Wednesday, October 17, 2018

A Star Is Born

Watched the new A Star Is Born this past weekend after watching the earlier three versions over the past few months. There are some things the 2018 version gets right. For example, making the debut of the star a duet instead of a solo. This scene is more in line with the 1937 version when Norman Maine insists on doing Vicki Lester's screen test with her.

While the film is fine on its own as Hollywood pablum, it's dismissal of some worthy tropes, aspects, and plot points from the story's long history makes it a weak addition to the franchise.

Sausage Fest in the Writing Room

While literary giants Dorothy Parker collaborated on the 1937 script and Joan Didion collaborated on the 1976 script, there are no female writers credited on the 2018 script. It's fucking 2018.

Sausage Fest on the Screen

The three earlier versions focus on the arc of a female star being discovered and made. But the focus of the new film is on the naturalistic denouement of a male star. They might as well have called it A Star Slowly Dies.

There are apparently no other women on the planet where this film was set. In the other versions, there are at least other women around, references to other females, and even multiple female family members. Yes, there's a nod to Édith Piaf, but the only other woman with any substantial, though still quite minimal, screen time is the assistant who walks Ally to the side of the stage. There are no mothers, which makes more room for an ever abundant number of father figures! Well, there is one mother...

Ghettoized Blacks and Queers

Every single Black person, including the Black mother, is crammed into a couple of scenes to serve as ethnic accoutrements that somehow make Jackson seem more real and less of a dick. It's fucking 2018.

Ally has a Latinx friend, who, I think, is supposed to read as gay even though there is no direct evidence in the film. But come on: the (ambiguously) gay best friend trope needs to die a slow Jackson Maine death. Regardless, his character is more of a prop than a cast member.

The drag queens (again: more men) are also crammed into a couple of scenes to serve as sassy accoutrements that somehow make Ally's lame backstory more real. It's fucking 2018, which also means there is not a single drag bar on planet Earth where a woman is singing "La Vie en rose." This is the kind of bullshit backstory plot point you get when you put a group of white heterosexual men together to write a blockbuster: the worst of all possible worlds.

Ultimately, the Blacks and queers serve as supporting audiences to Jackson and Ally's love (and performances) with only the slightest gesture toward having lives away from the stars. And that's just bad—also racist and homophobic—writing. As if misogynistic writing wasn't already enough.

Bonus Question

What's the deal with all the white people having unnecessarily complicated familial relationships? Hell, my family is less complicated, and I've been estranged from them for most of my adult life.

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Last night I dreamt that Johnny Marr loved me

For the past few weeks I purposely didn't look up articles about Johnny Marr. I didn't want to discover that he too, like that other person from the Smiths, had become a terrible person.

Marr performs at the Granada Theater, Dallas, October 2018
Like most queer men of a certain age, I fell hard in love with the Smiths. The swooning, crooning vocals over jangly acoustic guitars. The preening wordplay and unmistakable sheer unlovability of its cheeky frontman.

Certain lyrics from The Queen Is Dead helped to push past the awkwardness between me and my partner when we were falling in love all those years ago. I repeated those words as my wedding vows to him in 2013.

Since the Smiths' breakup, I followed Morrissey's solo career. The first few albums are still good. But when I started hearing him in concert, it was clear that he meant to destroy any goodwill his fans had for his earlier career.

Refusing to play any of his popular songs and touring with his terrible neo-grunge band, even the better tracks from his later albums sound awful.

It's been seven years since I last saw Morrissey in concert. I refuse to see him again.

The spirit of the Smiths, however—as well as the spirit of all of his other great musical collaborations—lives on in Johnny Marr, clearly one of the most accomplished guitarists and musicians alive today. From his impressive professionalism to his setlist, it's clear that he loves his work and appreciates his fans.

The Smiths are dead. Love live Johnny Marr!