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Posts Tagged ‘Almost Famous’

I have just seen Rocketman, despite my disdain for musicals, I enjoyed it; however, it doesn’t compare to the best Elton John movie moment ever:

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Mixtape Movies Image 2I’m not exactly sure how, but I thought up the idea of this blogathon without thinking of the most list-centric movie, High Fidelity. Fortunately someone more thoughtful and eloquent than me, Toby from blahblahblahgay not only reminded me of the movie, but this great quote:

“To me, making a tape is like writing a letter – there’s a lot of erasing and rethinking and starting again. A good compilation tape, like breaking up, is hard to do. You’ve got to kick off with a corker, to hold the attention, and then you’ve got to up it a notch, or cool it a notch, and…oh, there are loads of rules.”Rob Gordon (John Cusack) in High Fidelity.

That’s why I had to take High Fidelity as a starting point for a Mixtape Movies of non musical, music movies:Mixtape Movies  High Fidelity

High Fidelity (2000): Stephen Frears’ adapatation of Nick Hornby’s novel about a record shop owner and compulsive list maker going through a crisis and re-evaluating his life in the only way he understands, via lists and music, and lists about music.

Nick and Norah’s Infinite Play list (2008): By the time Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist made it to cinema’s in 2008 the world had moved past mixtapes onto play-lists but Nick (Michael Cera) is hanging on to the steppingstone of the mix CD. Michael Cera is, well Michael Cera as always and Kat Dennings is more adorable than ever, I’m a little too old to fall for the music but I love the movie.

Empire Records (1995): All things considered Empire Records isn’t anything more than a coming-of-age drama, but the backdrop of an independent music store under threat of being swallowed by a larger chain elevates the movie to something more special. It also has a great cast including Anthony LaPaglia, Robin Tunney, Rory Cochrane, Renée Zellweger, and Liv Tyler.

Almost Famous (2000): Cameron Crowe’s semi-autobiographical story of a high-school boy who goes on tour with a rock band to write a story for Rolling Stone Magazine has everything; a great story with a taught script, brilliantly drawn characters and perfect performances. It is filled with funny and memorable moments and great music.

The Commitments (1991): “Do you not get it, lads? The Irish are the blacks of Europe. And Dubliners are the blacks of Ireland. And the Northside Dubliners are the blacks of Dublin. So say it once, say it loud: I’m black and I’m proud” Alan Parker’s story of an Irish soul band just keeps getting better with age.

The Wildcard, A little older than the others on the list but just as relevant and as good: Pete Kelly’s blues (1955): Jack Webb’s Jazz Noir thriller boasts a great performance from Janet Leigh, an even better (and Oscar nominated) performance from Peggy Lee as an alcoholic jazz singer and a memorable cameo from Ella Fitzgerald.

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Another strong decade, 2004 and 2009 only just missed out.

2000: Almost Famous, Battle Royale, The Claim, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, Memento

2001: Mulholland Drive, Donnie Darko: Amelie, Training Day, Y Tu Mamá También

2002: City of God, 28 Days Later, Talk to Her, Hero, Punch-Drunk Love

2003: Oldboy, Kill Bill vol 1, Lost in Translation, X2, Azumi

2005: Sin City, Batman Begins, The Descent, Good Night and Good Luck, Serenity

2006: Pan’s Labyrinth, Casino Royale, Children of Men, Miami Vice (I know I’m of about three people who like it), The Departed

2007: Juno, No Country For Old Men, The Orphanage, Death Proof, Into the Wild

2008: The Dark Knight, The Hurt Locker, In Bruges, Let the Right One In, Gran Torino

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I have recently watched Adventureland and (500) Days of Summer for the first time since seeing them at the cinema in 2009. On first viewing I enjoyed both movies slightly favouring Adventureland, but how have they aged? Firstly for those who don’t know them here is a brief synopsis of each:

Adventureland: Following a change in their fanatical circumstances James Brennan’s (Jesse Eisenberg) parents are unable to help pay his rent whilst away at college and fund his long planned European vacation. Instead he is forced to take a summer job, to this end he finds himself working at a rundown theme park. The games are rubbish and the rides ancient but the place does have its charms most notably Em Lewin (Kristen Stewart).

(500) Days of Summer: Set over 500 days but dispensing with a linear narrative instead choosing to jump backwards and forwards to different parts of the relationship between Tom (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) and Summer (Zooey Deschanel). Through this we gradually build up a picture of who these people are as well as what happened to them.

The big problem with Adventureland on its initial release is that it was very poorly marketed. Directed by Greg Mottola of Superbad fame the trailer and marketing suggest it will be a similar type of film. What we actually get is a far more thoughtful and tender film, the characters have the emotional vulnerability and depth of real people that is lacking in post American Pie movies that would probably be more appropriately labelled teenploitation than teen comedy. An extremely well written movie, it could have been set in any time or place but actually wears its 1980’s setting a well avoiding the usual pitfalls of “period” films with their ironic dialogue and nostalgic nods to the age.

The tone of (500) Days of Summer is perfectly set by the Author’s Note that appears at the start of the film: The following is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to persons living or dead is purely Coincidental …….. Especially you Jenny Beckman……… Bitch. We are reminded that it isn’t a love story, a claim that is not entirely true, but it certainly isn’t a “rom-com” in the traditional sense. This is a good thing, a very good thing as is the skill with witch the none linear narrative is handled. The film also benefits from great dialogue.

Adventureland’s casting is perfect, Jesse Eisenberg’s James is the perfect blend of geek, hopeless romantic with just the tiniest glimmer of cool, think Patrick Fugit in Almost Famous or any one of a number of parts played by Michael Cera. The real star of the film is Kristen Stewart in her first post Twilight movie. The role of an emotionally damaged teenager isn’t a hugely demanding one but she is perfectly cast and shows ability far beyond what her detractors would have you believe she is capable of. Ryan Reynolds, provides good support and there is fantastic comic relief from Bill Hader and the always brilliant Kristen Wiig.

(500) Days of Summer is equally well cast, Joseph Gordon-Levitt (who at the time was best known to me as the kid from 3rd Rock from the Sun) is excellent displaying great range and providing comic moments in his successes and his failures. Zooey Deschanel is only partly successful, she only seems able to play slight variations on the same slightly kooky character but that does work in this film but does nothing to enhance my opinion of her as a actress.

The second viewing has done nothing to change my opinion, I like both of these films but if anything my preference for Adventureland has increased slightly. If you haven’t seen these two movies they are well worth a look. If you have seen them and like them, here are five recommendations: Dazed and Confused (1993), Almost Famous (2000), Cashback (2006), Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist (2008), Scott Pilgrim vs. the World (2010).

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