Discs Are Rated
Click above to purchase "Almost Famous" at amazon.com
review by Zach B.
Running Time: 123 minutes
Starring Patrick Fugit, Billy Crudup, Kate Hudson,
Jason Lee, Frances McDormand, Fairuza Balk, Anna Paquin,
Noah Taylor and Philip Seymour Hoffman
Written and Directed by Cameron Crowe
Retail Price: $26.99
Features: "The Making Of Almost Famous" HBO
Featurette, Stillwater's "Fever Dog" Music Video, Cameron
Crowe "Rolling Stone" Articles, Theatrical Trailer,
Soundtrack Promo, Cast and Crew Bios, Production Notes
Specs: 1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen, English Dolby
Digital 5.1, English DTS 5.1, English Dolby Surround,
English Subtitles, Chapter Search (24 Chapters)
"What are you, the star of your school?"
"They hate me."
"You'll meet them all again on their long journey
to the middle."
Once in a long while a movie comes along that captures
the hearts and minds of critics and film lovers everywhere.
A movie with that perfect mix of humor, drama, soul and
heart. A movie that makes you feel so good, so alive and
inspired inside. An urge to capture every bit of it and
making you want to see it again and again. During the month
of September in the year 2000, Dreamworks began to roll out
"Almost Famous". It was one of those films that I just
described, and one film no one could ever forget.
I've always been a fan of Cameron Crowe, and I personally
don't think he's ever made a bad film (many say "Singles" is
his weakest, but I rather enjoyed it a lot). During the
August of 2000, buzz on "Almost Famous" began where I saw
the occasional TV ad toward the end of the month but loads
of print advertising and billboards from the beginning. The
ads began to excite my interest, and when I heard more and
more about the film I couldn't wait any longer. Finally,
September came and I went opening weekend. My eyes didn't
leave the screen once. Finally, when it came to an end, I
could see the immense appeal of this movie. I never saw a
movie that good in a long time. It really had everything and
was a perfect example of what movies are about. Not that
they have big stars, formulatic plots, amazing special
effects, much hype or giant budgets, but that they have
heart and give us not the run of the mill story, but
something new and exciting. Something from deep within and
As most of you probably know, this film is actually based
on a true story, it's based on Crowe's own experiences as a
teenage rock journalist for the magazine "Rolling Stone".
After his mom approved, Crowe toured with a few classic rock
bands such as Led Zepplin. I read in an interview that he
used his old notebooks for some references, and some lines
in the film are actually word for word of what some people
said during his adventures. I personally think it's pretty
amazing of Crowe to land such a gig at such a young age. I
can relate to him...somewhat.
In "Almost Famous", William Miller (newcomer Patrick
Fugit who is amazing) takes the place of Crowe, an
incredibly bright, sort of lonely and intelligent fifteen
year old who lives in a strict household with his mom (an
excellent Frances McDormand). His mom stresses the
importance of education and keeps her son away from
everything, she doesn't want him falling down the wrong path
and getting into drugs. William also loves to write
tremendously, and when William was younger, his older sister
exposes him to her collection of rock music secretly.
William ends up getting a gig from "Rolling Stone", who are
so impressed they offer him to write a story on the up and
coming band Stillwater (a fictional band that Crowe created
who says is a combo of all his favorite bands). William also
gets some advice from famous rock writer Lester Bangs
(Philip Seymour Hoffman who proves that he is one of the
best character actors working today). Things kick into high
gear when William is invited to go on tour with Stillwater
for the article. While his mother is reluctant, she gives in
and lets him go. That's when things kick into high gear, as
William experiences life as a rock star first hand. While
he's out to cover the music, he finds out so much more. He
witnesses the romance between "band-aid" Penny Lane (Kate
Hudson's award winning role) and band member Russell Hammond
(a fabulous Billy Crudup). He sees the friction building
between members Hammond and Jeff Bebe (a nice Jason Lee).
William's eyes really begin to open.
I guess what I really like most about this film is that
this film conveys what nearly all of other Crowe's film do:
that life is made up of so many little moments. However,
these little moments mean so much to us and are really
important. They change our lives somehow someway or another,
and we remember our "first times" as well as certain
experiences that really open our eyes and shape us for the
better. These moments may seem like nothing to us at the
time, but when we look back, they really add up and make our
Not only does this movie has some great, classic music
but it has some excellent acting. The acting seems natural,
open and honest, not forced or overdone. It's pitched
perfectly. Philip Seymour Hoffman as Lester Bangs is sort of
like a guiding force to William in a way, but with it, comes
arrogance. I can't say more about Kate Hudson, who's already
been awarded and showered with praise, but she's everything
Penny Lane should be. Frances McDormand is honest, stern and
funny as Elaine, William's mom, and I really feel Billy
Crudup was robbed of an Oscar® nod or any major awards
for his performance as Hammond. I've been a fan of Crudup
before this movie, but he really shines through here.
Patrick Fugit, in his first feature film role, is really
amazing as William. William captures what I'm assuming what
Crowe was when he went on tour with bands at a young age.
Innocence, gaining experience and really learning about
things in the world in general. All of these actors bring
Crowe's script to life.
Speaking of Crowe's script, it's incredible. It's really
well written and seems to really capture the 1970s. The
dialogue isn't corny or stupid, like the acting, it's very
natural. Some movies, I think, have dialogue that you'd
think people never say, it doesn't seem natural. Here, every
word out of a character's mouth is believable. While Crowe's
writing has been getting attention with awards, his
direction for the movie has sort of been snubbed. Many argue
Crowe's a better writer than director, but I disagree. He's
equal, and when he does both, his whole vision comes alive.
He scored a Director's Guild nod, but not a Golden Globe nod
nor an Oscar® nod sadly. I felt his direction was really
underrated by most, but with a script like his I think it
takes a lot to make a movie like "Almost Famous".
Despite the various awards and the mountain of critical
acclaim, "Almost Famous" was sadly ignored by audiences.
Dreamworks hoped to score with their "American Beauty"
strategy: slowly roll the movie out in theaters. Each week
for a few weeks, open in a few more theaters and by the end,
it'd be all over the country. While "American Beauty" made
well over a hundred million, "Almost Famous" only made a
little over thirty. I found this very disappointing, because
this movie has a lot of things audiences can relate to. I'm
not sure why people were turned off by the movie. Still,
with that said, if you missed it you can now check it out on
DVD... if you're thinking about buying it, you may want to
wait for the special edition, complete with a director's cut
from Crowe, due out later 2001. Still, this disc for the
theatrical cut is very good.
Presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen, "Almost
Famous" looks outstanding. Dreamworks once again delivers a
fabulous transfer. Colors are well saturated and very solid.
The whole look and era of the 70s is captured perfectly. A
lot constantly changes and this transfer keeps up. Detail is
excellent and lighting in scenes look really good. There is
some slight shimmering and artifacting here and there, and
some grain as well as dirt now and then, but this is one
solid transfer for one solid movie.
Equally impressive is the audio. Dreamworks has provided
Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS 5.1 mixes, as well as a Dolby
Surround track. I was very surprised by the 5.1 mixes. Each
have some great dynamic and directional range. While there
is a good amount of talking in "Almost Famous", there are
some very nice surrounds, particularly in the concert
scenes. Check out 25:56 into the movie, it's a very nice
example. Your speakers may burst during a little scene later
on in the movie with electrocution, it gave me quite a jolt.
The classic music really lights up all the channels nicely,
and there's some nice .1 LFE to be heard. However, my edge
goes to the DTS. The Dolby Digital is good, but the DTS is a
lot sharper and louder. I found that the DTS got me into the
movie more. English subtitles are also included.
Specs have been a bit mysterious with this disc, but
Dreamworks cleaned things up a little literally a few days
before at the time that I am writing this. While this DVD
edition was supposed to include Crowe's longer cut of the
movie, Dreamworks announced that later on in 2001 there will
be a second disc and with a lot more extras. My thanks to
Dreamworks for warning consumers before they go out and buy
this disc. While there isn't too much here, I'm glad a
worthy special edition of an excellent film will eventually
The Making Of Almost Famous is yet another HBO
first look, but it's not too promotional and I found it
pretty watchable. Crowe discusses that the story is based on
him (and we see pictures of him as a young rock journalist)
and how the project started to take shape. Interviews with
Fugit, composer (and Crowe's real wife) Nancy Wilson, Balk,
Lee, Crudup Hudson, Paquin, McDormand, Hoffman and even
"Rolling Stone" editor Jann S. Wenner are included as well
as others. Clips from the film and some behind the scenes
footage is shown, plus there's some footage of Fugit's
audition. This is well worth a spin and a good watch.
A very nice supplement to go with the movie is The
Rolling Stone Articles, where you can read seven of
Crowe's articles he wrote for "Rolling Stone". They range
from December 1973 to July 1979. Crowe writes about "The
Allman Brothers", "Led Zepplin", "Neil Young", "Peter
Frampton", "Fleetwood Mac", "Van Morrison" and "Joni
Mitchell". Crowe even gives a written introduction for each
one about the artists. The articles and the intros give you
a good sense of what Crowe based the movie on and his life
as a teenage rock journalist. You can see that Crowe writes
really well for such a young age. This is a supplement that
helps you get a better understanding of the background of
the film, just like the Gladiator Games documentary on
Even though Stillwater is a fictional band, the song for
their hit (in the movie at least) "Fever Dog" is in a
Music Video. Crowe directed this video which is
basically clips from the movie (mostly concert scenes).
Following the video is a Soundtrack Promo.
Some very interesting Production Notes are
included on the disc and the same ones are in the keep case
insert, plus some detailed Cast and Crew Bios (the
menus are in true "Rolling Stone" fashion to give it a nice
touch) and the Theatrical Trailer in 1.85:1
anamorphic widescreen and 5.1 Dolby Digital, no less.
I really like the menus of the disc. They really
represent the film and make it seem like an issue of
"Rolling Stone", plus they are nicely animated and just give
you that 70s feeling. The disc itself has a nice picture of
I hope a lot more people check out this movie on DVD and
video, because this movie didn't perform so well in theaters
as many had hoped. "Almost Famous" was truly one of the best
movies in the year 2000. While this DVD has some great sound
and a wonderful transfer, the extras are a bit
disappointing. No worries though, sometime in 2001 Crowe
will be putting out his own director's cut of the movie and
with a lot more extras. While I have the benefit of getting
free DVDs, I must say this is one movie I wouldn't mind
buying twice. So the choice is yours. If you can't wait for
Crowe's director's cut and want this movie now, go ahead and
get it now. If you can, it should be a great second disc. If
you want to buy both, go buy both. Personally, I give a big
kudos to Dreamworks who were nice enough to warn us that
there will be two discs. Either way, "Almost Famous" is a
movie that you'll probably watch again and again, and one
that deserves a place in your library.
(4.5/5 - NOT included in
NOT an average)