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Almost Famous Untitled
DVD disk
09.27.2004 By: Mike Sampson
Almost Famous Untitled order
Director:
Cameron Crowe

Actors:
Kate Hudson
Billy Crudup
Patrick Fugit

Rating:
Movie:
Extras:
Overall:

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WHAT'S IT ABOUT?
Set in 1973, it chronicles the funny and often poignant coming of age of 15-year-old William (Fugit), an unabashed music fan who is inspired by the seminal bands of the time. When his love of music lands him an assignment from Rolling Stone magazine to interview the up-and-coming band Stillwater-fronted by lead guitar Russell Hammond (Crudup) and lead singer Jeff Bebe (Jason Lee), William embarks on an eye-opening journey with the band's tour, despite the objections of his protective mother (Frances McDormand). With the help of the lovely "band aid" Penny Lane (Hudson), William finds himself drawn into the band's inner circle. But as he becomes less an observer and more a participant in the band's dynamics, the fledgling reporter loses the objectivity to tell his story honestly, and learns a life-changing lesson about the importance of family - the ones we inherit, and the ones we create.
IS IT A GOOD MOVIE?
This DVD actually came out towards the beginning of December and I've been sitting on my review since then. I saw the movie in the theater, again when it was released on standard DVD and this viewing was the third, yet I still had trouble putting my thoughts on the movie onto page. I enjoyed the movie so much on so many different levels I had (and am still having) a tough time figuring out what I wanted to say. I won't try to get too eloquent or elaborate and I'll try to keep things simple.

The film, as many Cameron Crowe films are, is about many things. On the surface it's about music and love, but dig deeper and you'll find so much more. I originally thought that I enjoyed the film so much because as a pseudo-journalist myself, I could relate to a lot of the issues as a film. But really, this is a film that everyone can relate to. If it's not one thing, it's another. Kate Hudson does a terrific job of playing the "one who got away" - the first love that everyone's got and everyone thinks back to over a warm beer on a boring day. Frances McDormand was robbed of an Oscar for her role as the loving yet overprotective mother who only wants her kids to grow up right but has them both leaving home at early ages. The scene where she's one the phone with William in the kitchen and after he hangs up she throws the phone to the floor is classic. In fact, there are so many scenes in this movie that are classic - Penny Lane dancing to Cat Stevens in an empty concert hall; a late night conversation between William and Lester Bangs about the perils of being "uncool"; William revealing to Penny how she was "traded" from Stillwater to another band...I could go on and on, but I'll spare you. Roger Ebert said it best in his review: "Oh, what a lovely film. I was almost hugging myself while I watched it."
THE EXTRAS
The main feature on this disc is the UNTITLED cut of the film which features about 40 minutes of extra footage. With most added footage you see on DVDs, it's understood why the scenes were cut. But with this version, nothing seems extraneous and everything flows just as well, if not better, than the theatrical version. It's unfortunate DreamWorks had Crowe chop his film down from this version...

The audio commentary features Cameron and mother Alice Crowe and is truly a gem. It's funny to hear a mother and son on the commentary track as Mom would say something like "Cameron, you've made such a special film, I'm so proud of you" and to hear her son say in a aw-shucks voice, "Well, thanks Mom." Too funny...

The additional footage on the disc contains an interview with rock critic Lester Bangs, the legendary "Stairway to Heaven" scene, extended scenes from Stillwater's Cleveland Concert, behind-the-scenes footage of rehearsal and various other outtakes hidden as easter eggs on the disc. I found the concert to be a little much but it was interesting to see all the work that went into filming it. Watching the real Lester Bangs in an interview will give you more appreciation for Philip Seymour Hoffman's performance in the film.

Cameron Crowe has also added his Top Ten albums of 1973 with commentary, all of his Rolling Stone articles during that time, and the complete screenplay for the film (which won an Academy Award). The albums were interesting but it wasn't easy to read the articles or screenplay on my TV screen. Using the DVD-ROM feature on your computer would be better for these extras.

In more standard DVD fare, there's the trailer, production notes, and cast and crew bios.
FINAL DIAGNOSIS
Unfortunately, ALMOST FAMOUS didn't do too well at the box-office. Hopefully the film will find a new audience on home video. This format treats the film very well and those who still haven't seen it should finally check it out. And if you have seen it, see it again and remind yourself why it was one of the best reviewed films of 2000.
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