Monday, May 18, 2015

The Best Films from Cameron Crowe

*** After a week away from the real world basking in the Bermuda sun on a nice and relaxing vacation, I'm back at it with my Movie List of the Month showcase. 

Despite having won an Academy Award for his brilliant screenplay for the 2000 music drama classic, Almost Famous, writer and director Cameron Crowe has never been held in the same esteem as many legends of Hollywood. That isn't to say, however, that Crowe hasn't made his own impact on the history and future of cinema. His style is unique and even peculiar at times, yet Crowe has always managed to tell heartfelt and honest stories. With the filmmaker's newest comedy-drama, Aloha, arriving in theaters later this month (and it's one I can't wait to feast my eyes on), I've devoted May's Movie List of the Month to the best films involving a fine talent and under-appreciated storyteller, Cameron Crowe (here's April's List).

Honorable Mention: Singles and We Bought a Zoo

#5. Vanilla Sky (2001)

After the overwhelming success of Cameron Crowe's beloved romance set to an NFL football backdrop in 1996's Jerry Maguire, he was pretty much given free rein to do as he pleased. A handful of years later Crowe re-teamed with Tom Cruise in a more odd and daring mystery-drama, Vanilla Sky. It must have been difficult to convince Cruise to wear a blank white mask over his handsome face, but the megastar pushed his ego aside and branded an intriguing and clever story of an incarcerated business tycoon charged with murder. Vanilla Sky isn't by any stretch an overly exceptional film, yet it's an iconic example of Crowe's singular style to superb storytelling.

#4. Fast Times at Ridgemont High (1982)

Although he's somehow manages to avoid the spotlight, Cameron Crowe is responsible for having his hand in many classic films. One of which is the must-see teen comedy, Fast Times at Ridgemont High. Following a laughable and diverse group of southern California high school students at the turn of the decade, Crowe wrote the screenplay for the film which was actually adapted from his own 1981 book of the same name (so we can add accomplished novelist to his long list of credentials as well). Not only is Fast Times a hysterical portrait of growing up, it also stands as the film that sparked the well-regarded career of two-time Oscar winner Sean Penn. 

#3. Say Anything (1989)

One of the spectacular 80s classics that sometimes gets lost in the shuffle is Say Anything. While the quintessential romantic comedy will always be remembered for its iconic scene where recent high school graduate Lloyd Dobler (played by John Cusack) thrusts his stereo high into the air blasting Peter Gabriel outside the object of  his affection's window, Say Anything is a soulfully told love story that Crowe both wrote and directed with delicate tenderness. And, once again, we find another film mightily influenced by the vision of Cameron Crowe that will forever stand the test of time.

#2. Almost Famous (2000)

One of Cameron Crowe's major contributions to American art in his endearing ability to capture the essence of our youthful teenage years. But none of his coming-of-age stories have been able to surpass the phenomenal work of his timeless masterpiece, Almost Famous. Unforgettable in every way imaginable, Crowe transports us to the 1970s where we follow a 15 year-old teen named William Miller who's hired by Rolling Stone Magazine to write and cover the rock band Stillwater on their U.S. tour. Crowe uses this music induced classic to teach us lessons about love, life and rock and roll. But not only is Almost Famous a fantastic film, it's a much-needed reminder of the brilliance we lost in the unfortunate passing of the great Philip Seymour Hoffman. 

#1. Jerry Maguire (1996)

I have a ton of respect for Cameron Crowe and love many of the works highlighted on this list, but none could dethrone the major Oscar player, Jerry Maguire. Crowe effectively uses the backdrop of professional football and the cutthroat nature of sports agencies to deliver one of the most magnificent love stories ever told. Tom Cruise gives a towering performance in the title role, but it was supporting star Cuba Gooding Jr who walked out of the Academy Awards show a winner. After Jerry Maguire (Cruise) gets fired following a plea for reform in the sports agency industry, he finds a new lease on life with his loyal co-worker (Renee Zellweger) and lone client (Gooding Jr.) that he's hesitant to embrace. Crowe has always been amazing at bringing such powerful characters to life and there is no shortage of them here. Jerry Maguire is just one of the many fine films influenced by the visionary and storyteller, Cameron Crowe. Hopefully Aloha will join this long list of exceptional work. 

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