M.I.A. - Cameron Crowe
The modern filmmaker can be judged on numerous points – the breadth of his or her resume, the financial returns from their films release, the awards the picture has garnered, etc. I’d like to think that, in the minds of the modern moviegoer, the film speaks for itself and no matter how prominent or profitable the director may be, they will always be evaluated based on the quality of their work. Given his mixed commercial appeal and rather short list of produced features from Cameron Crowe
, I hope that in 50 years film historians will disregard the dollars and instead remember him for the cultural significance of his body of work.
Why We Love Him
: Most people could die happy knowing that they’ve had an amazing career and a wonderful family. Crowe had all that and more, as he held TWO dream jobs in his lifetime. Born and raised (mostly) in California, the highly intelligent but sickly teen spent his leisure time writing for the school newspaper and by age 13 was contributing music reviews for an underground publication, The San Diego Door, and later Creem
and eventually Rolling Stone magazine, becoming their youngest contributor ever (and still is). When RS moved their offices from the West Coast to New York in 1977, Crowe stayed behind to focus on creative writing. At 22, he enrolled at Clairemont High School to relive the senior year he never had and write about the experiences for a novel which Simon & Schuster published as Fast Times At Ridgemont High: A True Story
What Happened To Him
: before the book was even released, Universal Pictures optioned it for a film production. Crowe was lucky enough to write the script while the studio recruited Amy Heckerling
to direct. Though Universal didn’t heavily support it, Fast Times At Ridgemont High
became a cult-hit, a staple of the 1980s, an endearing portrait of care-free teenage life and a major influence on subsequent teen comedies of the time. He followed that films producer Art Linson
into his next writing gig, The Wild Life
, which followed similar characters but aged the setting to the apartment of post-high school grads. It took the writer five years to finally realize his next, more passionate project – a classic boy-meets-girl love story set to a soundtrack featuring some of his favorite tunes. Say Anything…
, his first directorial effort, became a critical darling and was beloved by audiences who found the characters lovable and their situation relatable.
Cameron Crowe, with Matt Dillon and members of Soundgarden, Pearl Jam and Alice In Chains
Having perfected the high-school comedy, Crowe put his affinity for music front and center in his next film, Singles
, about a group of twenty-something friends, most of whom live in the same apartment complex, searching for love and success in grunge-era Seattle. His biggest hit of all was on the horizon as he teamed with Tom Cruise
and James L. Brooks
for Jerry Maguire
, a soul-searching romantic comedy that gave the world the vigorous and often-imitated phrase “Show me the money!” He then chronicled the fore mentioned experiences of his early life in Almost Famous
, a road film that followed the high and low points of fictional 70s rock group Stillwater. He won the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay at the 2001 Oscars for his writing duties. That same year Crowe released his most cerebral film to date, the mind bending Vanilla Sky
, a remake of Alejandro Amenabar’s Abre Los Ojos
, which reunited him with Cruise and went on to gross $200 million worldwide.
A taut scene from Crowe's masterpiece Vanilla Sky
: Crowe hasn’t made a film since 2005’s critical disaster and box-office crash Elizabethtown
, but most blame its disappointment on star Orlando Bloom
, whose insignificant performance badly handicapped whatever else it had going for it. He’s been silent since then: no novels, produced screenplays or work of any kind. He’s got three projects in development, including a first foray into the rock-doc (a seemingly perfect fit for the 52 year old filmmaker) with an inside look at Pearl Jam, the dramedy We Bought A Zoo
, based on a true story, about a father who moves his family to the English countryside to own and operate a zoo (with Ben Stiller
attached to the lead role) and an untitled romantic adventure film. The status of all these productions is unknown.
Should we blame these two for the disappearance of Cameron Crowe?
I have a vague theory about why we haven’t seen a new Cameron Crowe film in such a long time. Actually, it seems to be a common story for multi-hyphenates in Hollywood these days. He is a vertically integrated filmmaker who has written, produced and directed nearly of all his films and that makes him dangerous to hot shot movie executives, who want their hands all over other people’s work. Like similarly fully engrossed filmmakers including Sofia Coppola
and Terrence Malick
, it gets harder and harder as the years go by and profits go down to sell producers and studios on your
work and your
work alone. On the other hand, sometimes the creative juices begin to dry up, causing an extended period of absence. Both of those talented directors have taken extended sabbaticals after their films failed to find an accepting audience. Cameron has had his break, so perhaps the cure for the lack of Crowe is to have him direct from someone else’s script, allowing a fresh voice to create some interesting characters and conjure an engaging scenario for the talented director to work with. If that doesn’t work, he could always call up various studios, start screaming “Show Me The Money!” into the receiver and see who’ll actually listen to him…