Tuesday, August 15, 2006


Last night, I watched the director's cut of Almost Famous after attempting to view a horribly hacked version on network television last weekend. Amazing, the stuff they edited. Like William's mother telling the man painting a store window that "Xmas" is not a word in the English language.

"It's either 'Merry Christmas' or 'Happy Holidays.'"

Although the removal of some R-rated segments was appropriate, given the medium, I suspect they edited so many non-offensive bits simply to reduce overall playing time. Obviously, these editors were not emotionally invested in this movie, and therefore didn't understand that each component is critical to the story.

It is a love letter to rock 'n roll. It speaks to me in a way few others have done. Cameron Crowe is a genius. I recognize myself all over this movie. Not so much in the sequence of events (obviously -- although I did write record reviews and articles for an indie magazine called FACE), but in the overwhelming love of music.

I've only met one semi-famous rock band, and it was an unfortunate encounter with Slaughter during a record signing when I managed a record store in 1990. And I never hung out by the back door a la Penny Lane and her Band-Aids, hoping to meet (and perhaps do unsavory things with) the any of the bands I saw in concert.

Crowe perfectly captures the essence of teenage absorption, not just into music, into everything. The melodrama that is being 15 years old. The big difference is that our protagonist gets the joy ride of a lifetime while waging the battle between teen innocence and angst.

Though it may be obvious to say, the soundtrack is stunning. Crowe uses a brilliant combination of easily recognizable hits and deep tracks from seminal if not popular albums. And there are dozens of songs. Some are featured like Tiny Dancer, and some mere snippets. My favorite is My Cherie Amour playing while William is watching Penny Lane get her stomach pumped.

I would recommend this movie for everyone. I realize that art is made meaningful only by the context in which the audience views it. Not everyone will like this movie, and fewer still will feel as connected to it as I do. That said, give it a try. You might be surprised what you get out of it.

"So Russell, what do you love about music?"

"To begin with... everything."
A note. Elaine (William's mother) encourages Russell to do his job well by saying, "Be bold, and mighty forces will come to your aid." She attributes the quote to Goethe, although by all accounts, it was Basil King who uttered the words.


Karmyn R said...

I hate watching movies on t.v. - the cuts are always so bad. I'd much rather just rent the movie.

My husband and I tried to watch Sound of Music this year when it was broadcast (we wanted to have a "ritual" moment from childhood). The cutjob was so horrible we turned the tv off!!

kellycoxsemple said...

Oh no, the Sound of Music must be seen in its original form. Although I remember very distinctly the look of the pan-and-scan version shown every year on network television. I thought that was just how it looked -- for years until I received the VHS version as a gift from my Mom in 1989 (one of the first video tapes I ever owned). Then I discovered the joy of wide screen, and since then, can only be nostalgic about the pan-and-scan. It is also one of my favorite movies of all time.