“Brian”s Song” the original, not the recently-aired, substandard remake has long been considered the ultimate male weeper, a flick where even (especially) the guy with the highest octane testosterone must purchase a box of tissues before watching. Cameron Crowe”s “Almost Famous” has the same effect on an even icier breed, the pop critic.
When it was released to much fanfare and few ticket-buyers last year, Crowe”s rock odyssey became the ultimate conundrum: One of the year”s best films that no one saw. In the wake of critical acclaim and a Best Original Screenplay (which is included on the first disc Oscar for Crowe, Dreamworks wasted no time releasing the film on a bare-bones DVD. Dreamworks knew full well Crowe was planning on releasing another version after completing this month”s “Vanilla Sky.” Shame on them.
That said, any fan of the film should run to the used-DVD store and sell their old copy before the market gets saturated, and put the money toward the “Director”s Edition Almost Famous/Untitled: The Bootleg Cut.” The double disc set contains the original theatrical version on one disc and the special “Untitled” version on the other.
The movie chronicles the tale of 15-year-old William Miller and his first major writing assignment, covering up-and-coming rock band Stillwater for Rolling Stone. He is the ultimate rock innocent, someone who understands the music without fully grasping the life. What he first sees is a group of golden gods quickly deteriorating into a group of narcissistic hedonists that care more about how the T-shirts look than how the music sounds.
Or wait, maybe music is the most important thing, maybe it”s bigger than the egos. Crowe thwarts stereotypes and presents taut, realistic characters that cannot handle fame.
“Untitled,” Crowe”s studio-shot-dow-original title for the film, contains over 35 minutes of new footage. Flawlessly intergrated, the casual viewer will not be able to spot where new footage, mostly beefed up character development, has been inserted.
Also included are behind-the-scenes footage, deleted scenes, bios, trailers and all of the usual goodies expected on a major DVD of this sort. Crowe”s commentary with his own mother, the inspiration for Frances McDormand”s (William”s mom) character in the film.
An interview with the incomparable Lester Bangs, played by the imcomparable Philip Seymour Hoffman in the film, is the most unexpected and exciting feature on the disc. Even Crowe”s nearly-vain touches, such as putting his own Rolling Stone articles and his own top 10 favorite albums from 1973 on the first disc, are endearing and add to the understanding of the semi-autobiographical film.
Stillwater themselves make an appearence, as the fictional band”s six-song CD is included in the package. The songs are blatantly awful-fun ripoffs of every rock band from the “70s.
Crowe admits that his only regret is that the viewer doesn”t have to copy the DVD from a friend, or acquire it illegally, as one has to do with most other definitive bootlegs. Even the faux-torn packaging adds to the effect. Unfortunatly, unlike a real bootleg, buying the new disc makes the original almost worthless.