A recent revelation from my music-loving husband inspired this week’s Cinema Sips pick. The man who has an entire room devoted to vintage audio equipment and vinyl records had *gasp* never seen Almost Famous (DVD/Download). How was this possible? I asked myself. You know that scene in a Lifetime movie where the woman realizes that the man she’s married to is full of deep dark secrets and she really doesn’t know him at all? Yeah, it was like that. One of the few movies of the last 20 years that I considered an instant-classic when it was released, Almost Famous is a love letter to rock n’ roll. In short, I consider it essential viewing for any music lover.
Almost Famous is a semi-autobiographical tale written and directed by Cameron Crowe about his time as a teenage journalist for Rolling Stone magazine. In real life Crowe toured with bands such as The Allman Brothers, but in the movie, young journalist William Miller goes on the road with fictional band Stillwater. Of course sex, drugs, and debauchery abound as William is taken under the wing of lead guitarist Russell (played to perfection by Billy Crudup), and he struggles to balance his love for the band against his journalistic integrity. Acting as the Obi-wan of rock journalism and life is the brilliant Philip Seymour Hoffman, in one of his best roles as rock critic Lester Bangs. He spouts words of truth such as, “The only true currency in this bankrupt world is what you share with someone else when you’re uncool.” Deep. And let’s not forget the breakout star of this film, which was Kate Hudson. This was the first role I ever remembered seeing Goldie Hawn’s daughter in, and she really killed it as Band Aid Penny Lane. Funny, exciting, and heartbreaking, she really brought the character alive.
My drink this week is not actually a cocktail, but rather, a beer. Considering this film again, I realized that the characters in it were not really cocktail folk. These were “sell your groupie to another a band for a six-pack of Heineken” folk. My true drinking inspiration came midway through the film, as Russell drinks a beer laced with acid. How fortuitous then that the new “it” beer for craft breweries happens to be acidic sours! I had the pleasure of tasting some sour beers at Jester King Brewery outside Austin, TX this summer, where I learned that this type of beer is made by adding wild yeast strains and/or fruit to the brew, giving it its tart, sour taste. No illegal psychotropic drugs required. When watching Almost Famous, I recommend drinking your favorite Sour Beer (top brands in my opinion are Lindemans, Jester King, and Lost Abbey).
What I love most about Almost Famous is the profound love that all the characters have for music. As Zooey Deschanel prophesizes early on, the records under the bed will set you free. I have to say, I completely agree. I had many of the same records in my teenage bedroom (even a few of them on vinyl because I was hip even then) and listening to Simon and Garfunkel’s “America” or Joni Mitchell’s “Carey” made me excited to leave home and figure out what else was out there in the world waiting for me. Perhaps you readers have some favorite records that set you free when you heard them. If so, I’d love to know what they are. In the meantime, I’ll be watching Almost Famous with a sour beer, and maybe later going through my albums so I can visit some old friends. Cheers!