Check out Richard’s entry in Biff Bam Pop’s! 31 Days of Horror!
In front of the camera Erich von Stroheim was known to the public as “The Man You Love to Hate.” Behind it he might have been known as “The Man the Studios Love to Hate” because of his haughty attitude and disregard for the Tinsel Town power structure.
In a Hollywood career that spanned forty years the Austrian born director and actor saw his stock rise and fall many times. He first made a name for himself during WWI playing cruel aristocratic German villains—in one film he actually throws a crying baby out a window!— the stereotype which earned him the title “The Man You Love to Hate.”
In the silent era he was also a much sought after director until his arrogance—he made a nine-hour movie called Greed—budgetary follies—he was the first director to spend over one million dollars on a film—and attention to detail—his scripts were often as long as the novels he was adapting—made him unemployable by the big studios. Unable to find important work behind the camera he was forced to concentrate on performing.
Despite his hatred for acting—he couldn’t remember his lines and didn’t like taking orders—he was a striking screen presence. His well-crafted pompous screen persona was put to good use in Jean Renoir’s La Grande Illusion and Billy Wilder’s Sunset Boulevard, for which he was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor, but it is a little seen 1935 film that captures von Stroheim at his ominous best… TO READ THE WHOLE THING CLICK HERE!
Hollywood loves pointing the camera on itself but not since The Player has the selfie provided such a wonderfully sadistic portrait of Tinsel Town. At the centre of David Cronenberg’s film is a Hollywood family — played by John Cusack, Olivia Williams and Evan Bird. Orbiting them are a former big name actress (Julianne Moore) and a burn victim (Mia Wasikowska), whose presence threatens to expose closely guarded secrets. The terrific performances and decidedly un-Hollywood feel of this, the most Hollywood of Cronenberg’s films, make Maps a compelling psychological thriller.
Hollywood — self-obsessed child that it is — enjoys turning the camera on itself, but with Maps to the Stars, director David Cronenberg uses the city as a palette to paint a picture of the stupid, venal and stratospherically self-involved behaviour that goes on behind the scenes in Beverly Hills’s gated communities and back lots.
At the centre of the film are the Weisses, a Hollywood family (John Cusack, Olivia Williams and Evan Bird) with more secrets than TMZ’s too-hot-to-handle file, Havana Segrand (Julianne Moore), a former big name actress who is now as messed up as she is washed up and Agatha (Mia Wasikowska), a burn victim with schizophrenia whose presence threatens to expose closely guarded secrets.
This may be the most sun-dappled film Cronenberg has ever made, but don’t let the light fool you; it’s also one of his darkest. I say one of his darkest because the 71-year-old director has frequently visited what Victor Hugo called “night within us,” provoking Village Voice to call him, “the most audacious and challenging narrative director in the English-speaking world.”
Spider, a trip into the mind of a severely mentally disturbed man starring Ralph Fiennes, is a case in point. Called “Cronenberg’s most depressingly bleak film,” by critic Ken Hanke, the 2002 film sees Fiennes deliver a virtually dialogue-free performance as the title character. But it is Miranda Richardson as several characters — all the women in Spider’s life — who really steals the show. It’s a spooky, cerebral thriller.
The Brood is probably Cronenberg’s most traditional horror film. Featuring murderous psychoplasmic kids, experimental psychotherapist Oliver Reed and Samantha Eggar as a fetus-licking mother, it is the very stuff that nightmares are made of. It’s lesser seen than The Fly or Dead Zone and way more down-and-dirty, but for sheer scares it’s hard to beat.
A Dangerous Mind, the tautly told story of two psychoanalysts you’ve heard of, Dr. Carl Jung (Michael Fassbender) and Sigmund Freud (Viggo Mortensen), plus one you’ve probably never heard of, Sabina Spielrein (Keira Knightley), sees Cronenberg combine a love story and birth of modern analysis.
The almost total lack of physical action means the focus is on the words. Some will see a film rich with dialogue, others will see it as verbose. But that’s the kind of duality the movie explores.
Finally, in Cosmopolis, Cronenberg takes us along for an existential road trip through the breakdown of modern society. Based on a novel by Don DeLillo and starring Robert Pattinson as a controlling and self-destructive billionaire money manager, the movie covers the gamut of human experience, from haircuts, money and infidelity to asymmetrical prostates and mortality.
David Cronenberg has spent his entire career working on the fringes of Hollywood. An auteur with a singular vision, his big hits and art house flicks all live outside the The Entertainment Capital of the World. With the release of “Maps to the Stars,” the first film he ever shot in Los Angeles, he almost ensures he’ll never do business in that town again.
Hollywood enjoys turning the camera on itself, but not since Robert Altman’s “The Player” has the selfie provided such a wonderfully sadistic portrait of Tinsel Town and its citizens. Cronenberg takes a bite out of Hollywood and finds a cookie full of arsenic.
At the center of Bruce Wagner’s script are the Weiss’s, a Hollywood family with more secrets than TMZ’s too-hot-to-handle file. Father Stafford (John Cusack) is a self-help guru who uses new age jargon— “If we name it, we can tame it.”— and massage to heal his wealthy clients. One of his regulars is Havana Segrand (Julianne Moore), a former big name actress who is now as messed up as she is washed up. Stafford’s wife Cristina (Olivia Williams) is the momager of Benjie (Evan Bird) a teen superstar fresh out of rehab. Into this toxic mix comes Agatha (Mia Wasikowska), a burn victim with schizophrenia whose presence threatens to expose closely guarded secrets.
This may be the most sun-dappled film Cronenberg has ever made, but don’t let the light fool you, it’s also one of his darkest. The glee Havana feels when she wins a coveted role in a movie because the original actress’s son has died is a nastier indictment of Hollywood than anything in “Sunset Boulevard.” Ditto Benjie’s disappointment when he learns that the young girl he visits in the hospital has non-Hodgkin lymphoma. “I mean non-Hodgkin’s, what’s that?” he says. “Either you are or you aren’t.”
Cronenberg uses the notion of Hollywood mythology as a palette to paint a picture of the stupid, venal and stratospherically self-involved behavior that goes on behind the scenes in Beverly Hills’s gated communities.
Moore presents Havana as a bundle of exposed ego and neurosis. Cusack is a career-minded Zen master, a cruel man whose world is starting to unwind while his son Benjie is a foul-mouthed child with a squeaky clean image. Rona Barrett would have had a heyday with this bunch.
Wasikowska is the outsider, the fly in the ointment that connects and tears apart each of the characters. She’s a strange, ghostly character, almost as ghostly as the poltergeists that haunt Benjie and Havana. In a world where flickering images are often more potent than the people who make them, the appearance of specters isn’t otherworldly, it’s an expected offshoot for a world that believes in the make-believe.
“Maps to the Stars” will divide people. Some will find its sadomasochistic glee in the travails of its characters unsettling; others will revel in the terrific performances and the decidedly un-Hollywood feel of this, the most Hollywood of Cronenberg’s films.