Wednesday, 1 July 2020

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 2014: John Cusack in Maps to the Stars

John Cusack did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Stafford Weiss in Maps to the Stars.

Maps to the Stars is a bad David Cronenberg movie that wishes to be an abrasive satire about Hollywood. One is better off just re-watching Mulholland Drive instead, what a great film.

Anyways watching this bad (mostly, I do like Robert Pattinson and Mia Wasikowska in it) David Cronenberg film it got me wondering why do some of his films work so well, and some don't work at all. This definitely falls into the latter category, but I had to examine why. I think arrived to the why pretty easily though. Great to good Cronenberg is when he's making films about real people in strange situations, his bad films are just about strange people. Obviously a man turning into a Fly isn't realistic, but Cronenberg cares about Seth Brundle in that film, and part of the greatness of that film lies within that approach. The only argument against my thesis here may be Dead Ringers, however I'd argue as strange as the Mantle twins are, the emotions they're going through, the way their going through them is depicted with an honest humanity. When he lets his characters be strange entirely his films tend to fall off the rails. Anyways Maps is perpetuated largely with extreme Hollywood types, in which Cronenberg seems to hold very little sympathy, and in turn the film almost seems to become a zoological exercise "look how weird and shallow they are". Speaking of we have John Cusack as Stafford Weiss a Hollywood self-help guru.

I suppose this isn't quite the ideal review to first start with John Cusack, better known as a young leading man of the 80's and 90's, who, much like the academy, I've yet to encounter in all this time of my endeavor here, until now. I say it's not quite ideal as this isn't within his more typical wheelhouse in the strange world of Cronenberg's creatures. Cusack I'm not sure is ideal for this role either off the outset in that he doesn't really have the "look" or presence of the life style guru type. Cusack's vibe is typically more casual even down to earth, so theoretically Cusack should be working against that. We see him early on as he's treating Julianne Moore's neurotic Havana Segrand, and honestly, in a weird way, Cusack's probably the role where going a little broader probably could've been warranted, however he doesn't take this approach. Cusack sort of plays it as this soft speaker of reassurances to his client. These spoken with a thin sincerity in enough for the client yet Cusack grants no real passion within himself as he speaks the words to her. He does his job though in the most limited possible way. There's more to Weiss as he's also the father to a young child star Benjie (Evan Bird). We have a scene where he speaks to his son as sort of an interrogation put forth as a father son heart to heart. Cusack brings the same sort of emphasis on the lack of sincerity though there is a sense of a minor concern within his eyes, not really so much for his son rather his position. Complications ensue more when his daughter Agatha (Mia Wasikowska), who formerly started a fire that endangered the family, comes back to town from a mental institution. Cusack's scene with Wasikowska, has I think potential, but it doesn't quite work. Again, strangely enough, I think Cusack downplays it too much, this in the scene is kind of Stafford being the guru and "loving father"while threatening his daughter to make her go away. Cusack I suppose at least gets this across, but his rather just cold way of playing it makes it a tepid scene. Although again this may be a problem with Cronenberg in general who struggles with comedy, and in turn his actors often do too, unless you're William Hurt...oddly enough. Cusack's scenes honestly just don't work in general, he's just part of that clock that's broken. Cusack eventually breaks that zen state, although even then his zen state wasn't that refined so the break doesn't have that much impact, when he starts yelling about the state of disrepair of his family. Frankly his best scene is at the very end of the film just for the decently realistic reaction to seeing someone on fire (in a scene that otherwise has to be one of the most atrocious scenes from a filmmaker capable of greatness that I've seen due to CGI fire that needs to be seen to be believed). Cusack isn't the worst part of this film, but he doesn't overcome its weaknesses in the least. He's not ideally cast, he doesn't overcome that, and this is just a largely unsuccessful performance from him.


Luke Higham said...

Louis: Ratings And Thoughts on the rest of the cast.

Luke Higham said...

I'm glad I didn't have the worst review.

Luke Higham said...

Louis: Would you consider reviewing him with Dano for Love & Mercy as well as High Fidelity.

Luke Higham said...

Calvin: Your rating and short thoughts on Rudolf Hrusinsky in The Cremator.

Aidan Pittman said...

Louis: How do you rank the Cronenberg films that you've seen?


Okay. My first winners in the middle of 2020 are ...

PICTURE: An Officer and a Spy
DIRECTOR: Roman Polanski - An Officer and a Spy
ACTOR: Jean Dujardin - An Officer and a Spy
ACTRESS: Sidney Flanigan - Never Rarely Sometimes Always
SUPPORTING ACTOR: Nicholas Hoult - True History Of The Kelly Gang
SUPPORTING ACTRESS: Emmanuelle Seigner - An Officer and a Spy
ENSEMBLE: Da 5 Bloods
PRODUCTION DESIGN: An Officer and a Spy
SOUND MIXING: The Invisible Man
SCORE: A Whisker Away
EDITING: Da 5 Bloods
VISUAL EFFECTS: The Invisible Man
COSTUME DESIGN: An Officer and a Spy
MAKEUP & HAIRSTYLING: True History Of The Kelly Gang
ADAPTED SCREENPLAY: An Officer and a Spy

And which are yours?

Luke Higham said...

Also, I think he's a sure thing for Grosse Point Blank.

Tahmeed Chowdhury said...

Louis: Could Cusack and Dano possibly be reviewed for Love & Mercy?

Shaggy Rogers said...

After 2014, in the coming years I wish to have them reviewed: 1936, 1942, 1946, 1958, 1966, 1972, 1976, 1989, 1998, 2002, 2006, 2009 and 2016.

Luke Higham said...

Shaggy: 1966 will be next.

Louis Morgan said...


Moore - 2.5(Moore going big usually is a most unwieldy thing, in fact maybe I only like it Boogie Nights where that isn't even the whole of it. I'll say though as much as she makes one see just how genius Naomi Watts is in Mulholland Drive in hitting similar beats but hitting them so much better. Moore I don't think is terrible here in that there are moments where she's approaching kind of making it working, but I'll say Cronenberg's sense of tone does her no favors. She's going for big and comedic, while also desperate, it's difficult to do that when the director has no idea what to do with the comedy. Not every beat is bad though, though most of it doesn't work.)

Pattinson - 3(Honestly curiously wasted overall however I definitely appreciated his performance by just bringing a normal guy within the proceedings. In a way his performance suggested how the film would've been greatly helped by a dose of honest humanity, not that the character even has much depth however Pattinson does something with it at least.)

Bird - 1.5(His performance honestly is just kind of terrible, perhaps the most lost in whatever tone Cronenberg is going for exactly. This in that his sort vacant approach is neither funny nor does elicit a hint of sympathy for the part. The character is suppose to be hollow I think, but this is a hollow performance in the wrong way.)

Williams - 1(I really don't know what she was doing here exactly, but everything she does her I found to be atrocious here. This in just being one note an emotional mess I guess, however there's nothing within it, and what there is just overwrought.)

Gadon - 2(Yeah, I almost unfortunately have to think 11.22.63 might be the outlier, as this is another over the top turn that is very hard to take seriously. Perhaps she should just avoid Cronenberg as her whole performance comes off as ridiculous rather than haunting in any respect.)

Wasikowska - 4(The best part of the film and almost had potential for something special. I think though the screenplay is a little too weak for her to make that extra step. She though shows really the good path though in that she is portraying an extreme personality. She has that tension in her eyes that suggests there's something going on that is a bit unnerving in her. When she does snap at a certain point it's disturbing because she plays it so naturally springing from that glint of hers. Of course she balances those extremes with the right earnest moments of just seemingly this broken girl trying in some strange way to connect and reconnect with her home. She finds something genuine in there and brings at least a semblance honesty within the extremely weak material.)

I'll definitely review Cusack for something else down the line, possibly those, as it doesn't feel fair if this is his sole representation.


1. The Fly
2. Videodrome
3. A History of Violence
4. The Dead Zone
5. Dead Ringers
6. Eastern Promises
7. Spider
8. Scanners
9. Naked Lunch
10. M. Butterfly
11. Cosmopolis
12. Shivers
13. A Dangerous Method
14. Crash
15. Maps to the Stars
16. Existenz

Shaggy Rogers said...

Oh yes! Thank you Luke.

Calvin Law said...

Grosse Pointe Blanke is his best performance and I’m glad he has a high chance of being reviewed.

Luke: 4 - (very much a director’s film but he’s got that unnerving yet in some ways weirdly understated creepiness down to a tee just in every look, and quite like how he gives a bit of an arc to this creepiness in unravelling just how creepy and twisted the guy)

Matt Mustin said...

So was Eastern Promises his last good movie, then?

Bryan L. said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Calvin Law said...

I actually liked Cosmopolis but I’m definitely in the minority there.

Calvin Law said...

Also on Cronenberg the more I think about it, Dead Ringers might be my favourite of his.

Robert MacFarlane said...

Okay, here’s a challenge to everyone. Name your runner-ups for Best Actor and Supporting Actor for the 2010’s. Mine:


2010: Bale in The Fighter
2011: McCracken in The Tree of Life
2012: Day-Lewis in Lincoln
2013: Ejiofor in 12 Years a Slave
2014: Oyelowo in Selma
2015: Courtneay in 45 Years (might be Batemen if I choose to move Stallone to lead)
2016: Garfield in Silence
2017: Pattinson in Good Time (Kaluuya and Gosling are now tied for my win)
2018: Hawke in First Reformed
2019: De Niro in The Irishman


2010: Renner in The Town
2011: Strong in Tinker, Tailor, Soldier Spy
2012: Jones in Lincoln
2013: Cooper in Place Beyond the Pines (I caved and moved him here, not sure if I’ll move him back)
2014: Kebbell in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
2015: Keaton in Spotlight
2016: Skarsgärd in Our Kind of Traitor
2017: Stan in I, Tonya
2018: Nivola in Disobedience
2019: Pesci in The Irishman

Matt Mustin said...

2010-Lee Byung-Hun-I Saw the Devil
2011-Ryan Gosling-Drive
2012-Joaquin Phoenix-The Master
2013-James McAvoy-Filth
2014-Guy Pearce-The Rover
2015-Ian McKellen-Mr. Holmes
2016-Denzel Washington-Fences
2017-Harry Dean Stanton-Lucky
2018-Ryan Gosling-First Man
2019-Adam Sandler-Uncut Gems

2010-Taika Waititi-Boy
2011-Albert Brooks-Drive
2012-Sam Rockwell-Seven Psychopaths (subject to change)
2013-Michael Fassbener-12 Years A Slave
2014-Gary Poulter-Joe
2015-Sylvester Stallone-Creed
2016-Ben Foster-Hell or High Water
2017-Mark Hamill-Star Wars: The Last Jedi
2018-Steven Yeun-Burning
2019-Al Pacino-The Irishman

Michael McCarthy said...


2010: Choi Min-ski
2011: Matthias Schoenaerts
2012: Daniel Day-Lewis
2013: Oscar Isaac
2014: Michael Keaton
2015: Michael Fassbender (Macbeth)
2016: Andrew Garfield
2017: Ryan Gosling
2018: Ethan Hawke
2019: Robert Pattinson


2010: Taika Waititi
2011: Albert Brooks
2012: Samuel L. Jackson
2013: Michael Fassbender
2014: J.K. Simmons
2015: Benicia Del Toro
2016: Damian Lewis
2017: John Boyega
2018: Steven Yeun
2019: Song Kang-ho

Bryan L. said...



2010: Eisenberg/Mendelsohn
2011: Dujardin/Strong
2012: Phoenix/Walken
2013: Isaac/Fassbender
2014: Keaton/Brolin
2015: Hardy/Del Toro
2016: Mortensen/Ogata
2017: Stanton/Beale
2018: Reilly/Grant
2019: Pattinson/Pesci

Emi Grant said...



2010 - Byung-hun Lee (I Saw The Devil)
2011 - Ryan Gosling (Drive)
2012 - Joaquin Phoenix (The Master)
2013 - Leonardo DiCaprio (Wolf of Wall Street)
2014 - Michael Keaton (Birdman)
2015 - Jason Bateman (The Gift)
2016 - Viggo Mortensen (Captain Fantastic)
2017 - Daniel Day-Lewis (Phantom Thread)
2018 - John C. Reilly/Steve Coogan (Stan & Ollie)
2019 - Adam Sandler (Uncut Gems)


2010 - John Hawkes (Winter's Bone)
2011 - Brad Pitt (The Tree of Life)
2012 - Javier Bardem (Skyfall)
2013 - Joaquin Phoenix (The Immigrant)
2014 - Edward Norton (Birdman)
2015 - Tom Hardy (The Revenant)
2016 - Trevante Rhodes (Moonlight)
2017 - Will Poulter (Detroit)
2018 - Lewis Pullman (Bad Times at the El Royale)
2019 - Al Pacino (The Irishman)

Calvin Law said...

2010: Robert Duvall, Get Low
2011: Matthias Schoenaerts, Bullhead
2012: Joaquin Phoenix, The Master
2013: Leonardo DiCaprio, The Wolf of Wall Street
2014: Tom Hardy, Locke
2015: Jacob Tremblay, Room
2016: Denzel Washington, Fences
2017: Hugh Jackman, Logan
2018: Lucas Hedges, Boy Erased
2019: George MacKay, 1917

2010: Taika Waititi, Boy
2011: Brad Pitt, The Tree of Life
2012: Samuel L. Jackson, Django Unchained
2013: Hwang Jung-Min, New World 
2014: Josh Brolin, Inherent Vice
2015: Sylvester Stallone, Creed
2016: Yōsuke Kubozuka, Silence
2017: Will Poulter, Detroit
2018: Tom Waits, The Ballad of Buster Scruggs
2019: Joe Pesci, The Irishman