AEOS Review: Cameron Crowe and his Elizabethtown (2005)

This post, I’m focusing on director Cameron Crowe, and in particular, his film Elizabethtown, the mediocre-reviewed film considered a flop on the director’s resume.

Similar to the reviews Elizabethtown received, the movie reflects the low points a person must go through in order to learn about a little thing called life. To start this post off, here’s a quote from Crowe himself, published only 3 weeks ago in Vulture magazine regarding the critics’ poor reaction to the film Elizabethtown:

To me, only if something comes from an inauthentic place should you feel vulnerable to the things that anybody might say.

He defends the film insomuch without actually coming across as defensive, a feeling that would have been understandable considering the rough reviews it received.

I’ve read several negative reviews/comments regarding Cameron Crowe and his films since few believe any of his movies have lived up to his most well-known films, Almost Famous (2000) and Say Anything (1989). I have to applaud Crowe for the way in which he has handled the criticism, because as a filmmaker and an artist, he gets it. He goes on in Vulture:

I stand behind it [Elizabethtown] and didn’t feel savaged. It was a little brutal. But I get that people want to express themselves. I express myself, too.

Crowe is one of those filmmakers who makes movies that resonate, even if they don’t connect with a wide audience. Crowe is an autobiographical filmmaker. There aren’t many of those out there–filmmakers who live, write, and then direct a movie that mirrors one’s own life. In a sit-down, unscripted interview with Orlando Bloom, the film’s star, both filmmaker and actor answer questions written in by viewers, and questions each have compiled for one another. Bloom asks Crowe what is the one thing he looks for in an actor, and without hesitation, Crowe replies, “Authenticity.” He goes on to say how he looks for authenticity in a person’s eyes, and that’s how an actor can connect with an audience, because the performance given is not just a performance, but something true and honest that viewers can find relatable.

After watching the film a few times, I started to wonder. . . how the heck did Crowe get Orlando Bloom to sign on to this movie? It’s nothing like Bloom has ever done before, and despite criticism on the Brit’s American accent (which really wasn’t bad!), Bloom sold it. But before he joined, could you imagine Ashton Kutcher filling the role? Well, he was hired until Crowe decided to call up Bloom. It’s amazing to think that James Franco and Chris Evans auditioned for the role too.

When it comes to writing, the old cliche goes, “you should write what you know.” That is what Crowe does, and Elizabethtown is example of that. At the end of the day, Crowe doesn’t care that many people–namely, critics–didn’t like Elizabethtown. And as a big fan of the movie, I don’t care that they didn’t get it either. Yes, there were some cheesy parts, or lines that were a little far out, but guess what I got out of it? A lot of heart, something Cameron Crowe films are filled with.

If you read or watch any interview with Crowe back from 2005, you’ll learn that the movie was a tribute to his late father. The movie, made over a decade after his father passed, was meant to bring to light those moments where you get to know your parents better after they passed because you failed (or in this movie’s case, Drew Baylor failed) to spend that vital time with family before they were gone.

I’ve seen Elizabethtown maybe a dozen or more so times. I always try to put several months between each viewing, because there’s nothing like noticing things you didn’t see the first, second, or eighth viewing, and this time around, it was no different.

Most of my friends that I beg to sit down and watch Elizabethtown with don’t take away what I’ve taken from it. What makes the Elizabethtown stand out to me? Well, the soundtrack, for one. Before Crowe and Nancy Wilson divorced, Wilson collaborated with Crowe on the soundtracks for many of his films. She composed a fitting score for Elizabethtown, combining a lot of string instruments, namely guitar and banjo, to blend with the rich soundtrack including a laundry list of classic artists, from Patty Griffin to Tom Petty to I Nine to Elton John to My Morning Jacket, who posed as the fictional band “Ruckus” in the film. Perhaps my favorite score song of all time is on the score soundtrack, titled “River Road,” by Nancy Wilson. I love how it captures the feeling of the movie and the characters without being boring or just adding sound to the background.

Another aspect I really appreciated was the tone of the movie. There’s a scene where Drew (Orlando Bloom) walks in and is literally bombarded with all these crazy, random southerners who know all about him and his success with his job, while he returns hugs and looks to people he’s meeting for the first time. It’s one of the best movie representations of southern charm and family and the way they express themselves, and Bloom easily portrays a fish out of water in the setting.

I could go on about several different moments that I especially enjoyed from the movie, but I guess the point I’m trying to get across is that Elizabethtown isn’t for everyone. And for those who have already seen the film and disliked it, I’m not going to convince, no matter how great I believe the movie is, or how heartwarming I express Crowe as a filmmaker and writer to be. But for me, Elizabethtown is one of those movies I will watch again and again, because the movie captures little moments in life that I’ve experienced, and it’s a great reminder about what’s important in life–not success, but time spent with the people who matter. About taking life a step future and contemplating who and what is significant to be spending time with.

And this just in . . . 

I tweeted Cameron Crowe about Elizabethtown and got a reply from him! Check it:

Advertisements

The 5 Worst Movies I Saw in 2011

While unfortunately, I can’t include the latest Twilight, Nic Cage’s most recent debacle Trespass, or the Adam Sandler slip-up Jack and Jill because I didn’t bother seeing any one of those, there were five shining, terrible gems that worked hard to make this list.

5. Abduction/ The Hangover Pt. 2

Two movies tie for this spot because while both had their entertaining moments, both were pretty bad. Abduction had as many laughable moments as the second Hangover, while Taylor Lautner tried far too hard to be a young Jason Bourne. I will admit that some of the fight sequences were impressive on Lautner’s end, but between the over-dramatic dialogue and failed attempt to issue a sort of suspense that wasn’t quickly followed by a laugh, the script, Lautner, and the poorly used supporting cast made this movie all the more a mess and even painful to watch at times.

The Hangover Pt. 2 reigns as the biggest disappointment for a sequel for me.  Director Todd Philips took the formula that made the original a great hit and decided to repeat it action for action rather than employ any form of originality in this movie. For having such a hilarious leading cast under his belt, Philips really blew this great opportunity to make a hilarious sequel.

4) Bad Teacher

Bad Teacher was just a bad movie. It’s a great example of how to bring movie-goers in on opening weekend, and then allow bad word-of-mouth to drive any other potential viewers away. From the looks of the trailer, Jason Segel, Justin Timberlake, and Cameron Diaz were going to make us crack up throughout the movie. I can’t recall laughing one time the entire movie. Every one of Segel’s few scenes were shown in the trailer, leaving no possibility of surprise or laughs. Diaz played an entirely unlikable character that never felt like bringing you over to her side the entirety of the movie.

3) Transformers: Dark of the Moon

I'm as scared as Shia in this picture.

This was the movie I wasted the most money on in 2011. Michael Bay successfully made one of the worst movies of the year without batting an eye. Shia Labeouf must have been coming off his latest run-in with the police or argument with a random bar-hopper, because his bad attitude was the only visible emotion he displayed on screen throughout the long, laborious three hour-length movie–1 1/2 hours too long. Then, in steps Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, the Victoria’s Secret model that has never acted before, and lets us know within five minutes that that‘s the case. I had to even laugh at Bay’s attempt at jabbing Megan Fox with a line from one of the characters that was something like, “I HATED your old girlfriend. She’s so *insert negative remark here*. Scene after scene of unexplained phenomena continued while I stepped out of the theater to get a break from the madness and go to the bathroom.

2) The Green Hornet

Luckily, the movie theater’s credit card machines were down and I was able to see this movie for free, because only my time was wasted in this case. Perhaps some of the failure of this movie is due to it not finding it’s direction under Marvel, which has made many successful action/superhero movies. Seth Rogen blows in this movie more than other flops he has turned in year after year. Christopher Waltz fills the role of the worst villain I have ever seen in a movie. I have no clue what Cameron Diaz was doing in this movie, because she didn’t fit at all, and the bromanship between Rogen and Jay Chou quickly plummeted as they both attempted to over-induce the audience with their version of being dramatic. James Franco made an odd, but interesting cameo in the beginning, and he is the luckiest of them all because he got killed off so early. I wish Rogen and Chou would have followed in his footsteps, or better yet, not made this horrible movie.

1) Beastly

Beastly holds the number spot for worst movie I saw in 2011, because I couldn’t think of any other movie that was as bad as this one. There are so many problems with this movie, I don’t even know where to begin. Writer-director Daniel Barnz wrote one of the worst screenplays to make it on the big screen. It has to be the poorest attempt at taking a story/movie gem like Beauty and the Beast and trying to make a spiff off it. While Vanessa Hudgens could be a believable Beauty, every last one of her lines were oozing with sap, refusing to let her portray a normal, actual person who talks like a normal, actual person. Alex Pettyfer plays the “beast” character, that instead of losing his six-pack, gains a new set of tattoos and goes bald. “Pretty gruesome,” his character refers to his new look, but Hudgens declares that she’s seen worse, and now we all know that somehow in this pile of sloppy, self-indulgent, pretentious script, Beauty will wind up with the Beast. Which leads me to question many of the movie’s plotholes: Why would her father allow a complete stranger to hole her up in a house? Why does Pettyfer think gifts such as a designer purse  or wearing a mask will “woo” a girl downstairs? Which leads me to the biggest question of sorts, why did I sit through this entire movie? Or even more so, how did I not vomit throughout the movie?

What were the worst movies you saw in 2011? Did you like any of the ones that I couldn’t stand, or would you put them on your worst list too?

Ten Facts about Joseph Gordon-Levitt

It’s no surprise that Joseph Gordon-Levitt is hitting the spotlight more than ever in the past couple years. He’s played roles in some big films as well as taken part in smaller projects that mean a lot to him. Instead of giving another biography about the dude, here’s a list of 10 facts (generated from various websites) that I found interesting.

10) JGL owes a warm thanks to James Franco. Why? Because of Franco’s scheduling conflicts, JGL replaced him in his supporting role as Arthur in Inception. His role in the thriller connected him to director Christopher Nolan, who now cast him in his up and coming batman film, The Dark Knight Rises.

9) So far, Gordon-Levitt has received only one high awards nomination for a film: Golden Globe for Best Actor in (500) Days of Summer.

8) Despite his growth and up and comingness (like that word I just made up?) in film, JGL never received credit for a silent and momentary cameo in the Mark Ruffalo and Adrien Brody 2008 mediocre flick, The Brothers Bloom.

7) Back in a 1998 interview with Conan O’Brien, JGL explains that he has “two” last names because his parents were hippies, and they figured, why should a woman lose her last name? His mom’s last name is Gordon and his dad’s last name is Levitt.

6) After starring in The Lookout, a film reviewer from the San Francisco Chronicler said that Gordon-Levitt “embodies, more than performs, a character’s inner life.” I think his role in this year’s 50/50 only further proves that insight.

5) It’s been said that JGL has an uncanny resemblance to former 10 Things I Hate about You co-star Heath Ledger.

4) Prepare yourself for a very Joseph Gordon-Levitt 2012. So far he is slated to star in five films: The Dark Knight Rises, Premium Rush, Looper, Lincoln, and the Quentin Tarantino film Django Unchained.

3) JGL is one humble dude. He is quoted saying,

“The whole concept of celebrity pisses me off. While I’m not a celebrity, it’s such a weird concept that society has cooked up for us. Astronauts and teachers are much more amazing than actors.”

2) Gordon-Levitt’s brother, Daniel, died at age 36 of drug overdose, just in October of last year.

1) JGL was also not the first pick to play the real life character Will in 50/50. James McAvoy, the original pick, had to leave after just a few days of filming due to a family emergency. Seth Rogen and Will Reiser, who were currently living together at the time, thought first of Gordon-Levitt for the role after McAvoy’s departure.

Taking Chances

More times than not, I find out that when I go see a movie that I’m semi-sorta interested in viewing, I end up being pleasantly surprised. Of course, this isn’t the case every time; theoretically, it can’t be. There just aren’t enough good movies coming out in current time that one can be pleasantly surprised about. That’s probably not theoretical, but it sounded right at the time. Perhaps it’s technical.

Regardless.

Originally, my highest hopes for 2011 summer films went to Captain America, Crazy Stupid Love, and the final Harry Potter. You can read my Harry Potter review here. While each film had good things going for it, such as Crazy Stupid Love‘s cast (Steve Carell, Julianne Moore, Emma Stone, Ryan Gosling – come on?!), or the Deathly Hallows Pt. 2 being the final film of the series, each of those films ultimately disappointed me in some way or another.

X-Men: First Class

Three other movies, however, unsuspectingly sneaked up on me this summer and surprised me in that pleasant kind of way. Originally, I had not intended to see the biggest surprise for me, which was X-Men: First Class. I had never seen any of the X-Men films. They didn’t appear attractive in any sense to me, from story line, to cast, to special effects. I mean, come on, it’s Halle Berry with blonde hair. Do you really expect me to approach that movie with any seriousness?

But the previews were looking good for this prequel, and already being a fan of James McAvoy (anyone see Wanted? YES!), I figured paying matinee price at a lower-end theater two towns away on a plan-free Friday evening would be harmless. I was immediately drawn in, like most people would admit to a first viewing of the film. I was also really impressed with Michael Fassbender. The colors were bright, the characters were interesting, and the effects were great. Possibly one of the best moments was Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine cameo. I didn’t have to be a fan of X-Men to know Hugh Jackman was Wolverine and that was one of the best cameos . . . ever. Kevin Bacon proved once again to be a slimy, rather humorous villain, and Henry Jackman’s score won me over before the film ended. Despite the mediocre reviews, I would place X-Men: First Class at the top of my summer 2011 movies list.

Rise of the Planet of the Apes

The second surprise for me was Rise of the Planet of the Apes. Although I have never watched a previous Planet of the Apes film in its entirety, I did attempt to make it through a few short scenes in the Mark Wahlberg version. It was just too much. With that in mind, I was assured this movie would be deemed OK, if anything positive. I am a major James Franco and John Lithgow fan, but I didn’t expect great things from the zillioneth remake of watching humans in ape costumes bat eyes and imprison non-speaking humans in cages. Alas, this movie was nothing like it’s predecessors, as confirmed by Apes fans and viewers of the older films. This film served more as a back story for what was to come–what all of us know as the Planet of the Apes movies. Lithgow was a believable Alheizmer’s victim, and it was nice to see Slumdog Millionaire‘s Frieda Pinto on screen again. Possibly the best performance goes to Andy Serkis, who played the main ape, Caesar. Overall, it was a fun and even occasionally, touching movie. Tom Felton’s Dodge Landon served his purpose, battering the apes into forming an alliance among one another. It was an enjoyable film that outdid many of its fellow summer flicks in my opinion.

The Help

The Help was probably the one to shock me the least, primarily because my expectations were fairly high for the movie. After a look at Rotten Tomatoes average rating for it, however, my expectations lowered. I didn’t expect to be moved the way I was. The story was powerful and it was impossible to not be moved during it. I, personally, was a huge fan of the costumes. The story took place in the ’60s in southern Mississippi. Bryce Dallas Howard has apparently moved up in the world of character actors–her performance was flawless. Emma Stone proved me right once again that she has yet to give a poor performance. Jessica Chastain made a nice film debut playing the sweet and hilarious Celia Foote. The stand-out role easily goes to Viola Davis. This is a gorgeous story that demands to not be taken lightly. I’m inspired to read the book now.