David Weigel’s review published on Letterboxd:
When Philip Seymour Hoffman died, and the people began the kaddish of posting their favorite performances by a dead actor, I noticed a lot of them sharing Hoffman's performance as Lester Bangs in "Almost Famous." Cameron Crowe idolized Bangs, and the version he created for his nostalgia movie was, in turn, idolized, the sort of character who shows up in the first and third acts of a Disney movie (usually as a ghost the second time), telling the hero to follow his dreams.
This documentary isn't Disneyfied, but it has all the tropes of the Boomer Brain Death movie, which is its own problem. Generic "rock" soundtrack when they couldn't secure the rights to stuff? Headlines flying onto the screen? A modern musician (Chad Smith) listing off a bunch of bands he likes from the city (Detroit) the doc is set in? All here.
It's distracting because the interviews are quite good, and the movie crackles when people remember the sophomoric approach Creem took to its subject: music by people who didn't think too hard about it. ("A lot of musicians didn't read," photographer Bob Gruen explains, so the goofy Creem Profile feature would "just make something up.")
There's also a recurring theme, made funnier by the constant rockin' soundtrack, of how the boomers who wrote and edited the magazine feel kind of bad about how many fat jokes and insults limned their first-draft history of the Most Important Thing That Ever Happened (anything that boomers experienced). But this is complemented by a really perfect series of interviews about Rolling Stone, correctly assessing that Jann Wenner wanted to run a politically powerful "culture" magazine, creating space for stuff like Creem - whose own tastes would win out. (The agreed-upon history of rock has a lot more to say about the Ramones than James Taylor.)
I started with Bangs because the documentary does him right, with incredibly funny footage of him goofing around the office and good context about the power twentysomething rock critics had to shape what was good or important by being complete assholes about their tastes. It's the story of blogging. Everything is.