Almost Famous is the movie Cameron Crowe has been waiting a lifetime to tell. The fictionalization of Crowe's days as a teenage reporter for Creem and Rolling Stone has all the well-written characters and wonderful "movie ... more »moments" that we expect from Crowe (Jerry Maguire), but the film has an intangible something extra--an insider's touch that will turn the film into the ode to '70s rock & roll for years to come. We are introduced to Crowe's alter ego, William Miller (Patrick Fugit), at home, where his progressive mom (Frances McDormand, just superb) has outlawed rock music and sister Anita (Zooey Deschanel) has slipped him LPs that will "set his mind free." Following the wisdom of Creem's disheveled editor, Lester Bangs (Philip Seymour Hoffman in an instant-classic performance), Miller gets on the inside with the up-and-coming band Stillwater (a fictionalized mixture of the Allman Brothers, Led Zeppelin, and others). A simple visit with the band turns into a three-week, life-altering odyssey into the heyday of American rock. Of the characters he meets on the road, the two most important are groupie extraordinaire Penny Lane (Kate Hudson in a star-making performance) and Stillwater's enigmatic lead guitarist (Billy Crudup), who keeps stringing Miller along for an interview. From the handwritten credits (done by Crowe) to the bittersweet finale, Crowe's comedic valentine is an indelible, heartbreaking romance of music, women, and the privilege of youth. --Doug Thomas« less
Outstanding Director's Cut - Powerful Story and Acting
turtlex | PA USA | 12/27/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Almost Famous Untitled: The Bootleg Cut - Director's Edition.I've decided to review the Bootleg Cut of "Almost Famous" as most of the other reviews are of the original theatrical release.This is a wonderful two-disc ( actually 3, more on this later ) DVD collection. First, the packaging. We are presented with a brown tri-fold package, much like the bootleg recordings of the seventies. Not a whole lot of artwork on the cover. Simply a small photo of Kate Hudson (Penny Lane). The first tri-fold presents us with a wonderful addition to this DVD set. Included is a STILLWATER Music CD. This music CD is only available in this collection and features songs from the film as performed by Stillwater. Four of the tracks are co written by Nancy Wilson ( of Heart ) and Cameron Crowe ( the director ). This little bonus CD is great and very appropriate to the theme of the set.I'll jump now to DISC 2 of this set which is the Original Theatrical Version of "Almost Famous". This is the academy award winning version that was released and it's great. The story is well told and very engaging.DISC 1 is "Untitled: Almost Famous : The Bootleg Cut" which is not rated. This version is a gift. Cameron Crowe has taken the time to ( lovingly ) recut his film and include an additional 36 minutes of film. The addition of these precious minutes change the film but do not deminish it's impact or watchability. The additional 36 minutes add mostly to the character of Penny Lane ( Academy Award Nominee Kate Hudson ) and expand on her history. Unlike many extended versions which add little to character development, this version of "Almost Famous" brings more insight and depth to nearly all characters. The acting is outstanding, and it's clear that the scenes not in the original release were cut strictly due to time constraints as the acting is right on. This is a great cast. Kate Hudson is a stand out, as is newcomer Patrick Fugit. Billy Crudup is wonderful as well, this is the movie which should have made him a movie star. Jason Lee ( of "Chasing Amy" and other Kevin Smith films ) is hysterical and just enough over the top to be believable. The movie, this version, rests soundly with Kate Hudson and Patrick Fugit.I would think, had this Bootleg version been released theatrically, then perhaps Kate Hudson would have actually won the Academy Award rahter than just being nominated. She's done a wonderful job with this complex character. The director's commentary is priceless, much like attending a film school seminar as conducted by Cameron Crowe.This two disc set is a must have for any film fan. Even if you've got the original DVD release ( rather than this special edition set ), this is still more than worth the purchase price.I would recommend this set. Strongly.Best Regards,
turtlexPS - if you've enjoyed this review, feel free to add me to your favorite people list as I try to write reviews frequently.Thanks for reading."
"Almost Famous" DVDeserves This Loving "Uncut" Treatment
Mike Stone | 07/17/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"There's a moment early on in "Untitled", Cameron Crowe's 'Bootleg' Director's Cut of "Almost Famous", where rock critic Lester Bangs (Phillip Seymour Hoffman), in mid-rant, claims that the Box Tops' "The Letter" says more in less than two minutes, without even trying, than Jethro Tull can say in hours, while trying their damndest. It got me thinking: why didn't Crowe take his own advice? Why did he take a perfectly serviceable 122-minute movie that appeared to say everything, and turn it into a 162-minute movie? Well, I've seen "Untitled". It blows up "Almost Famous", makes it spectacle and spectacular, while never losing its intimate edge.This is a case where more of a good thing doesn't turn into too much of a good thing.What do you get with "Untitled"? Well, more character. Backstories are fleshed out, relationships are better defined, and the humanity becomes more human. We see William's (Patrick Fugit) kleptomania, along with more examples of how his youth made him an outcast. We get Penny Lane's (Kate Hudson) nurturing side, explicitly portrayed. And we get a full-on glimpse of Jeff Bebe's (Jason Lee) envy, why it started and how it manifests itself. A couple of full scenes are added, most notably a radio station appearance that's terribly funny, albeit irrelevant to the plot. But most of the additional footage comes from existing scenes being lengthened. More often than not, the point is clarified without boring the audience with tediousness.The audio commentary begins with Cameron Crowe outlining the two paths they might go down. The first is the hemming-and-hawing path, where all the truths are covered up, in favour of banal stories and technical information. The second path is the heart-on-your-sleeve path, where all the inspirations and backstories are owned up to, where mistakes are agonized over, and the truth is king. If you've ever seen a Cameron Crowe movie, or heard the man speak more than two sentences, you'll know which path he chooses.Crowe dominates the track. He's joined by a couple of execs (or PA's or something; they're never really introduced and don't say much). But the real treat of the track is the inclusion of one Mrs. Alice Crowe, Cameron's mom (and Frances McDormand's doppelganger). Besides being a doting mother, and quick to offer praise for her son, she also offers some real insights into the genesis of the film. She appears to know the movie backwards and forwards, and acts as further proof of the film's accuracy. It's amazing to see how much of the movie was really based on actual events. Every scene appears to begin with either Cameron or Alice being taken aback by the memories it invokes.This is probably one of the best commentary tracks I've heard, for the inclusion, in equal measure, of technical information, on set anecdotes, and passion.Also included on Disc One is real life video footage of an interview with Lester Bangs. Lester's vitriol is palpable, his menacing nature is enormous, but his warmth shines through. It's an interesting tidbit, in that it offers further proof that Hoffman is one of the greatest actors working today, for he doesn't stoop to imitating Lester. It's more like channeling. Then, Cameron includes a list -- complete with fully-represented album covers -- of his top albums of 1973 (the year the film is set). An interesting curiosity. Some of the works actually inform specific scenes from the film, which is kind of a neat trick. They've also put together a "video" for the Stillwater song "Love Comes and Goes", which is basically a montage of behind-the-scenes moments from the Rock Camp the actors had to go through. More of this can bee seen on "B-Sides", another video montage. Most interesting is the inclusion of seven of Crowe's Rolling Stone articles from the era, printed in their entirety. It's not hard to see the nascent voice of Crowe the filmmaker shining through these passion-filled pieces.Disc Two has a lot less going for it. Its main feature is the original theatrical version of the movie. Also included is the full-length (15 minutes or so) Cleveland Concert, parts of which we see in the movie. Despite the fact that Billy Crudup sometimes plays notes not actually in the songs, and that Jason Lee still has to work on his between song banter, this footage shows just how well the actors did in achieving their collective band persona. The music's not that great, but the vibe, captured by on-stage camera work, is authentic. The Production Notes section is basically the same essay you'll find in the box's liner notes, only with additional information. There's an interesting little video moment, with Pete Droge and Elaine Summers singing "Small Time Blues" in a Hyatt House hotel room. It's a moment quickly passed by in the actual movie. But here you get to hear the whole song, from William's voyeuristic point-of-view, and it's just stunningly beautiful. You can also scroll through Crowe's screenplay, peruse the cast and crew bios, and watch the theatrical trailer.Disc Three is an audio CD. It's got the six Stillwater songs, written variously by Nancy Wilson, Cameron Crowe, and Peter Frampton, among others. They're not very good songs, and I'm not sure they fit the era they're supposed to come from, but for an "Almost Famous" completist, like myself, it's neat to have them in all their (sub-)glory.A lot of effort was put into making this set look like a real bootleg, the kind of clandestine little document you'd pick up at a seedy record store. I think the look and feel enhance the movie. Which was pretty good to begin with."
The most inspring, real film of the year....
J. Remington | 10/22/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This is one of the very few recent movies that made me walk out of the theater with a smile on my face. This is quite possibly one of the most beautiful, real, well-made, and inspring films I've ever seen. This film truly shows the beauty and joy that music and the love of music is. Newcomer Patrick Fugit manages to hold center stage in the most Oscar caliber performance filled film of the year. Kate Hudson and Frances McDormand are locks to get nominated for Best Supporting Actress and I would not be surprised if one of them recieves it. Fugit, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Billy Crudup, and Jason Lee are all worthy of Oscar recognition. Every performer in this film, even the ones with smaller parts (Zooey Deneschal, Noah Taylor, Bjiou Phillips, Anna Paquin, Fairuza Balk), give the most inspired performances ever onscreen. This is a truly beautiful movie. I strongly suggest it...."
Best movie of 2000
michaelb1968 | Philadelphia, PA | 03/23/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"No, the DVD doesn't have all the extras that Amazon promised. They goofed on that one. But, rest assured that the version we all want will be along in a few months when CC is done shooting "Vanilla Sky". Let me start by marveling at the plethora of negative reviews here. Even the critics that didn't name it to their Top 10 list didn't dislike the movie. You will be hard pressed to find a single negative professional review anywhere on this movie. Please disregard the short, ignorant reviews here that do no more than call the movie names. This movie is all you could ask for and then some.The story is old news by now. Everybody knows it is based on CC's real life experiences as a teenage scribe covering the rock scene for Rolling Stone magazine. Unlike many movies based on a true story, many of the pivotal scenes in this movie actually took place. Very few artistic liberties were taken with regards to key events.The acting was virtually flawless. Phillip Seymour Hoffman would have won an Oscar if there was an awards given for cameos. His role was too small to be considered for best supporting actor, but it was the best performance I have seen in a long time. McDormand and Hudson both earned their nominations. Kate Hudson's range was astonishing, especially in the "$50/Case of Beer" scene. Jason Lee was born to play the part of Jeff Bebe, and Jimmy Fallon was surprisingly strong as a sleazy agent. The movies focal points were Billy Crudup as Russel Hammond, a self-centered guitarist with several intricate layers to his makeup. Crudup played the part perfectly and deserved official recognition for his work. Patrick Fugit, playing William Miller/CC was excellent in his debut. Like Hudson, his expressions were worth a million words. Even Zooey Deschanel was fabulous in her short scenes as William's influential older sister. I expect to see a lot more of her in the coming years.Several scenes stand out, and the soundtrack was wisely chosen. Anyone that remembers albums had to appreciate the way a wide-eyed William gazed at all those covers with amazement for the first time. The late night conversation between Hoffman and Bangs near the end was heartbreaking and warm and brialliant and funny all wrapped up into one. The movie is full of nostalgia, but not so much that it becomes provincial and self-indulgent.The Academy snubbed this movie for the likes of Gladiator, Erin Brockovich, and Chocolat. Never before has that disconnected gang of oafs committed such a crime. Buy this movie and treasure it, because art like this doesn't come around very often."
One of the best films of 2000
J. Remington | Adams, Oregon USA | 05/23/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Cameron Crowe, former teenaged rock critic matured into essayist, screenwriter and film director, created my favorite film of 2000 (tied with "O Brother Where Art Thou") by bottling a precious ingredient found in few movies- real magic. Drawing from his own rich autobiography, Crowe vividly relates the journey of a teenage Odysseus (played here with wide eyed purity by Patrick Fugit) who embarks on a journey of discovery, pain, love, maturation, loss and spiritual awakening. The magic of Almost Famous lies in its characters' abilities to reach that most heroic of human experience: transformation into a better self.
Fugit plays William Miller, a fifteen year old genius based upon Crowe himself, who is given the impossible task of writing a "think piece" in Rolling Stone magazine about a fictitious rock and roll band called Stillwater. Forced to travel the road with the band and their entourage of "professional girl friends/fans/groupies"- called band-aides here, Miller finds himself caught between staying true to his calling- writing honestly- and betraying new found friends. Crowe's genius, as previously expressed in his earlier films Say Anything, Jerry Maguire and Singles lies in his ability to craft through careful collaboration with his always superb casts, real people who despite great character flaws and warts, have the spark of goodness inside them. In a Cameron Crowe film, everyone has the chance to be saved- and in their own way- everyone does end up forgiven and transformed.Unlike many of his cold-hearted, mean spirited and cynical film making peers who actively seek out the sordid, the ugly and the destructive in society, Crowe possesses a sincere love not only for his characters and the world they inhabit but for the audience as well. That love radiates throughout every frame of every film he makes (this does not speak to his misstep "Vanilla Sky")Crowe also possesses an uncanny instinct to marry music with the film. The sequence fusing Elton John's "Tiny Dancer" to a Stillwater's collective forgiveness of Russell Hammond is pure bliss. Of course Crowe creates many other similar sequences with music and image.
This is not to suggest Almost Famous sugarcoats the harsh realities of an early 1970's rock and roll experience. Crowe is too honest a storyteller to allow that. Free sex, drugs and the related decadence are ever present as are the consequences for such behavior. There is a real general callous soulessness that lurks on the tip of each scene threatening to consume the frail humanity of this Odyssey. But that evil is held at bay and ultimately destroyed by the great good that certainly dwells in every character's heart.As consistent with all previous Crowe films, the acting ensemble is perfect. She has so many scenes that literally broke my heart while making me smile. Billy Crudup as self obsessed guitarist Russell Hammond, although far too good looking for any real rock star, swings gloriously unpredictable between sullen silence, affable congeniality and rage. He is a star in the making. Jason Lee, as lead singer Jeff Bebe, possesses just the right amount of shallow intellectual posings, narcissistic self promotion and paranoid uncertainty that prevails so many in his vocation. Frances McDormand is absolutely perfect as Miller's hyper-protective Mother. The director's cut DVD is a God Send. The commentary by Crowe and his mother is priceless as is the fleshed out sequences which manage to humanize and elevate the characters even more. Being able to read the complete script is fascinating also as a reference point. It proves the old addage that all good films must begin with a great script.
Almost Famous is Absolute Magic. Don't miss this one."