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Arts in Review




Jean Michel Basquiat

Basquiat: Rage to Riches
on PBS “American Masters”


Painter Jean-Michel Basquiat rose from the streets of Brooklyn in the 1970s to become a wealthy darling of the New York art world in the 1980s, before dying tragically of a heroin overdose at the age of 27 in 1988.

When he was seven years old he was hit by a car while playing stick-ball in the street. During a long hospital stay his mother brought him a copy of the textbook Gray’s Anatomy, and its medical drawings would prove a lifelong inspiration for Basquiat’s work, which often featured skulls with robotic or machine-like features. He sold his first painting for $200 to singer Debbie Harry of the new-wave band Blondie. Before long Basquiat was riding around the city in limousines.

He idolized Andy Warhol, and the two artists collaborated on a series of paintings in 1985. But Basquiat deserted Warhol after a New York Times profile described the young painter as the pop artist’s “mascot.” Nonetheless, Basquiat was devastated when Warhol died after routine surgery in 1987. The loss may have pushed him further into the hard drugs that killed him the following year. 

Sept. 14–Oct. 12, watch the illuminating PBS documentary Basquiat: Rage to Riches, the latest in its excellent “American Masters” series, by following this link.

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A Star is Born

(Warner Bros.)

On Wave of Anticipation, a Hit Movie Is Borne?

Lady Gaga, Bradley Cooper Spark Excitement for New Remake of A Star is Born


By GREG BEAUBIEN    Sept. 7, 2018


BUILDING BUZZ for a new movie has rarely worked better than with the latest remake of
A Star is Born, in which Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper show fresh sides of themselves.

A month ahead of its Oct. 5 release date, the picture is already throbbing with an aura of excitement and popularity on social media, aroused in part by photos of a glamorous-looking Lady Gaga arriving atop a boat for its Aug. 31 premiere at the Venice Film Festival. Lightning reportedly struck the theater halfway through the screening, knocking out the projector and interrupting the movie for 20 minutes. But when the premiere ended the film received a standing ovation that lasted almost eight minutes.

This latest retelling of the classic story—a man in show business falls in love with a younger female protégé whose talent and career ultimately outshine his own—marks Bradley Cooper’s directorial debut and Lady Gaga’s first lead role in a motion picture. She stars as Ally, a struggling artist who has nearly given up on her dream of making it as a singer. Cooper plays Jackson, a seasoned musician who discovers Ally but whose own career is collapsing thanks to age, pills and booze. 

The original A Star is Born, released in 1937, featured Janet Gaynor and Fredric March, and was itself a remake of a 1932 movie called What Price Hollywood? In 1954, the second remake starred Judy Garland and James Mason, followed by the 1976 version with Barbra Streisand and Kris Kristofferson.

Why is the fourth remake of an 81-year-old movie generating so much anticipation, including early talk of Academy Award nominations and pre-orders for the soundtrack album? One reason might be the emotional resonance conveyed by images of Lady Gaga with long brown hair, looking uncharacteristically like an ordinary girl, in the role of a talented singer who is insecure about her looks. Such pictures and video clips from the movie, which Gaga is sharing on her Twitter feed, imply a vulnerability that touches people, perhaps by encouraging them to believe in themselves and not abandon their own dreams.

Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga in A Star Is Born

Deepening that sense of laying herself bare—and the connection with audiences it creates—may be that Lady Gaga had little acting experience before making this movie. For his part, actor and first-time director Bradley Cooper takes an additional risk by also singing in the film. All of the songs are original, co-written by Gaga, Cooper and others. The director also shares producer and writer credits for the film.

Reviews after the Venice premiere have been mostly positive, in some cases rapturous. We won’t know until A Star is Born comes out whether it lives up to the hype. Movies seldom do. But we sure hope it will. After all, don’t we all need something to look forward to?

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Shadows the Sizes of Cities A Novel by Gregory W Beaubien

Romantic noir thriller set in
Spain, Morocco, Amsterdam
and Chicago

—William Friedkin,
director of "The French Connection"
and "The Exorcist"

—WGN Radio

—Inside Publications



Buy the paperback or e-book today



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