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.

“THE SHIT”

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.

“JUST SHITTY”

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…

Musical Musings… Out With The Olds, In With The News (Not Huey Lewis)

Paramore is No Doubt's replacement, no doubt

Paramore is No Doubt's replacement, no doubt

Time flies when you’re having fun.  It also flies when you break from the group that shot you to super-stardom, you start your own clothing line, and you knock out a couple kids with another bands’ former lead singer.

I’m looking at you Gwen Stefani, and you’ve been replaced by Hayley Williams.  You had the bindi; she has the orange hair.

But that’s not what this post is all about.  It’s about the cycles of the music industry.  Somebody always replaces somebody else.  I’m sure you get what I’m saying, but let me reiterate with examples from my own life.

1) Billy Joel & Rob Thomas

billyjoel-robthomas

Both are talented musicians that crank out the hits.  Although Thomas used to be with Matchbox Twenty, who else would I say?  John Mayer?  Not even close to the Piano Man.

2) Huey Lewis and The News & Weezer

hueylewis-weezer

Huey infiltrated the 80’s pop scene with a 50’s-inspired sound.  Rinse and repeat in the 90’s.

3) Debbie Gibson & Regina Spektor

debbiegibson-reginaspektor

Both pianists.  Both song writers.  Both crushes of mine.

4) Green Day & Say Anything

greenday-sayanything

Angsty punk rockers with catchy melodies.

5) The Offspring & Rise Against

offspring-riseagainst

Poignant punk rockers with hard-hitting melodies.

6) Rancid & Kings of Leon

rancid-kingsofleon

Unintelligible punk rockers with unique melodies.

7) I’m still trying to figure out my replacement for this guy:

He got that six-string at the five-and-dime.

He got that six-string at the five-and-dime.

All I Want For Christmas Is… More Scrubs Soundtracks

Aaah, “Scrubs.”  You are the middle child between “E.R.” (the secondone with George Clooney, not the first… look it up) and the highly comedic, though at most times unintentional, “Grey’s Anatomy,” and you’re still the best at what you do.  (I picked Michael Crichton’s show as a reference point because it was an issue when “Scrubs” premiered.  People wondered why they would need two shows about interns.  Ask CBS what they think about crime scene investigators… and for that matter, what NBC thinks about blending cop procedural and court cases.)

Mixing pathos and humor so well for seven seasons, like a fine chef or bottle-flipping bartender (more Bryan Brown than Tom Cruise), you finally started getting some respect once you hit that magical 100th episode (that’s when shows can get syndicated).  NBC had been dicking you around for years, and when the seventh season was up for grabs, ABC – your owner – was ready to take over.  Having little else going on over at NBC, they used up the short season (due to the writer’s strike), and then hung you out to dry.  You’ll get to finish your magnificent run on ABC starting in January, but that’s not what this post is about.

scrubsIt’s all about the music, baby.  No other show utilizes the music to advance the story quite like “Scrubs.”  Check out the integration of Colin Hay’s Overkill (formerly of Men at Work).  What upsets me is that they’ve only released one CD for sale after the first season (after the fifth season they did a collection only available on iTunes… 14 songs to cover four seasons), but i want more.

greyscd“Grey’s Anatomy” gets three CD’s, but they push their music, not quite like “Smallville” did at the end of its early episodes, but there still is a hey, check out this quirky new artist quality about it.  Hence them releasing three CD’s.  “Scrubs” just lets it be, and maybe that’s why I prefer music from them.  It’s between the show and the audience – there is no marketing department forcing the producers’ hands.  So when season six ends on Say Anything’s Alive with the Glory of Love, I should just accept it as the way it is and be happy.

What?  There’s a torrent full of “Scrubs” music?  Never mind.

InASense, Lost… Indiana Jones and the Mosh Pit

Let me preface with this:

After seeing this film at !2:01 am on May 22 – I was livid.  I was beyond livid – I was destroyed.  Not only had my nostalgia for “Star Wars” been tainted, but could I wash the taste that was “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull” out of my Mt. Dew and Reese’s Pieces dirtied mouth?  (Overall, that’s a pretty disgusting sentence.)

Turns out the answer was, yes: by spending two weeks spewing vitriol wherever my typing fingers would guide me.  I read and forwarded every damning review.  I reveled in the posts that tore any positive commenter a new one.  And it’s true what they say – time heals all wounds.

Well most of them.  With the arrival of said dread film on DVD, I opted to take a second viewing, and too be honest – it wasn’t as bad as I remembered.  Sure the big ones still, well, pulled a candiru for me: the groundhogs, the monkeys, and Mack… but I surely didn’t feel as slighted.  I actually enjoyed Indy and Marion’s reunion this time.

I was going to write this as the first blog in a series I want to call “In Defense Of” (this one would have been “IndyFence Of”), but instead I went with my “InASense, Lost” because it is more like innocence lost.  Check it:

Spielberg and Lucas were younger and more adventurous when the earlier romps for Indy were made.  Also, “The Last Crusade” came out at the end of the living cartoon 80’s films after “Die Hard,” and along with “Batman” and “Lethal Weapon 2.”  The original trilogy was right for the times, capturing the mood and the spirit of its creators. 

To put this in terms from my own life to make a point, I will be referencing my experience with mosh pits.  (If I was geekier, or could even remember how to make geometry proofs, I would do that now.  I’m not sure which precedent is stronger, or if they’re even separate…)

EXAMPLE (A) I’m 22 years old.  It’s my first punk concert – Rancid – at the State Theater in downtown Detroit.  Three of my high school buddies are there.  The show starts, as does the mosh pit.  Having only been to a Debbie Gibson concert prior to this (at Sea World in Florida, no less), I have no hesitation and jump in.  Wailing and spinning and flying bodies.  Fights without fighting; punching without punches.  I get up and body surf a couple of times.  The bouncers throw me around like a rag doll.  I leaned down to tie my shoe in the pit at one point, and a cadre of fellow punkers split the pit open like the Red Sea so I wouldn’t get trampled.  In other words – “Raiders of the Lost Ark” totally.

Flash forward to 1990 and on (for Steve and George, duh): rumors and lies and hopes and dreams exist that make Indy 4 seem like a simultaneous inevitability and impossibility.  Yada yada yada they pull the trigger (or should I say, cracked the whip!  Nah…)  The stars and the Stars align (minus Connery) and success!  It’s done!

But the end result isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.  How can this be?

EXAMPLE (B) I’m 32 years old.  It’s my latest punk concert – Say Anything – at St. Andrew’s Hall in downtown Detroit.  I’m with my brother, Scott, and cousin, Steve, and we’ve just left the casino.  (They were 13 and 12 in the first example.)  I won ten bucks and charged all our drinks thus far.  They’ll get mine at the show.  I wonder which arena will end up having the better deal on beer.  While partaking in more drinking before Say Anything’s set, a couple of girls approach Scott.  I assume Steve’s glow-in-the-light monster truck shirt isn’t helping him.  The show and mosh pit begins, and we swarm to it.  I keep thinking I want to go up, but I find that I’m the guy launching people.  I’m the guy controlling the crowd when people drop.  As the show goes on, I finally surf once – over three rows of teens.  Amazingly, the bouncers still throw me around like a rag doll.  I get kicked in the head as much as I did ten years ago.  In other words – “Crystal F-ing Skull.”