The Sh– To Just Sh–ty… John Cusack

"Nananananana... I'm not listening to this post."

The quest begins to pinpoint the moment that John Cusack went from being The Shit to becoming sort of Just Shitty.

In the annals (ha!) of this category, it is not necessarily a title one’s locked into and therefore it’s totally reversible.  With his upcoming films Hot Tub Time Machine and the possible Cosmic Banditos, the turd that has become his career could shine once again.

But what caused the descent into the drain?  Let’s take a trip in the Toilet Bowl Time Machine to find out.


There are groupings to this phase, and they go like so…

1) The Early Cameos

  • Films included: Class, Sixteen Candles, Stand By Me, Broadcast News
  • These were crucial in helping him to get his face out there, help out a former director, or branch out into other genres.

2) The Adolescent Male Fantasy

  • Films included: The Sure Thing, Better Off Dead, One Crazy SummerHot Pursuit, Tapeheads
  • This grouping, of course, made me a fan.  Well, Better Off Dead made me a fan.

3) The Teenage Girl Fantasy

  • Films included: The Journey of Natty Gann kind of, Say Anything… totally
  • By the power of Cameron Crowe’s film alone, the stage was set for Cusack’s for middle-aged (film career) doom.

4) The Serious Actor!

  • Films included: Eight Men Out, Fat Man and Little Boy (he played Little Boy, me thinks),  The Grifters, True Colors, City Hall, Money for Nothing (was it a comedy… was it a drama… does anyone remember seeing it?)
  • This was the point he started getting to work with some serious talent.  Were they hits?  Mostly misses.  Wait, I’m sorry.  Mostly Ms.

5) The Woody Allen Experiments

  • Films included: Shadows and Fog, Bullets Over Broadway
  • For a minute, it seemed like Woody was going to have a new muse in the form of Cusack.  58, 59, finished…

6) The Late Cameos

  • Films included: Bob Roberts, The Player, Map of the Human Heart, Adaptation
  • These roles were primarily favors.

7) The Beginning of the End of the Century

  • Films included: Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, The Thin Red Line, Pushing Tin, Cradle Will Rock
  • Though none of these were hits – nor any good (The Thin Red Line is merely visual poetry) – they were still high-profile releases.

8) The Beginning of the End of His Reign as “The Shit”

  • Films included: Grosse Pointe Blank, Con Air, Being John Malkovich, High Fidelity
  • Arguably, my favorite group.  He wrote Grosse Pointe Blank and High Fidelity.

9) The Slippery Slope

  • Films included: America’s Sweethearts, Serendipity, Max, Identity, Runaway Jury
  • I actually liked Identity, but compare this batch to earlier batches and you’ll realize Cusack’s star-power has diminished.


Some would argue that 2000 was the end of the era of his best work.  (Okay, at least I would argue, and then blame it on Y2K.)  But in 2005, John Cusack started blogging for The Huffington Post.  Then came:

10) Paint By Numbers

  • Films included: Must Love Dogs, The Ice Harvest, 1408, 2012, The Contract (released straight to DVD)
  • Um.  How about a romantic film?  Nope.
  • Action-comedy then?  Pfft.
  • Horror it is.  Not.
  • Disaster pic FTW!
  • (Direct-to-DVD FML…)

11) Independent Hopefuls

  • Films included: Martian Child, Grace is Gone, War, Inc.
  • I still intend to see these independent releases, and I may actually enjoy them, but let’s be honest.  Cusack’s Better Off Dead, Say Anything days are long behind him…


  1. artofmymind · January 26, 2010

    I couldn’t believe it myself when I saw the preview for Hot Tub Time Machine. I still can’t believe it….

  2. Mike · January 27, 2010

    That same thing applies to Nick Cage for me. At one point in time I called him my favorite actor. Now, I avoid any film he’s in.

  3. swandiver · February 1, 2011

    I actually really liked “The Ice Harvest”. It was wonderfully dark and actually would rank it right below “The Grifters” as good, serious work.

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