Cameron Crowe has fallen fairly hard in the decade since Elizabethtown marked the beginning of his decline, as Aloha is by all accounts a pretty miserable film. It was torched during the Sony hacking scandal, as the memos were very unkind towards it and reviews have been fairly savage towards it. The one story that has popped up and dominating the headlines has been the whitewashing of Hawaii … but the real story people aren’t discussing is just how Crowe has managed to go from being the Jason Reitman of the 1990s to one of the worst directors working now.
Complaining about the “whiteness” of a film like Aloha, which a number of outlets including the Daily Beast did, is like complaining that a Spike Lee film is too black or a Robert Rodriguez film is way too Hispanic. People really just like to complain these days, like the backlash to the “feminist” Mad Max: Fury Road and the backlash to that backlash. Getting angry about something these days, like not going full ham on Scientologists, is just standard practice.
You go into a film like Aloha having to pretty much expecting Crowe’s writer/director style of middle class suburban style problems. He could do a project about a guy finding himself in Liberia and manage to cast it with nothing but white people with fairly stupid problems that need resolved in wacky ways. It’s kind of like how people complain about a Transformers film being loud and stupid, a Lars Von Trier film being pretentious or that an M. Night Shyamalan film either does or not have a twist. When you see the “Written and directed by Cameron Crowe” tag during a trailer it ought to be a sign that the hashtag “White People Problems at $50 million a clip” will be a relevant plot line in the film.
The real story after the film’s release, alongside the fairly pedestrian $10 million box office domestically, is that Crowe’s career as a relevant film maker seems to be at an end. And oddly enough he’s crashing and burning at the same time that Jason Reitman is, a director who had a similar hot streak a decade after Crowe’s biggest hit. Crowe’s career parallels Reitman’s right now in that his first handful of films were successful but what has felt like a down streak is really a return to form. Both struck gold right away. Both have worked with exceptional casts throughout their career. And both have crashed hard, career wise, as of late.
It’s curious because it’s happening at the same time, despite the later start from the Young Adult auteur, but the son of Ivan Reitman and the writer of Fast Times At Ridgemont High are both in the same place.
Reitman had an unprecedented trio of tremendous films to start out his career. Thank You For Smoking, Juno and Up in the Air all were small budget films that found audiences and prestige from every organization that mattered. It was an opening trio of films that represent one of the greatest opening series of films from a director in modern history. Reitman looked like he was going to be a great director of legend … and then he wound up falling from grace as quickly as he walked into it. Young Adult was a reuniting with Diablo Cody, Oscar winning former stripper behind Juno, that would up not working on the same level despite having the talents of Charlize Theron in the lead. Labor Day came and went from theatres without much to write about. And Men, Women and Children got the VOD treatment but wound up a substantial money loser overall. Reitman may have some brilliance in him … but right now it looks like whatever brought out that start to his career is gone.
Crowe was on top of the world with a four film streak, though no one thinks of Singles as a high point in that period of time. Singles was St. Elmo’s Fire but in grunge flavoring … but for those of us who came of age in the ’90s it’s a time machine back to the point in time when hair metal was wiped off the landscape in short order. Say Anything…, Jerry Maguire and Almost Famous are three terrific films that hold up many years later. If all he had done was those four films you could argue his career was too short. The problem is that starting with Vanilla Sky Crowe’s films haven’t lived up to his earlier work. Elizabethtown wound up changing lead actors during production, in many ways sidetracking Ashton Kutcher’s career permanently. We Bought a Zoo was instantly forgettable. And now Aloha is in that same track, more of a curiosity in that it was kind of surprising didn’t wind up the VOD/limited release route to start.
Both gentlemen may have a resurgence at this point but three films in a director’s career is usually a trend more often than not.
A Movie A Week – The Challenge
This week’s DVD YouTube Video – Kung Fury
This apparently was Kickstarted a couple years ago and finally came out onto YouTube. And everyone I knew was talking about it via social media, thus I thought I’d take a quick look.
Simple premise: Kung Fury (David Sandberg) is a police cop who has special kung fu power. Apparently you get them when you’re bit by a cobra and struck by lightning at the same time. Hitler (Jorma Taccone) wants to be the greatest martial artist of them all and thus travels through time to kill Kung Fury. Fury winds up going back in time to fight Hitler and Nazis, teaming with Thor, a Triceratops cop and some other badass types to take down Hitler and his Nazi army in Nazi era Germany.
The film is a quick 30 minute version of the sort of spoof/homage to ’80s cop films like Black Dynamite was to ’70s exploitation. It’s a bit nuttier, because it only has 30 minutes and thus doesn’t have the down beats that Black Dynamite did, but considering the cost (zero, except for an ad or two if you’re one of the three people not using AdBlock) it’s a solid watch on YouTube.
What Looks Good This Weekend, and I Don’t Mean the $2 tall boys of Red Fox and community college co-eds with low standards at the Fox and Hound
Spy – My buddy Nick the Stand Up summed it up properly: “Fatty falls down again. This time she’s a spy.”
Skip it – Melissa McCarthy is a bona fide box office draw … what a world this era of cinema is.
Entourage – Vince and the boys are back. This time his career might be over if his current film isn’t a hit. THIS HAS NEVER HAPPENED EVER IN THE HISTORY OF THE SHOW AND WE NEED TWO HOURS TO EXPLORE IT! WILL THEY GET A HAPPY ENDING?
See it – The joy of the show was that it was a quick, easy 30 minutes. What’ll amount to afull season shunted into a movie, though? I’m on the fence, leaning yes.
Insidious Chapter 3 – Another sequel in the franchise.
Skip it – Horror film sequels almost unilaterally suck and this looks like no exception.
Scott “Kubryk” Sawitz brings his trademarked irreverence and offensive hilarity to Twitter in 140 characters or less. Follow him @ScottSawitz .
Scott Sawitz is an Inside Pulse original. He's also been featured on The Ultimate Fighter.com, Fox Sports.com, Nerdcore Movement.com, CagePotato.com, Inside Fights.com and Film Arcade.net (among others). When Scott isn't writing about film he's making his own. Check out Drunk Justice Productions right here.