Note: Holy smoke — Flash ran so fast his face melted! Is it Barry? Wally? Bart?!? Actually, it’s the last of a trio of figures including Wonder Woman and Aquaman that I found as promotional items in bags of potato chips in Mexico. Which, of course, means Mexico is winning the Promotional Items Arms Race.
Recently, I did something that most people of a certain age find themselves doing — having an online discussion about John Cusack.
Nowadays, I’m ambivalent about Cusack, but back in the 80s I LOVED that guy. He was in a lot of coming-of-age movies that caught me at just the right time, and it was when he was still funny.
And I don’t mean Hot Tub Time Machine funny, I mean really funny. Part of this was because he was the go-to guy for “Savage” Steve Holland, who made a name for himself with some supremely silly movies about teens who smoked and drank and lived in a sort of cartoon world where nothing was too serious and no one got hurt. If there was a scale, John Hughes would be on one end, and Holland would be on the other.
The discussion started with a picture I posted from Better Off Dead. If you haven’t seen it before, stop reading this right now and go get it. It’s a classic — no idea is too crazy, there is just one ridiculously great line after another, and it somehow all comes together into a tight little story with characters you genuinely care about. It is — hand to God — the funniest movie about teen suicide you’ll ever watch.
Cusack, unfortunately, didn’t feel the same way. He reportedly left the theater 20 minutes into a premier screening and then reamed Holland out for “using him” and “making a fool out of him.” Cusack would work with him again a year later in 1986’s One Crazy Summer, solely due to contractual obligations; after that, the two were kaput.
Which is a shame. Because, in my mind at least, it looked for a while as if Steve Holland was going to be our generation’s Mel Brooks and Cusack our Gene Wilder. He played an immensely likable and identifiable teenager, which isn’t easy. And he was doing it when theaters were overflowing with likeable, identifiable teens. To stand out must have meant he was doing something right. When Cusack suddenly decided he was a self-important, capital-A Actor, he shoved a natural talent for comedy to the back of his cupboard until it crumbled into a bitter, barely recognizable pile of dust.
Frankly, I think he screwed it all up. At the time, Cusack had a ton of potential (it could argued he still does). But starting with his starring role in 1989’s Say Anything, Cusack started a spiral that circles around mediocre rom-coms (often without the com) and pseudo-thinky films that, for all the effort, just manage to be boring. It’s too bad, because again it’s about potential. Gene Wilder is mostly known for playing absurdist roles with plenty of heart, and Cusack had a talent for that in spades. With some maturity and good roles, he could have been in the same pool as John Candy or (dare I say it? I dare!) Bill Murray. Instead, enjoy a viewing of … shit, I don’t know, Serendipity?
Of course, Cusack has made some good movies — the fantastic Being John Malkovich and the slow burn of High Fidelity come to mind — but they’re not my favorites. These are my favorites:
Better Off Dead
I could say more about this movie than I already have, but I’ll just let you watch this instead.
The Sure Thing
I don’t know if people just forget about this one, but it’s a great road movie about teens taking their first real steps into adulthood. It’s funny, it’s sweet, it’s smart, and at its core it’s about love and sex (if you’re into that sorta thing). Here’s some cinematic shorthand; it’s directed by Rob Reiner. If you have a love for When Harry Met Sally, watch the movie where he first explored most of its themes.
There is absolutely nothing funny about The Grifters and that’s completely OK. (I never said I wanted Cusack to do nothing BUT comedy). Like the hard-boiled noir it’s based on, this film is a punch in the gut; once you realize that fist has a knife in it, it’s too late and all you can do is sit there, stunned.
For what it’s worth, I’m glad John Cusack is still around. I just wish the guy who shows up now looked more like the kid I saw all those years ago.
I’m not usually someone who goes out of my way to promote myself. Normally, I’m just not the kind of person who can easily say, “Hey! This is me, and this is what I’m doing!” But.
Hey. This is me. This is what I’m doing.
You may not realize it, but I’ve got a few online projects going on. These are basically writing projects, and they’re a way to get my writing out there, share interests and interact with … well, with you.
So I’m going to ask you to do something for me. I realize that not everyone is into comics. Or astronomy. Or Cthulhu or hobbits or any of the other geeky things I tend to go on about. But your support means a lot, and hitting “like,” “follow” or “retweet” goes a long way. Leaving a comment really makes my day, and the sites make it easy to do that (you can even use your Facebook sign-on for most, including this one). Even if you’re not necessarily interested in the Clark-vs.-Superman debate, maybe someone you know is; word of mouth helps.
With that in mind, here’s where you can find me online. Remember, it only takes a second to click “like,” but the experience lasts a lifetime. (Wait, what?)
And if you’re already supporting these projects — thank you!!
Yer pal, Max
Great Caesar’s Post! — You’re already here! This is the main blog, mostly focused on comics but which I’ve been using to branch out into other things. Sometimes serious, often silly, I’ve been maintaining GCP in one form or another since 2006. http://www.greatcaesarspost.com/
It’s Plastic Man! — A new Tumblr blog dedicated to Jack Cole’s Man of Rubber. A note: If you already follow the other Tumblr blog (coming up!), you still need to follow this one individually to get updates. Another note: I’m having a lot of fun doing this one!
Red Hot Lava — A Tumblr blog and a kind of annex to Great Caesar’s Post; things that are fun or interesting, but don’t get a full write-up, usually go here.
Facebook pages — There are Facebook pages for Great Caesar’s Post here, https://www.facebook.com/GreatCaesarsPost , and another one for It’s Plastic Man here; https://www.facebook.com/itsplasticman — like ‘em to get updates! Spread the love!
Twitter — On Twitter, I tend to be more ranty and curse-y; if you knew me in college, you know what I’m talking about. You can find that here: https://twitter.com/MaxoRomero
Thanks again, guys — I appreciate it.
Opening paragraphs from The Call of Cthulhu by H.P. Lovecraft Art by Olli Hihnala
The most merciful thing in the world, I think, is the inability of the human mind to correlate all its contents. We live on a placid island of ignorance in the midst of black seas of infinity, and it was not meant that we should voyage far. The sciences, each straining in its own direction, have hitherto harmed us little; but some day the piecing together of dissociated knowledge will open up such terrifying vistas of reality, and of our frightful position therein, that we shall either go mad from the revelation or flee from the deadly light into the peace and safety of a new dark age.
Theosophists have guessed at the awesome grandeur of the cosmic cycle wherein our world and human race form transient incidents. They have hinted at strange survivals in terms which would freeze the blood if not masked by a bland optimism. But it is not from them that there came the single glimpse of forbidden aeons which chills me when I think of it and maddens me when I dream of it. That glimpse, like all dread glimpses of truth, flashed out from an accidental piecing together of separated things—in this case an old newspaper item and the notes of a dead professor. I hope that no one else will accomplish this piecing out; certainly, if I live, I shall never knowingly supply a link in so hideous a chain. I think that the professor, too, intended to keep silent regarding the part he knew, and that he would have destroyed his notes had not sudden death seized him.
Opening paragraph from The Whisperer in Darkness by H.P. Lovecraft Art by Jennifer Rodgers
Bear in mind closely that I did not see any actual visual horror at the end. To say that a mental shock was the cause of what I inferred—that last straw which sent me racing out of the lonely Akeley farmhouse and through the wild domed hills of Vermont in a commandeered motor at night—is to ignore the plainest facts of my final experience. Notwithstanding the deep extent to which I shared the information and speculations of Henry Akeley, the things I saw and heard, and the admitted vividness of the impression produced on me by these things, I cannot prove even now whether I was right or wrong in my hideous inference. For after all, Akeley’s disappearance establishes nothing. People found nothing amiss in his house despite the bullet-marks on the outside and inside. It was just as though he had walked out casually for a ramble in the hills and failed to return. There was not even a sign that a guest had been there, or that those horrible cylinders and machines had been stored in the study. That he had mortally feared the crowded green hills and endless trickle of brooks among which he had been born and reared, means nothing at all, either; for thousands are subject to just such morbid fears. Eccentricity, moreover, could easily account for his strange acts and apprehensions toward the last.
Opening paragraphs from The Colour Out of Space by H.P. Lovecraft Art by Bryan Baugh
West of Arkham the hills rise wild, and there are valleys with deep woods that no axe has ever cut. There are dark narrow glens where the trees slope fantastically, and where thin brooklets trickle without ever having caught the glint of sunlight. On the gentler slopes there are farms, ancient and rocky, with squat, moss-coated cottages brooding eternally over old New England secrets in the lee of great ledges; but these are all vacant now, the wide chimneys crumbling and the shingled sides bulging perilously beneath low gambrel roofs.
The old folk have gone away, and foreigners do not like to live there. French-Canadians have tried it, Italians have tried it, and the Poles have come and departed. It is not because of anything that can be seen or heard or handled, but because of something that is imagined. The place is not good for the imagination, and does not bring restful dreams at night. It must be this which keeps the foreigners away, for old Ammi Pierce has never told them of anything he recalls from the strange days. Ammi, whose head has been a little queer for years, is the only one who still remains, or who ever talks of the strange days; and he dares to do this because his house is so near the open fields and the travelled roads around Arkham.
There was once a road over the hills and through the valleys, that ran straight where the blasted heath is now; but people ceased to use it and a new road was laid curving far toward the south. Traces of the old one can still be found amidst the weeds of a returning wilderness, and some of them will doubtless linger even when half the hollows are flooded for the new reservoir. Then the dark woods will be cut down and the blasted heath will slumber far below blue waters whose surface will mirror the sky and ripple in the sun. And the secrets of the strange days will be one with the deep’s secrets; one with the hidden lore of old ocean, and all the mystery of primal earth.
Opening paragraph from I Am Legend by Richard Matheson Art by Patrick J. Jones
On those cloudy days, Robert Neville was never sure when sunset came, and sometimes they were in the streets before he could get back.
Opening paragraph from The Ritual by Adam Nevill Art: Detail from the book cover; designer unknown
And on the second day things did not get better. The rain fell hard and cold, the white sun never broke through the low grey cloud, and they were lost. But it was the dead thing they found hanging from a tree that changed the trip beyond recognition. All four of them saw it at the same time.
Note: This excerpt was submitted by Jon Briggs, the latest Friend of Perry. Welcome our newest FOP!
Opening paragraphs from The Open Window by Saki Art: Still from The Open Doors (featuring that guy from the Underworld movies!)
“My aunt will be down presently, Mr. Nuttel,” said a very self-possessed young lady of fifteen; “in the meantime you must try and put up with me.”
Framton Nuttel endeavored to say the correct something which should duly flatter the niece of the moment without unduly discounting the aunt that was to come. Privately he doubted more than ever whether these formal visits on a succession of total strangers would do much towards helping the nerve cure which he was supposed to be undergoing.
“I know how it will be,” his sister had said when he was preparing to migrate to this rural retreat; “you will bury yourself down there and not speak to a living soul, and your nerves will be worse than ever from moping. I shall just give you letters of introduction to all the people I know there. Some of them, as far as I can remember, were quite nice.”
Framton wondered whether Mrs. Sappleton, the lady to whom he was presenting one of the letters of introduction, came into the nice division.
“Do you know many of the people round here?” asked the niece, when she judged that they had had sufficient silent communion.
“Hardly a soul,” said Framton. “My sister was staying here, at the rectory, you know, some four years ago, and she gave me letters of introduction to some of the people here.”
He made the last statement in a tone of distinct regret.
“Then you know practically nothing about my aunt?” pursued the self-possessed young lady.
“Only her name and address,” admitted the caller. He was wondering whether Mrs. Sappleton was in the married or widowed state. An undefinable something about the room seemed to suggest masculine habitation.
“Her great tragedy happened just three years ago,” said the child; “that would be since your sister’s time.”
“Her tragedy?” asked Framton; somehow in this restful country spot tragedies seemed out of place.