Maps to the Stars

I worked all day in trying to be nearly ready for winter break. That involved grading a pile of papers and dealing with students. I took a lunch break and went into the record store. I bought the three seasons of the Mary Tyler Moore Show that were missing from my collection. I gave my last final exam and said goodbye to the students. After I returned home, I watched David Cronenberg’s “Maps to the Stars.” It was messy and wallowed in creepiness, as all Cronenberg films do, but this one was lacking in inspiration. It starts with a mysterious young woman arriving at Union Station in Los Angeles by bus. I thought there was something not quite right about the movie right there, as we follow a bus into a train station. Agatha is this person who seems to bring trouble to all of Los Angeles. Julianne Moore is Havana, an actress who is struggling with her career. She has her moments in this movie that are kind of funny, as she is out to get a movie role. She seemed even brave at times, making me think of her in “Boogie Nights.” She nearly made this movie worth watching. John Cusack is Havana’s therapist and the father of the children who are bringing doom to everyone. I wondered if Cusack skipped “Hot Tub Time Machine 2” to be in this film. It was barely the right decision if that was the case. The DVD cover had a positive comment from John Waters, and I could see with his warped point of view how he possibly could have liked this movie. However, for most of us, this is one to avoid. One of the key characters, Benjie the obnoxious child actor, is too much to take. Just about all the young characters, in fact, are horrible. There are a lot of movie and show business references, though I don’t see young people knowing about Jack Cassidy in the fire in the 1970s. Carrie Fisher had a scene, and I didn’t recognize her. It looks like she’d gained a lot of weight. I had the thought that an appearance in a Cronenberg film was now a negative on the resume, except perhaps for Julianne Moore. I wonder what people in Hollywood thought of the references to people like Juliette Lewis and Garry Marshall. Is David Cronenberg a funny person in real life? I can’t imagine his having much of a sense of humor, although there were moments in “Scanners” and “The Fly” when you could have laughed out loud. Generally speaking, we don’t want to see movies that deal with the movie business unless it’s “Day for Night” or “The Stunt Man.” This was not quite like Cronenberg’s version of “The Player.” There is the incest, arson, murder, and hallucinations, not all of which were Cronenberg trademarks. Agatha has a Sunset Blvd. moment. The reference to Juliette Lewis made me think that she was like the Agatha character in her youth. Cusack had a cold and uncomfortable scene with Agatha, and Havana also has a nonsensical final encounter with her. Havana apparently shows her true colors once she gets a role and a glimpse of a career rebound. I thought about what a good career Julianne Moore has had. She will go on to other films and still do good work. I couldn’t see many people wanting to go out to see this movie, paying eight dollars or more for a ticket. It would be seen as entertainment by oddballs like John Waters and a few abnormal other people. Looking back, I’m not where Cronenberg’s career was headed after the likes of “Scanners” and “Videodrome.” I still can’t see how he can raise any money at all for any of his films. I’d stay away from anything with his name on it if I had any money. Usually when directors satirize the movie industry, they’re airing their anger and frustration in dealing with it. I’m not so sure I can take Cronenberg’s side in his arguments. I wondered what the actors thought about working with him. Weren’t any of them extremely uncomfortable with some of the things they were doing on screen? The ending was strange and nearly upsetting, nearly making me shiver. It made me think back to “Fellini Satyricon.” The DVD didn’t have any special features. I was slightly curious about what Cronenberg had to say about the movie. I wanted to hear how he defended himself. I was too tired to stay up for the eleven o’clock news or the late night talk shows. I wanted to go out to see the Star Wars movie. I heard that movie on social media were spoiling the movie already. I saw on the news this morning LeBron James diving for a loose ball, injuring a woman in a courtside seat. I wanted to stop thinking about David Cronenberg. I watched the Partridge Family episode “Star Quality.” I keep wondering where they took that bus out for filming some of those scenes. The script was not one of your Emmy contenders because the comedic plot twist at the end was unbelievable. Dick Clark sounded like he had a cold. Laurie commented on the chocolate cake, but it looked like her fork was clean. I had just been reading about the last days of Karen Carpenter. She was doing shopping, and she ate the shrimp salad at Bob’s Big Boy. She was buried at Forest Lawn in Cypress, where I visited last April. I read the weather report about the rain that was supposed to arrive in the early afternoon. I ate blueberry waffles for breakfast and thought about the end of the semester. I had eighteen tests to grade, and then I would be free until the start of the next term. I put on a Warriors shirt and thought about how to get to the ATM before it rained. Some of the people who died on December 18 include Antonio Stradivari (1737), Mark Goodson (1992), Joseph Barbera (2006), and Majel Barrett (2008). Today is a birthday for Brad Pitt (52), Ray Liotta (61), Steven Spielberg (69), and Keith Richards (72). According to the Brandon Brooks Rewind radio segment for December 18, “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” had its television debut on CBS in 1966. In 1975, the Stanley Kubrick film “Barry Lyndon” was released. In 1992, the Robin Williams movie “Toys” was released. In 1998, “You’ve Got Mail,” starring Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan, was released.

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