Greetings, Glancers! Today I run a more critically eye over my tenth favourite movie of the year 2000, seeking to ignore my bias and provide a fair score based on the 20 criteria I feel are most important in the creation of a film. Today’s movie is Cameron Crowe’s Almost Famous, the semi-autobiographical tale which follows a teenage music enthusiast as he is pulled on tour with a fictional rock band and gets to explore the pitfalls of the industry along with some great music. Great 70s music, coming of age – it ticks a lot of boxes for me, but lets see how it scores.
Before we get there, I’ve decided to change the system a little bit. Some of the categories below piss me off, but the similarity between Sales and Chart cause me the most annoyance. I’ve decided to conflate Chart into Sales and add a new category – Characters. Characters is fairly similar to Writing (and Performance), with the characters and the plot all falling under a wider umbrella of Writing, but I think that there’s enough difference between each to score them separately. That leaves me with only 19 Categories – but I need 20 to get an equally weighted rating out of 100.
Lets split out Writing into Writing (dialogue, screenplay nuance, subtext, theme etc) and Plot, with Plot being strictly about how the story plays out, if I enjoy it, does it make sense etc etc. Characters relates to how unique, human, relatable, engaging, identifiable, enjoyable the characters are.
Sales: 3. I never saw this when it was released, but I assumed it did much better than it actually did. You can’t go higher than a 3 here, given the fact that the film didn’t make back its budget. In reality I should be giving this a 2, but I’m guessing a large chunk of the film’s budget went to securing the soundtrack, inflating the spend considerably. I’m sure the movie made a bunch more money on DVD afterwards, but a 2-3 seems correct here.
Critical Consensus: 5. Likewise I could go 4 here because it’s not held in the same kind of long-term regard as say, Mulholland Drive. But you can’t compare one film’s success against another single film – that would be unfair. This is consensus, and acclaim at the time was universal, with plenty of Oscars noms and wins, and the film continues to appear on Best Of lists even today.
Director: 4. Cameron Crowe was possibly known more for being a writer or an ideas man than a director, at least until Jerry Maguire. That film’s success led to the more personal story of Almost Famous. Similar to his previous works, Almost Famous has a breezy, carefree vibe – the Linklater vibe – and doesn’t rely on anything flashy. It’s almost the lack of an apparent authority which is the authority.
Performances: 4. Following Crowe’s lead, the performances are similarly care-free to the extent that you feel like you are watching a documentary. There’s a slight knowing nod to the fact that these are people in their 20s in the year 2000 pretending to be 20 somethings in the early 70s, but there’s no escaping the cultural weight of the period they are relaying. While Hoffman steals most scenes he’s in, Kate Hudson won the plaudits and Patrick Fugit is the heart of the piece – elsewhere Jason Lee, Francis McDormand, Billy Crudup, Anna Paquin, Fairuza Balk, and Zoey Deschanel add to the party among an array of familiar faces.
Characters: 4. Mostly composites of people Crowe knew or real life band figures, the various band members and ‘groupies’ aren’t fully defined beyond obvious caricatures, but the core characters are among the most likeable and fully realized for this type of film – always on the cusp of stardom yet never quite able to fulfil their dreams. From Lester Bangs to William and his mum, to Penny, Russell, and Jeff – and the side characters – it’s a group you want to spend a music, drug, and booze fuelled weekend with before returning dazed, confused, and happy to your normal life.
Cinematography: 3. There’s a gleam to the film which accentuates the free-spirit and hope of the time, actively ignoring the more negative elements of the period and culture. It looks great, but it’s not the first thing you notice about the film
Writing: 5. While it’s not the sort of film peppered with quotable dialogue, the best moments come from Hoffman and McDormand’s dour delivery – two sides of the same coin. Where the writing success is in its heart and humour and genuine love for the material, the people, the culture, and the music it is describing.
Plot: 4. It’s a Coming Of Age plot, so already right up my street, but also set in a time I’m fascinated by and in a world of music I love. Those are asides, but it hits the beats of a Coming Of Age plot in such a satisfactory way – everyone grows, everyone learns, everyone moves on and no threads are left hanging.
Wardrobe: 4. Authentic, though a little through the lens of 2000 styles. In any case, it helps to evoke the look and feel of the era.
Editing: 3. I never have much to say about editing – not my area of expertise but if it’s not something I notice then I assume someone has done something right.
Make up and Hair: 4. Same with wardrobe – does the job and suits the vibe.
Effects: 3. Nothing much of note to mention, so you can go N/A here or for an average 2 or 3.
Art and Set: 4. From the concert front and back stages, the media rooms, homes, tour buses, and hotels, everything has been finely tuned to evoke the early 70s with an added idealised glamour.
Sound And Music: 5. One of the great modern soundtracks, if you’re into music of the period, it’s tastefully inserted into the movie and becomes as much a part of the story as the characters who surround themselves with the music.
Cultural Significance: 3. I don’t think the film had a cultural impact at the time, or any notable impact since. A shame as it’s the sort of movie which could have helped see a widespread rejuvenation and interest in 70s rock music. Rock music around 2000 was in an interesting place with both retro and new style bands succeeding, but that was outside of any influence this movie had. The cast members went on to bigger things and some became more widely known while Crowe has had lesser successes since.
Accomplishment: 4. Depending on what you define this as – how you define what the cast and crew wanted to accomplish with the movie – this could be lower. I think Crowe wanted to show his affinity for a singular point in time while also making a pseudo-biographical film. It accomplishes both.
Stunts: 3. Another N/A or average.
Originality: 3. Biographies and Coming Of Age films are a dime a dozen, but I tend to enjoy the COA films greatly, or Biographies when it’s someone or something I care about.
Miscellaneous: 4. Cool posters, good soundtrack, good memories of the time it was released and the people I watched it with.
Personal: 5. One of my go to cool hang out movies and one of the best music oriented movies ever.
Total Score: 77/100
I think that’s our highest score yet, and it’ll be a tough one to beat. Let us know in the comments what you think of Almost Famous!