Finding Myself through Cameron Crowe Films

Words by Morgan Murray

There are a handful of directors, writers, artists, and singers who have influenced my life. Yet there is only a handful of them who consistently released art that contributed to the person I have molded into, (despite only being 19 and thinking this is the final version of myself). But one filmmaker in particular, resonates as having created films that were pressed play constantly as a teenager. That filmmaker is the man, the myth, the legend, Cameron Crowe. If it were up to me, he’d be Sir Cameron Crowe. An artist who had managed to shape multiple generations and accurately reflect on generations that once existed. From the early eighties, Crowe has contributed to the films that teens flocked to the theatre to see when they were released, and many years later, those teens would show their kids those films. I was thankfully brought up by brilliant films such as Fast Times at Ridgemont High, Say Anything, Singles, and Almost Famous. All those films manage to capture adolescence and young adulthood, through numerous characters, eras, and most importantly, through the use of music. Now that I’m in my final year of being a teenager, and entering the next phase of my life, I thought it was time to thank Cameron Crowe for guiding me through these seemingly treacherous years.

I was raised on eighties films. I always had the blessing of having parents who were really into films, and so I was constantly shown film after film. Many of them were teen films of the eighties. There were many late nights of watching Pretty in Pink, Heathers, and Risky Business. Though Crowe's films obviously ended up in the mix, the first time I remember sitting down to watch one of his films ended up being around thirteen. My Dad got me one of those three pack special DVDs from Walmart, with Sixteen Candles and The Breakfast Club. I was absolutely obsessed with both them and they made me long to be a teenager. Despite John Hughes being the legend he is, the third film, Fast Times at Ridgemont High, was the one that stuck with me through all four years of high school. I watched the film on my own the night before my first day of high school. I was starting that year off fresh; all my friends were going to the public school and my parents shipped me off to the Catholic school the next town over. I’d have to wear khaki cardboard material like pants, and polyester shirts in either green, white or blue.

Fast Times at Ridgemont High (1982)

I worried my entire summer about the first day of high school; walking down halls I didn’t know, sitting beside people I never had the pleasure of knowing since kindergarten. On Stacy's (Jennifer Jason Leigh) first day of high school, ‘American Girl’ by Tom Petty plays. Immediately I grabbed my iPod touch, added it to my iTunes, and played it on repeat on my hour and a half long bus ride, and into the doors of the school. Minus doing it with an older dude, getting pregnant, and brushing up my blowjob skills with a carrot in front of the cafeteria, I wished I was like Stacy. Having a cool job in the mall, somehow being gorgeous all the time (even during exam season?). And having a really sweet guy like Mark take you on a date to a fancy German restaurant seemed like an experience I deserved. But Cameron wrote about issues in this film that were so painfully realistic to the high school experience, even thirty years later. I knew girls who went out with weird guys way too old for them, having plans for the future destroyed, and of course, having a teacher who thinks that everyone is on dope (which they're totally right about). By making the film so close to the truth as a film can get, the story doesn't exaggerate the experience of a teenager. Perhaps its due to Crowe actually spending the year as an undercover student, and honestly, all teen films should've been fact-checked like this one.

Less than seven years later, Crowe came out with Say Anything. Though my Mom loves this movie, it was the 2010 film Easy A that actually got me to watch it. I made it a point to go back and watch all those films that Emma Stone’s character lists off when discussing if chivalry is dead. I ended up watching Can’t Buy Me Love, Sixteen Candles, The Breakfast Club, Ferris Bueller's Day Off, and of course, Say Anything.

I wanted my life to be like an 80s movie directed by John Hughes, but I got it so much better; I got a life unintentionally directed by Cameron Crowe. And because of that, I fell in love with wanting to be that smart girl like Diane Court. I look back now on how much studying I did in high school, how it paid off to where I am now. It’s important for filmmakers to create these characters, ones that prove girls can be pretty and smart, not settling for the cliched pick-and-choose scenario.

I worked hard, writing endless essays, studying late at night for a math test, and juggled clubs and activities. But still, I wished to also have that and be desired by someone. Like Lloyd Dobler, who wants Diane so much, its all he thinks about. But listen, for once I can say the character of Lloyd isn't some creepy dude, who has an obsession and is purely motivated by this girls essence. Again, there are way too many films with the lead guy being solely provoked by a woman's body. But when he gets her, he holds on, noting that her feelings are reciprocated. She could go off to Oxford, and he’d be right there. Perhaps love at this age is rare, but when you know, well you know. And that's a huge difference that my generation can see. Though many of us have grown up with divorced parents, constant cheating, and unreciprocated feelings, at such a young age, we shouldn't keep that from the actual emotions that we are meant to feel for another human.

Say Anything (1989)

Maybe we are supposed to give it all, and as I watch this film, I’m not wondering what if Lloyd didn't go about the relationship as he did, I wonder how Lloyd and Diane are. Because like I said, he wants her so bad that he stands outside of her house after a fight, holding that boombox up high, blasting the best love song of all time, In Your Eyes by Peter Gabriel. I can’t even tell you the amount of times I’ve had that song on an endless repeat, but I can promise that I most likely broke the record the summer of ‘18. I longed to be sought after like Diane (because who honestly doesn't want to be so enormously desired by someone you love?). By the end of the August heat, I laid awake at night, waiting for that song to be played outside of my window (that actually would've freaked me out but the thought’s nice). That song actually ended up being played during the fall, plenty of times in the cold winter days, and in the early spring, all the while so content with listening to it at this very moment. Sometimes boys and girls, it's good to just say anything (😉)

Despite still being totally obsessed with all things of 80s culture, it's time to bring up that phase that wasn't ever a phase, but the depths of my soul. The tenth grade brought about my “grunge phase.” I got my nose pierced, splurged on Doc Martens, stocked my closet with various coloured flannel shirts and band tees. I wanted people to know that I listened to Nirvana, Guns n Roses, and Pearl Jam, despite it being on my shirt that I’d wear under my uniform sweater. My eyeliner was thick black, and my tweets were usually lyrics from some band part of the Seattle Sound. My Dad was in his teens when the Seattle Sound came about, and thus as a kid, I spent many car rides hearing Alice in Chains ‘Dirt’ album, Pearl Jam’s the ‘Ten’ album, and Nirvana’s ‘Unplugged’ album on the radio. For me, I was the real shit when it came to this era of my life. And that became the perfect opportunity for my dad to introduce me to Crowe’s ‘92 film Singles. A group of young adults who all live in (a now extremely famous) the same apartment complex, during the height of the Seattle sound. Surprise surprise, they reside in Seattle. Honestly, there could've been no better film for my dad to turn on. With cameos from my bae Eddie Vedder and the late Chris Cornell, the film brings so much to the group of young adults who chose to immerse themselves in real boy bands, compared to whatever the other ones who sang with earpieces paired with synchronized dances did. No offence.

Dealing with the idea of relationships, whether we are to settle or have fun in our 20s, Singles is supposed to be about Gen-Xer’s, yet I can see how many millennials still have this issue. There are plenty of girls I know who have used their ex’s t-shirts to clean their toilets, and though we aren't making dating VHS’s, they are perfecting their Tinder profiles, hoping that actual human connection exists on the other end. The biggest point in the film that got me, (despite being sixteen trying to imagine myself in four years time), was the whole fear of what if you commit and what if you don’t? There are many ways you can mess up potential, and still, it lies within not calling after a date, or in our case, texting after hanging out. Sometimes we just need people to say and do the right things without having to tell them what the right thing is to do or say. And if it all works out, we’ll end up like Steve and Linda who move out the single bedroom apartment and into never having to be labelled again as a single.

Eight years came about the semi-autobiographical story of Crowe himself, Almost Famous. The film with the best soundtrack of all time, due to it having a budget of 3.5 million, compared to most films with budgets of about 1.5 million. Honestly, that's the best use of money in all of human history. And thanks to Zoey Deschanel’s duffel bag, we get to hear Simon and Garfunkel, Led Zeppelin, The Beach Boys, and everyone's favourite, Elton John. You cannot tell me you did not get goosebumps hearing Tiny Dancer being sung in unison by Kate Hudson, Billy Crudup, Patrick Fugit, Jason Leigh. I could go on forever about the well-casted film. Before watching the film, I remember that Fool in the Rain was my favourite Zeppelin song. But after watching it for the first time, I had probably listened to Led Zeppelin’s song Tangerine a hundred times. If a film has such tangible (see what I did there) scenes, and a song contains such a powerful presence, then that is mastering filmmaking in my opinion.

I watched Almost Famous during all sorts of moments in my adolescence. The time I wanted to work as a journalist for Rolling Stone, when I was in need of a change, and when I was absolutely alone and only a Cameron Crowe film understood me. And each time I was damn near tempted to be a roadie for a somewhat known band, who hopefully was opening for Black Sabbath. Actually, it was very much this film that got me more obsessed with concerts than I was before. I’d buy tickets as soon as they’d go on sale, mostly to smaller bands, that way I’d have a chance of being up close, and even meeting the band. Like William, I’d wait by the stage doors for the band. Dragging my friends to the concert at least twelve hours before the show would start, just so I could meet bands like Peach Pit, Pale Waves, Colouring, and well other indie bands that I’m sure no adults know. Believe me, I’d wait a week for Black Sabbath if I could. But beyond that, I think that every young person deserves the life encapsulated in this film; the life of just going out there and being absolutely free. You know, before life kicks in. And that's really what this film, amongst nearly all of Crowe's films, demonstrate.

Almost Famous (2000)

Get out there kid, put on those headphones, blast some Lynyrd Skynyrd, and just live before you die. Being obsessed with listening to classic rock, I devoured the only season of Paul Feig’s Freaks and Geeks and had Almost Famous’s soundtrack on repeat. I owned a long green army jacket, and also a faux sheepskin Sherpa coat. I was both Lindsey Weir and Penny Lane. I was walking down the two hallways of my high school, and the one street of my small towns downtown, earbuds in, Fleetwood Mac blasting. And through the many characters of these films, they reminded me that I’m here for the art. For the music from the Bookends album, the score of a Tim Burton film, and the tracks of a Tarantino picture. Like Kathy and Paul who went off to see America, Lindsey who goes off to a Grateful Dead concert with her best friend, and Penny Lane who is off to her dream destination of Morocco, I myself am off to see and hear the world.

It's odd to look back on these films that meant so much to who I was and who I’ve become. I’m in my last year of being a teenager, and I’m almost done university, yet I still feel so attached to these characters I feel that I someway embodied. But it's not because I based my life off these characters Crowe created, it's really because Crowe based these characters off of people that exist in life. In those years of watching any teen film out there, Crowe (and of course Hughes) inspired me to look around constantly, taking notes on the friends I had spent lunches on Thursdays, discussing films with, just in case I’d make a film reminiscent about them. In my seemingly ordinary life, Crowe told me to go out and grab those who write seemingly precognition notes in your yearbook. Most importantly, Crowe told me to just let the music guide me through life. And for that, I got my life to be directed by Cameron Crowe.

INT. Credits being to roll, as ELTON JOHN’S TINY DANCER plays.



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