A Star is Born (1976)

You may find this post controversial and I’ve made my peace with it.  Some view this film as a classic and some hold it proudly in their Barbra Streisand shrine.  However, I recently viewed this film and felt the need to post about it as there were just way too many elements that couldn’t be ignored.

Fact: this is the THIRD remake of this story (a fourth is slowly rolling around in development. You can read about it here).

Fact: this is the first movie I’ve blogged about on this site that’s both a Oscar and a Golden Globe winner for the song “Evergreen”.

Fact: I have long since made fun of the lyrics to the song “Evergreen” without realizing it was a) from this movie and b) a Barbra Streisand song.  You can’t sing a lyric that compares love to a easy chair and not expect me to mock it.

So we meet John Howard Norman, a big rock star who’s late to everything, drinks a lot and has Gary Busey personally shove cocaine up his nose.

No one in this movie ever calls him just “John”.  Its always “John Howard” or “John Howard Norman”. This may have been because the filmmakers felt that no one would accept a hero named John, leading to theater attendees storming out of the theaters in protest.

Fact: John Howard Norman never sings a whole complete song. He starts songs, then always interrupts and we as an audience have no idea why people even bother going to his shows to begin with.

Here’s what someone should have prepared me for. No one knows how to wear shirts in this movie.  Shirts are really more of a suggestion or an opinion.  So as a result, they’re maybe buttoned or worn halfway or in this case, Kris Kristofferson just forwent the shirt entirely and skipped to the vest.  To each his own, I suppose.

After an evening of kind of singing parts of two songs, he leaves his own show and goes to a club where we’re introduced to Barbra Streisand aka “Esther Hoffman”.

She’s in a singing group that call themselves “The Oreos.”  The less said about this, the better.

So they’re singing, and Barbra is being Barbra.  However, every romance movie needs a “meet cute” and we get with this moment…

“John Howard Norman” (I guess we’ll follow the movie’s instructions to always call him this) gets into a shouting match with some bar customers and Barbra gets ticked and confronts him about it. 

Now, lets put this situation in “real life” shall we?  In movie life, Barbra sings at a club and she hears a drunk guy shouting and getting drunker. She confronts him, he’s charmed by it, chases her down and begs to date her.  She kind of plays coy and allows him to bring a pizza to her house at 7am the next day.

In “real life”, Barbra would have finished her set, gone backstage, complained with the rest of The Oreos (sigh). Had “John Howard Norman” come slurring her way, a bouncer would have steered him to his car and he would have woken up ten hours later not remembering anything.  Roll credits!

But they have breakfast and are super cutesy about eating pizza and him guzzling down a whiskey and a few more beers for breakfast, so he invites her to come to his show.

Another show where he starts a song, mumbles through it, then goes and finds Barbra…

…sings from a vantage point where no one can see him…

…takes a fan’s motorcycle (which begs the question, do people still bring a motorcycle inside arenas? Also, where can I get the “I’m Spoiled Rotten” shirt?)

…and this inevitably happens…

…where you know, everyone’s going to have to file back out and spend three hours in their cars wondering what on earth they just saw.

Meanwhile, “John Howard Norman” gets put in an ambulance, everyone takes off, leaving Barbra stranded at a arena.

In “real life”, Esther Hoffman would have been angry and annoyed, spent hundreds of dollars on an Uber getting back to her house and written an interesting op-ed piece to Rolling Stone on what a tool John Howard Norman is.

Instead, she finds it cute that he stalked her at a studio and follows him home to his house where they make sweet music together…

…and then sweet, sweet love.

So many beer cans in this scene.

Naturally, he brings her into the studio and she sings whole and complete songs, which blows everyone away. He realizes that she is a unicorn and they make glorious creative plans.

He does yet another show, where he starts to sing a song and people are into it, but he stops barely into the first chorus and goes, “Hey guys, you paid to see me, but you’ll be fine letting my girlfriend of two days taking over, right?”

So Barbra comes out in an outfit that makes her look like she’s about to do everyone’s taxes and performs two whole songs.  Turns out the crowd loves it when you come out and do a song that has a beginning, middle and end. They go nuts and officially, “a star is born.”

Roll credits.

In the frenzy of the show, Barbra proposes to “John Howard Norman”. JHN gives her a very solid reason why this is a terrible decision. Namely that he’s an awful person who’s life is a total mess. Never mind, she knows what she wants and thats that.

The movie clearly has very little to do between now and JHN’s inevitable death (spoiler alert) so it does that thing that only bad movies do…there’s a montage. And it has everything that a ’70s love montage needs…

 Picture perfect moments in the middle of nowhere. This is always followed by sex in the most uncomfortable setting imaginable.

Being silly in the middle of nowhere.  This movie was made by Warner Bros who also holds the rights to Superman which I guess makes this scene okay.

Wearing Indian blankets as if that counts as clothes.  (Fact: It does not)

Enjoying your ’70s house with more rugs.

Maybe one of you fakes your death?

And at the end of a long day of holding each other and staring into each other’s eyes, you recline on pillows that vaguely look like Swastikas.

At some point, you have to come back to reality.  After all, Esther is a big star now (sure, its been a week maybe) and JHN is dealing with the fact that his career is over. Now this movie gets it into gear.

People are really digging her. She’s up for a Grammy! She shows up to her shows! She finishes songs! She wears shirts!

Speaking of which, she wins a Grammy for Best Female Vocal. She insists JHN go up with her, despite the fact that he almost didn’t make it and that he’s super trashed.  No, no, no, she drags him up there where he slurs something about art, all while Tony Orlando and Rita Coolidge seem horrified.

And, this movie dares to wave its codependency flag again, when Esther goes to calm down in the bathroom and is followed by JHN.

He makes another really good case for why this marriage isn’t going to work out, but she won’t have it.

This movie is begging for the opening credits to Intervention to come on at any moment.  I would have fully welcomed it.

During a photo shoot, he tells her that she’ll have to tour on her own.  She’s horrified.

He doesn’t show up for things when she needs him to, but instead of processing the links between addiction and unhealthy relationships, she puts on more drapey clothes and wonders why as she literally stares at empty glass vessels that used to hold alcohol.

While she’s gone however, a sexy journalist breaks into their home and begs for an interview with Esther.  She’ll do anything.

ANYTHING.

And he obliges.

Of course they’re caught.  The journalist gets huffy and walks out, while Esther thinks things over and has this reaction to the whole situation…

Frankly, at this point, I won’t blame his addiction, I’ll just blame the ’70s. Neither of them are clearly ever going to learn anything at this point.

So the universe takes over. He gets up early, drinks a lot of beer and has a fatal accident.

And Esther gives the performance of a lifetime where she cries and hopes he’s looking down on her.  I’d cry too, but then I remembered he was a reckless and selfish alcoholic who possessed really bad judgement.  The good news is that she got a career out of it and the rest of The Oreos had to find another white lady to lead them.

PERFORMANCE OF A LIFETIME.

Should you care to delve deeper into this, you can watch this movie on Amazon, HBO GO or in physical disc form from Netflix.

Follow me!  I’m on Twitter and Facebook!

For Your Consideration: BIG MONEY HUSTLAS (1999)

Months ago, I sat through a portion of a unholy union of filmmaking and the Insane Clown Posse called Big Money Rustlas. Should you need a recap, :here you go.

Its an awful, awful film and I couldn’t even finish it. So what made me visit ICP’s first film? Its not an interesting story, but it does involve me watching an episode of MTV’s True Life which focused on a couple’s Juggalo themed wedding and their parents’ disapproval. Most bands would kill for the kind of loyalty ICP sparks, so I thought I would give this a shot.

Before we visit this, let me remind you 1999 was a banner year for movies – this was the year that gave us The Matrix, The Sixth Sense, Toy Story 2, Election, Office Space, etc. While these movies were being painstakingly crafted and lovingly made, this thing happened.

Its generous on our part to discuss Big Money Hustlas “plot” but since it calls itself a “movie” apparently, we have to use terms like this. I suppose its best described as a “homage” to 70s blaxploitation movies, given the very sad use of Dolemite and Fred “Rerun” Berry. There’s names like Big Baby Sweets and he’s running a crime syndicate in New York, while someone named Shaggy 2 Dog (back when mothers were liberally writing things on their child’s birth certificates) works for the police and solves crime. Or something.

Everything about this movie makes me sad – from every stand point. Creatively, emotionally, physically….

….the fact they got Harry Potter’s uncle to be in this.

Look, I realize that my not being a Juggalo prevents me from enjoying this film the way it was meant to be seen. But I put it to you – how do sit through this thing and not be distracted that the two leads wear bright white clown makeup and stare straight into the camera to deliver lines?

 In order to establish the storytelling genre, let us establish scenes with large cars from the 70s in bad neighborhoods.

You can’t hear it but there’s some funky music, brought to you courtesy of ICP. Its hard for me to admit, but its really not that bad.

And then a Lincoln navigator in a suburban neighborhood.

What was happening in this scene, you ask? Well, a clown in a suit swears a lot and there’s some dialogue with hip hop dancer rejects.

Seeing this guy makes me long for the quiet dignity of Kim Kardashian’s performance in Temptation.

One thing you may wonder, is if Big Money Hustlas passes the Bechdel test

Um, no. Not so much.

This character enjoys eating. She’s overweight and therefore comedy gold. Stand aside, Mary Tyler Moore.

A cop eating a donut? Folks, stop writing comedy now. The pinnacle has been reached and will never be topped.

In our story, Shaggy arrests Big Baby Sweets, some cohorts named Big Stank and Lil’ Poot but law enforcement fails everyone and lets them go (frankly, I would think any law enforcement establishment would be willing to allow those nicknames as evidence.)

Shaggy 2 Confused has been on screen, has done music videos, but when it comes to emote or show emotion on screen, he comes off as more perplexed than anything else.

Spoiler alert, there’s ninjas involved at this point. There’s no point to it, its just worth mentioning.

 And then this happens:

Rudy Ray Moore shows up. He mugs for the camera and gives the impression that he’s forgotten how to be in front of a camera. Which is entirely possible.

Which may also explains why he wears sunglasses in every scene.

Also in a twist of ridiculous plot, Big Baby Sweats All the Time….

…brings in Mick Foley to wrestle. I don’t follow wrestling, so I don’t consider myself a fan, nor do I find myself impressed by the cameo.

Not that anyone told Mick why he was there, you can just see that he’s genuinely happy to be where he’s wanted.

I’ll kill the surprise – this was the criminal mastermind the whole time. Now I know where Christopher Nolan’s true inspiration for storytelling comes from.

Here’s my favorite bit of trivia from this film, courtesy of its Wikipedia page:

“Big Money Hustlas was shot in New York.[1] Most of the crew disliked the movie and the cast. They went on strike twice, while only a few crew members continued to work.[1] The movie was shot in two months, but went way over budget.[1] Halfway through the movie, Bruce had to pay $100,000 of his own money to continue filming.[1] Island never paid the crew for the last two weeks of work due to the film going so far over budget.[1]

Remember, folks. Just because you can shoot a movie, doesn’t mean you should.

For Your Consideration….Convoy (1978)


Given the proud family heritage of trucking that I have, I figured this be worth a go round.  There’s a lot of truckers and they all have kooky names and I’ll never remember them. What I do remember is that Kris Kristofferson plays one named Rubber Duck and he’s shirtless a lot. The thing is he doesn’t look bad shirtless, therefore making him a unicorn in the trucking world. There’s a lot of insults that goes on between truckers, lots of lingo that quite frankly, I don’t get. 
View this as a cautionary tale should you feel the need to turn your kitschy novelty song into a movie. 
 I leave this movie just as confused as when I entered it.
Before I start, I’d like to offer my sympathies to Burt Ward, who is still waiting for a call from Christopher Nolan…

Joseph Gordon Leavitt knows, to be Robin – USE THE BUTTONS ON YOUR SHIRT, SON.


First of all, this….

(shakes head, rips up film school diploma)
This is our hero. He’s called the Rubber Duck. I don’t know why.

Here’s a girl that he’ll be trading awkward sexual innuedos with for the next two hours.  I don’t know why.

Here’s some of his buddies.  Their conversation is non stop slang and nicknames. I can’t keep up and it was about at this point I realized this movie might not be for me.

Ernest Borgnine is a lonely man who pulls over truckers for speeding and not abiding highway safety laws. Given these positive things and the fact I can understand him, I’m just going to assume he’s the movie’s hero.

For reasons that are not explained and therefore none of our business, Ali McGraw is selling her clothes to some diner waitresses and dodging any questions about Love Story.

This is Widow Woman. Does she have a dead husband? I can figure out the woman part of her nickname, but again, it seems the plot is none of our business. I throw caution to the wind and keep trying.

It seems Hunky Trucker and Diner Waitress are on a break.  This is the 70s, so I know she’s not showing him pictures of the diner’s Bingo night last Tuesday.

She has a birthday present for him. I hope he can return it for store credit.
Probably the most unflattering birthday wrapping ever. And clearly a case of regifting.

Ernest Borgnine, being a longtime and embattled sheriff, comes into the diner, looking for some human conversation and possibly meatloaf.
Back in the cab…

Probably one of the most unerotic sex scenes ever has just wrapped up.
The sheriff enters and it seems someone is sitting in his spot.

Hunky Trucker is not having it. And when I say “It” I have no idea with that means.

No matter, a fight breaks out anyway with people being thrown slow motion over tables. 

There is going to be some nasty reviews on Yelp after this.

In a understated effort to get me to side with highway law enforcement, the truckers damage the Loneliest Sherriff’s car.

I’ve learned this guy’s name is PigPen. He is a hollow shell of a man.

And then this awkward moment happens. I’ve never had my waitress fling run into my newest Saturday night thing, so I have no idea what’s going on in anyone’s mind.

I’ll bet this guy does.

This place reeeeeaaaaaaallly puts you in the mood for a cocktail.

And for no reason, the movie’s self appointed hero runs a jalopy off the road. Just building my mounting hatred for the trucker culture.

Widow Woman takes a curve too sharply and loses her entire load. Woman drivers, amirite?!?!?!

Because she’s a top employee of whatever company she works for, she abandons her truck and whatever it was she was hauling across the country and gets a ride with these two. I’m sure those building materials weren’t going to anyone who REALLY needed it.

Just a reminder, courtesy of Convoy.

Never mind. The Sheriff is a terrible driver and has clearly taken his safety on the road agenda too far.

Hunky Trucker shows mild concern.

Ali McGraw doesn’t have time for the welfare of others. She has to photograph a wedding in Dallas that is clearly not going to happen.

Here’s an equally lonely Sheriff. Him and Ernest Borgnine have found love in a hopeless place. 

“I hate truckers.”
Join the club, pal.
Here’s where the movie spends the longest fifteen minutes having trucks and cars drive in circles with dust. Maybe this is one of those symbolic things that movies do and then I realized nope, its trucks and cars in dirt.

Still happening.

I had to go to the bathroom, did I miss anything?

I hate this movie. This car decided it’d rather commit suicide than take part in it.

Women aren’t into supportive garments.

Everyone’s happy they crossed state lines into New Mexico.  I think this was the first time someone was thrilled that they entered New Mexico.

And a convoy has started. I’m learning that a convoy is just people in large vehicles with absolutely nothing else to do in their life. 

Including this dreamy hippie pastor that drives the Muppets Electric Mayhem bus.
They start their tour of New Mexico but destroying it.

The convoy’s taken over and I feel bad for whatever car has to be behind it. Look, the Hendersons just wanted to get their kids to the basketball state finals and Jimmy really has to pee.

Wait a second, it looks like law enforcement is stepping in. I rubbed my hands together and wonder how Hunky Trucker’s going to get out of this bucket of syrup.

He’s carrying explosives.  Good thing he’s making a moral standpoint that hasn’t been explained to us, instead of wasting time and taking it wherever it needed to go in the first place.
So they’re just going to barrel through that? NO ONE SAW THAT COMING. On a unrelated note, I’d like to let Convoy know that I really hate it.
Seems the news of truckers clogging up highways and limiting supplies to people has gotten around and everyone’s pretty positive about it.
Local news affiliate really wants to know what’s up.  They ask, “Why the convoy?”
I listened in, because finally this movie is going to tell me.
Hunky Trucker: “Trucks gotta move.”
Damn you movie. Stop pretending you know what you’re doing.
Now the mayor’s involved.  They have meetings in his mom’s basement.
Since the convoy can’t roll 24/7, everyone stops in a field and takes communal showers.
SO. MUCH. HAIR.
The Mayor stops by to do a meet and greet. He’s going to Capitol Hill with their problem. CAN SOMEONE PLEASE TELL ME WHAT THEIR PROBLEM IS?!?!?!!
In the morning, they do irrepairable damage to the Earth’s ozone layer.
Sheriff Loneliness waits for them in town, hoping for a compromise but instead, truckers take their loads which have been expected in the Midwest for about two days now and completely destroy the town, taking out everyone’s electricity and basic utilities.

Movie, you have a limited amount of time to prove this Sheriff wrong and you’re doing a crappy job.

This janitor who has sided with the convoy is pretty stoked about cleaning everything up.

When they enter another town, Pig Pen has clearly not gotten over the high over apocalyptic destruction.

So he hits an ice cream truck and its driver. Please let the victim start up a convoy of ice cream trucks.

Hunky Driver gets serious…
Kicks Ali out of the truck. Because he’s a man’s man.
Thanks to our nation’s rampant military spending, they have brought in armed forces to deal with this convoy.  Which I’m fine with.
The movie decides to remind us again, that Hunky Shirtless Trucker has been hauling explosives this whole time while its being fired on.

So naturally, this happens…
A funeral is held for Hunky Trucker.  And no one got their loads where they should.

Pleeeeeeeaaaaase let Dr. Teeth and the Electric Mayhem perform Taps. Pleeeeeaaaaaase….
The Mayor says a few words. He’s going to stop this problem, but everyone has to do their part. Again – WHAT WAS THE PROBLEM?

Ali McGraw seeks solace on the Jesus bus, which we’ve all done during our darker hours, but then she realizes…
Hunky Driver disguised himself as Ernest Hemingway.  You scamp.
Then Lonely Sheriff realizes it too.

He’s fine with it now, making whatever the conflict was in this movie totally worth the man power and state funds it took to resolve it.
“Hey, who wants to go to Mexico?”
Damn you, Convoy. Damn you.