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Entries in Fame (2)

Wednesday
Nov162016

Links: Andorra, Amelie, Billy & Jon. Plus Hayao Miyazaki Again?

The Kinsey Report looks back at the troubled history of early 80s sensation Gene Anthony Ray (aka "Leroy" from Fame)
Variety Director Fred Schepisi (Six Degrees of Separation, Roxanne, Plenty) is lining up an all star cast for his new dramatic thriller Andorra: Vanessa Redgrave, Guy Pearce, Toni Collette, Clive Owen and more. Can he regain some of his 80s/90s heat? None of his films have had much impact in the last 20 or so years
/Film Lin-Manuel Miranda is working on a secret Disney project with Zootopia's director. Guess he liked that Moana experience

 

Towleroad an interview with Martha Plimpton on The Real O'Neals and becoming a new gay icon  
Metro Michael Shannon is not afraid to speak his mind on the current political climate. Also he has a bajillion movies coming out 
AV Club why Moana will be named Oceania in Italy
AV Club Beauty & The Beast (1991) remains Disney's best modern movie
Pajiba Carrie Fisher & Harrison Ford were totally doing it on the set of Star Wars in 1976 
Coming Soon Robert Heinlein's classic Stranger in a Strange Land is being adapted to series on the Syfy network
LAist Multi-hyphenate talent Rob Reiner, like Michael Shannon, is not holding his tongue about our new US nightmare 

Stage
Theater Mania Philippa Soo of Hamilton fame takes on Audrey Tatou's famous role in the musicalization of movie favorite Amelie beginning in LA next month before a Broadway transfer. If you're in LA let us know how it is, won't you?!
Playbill Molly Ringwald is back on stage, taking on Shirley Maclaine's role in a stage version of Terms of Endearment. It opens tonight. 
Playbill If you've never seen Sweeney Todd on stage you have another chance early next year at the Barrow Street theater. The British cast of a new production is transferring over but when they leave in early April, Norm Lewis and Carolee Carmello (both of whom have sensational vocal instruments) will replace them. I guess we've got to see it twice!

Today's Watch: A new "Billy on the Street"
Would you have a threesome with Billy and Jon Hamm?  

The Only Magically Great News in Weeks
Hayao Miyazaki wants to come out of retirement for one last film.  The 75 year old director has pitched a feature (sprung from a short Boro the Caterpillar) that he wants made by 2020.

Thursday
Sep192013

Movie Teachers: "Fame" (1980)

Back to School Month + 1980 Retrospective- StinkyLulu doubles up for Fame (1980). A partial version of this article first appeared at StinkyLulu in 2007

 

When I was a wee lil Stinky, I watched the original Fame over and over and over again. 'Twas my movie. And possibly because I watched the film so many dang times, the starkly human performances by the actresses playing teachers in the film burrowed deep into my consciousness. I’m not just talking about Debbie Allen’s legendary cameo. Mostly, I’m thinking especially of Anne Meara as Mrs. Sherwood and Joanna Merlin as Miss Berg. 

The roles of Sherwood and Miss Berg are quintessential “actressing at the edges” sorts of parts. Each is relevant to the film’s dramatic arc only insofar as she amplifies the narrative of one of Fame’s principal characters. As the language arts teacher, Meara’s Sherwood is Leroy’s obstacle, while Merlin’s Miss Berg is the ballet teacher who makes Lisa’s life hell. In the student-centric emotional swirl of Fame, Meara’s Sherwood and Merlin’s Miss Berg are indeed the hard-ass battle-axes who appear to have nothing better to do than to torment their students. Merlin’s Miss Berg permits the languid Lisa no slack, and Meara’s Sherwood refuses to buckle, even when Leroy explodes in a kinetic blaze of profanity and violence. 

But Fame, to its credit, gives both Meara and Merlin just enough room to be human. For Merlin, the kicker comes when she calls Lisa to her office to cut the young dancer from the program. With measured, unflinching firmness (you can almost tell that Merlin paid the bills by being Harold Prince’s casting director for much of the 1970s), Merlin’s Miss Berg conveys in no uncertain terms that there has no future as a dancer in the department or, in all likelihood, beyond. Merlin’s Miss Berg is brutal in her honesty, deflecting Lisa’s promises and pleas as if she’s waving away flies. Yet, when she opens the door to dismiss Lisa, her eyes brim with a glint of emotion, until she wilts — just that little bit — against the door upon Lisa’s exit.

Merlin in "Fame"

Meara’s moment comes when Leroy (suddenly terrified that his grade in English might actually be important now that his invitation to join a major dance company is contingent on his successful graduation from high school) seeks Sherwood out at the hospital where her husband is undergoing some unnamed "serious" procedure. Meara's Sherwood is at first firm but dismissive when faced with this self-involved student come, to the hospital, for a little bit of friendly grade grubbing. Then when Leroy pushes, accusing her of having it in for him, Meara's Sherwood explodes with sheer, agonizing fury. Her rebuttal ("Don't you kids ever think of anyone but yourself!?) stops Leroy cold, allowing him to grow up a little and to show Sherwood a quiet gesture of empathy and consideration.

In most ways, Meara's Sherwood and Merlin’s Miss Berg are thanklessly supporting performances. Everything each does is in support of Leroy’s/Lisa’s character arc. But Meara and Merlin mine every moment for its depth, humanity and humor. (The looks Merlin gives Debbie Allen during Leroy’s audition. The flash of fear that ripples Meara’s stern facade when Leroy physically erupts. Merlin’s way of whispering her true feelings, both snarky and vulnerable, under her breath. Meara’s heart buckling devastation when Leroy tears into Sherwood with the oblique epithet "You people...”) Each line, gesture and sideways glance conveys the simple fact that this woman is really good at her job and that Leroy/Lisa is but one of her more difficult pupils. Neither is a saintly superteacher. Neither is an inhuman gorgon. They are both simply educators working in the NYC public school system, trying to get through another day.

Meara in FAME

Indeed, I will be ever grateful to Anne Meara and Joanna Merlin for crafting these teacher characters so intelligently, so generously, so humanely -- and, in so doing, for also teaching little StinkyLulu how much was to be learned from all the actresses not only at the edges of Fame but also all those other actresses at the edges of fame itself.

 

previously on back to school...
History Lessons from Half Nelson, The Breakfast Club when you're too young for it