This is my 1,000th post on The Matinee.
In honour of such a swell occasion, I wanted to do something fun. As many of you know by now, I only write full-on reviews for films I watch in a theatre. My dvd coverage on the other hand tends to be noted in features like DVD Doubleback or Back to Basics
However, I thought it’d be fun to celebrate 1000 posts by zeroing in on a film that speaks to me quite a bit. A film that I love dearly and have identified with for a lot of reasons.
So whether you’re reading this blog for the first time, or have been doing so all the way from the very first post, I thank you dearly for reading, and offer the conclusion of yesterday’s discussions on favorites. After the jump, please take a peek at a review of my all-time favorite film – ALMOST FAMOUS.
Many moons ago, before I was the movie geek I was the music geek. I was the guy who always had a wallet of at least 12 cd’s in his bag. I was the guy who always wore the doufy looking headphones. I knew the lyrics of most of the big hits, and could hum all the other ones. So it’s no small surprise that at the height of this, just after my 22nd birthday, a movie that begins with the sound of a needle dropping into a spinning record would win my heart.
For the uninitiated, Cameron Crowe’s ALMOST FAMOUS is a semi-autobiographical tale. In the film, fifteen-year-old William Miller (Patrick Fugit) catches a lucky bounce when Rolling Stone magazine offers him a chance to write for them. Miller is dispatched to cover an up-and-coming band named Stillwater on their 1973 American tour.
The movie is an endearing love letter to rock and roll, so it isn’t difficult to understand why it became my favourite. But as I rewatched it for the umpteenth time to prep for this post, I was struck for the first time by a detail that keeps it on the top of my own Hot 200. Even though I am more than double William Miller’s age, I can’t help but connect to him and his struggles to become a critic.
Elvis Costello once said that writing about music was like dancing about architecture…but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t some pretty talented architectural dancers out there. Of course, the same applies to writing about movies too. Yes, like William, I am piggybacking on someone else’s artistic expressions to make my own artistic expression. However, I believe there is a role for witnesses like William to play, and it goes beyond flying on borrowed wings.
I identify with William’s outlook in ALMOST FAMOUS the same way that he identifies with Atticus Finch’s honesty in TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD. William represents the precise middle ground between Penny Lane’s adoring fandom, and Lester Bang’s crusty cynicism. He wants to be an evangelist – to gather believers to the church of rock & roll. However, he won’t be a false prophet. He’ll spread the good news of a band like Stillwater, but only so far as they earn it.
This film explores the wonderful see-saw rhythm that takes place between young artists and young media. They need each other, feed off each other, and really can’t exist without each other. William nestles into the corner of a dressing room thinking that he doesn’t belong there, and I can certainly relate to the feeling that one has wandered into a whole other world. What William doesn’t know, is that like many rising stars, Stillwater is equally nervous of him…trembling at the notion that he can point out just how cool they aren’t.
Take all of that and set it to one of the greatest soundtracks of all time, and it’s no wonder that a music, movie, and writing geek like myself considers this film his favourite. There’s some small part of me that would love to be Lester Bangs’ protege. To write with his honesty, but be a counterpoint to his pessimism. I do believe, as Bangs points out, that “the only currency in this bankrupt world, is the truth you share when you’re uncool”. Perhaps because as many of you well know, I’m pretty damned uncool myself.
But no matter how uncool I manage to be, I remain a believer in music. I dig music. I’m here because of the music. I measure my life in playlists, and will never forget where I was when a certain song came on. I try to tip-toe along the line between fan and critic, but hope that I will never lose the enthusiasm required to run behind a departing plane waving goodbye.
That attitude hasn’t changed in the ten years since I first saw this film on a Friday night in September with my dear friend Amanda Lee. It’s what continues to draw me to this film, and has put it on a shelf for me that no film has even come close to reaching. It reminds me, to paraphrase this wonderful script, about what it is to be a fan; to love some silly piece of music…some band…or indeed some film, so much that it hurts.