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This article was prepared for the October 4, 2000 edition of
U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights reserved.
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
NJ Film Festival
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: www.rci.rutgers.edu/~nigrin.
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
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.
"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.
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.
"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.
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
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.
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
"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.
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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