A star is born, but no

A young colleague was telling me about their efforts to watch the 1976 remake of “Star is Born” with Kris Kristofferson and Barbra Streisand in preparation for the fourth movie of this title with Bradley Cooper and Lady GaGa. They were struggling with it. It felt disjointed and didn’t make much sense to them.

I had to admit that I avoided watching it for 42 years. After talking about some possible reasons why it might not make much sense, I decided to watch it. To see if it was as bad as I thought I recalled hearing that it was. Some movies I find to be completely unwatchable. “Barbarella” is one of those. I first tried watching it a two or three decades ago and gave up in less than 10 minutes. I tried again recently and could only make it 26 minutes before deciding it wasn’t even worth having on in the background.

“A Star is Born” is not quite that bad. Not quite. The thing is it is so locked in the 1970s that I am not sure it is the least bit accessible to someone in their early 20s.

The whole mansion scene feels like the 1978 Joe Walsh song “Life’s Been Good to Me.”
I have a mansion but forget the price
Ain’t never been there, they tell me it’s nice
I live in hotels, tear out the walls
I have accountants, pay for it all

from Wikipedia:

“Life’s Been Good” is a song by Joe Walsh, which first appeared on the soundtrack to the film FM. The original eight-minute version was released on Walsh’s album But Seriously, Folks…, and an edited 4 1/2 minute single version peaked at #12 on the US Billboard Hot 100,[1] remaining his biggest solo hit.

In the song, Walsh satirically reflects on the antics and excess of the era’s rock stars, with nods to Keith Moon and others: “I live in hotels/Tear out the walls”, and “My Maserati does one-eighty-five/I lost my licence, now I don’t drive”. The Maserati that Walsh himself owned at the time was a 1964 5000 GT model, and while fast, could only manage 170mph with tall gearing.[2]

The 1979 Rolling Stone Record Guide called it “riotous”, and “(maybe) the most important statement on rock stardom anyone has made in the late Seventies”.

The spray painting of her name was interesting because he not only did it in cursive, but backwards, from right to left, without seeming to think about what he’s doing.

Pushing her practice session to the point that she did well enough when she got a little bit of “righteous anger” is an overused vehicle that even in 1976 I would have felt it was stale.

Also, the improbability of an audience that came to see Kristofferson’s character perform overwhelmingly like her pre-disco-white-woman-sings-watered-down-soul-with-permed-afro is so unbelievable. This is even referenced within the movie when the two are about to go on tour and their manager convinces him that they don’t share the same audiences and he should stay back.

I also just don’t buy Kristofferson’s character’s skills with earth-moving machinery and building and adobe home in the desert. Basically, there are two many requirements for the suspension of disbelief. That and the “old guy tries to save himself with a young woman’s love” theme probably doesn’t need to ever be revisited.

And two-thirds of the way through it, I think I’m done. If I’m going to watch a bad movie, I want to be really bad and for it know it is bad. Like “Zombeavers” or “Galaxina” (which made Dorothy R. Stratton a star, however briefly and is far better than “Barbarella.).

Reasons to Believe

I was driving home, listening to the radio, and the usual thing starts happening. My mind wanders through connections suggested by the lyrics.

Seen a man standin’ over a dead dog lyin’ by the highway in a ditch 
He’s lookin’ down kinda puzzled pokin’ that dog with a stick 
Got his car door flung open he’s standin’ out on highway 31 
Like if he stood there long enough that dog’d get up and run 
Struck me kinda funny seem kinda funny sir to me 
Still at the end of every hard day people find some reason to believe

-Bruce Springsteen, “Reason to Believe”

“Highway 31?” sounds like “Highway 41.”

My father was a gambler down in Georgia
He wound up on the wrong end of a gun
And I was born in the back seat of a Greyhound bus
Rollin’ down highway forty-one

-Richard Betts, “Ramblin’ Man”

..which then takes me to ..

Oh God said to Abraham, “Kill me a son”
Abe says, “Man, you must be puttin’ me on”
God say, “No.” Abe say, “What?”
God say, “You can do what you want Abe, but
The next time you see me comin’ you better run”
Well Abe says, “Where do you want this killin’ done?”
God says, “Out on Highway 61”

-Bob Dylan, “Highway 61 Revisited”

Highway 61 runs from Duluth, MN all the way to New Orleans, and at the junction of 61 and 49 in Mississippi is the crossroad where Robert Johnson was said to have sold his soul to the devil for talent and fame. The story that is the basis for the easily forgettable Ralph Machio movie, “Crossroads.”

 

On Highway 61 in Mississippi, is the town of Panther Burn, which I only know because of this scene in “Blues Brothers 2000” as it allegedly takes place five miles north.

 

My second favorite song from Blues Brothers 2000 (favorite being “Ghostriders in the Sky”) is Blues Traveler “Maybe I’m Wrong.”

I want to show you that anything is possible
I want to show you that your wildest dreams can come true
And I swear someday I’m gonna figure out how to do just that
But until then, I guess trying is all I can do
Maybe I’m wrong thinking you want something better
Maybe I’m wrong thinking you got no problem making it through the night
Maybe I’m wrong about every little thing I’m talking about
Maybe I’m wrong, but just maybe, maybe I’m right

-John C. Popper, “Maybe I’m Wrong”

and then as “Reason to Believe” is finishing, I connect to the other song of the same name

If I listened long enough to you
I’d find a way to believe that it’s all true
Knowing that you lied straight faced while I cried
Still I look to find a reason to believe

Someone like you makes it hard to live
Without somebody else
Someone like you makes it easy to give
Never thinking of myself

-Tim Hardin, “Reason to Believe”

And then another song plays, and a new cascade of thought might begin.