Interestingly, I give all three movies I’ve seen so far in October the same rating but for very different reasons. The three movies are: A Star is Born, First Man, and Collette.
My favorite movie of all time is the 1954 version of A Star is Born. I first saw it when I was 11 or 12 and Judy Garland’s portrayal of a wildly talented woman who didn’t look “right” hit me at my geeky core. I was a huge fan of Barbra Streisand when I was a kid which was definitely not a cool thing to be. I don’t remember when I first saw the 1976 version but it was rated R when it was released in 1976 and I wasn’t old enough to see it then. I owned the soundtrack long before I saw the movie and listened to it over and over. When I did see the 1976 version, I loved it as a remake and on its own. In the ensuing years, I have seen both versions numerous times and feel a non-ironic love for both. I have also seen the 1937 version Janet Gaynor version and loved it as well. I guess there is something about a young woman who falls in love with a damaged older man that intrigues me (my reaction to this is … ewww). In any case, I love this story. Over and over and over.
So I was eagerly anticipating the latest update of this story. Bradley Cooper seemed surprising in the previews as a singer and as a director. And I love Lady Gaga and looked forward to her interpretation of the “star” referenced in the title A Star is Born. In other words, I was primed to LOVE this film. And yet, I didn’t. It wasn’t horrible. In fact, I would see it again. Lady Gaga is amazing! I am a bigger fan now than I was before. The problem with the latest movie, however, is the story. In the earlier versions of the movie, the focus is on the star…the woman whose fame is rising. She has a complicated relationship with the man who gives her her first break in the business, the man who sees her unique brilliance when she doesn’t fit the mold of a typical “star.” The problem with this incarnation of the story is that there seems to be an attempt to recenter the story on the man. Cooper directs this latest version and the focus on his character’s back story is a detriment to the thing that we (or at least I) are most interested in as an audience…the story of the rise of a new star.
So I didn’t hate this movie. Lady Gaga was indeed amazing. But ultimately, I was disappointed.
At the Regal with Lynne, Pat, and Ann.
One of my first memories is the Apollo 11 crew splashing down in the ocean after having been the first humans on the moon. When I was 7, 8, 9, 10 years old, I wanted to be an astronaut. This background means that I am always excited to see new movies about the men who engaged in this kind of space travel. I was so looking forward to First Man with its focus on Neil Armstrong as the first man who walked on the moon. I like Ryan Gosling, who plays Armstrong, well enough. I wanted to love this movie. But it felt too long with endless shots of Gosling’s face, stoic as his character confronted the latest tragedy, challenge, or obstacle in his life. I loved Claire Foy’s portrayal of Jan Armstrong, Neil’s wife. I loved the attempt to realistically portray the sacrifice of these men and their families to help the United States achieve its goal of beating the Russians to the moon. Ryan Gosling’s Neil Armstrong, given the stoicism of the character portrayed onscreen, is inscrutable. The distance between the actor’s face and the emotional heart of the character is immense. And I’m not sure Gosling was able to bridge that gap. I didn’t hate this movie but I was disappointed. And it was too long.
At The Regal with Pat.
Finally, tonight, I saw Colette at Red River Theater with Ann. Colette is a late 19th, early 20th century French icon whose existence I learned of in the mid-1980s when I was in college. I told Ann that I loved her story, a woman whose husband claimed her novels as his own but who revolted in numerous ways. During her life time, she had affairs with both men and women and after her divorce from the man who claimed her novels, she regained control of that work and continued to create new, provocative work. I loved Colette as a college student but had forgotten about and lost track of her as I became an adult and discovered the work of more women of the same time period. I highly anticipated this portrayal of Colette’s life. And once again, the movie is fine. The acting is great. But it is typical biopic fare, ticking off the notable moments in the known life of the famous person. I just wish more life had been injected into this story, with more attention given to the meaning of the moments chosen to be depicted. So I was ultimately disappointed in a story whose individual moments would give me lots of hope that I would love it.
Again, my rating for all of these movies is the same (which I find disappointing).
I am currently Professor of Digital Media at Plymouth State University in Plymouth, NH. I am also the current Coordinator of General Education at the University. I am interested in game studies, digital literacies, open pedagogies, and generally how technology impacts our culture.