The movie and music worlds are buzzing over the latest iteration of A Star is Born. This one stars Bradley Cooper, a fine and versatile actor, and Lady Gaga, who has proven to be an all-around entertainment threat – brilliant on record, electrifying in concert and award-winning as an actress (she’s not a member of the EGOT company yet, but many are predicting she’ll be halfway home after next year’s Oscars). With two gifted leads and what seems to be a timeless tale, it’s a box office beast, holding its own against the latest Marvel Comics movie. Take heart in this as it suggests audiences everywhere haven’t completely forsaken tales of human bodies and souls for the cartoonish antics of superheroes.
Having said all that, here’s a pitch for the next version of A Star is Born to feature a holographic pop star. This current film in theaters is the third version of the film, which originally bowed in 1937. If the point of remaking it every 20 or 30 years is to put a modern spin on the lasting tale then a version featuring a musical hologram is clearly the logical progression for this franchise to follow.
A brief plot synopsis might be in order. SPOLIER ALERT, if you need to not know the plot line of a story which first reached audiences before the Second World War: a down-and-out artist discovers an up-and-comer in some unlikely way or place and that person’s stardom supersedes his own waning career. So far, the talent-finder has always been a man in A Star is Born, the protégée always a woman, though there are some derivatives of the film with role reversals (and different titles) in the cinematic universe. The main characters fall in love, but things generally end up poorly for the discoverer or the find – let’s not say which, in case you haven’t seen any of these films and plan on spending some time with Mother Monster this weekend.
Sure, we could cast more of these humans in the primary roles, some pretty faces/voices to be determined later; or, we could shape this vehicle into a true sign of the times. A Star is Born’s next protégée should be computer generated and imbued with artificial intelligence. If you’ve been watching Netflix’s stellar, mind-bending series Maniac, you’re probably on board with this line of thinking (thanks, GRTA). If you’ve been reading the news, you know the late Stephen Hawking’s last words to the world included warnings that A.I. will someday overpower the puniness of mankind. Isn’t the entertainment world the sort of microcosm that would be easy for sentient holograms to conquer? Auto-tune and CGI already rule music and movies. The next version of A Star is Born could serve as a dramatic tear-jerker and a thought-provoking sci-fi flick. Today Hollywood, tomorrow the world!
Consider your favorite TV cartoon band – is it Josie & The Pussycats? Metalocalypse’s Dethklok? The Beets, from the Nickelodeon series Doug? Now ponder who “discovered” those virtual bands, the real-life creative mind or minds behind those shows. Which do you know better, the fictitious animated bands or the real-life, flesh and bone, hardworking creative artist(s) behind the scenes? Who gave Archie and Jughead a band, then a million-selling chart-topping hit called “Sugar, Sugar?” Imagine the story on celluloid of the unknown artist toiling in anonymity and the shadows of the virtual talent he or she has created. That’s gotta be heartbreaking enough to drive an artists to depression, addiction or madness, right? That is the very plot line of A Star is Born.
A couple of years ago, I drew an assignment to preview a concert by the internationally-known pop star Hatsune Miku. At the time, she was a 16-year old from Japan who’d already achieved wild success in entertainment. Her videos had more than 100 million YouTube views, she’d modeled for Vogue and she opened for none other than the current woman of the hour, Lady Gaga. She was also a hologram. To be more exact, she was (is? I don’t know, I lost track) a Vocaloid, singing synthesizer software matched with an avatar to “stand” onstage and perform along with actual human musicians. I didn’t cover the show, but I attended and agreed with the writer who wrote the review: the whole enterprise seemed very normal, a rock show like so many I’d been to before. If a gathered audience was willing to pay hard-earned money for that show, then there’s nearly no suspension in disbelief required to buy into the tale of a software engineer who is nameless and faceless and drunk and despondent as he or she watches their virtual superstar collect real love, admiration and accolades.
Or, maybe I just need to stop watching Maniac and quit while I’m ahead.