I had not even reached my teen years when my Mom took me to see Cameron Crowe's debut film as a director, Say Anything…. I sat there and was in awestruck by the absolute sincerity of the characters. Even at the youthful preteen age I was at, I knew there was something about this film that separated it from all of the other so called romantic and teen comedies of that time because these were living breathing beings who loved being in love and who dreaded a life without it. When the film was over at the Norridge Theatre just outside of Chicago, my mother suggested we buy the soundtrack at the Sound Warehouse next door. As I unwrapped the shrink wrap on the cassette on the way home, my mother went into lecture mode as I was discovering my first recordings by the Red Hot Chili Peppers and the Replacements. These are the moments teens roll their eyes at because their parents are telling them something important, we know it's significant, yet we don't want to hear about it. My Mom looked at me, made sure I was paying attention and told me in a soft voice, "I want you to remember this film because it just goes to show that girls do like nice guys". I waved her off, but her words stuck with me. For an adolescent entering his teens, I thought this was a revelation. I bought what she told me hook, line and sinker. Needless to say, it was the best and the worse advice my mother ever gave me. I personally blamed both my mother and Cameron Crowe for the years of misery I experienced during my teens and early twenties. As I write this more than two decades later, I am wonder why I let John Cusack and Peter Gabriel off so easily but I should have held these two responsible as well. Despite all of this, I found shades of myself in his characters from Singles, Jerry Maguire, Almost Famous, Vanilla Sky and Elizabethtown and this is probably why I never tried to be anyone other than myself. When I was lonely his films gave me comfort. When I was enraged, his films brought me consolation and when I was ecstatic, his films helped intensify that joy ten fold. Cameron Crowe's films are excerpts from my soul. No other filmmaker has had their art make a more profound impact on my life other than Crowe (with Martin Scorsese being a close second). When I look at the musical artists who have paved the path for me (Bruce Springsteen, U2, Peter Gabriel) I am not even sure if any of them can match what Crowe and his films did for me. He's the single greatest influence in my life whom I've never met.
One of the reasons for this admiration is because his films are drenched in music. Few directors can paint pictures and weave it with music as elegantly as Crowe. He has a way of twisting the emotional tone of a single scene with a song or emphasizing a characters heightened emotions through song. At times, words are not even needed as the music says it all just like it did in Crowe's most famous music moments; the band sing-a-long of "Tiny Dancer" from Almost Famous, the elegant touch of "Secret Garden" in Jerry Maguire and the infamous Lloyd Dobbler scene of the stereo above his head as the boom box blasts "In Your Eyes". However, as I went back and re-watched his six films, I found some truly luminous moments that are veiled, understated and often not always instantly recognizable. In many ways, without even being aware of it, the music leads the viewer down the road less traveled. These more nuanced musical memories are the ones that truly capture the soul of his films. A characters sly eye movement, an illuminating smile and the sensation of one's struggle is made all that more genuine because the character's journey is punctuated by song. Cameron Crowe (along with Martin Scorsese and Wes Anderson) utilizes music not as mere background noise but to give a specific scene a greater depth. All three directors have turned certain songs and artists on their heads and I walked away from their pictures with a better admiration of the music than I ever could have imagined. They find ways to open up worlds to these songs I never could have foreseen.
A few years back Cameron Crowe compiled a list of his favorite movie-music moments for Empire magazine (from the UK). Being the humble person he is, Crowe wouldn't dare put one of his own scenes on the list even though he has some truly defining musical moments. I decided to resolve this. I figured I'd whip together a quick list of the top-ten moments from Cameron Crowe's films. Off the top of my head, I scribbled down over thirty. That was too many, so I vowed to go back and re-watch his films and the list swelled to over one-hundred songs. I was shocked at how visceral, authentic and crucial each and every one of these songs was to their respective films. Re-watching his films made me realize the brilliant nature of his quieter moments. As a result, I began to compile these understated moments and the list swelled to fifty songs of which the first twenty-five (50-26) are below.
In compiling the list I kept the list limited to films that Crowe directed, which eliminates some memorable scenes and songs from Fast Times at Ridgemont High. Also, since I started compiling this list nearly three years ago, I'm focusing exclusively on his directorial efforts between 1989 and 2005 with one exception from We Bought a Zoo that proved to be far too beautiful to be left off. The emotional core of Crowe's films comes from the music. As dynamic as his writing is, his meticulous timing of the music takes the scene and the film to new levels. Some are key music moments in modern cinema and others are hidden treasures that you'll have to go back and watch closely. Some songs make magnificent declarations and others are hushed whispers in the night. Looking over the list now that it's final, it pains me to leave so many songs off the list; Pearl Jam's "Breath", Fishbone's "Shakin' to the Beat", Aimee Mann's "Wise Up" (later used definitively by Paul Thomas Anderson in Magnolia, the Allman Brothers Band's "One Way Out", The Beach Boys' "Feel Flows", Joan Osborne's "One of Us", Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers' "Don't Come Around Here No More", Freheit's "Keeping the Dream Alive", the Smashing Pumpkins "Drown" and then there's "Long Ride Home" by Patty Griffin. This track wasn't in Elizabethtown but played a prominent part in the trailer, is on the official soundtrack and encapsulates most of the themes in the film. Griffin's tender acoustic plucking paired with some of the most emotionally gutting lyrics ever committed to paper is among my favorite songs ever and I owe my awareness of the track to Crowe. Alas, it's not in the film and is regulated to a special mention here.
This list is by no means final or definitive and I encourage you to challenge me. If I were to do it a week from now, I'd probably change up a dozen songs. But it allowed me an occasion to write about Cameron Crowe and more significantly, possibly…just maybe…through reading this list you'll be impelled to seek out one of these artists, re-examine one of Crowe's films and in the case of Elizabethtown hopefully it will permit you to look upon it with new eyes. So without further adieu, here are numbers fifty to twenty-six of Cameron Crowe's Greatest Hits.
50. "Freebird" – Ruckus/My Morning Jacket (Elizabethtown)
At the memorial service in Elizabethtown, the fictional band Ruckus (consisting of members from My Morning Jacket) perform "Freebird" as a tribute to a family member who has passed on with a flaming flying bird and all. What ensues is pure chaos, but once again, the scene is delicately crafted with the music accentuating the looks on each of the characters faces and the pseudo rain at the end even foreshadows a cleansing of the soul. I may be looking too closely but Crowe took such an iconic song and managed to shine a new light on it, a near impossible feat.
49. "Stairway to Heaven" –Led Zeppelin (Untitled)
OK, so I am cheating a bit with this one. This scene didn't make the final cut of the film and is only available on the "Bootleg Cut" of the film-Untitled, sort of. Led Zeppelin had never licensed their music for anything before Almost Famous and after Crowe screen the film for Robert Plant and Jimmy Page, they gave him four songs for the film, but not "Stairway". I'm not sure if it's because it cost too much or of the scene was too long for theatrical release, regardless, Crowe cues up the deleted scene so you can play "Stairway" in the background. It's a shame it wasn't able to fit into the film because it's a pivotal moment for the lead character of William Miller. I this scene he has to convince his mother to let him go on the road with Stillwater for Rolling Stone Magazine. He has back up in friends and teachers but it is Miller who plays "Stairway" trying to demonstrate to his mother that rock n' roll can be intellectual. This is one of the greatest deleted scenes in the history of cinema. Listen here.
48. "Fever Dog"-Stillwater (Almost Famous)
You and 20,000 other people are in one place at one time and all of a sudden the lights dim into what appears eternal blackness before a beat elicits roars unlike anything you have ever heard before. This is the greatest drug in the world; the opening moments of a concert. Crowe manages to give you goose bumps in Almost Famous even though the band, Stillwater, is fictional and their song, "Fever Dog", isn't instantly recognizable. The song is cut from the cloth of 70's guitar riffs and the scene capturing the crowd, the band and the backstage sequences is exactly what a concert should feel like. Listen here.
47. "Directions" – Josh Rouse (Vanilla Sky)
Cameron Crowe has an indelible quality to capture love at first sight. Whether or not you believe in the phenomenon or not isn't the point. He captures characters at their most open, free and invigorating. In Vanilla Sky he captures giddy lust as Tom Cruise chases Penelope Cruz around his house during a birthday party. Josh Rouse's "Directions" has a groove that you want to listen to over and over again. The driving rhythm accompanies the sped up heartbeats of these two characters and the camera work through stairwells is nothing short of magnificent. Listen here.
46. "Every Picture Tells A Story"- Rod Stewart (Almost Famous)
Racing in the streets to the hotel where Stillwater is staying, William Miller and Penny Lane run through traffic, holding hands, basking in the glow of their drunken love for music with Rod Stewart serenading the scene at his finest. The excitement of connection, music and love in the air can be felt as these two lost souls run towards rock n' roll hoping to find their redemption.
45. "You Can't Hurry Love" – The Concretes (Elizabethtown)
Crowe's films are filled with peek-a-boo looks of love. The same way one may eye someone from across the room, the eyes seem to penetrate the soul. Orlando's Bloom character from Elizabethtown locks eyes with Jessica Biel in a scene that's hypnotizing. The Concretes, a Swedish indie pop band, churn out an unrelenting beat fit for a party atmosphere but its lyric is all too true as these two future lovers eyes connect. Listen here.
44. The Monkees – "Porpoise Song" (Vanilla Sky)
A delusional sex scene with scored by music by the Monkees? If anyone could make this work, it's Cameron Crowe. I didn't even know the Monkees got this trippy and when I saw their name on the CD package I thought it was a mistake. The average filmmaker wouldn't dream of putting anything like this on a soundtrack for fear of being uncool. Not only did Crowe include it, but he made it work in a deranged and downright chilling scene. Listen here.
43. "State of Love and Trust" – Pearl Jam (Singles)
Never have white people made dancing look so good. Performed early in Singles it captures two girlfriends out dancing and having fun only to discover a betrayal so profound it defines her character throughout the entire film. It may not be obvious, but this guitar scorcher from Pearl Jam is more than back ground noise but a pondering allegory. Plus the scene gave us the quote; "We will always go dancing!" Listen here.
42. "Waiting for the Man" – David Bowie (Almost Famous)
As Stillwater enters a hotel in Cleveland, fans are abounding with excitement. This David Bowie cover of a Velvet Underground song provides the perfect soundtrack. You see the band dance half naked with guitars, chase girls and are utterly free. Not any version of this song would have worked, but Bowie's live version from the bootleg record Live in Santa Monica '72(which Crowe got permission to use just for this film) fits the scene perfectly. It can be argued that Mick Ronson's guitar, Trevor Bolder's bass and Mick Woodmansey's drums better define the pure unadulterated sound of rock n'roll than any of the other fifty songs included on this soundtrack. Listen here.
41. "All For Love" – Nancy Wilson (Say Anything…)
This underrated pop-rock gem wasn't written by Wilson but is has all the charms and weight of her best Heart songs. The song can be heard a few times early on in the film and over the credits, but there's a scene with Lloyd Dobbler (John Cusack) driving Diane Court (Ione Skye) in the morning and it warms me. The sun is gleaming down on his car, he's falling for the girl in the passenger seat and she's endeared by his charms. I'll say this many times throughout this piece, no one encapsulates the sensation of first love better than Cameron Crowe. Wilson stretches herself in "All for Love" with her voice reaching the upper registers making you believe everything is feasible and there are days where we all require it. Listen here.
40. "America" – Simon and Garfunkel (Almost Famous)
Zooey Deschanel plays Crowe's sister in Almost Famous and she's the one who triggered his love of music. As she leaves home, she chooses to play "America" by Simon and Garfunkel. Right before she leaves, she puts her hands on her not yet teen brother and tells him "One day you'll be cool". The hopes and dreams we all experience and as begin our journey of life are serene and dreamlike. There is an uncertainty, hope and a dream that feels as if it's in reach and as she drives off, we believe in her even though we know the odds are stacked against her.
39. "I Fall Apart" – Julie Giani (Vanilla Sky)
Crowe occasionally writes a song for his films. He co-wrote many of the Stillwater numbers for Almost Famous with his wife Nancy Wilson. This one was written for Vanilla Sky and it's a doozy. Anguished la-la-la's leads us to a tormented chorus full of sexual ache, calamity and a craving to not just be with someone under any circumstances. Julie (Cameron Diaz) plays this for Cruise's playboy character in her right before the film takes an extraordinarily dark turn. Listen here.
38. "Jesus Was a Cross Maker" – The Hollies (Elizabethtown)
The opening of Elizabethtown is like a funeral march where Drew Baylor (Orlando Bloom) is summoned to the corporate headquarters to learn he created something that will cost to company nearly 1-billion in losses. The look of dread can't be hidden and everyone looks upon him in a silent manner. It sets the tone for death, gloom and last looks. The core of every Cameron Crowe film is about breaking the chains we carry with us. Elizabethtown is a vastly undervalued film with philosophical sentiments brewing at the surface. This song flawlessly sets that journey in motion. Listen here.
37. "Would?" / "It Ain't Like That" – Alice in Chains (Singles)
I wish I had more songs from Singles on this list, but Singles is a film where arguably the music is the star. The songs are like tattoos on each and every character. It's in the coffee in the coffee shop, it's the graffiti on the walls of buildings, and it's in every raindrop and is most prevalent inside the clubs where the characters see live music. This makes individual scenes harder to standout (they all standout)The force of Soundgarden's "Birth Ritual" sticks in my head more with Campbell Scott professing his love in a phone booth to an answering machine, but I had to go with the Alice in Chains performance early in the film. "It Ain't Like That" features Layne Staley grinding the concert stage like an unleashed creature. "Would?" is more recognizable as the soundtrack's lead song and ultimately when I watch it now; I feel an overwhelming sense of loss invade me. Staley was one of the era's great front men and even though I am thrilled Alice in Chains has continued making truly career defining music, I can't help but feel Layne had more stories to share. Listen here.
36. "Sweetness Follows" –R.E.M. (Vanilla Sky)
Vanilla Sky is the Crowe's darkest film led not so much by Tom Cruise but by the surreal and nightmarish soundtrack that accompanied the film's images. "Sweetness Follows" is the centerpiece of Vanilla Sky where the film splits off. You feel Cruise's pain, his longing and his vulnerability. Tom Cruise is a great actor hidden behind a movie star and Crowe gets the most out of him. Stipe's lyrics give the scene broad dimensions digging deep into the psyche of David Aames (Cruise). I almost put "Radio Song" by R.E.M. here (from Singles) but "Sweetness Follows" is more evocative. Listen here.
35. "All the Right Friends" –R.E.M. (Vanilla Sky)
Crowe got R.E.M. to record this song for Vanilla Sky and they went back to the past for one of the first songs they ever wrote and finally did a proper recording. As Tom Cruise and Jason Lee cruise New York traffic recklessly this song penetrates the sense in the background. What appears to be merely a fast rocker to accommodate the scene but the biting lyrics ("I've been walking alone now for a long, long time") parallel the dilemma Cruise is in. As a wealthy bachelor one has to wonder who your true friends are.
34. "Small Time Blues" – Pete Droge (Almost Famous)
In the "Riot House" scene from Almost Famous, William Miller peaks into a hotel room where two figures sit singing along to this song. It's brief and sudden and you will most likely not remember it, but it speaks volumes. Two people coming together and intertwining their souls through song with an outsider witnessing their connection, their creation and their life. Its faint moments like this that makes Crowe's films revelations. Such a small and simple scene is really a commentary on his film as a whole. On the commentary track Crowe mentioned how he imagined these two characters being Gram Parsons and Emmylou Harris. The track is a Droge original and is available in two versions including the acoustic one from Almost Famous. Listen here.
33.-32. "Vanilla Sky" – Paul McCartney / "Where Do I Begin" -Chemical Brothers (Vanilla Sky)
As David Aames (Cruise) wakes up early in Vanilla Sky, you can hear Paul McCartney whistle the title track and it reappears right at the end. The flash-cut to the credits and the song works magically and it's one of McCartney's most melancholy tunes. Crowe gave Macca a chance to be subversive and it worked. Upon the song's conclusion, "Where Do I Begin" begins. I almost didn't include it here as it's solely in the ending credits, however, film should be about a journey and the film and accompanying soundtrack album aren't fully complete until I've heard the guitar sample on repeat taking me down another trippy hallway into yet another lucid dream. Listen here. Listen here.
31. "Tiny Dancer" – Elton John (Almost Famous)
The integral front man-guitarist chemistry of Stillwater comes to a head when the singer feels the guitarist is overshadowing him. Russell Hammond goes to a fans house and parties the night away before the tour bus rescues him the next morning. When he appears back in the bus, the resentment looms over everything. Nary is a word spoken and he looks are deathly. As the bus takes off, the band one by one and the hangers-on begin to sing before the chorus washes their troubles away. They find solace in the music and it saves the day and in some ways, does something the spoken words can not match. Listen here.
30. "Singalong Junk" –Paul McCartney (Jerry Maguire)
This may be one of the most sensuous tracks Paul McCartney has ever written. The stripped instrumental puts its focus on the piano, drums and an acoustic guitar creating a song that wrangles inside your stomach forcefully and to think it elicits such a strong reaction without any lyrics is a coup. Cameron Crowe used this to beautifully in Jerry Maguire during a moment of affection between Tom Cruise and Renee Zellweger. Without ever uttering a word, the lullaby pulls at heart strings. It's moments like these on McCartney that are underrated and amongst McCartney's finest. Listen here.
29. "Tangerine" – Led Zeppelin (Almost Famous)
Journalist William Miller sits at on his bed, pulls out his tape recorded and places it in front of Russell Hammond. Miller asks "What do you love about music?" Hammond turns his chair around and says "To begin with…everything". Once again Crowe frames a song breathing new life into it. The montage of scenes that ends Almost Famous is set to "Tangerine" and it's not something anyone could picture, except for Cameron Crowe. Life on the road has never been more beautiful or pure. The bus rides into the sunset and the screen fades to black as Jimmy Page's acoustic guitar fades out. Rock n' roll doesn't get any better or more picturesque than this. Listen here.
28. "My Father's Gun" –Elton John (Elizabethtown)
Elton John's pensive eight-minute long epic is the centerpiece of Elizabethtown where the lead character played by Orlando Bloom comes to grips with the loss of his father. Featured in an extended trailer and at a three different pivotal moments in Elizabethtown where tragedy is met with community, Crowe weaves the song like a communal gospel hymn making you forget any preconceived notions you may have about Elton John. Listen here.
27. - 26. "Solsbury Hill" – Peter Gabriel / "4th Time Around" – Bob Dylan (Vanilla Sky)
"Solsbury Hill" once again evokes that elated sensation of the moment you realize you are falling in love with someone. Instead of sex, Tom Cruise and Penelope Cruz connect over a conversation that lasts until the morning light in Vanilla Sky. Crowe wisely lets the song unfold as their conversation continues. A lesser filmmaker would have had them between the sheets immediately, but he draws the foreplay of language out through Peter Gabriel's second most iconic song. During another one-on-one session that is more sensual than sexual later in the film, Crowe digs deep to a Blonde on Blonde Dylan cut, "4th Time Around". However, Crowe opted to use the version found on The Bootleg Series Vol. 4: Bob Dylan Live 1966, The "Royal Albert Hall" Concert the infamous "Judas" show where he finished it with an electric guitar in tow. However, the early portion of the show found minimal arrangements and Dylan's voice; guitar and harmonica strip these two characters and the screen they share to their emotional bare bone. Listen here.
25. "…Passing By"- Ulrich Schnauss (Elizabethtown)
I had never heard of the German based electronic musician Ulrich Schnauss before his "...Passing By" popped up in Elizabethtown. After spending the entire night on the phone with one another (more on that later) Drew (Orlando Bloom) and Claire (Kristen Dunst) decide to drive half way right before dawn to meet one another. As their cars approach each other in the early morning mist, "…Passing By" plays in a relatively wraithlike instrumental hymn as it evokes the sound of sound of dawn as these two characters once again come face-to-face for their next quest. It's insertion in the film was so left field that if I had heard the song out of the framework of the film I am not sure it would have had the same force. Listen here
24. "Learning to Fly" – Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers (Elizabethtown)
A few short scenes after "…Passing By" Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers "Learning to Fly" is cued up. As Claire and Drew depart for what they think may be the last time, they share parting looks that verge on devastating. Drew is beaten from the events of his life and even though she is a beacon of light, you can see in Claire's eyes that underneath that dreamy and bubbly appearance they're both lost, seeking something that seems unattainable. As Drew drives his car with "Learning to Fly" in the background, we're witness to the lush landscapes of the south. It's more than cinema eye-candy, but allowing Drew and the viewer to get lost in the moment. We encounter splendor each and every day but how often do we recognize it? In the depths of dejection we view the world differently and it's the minute things that leap out at us that we ignored dozens of times before. Petty tapped into an elixir of compassion allowing him to create in my estimation, his most paramount anthem. It's a song that may sound infinite to your ears when the going is good but will be a foundation of consolation when the going gets rough Listen here
23. "Magic Bus"/ "Getting in Tune"- The Who (Jerry Maguire)
I'm cheating here but these two songs are indivisible in the opening sequences of Jerry Maguire. On the commentary track Crowe talks about how producer James L. Brooks encouraged him to begin the film where every other 1980's movie ended- in triumph. We see Jerry maneuver his way smoothly through large crowds, negotiations and his fly-by-the-seat-of-his-pants career. He's a star, a dynamo and on top of the world much like the Who in 1970 when this cut of "Magic Bus" was recorded and eventually released on Live at Leeds. Someone one day should make a list of the greatest live rock n' roll bands at their peak and if you throw longevity and financial considerations out the window, you would be hard pressed to find any band that was as explosive and invigorating than the Who from 1969-1974. Coming off Live at Leeds, Townshend had a bit of a breakdown trying to create something more audacious than Tommy with Lifehouse which led to a near mental breakdown by Townshend. The songs eventually found their way onto the Who masterwork Who's Next but to Townshend it was something that didn't reach the heights he hoped for. Jerry Maguire had reached the top and yet something inside pulled at him almost as a reminder that he'd taken his eyes off the ball. There were two people within yanking at his soul and out of it comes a mission statement ("The Things We Think and Do Not Say") which sets his life towards an alternate detour. "Getting in Tune" with its pensive piano, John Entwhistle's tingling bass and Daltry's ache exemplifies the scene and Maguire's state of mind. The song flows over into the copy shot scene where Jerry Cantrell of Alice in Chains makes an unforgettable cameo where he hands Maguire a mockup of his mission statement by telling him "That's how you become great man, you hang your balls out there". Crowe, Maguire and Townshend each did just that and it came together vividly here in this opening sequence. Listen here
22. – 21."Heaven" –Rolling Stones / "Good Vibrations"-Beach Boys (Vanilla Sky)
The penultimate act in Crowe's mind twisting Vanilla Sky finds Cruise, in his current masked state, waking up from what appears to be a ghastly dream. "Heaven" is a sublime Rolling Stone track is from 1981's Tattoo You and it seduces your mind into believing something isn't right and before the big disclosure at the end. Shortly thereafter, The Beach Boys "Good Vibrations" takes you deep into the vortex of the movie's heart in a stunning, heart-racing and enlightening finale. The direction and editing of this fastidious scene are cosmic and gleeful and may be the Beach Boys finest moment. Listen here and here
20. – 17. The Elizabethtown Road Trip
Elizabethtown culminates in one of cinema's most luminous and liberating road trips. Claire encourages Drew to make the trip from Kentucky back home to Oregon with his father's ashes beside him in a detailed map full of mix discs, notes for where to stop and alternate routes that drag our reluctant souls into the present. The sequence is shot with restrained elegance and is resplendently accentuated with song-after-song in a deluge of music rarely seen in film. There are over a dozen songs in this sequence and never once do you feel a certain song goes on too long, if anything, I wish certain road scenes were elongated. U2 and Ryan Adams also make appearances in the extensive sequence and it was hard not to include them here, especially the pining optimism of Adam's acoustic guitar on "Words" and "English Girls Approximately", but the four songs below (along with the previously listed "My Father's Gun" by Elton John) are the emotional centerpiece of the film's climax.
20. "Hard Times (Come Again No More)" by eastmountainsouth
"Hard Times" is still being covered 150-years after originally being written by Stephen Foster with recent renditions by Johnny Cash and Bruce Springsteen. The band eastmountainsouth's version can be heard at the end of Elizabethtown. The duo and their autumn harmonies linger in the air as they unite on both the verses and choruses. They sound like a gospel choir eviscerating the dread that soils our spirit …and there are only two of them. We've all experienced an emotional holocaust of some kind. Something so demoralizing it threatens to steal a part of who we are. We're faced with darkness and the walls are closing in on us. We've sunk to our lowest but then out of nowhere something or someone comes to the rescue. As Drew begins the road trip, he's only then coming to terms with his life, his family and the death of his father and this sequence is a purging of all within. Listen here
19. "Sugar Blue"- Jeff Finlin
After allowing himself five-minutes to wallow in the misery of his failure where in a voice over Claire tell him "You have five-minutes to wallow in the delicious misery. Enjoy it, embrace it, discard it…and proceed", Drew charges forward and the first song played is "Sugar Blue". The song induces images in me of people trying to catch up to railroad cars from a century back while Drew Baylor (Orlando Bloom) is finding his way back to living life. The dreamy mid-tempo number refreshes the palette and steers us back on the road to redemption. Listen here
18. "Don't I Hold You"-Wheat
A power pop sensibility is built into Wheat's "Don't I Hold You" and it radiates a winking yearning. It's a sun-drenched song where a little chime makes sporadic visits. The music is exultant while it slowly glides into a glorious vocal upsurge. It's vibrant and it leaps out as Drew continues his drive with an onward thrust of optimism. Listen here
17. "Square One" –Tom Petty (Elizabethtown)
Tom Petty gave Crowe "Square One" nearly a year before it appeared on his aptly titled 2006 solo record Highway Companion."Square One" with its reserved arrangement focusing on the acoustic guitar and his affectionate and reedy voice, appears at a pivotal point in the trip as it features Drew following Claire's detailed instructions to dance with "one hand waving free". His dance is fluid, free, and ridiculous and yet it hearkens to the failures of our past and points us to a future that is unwritten. This is all highlighted with elegiac lyrics from Petty proving he still has many stories to tell. Listen here
16. "Gathering Stories" – Jónsi (We Bought A Zoo)
We Bought A Zoo features a truly exceptional and eclectic score by Jónsi, the lead singer and guitarist for Sigur Rós. It seemed peculiar to me on paper, but his inconspicuous score slowly winds and weaves itself around you. As the film drew to a Capraesque ending, I sat there with tears flowing down my cheeks. I'll reserve the reasons why in a more detailed review of the film, but it hit me hard. The song is co-written by Crowe and in the concluding scene of the movie, Jónsi's score comes full circle in one of the greatest closing scenes I've ever seen in any film. I will not back away from that statement. This song's inclusion on this list is a deeply personal choice, but Jónsi and Sigur Rós have barely been on my radar but the strength of the score and this song gives me enough to go on to discover more and it heightens the significance of the film and gives implication to the enduring quote used in the film; "some times all you need is 20 seconds of insane courage". Listen here
15. "IO (This Time Around)" – Helen Stellar (Elizabethtown)
A simple plodding bass line aligns with your heartbeat in a flashback scene from Elizabethtown where Drew (Orlando Bloom) reminisces about his father. The heartbeat bass and angelic vocal tears right through you as the slow motion scene that is full of elation and melancholy. Life lesson; appreciate those close to you while they are alive, don't put things off, take action and share experiences while everyone is alive. When I think back to my childhood, my bedroom, my backyard and the experience of life unfolding in front of me, I see me, my sister, my mother and father and I hear this song. Crowe's films make ordinary lives seem extraordinary. Listen here
14. -12. The Singles Trilogy
I refer to the three songs below as the Singles trilogy. Crowe doesn't just use music well within films but he often revisits certain songs later in the film to unite the sentiments and journeys of the characters at hand. These three songs make recurring visits to the screen throughout the film and I had to group them together. I felt these three made the utmost impact where it truly added authentic dimension to not just the story arc but genuine nature of each character.
14. "Seasons" – Chris Cornell (Singles)
Chris Cornell has been graced with one of the greatest and more versatile voices in all of rock. His acoustic guitar is restrained here and its' repeated use throughout the film seeps its way unconsciously. His longing acoustic plays in faultless contrast to the buoyant plucking of Westerberg's score. Listen here
13. "Waiting for Somebody" – Paul Westerberg (Singles)
Westerberg scored the film with sprightly acoustic nuggets throughout but it was his return to the acoustic chords of "Waiting for Somebody" that resonate strongest. "Dyslexic Heart" was the hit and the music video, but his humming and strumming throughout the film hearken back to "Waiting for Somebody" and the film's theme of simply wanting to find someone to share your life with. You could switch up many of the songs in the film in different scenes but I couldn't imagine the film without his alternative and rootsy coffee shop touch. Listen here
12. "Chloe Dancer/Crown of Thorns" – Mother Love Bone (Singles)
Mother Love Bone should have been the first Seattle band to break through. We all know the story about Andrew Wood's tragic passing and how Stone Gossard and Jeff Ament went on to form Pearl Jam. One bit of trivia many are unaware of but this song can briefly be heard in Say Anything… in the apartment scene following graduation. It introduces Joan Cusack and her young son. This is the track that Lloyd Dobbler (Cusack) raises the volume on the stereo past the red line on but is warned that the red line exists because that's how high it can go without having the neighbors complain. Three years later "Chloe Dancer/ Crown of Thorns" wound up being one of the most vital songs in Singles. If Crowe only had one song to utilize throughout the entire film, this would have been it. There's an underlining sense of desire in most of the film's scenes where all any of the characters want to do is find "the one". We first hear the tender piano chords of "Chloe Dancer" early on in a scene with Kyra Sedgwick that turns into anguish minutes later. But then there's the Campbell Scott and Jim True car ride where they're in search of a rock club and pick up a few people for the ride including Eric Stoltz in a mime outfit. The search continues. Towards the end the song once again appears. If I had to pick one song that defines Singles it would probably be "Chloe Dancer/ Crown of Thorns" with "Waiting for Somebody" a close second. Listen here
11. Nancy Wilson's scores in Jerry Maguire, Almost Famous, Vanilla Sky & Elizabethtown
There are no words to exemplify the enormity Nancy Wilson's scores play in Crowe's films. They began on a less significant scale for Say Anything and Jerry Maguire but beginning with Almost Famous and continuing through Vanilla Sky and lastly with Elizabethtown, her music is as fundamental to the overall scope of the film as any James Williams string crescendo housed in Steven Spielberg's films. While her songs are nowhere near as ostentatious as most of the established songs on this list, her music is placed at truly pivotal scenes in the respective films. Jerry Maguire found her stretching beyond the realm of rock and pop music and on Almost Famous, besides writing and performing some of the Stillwater tunes, she gave us Lucky Trumble which is childlike in nature and the music attached to the airport scene where William Miller and Penny Lane part is delightfully wistful. On Vanilla Sky, her acoustic tingles find the characters at true crossroads, haunting them like a ghost from the past. Elizabethtown, the only film for which her entire score was released, her guitar chords are heard throughout and as the screen fades to black we hear the final notes of the breathtaking "River Road". If you haven't seen it, I will not spoil it for you, but it's as affectionate and consoling as any hug you will ever receive. "60B" is as splendid as any other song in Elizabethtown but you probably didn't even realize it. Nancy Wilson is the unsung hero of Crowe's films. Remove her striking wall of organic instrumentation and each film loses a hefty segment of what characterizes them. Listen here
10. "Joe Lies" / "That Will Never Be Me" Corey Flood (Say Anything
You can't find this musical moment on any soundtrack and there is very little that can be revealed about the singer/songwriter Corey Flood. After her instinctive appearance in Say Anything she vanished. Through meticulous research done by myself she appears to have attended De Paul University in Chicago and has been rumored to perform in coffee houses around the city; however no flyers, bootlegs or video clips appear to exist. Unconfirmed reports have her playing rhythm guitar for Veruca Salt around the mid-1990's but this is unsubstantiated. In the early 2000's I was told she sporadically showed up at open-mic night at the now defunct Lounge Ax on Lincoln Avenue. I attended dozens of these nights but never once saw her perform. Although I could have sworn I saw her perform an a cappella version of Bruce Springsteen's "The River" in late 1999 under the name of Sarah Kendrew. I approached her after the show and she seemed to be sheltered and shy, but I didn't ask her if she was Corey Flood from Say Anything .
A now defunct MySpace page appeared for Corey Flood in 2005 and I sent a message requesting an interview and some MP3's. In return I was given a PO Box address in Mumford, Texas to send a money order made out to "Anton Freeman". In return I was promised six CDR's with all 63 of Flood's boombox and 4-track demos. Months went by without any response until one day I received a letter from a publishing firm in New York from an attorney named Thomas Tipp. Tipp's handwritten letter informed me that the seller out of Mumford did not have legal authorization to sell the demos, which were second generation copies from the master Maxell II and 4-Track masters. He informed me that the demos have been and will continue to remain unreleased. Tipp's publishing firm is now in possession of the seven complete cassette deck sets distributed back in 1988. They informed me there are no plans to release them in any shape or form. This leaves us with the curtailed and off-the-hook performances delivered in Say Anything as the sole living document of Corey Flood's unbridled musical zeal. Some may smirk and smile at the scenes and others are fully aware of the pain she expresses in her eyes during the performances. Flood and her attorney's may never decide to release the infamous "Lost Tapes" of Corey Flood and if it is the only document we have, then I guess we must consider ourselves blessed as these brief glimpses are as real as pain and art can get. Listen here.
9. "Everything in the Right Place" Radiohead (Vanilla Sky)
Despite all of the critical acclaim laid upon Radiohead, you can't blame anyone for scratching their head at records like Kid A and Amnesiac. However, even the most vehement cynic would be hard pressed to not give them another listen after witnessing the opening sequence to Vanilla Sky. The morose backdrop created by the music makes the scene of seclusion that much more effective. It also hearkens to the flamboyant Playboy character of David Aames that Tom Cruise embodies. The scene opens with three words ("open your eyes") but it sets the tone for the dreamy ambiance that encompasses the rest of the film from an icy apartment to the deserted streets of New York. A mood is struck that is kept for the entire film, all of which can be attributed to the luminescent use of this song. Listen here.
8. "Sparks" The Who (Almost Famous)
A true moment of awakening that transforms William Miller. Crowe has an uncanny talent to take an event everyone has experiences and make it irrefutable. As a young William Miller shuffles through his sister's record collection in Almost Famous we are taken back to that moment of awakening where we first fell in love with music where we know our lives will never be the same ever again. Visually speaking "Sparks" accompanies Miller's growth from a pre-teen to an awkward teen in a few succinct scenes. Besides a wholesome uninhibited ecstasy of music, it also tells the tale of someone going through colossal growing pains where one is never truly alone as long as there is music. Listen here.
7. "Secret Garden" Bruce Springsteen (Jerry Maguire)
Originally released in February of 1995 as one of four new songs on Springsteen's Greatest Hits release, "Secret Garden" was chosen as the second single and pushed at radio stations. It peaked at a lowly number-58. The truth behind the song is that most long-time Springsteen fans felt "Garden" was the weakest of the new tracks and when a outtake entitled "Back In Your Arms" surfaced on a documentary later that year, everyone was astounded that "Arms" wasn't the lead single with it's soulful vocal liberation with the E Street Band channeling the Stax Records catalog. Springsteen quickly moved onto a set of solo songs lacking melody but bristling with socio-political tirades on The Ghost of Tom Joad a few months later and "Secret Garden" was left to languish until the trailer for Jerry Maguire appeared in the fall of 1996. "Secret Garden" was featured prominently in the trailer and wound up having several showcase moments within the film. Almost instantly, the song took on new meaning. Instead of skipping it on the CD, I listened closer. It slowly infected me. When Springsteen took his characters off the road and began to write about what happens behind closed doors, his audience moved on. However, at its best he broke his music down to an even more profound personal manner. "Secret Garden" is a song about a woman who outwardly may show her cards, but when it comes to true intimacy, she never reveals herself much like Cruise's character of Jerry Maguire. The song comes in at pivotal moments like Maguire's first date with Dorothy Boyd and again in the final act where it is laced with the struggles of life in a lingering and emotionally bare scene for Cruise. Cruise took the character from the top of his game to the depths of despair and we believed every single second thanks to the dutiful direction, the affecting words in the script and the careful selection of songs by Crowe. "Secret Garden" is an example of a song that was discarded by everyone and Crowe picked it up out of the trash, impregnated our senses with it and gave Bruce Springsteen his last top-twenty hit on the Billboard 100. Listen here.
6. "The Wind" Cat Stevens (Almost Famous)
In September 2000 Cameron Crowe was on Charlie Rose discussing Almost Famous and he spoke of how he hoped to extend the sequence of "The Wind" on his director's cut. The theatrical cut features Kate Hudson dancing without a care in the world in an empty music hall post-concert. However, on the director's cut of Untitled Crowe did a few minor edits which increases its emotional weight ten-fold. The preceding scene finds Stillwater being fast talked by a big name manager (played with great gusto by an unrecognizable Jimmy Fallon) about maximizing their profit while they can. The camera flashes to journalist William Miller and slowly pulls away where he hears the words of Lester Bangs in voice-over; "You're coming along at a very dangerous time for rock 'n' roll. The war is over. They won. And they will ruin rock 'n' roll and strangle everything we love about it". This was not in the theatrical cut and on Untitled it provides a weight unforeseen. The world of music has changed so much in the last decade, these words are even eerier than they were in 2000 let alone 1973. We hear Cat Steven's acoustic guitar begin before Penny Lane (Kate Hudson) dances in the auditorium post-concert. She is free as a bird, her smile and eyes are as glistening as any love song ever written. To identify with Penny Lane is to seize love. The euphoric high post-concert is something that goes unrecorded. You have been transformed and you sincerely believe your life is better simply by being there. No one will ever make a film like Almost Famous ever again, because we've turned from a society of optimism to cynicism. We live each and every waking minute of our lives to experience a love as unadulterated as the one Penny Lane projects and Crowe captures in this scene. Listen here.
5. "Shelter From the Storm" Bob Dylan (Jerry Maguire)
In the fall of 1974, Bob Dylan took up residence in a New York studio (and later on in Minnesota) and cut the bloodiest break-up record of all time; Blood on the Tracks. The songs are believed to largely deal with the break-up of his marriage. The album's ninth track "Shelter From the Storm" was chosen by Crowe as the finale for Jerry Maguire which ends of a high note with Maguire back on his feet. There's one last bit of dialogue (before the shift to the credits) from Maguire's mentor Dicky Fox, "Hey, I don't have all the answers. In life, to be honest, I failed as much as I have succeeded. But I love my wife. I love my life. And I wish you my kind of success." Cameron Crowe once again tapped into a universal theme aimed squarely at the heart. However, beneath the veneer of the final scene is a song in which the narrator poetically sings about empirical matters and is in the continual search for salvation.
The sweeping feel-good finale is enshrined in our memories but not before Crowe gave Bob Dylan the final word. Crowe had the prudence to make an appeal not just for "Shelter from the Storm" but for an unreleased alternate take of the song focusing on Dylan's acoustic guitar and harmonica. Dylan channels his rage and optimism fiercely through rigorous strumming with his hands lashing the six-strings like a wild animal that has captured its prey. His nicotine rasp encapsulates and foreshadows the contradictions of our existence. Despite the setbacks and angst that largely illustrate our lives, Crowe (and Dylan) appear to be delivering a tentative smirk at us. Life's mysteries can't full be summed up in a film or song but it can provide a road map to us for when we experience both the sweet and the sour. As we watch Jerry and Dorothy walk into that sunset, we're not sure where they will end up because life is full of accidental collisions and downturns. However, we also believe that through their shared heartache (exemplified by "Shelter from the Storm") they have the tools which will help their relationship weather any storm and in many ways, that's the greatest ending we could ever hope for. Listen here.
4. "Come Pick Me Up" Ryan Adams (Elizabethtown)
Singles would not have existed without the burgeoning music scene of Seattle. The same could be said of Elizabethtown and Ryan Adams. Crowe was on tour with his wife's band Heart when inspiration struck him in the summer of 2002. He rented a car, began driving through the south, started taking notes and listened to Ryan Adams whose music in large part (along with My Morning Jacket) infuses the essence of the film. The Ryan Adams song "Come Pick Me Up", from his debut solo release, Heartbreaker, became the film's scene stealer. In a soundtrack of dozens upon dozens of songs this one pulls you into the film. After a long and arduous journey's to his father's hometown to gather his remains, Drew Baylor (Orlando Bloom) is in desperate straits attempting to make sense of the dual personal tragedies he has just encountered. He is at the Brown Hotel and fumbles through his phone seeking a voice, any voice, on the other end. Out of desperation he calls Claire (Kristen Dunst), the lively flight attendant he met en route to Kentucky. He doesn't want to call her but he's alone and needs that human touch. What unfolds in front of our eyes is movie magic. Claire draws Drew out of his shell and Ryan Adams, with his lush acoustic guitar leading the proceedings, augments the scene with naked vulnerability. Throughout the scene you can't help but have a smile sneak up on you as we're witnessing one person pick another up with a friendly voice and an open ear. If there is any one thing I am sure of in this universe, we are not destined to walk through it alone. That doesn't mean you have to be married or in a relationship for it to have meaning, it simply means sharing your life with someone and having them open up the world for you. The road to too treacherous, the terrain is too winding and the ache too colossal to mount alone. This scene in Elizabethtown sums up the human experience where we let our inner wall come crashing down so that another person can take a look at us, warts and all. I had such issue with people who lashed out against Elizabethtown because I felt so close to it all. People often mistake intimacy with the shedding of clothes, but this scene between Claire and Drew is as intimate and exposed as any I can remember. Two misfits let their guard down and through each other (and with a little help from Ryan Adams) they begin to let go of their desperation, dislocation, desolation and isolation as they remind one another that life's travails contain extreme pain but also joy and the elation outweighs it all. Listen here.
3. "In Your Eyes" Peter Gabriel (Say Anything
This isn't just Crowe's most memorable cinematic scene; it's one of the most iconic in all of film. The tributes and discussion over the years are endless. Despite the fact that boomboxes no longer exist, it's not so much about the product in Lloyd Dobler's hands, but the heart with which he expresses himself. Most of us wouldn't dare to reveal ourselves to anyone to this extent. It's an insanely courageous proclamation of love few would ever dare. What's most astonishing about "In Your Eyes" is that the song and the scene almost never happened. As they were filming, they weren't fully sure how to capture the scene. They began shooting it on a street and Cusack sat on his car holding the boombox, but not in the classic pose. On the very last day of filming, cinematographer László Kovács found a location in a park across the street from the 7-11. They scheduled last shot was the 7-11 parking lot shot where Cusack pushes glass out of the way for Diane Court. After the scene was shot, they rushed to a park across the street and set-up the iconic shot. As the sun was dissipating Crowe told Cusack to hold the stereo above his head. Cusack felt a more reserved approach was the way to go, but Crowe urged him and told him "Trust me" and the rest you could say is movie history; but not quite. In the editing process of the scene they couldn't find a good music fit for the scene. Many songs were tried and Cusack actually played a Fishbone song during the filming. However one day Crowe put in his wedding mix tape from 1986 and heard Peter Gabriel's "In Your Eyes". He rushed to the editing studio, they synched it up and immediately knew they had their song. Even then they had one more hurdle, getting Gabriel's permission. Up to this point, Gabriel had not licensed many songs for films and the ones he did grant approval were originals and not recycled from his studio albums. The request went in and they waited anxiously. One day Gabriel called Crowe and informed him that he would pass. When Crowe asked him why, Gabriel responded saying he felt that it didn't fit with the death in the end. Crowe then told him he thought he had the wrong film. It turns out Gabriel had watched Wired, a film about the late comedian John Belushi. "Oh, you're the high school movie, I'll watch that tonight", Gabriel told Crowe and he did give his blessing and the rest you can say is pop culture history.
"In Your Eyes" was originally a US single in the fall of 1986 where it failed to crack the Top-20. Because of Say Anything the song slowly made its way back up the charts to number-41. There's irony here because it's his most recognizable song and burned into the brains of a whole generation and it never made it out of the lower regions of the Top-40. Yet, twenty-five years later the song still entrances. The way the chime repeats itself throughout the song almost as if it's in step with your beating heart. Gabriel's soft and elegiac vocal is like a hymn or a between-the-sheets confession of love. You feel his ache, you hear the joy and rest they say is history. Gabriel has taken a low profile after the immense success of So with only two proper studio albums and a slew of side projects including lat year's superb re-working of classic songs New Blood which features a sumptuous string filled "In Your Eyes". A quarter of a century later So sounds gloriously alive and well, it's still a record that can leave people in awe just from an arrangement and production viewpoint. Gabriel has written better songs but none have connected in such extreme and deeply personal matter. When John Cusack, Cameron Crowe and Peter Gabriel all pass on one day, their obituaries will point specifically to this scene and this song. Each of them brought indelible splendor to the scene and it's enshrined in our memory banks for all time. If one scene in a movie will be noted in three separate obituaries, then I think that's a sign you've created something truly eternal. Listen here.
2. "It'll All Work Out" Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers (Elizabethtown)
Drew Baylor (Orlando Bloom) is walking through the airport en route to make burial plans for his father as flight attendant Claire Colburn (Kristen Dunst) preps herself for her job. Nary is a word spoken by either actor and yet the viewer is able to discern much from not just their facial reactions but this artfully fragile song from Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. "It'll All Work Out" is a forgotten treasure lost on the band's 1987 unnoticed Let Me Up (I've Had Enough) . The track itself has a strange history as it found Petty at a time of bewilderment in his marriage. While he and his wife stayed together for several more years, the pained tone of the song really says everything one would need to know. Petty came up with the lyrics and couldn't do anything else with it so he brought it to guitarist Mike Campbell and told him to see what he could do with it. Campbell went into his bag of tricks and dressed Petty's wounded lyrics with somber wonder. Petty's ghostly vocal is complimented by a striking amalgamation of a weeping guitar, a distressing mandolin, a lingering dulcimer and the ethereal wonder of a Japanese koto. The instruments and vocals counterpoint one another like stars alongside the moon.
As Petty ruminates about the selflessness of letting one go so they can fly away and be free we see two actors disappear into their craft awakening sentiments within the viewer that were most likely forgotten or buried so deep and far they hoped to never stumble upon them again. To the naysayers of Elizabethtown I often point to this scene where Drew and Claire (performed with great control by Bloom and Dunst) exhibit something as valiant as the subversive Lloyd Dobler boombox scene. Their faces can't conceal their weariness and "It'll All Work Out" masterfully connects Drew and Claire's inner emotions to our own memories. The ghost of Drew's father lingers in the air as does his recent failure. Almost immediately, through their eyes and Petty's solemn hymn, we feel as if we know their tenderness wholly. All of the dread and dour prophecies we encounter can be felt through the marriage of this buried Tom Petty song and Crowe's understated direction. To comprehend and feel happiness run through our veins, we must comprehend the depths of despair. In less than a minute, Crowe flawlessly encapsulates all of the trepidation that can destroy us. This scene has never left my consciousness and "It'll All Work Out" went from long lost album filler to a bona fide cult classic. Listen here.
1. "Within Your Reach"-The Replacements (Say Anything
Over the last twenty-plus years, I can't tell you how many times I've watched Cameron Crowe's films in total. I don't even want to guess. But I mention this because I attempted to create this list with a little bit of authority and also in the hopes people would discover some great music and rediscover some cinematic gems. Choosing one specific song to place at number one is daunting, but it had to be done. To my eyes and ears, "Within Your Reach" by the Replacements in 1989's Say Anything is without question Crowe's fundamental cinematic moment of musical genius. I'm sure many are scratching their heads and others may be asking who the Replacements are, but every script and lead character Crowe ever wrote about stems from the two uses of "Within Your Reach". Paul Westerberg wrote and performed all the instruments on "Within Your Reach" and it's not like anything else in the Replacements catalog. It's not even on one off their better known albums (Hootenanny). The hissing drum machine is the keystone of the obtuse track as his vocals duet with his sinuous distorted guitars that is a studio creation unlike any other. The bass bulges as guitars warp as they curve around unexpected twists and turns with an ever so slight keyboard in the backdrop. His lyrics are full of yearning boldness pairing up marvelously with Dobler's moral fiber. In another stroke of luck, if Cusack had not been cast, it's unlikely the song would have made the film. Crowe was so hell bent on getting Cusack to do the role he went to Chicago "hat-in-hand" (according to Crowe on the commentary track) as a first time director and slowly caved to all of Cusack's requests. However, this was not an ego stroke; it was a collaboration to bring one of the great romantic leads in the history of cinema to life. One of Cusack's demands was that Lloyd listens to the Clash and the Replacements. Crowe knew of the Replacements but didn't know their music. They decided on "Within Your Reach" for the second to last scene. However, the studio had other ideas. They wanted a third reprise of "In Your Eyes" but Cusack and Crowe fought to keep the Replacements track and won out. On the commentary track for the Say Anything DVD Cusack said "That song more than anything than any other song, was sort of my soundtrack" and little did he know it, but it's the greatest in Crowe's musical portfolio.
The song first makes an appearance in Corey Flood's bedroom (played by Lili Taylor). Dobler and Diane Court have broken up and Dobler being insolent. When his friend D.C. presses him about why he won't reach out again he replies "'Cause I'm a guy. I have pride". Flood argues with Dobler before she delivers a classic Cameron Crowe line, "The world is full of guys. Be a man". In the background, the drum machine of "Within Your Reach" swirls. However, the scene sets the stage for a more profound scene, which I feel exemplifies Crowe's talent as a top-tier filmmaker. Throughout the whole film, Dobler relishes his relationship with Diane Court more than anything. He has never been this serious about anything before and he's transforming from a boy into a man. Instead of Saturday nights out with the guys, he fully realizes those moments are fleeting and wants something more. After his scolding in Corey's bedroom, he puts himself on the line once again and eventually he and Diane reunite. In a life altering decision, Dobler decides to go with her to Europe for her fellowship because he can't imagine doing anything other than being with her. He's not going to get a minimum wage job, he isn't going to community college and he isn't joining the army because that is what his father did before him. He's carving his own existence. This is all exemplified in the film's penultimate scene. We see Dobler packing his bags to accompany Diane to Europe. His sister and nephew look on and in the background "Within Your Reach" plays. This isn't a coincidence; it's the very same song where his friend Corey told him to "be a man." Once he has finished packing, he walks over to the stereo where he takes the volume dial and cranks it far past the red line his sister placed so as to not upset the neighbors. He walks to his sister, does a sibling handshake, bows down to his nephew and then takes one look back around the apartment with a grin on his face as he takes his final walk out the door. His head bounces to the left in a righteous manner almost as if he's in absolute and total control of the road in front of him. Lloyd Dobler is living life on his own terms. His sister, friends, teachers, parents and noise-adverse neighbor's aren't going to alter him from his path. We live our whole lives for this moment of clarity and it doesn't happen often.
Each and every lead character Cameron Crowe has ever written involves their augmentation from boy to man. Over the course of two-hours, Crowe turns their lives upside down, makes them the underdogs and wants them to kick box their way back to the top. There's tenacity but also an awakening that alter their lives for the better. Steve Dunne, Jerry Maguire, Russell Hammond, David Aames, Benjamin Mee, William Miller and Lloyd Dobler take a step forward in the big bad world and identify themselves by their actions. Lloyd Dobler for the duration of Say Anything
is someone no one believes in, except Diane. He begins the film wandering through life alone and aimless. Through his relationship with Diane and the exhilarated jolt of love, his path suddenly becomes apparent. He ends it with a love by his side and a understanding of where he needs to be. Cameron Crowe films always find the leads coming to some sort of resolution in their life. It doesn't occur through happenstance but through them. The sun may be shining when that final scene fades into the credits, but there's no so much a sense of a happy ending but a sense that the character has turned a corner not just within the context of the film but in their life. One vital chapter has come to an end and they're going to take everything they learned and put it into action over the next few life chapters. His endings aren't finite so much as they are promising. We watch carefully because we hope that we can make it through the same trials and tribulations and come out of the darkness with the same resolve. As "Within Your Reach" ends we flash to the final scene in Say Anything
where Dobler is comforting Diane as they're ready to take off. It's not a far-reaching romantic scene but one rooted in reality. True love is giving yourself over to your partner at their darkest hour and when they need you the most. Diane has had to endure more than she should have and while Lloyd is ready for the next steps, her fear of flying is an obstacle she needs to overcome and it doing so with Lloyd by her side. Hand-in-hand, arm-in-arm they are living their life to the fullest
within each other's reach. Listen here.
Anthony Kuzminski is a Chicago based writer and Special Features Editor for the antiMusic Network. His daily writings can be read at The Screen Door. He can be contacted at thescreendoor AT gmail DOT com and can be followed on Twitter
Music and Movies: Cameron Crowe's 'Greatest Hits'
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