Names to Know: Cameron Crowe

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Aloha has taken a lot of undeserved flack because of its odd pacing and the casting of Emma Stone as a one quarter Asian character. I feel the readers on this site or any other quite frankly are Emma fans, myself included, so the casting choice was a good one no matter what. But there’s the whole blather on diversity and lack of Hawaiian natives in the movie. I completely disagree and feel those people didn’t go see the movie. The plot is about earning the trust of a specific island group so they can launch a missile, er, I mean… satellite.

But that’s just my view and everyone is entitled to their opinion. I enjoyed the movie and thought it was unique and sweet. Probably one of my favorites so far this year, although I have only see four so far. But I wasn’t going to miss this one because it was done by one of my all time favorite filmmakers, Cameron Crowe. He embodies everything nineties and rock and roll. To those who have no clue who he is, let me be the first to share his kick ass story on a new edition of Names to Know.

This guy basically lived my dream life. He started out writing for Rolling Stone magazine when he was a teenager, touring with bands like The Eagles, the Who, Led Zeppelin, and Humble Pie to do write ups and articles about them. He was just a kid but there he was, becoming close personal friends with Robert Plant while touring in Rock and Roll’s 1970’s heyday. How could you not want that life?

Next he went undercover to write a book in the early 1980’s about high school students. He pretended to be one and wrote this hit book. He was commissioned to write the screenplay, and hence he began his career in Hollywood. The script was of course one of my all time favorites; Fast Times at Ridgemont High. If you haven’t seen this one, watch it right now! Sean Penn is perfect as Jeff Spicoli. The movie might just be one of the best looks at high school ever made. Though Crowe only wrote it, you can sense a lot of the style including music came from him. He followed that up with another high school screenplay, The Wild Life. It’s not nearly as good or as successful but Rick Moranis has a small role that makes it worth a watch.

Crowe spent five years writing and developing his next project and directorial debut, Say Anything (1989). It’s the one where John Cusack holds the boom box over his head outside his ex girlfriend’s window. Sweet, funny, heartfelt, and most of all, down to earth, this teen flick is a must watch that earned Crowe critical raves and approval. It’s an eighties classic I watch every year.

Then came the nineties grunge era. Cameron enjoyed the sweet Seattle sounds of bands like Pearl Jam and Nirvana so he wrote and directed a little film called Singles that captured the music and style of twenty-something’s dating and hanging out in coffee shops. Sounds familiar right? The long standing rumor is that the movie inspired the TV show Friends. Whether or not there is any truth to that, this movie has a few budding starts, an amazing soundtrack, and a loose structure that follows these friends trying to make their lives work.

If you haven’t seen the next film he did, I’ll slap you! You had me at hello? Show me the Money? You complete me? Jerry Maguire is probably one of the best known movies of the decade. Tom Cruise screaming into a phone to a charismatic Cuba Gooding Junior and Renee Zellweger gracing the screen with her first leading lady role… what could be better? It’s a charming, smart, and sweet rom com that landed Crowe an Oscar nomination for Best Picture and Screenplay.

Then we come to my all time favorite, Almost Famous. Remember when I told you about his days as a seventies rock journalist? He made a movie about it with tons of rock star cameos, a soundtrack that can’t be beat, and a cast that shines including Kate Hudson in her breakout role, Jimmy Fallon in his first role, and a fictional band that needs to be real. The film is so fun and different; it earned Crowe an Oscar for Best Screenplay. You won’t be disappointed if you watch this one. It’s an absolutely perfect film, especially for rock lovers.

That was the glory days. His films to follow haven’t quite reached the praise as he once had. Vanilla Sky with Tom Cruise has its fan base, but it marked a departure for Crowe since it does dabble in sci-fi/ fantasy. It’s also a remake of a Spanish film called Open Your Eyes. Next, he followed it with Elizabethtown, a rom com with Orlando Bloom and Kirsten Dunst which everyone seemed to hate. It does have its charm and the soundtrack is amazing, it’s just a little farfetched and cheesy at times. Nothing wrong with that though. You also get the same thing in the family friendly comedy/ drama We Bought a Zoo with Matt Damon. Another sweet flick, it didn’t quite tread new ground that audiences had hoped for.

He’s also got a few good documentaries on Elton John and Pearl Jam. Now he’s developing a TV show about a road crew during a concert tour (fun fact, I was almost cast in the show… something I’ll never quite get over). Love him or hate him, we can still take away that there is no one else who makes films quite like him. They often explore life, romance, and new beginnings. The films tend to always be down to earth and you always know you’re in for a good soundtrack. Since he’s in good with Zeppelin, he’s one of the few people who’s allowed to use their music in his films. I’ve enjoyed everything he’s done so far and I did like Aloha. He’s a breath of fresh air in the superhero CGI world we live in. For honest films and human stories, Crowe is your man. Check out his website The Uncool if you want to see more.

Ryan Uytdewilligen

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