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This article was prepared for the October 4, 2000 edition of

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At the Movies

The baby-boomers’ sweet-tooth for nostalgia has been

a big business for a while now. Movies, theater, and television


generate big profits transmogrifying the good ol’ days by pumping

out tear-jerking musical docu-dramas to the beat of golden oldies

that feature fresh faced young actors imitating such boomer heroes

as the Beatles, the Monkees, or the Partridge Family. The experience

can have an unsettling effect on the audience, however, as the actor

playing the boomer-hero looks less like our cherished memory of Micky

Dolenz or David Cassidy, and more as if he recently had his face


after a flight through the windshield of his GTO.

In his new film, director Cameron Crowe has the marketing smarts to

avoid all that, repeatedly dropping names like Bowie or Dylan, but

never actually showing them on screen. Instead, he focuses his camera

on a mythical early ’70s band he calls Stillwater, a non-name that

nevertheless rings with familiarity. ("Didn’t Stillwater once

open for Foghat? Or was that Skylark?") And Stillwater look and

acts like everybody’s idea of ’70s rockers, right down to their


for taking themselves too seriously and using the word "man."

"Almost Famous" is Crowe’s semi-autobiographical story of

a teenage wonderboy rock journalist named William Miller who gets

the nod from Rolling Stone magazine to write a cover story on a


band trying to claw their way to the top. Miller travels with


on their cross-country tour, sharing in the onstage glitter and the

backstage bickering, allowing himself to be deflowered by good-hearted

groupies, and taking his first naughty puff from a marijuana cigaret.

Throughout all this, as you can imagine, young William has a blast.

But William’s big mistake, and the heart of the story,

happens when he allow himself to become personally involved with the

band’s moody guitar-tickling genius, Russell Hammond (Billy Crudup)

and Hammond’s favorite high-class groupie Penny Lane (Kate Hudson).

Despite being warned against it by icon-journalist Lester Bangs


Seymour Hoffman), William befriends Hammond and falls in love with

Lane, and gets gnashed up in the developing conflicts between the

two. Here William learns the dark side of the rock ‘n roll lifestyle,

where men cheat on their significant others, groupies are treated

as commodities, and people tend to overindulge in drugs.

Patrick Fugit in his first motion picture, as William Miller, is


and appropriately wide-eyed throughout the film, playing his part

as the well-intentioned pre-corrupted youth with the same pink-cheeked

qualities that Billy Mumy used to display as Will Robinson in the

old "Lost In Space" TV show. Kate Hudson and Billy Crudup

are equally inoffensive, capable, and middle-of-the-road, vaguely

reminding us of a million other similar roles in a million other



Despite all the hype surrounding "Almost Famous," it really

isn’t much more than the standard formulaic love story dressed in

bell-bottoms and laced with drippy-eyed soft-rock ballads by the likes

of Cat Stevens and Elton John. The story is a kind of "Sleepless

in Seattle" strummed to an electric guitar, and unless you’re

myopic or hopelessly romantic, 10 minutes into the film you can see

clear through to the happy ending.

But it’s making oodles of money and you’ll probably see it anyway.

Afterwards, if your stomach feels too sugary sweet, take a Tums and

pop "This is Spinal Tap" into the VCR. You’ll feel better

in the morning.

— Jack Florek

Almost Famous. AMC, Destinta, Loews, Mercer, Regal.

NJ Film Festival

New Jersey Film Festival screenings are 7 p.m. Fridays

through Sunday in Scott Hall, Room 123, College Avenue Campus;


screenings are in Loree Hall, Room 024, Douglass College Campus. $5;

732-932-8482; Website:

Screen Tests, Andy Warhol’s classic three to four-minute

film portraits of the Beautiful People of the mid-1960s, shot at his

Factory, Thursday, October 5. Paragraph 175, A new documentary

by Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman about the persecution and


murder of gay citizens by the Nazis, Friday to Sunday, October 6 to


Beau Travail, French director Claire Denis’s provocative

drama, set in a Foreign Legion outpost, inspired by Melville’s


"Billy Budd." 1999, Friday to Sunday, October 13 to 15.


Baillie Retrospective , Three classics by American independent


Bruce Baillie: "Mass for the Dakota Sioux," "Castro


and "To Parsifal," 1963-68, Thursday, October 19.

Top Of Page

Step II Productions has auditions for an original musical,

"Five Candles," on Saturday, October 21, at 6 p.m. Performances will

be at Bristol Riverside Theater in the mornings December 4 through 8.

They are looking for boys and girls ages 5 through 16 who are willing

to take time off of school. Auditions will be at the Dance and

Performing Arts Conservatory, Vermilion Square, 8919 New Falls Road,

Levittown, Pennsylvania. Call 215-946-0100.

Omicron Theater Productions seeks actors for speaking and

non-speaking parts, male and female, ages 20 through 50, and backstage

help. Auditions by appointment on Friday and Saturday, October 6 and

7; Friday and Saturday, October 13 and 14; and Friday and Saturday,

October 20 and 21. Call 609-443-5598.

Yardley Players Theater Company announces auditions for

"The Mystery of Edwin Drood" on Saturday and Sunday, October 28 and

29, from 1 to 5 p.m. at Kelsey Theater, Mercer County College.

Performances are at Kelsey, January 12 to 211 Twelve principals and 18

chorus members are needed. For guidelines and audition appointment,

call Marge Swider, 215-968-1904.

Top Of Page
Participate Please

Westminster Conservatory offers a trio of trips to New

York City to hear New York Philharmonic matinee performances:

Saturday, November 4; Saturday, January 27, 2001; and Saturday, April

14, 2001. Each outing offers round-trip bus transportation, allowing

time for lunch or visiting before the performances; tickets are $54. A

February 17 outing to the Metropolitan Museum of Art features music

and songs by Gershwin, Ellington, and Poulenc; $41 per person. Call


Rancocas Valley Regional High School Music Boosters is

looking for hand-crafters for its Fall Craft Show, to be held on

Saturday, November 18, at Holly Hills Elementary School in Westampton.

Each space is $30. Proceeds will benefit instrumental music groups at

RVRHS. Call 609-265-1547.

Bucks County Audubon Society is sponsoring a two-day

guided Fall Foliage Field Trip for Photographers on Saturday, October

14, and Saturday, October 21. Photographer Curt Cowgill will share his

expertise with photographers of all levels while visited area sites at

the peak of the fall color. $30 fee. Call 215-297-5880.

head 14 = Volunteer Call

Colloquium Depot Limited seeks volunteers to help with

"Colours," a world premiere concert to be held in New Hope on

Saturday, November 4. Interested people can attend a reception on

Thursday, October 12, to meet the cast and discuss volunteer jobs. The

show still has openings for technical crew and young dancers of color.

Call 215-862-3396.

Retired and Senior Volunteer Program of Middlesex County

is seeking volunteers to service as mentors for juveniles referred by

family court. They will work closely with the youth and his family

under the guidance and supervision of court officers. Training is

provided by family court. Call Joelyn Bobin or Milli Groves at

732-249-6330 for information.

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