Almost Famous (2000)

What a wondrously wonderful film! From the opening moments where we hear the unmistakeable sound of a needle being placed on a vinyl record set to the different film studios’ logos, to the opening credits being hand written (and also erased at times) with a pencil, we know we are in for a fun film watching experience.  And oh, how fun indeed!  Besides the fantastic soundtrack from the rock n roll era of the 70s, writer director Cameron Crowe takes us on this semi-autobiographical adventure, where a boy poses as a man to experience life through rock n roll!  Displaying an envious romp through a concert tour with and up and coming (ficticious) band, Almost Famous shows us how rewarding life can be if you grab it by the balls, but also the virtue of being shamelessly intelligent in a world that tells you that it ain’t cool to be that way!  This is one of the best films of all time….!!

We first meet our young hero William Miller when he is just 11 years old (although he thinks he is 12 – long story).  He lives with his over protective yet loving mother (Frances McDormand) and rebellious older sister Anita (Zooey Deschanel) in sunny San Diego, California.  Mom is a nonconformist who is raising her children to think for themselves, so long as they abide by her rules which include celebrating Christmas on a day in September, no rock n roll music and NO DRUGS!  When Anita can no longer handle living at home (just after she turns 18) she packs up and leaves with her boyfriend to become a flight attendant, and does so quite ceremoniously to the sounds of Simon and Garfunkel!  Before she departs, she informs William to look under his bed where he finds an emergency style tote of rock n roll records with handy notes advising William as to the proper way to listen to each record!

Cut to four years later and we meet the 15 year old William (Patrick Fugit) who looks like a typical 1970s teenager with the scruffy hair and long pants.  There is nothing typical about our hero, so discovers famous rock n roll critic for Creem Magazine, Lester Bangs (Phillip Seymour Hoffman).  Through the persistence of sending him his articles from the high school newspaper, William gets to meet Bangs and have a sit down with him to learn the ins-and-outs of rock journalism including the virtue of being unmerciful and honest and no matter what happens, DO NOT MAKE FRIENDS WITH THE ROCKSTARS!  In this brilliant scene, William is given an assignment by Bangs to write 1,000 words on Black Sabbath after going to their concert that night.

Not having a ticket, William is forced to find a clever way in to the concert via backstage; after a couple of failed attempts, he finally makes it in, and it is in that moment the real WIlliam Miller is born!!  As he enters the bowels of the arena, a look of gracious awe falls about his face as if he knows he is exactly where he needs to be at that moment in his life – we should all feel so lucky!  It is here where he meets the world: An up and coming band called Stillwater, many rock clingers and many groupies (excuse me, Band-Aids), including the world renown and beautifully exotic (Miss) Penny Lane (Kate Hudson).

Stillwater is comprised of four total members, but mostly the world is interested in lead guitarist Russell Hammond (Billy Crudup).  William makes fast friends with Penny and despite Lester Bangs’ advice, William is seemingly infatuated with Russell.  After the show William and Penny make plans to go see Stillwater play in Los Angeles, which makes William as excited as any teenage boy would be making plans with a beautiful young lady!

Despite learning in LA that Russell and Penny Lane are some sort of an item, the trip is very rewarding for William and it leads to Rolling Stone Magazine hiring him to travel with Stillwater on their tour across the United States.  The man who hires William is Ben Fong-Torres who mistakes William for a fully grown well adjusted adult, maybe due to his writing ability and the way he pitches his ideas to him.  Whatever the reason, William finds himself having to convince his overprotective mother to let him go on tour with the band!  Not for nothing, but God bless actors like Frances McDormand who know just the right amount of spice to add to a role that may have otherwise been a cliche.  The scene where she grants permission is short and to the point and the way in which McDormand delivers the lines is priceless – good on ya Frances!

So we find our hero travelling across the country trying to write this article for Rolling Stone (sometimes on napkins in a bathtub) about the up and coming band (from Troy Michigan) Stillwater!  He learns lesson after lesson and DEFINITELY becomes friends with the band!  He calls Lester Bangs at all hours of the night seeking advice as he has trouble writing his article.  These scenes between Bangs and William on the phone are an important piece to the film.  Most of the tour scenes are super fun to watch and are happening at a breakneck frenetic pace, and the meetings between William and Bangs help provide a calm center in the rock n roll storm and to the film!  One of the calls comes after the tour and the conversation is filled with beautiful honesty and artful sweetness where Bangs explains the integrity it takes to be a great writer – judicious and prudent…!!

Every film lover DESERVES to see this incredible film!  Not only is the plot exciting and inspiring, but the music is great complementing each scene/moment perfectly!**  Crowe at the helm is on fire directing his script giving us all interesting characters to watch do their thing!  From the Rolling Stone execs to the groupies on tour, we are constantly entertained by all of them throughout the film.  Even at the end where the film gets wrapped up in a nice little bow, it is done so with such charm and with a really cool and unique set up, that we don’t mind.  Crowe trusts the audience to trust that his characters are intelligent to realize life doesn’t always have a happy ending – just this moment of this character’s life does.  It takes some serious confidence as a filmmaker to do this, and Mr. Crowe, we are happy that you did…..

** Elton John’s song Tiny Dancer is set to a sort of crossroads moment of the film and is perceived by many as one of the best uses of a song in a movie ever.

Room (2015)

To speak of the film Room strictly from a plot standpoint would be a terrible injustice to the efforts of the filmmakers involved in delivering this bold masterpiece to the screen.   In the midst of the the film’s unconvention, we find a symmetry that emboldens our care for the main players (in the film) and also provides an emotional transition from scene to scene so that we may be witness to these people’s extraordinary journey to “normalcy.”  This is one of the year’s best films!

I once again hesitate to offer a plot description for Room as I feel going in blindly will be a better filmgoing experience for everyone.  That being said, I can tell you this is a powerful film containing subject matter that is not easily digestable.  You will feel uncomfortably at times, but I promise if you stick with our heroes of the film, you will be a satisfied filmgoer.

The director Lenny Abrahamson wisely holds back (initially) on the broader world of our two heroes (Ma & Jack) to let us discover for ourselves the true horror of their lives (moreso for Ma).  And I don’t know how much Abrahamson had to do with it, but this is one of the very best performances by a child in cinema history, and Jacob Tremblay should earn an Oscar Nomination for his performance.  Brie Larson as Ma is also a shoo-in for a Best Actress nomination.

And that’s all for now….
I want you to see this as uninformed as possible.


In summation: Room is a must see!  Please don’t be afraid to allow your emotions to become your guide and follow them to the conclusion.  Understand this is not an entertaining film per se and that you will have to immerse yourself in to the film’s unconventional waters in order to enjoy the experience.  If you can do that, you will be seeing one of the decade’s best films….!!


The Best Shitty Flicks!

I seem to have noticed over the years that when a person has a heightened interest in something that their peers will always apologize for merely dabbling in to the same arena.  It’s as if your friends feel compelled to fall on the sword of amateurism deeming you the foremost expert of a particular field.  Here’s an example: I love movies!  My friends know this.  Once in awhile someone who does not watch movies as much as I wishes to tell me about a light comedy they just saw and they really liked it.  I’d say nine times out of ten that person will preface their story with, “I know you may consider this to be a dumb movie,” or, “I am no expert like you.”

While I appreciate the sentiment, I assure you  I AM NO EXPERT!  I was not educated in the art of cinema or filmmaking; I cannot wax intelligently about all of the different eras or movements of cinema; I am not 100% fluent in filmese; and I am certainly not above seeing a light comedy and enjoying it!!

All that being said, I can promise you the following: I will always try my best to get aligned with what (I think) the director is trying to convey.  It is my opinion that what makes a movie or film good is if it accomplishes what it set out to do!  But forget about that!  Some times there are movies we just can’t help but love regardless of their artistic merit (or lack thereof).  When seeing a film, I make a habit of applying the philosophy of my good friend Justin Bodary:

A man goes to a theater and sees a film, and forms his own opinion….

If I could, I would see every film ever made and (like I do now) I will always try to find the good qualities it possesses.  I feel it is easier to be objective about a film when you try to see it through the director’s eyes.


SO….. with all that in mind, let’s talk about our favorite shitty flicks!

Best of the Best (1989) – This putrid litte gem of a Karate/Taekwondo movie is so wonderful because it combines those familiar sports film cliches we all love so much: Overcoming an old injury; black sheep team member changes attitude at right time; stubborn coach who is humbled through reason and emotion; bar fight scene displaying our heroes’ karate moves*; etc. etc. etc. etc. etc ETC……!!!

Set to a requisite crappy 80’s sondtrack, Best of the Best follows the  National United States Taekwondo team all the way from tryouts to the big tournament in Korea against the Korean National Team who are far superior fighters than Team USA.

Along the way we see the aforementioned cliches and some really shotty subplots!  For all of it flaws, the movie does actually contain four previous Oscar nominees: James Earl Jones, Eric Roberts, Sally Kirkland and Louise Fletcher who actually is an Oscar winner.  Not that this really matters, but I feel it provides this weird and funny sort of symmetry to the whole thing!

But listen y’all, I LOVE THIS MOVIE!  My friends and I use to rent it every weekend from Videomax!  We watched it so often that we knew at which points in the movie where all the VHS glitches and scratches would show up!  I know every line from the end speech that the bad ass Korean fighter (Dae Han) gives to the bad ass USA fighter (Tommy Lee – I swear to God!) and I even can do the Eric Roberts’ lines with his exact voice (COACH! HE”S GONNA KILL ‘EM!!)!!

FUN STUFF!!!!!!!!

And that’s the point – why be a film snob?  Recognize this movie for exactly what it is: A martial arts vehicle!  I imagine the producers of the film said something like this: “Throw some shitty dialogue together; let’s give the Asian guy a sad backstory and GOD DAMN IT can someone PLEASE get me Eric Roberts on the phone – we need him for the bar fight scene???!!!!”

So in that sense, the movie is a success!  We get to suffer through these contrivances with some good looking actors, James Earl Jones’ awesome voice and Sally Kirkland’s legs!  Oh, and don’t forget about the actual tournament: Some really kick ass martial arts on display!  And as an added bonus, former NFL wide receiver for the Minnesota Vikings and former host of NBA’s ‘Inside Stuff’ Ahmad Rashad does the play-by-play commentating for the Taekwondo tournament scenes!  Versatile guy, eh?!

This will not be the last entry I do about my favorite shitty flicks.  This entry serves as an introduction of who I am as a film lover and entusiast and to have a little fun with it.

I would love to hear what some of your favorite movies are and if you think they fall under the category of shitty flicks.

See ya soon….

*This bar fight scene is so useless to the rest of the film, that I honestly think they shot it and kept it in the movie so its runtime would be over 90 minutes!


Whoa baby! This film is sure to embolden the hatred men and women have for one another in the (sometimes) rotten game of love! “Closer” (2004), directed by Mike Nichols, is often compared to his brilliant movie “Carnal Knowledge”(1971), and rightfully so; both movies involve love triangles of sorts, but “Carnal Knowledge” contains characters you like whereas “Closer” forces the viewer to feel a sort of ambivalence towards its characters, so you have to stand back and wait to see the whole picture unfold before you go all in with any of them.

Although it would never be recognized as such at first glance,                   “Closer” may very well be one of the best movies ever made about love. Brutally honest and unrelenting, this film will hit closer to home with most people than any of the “fairy tale” love stories have in the past.  

What we have here are four people caught in a crisscrossing of confusing feelings of love. Alice (Natalie Portman, Best Supporting Actress nominee) who falls in love with Dan (Jude Law) after a unique meet-cute which begins the movie, and is an example of some very fine film making. Then Dan meets Anna (Julia Roberts in her best role) and falls for her while he is still with Alice. Before Dan and Anna have a chance to get together, Anna meets Larry (Clive Owen, Best Supporting Actor nominee) in another quirky meet-cute (which was inadvertently set up by Dan), and end up married.

This set up sounds like it could be the beginning of a screwball comedy, but I assure you, it’s not that…

By the time it is all said and done, both men will have slept with both women, but that’s not what the film is about. How they all arrive in these misguided passionate scenarios, and the order and number of times they all happen, is what drives this film’s plot.  

And speaking of fine film making, mid way through the film we get to witness a brilliant juxtaposition of two breakups taking place. In each case watch how the men relinquish control of the situation for different reasons, and yielding very different results.  

Clive Owen is amazing in his role as Larry, especially in the aforementioned breakup scene. He seems to be the best of the four characters at this dirty love game. Watch the way he uses Guerrilla warfare tactics that do not always initially get him what he wants, but always give him the upper hand in the long run. In a movie chalked full of great scenes, there is one involving Larry and Alice in a private room of a strip club. Alice is a stripper dancing for Larry and carefully extracting lots of money from him (as women in that arena are ought to do). Note the way this makes Alice feel as she trots around with an arrogance that makes her seem superior to Larry. Only at the end of the scene do we notice that Larry will not be made a fool, and with some snappy coarse dialogue, he puts Alice right in her place. And I promise you this: Most men will be staring in to Larry’s eyes at the closing push in of the scene, in hopes of seeing what he sees.

This film is not for everyone. Most will watch and be disgusted with all the characters. Others, who are more honest with themselves, will watch “Closer” and see a true-to-life character study of love and danger, and the mutual exclusiveness of those two words. I implore you to watch this with an open mind; try to recognize the nastiness of the characters as a normalcy. If you can do that, this will be an enjoyable film for you. Right up until the end, you’ll realize you don’t really know that much about people at all; even those closest to you.

NOTE: The song ‘Blower’s Daughter’ by Damien Rice bookends this movie in the opening and ending scenes. It is one of the best uses of a song I have ever seen. ENJOY!