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Almost Famous (revenge of the Ain’t It Cool Newsies)

So the big movie right now is Almost Famous. A nicely crafted ’70s epic about a 15 year old kid named William who writes music reviews, and ends up having Rolling Stone magazine foot the bill for him to go on tour with a major rock band, to write an article. Written and directed by Cameron Crowe, for whom most of this shit REALLY went down, it is obviously a movie that is very close to his heart.

In a way it’s kind of a pisser that THIS would be the cherished personal project for a director. This guy is saying hey everybody, when I was fifteen I fell in love with one of the many beautiful groupies I had sex with on the national tour I went on with a famous rock band. But then we didn’t get together. Bummer, eh?

It’s kind of like on that radio talk show Loveline, when they get what they call a “my dick is too big to ride my bicycle” call. Where it is really more bragging than questioning.

But still, this is an interesting story and it’s well made so it’s hard not to get involved. The movie is like what they call “a love letter to rock ‘n roll” especially in the opening scenes where a younger version of William has his awe struck first confrontation with The Who’s Tommy on vinyl. Or when his older sister, who by the way hubba hubba, runs off to become a stewardess and she tells her mom “This song explains why I’m leaving” and plays some song that, shit I don’t know what the hell the guy is singing about but apparently it communicates all of her emotions better than a conversation could. Because that’s rock ‘n roll.

I’m sure you’ve heard alot of good things about this picture, and it deserves most of them. But think about it. What critic is NOT going to give four stars to a well made movie about a critic. Who goes on tour with a rock band. And gets gang raped by a bunch of hot, giggly girls. And learns that he doesn’t have to be cool to be cool.

Almost FamousI think smart kids will relate to this movie a little more than I do. This is about a kid with kind of an unstable family because his pop is dead and his sister ran off and his mom is kind of nuts, but on the other hand his mom is a college professor who is very supportive of his talents even when it scares the shit out of her.

It also really knows how to illustrate the contrast between the two worlds, the world of the ordinary kid and the world of backstage at Black Sabbath. I guess this is what they call “mild spoiling” so skip this paragraph if you haven’t seen it. But I like when after his first adventure in the larger than life world of rock stars and “band aids” and dreams of running off to Morocco, he is ushered back into his everyday life by mom doing “the family whistle”. And even better, I like at the very end of the movie when, after his great adventure in seventies rock ‘n roll, this kid is relieved to be back in his bedroom with the Jimi Hendrix poster and just drop face first onto his bed.

There is also some occasional bits of really out there humor. Like when the kid watches his love getting her stomach pumped and he smiles and you hear Stevie Wonder singin “My Cherie Amour” playing on the soundtrack. Or when his mom is doing a lecture and suddenly she blurts out “Rock stars have kidnapped my son!” and one student scribbles something in her notes. It doesn’t make any damn sense and that’s why it makes a motherfucker smile.

You gotta hand it to the performances in the movie. The kid, I don’t know his name, but he’s no hearthrob. He’s an everyteen. I like this kid, with his big scared eyes with bags under them. Jason Lee and Billy Crudup are also very good as members of the band Stillwater although if you wanna see an even better Billy Crudup movie you gotta see Jesus’ Son available now on home video.

If I have one complaint about this movie, and I do, it is that Kate Hudson, as the mythical and I guess based on real life groupie goddess Penny Lane, is not quite as awe inspiring as Cameron Crowe obviously thinks she is. I mean okay, the dude is probaly still in love with the real Penny lane and hired this girl because she reminds him of her. But to the rest of us – I mean, we weren’t there. We are not in on the joke. We are not quite as swept up in her as he is, I think.

Don’t get me wrong, she does a good job and she’s cute and what not. But she doesn’t have the real knock you on your ass goddess presence she is supposed to. She doesn’t have the thing that will make you buy that she is somehow shaping rock ‘n roll history by serving as a muse to the rock stars. Now young Jane Fonda, that’s a goddess. Brigitte Bardot. Really, any of Roger Vadim’s wives. Or Jeanne Moreau. Or the gal from Breathless. Or now days, I’d say Chloe Sevigny (just in the eyes). Or a girl I used to date named Honeypot. She was bad news but those are girls you can write a song for. Kate Hudson… I don’t know, maybe you’d include a verse for her. But not a whole song. At least not a long one, and in the ’70s alot of the songs went on for ten, fifteen minutes. Lots of guitar solos.

Anyway that’s the part of the movie I think most individuals will respond to. But us Writers and critics, we respond to the writing and criticking. We like how Philip Seymour Hoffman plays I guess a real guy, this Lester Bangs, the edgy rock critic who recognizes the kid’s talent and mentors him over the phone. Although come to think of it it’s pretty creepy having the dude from Happiness talking on the phone with a teenage boy late at night. Oh jesus let me pause to get that out of my mind.

Anyway we like seeing this kid try desperately to find SOMETHING he can Write about, something good, so he can turn it in and doesn’t wind up looking like a jackass. It’s called a weekly column, kid. Get used to it.

And then after the rush of the deadline is over, will he have something he is proud of? Will he have anything? If Rolling Stone likes it, does that mean it’s good, or bad? Will Lester still like it? Will anybody like it?

Jesus kid let me tell you a story. This is from one Writer to another. The rest of you motherfuckers can just butt out. This is a story of a man named Vern, who everytime he gets published on the ain’t it cool news, in front of millions of readers, everybody tears his works to shreds.

Now I swear to you people, when I submit a review to the ain’t it cool news, I’m not trying to a provoke a reaction out of these people. In fact I forget there are even people out there who hate me. When I sent in my Exorcist review I was thinking hey, this is better than your average Vern review. This is more entertaining than the other Exorcist reviews they’ve published, if I do say so myself, as an entertainer in a way I am an expert on these things. I’m thinking Vern, you should be proud of yourself. People are gonna like this.

And then the talkbacks start coming:

This is one of the worst written “reviews” I’ve ever read on this site. When people try to be cool and use “fuck” every other word, it only serves to make them look unintelligent. So did he like it or not? I couldn’t tell. There was too much of “well, there were these new fuckin things and they were good, but not that good, and they added that other shit too.” I think Harry should stop letting Keanu write reviews.

First of all, I’d like to point out that “The Exorcist” came out in 1973 (27 years ago) not 17 like your reviewer states. I also don’t appreciate his bad language (is he trying to compete with Linda Blair?). I’m sure there are some younger readers here who could do without it.

Okay, so arguably he has a good point with the math. But what, it doesn’t count as writing if you throw in a motherfucker here and there? And they just keep coming:

** Pretty dopey review as Vern didn’t really say much about the movie and seemed intent only to promote his “schtik.” Mildly funny. And to the guy who thinks saying f__k every other word is somehow “jive” or cool then you really need to get away from your keyboard every once and awhile. It’s merely childish or low class, take yer pick.

I hope this Vern fellow WAS on some sort of drug because there can be no other excuse to have written such a horribly profane, infantile, rambling, incoherent piece of garbage. Nitpicking on the critics at AICN is something of a vogue on the talkbacks that I have usually chosen to ignore. The complaints about bad grammar, bad spelling, and bad language never seemed all that serious to me. I’m pretty lenient on all those points, but this just goes too far! What was THAT all about anyhow? It couldn’t have been anything about the Exorcist – more like a poor attempt to look like a “bad ass.” His review and his idiotic response just shows he obviously has no class, no restraint and his rabid cynicism is a transparent veil to hide his own insecurities. I don’t mind in your face reviews or cynicism but when it goes as far as getting in the way of the purpose of the review then it goes too far. Harry, this is your place and you can do whatever you want, but in my opinion, you really don’t need this kind of refuse stinking up your place. Keep him around, and it’s just going to be one person a lot of people will just have to ignore.

Constant swearing and a general lack of grammar are what pass for style on AICN now? I mean in the past I could always count on a rather in depth review, with thought and effort put into it. I didn’t always agree, Harry you will never live down Armageddon nor will I let you forget it, but I respect peoples opinions. But let me say this I am hard pressed to find any merit in putting up Vern’s “review”. I’m not offended by the language as I could personally give a shit less about that type of thing. I also don’t mind him using the whole Catholic stereotype thing, although I’m sure others do. But come on if you set out to review something, review it. Let us know something about it, if you liked it, what you liked, why you liked it, why you didn’t like it, why you howl at the moon….anything but make it relevant. Harry likes diversity and I appreciate this but seriously have some standards just because a guy writes this and calls it a review doesn’t mean it has to be posted. Try suggesting its not a review and that they rewrite it. I have spoken… —DaKing

This review is a nice example of that first grade reading level you’ve heard so much about. Why did we need to read it? Why did it need to be posted? At any rate, both versions of the film are excellent.

I think it’s time for you to stop submitting your reviews until you can write them in a way that involves the reader into the deeper aspects of the films you review. If you are passionate about movies, that’s fine. However, you have to have a talent for the written word to avoid all of the negative reactions you are getting here. Remember this: Just because you may like WATCHING a sport doesn’t mean you can PLAY the sport. Therefore, just because you LIKE movies, doesn’t mean you are qualified to WRITE about them, at least in an entertaining way. I got less information about “The Exorcist” from your review than I’d get by simply watching the TV commercial. Oh, and one final point. When I was in college, my English professors consistently mentioned that profanity is “lazy writing.” It can be used to heighten the impact of a sentence, but only if used wisely. With your reviews, the profanity is more like a diversion to mask your difficulty with finding a better, more fluid form of speech. If you submit anything again, cut out the unnecessary profanity, or you will continue to sound like an immature 10th grader with a computer.

What a waste of time. Vern you need to retire because you seriously suck. Harry you are a moron for having this hack waste everone’s time.

By the was Vern and Harry nice professionalism. If you remove the “F” bomb from the review it shortens the whole thing to one paragraph.

Now listen William. I know what you’re gonna say: ignore these jackasses. And it is true that I got many supportive comments on the talkbacks as well. But when you are a public figure such as you or myself or especially an Artist these types of shit can gnaw at your soul like a piranha on a cow’s ass.

Because you read the same comments again and again and you think, “Don’t listen to them. What would Lester Bangs say? What would Hunter S. Thompson say? What would Cecil B. Demented say? What would Clint fucking Eastwood say? You know what you’re doing. Stand up for it. Don’t be dragged into sameness and mediocrity.”

But then, somewhere way in the back of your mind, there’s a little squeaky voiced Vern meekly raising his hand saying, “Um, excuse me. Um, hey guys. Hahem. What if these retards are right?”

And then you can’t help but think, maybe the little dude has a point. If you are a Writer, isn’t part of your job to communicate your ideas? And here you got at least 8 newsies who act like you wrote the whole thing in Mexican. (And they don’t read Mexican.)

One guy even thought I was being cynical, when personally I think I’m about as idealistic and pie in the sky corny as a motherfucker could be after punking a good dozen or so inmates during nearly a decade of incarceration.

They’re saying I didn’t even make any points about the movie. I didn’t say if I liked it.

And I look over the review and I’m goin, that’s not true! I talked about how it’s different with an audience. How it’s changed over the years. Which parts are spruced up or shortened. Why I think it’s creepy. Who I think is scared by it. Which parts I thought were better and worse in the new version. Why I think you should see it even if it’s not as good as the old version. Hell I practically reviewed the “version you’ve never seen before” subtitle and the trailer for Red Planet free of charge.

And it’s not like I was getting real poetical or nothing, it was pretty straight forward. I even said “It’s pretty good” at one point. They act like I wrote it in haiku.

So I’m thinkin, why don’t they get it? WHAT AM I DOING WRONG?

And then there is a pause for reflection. And sudden change of gears. I start thinking no. No Vern, it’s not you. It’s just that these fuckers can’t comprehend a dude writing in the vernacular. And that pisses me off. I don’t care if they hate my conversational tone but they act like it don’t even count as written language. I think this may be a common belief among a certain type of nerds. One individual recently told me that he loved the movie Fight Club, but the book was horrible – “the worst grammar and editing I’ve ever seen in a book!”

God forbid these boys ever have to read Catcher in the Rye!

Well now you see the quandary a motherfucker finds himself in. I got an angel on one shoulder and a devil on the other and both of them are assholes. One of em says Vern, you suck. You can’t Write. You don’t even deserve to capitalize the W when referring to yourself as a writer. Hell you don’t even deserve a w at all, asshole.

And the other says, don’t listen to him Vern. They’re all just retards. You’re over their head! The only reason they don’t understand you is because you are so much smarter than them! Hell half of these guys are probaly competing critics from the Online Critics Association. They don’t even hate your review, they’re just trying to shoot you down to protect their territory!

Plus they wear diapers and it’s a whole fetish, they take pictures of it and post them on the internet.

Well in the end, William, you are one thing. You are a Writer, and a Positive individual. Actually that’s two things but like the guy pointed out I’m bad at math. Anyway what you gotta do as a Writer, as a Positive individual, you gotta sort all these emotions out and try to figure out what’s what. Alls I know is, I’m a beginner. I’m an oldie but a newie. I’m still learning and christ knows I’ll be looking back at these reviews in a couple years going jesus Vern, you call that verve? You call that wit?

(Or whatever. I’m assuming I’ll be smarter then so, whatever I say will be smarter than that. Imagine something smart there.)

But I do have a mission. I want to put a few things into film criticism.

1) balls

2) passion

3) funny

d) personality

To me Writing about film is more than just “I liked it” or “this sucks”. Or following a formula of “Introductory sentence. Plot summary. Movie – good or bad? Closing witticism.”

Writing about film is a personal thing, it is a relationship a man has with his Cinema. My reviews are my love letter to the Cinema just as Almost Famous is Cameron Crowe’s love letter to rock music and this one groupie in the ’70s. I like to talk about what I think of the movie but also how it relates to other movies, and to my life, and to my philosophy. I think movies are more than just a consumer product, they are something that connects an Artist to an audience and an audience to each other and cultures and subcultures to others all around the world. They are our expression and our culture and our common ground. They are art and entertainment and conversation pieces and sometimes they are poems or movements or calls to arms. Also I like to Write about prison.

And so what if you don’t like the word motherfucker. I didn’t like it when you called me a “fellow” but I’m not gonna quote my creative writing teacher to prove that it makes you sound like a jackass.

So I gotta consider what they say and I gotta be sure they are wrong and when I’m sure they’re wrong I gotta commence to prove that I’m right. By doing it my way. And if I need to feel understood I gotta keep in mind those people who supported me in the talkbacks and those people who pop up in the guest book every time I get a new one up on the ain’t it cool, the guys who tell me, “Vern, you rock.”

(Which means good. They probaly don’t have that one in the ’70s but in the 2000, they say that a person rocks, and that means it’s good.)

Anyway obviously ol’ Vern is blowing a gasket here, but if that is the kind of passion you feel for Writing you might just make it in this business. Good luck and don’t let the bastards get you down if these fuckers go after you in the talkbacks just tell me I’ll start writing motherfucker left and right, they won’t even know what hit em.

thanks William.

–Vern

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.
This entry was posted on Wednesday, September 27th, 2000 at 2:29 pm and is filed under Drama, Music, Reviews, Vern Tells It Like It Is. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

8 Responses to “Almost Famous (revenge of the Ain’t It Cool Newsies)”

  1. M. Prestwich (no relation)

    September 18th, 2010 at 12:20 am

    Look I know I’m posting on a column that’s really old, but I’ve been really enjoying going through these one by one. I’m really glad you didn’t let all the negative voices discourage you, especially from that cesspool of lowest common denominator thinking known as the Ain’t it cool talkbacks. I only know about you because of your Writing on the Ain’t it cool news – after reading your second review over there, I thought, damn this guy is funny, I got to check more of his stuff out. I’ve always found your stuff genuine, funny, and if not smart always unique and often insightful. Anyways, I’m sure you’re tired of me kissing your add, ‘specially on a 10 year old column – but hey,at least two Prestwiches dig your stuff so you must be doing something right.

  2. M. Prestwich (no relation)

    September 18th, 2010 at 12:25 am

    Damn phone auto corrected, my ass to “add”…still I’m looking at your site and commenting from my phone, got to love technology, even if it has a puritan or aicn talkback sensibility to language. I mean ducking shut on a stick, I typed ass, so just put ass. Oh son of a hitch there it goes again. Damn commit phone.

  3. It’s so weird to read those because I really can’t remember when talkbackers wrote like that. In my opinion they were completely wrong and weirdly terrible readers but they actually wrote complete paragraphs expressing their views. It’s almost refreshing. And it’s weird that there was a time when a bunch of people on there not only didn’t call everybody penises and buttholes but were really offended by that kind of language. When did that change and where did those people go?

  4. Maybe you drove them away and infected the ones that remained with your profanity?

    Just joshin Vern, what a bunch of whiners, both this review and THE EXORCIST review are hilarious.

  5. Sometimes I wonder if there really is a conspiracy to spread stupid throughout the developed world, and if so, has it worked? But I think not. I think it’s a headless blunder masquerading under the illusion of a grand master-plan.

    Personally I think it’s more to do with entitlement and laziness. Don’t get me wrong, I’d rather have that than have forty year-old men dying of lung cancer because they’ve worked twelve hours down the local coal pit every day since they were ten years old. But that’s the trouble with a world in which you can literally get anything you want by picking up a phone or a keyboard – it means you don’t HAVE to work at “stuff”. It does seem like the more you give people, the greater their self-importance and their sense that they can do / have anything they want.

    (Heck, even the quote I used above, you used to have to be able to remember this stuff to be smart. Now you can just google “Cube” and “Quotes” and there it is.)

    Jeez, reading back over what I just wrote, I sound like a seventy-year old man, yet I’ve barely just left my twenties. THAT’S disturbing.

  6. Oh, and off-topic, I love this movie. I think it’s true that I “relate” more to some of these movies than you do, Vern. “Scott Pilgrim” was another example. Hope that doesn’t make you feel too old, considering what I just said about my age…

  7. grimgrinningchris

    October 21st, 2013 at 8:05 am

    I had never read this review. The link through the Alphabetical archives is dead and has been for as long as I’ve been TRYING to read it. Thankfully I was able to get to it by Google-searching “outlaw vern almost famous review”. And damn, now I have to go back and read that Exorcist review.

    Heck, maybe you should be able to just search only reviews that were originally for AintItCool.

    I need more coffee.

  8. grimgrinningchris

    October 21st, 2013 at 8:13 am

    Oh. Looks like I’ve read that Exorcist review. And recently, no less.
    What is wrong with my memory???

    I’ll have to say that I enjoy Vern’s writing MUCH more now. The insight has always been the same, but the actual verbiage on the older reviews(while Vern was still developing his style/voice/character) is a little too heavy on the tough-guy talk.
    I wonder if there is a review that is like the turning point review writing-wise, or if it was so gradual that it was unnoticeable.
    Must have been 2003/2004-ish.

    Babble babble babble.

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