Man, this movie is sorta like my slump-buster. I was really feeling like shit the other day, early-onset SAD I guess, but I put in Almost Famous, and now it’s all good. This turn-of-the-century film, an ode to Cameron Crowe’s days on the road as a teenage rock writer, really struck a chord with me the first time I saw it. I didn’t sleep for days. Once an aspiring rock writer myself, I thought this flick really romanticized the idea of going on the road with a buncha rock stars–and it was all loosely based on true events, Stillwater supposedly being stand-ins for the Allman Brothers, an early Crowe assignment. (The DVD version I got includes some of his articles in the Special Features. Not bad for a 16-year-old…)
Mind you, by the time I got into the game, zines and labels were reluctant to even send out CDs anymore (digital promos FTW), much less send writers out on the road with bands. I read some of the stories from the Kerrang guys in that metal writers handbook, and was like man, I was Born Too Late. Not that I consider myself a journalist, anyways, but when I was in journalism school, this movie was my holy grail.
A supurb ensemble cast, with excellent performances by Kate Hudson, Philip Seymour Hoffman and Frances McDormand, but the kid who steals the show is one Patrick Fugit, a rookie actor playing the Crowe character rechristened William Miller. Dude has gone on to guest-star in three episodes of ER and act in a buncha movies I’ve never heard of, but he really brought this one to life. Also, props go to Jason Lee and Billy Crudup, who captured the lead singer/lead guitarist dynamic to a T.
This classic road movie has several great scenes and memorable lines (“I dig music… I’m on drugs!” or “Greenville is so boring. You know, any other city in the world and you’d still be a virgin.”), but it’s the music that really makes this movie, tunes like “Search and Destroy” from The Stooges or “Tangerine” by Led Zep are well-placed throughout the film. Even the original songs we hear from Stillwater are pretty sweet, not to mention “Tiny Dancer.” This flick won an Oscar for Best Screenplay, but it shoulda got another one for Best Use of Tiny Dancer–and I’m not even an Elton John fan. Not sure the soundtrack is better than sex, though. I guess Nick Bradshaw must fuck a lotta 1o-dollar whores. WTF is Timeout, anyways?
Pretentious critics and awards aside, this movie really captures the spirit of rock ‘n roll. With the likes of Peter Frampton and Nancy Wilson playing big roles behind the scenes in addition to Crowe’s own experiences from the early 70′s, this movie’s about as real as it gets. On the other hand, if you wanna watch a shitty-ass attempt at capturing the vibe, its antithesis would be Sunset Strip, set in the same era and released the same year. I still can’t erase the memories of that one from my mind. Hell, I might hafta go and watch Almost Famous again now that I brought it up…
HOW IT CHANGED MY LIFE: Watching this movie made me develop a new-found respect for Sir Elton. It also taught me that fact-checking is just an excuse for people to retract their stories, which is why I haven’t done anything with that Magazine Journalism degree besides putting it in a nice frame.