Saturday, May 14, 2011
Screen Gem Saturdays: Focus On The Talent
When artists reach a certain level of fame, the line between their work and personal life begins to blur. The public can't get enough to satiate their burning curiosity about the icon du jour. Even something so mundane as a jog outside or going to a drugstore can become front page news. Actors, actresses, and musicians who reach the level of what is known as "celebrity" find themselves under a microscope, constantly being critiqued, bashed, and chastised for what they wear, eat, and do. The passing of Michael Jackson and the release of the movie “This Is It” sparked this topic for me. In the 1980’s, Michael Jackson was the undisputed King of Pop, bolstered by the debut of MTV. His creative music videos catapulted him to a level of success previously unknown to most musicians. In the last decade, Michael was more well known for his personal troubles than for his music, and it seemed that he had slipped into being nothing more than a has-been whose supposed exploits made for juicy tabloid headlines. His unexpected death was a shock, especially since he was about to embark on a huge musical tour. The press had been slamming the production, noting Michael's financial troubles, the delays of the show, and whether or not Michael was just too old to handle the rigors of touring. When it was announced that a movie was being released called, “This Is It,” I assumed that it was a production in poor taste, designed to financially capitalize on Jackson's recent death and the morbid curiosity that surrounded it.
That was my opinion until I started getting feedback from people I knew who had seen "This Is It” in the theaters. All of it was positive, saying that it was an amazing film that celebrated the talents of Jackson. I decided to get the Blu-ray when it was released so that I could see for myself what the buzz was about.
I was blown away.
This was not the portrait of a frail man who had lost touch with reality; this was a documentary showing a creative genius at the peak of his talents. He was mounting a production that would have blown away any other musical concert that had preceded it. Even in rehearsal mode, Michael Jackson was impressive; the dancing, the singing...it was as if 20 years had disappeared and the King of Pop was ready to take back his throne. The difference between now and then was that Michael now had over 20 years of experience and knowledge that he was able to plug back into the show, making it a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
This all got me thinking; why do we judge a person's work by their personal life? If we are going to a movie or a concert, should we care what the person is doing behind closed doors? Or at the grocery store? Or while on vacation? Because a person chooses the silver screen or a concert stage for their career, does that make it okay for the general public to peer into their private lives and expose it for all to see?
I think back to two very public personalities, Rock Hudson and Joan Crawford. It didn’t become public knowledge that Hudson was gay until he was on the verge of dying. Does that make it more difficult now to buy him as a romantic lead?
It really shouldn't. Instead, he should be admired for being so believable as Doris Day's other half in a string of very successful films.
And then there’s Joan Crawford. Should her reputation as an actress have been tarnished by the allegations penned by her daughter Christina in a very public tell-all book and movie?
This question has divided many for years. Whenever Joan's name comes up, it is typically associated with Faye Dunaway's over-the-top performance in "Mommie Dearest" and a little object called a wire hanger.
Recently, The New Yorker ran a 4-page article for the defense of Joan Crawford. Pretty amazing that an actress who has been gone over 30 years would still cause a stir in the media:
“...if Joan Crawford is not very likable, she would, in a just world, be widely honored for a series of fiercely effective performances and for her emblematic quality as a twentieth-century woman....Any call for justice to Joan Crawford, however, runs into a dead end: the image of her as a madwoman is too juicily entertaining to give up.”
On the flip side, there are those who get angry about celebrities who use their fame to influence political decisions (Oprah Winfrey, Jane Fonda, just to name a few). Either way you look at it, it’s a hot potato topic. Could your life stand up to the constant gaze and scrutiny of the rags & the paparazzi?
Or would the constant flash of the cameras cause you to descend into madness?
One thing I can be sure of—you can't believe everything you read!
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