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Almost Famous

  • 19-05-2012 3:51pm
    #1
    Moderators, Category Moderators, Arts Moderators, Computer Games Moderators, Entertainment Moderators Posts: 27,250 CMod ✭✭✭✭ johnny_ultimate


    I know, I know: Tiny Dancer. Discussion of Almost Famous usually revolves around that one scene, and with somewhat good cause. It is a beautifully realised scene, and a truly iconic one. But it's merely one scene in an altogether wonderful film.

    There are some films I loved as a teen that I've 'grown out of' over the years, or at least have grown less fond of (Donnie Darko being one). But not Almost Famous: I still have a deep affection for the film. Now, it's not a perfect film by any stretch, but it is possibly the best film Cameron Crowe has or ever will make. Because it's his film: it's the director making a deeply personal project, and it just oozes with enthusiasm and genuineness as a result. Before that he'd made a series of charming crowdpleasers, from Say Anything to Jerry Maguire. These were good to great films, but Almost Famous had a passion lacking even in the best of his previous films. Since then, he's struggled to make anything memorable. The direct follow-up was a remake, his latest 'based on true events'. Someone else's true events. Almost Famous is, however, his story: the film Cameron Crowe was almost destined to make. And it's wonderful because of it, although has perhaps doomed his chances of making anything quite as brilliant.

    Patrick Fugit as William is Crowe's semi-fictional recreation of himself and his misadventures echo Crowe's own days as a youth journalist. The character gives the film a crystal clear focus and perspective. There's a number of scenes where we see William observing things from a distance or partially opened doors: not fully ingrained in this world. It also creates some fantastic moments of character interaction. The way Kate Hudson and Billy Crudup's character use and abuse William - and, eventually, actually befriend him - for personal gain are just wonderful. William allows us and the director to fully invest in the story and situations, and even though the characters that surround him are 'larger than life', his presence is the most crucial of all.

    I've often heard the complaint that Almost Famous is 'too clean' for a film about seventies rock. And sure, it's hardly the most provocative or shocking film ever made. That, frankly, doesn't matter. In a way his later films have been unable to recapture, Crowe's audience-friendly approach pays massive dividends. Crudup getting drunk and (gasp!) taking acid at a house party isn't the most extreme breakdown ever committed to cinema, but it is very, very entertaining ("I'm a golden God!"). Similarly, Frances McDormand's Elaine may be a slightly absurd parody of the overprotective mother. But again, it's a great performance, and the exaggerations allow Crowe to further explore the contradictions and contrasts of William's two worlds. The excellent Untitled Director's cut adds further memorable moments and characterisation to a film that's already full of them, even if Crowe still couldn't afford the rights to Stairway to Heaven (leading to one of the most memorable and creative deleted scenes in DVD history).

    Then, of course, the music. Cameron Crowe has undeniably shown a keen fondness and awareness for pop and rock music - even integrating album covers visually into Vanilla Sky. But Almost Famous integrates music into the film on a much deeper and more rewarding level. The only thing drawing these very, very different characters together is a fundamental love of music. They may fight, they may hate each others personality, they may be horribly self-destructive: but on-stage, nothing else matters. It's why that Tiny Dancer sequence is so powerful - a song transcending the petty quibbling, alcoholism, egoism, self-hatred and affairs that almost drive everyone on that bus apart. It's the thematic core of the film, and summed up in one glorious moment.

    The relatively happy ending here is hard-earned by Crowe. His unavoidable sentimental streak is perfectly judged. The music is electrifying. The flawed but loveable characters have all gained some level of insight and acted upon it. An audience member would struggle to leave without a smile on their face. So no: Almost Famous isn't subtle, provocative or particularly inventive. It's (shamelessly, one could say) manipulative. Don't hold that against it, because it's still an expertly crafted film, and one of mainstream American cinema's most enduring achievements.


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Comments

  • Registered Users Posts: 3,370 ✭✭✭ GAAman


    Great write up, I loved this film when I was younger and still love it now. I think in regards to the Topeka scene yes it is somewhat timid when you look at the overall reputation of rock stars but you have to remember two things. One that William, up to that point is so sheltered that he did not even know his actual age (Well not at that point as it was earlier in his life but you know what I mean) so it would be a huge moment for him and Two the rock star lifestyle was muchly rumour/word of mouth based back then as opposed to the out and out glare that today's spotlight brings. In fact Rolling Stone was one of the first publications to actually report on the goings on, that I thought was hinted at with the multiple reporters trying desperately to get confirmation from Still Water for Williams story.

    I read somewhere that Crowe said if he had of known that scene wouldn't be included he would not have made the film!

    Oh and I live in Derry and make the trip to Dublin on the bus most weekends, tiny dancer has come on the mp3 player, and I have fought the urge to start singing it because of that scene :D

    Edit: Here is that deleted scene (I am not putting the vid in as I have noticed the slowdown in page loading since they changed the youtube plugin)

    I think that scene goes a long way to understand the change in the mothers attitude. She went from being such a control freak her own daughter had to run off into the distance to be away from her ,to letting her kid go on tour with a rock band in what seemed to be a few scenes with no explanation!

    It also says alot about "Stairway" that you could have a scene for almost 10 minutes of people sitting listening to one song! :)


  • Administrators, Computer Games Moderators, Sports Moderators Posts: 31,036 Admin ✭✭✭✭✭ Mickeroo


    Still remains one of my favourite films. Crowe's movies generally appeal to me, even his lesser ones, probably because I seemingly have a very similar taste in music to him. Almost Famous is by far his best film though and I don't think its one I would ever grow out of.

    I wasn't aware of that deleted scene before, I look forward to watching it when I get the chance (rugby is on here :))


  • Registered Users Posts: 7,502 ✭✭✭ Outkast_IRE


    Also one of my favourite films, i have to admit that i have a softspot for Cameron Crowes work, even though some of his films are a little overly sentimental i always notice it in a good and pleasant way.

    I enjoyed We bought a zoo, and im a big fan of Vanilla Sky ..... i remember well a lot of people after seeing Vanilla Sky said" i watched a movie for 2 hours and dont know what actually happened" :D i loved it one of Cruises best roles for me also.


  • Moderators, Category Moderators, Arts Moderators, Entertainment Moderators, Technology & Internet Moderators Posts: 22,517 CMod ✭✭✭✭ Sad Professor


    I adore this film. Easily Crowe's best, I agree. It had a great trailer as well. I remember because I watched it numerous times in anticipation the year it came out.



    The longer cut - the DVD of which I purchased from Amazon.fr because I couldn't wait for it be released here - is so much better. Although there's a few other deleted scenes that I wish had been included. I think there was a problem with Bijou Phillips because she disappears half way through the film which might have been the reason for their deletion.


  • Registered Users Posts: 5,129 ✭✭✭ TheIrishGrover


    Yeah, one of my favourite movies. Definitely Crowe's best. Sure, many wrote it of as too sentimental but what's wrong with that? It's his love letter to rock. As you said, it's a real labour of love for Crowe. The attention to detail is fantastic (Right down to the 5-track EP CD of Stillwater's that came with the director's cut of the movie. The director's commentary with his mam is brilliant too. (And try out the Stairway easter egg. It's fantastic if ya time it right). While all the hype is around the Tiny Dancer scene (A fantastic scene alright) my favourite scene is the scene with Penny dancing after a show (Not sure if it's in the original cut)



    Oh, and if you frame step through the flashing images at the end of Vanilla Sky you can see a pic of Crowe's sister wearing tins in her hair as curlers like in the film (The resemblance is uncanny). Sad, I know that I found that but there are some class pics of Crowe and Cruise in the flashback


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  • Moderators, Category Moderators, Arts Moderators, Entertainment Moderators, Technology & Internet Moderators Posts: 22,517 CMod ✭✭✭✭ Sad Professor


    Penny dancing is in the theatrical cut, but it's much shorter. Crowe had to fight for every second of it. The studio wanted him to cut the whole thing.


  • Registered Users Posts: 23,505 ✭✭✭✭ Sleepy


    One of my all time top 5 (guess which other comedy features ;)) and I'm ashamed to say it's the first I've ever heard of a director's cut. Not going to watch the deleted scenes on the youtube links above as I think it'll add to my enjoyment of the directors cut to watch as many unseen bits as possible in a movie I've watched at least 10 times!


  • Moderators, Category Moderators, Arts Moderators, Computer Games Moderators, Entertainment Moderators Posts: 27,250 CMod ✭✭✭✭ johnny_ultimate


    The 'Stairway to Heaven' scene isn't actually in the director's cut, as they couldn't afford the rights. Only way to see it is youtube or synching the DVD deleted scene and a copy of the song :pac:


  • Registered Users Posts: 66,191 ✭✭✭✭ Overheal


    It's been way too long since I last saw this. Please say it's on Netflix?


  • Registered Users Posts: 3,370 ✭✭✭ GAAman


    The 'Stairway to Heaven' scene isn't actually in the director's cut, as they couldn't afford the rights. Only way to see it is youtube or synching the DVD deleted scene and a copy of the song :pac:

    Yeah........or you could click the link in my post :pac:


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  • Registered Users Posts: 1,697 ✭✭✭ pinksoir


    That Stairway scene is amazing.


  • Registered Users Posts: 7,484 ✭✭✭ Blisterman


    Possibly my all time favourite movie. Can watch it over and over and never get bored. It's like hanging out with old friends at this point.

    The soundtrack definitely has a lot to do with this. I don't think there's a song in the film, out of the dozens featured in it, that I don't like, from Iggy and the Stooges - Seek and Destroy to the underrated Feel Flows by the Beach Boys.


  • Registered Users Posts: 3,370 ✭✭✭ GAAman


    Blisterman wrote: »
    Possibly my all time favourite movie. Can watch it over and over and never get bored. It's like hanging out with old friends at this point.

    The soundtrack definitely has a lot to do with this. I don't think there's a song in the film, out of the dozens featured in it, that I don't like, from Iggy and the Stooges - Seek and Destroy to the underrated Feel Flows by the Beach Boys. Not to mention Skynyrd's Simple Man

    FYP ;)

    For a second when you said Seek and Destroy I thought you meant Metallica :pac:


  • Registered Users Posts: 23,505 ✭✭✭✭ Sleepy


    Watched the extra scene and it's great. Wonder what Crowe did as a teenager that made the band refuse him the rights! ;)


  • Moderators, Category Moderators, Arts Moderators, Entertainment Moderators, Technology & Internet Moderators Posts: 22,517 CMod ✭✭✭✭ Sad Professor


    Led Zeppelin are very protective of how their music is used in other media. It's only because they knew Crowe that they allowed him use any of their songs. They drew the line at Stairway, but there's still 4 or 5 Zeppelin tracks in the film which is unheard of.


  • Administrators, Computer Games Moderators, Sports Moderators Posts: 31,036 Admin ✭✭✭✭✭ Mickeroo


    Led Zeppelin are very protective of how their music is used in other media. It's only because they knew Crowe that they allowed him use any of their songs. They drew the line at Stairway, but there's still 4 or 5 Zeppelin tracks in the film which is unheard of.

    Yeah, bron-Y-Aur is even in there, bloody great song!



  • Registered Users Posts: 10,083 ✭✭✭✭ Birneybau


    Blisterman wrote: »
    Possibly my all time favourite movie. Can watch it over and over and never get bored. It's like hanging out with old friends at this point.

    The soundtrack definitely has a lot to do with this. I don't think there's a song in the film, out of the dozens featured in it, that I don't like, from Iggy and the Stooges - Seek and Destroy to the underrated Feel Flows by the Beach Boys.
    GAAman wrote: »
    FYP ;)

    For a second when you said Seek and Destroy I thought you meant Metallica :pac:

    Search and Destroy :pac:


  • Administrators, Computer Games Moderators, Sports Moderators Posts: 31,036 Admin ✭✭✭✭✭ Mickeroo


    Birneybau wrote: »
    Search and Destroy :pac:

    I wasn't gonna say anything. :D That song was also used brilliantly in The Life Aquatic


  • Closed Accounts Posts: 8,630 The Recliner


    One of my favorite films

    I didn't know about the Stairway scene before this thread so thanks for that

    The scene is excellent and does explain a couple of things but I think that even if they could have gotten the rights to the song it would have been cut from the theatrical release but it deserves a place in the bootleg edition

    Crowe's output has generally been a disappointment to me since Almost Famous but that isn't a criticism as no matter what it will probably always be his most perfect film and not every director gets to make one of them


  • Registered Users Posts: 10,083 ✭✭✭✭ Birneybau


    Mickeroo wrote: »
    I wasn't gonna say anything. :D That song was also used brilliantly in The Life Aquatic

    Possibly my favourite song of all time, but, let's not digress. :)


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  • Registered Users Posts: 23,505 ✭✭✭✭ Sleepy


    Led Zeppelin are very protective of how their music is used in other media. It's only because they knew Crowe that they allowed him use any of their songs. They drew the line at Stairway, but there's still 4 or 5 Zeppelin tracks in the film which is unheard of.
    So the Waynes World "No Stairway" sign was a dig...


  • Registered Users Posts: 3,370 ✭✭✭ GAAman


    Sleepy wrote: »
    So the Waynes World "No Stairway" sign was a dig...

    Yup, and Jack Black sent a video of him and a load of cast and crew from School of Rock to them basically begging them to let him use The Immigrant Song
    Birneybau wrote: »
    Search and Destroy :pac:

    Hahaha! It's Blister's fault then :pac:


  • Registered Users Posts: 4,266 ✭✭✭ delbertgrady


    Zooey Deschanel = coolest older sister ever.


  • Administrators, Computer Games Moderators, Sports Moderators Posts: 31,036 Admin ✭✭✭✭✭ Mickeroo


    Zooey Deschanel = sexiest older sister ever.

    FYP ;)


  • Registered Users Posts: 3,255 Renn


    Surprised to read so many positive comments as I've always come across people speaking negatively about this film. Haven't seen it and seeing Zooey Deschanel on the cast list doesn't really endear me towards this.

    Don't really know enough about Crowe though to totally knock it, may check it out sometime (sometime being after about another 1k films).


  • Administrators, Computer Games Moderators, Sports Moderators Posts: 31,036 Admin ✭✭✭✭✭ Mickeroo


    Renn wrote: »
    Surprised to read so many positive comments as I've always come across people speaking negatively about this film. Haven't seen it and seeing Zooey Deschanel on the cast list doesn't really endear me towards this.

    Don't really know enough about Crowe though to totally knock it, may check it out sometime (sometime being after about another 1k films).

    Deschanel is barely in it at all so thats not a good reason to avoid it. If you have any appreciation for coming of age movies or classic rock you owe it to yourself to watch it, even if you don't I would still say give it a chance. If you don't end up liking it fair enough but if you watch another 1000 movies before you watch this its unlikely many of them will be better.


  • Moderators, Category Moderators, Arts Moderators, Computer Games Moderators, Entertainment Moderators Posts: 27,250 CMod ✭✭✭✭ johnny_ultimate


    It is definitely a film that is almost easy to be cynical about - it's certainly manipulative, clean-cut and shamelessly crowd pleasing. But I think its so confident and enthusiastic its hard not to be won over by it in the end. Breaking it down its easy to imagine it will be cloying, sentimental nonsense: but it's the rare film that for whatever reason manages to transcend its more objectionable traits, and in fact the very same traits may ultimately be its strongest points. It's such a fine, precarious balance Crowe achieves here.

    And yeah, Zooey Deschanel has around four or five scenes in it. She's gone before the story even kicks off proper, and only shows up again briefly in the third act. Still the same kooky performance here (before she hit it big) but is minimal enough not to annoy.


  • Closed Accounts Posts: 22,562 ✭✭✭✭ AnonoBoy


    Sleepy wrote: »
    So the Waynes World "No Stairway" sign was a dig...

    No. The Wayne's World scene was a dig at all the people who play Stairway in guitar shops. In the cinema version (America only I think as that's all they could get the licence for) he actually plays the first few notes of Stairway but on the video version (and I think the cinema release here) he played some generic notes.


  • Registered Users Posts: 7,484 ✭✭✭ Blisterman


    Birneybau wrote: »
    Search and Destroy :pac:

    Whoops, getting my Metallica and Stooges mixed up!

    Both good songs though.


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  • Closed Accounts Posts: 6,464 ✭✭✭ e_e


    I just didn't get this film at all. :(


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