Blu-Ray Review: Cameron Crowe’s ‘Almost Famous’ Stands Up a Decade Later

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CHICAGO – As the Oscars are almost upon us, several studios have been releasing Academy Award juggernauts of the past like “Raging Bull,” “Dances With Wolves,” and “The Color Purple.” Consider the re-release of “Almost Famous,” in its “Untitled” form exclusively at Best Buy, an ugly duckling cousin of these releases. Yes, it won the Oscar for Best Original Screenplay (well-deserved) but it missed out on nods it should have received in multiple other categories. Yes, I’m still angry. “Almost Famous” is one of the best films of the ’00s and has held up beautifully since its release just over a decade ago. Blu-Ray Rating: 5.0/5.0
Blu-Ray Rating: 5.0/5.0

“Almost Famous” is a semi-autobiographical coming-of-age tale about rock ‘n’ roll, groupies, the road, and why people fall in love with music in the first place. It is an assured, complex, brilliant film that features career-best work by Kate Hudson and Billy Crudup along with excellent performances from the great Philip Seymour Hoffman and Frances McDormand. (Both Hudson and McDormand were Oscar-nominated, neither won.)

Whatever-happened-to-that-guy Patrick Fugit stars as William Miller, a teenage reporter who gets the job of a lifetime when he lands an assignment for Rolling Stone to cover the fictional band Stillwater (headed by Billy Crudup as the star guitarist, perfectly nailing the odd combination of ego and self-doubt that often creates musical icons). As Cameron Crowe says on the behind-the-scenes featurette, “I love that time in someone’s life when the world twists.” “Almost Famous” is about that twisting time. With a simply spectacular screenplay, “Almost Famous” is a love letter to both music and coming-of-age films in general. It’s brilliant.

Almost Famous: The Bootleg Cut was released on Blu-Ray on January 30th, 2011
Almost Famous: The Bootleg Cut was released on Blu-Ray on January 30th, 2011
Photo credit: Paramount

And the “Untitled” version of the film (also known as “The Bootleg Cut” or “Director’s Version,” whatever you want to call it) is even better than the original, fleshing out characters of a film for which I can never get enough. As timeless as it was in 2000, “Almost Famous” remains a great piece of work by a wonderful filmmaker. It’s sad that Cameron Crowe hasn’t made a film as brilliant as “Almost Famous” since it was released but it’s still a wonderful movie (and the fact that Crowe has two upcoming projects including a new fictional film and a Pearl Jam documentary set to be released this year makes me giddy).

The great collection of special features on the “Untitled” version of the film includes a commentary by Crowe, an archival making-of, and the infamous “Stairway to Heaven” scene in which the classic Led Zeppelin song was meant to be played in its entirety. They never got the rights, so you’ll have to play the song yourself along with the scene.

Special Features:
o Commentary by Director Cameron Crowe
o Intro by Cameron Crowe
o The Making of Almost Famous
o B-Sides: Behind-the-Scenes Footage
o “Love Comes and Goes” — the demo vocals by Nancy Wilson
o “Small Time Blues”
o “Fever Dog” Music Video
o Cleveland Concert
o Stairway
o Interview with Lester Bangs
o Cameron Crowe’s Top 10 Albums of 1973
o Rolling Stone Articles
o Script
o Theatrical Trailer HD

“Almost Famous” stars Patrick Fugit, Billy Crudup, Frances McDormand, Kate Hudson, Jason Lee, Anna Paquin, Fairuza Balk, Noah Taylor, and Philip Seymour Hoffman. It was written and directed by Cameron Crowe. The “Untitled” version of the film debuted on Blu-ray on January 30th, 2011, exclusively at Best Buy. It is unrated and runs 162 minutes. content director Brian Tallerico

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