ALPHABET MOVIE CLUB: Almost Famous
WEEK 1- "A"
Nominees: All About Eve, Almost Famous, The Abyss, The Asphalt Jungle
Winner: Almost Famous
Background: In 2000, writer-director Cameron Crowe called upon his own teenage years as a writer for Rolling Stone magazine to create this fictionalized biography about a San Diego kid named William Miller (then newcomer Patrick Fugit), smothered by an anti-hippie square of a mom (the Oscar-nominated Frances McDormand), who lies about his age to follow the band Sweetwater (led by Billy Crudup and Jason Lee) around as they turn the country. In true coming-of-age fashion and at the urging of his unofficial mentor (Phillip Seymour Hoffman) our young lad falls for a "band aid" (fellow Oscar nominee in the same category, Kate Hudson), witnesses a great story, and learns an awful lot about himself and his place in life. Nominated for four Academy Awards, it won for Crowe's Best Original Screenplay.
Reaction: 4 STARS-- Almost Famous slipped through my filter back in 2000. I never saw it until this film club and I'm disappointed that I missed it then. It was engaging, well-written, and almost existential with its love and appreciation for the ending era of post-Woodstock rock n' roll before the days of disco took over. I was impressed by its huge doses of heart from the many characters. The group discussed the male "gaze" that the movie holds and he was right. It's not sexist, but it was extremely effective in putting you in William's shoes. I watched the regular DVD edition, but there's a nearly three-hour "bootleg" director's cut that I need to get 9a hold of in the near future.
LESSON #1: FOLLOWING YOUR PASSION-- Our parents can try to steer us to the ideal and respectful paths in life that they want for us, whether it's being a doctor, lawyer, etc., but everyone needs to create their own path, develop their own interests, and follow their passion. Thanks to his rebellious sister (a young Zooey Deschanel), William finds that his passion is in the writing and in the music.
LESSON #2: THE DIFFICULT BOUNDARIES OF A JOURNALIST-- I write about movies and review them, but I am far from a movie set to see how it all came to be. No matter how I pretend, I am not a journalist. I'm an outsider judging from a distance. True journalists get close to the subject and situation, just as William does. They immerse themselves to give their writing substance, emotion, experience, and, most of all, truth. However, just like the undercover cop cliche, it's very easy for a journalist to get "in too deep" or get attached to their subject. In doing so, they risk losing their objectivity and can withhold the truth.
LESSON #3: THE QUEST FOR THE TRUTH IN ALL FACETS OF LIFE-- Journalistic truth and getting the facts straight is one thing. Getting a real impression or straight answer from someone in real life is another. William encounters regular and flawed people who just happen to be rock gods, local legends, personas, and characters with nicknames. In engrossing himself in their lifestyle, not as the "enemy" journalist, but as a follower and fellow lover of the art form, he slowly learns the truth of what makes each person he connects with click. Those truths were more molding of William than the journalistic success.