and complaining. Unabashedly exulting in the human capacity for artistic expression is just not the sort of thing that makes for sexy news headlines: “People feel good while doing what they love: Film at 11!” Sadly, we often thrive on negativity – or at least we think we do, until we wake up one day find ourselves cynical and embittered, and wonder how we got that way.
Now, it’s true that the characters and storylines in the movie are pretty boilerplate: the country boy who dreams of making it in the big city; the shy girl who gets coaxed out of her shell only to outshine the friends who encouraged her; the stern yet caring teachers whose tough love brings out the best in their students; the naïve aspiring actress who nearly falls for the old ploy of the casting meeting that ends up on the casting couch. And the movie is assembled with the requisite overlaps, intercuts and montages to tie the characters’ stories together, with helpful slides alerting us when our young heroes and heroines have progressed from one year of high school to the next.
But, cheeseball that I am, I couldn’t help but feel good, and inspired, while watching it. A little wistful too, I must say, because as much as I hate to admit it, I’m a little bit beyond the point in life when I could eagerly, fresh-facedly and idealistically burst on the scene and say, “Look out world, here I come!
Or am I? After all, I am on my way GRAMMY® Week, a 5-day-long celebration of music, not just as an observer, but as someone charged with helping shape the narrative about it. My little blog may still be an expensive hobby, but it’s one that all of Hollywood is gonna be buzzing about if I have anything to say about it!
By the way, the teachers in Fame are portrayed as grappling with the implictions of the old saying, “Those who can’t do, teach.” I wonder, would some naysayers update it to, “Those who can’t do, blog”? Probably; it seems like there’s always someone out there who will take the time to rain on your parade, which is why, I think, we so often preempt the hurt it causes by doing it to ourselves.
But I like to remember another thing VirgoMom used to say: “Here’s to those who wish me well, and those who don’t can…” I’m sure you can guess the rest!
I’m here to carry a message to the world, y’all: ultimately, art is life made holy. And I’m very glad that I took the opportunity to let a rag-tag group of fictional high school students remind me of that.