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Peter & John — Mark 14:27-31

On the way, Jesus told them, “All of you will desert me. For the Scriptures say, ‘God will strike the Shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered.’ But after I am raised from the dead, I will go ahead of you to Galilee and meet you there.” Peter said to him, “Even if everyone else deserts you, I never will.” Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, Peter—this very night, before the rooster crows twice, you will deny three times that you even know me.” “No!” Peter declared emphatically. “Even if I have to die with you, I will never deny you!” And all the others vowed the same.
Mark 14:27-31

Dear God, I’ve talked before about Peter and his moment here, but I guess what I’m thinking about now is the last verse listed here: And all the others vowed the same.

Did they, or was that Peter’s perception? Did some of them stand there quietly and secretly wish they had already left? I think that would have been me. When Jesus said that all of them would abandon him, I’ll bet there were at least a couple who were relieved that 1.) they would get a chance to get out of there and 2.) they weren’t alone.

While I know I can relate to all of this, I’m sitting here now trying to think of how I can use it in my daily life. What lesson can I learn? Frankly, I think I can take from it that I need to remember that there are probably others feeling the same way I am in a group, even if their thoughts at the time are like mine and unspoken. Instead of just putting up a brave front, bluffing, and saying, “Yeah, me too,” I need to think through my truth, figure out if I should screw up my courage or follow my feelings and retreat, and then help others around me who might be feeling the same.

Father, help me in this. I’m back at work today after being gone for two weeks. Encourage others through me. Lead them through me. Break this all down so that I will be the man you need me to be for everyone around me.

In Jesus’ name I pray,

Amen

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Posted by on October 15, 2018 in Mark, Peter and John

 

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A Star Is Born (Bradley Cooper & Lady Gaga Edition) – What did Bradley Cooper Want to Tell Me?

Every once in a while I see a piece of art that moves me. It might be a song, a book, a painting, a musical, or a movie. I was a fool for years in thinking that the arts we’re not worthy of our philanthropic support. It took my daughter getting involved in theater when she was nine years old to show me that the arts are critical to human development.

I cannot explain why the latest version of a “A Star Is Born” featuring Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga touched me from the get-go. As soon as I ran across the trailer on YouTube, I knew I had to see it. And I hadn’t seen any of the previous iterations at the time (although I’ve since seen the Judy Garland version). I guess what I want to do with this series of blog posts is try to figure 1.) why this story keeps being retold, 2.) why this version, even from the trailer struck me so hard, and 3.) what are the lessons that Bradley Cooper wanted to teach all of us in his interpretation?

Before you read any further, you need to know that I’m not writing this for you. I’m writing it for myself. This is how I am processing what I’ve seen and why it has hit me in this way.

In this post, I want to look at what I think Bradley Cooper might have wanted to tell me and the world through this telling of this 80-year-old story (spoilers ahead). Why do I think he had something special to say? Because at least four times in the movie his character, Jack, references the idea that those with a public voice need to take the opportunity to say what they want to say when they have the chance to say it. He also said that they have to speak the truth.

I want to start by looking at the songs on the soundtrack that he had a part in writing. Here’s a list of the songs he had a part in writing according to the credits:

“Black Eyes” by Bradley Cooper and Lukas Nelson (Willie’s son)

“Somewhere Over the Rainbow” by Eric Roth, Bradley Cooper, and Rob Fetters

“Maybe It’s Time” by Bradley Cooper and Jason Isbell

“Alibi” by Bradley Cooper, Lady Gaga, and Lukas Nelson

“Too Far Gone” by Bradley Cooper and Lukas Nelson (I think–it’s not clear)

Let’s look at the lyrics one at a time and see if we can find Mr. Cooper’s message to us.

“Black Eyes”

Black eyes open wide
It’s time to testify
There’s no room for lies
And everyone’s waitin’ for you

And I’m gone sittin’ by the phone and I’m all alone by the wayside
And I’m gone sittin’ by the phone and I’m all alone by the wayside

By the wayside
I’m by the wayside
I’m by the wayside

Too far gone and I’m by the phone
And I’m all alone and I’m off alone by the wayside

I’m by the wayside
I’m by the wayside
I’m by the wayside

By the wayside
By the wayside
By the wayside

I’m by the wayside
By the wayside
By the wayside

Black eyes open wide
It’s time to testify
There’s no room for lies
And everyone’s waitin’ for you
Everyone’s lookin’ at you
Everyone’s lookin’ at you
Everyone’s waiting for you
Everyone’s waiting for you

I’ve got to say that interpreting poetry like this isn’t my strong suit, but it seems to me that someone has been disillusioned of their feelings and thoughts for someone else. I think their eyes are now opened wide. It’s time to confess to the truth. Everyone is waiting. And the victim of the lies is alone, worried and sitting by the phone, but left in the other person’s wake. This song is a lot more foreshadowing for Ally than I realized.

“Somewhere Over The Rainbow”

When all the world is a whole blessed jumble
And the raindrops tumble all around
Heaven opens a magic lane
When all the clouds darken up the skyway
There’s a rainbow highway to be found

This is our first introduction to Ally’s singing. She’s leaving work, walking and singing this little song to herself. I think it’s more foreshadowing. She has just broken up with a boyfriend (I still don’t understand this opening scene for her, and I wonder if there was more about this relationship that had to be edited out for story flow and time). She doesn’t like her job or her boss. But now she’s on her way to be with people whom she loves and enjoys. Little does she know the rainbow that awaits her at the club.

“Maybe It’s Time”
Maybe it’s time to let the old ways die
Maybe it’s time to let the old ways die
It takes a lot to change a man
Hell, it takes a lot to try
Maybe it’s time to let the old ways die

Nobody knows what waits for the dead
Nobody knows what waits for the dead
Some folks just believe in the things they’ve heard and the things they read
Nobody knows what awaits for the dead

I’m glad I can’t go back to where I came from
I’m glad those days are gone, gone for good
But if I could take spirits from my past and bring ’em here
You know I would
Know I would

Nobody speaks to God these days
Nobody speaks to God these days
I’d like to think he’s lookin’ down and laughin’ at our ways
Nobody speaks to God these days

When I was a child, they tried to fool me
Said the worldly man was lost and that a Hell was real
Well I’ve seen Hell in Reno
And this world’s one big old Catherine wheel
Spinnin’ steel

Maybe it’s time to let the old ways die
Maybe it’s time to let the old ways die
It takes a lot to change your plans
And a train to change your mind
Maybe it’s time to let the old ways die
Oh, maybe it’s time to let the old ways die

This song deserves a little more attention. First, it’s Jackson Maine’s signature song so it’s obviously important to the story. Second, the lyrics are much more complicated than the first two songs.

I have no idea what he’s referring to in the first verse, but it feels like the song of a tired man. He’s been trying to recapture something that’s gone, and he’s telling himself that it’s time to change.

The second verse could be foreshadowing his willingness to kill himself. He doesn’t know what’s beyond, but we know he attempted it when he was 13 and he will do it again by the end of the movie. I like the line that says, “Some folks just believe in the things they’ve heard and the things they’ve read.” It’s true and I’m one of them. I’ve found peace and affirmation throughout my life in my Christian faith. His character is just lost and has never found that one thing he could set his anchor in. He had his fame, but that is now waning.

This bridge is quite beautiful. He really misses his dad even though it sounds like he offered him not only nothing, but actually warped him a bit. He doesn’t want to go back and live it again, but he would love to have his dad with him. And probably to have known his mother.

The third verse explicitly mentions God. It’s obvious that Jack doesn’t have a framework for what relationship with God looks like, but this lyric seems to indicate an agnostic’s view of a God who exists, but has no interest in engaging with us.

The second bridge is a rejection of the idea that a worldly life is a dangerous one. I looked up what a Catherine Wheel was. It is a torture/execution device that was apparently last used in the mid-1800s. It’s obvious that Jackson sees life as tortuous. He’s looking for peace and absolutely cannot find it within the framework through which he enters and interacts with the world.

“Alibi”

Don’t ask me ’bout tomorrow
Or tell me about my past
My heart is yours to borrow
Ain’t nothing meant to last

I ain’t lyin’
I don’t lie
Without an alibi

Don’t ask too many questions
You don’t want answers to
You don’t like my direction
Hell, I won’t follow you

I ain’t lyin’
I don’t lie
Without an alibi

I told my dyin’, daddy
That I had to run away
Looked him in the eyes
Said there ain’t no other way
So woman, if I tell you that I love you, be okay

‘Cause I ain’t lyin’
I don’t lie
Without an alibi

I love you in the morning
And when the day is done
But if you want my freedom
You know I’m bound to run

I ain’t lyin’
I don’t lie
Without an alibi

I told my dyin’, daddy
That I had to run away
Looked him in the eyes
Said there ain’t no other way
So woman, if I tell you that I love you, be okay

‘Cause I ain’t lyin’
I don’t lie
Without an alibi

One thing about Jack is that he really doesn’t lie in the movie. He always admits to drinking whenever anyone asks. He seemingly opens his first beer after their marriage on the SNL set and his brother walks up behind him. It doesn’t seem to phase him. In fact, he drinks it right in front of him. Jack is actually a pretty truthful person, and he says over and over again that speaking truth to your audience is important. He also seems very honest with Ally when it comes to expressing his feelings for her. We really don’t get any deception from him. He is tortured, but he’s honest.

“Too Far Gone”

Please don’t tell me I’m too far gone
I can’t go on if I ain’t livin’ in your arms
Please don’t tell me I’m too far gone
I can’t go on if I ain’t living in your arms
Please don’t tell me I’m too far gone

Set me free, oh, oh
Set me free, yeah, eh
Set me free, oh, oh
Oh, oh, oh

I wish I could remember him singing this song. On the soundtrack, it comes right between her performance at her last concert to which Jack never shows up, and the speech by his brother about 12 notes between any octave. It pretty much shows Jack’s desperation and fear of having to live without Ally.

So after I’ve gone through this, have I come up with an answer to my question? Maybe. At the end of the day, the thing that Jackson Maine (a.k.a. Jack) seems to value is truth. This movie is about finding your way through the muck of life–the Catherine Wheel, if you will–and sharing your insecurities, confusion, and lack of having all of the answers with those around you. Jack makes a speech to Ally in the cop bar at the beginning that everyone in that room has talent, but the important thing to do is to take that talent and use it to say what you feel like you need to say.

The problem with Jack’s philosophy, and I think Mr. Cooper would agree, is that there are more important things in life than having something to say to others on a large stage. In my own opinion, there is the sacrificing of your will to God and accepting grace and forgiveness through Jesus. But beyond that, there is also loving others and giving of yourself for them. Jack really struggled when his time was fading and he got angry when he sensed that Ally’s was not only rising, but that she was squandering it by not having a message (his complaint about the song she sang on SNL). But his time was just changing. He needed to let the old ways die and embrace his new role. Supporting Ally and giving her what she needed. And also just serving the world through his celebrity. He was right that every person in that cop bar had a gift. We just need to be honest with others and help them as we live it out.

Okay, I’ve probably really overthought this, gotten it completely wrong, or both. But this has at least been a good process for me to go through as I tried to figure out why this movie touched me so deeply. If you’ve read this far, I hope it has meant something to you as well.

 

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A Star Is Born (Bradley Cooper & Lady Gaga Edition) – The Story

Every once in a while I see a piece of art that moves me. It might be a song, a book, a painting, a musical, or a movie. I was a fool for years in thinking that the arts we’re not worthy of our philanthropic support. It took my daughter getting involved in theater when she was nine years old to show me that the arts are critical to human development.

I cannot explain why the latest version of a “A Star Is Born” featuring Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga touched me from the get-go. As soon as I ran across the trailer on YouTube, I knew I had to see it. And I hadn’t seen any of the previous iterations at the time (although I’ve since seen the Judy Garland version). I guess what I want to do with this series of blog posts is try to figure 1.) why this story keeps being retold, 2.) why this version, even from the trailer struck me so hard, and 3.) what are the lessons that Bradley Cooper wanted to teach all of us in his interpretation?

Before you read any further, you need to know that I’m not writing this for you. I’m writing it for myself. This is how I am processing what I’ve seen and why it has hit me in this way.

For this post, I’ll look at the overall story and what it is about it that keeps Hollywood coming back to retell it for a new generation (spoilers ahead). For the posts about why this version hit me so hard, and what lessons Cooper is trying to teach, you can click the links imbedded above.

First, I want to look at the year of release for the four versions.

  1. Original in 1937 featuring Janet Gaynor and Frederic March. Based on a male actor helping a female actress achieve stardom. No music involved.
  2. First remake in 1954 featuring Judy Garland and James Mason. Based on a male actor helping a female singer become a star in musicals. 17 years since the original.
  3. Second remake in 1976 featuring Barbara Streisand and Kris Kristofferson. Based on a male rockstar helping a female singer become a rockstar. 22 years since previous remake and 39 years once the original.
  4. Third remake in 2018 featuring Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper. Based on a male rockstar helping a female singer become a rockstar. 42 years since most previous remake and 81 years since the original.

The common themes for each one are that the male star has some form of a substance abuse problem. Whether it is alcohol or a combination of drugs and alcohol, the male lead has the best of intentions when it comes to helping the female, and they are successful in helping. But ultimately, the male is fatally flawed and ends up exhibiting their love for the woman by taking their own life in the end so that they won’t get in the way of the woman’s fame. (It should be noted that, from what I’ve heard because I never saw it, the 1976 version leaves it vague as to whether or not the male killed himself, but the first two are about as explicit as they probably could have been back in the 30s and 50s, and the 2018 version is very explicit).

Let me go through slowly and see what I can find that is similar between the versions.

  • The male lead’s addiction issues are shown right up front. In the two versions I’ve seen, before we even meet female lead we see both the struggle and how his handlers enable the behavior by trying to either protect them from making a fool of themselves or giving them what they want and not telling them no.
  • The female lead is shown as someone who is outrageously talented, but stuck at a nominal level of performing for others. She is also very insecure. The male lead happens upon them in a bit of a drunken/high stupor and instantly sees their talent. We presume they are attracted to her as well.
  • The male uses his influence to giver her the breaks she needs to break through and become a star. He also breathes confidence into the female lead
  • While the 1954 version made it clear that the male lead’s career was fading fast, the 2018 version showed an artist past his prime, but still getting work and enjoying some amount of fame. The common thing for both, however, is that the female’s career shoots past the male’s, and there is some amount of jealousy that comes to light. The level of the male’s intoxication seems to determine how much he lets the jealousy show and control his actions.
  • At some point, the machine that the male tries to introduce the female to takes over and the male starts to lose his influence on the process. The machinery of fame is NEVER shown positively. I wonder if this is both a message on the part of the filmmakers to the machine itself and a message to the audience that what we are seeing, and the fame that some aspire to attain is not real and it comes with a price. My wife commented after we just saw the 2018 version that it reminded her that everything we see in music is produced and controlled by an A&R person who is doing their best to manipulate us so that we will spend our money on what they are selling.
  • There comes a time when the male’s substance abuse gets in the way, culminating in a painful event that is embarrassing to the female and her career. It’s interesting that the female never really seems to start to struggle with substances in these tellings. The message does NOT appear to be that fame will lead to substance problems. The new “star” really adjusts to the fame part of her life pretty well and we aren’t left with much notion that it is costing her much of herself.
  • After a stint in rehab for the male (during which the female isn’t shown doing any of the work that a spouse or family member of an addict would have to do such as Al-Anon, support groups, one-on-one therapy, etc.) tries to be the man she needs him to be, but he doesn’t trust his sobriety. Nor does anyone else. The female’s manager tells her that he will ruin her career, and she decides to sacrifice her career because of her love for him.
  • The male ultimately decides that the most important thing is her career. As I think about it, this is probably the biggest unspoken fallacy in the story. He decides that her career is more important than his life, her love for him, or his love for her. The most important thing to him in his life, the thing that gave him meaning, was his fame. He had been successful in giving that to her and now he didn’t want to be the cause of her losing it. For Hollywood to keep making this movie, I wonder how many people there have come across this dilemma.

As I read back over this, I think I see a couple of things that I would think keep Hollywood coming back for more.

  1. The rags to riches, obscurity to stardom story. Nearly every child idolizes the TV, movie, or music stars, and the would love to be like them. American Idol is a great example of this. Even I would like to believe that I could sing in a way that others would want to hear it. I can’t and they don’t, but I’d love to be idolized in that way. Not only do we easily make idols of others and things instead of God, but in our hearts we would love to be idolized by others.
  2. We are intrigued by the suffering soul and his tragic tale. Either of these can be enough to make a movie, but to combine them into one story makes it irresistible.
  3. Everyone loves a love story. We all love the excitement of falling in love, those beginning stages of infatuation and attraction, and having someone else feel the same about us.
  4. Are there more important things than life and the struggles that come with it? Is there a hidden intimation here that for every star that rises one must fall? Maybe the story is telling us that there can only be so many stars–or maybe I’m reading too much into that. But this idea that he decided on her behalf that her career was more important than his life is sad and an indication of the lies that all of us hear.

Maybe that’s why this sits so hard with me. I didn’t know the story or that the male lead would take his own life by the end when I first saw the trailer for the 2018 version. I knew I wanted to see it when it came out in October so I took the opportunity to watch the 1954 version on Turner Classic Movies this summer. I was really surprised that the movie is actually a tragedy. Apparently, the makers of the 1976 version couldn’t handle that aspect of the story so the powers that be decided to make his death more vague and possibly an accidental result of his addiction.

In the end, I wonder how much this movie is a commentary on the mental illness that is behind suicide. I’ve never known anyone who took their own life who didn’t leave behind mountains of pain for others to experience. But in most instances, their mind is telling them that those people whom they are about to hurt in an unimaginable way will be better off without them. It’s a lie from hell, but I guess the reason this story keeps getting retold is because what the male lead and the female lead both go through are part of the human experience.

 

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Peter & John — Mark 14:17-19

In the evening Jesus arrived with the Twelve. As they were at the table eating, Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, one of you eating with me here will betray me.” Greatly distressed, each one asked in turn, “Am I the one?”
Mark 14:17-19

Dear God, I can relate to having no confidence in myself. These poor guys had no idea what was going on around them. They were in the “fog of war” as much as anyone has ever been. Of course, Jesus left the type of betrayal pretty vague so maybe some of them had considered doing things like just leaving. Especially after it had been such a crazy week. Maybe some of them had talked among themselves or with others outside of the group, questioning Jesus in some way. I can see where I might have done any of these things as one of these 12. I don’t think I ever would have sold him out, but abandonment in the midst of scary would certainly have crossed my mind.

Are there ways that I betray you now? Sure, I know there are ways in which I let you down and miss opportunities to do your will. I know that I sin and make mistakes. But do I betray you? Do I think about leaving my faith for a more self-indulgent life? Do I consider complaining about you and your plans to others? Do I simply forsake spending time with you in deference to doing what I want to do with my time?

Father, “am I the one?” I confess to you that I recognize my own potential to betray you on many levels. I am sorry. I’m sorry I’m so weak and flawed. I’m sorry I can be so selfish and insecure. Help me to recognize these moments in myself and become one step closer to being the man you want me to be.

In Jesus’ name I pray,

Amen

 
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Posted by on October 14, 2018 in Mark, Peter and John

 

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Peter & John — Mark 13:1-4

As Jesus was leaving the Temple that day, one of his disciples said, “Teacher, look at these magnificent buildings! Look at the impressive stones in the walls.” Jesus replied, “Yes, look at these great buildings. But they will be completely demolished. Not one stone will be left on top of another!” Later, Jesus sat on the Mount of Olives across the valley from the Temple. Peter, James, John, and Andrew came to him privately and asked him, “Tell us, when will all this happen? What sign will show us that these things are about to be fulfilled?”
Mark 13:1-4

Dear God, this must have been such a weird week for them. A weird time, really. I can only imagine what their conversations were like among themselves. I would love to have heard what the four of them said to each other before they approached Jesus. I would imagine that they had to be wondering if it was about to happen that very week. They were trying to reconcile everything Jesus was telling them and turn it into a clear narrative.

It’s kind of like a movie trailer. That’s about how clear Jesus was being with them. I recently saw “A Star is Born,” and it really moved me. It was the trailer that first sold me on it. I went back and looked at it closely recently, trying to figure out what it was about it that attracted me and looking at how it compared to the actual movie. Basically, a good trailer will give you hints at what’s to come without giving you too much information. I believe that too much information about the future is not good forbid because it will alter how we live out our present. My dad told me one time that the point in prophecy is not so that we will know the future, but so when the future happens and the prophecy is fulfilled we will know that you are in control.

Father, help me to discern between the things I need to understand about the world and the things I can let go. Help me to not be fearful, but to always know that you are in control. Finally, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.

In Jesus’ name I pray,

Amen

 
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Posted by on October 12, 2018 in Mark, Peter and John

 

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Peter & John — Mark 11:12-14,20-25

The next morning as they were leaving Bethany, Jesus was hungry. He noticed a fig tree in full leaf a little way off, so he went over to see if he could find any figs. But there were only leaves because it was too early in the season for fruit. Then Jesus said to the tree, “May no one ever eat your fruit again!” And the disciples heard him say it. The next morning as they passed by the fig tree he had cursed, the disciples noticed it had withered from the roots up. Peter remembered what Jesus had said to the tree on the previous day and exclaimed, “Look, Rabbi! The fig tree you cursed has withered and died!” Then Jesus said to the disciples, “Have faith in God. I tell you the truth, you can say to this mountain, ‘May you be lifted up and thrown into the sea,’ and it will happen. But you must really believe it will happen and have no doubt in your heart. I tell you, you can pray for anything, and if you believe that you’ve received it, it will be yours. But when you are praying, first forgive anyone you are holding a grudge against, so that your Father in heaven will forgive your sins, too.”
Mark 11:12-14,20-25

Dear God, in the spirit of looking at John and Peter specifically for this series, I want to look at this more from Peter’s perspective than Jesus’.

What must this week have been like? Jesus was on a bit of a roll here. He was cursing dig trees, turning over commercial tables in the temple, rocking people off in general. They had been hearing Jesus say that he was going to die this week. If I were them I’d have been thinking, “Sure, because you’re egging them on!”

So Peter is watching all of this and he is in wonder. Maybe he’s the first one to see the fig tree. Or maybe he’s the one to say it first, but he’s amazed. He points out to Jesus what happened. At that point, Jesus turns it into a lesson about the power we have as believers. A power I still don’t understand. At a minimum, I don’t think I pass the “but you must really believe it will happen and have not doubt in your heart” test.

Father, when it comes down to it, I confess that I don’t know how your plan is unfolding or where you are leading me. But I trust you. So give me the faith you know I need to have. Help me to believe in the power you need me to access to accomplish what you have for me to accomplish.

In Jesus’ name I pray,

Amen

 
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Posted by on October 11, 2018 in Mark, Peter and John

 

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A Star Is Born (Bradley Cooper & Lady Gaga Edition) – What Attracted Me?

Every once in a while I see a piece of art that moves me. It might be a song, a book, a painting, a musical, or a movie. I was a fool for years in thinking that the arts we’re not worthy of our philanthropic support. It took my daughter getting involved in theater when she was nine years old to show me that the arts are critical to human development.

I cannot explain why the latest version of a “A Star Is Born” featuring Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga touched me from the get-go. As soon as I ran across the trailer on YouTube, I knew I had to see it. And I hadn’t seen any of the previous iterations at the time (although I’ve since seen the Judy Garland version). I guess what I want to do with this series of blog posts is try to figure 1.) why this story keeps being retold, 2.) why this version, even from the trailer struck me so hard, and 3.) what are the lessons that Bradley Cooper wanted to teach all of us in his interpretation.

Before you read any further, you need to know that I’m not writing this for you. I’m writing it for myself. This is how I am processing what I’ve seen and why it has hit me in this way.

For this post, I’d like to focus on what it was about the trailer that struck such a nerve with me, before I even knew the story (spoilers ahead). If you’d like to read the other posts I’ve done about this movie, you can click the respective links imbedded above.

I think the easiest way to start this post is to start with the first trailer that was released. Here’s a link. The first time I saw the trailer, I didn’t know that this was “A Star is Born” and I didn’t know that the woman they were featuring was Lady Gaga. So I’m watching just the images and the music and it gives you a great sense of artistry, mixed with pain, mixed with believing in someone, mixed with talent, and mixed with love. Then you see “Bradley Cooper,” “Lady Gaga,” “A Star is Born.” I was already interested, but then I saw that I was going to get to see Lady Gaga in a whole new way and she was going to be part of telling me a story that I had heard of but didn’t know.

So let’s look at the trailer segment by segment:

  • It opens with Jackson (Jack) performing on stage and enjoying stardom (and he’s good). We find out during the movies that the song he’s singing is kind of his trademark song that he does at all of his concerts.
  • The opening montage of him singing shows his fame, but then it shows the drinking alone in the Tahoe after escaping a crowd. They intimate right up front that something isn’t right with this picture.
  • They give you a speech from Dave Chappelle (a speech that isn’t in the actual movie, by the way) that explicitly indicates that Jack’s life is getting out of control–presumably from the alcohol they just showed.
  • They show Jack walking through a doorway into what is presumably an AA meeting, and it dissolves into a similar shot of Ally walking through a curtain and out on stage. We are 40 seconds into the trailer before we meet her character.
  • When we meet Ally, the music changes and we shift to a song that we find out during the movie that she wrote. Then we hear Jack asking her more about her musical talent. “Do you write songs or anything?”
  • Ally’s answer changes the tone of the trailer. “I don’t sing my own songs…I just don’t feel comfortable…Almost every single person has told me they like the way I sounded, but they didn’t like the way I look.” Aww. That makes you feel bad for her. And her look in that moment is not ugly at all–it’s just not glamorous. But I liked her comfortable look. She looked very relatable. Jack’s reply: “I think. you’re beautiful.” Cue the musical line by Jack, “I’m fallin'”
  • “Hey!” “What?” “I just wanted to take another look at you.” The first time I saw this I thought it was just underscoring that he was trying to affirm her attractiveness and her worthiness of being a star. I found out after I watched the 1954 version with Judy Garland that this is a callback line that is in all four versions. A little Easter egg for those who have seen the previous movie(s).
  • Jack gets her up on stage to show the world her talent. “All you gotta do is trust me. That’s all you gotta do.” She does and that when we hear an unexpectedly world-class voice. Wow, she is good! Who is that?
  • We get another montage that plays under her singing. It’s a mixture of them falling in love, her experiencing luxury (private jet, etc.), and brief shots of Dave Chappelle and Sam Elliott.
  • That’s when the trailer reveals who we’ve been watching. Okay, I figured out Bradley Cooper, but that’s Lady Gaga?!? Wow! I instantly wanted to see a different side of this fantastically talented woman that didn’t have all of the theatricality that comes with her persona (although being a character in a movie is not real at all and possibly the definition of theatricality).
  • Then we start to see the pain in the montage. After her name we see her punch a picture frame, Sam Elliott hold Jack’s face. Jack punches Sam Elliott. This will not just be a feel-good story. There will be pain.
  • Then the big reveal. This is “A Star Is Born”! As I said, I’d never seen it, but I’d heard of it and, by now, I was all in.

So what was it that I wanted to see?

  1. It looked like the story would be told in a very soulful way. I’m into a good soulful drama.
  2. I like the idea of an insecure person discovering their talent and feeling good about themselves.
  3. It seemed that we would get to see the Jack character wrestle with his inner demons.
  4. I wanted to see Lady Gaga in a new way. It’s a little like seeing Robin Williams or Jim Carey in a drama. I love it when artists seemingly go from flash to substance. This felt like that’s what Lady Gaga was doing here, although I think she would probably argue that her music has a lot of substance–which I think it does. I guess the problem for me is that a lot of the substance of her music has been lost in the theatricality of her style.
  5. I wanted to see a movie telling a story that I’d heard of but never experienced. And this looked a lot better to me than the one that came out when I was six years old.

I’ve tried to think through whether or not this movie says anything about me. Is there anything in my personal experience that drew me to it? Well, I’ve known people who have substance abuse problems. I know that I’ve been very insecure and still can be. I know that I’ve needed people to believe in me in the past, and I’ve been able to play that role in others’ lives as well. I love my wife and I enjoy watching a good love story with her. And I worked in sales and marketing for a record label at one point, so I’ve seen just a little of that side of the world. So yes, I guess it spoke to me on a personal level more than I realized.

Did it change me? I don’t know that I’d say that it did, but the actual watching of the movie did live up to the trailer.

 

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