Interview: Alice Marie Crowe (Elizabethtown, 2005)

elizabethtown2It isn’t every woman who gets to see a pivotal moment from her life interpreted for all the world to see by an Oscar-winning actress. It’s an even rarer woman who gets to see two Oscar-winning actresses re-enact such episodes from her life. But as anyone who has seen Almost Famous or Elizabethtown might have guessed, Alice Marie Crowe — the real-life mother of writer-director Cameron Crowe — is a rare woman indeed.

Almost Famous was the semi-autobiographical account of how Cameron became a reporter for Rolling Stone at the age of 15, with the grudging consent of his protective, intelligent mother, played by Fargo’s Frances McDormand. Elizabethtown is more clearly fictitious, but it was inspired by a much later period in the family’s life.

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Review: Vanilla Sky (dir. Cameron Crowe, 2001)

vanillasky2Is life but a dream? Several recent movies have raised that question, and while it’s tempting to write off Vanilla Sky as the latest film to hop on the bandwagon, its roots go back a bit further. Before Waking Life asked whether our day-to-day lives might be just a dream from which we have yet to wake up, and before The Matrix suggested that the world was an illusion fed to our minds by an evil computer network, there was Open Your Eyes, a 1997 film by a young, up-and-coming Spanish director, then in his mid-20s, named Alejandro Amenabar, which explored similar questions about the nature of reality. Tom Cruise evidently saw that film and liked it; he produced Amenabar’s next effort, the late-summer ghost-story sleeper The Others, and he’s now starring in Vanilla Sky, a remake of Open Your Eyes which, despite its inevitably glossier Hollywood style, respects its source material so much that at times it seems like a shot-for-shot replica of the original.

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Where sibs are a sin

For the haziest of reasons, there is a near taboo on the portrayal of adult brothers and sisters in film

In When Harry Met Sally, Billy Crystal and Meg Ryan famously argued over whether men and women could be friends without one of them wanting to have sex with the other. When I first saw the film 11 years ago, I found it funny, entertaining and a good conversation piece, but I couldn’t help thinking that Crystal and Ryan — neither of whom seemed to have any family beyond their fellow single New Yorkers — had overlooked something. I could certainly think of a few women in my own life for whom this was a non-issue, and one of them was sitting right next to me in the theatre. I refer, of course, to my sister.

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Review: Almost Famous (dir. Cameron Crowe, 2000)

almostfamousCameron Crowe is adept at making popular films that resonate on deep personal and emotional levels, such as Say Anything… and Jerry Maguire. Almost Famous, the semi-autobiographical tale of a 15-year-old music journalist who follows an early-1970s rock’n’roll band around the United States while researching his first story for Rolling Stone magazine, had the potential to be Crowe’s most personal movie yet. But Crowe apparently decided this story hit too close to home, and thus refused to put his characters through the emotional wringer that made his other films work as well as they did.

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