Rockin’ Flicks: Almost Famous (2000)

I’m not one of those dudes who had their lives changed by Almost Famous. I was friends with some of those guys in high school and in fact saw this movie over at one of their houses in high school. One friend fell in love with Kate Hudson after seeing the flick and another would incessantly sing Stillwater’s “Fever Dog.” Both were in my band. I dug the movie when I saw it, but it didn’t become a favorite.

If you’re somehow unfamiliar with the movie, it’s basically Cameron Crowe’s fictionalized memoir of touring with various bands in the 70s, but centered around a young kid named William and the fictional band Stillwater. The high schooler gets the attention of Rolling Stone who sends him on tour with the band who he becomes friends with even though his mentor Lester Bangs (Philip Seymour Hoffman) warns him against it and also falls for groupie–sorry “Band Aid”–Penny Lane, played by Hudson. It’s basically the story of a kid learning to go from fan to pro in an industry that’s showing him all its warts, no matter how much they wound him.

I actually had more fun spotting the supporting actors in the flick than watching it. I think that’s because I’ve seen and even lived this story a bit myself. Having been a comic book fan who worked in the thick of the comic book world at Wizard, I can really relate to what William goes through (minus the groupies) but comparing a film, even a great one, to my real life, the film’s not going to hold up. I get that it’s great and I love all the rock and roll stuff, because I’m a huge fan of music from that era, but it just doesn’t vibrate inside of me like it might have when I was younger.

Anyway, back to that star watching, here’s the ones I saw. You’ve got Jimmy Fallon playing the manager’s manager. I can’t remember if I knew who he was when the movie first played. The gone-too-soon Mitch Hedberg sits in on a manager poker game! Anna Paquin and Fairuza Balk (The Craft) play groupies. Jay Baruchel is a Led Zeppelin super-fan and even Nick Swardson has a moment as a wild David Bowie fan. Heck even Modern Family‘s Eric Stonestreet pops up as a hotel worker. I’m sure there’s plenty I missed. Plus, of course, one of my favorites Jason Lee plays an important part. It’s funny how similar the character is to Banky from Chasing Amy, but the guy they got to play the singing voice sounds embarrassingly like someone else. Oh, this was also the first movie I saw Zooey Deschanel in and didn’t even realize it!

I think had I bought the movie after I saw it and gave it a few more spins, I would have a lot closer relationship to it, but as it stands, I can appreciate it without falling in love with it. Though, I do adore the “Tiny Dancer” bit. Moments like that in real life are amazing and should be enjoyed both in the moment and later in life. I have incredibly fond ones of singing songs with my buddies back home and even the other week when the missus and I wound up singing “Summer Loving” from Grease, even though she had to sing most of the dude parts because I only know about half the words.

Best Of The Best: Grandma’s Boy (2006)

It’s been a while since I did one of these Best Of The Best posts because I’ve been watching and reading mostly newer stuff that I haven’t seen before and Best Of The Best is reserved for movies, comics, books and eventually records that I truly love. So, in the hierarchy of UnitedMonkee there’s good, great, awesome and then BOTB. And Grandma’s Boy is easily BOTB material even though it’s a relatively new movie.

I was one of the few people that actually went to the theaters to see this movie with some friends. I don’t mean that to sound like I’ve got street cred or anything (I’m not saying I knew Pavement before they got mildly popular), I just mean that the movie didn’t do very well because most people didn’t see it until it came out on DVD. At the time I was a research assistant at Wizard and basically living the dream. I got to work in comics with some rad people. Sure there was bullshit going on, but who cares?

I don’t remember why we went to see GB, actually. It might have appealed to some of my weed loving friends or maybe someone was a big fan of Adam Sandler’s friends, but whatever the reason, we went to the Palisades Mall, got some 2-for-1 beers at Chilis and then stumbled over to the theater for 94 minutes of hilarity.

Aside from being a genuinely fun and hilarious movie with a solid cast (excepting maybe star Allen Covert) that includes Doris Roberts, Nick Swardson, Jonah Hill, Linda Cardellini (from Freaks & Geeks), Joel Moore (of Dodgeball and Hatchet fame), Kevin Nealon, Peter Dante and Shirley Knight (Partridge Family) with cameos by David Spade and Rob Schneider, though curiously not Sandler himself, this movie holds a special place in my heart because it reminds me of how fun working with rad people can be. I know that sounds lame and sentimental, but Brainasium really does remind me of Wizard in a lot of ways. It sure as hell didn’t look as awesome as their place, but there’s a lot to relate to.

The idea behind the movie is that Allen Covert gets kicked out of his place and starts living with his grandma, played by Roberts and her roommates, one of which is Jones. He works as a video game tester and their newest game is running a little behind so boss Nealon hires Cardellini to come in and make sure everything’s on track. From there we meet the interesting, hilarious and seriously weird characters who work in that environment. Sure many of them are over the top, like Moore and some are just sort of there like Hill, but they all make this awesome tapestry of funny that keeps chugging a long, keeping me laughing the whole time.

I get that this one’s not for everyone. There’s a lot of weed humor, plus it’s definitely kind of a dumb comedy, but it holds a special place in my heart and makes me laugh every time. Like earlier today when I popped it in and was both saying lines as they happened (“I’m thinking of getting metal legs.”) and still being surprised here and there (I always forget Hill’s in this movie). So, if you haven’t seen it, I recommend it, though I worry that it might have been too hyped up (and yes, I realized I’m actually adding to that hype). Go out, check it out and enjoy!