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Monday, July 09, 2012

Flashdance...What A Feeling!

Hello, everyone!  If you’re able to read this blog entry today, then allow me to congratulate you on surviving that nasty virus that threatened to damage all Internet connections today!  A big pat on the back for all of you this 9th day of July!!!

I myself am relieved that I am able to post this blog entry today.  I double checked everything before I started writing this piece, so I’m under the impression that I survived this virus as well. just seems like only yesterday that the Y2K bug was poised to destroy the whole world, didn’t it?

Before I launch into yet another Monday matinee, there’s something that I would like to say.

Today happens to be my sister’s birthday.  For the sake of argument, I won’t reveal what her age is today because it’s one of those milestone birthdays, and I have a feeling that she might not want everyone in the world to know it.  I could come up with...oh...forty reasons why I should, but in the end, I decided against it. J

Because when I thought about it, visual aids make for so much better discussion, don’t you think?  So while I borrowed Mom and Dad’s photo album and leafed through it, I happened to come across this lovely picture of my sister standing next to our late grandfather (who was obviously alive at the time this photo was taken).

Now, I realize that this very well could be my last blog entry ever, as I completely understand that the minute my sister sees this photo of herself taken years ago, she is liable to force feed my spleen down my throat.  But, so help me, I can’t resist.

There’re two reasons why I chose to post this photograph in particular.  The first...well, I’m a younger brother, and younger brothers are supposed to do silly things like this to their older sisters.  It’s almost a rite of passage!

And secondly, this photo is linked to today’s Monday Matinee.

Do you see the sweatshirt my sister is wearing in the photograph?  It has the word “Flashdance” on it.  Now, I have no idea when exactly this photo was taken, but I know that it was taken no earlier than 1983.  Why?  That was the year that the movie “Flashdance” was released in theatres.

The date was April 15, 1983.  “Flashdance” opened up in theatres and ended up getting some rather negative reviews.  Although the film was directed by Adrian Lyne, and was a collaboration effort between Jerry Bruckheimer and Don Simpson on the production side, the film was critically panned.  Roger Ebert placed the film on his “Most Hated List”, the New Yorker dismissed the film as simply a series of rock videos, and the screenplay of the film was actually nominated for a Golden Raspberry Award (it ‘lost’ to “The Lonely Lady”).

So, how did it end up becoming one of 1983’s most successful movies?

The film, despite its negative reviews, ended up making almost $100 million at the box office, and was the third most successful film of 1983 right behind “Star Wars Episode VI: Return Of The Jedi” and “Terms Of Endearment”.  It’s hard to say why the movie became a hit, especially since I was barely two years old when it was released.  I can only hypothesize that the majority of people may have heard how bad the film was from critics, and wanted to check it out to see what the fuss was about.  Or, maybe the film’s soundtrack had something to do with it, as a couple of songs ended up becoming huge hits.  The first one was this single.

ARTIST: Michael Sembello
SONG: Maniac
ALBUM: Flashdance Official Soundtrack Album
DATE RELEASED: June 5, 1983

The second one...well, we’ll get to that a little later.

Though, I can imagine that another reason why the film was particular with the teen boys and twentysomething men of the early 1980s...Jennifer Beals.

Yes, Jennifer Beals was the main star of “Flashdance”.  She played the role of Alex Owens.  She may only be eighteen in the film, but she has already found work as a welder at a steel mill in the city of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  Well, at least that’s her day job.  At night, she switches the welding goggles for a skimpy outfit as she dances at her night job at a local bar called “Mawby’s”.

There’s one of these jobs that Alex likes doing better than the other one.  If you guessed welding, you’d get a strike against you.  No, Alex has dreams of becoming a full-time dancer.  Though, she doesn’t see herself being the cabaret girl of Mawby’s for the rest of her life.  No, she wants to become a respected dancer, and her dream is to attend the Pittsburgh Conservatory of Dance and Repertory.  Of course, the one thing holding her back is her lack of formal dance training, but despite this, she is determined to make her dream come true.

By chance, at one of her dance performances at Mawby’s, she ends up crossing paths with a man named Nick Hurley (Michael Nouri), who watches her dance.  But here’s where awkwardness comes into play here.  Hurley happens to be Alex’s boss at the steel mill where she does her day job.

(Even more awkward, when the movie began filming, Jennifer Beals was 19.  Michael Nouri was 36.  And one of the main complaints by moviegoers about this film was that they believed that Nouri’s character was too old for Beals.  Imagine that!)

Believe it or not, Alex’s friends who work with her at Mawby’s also have hopes of making it big beyond the bar one day.  Jeanie (Sunny Johnson) wants to break free from her waitressing days so she can become a professional ice skater, while her boyfriend Richie (Kyle T. Heffner) would gladly quit flipping burgers if it meant that he achieved his dream of performing stand-up comedy. 

Alex is determined to make her dream come true no matter what.  She even heads down to the Pittsburgh Conservatory to fill out an application to get into the dance program.  However, when Alex is looking over the application, and is forced to leave a large portion of it blank due to her lack of experience, she gets frustrated, and leaves the building in a hurry.  Fortunately, Alex is blessed with a caring mentor, a woman named Hanna Long (Lilia Skala), who happens to be a retired ballet dancer.  Hanna is very encouraging to Alex, and she wants to see Alex achieve her dream just as much, if not more, than Alex does.

(But is it really “Alex’s” dream?  The truth of the matter is that any scene that featured Alex dancing didn’t feature Jennifer Beals.  A couple of body doubles were used instead, and the lighting was dimmed purposely in order to hide the fact that “Alex” wasn’t really Alex.)

At the same time, Alex is trying to help her friends by supporting them in their dream.  Unfortunately, Jeanie ends up slipping a couple of times while auditioning at an ice show and the slip-up destroys her self-confidence.  She gets so depressed about the incident that she ends up taking a job at The Zanzibar, a club featuring exotic dancing.  It’s up to Alex to rescue her from the strip club once and for all.

Then there is her relationship with Nick, which develops from a friendship into a romantic interlude (which basically is a conflict of interest at her welding job), and which ends up placing her on the receiving end of Nick’s ex-wife at a restaurant.  On top of all that, when Alex ends up getting an opportunity to audition for the school she has dreamed of attending, she receives some devastating news.  The question does she cope with the news?  How does she do at the audition?  Well, the truth is that the ending is up to the viewer.  It is meant to be ambiguous on purpose.  I have my own idea as to what the ending of the film is, but I’ll keep silent.  I don’t want to spoil it.

But, I think the movie provides a great message for everyone here.  If you have a dream that you want to pursue, don’t sit around and wait for it to happen.  You have to do the work yourself and find your inner strength to make it happen.

As Irene Cara once sang...take your passion, and make it happen!

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