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Simply the Worst: Cameron Crowe’s “Vanilla Sky”

Simply the Worst: Cameron Crowe's "Vanilla Sky"

A little more than a decade ago, Almost Famous cemented writer-producer-director Cameron Crowe’s status as the reigning king of feel-good movies. It earned near-unanimous critical praise, won Crowe an Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay, and was named the best film of the year by no less than Roger Ebert. His previous efforts, 1996’s Jerry Maguire in particular, were similarly successful. Crowe had long been a critical darling, something a cursory glance at his Rotten Tomatoes page can quantify. And then something happened: he made Vanilla Sky. Many who championed Crowe’s earlier, more lighthearted work seem quite frankly to have viewed his foray into sci-fi as not only a far cry from his unbridled optimism of yore but also, as Salon’s Stephanie Zacharek wrote, a “a betrayal of everything that Crowe has proved he knows how to do right,” and the formerly beloved filmmaker was quickly reevaluated. His next film, 2005’s Elizabethtown, was no less reviled than its predecessor but also something of a return to form: romance sans psychodrama. Crowe’s other films betray a certain boyishness and nostalgia, as well as the sense that good things happen to good people and everything tends to turn out okay in the end. But Vanilla Sky is more concerned with remorse, unfulfilled desire, and death. Quite a thematic jump, and one which many deemed a failure. Read Michael Nordine’s entry in Reverse Shot’s “Simply the Worst” symposium.

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