Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Maps to the Stars

Year 8, Day 215 - 8/2/16 - Movie #2,410

BEFORE: The next film on my list was going to be "Still Alice", and then I was going link back to John Cusack again through Julianne Moore, but after taking a look at the bigger picture, I decided to move "Still Alice" down to another position on the list - where it will link two other films that had been left hanging.  This tightens up the John Cusack chain, I can run all four films back to back, as he carries over again from "Love & Mercy".  And there's a bit of a connection here, with messed-up celebrities in both films.  

I haven't been able to say for sure which 90 films are going to finish out the year now, but I was able to program a chain that will take me through August.  And this chain pushes some of the films I want to see to the top of the list, plus it connects to some of the films that I've seen but haven't posted about yet ("Deadpool", "Ghostbusters" et. al.)

And then when I reach September 4 or so, I'll have to reassess.  Where I go from there will be determined by which of several films might run on pay cable between now and then, which, of course, I have no way to predict.  But I've got my eyes open for films like "The Danish Girl", "Ex Machina" or "Burnt", which could really help me out.  "Spectre" has started running, which gives me a nice lead-in to my October chain, and I also got a free coupon code for a Movie On Demand, since Time Warner's On Demand system has been out for the last week.  I guess someone finally noticed that no one in my neighborhood had been ordering any movies, and figured out that something was wrong with the system.  I'm thinking I should order a long film like "The Hateful Eight", just to get the most out of the coupon.  

THE PLOT: A tour into the heart of a Hollywood family chasing celebrity, one another and the relentless ghosts of their pasts.

AFTER: The first thing I noticed in the credits was the name of the director - David Cronenberg.  Hmm, I thought he was a horror director - well, good for him, reaching outside of his comfort zone and doing a straight drama about messed-up Hollywood types.  But as the film went on, I realized that in many ways, this IS a horror film.  It's just one that happens to be about Hollywood actors and the people around them, but nearly all of them are haunted in some way.  

And sometimes this is very literal - a number of the characters see ghosts, but it's not entirely clear if these are supposed to be legitimate phantoms or spectres, or if the viewer is under the influence of some substance (alcohol, GHB, kale smoothies) and is having induced hallucinations connected to their guilt.  Other times this is symbolic, I suppose, as adults are haunted by childhood trauma or other terrible memories from their past - but the result is the same.  The actress, Havana Segrand, had an abusive mother who was part actress, part cult leader, who died in a fire and she's tormented by visions of this woman.  You know, the Joan Crawford / Jim Jones type.  Why, it's almost enough to keep her from going on auditions or spending $18,000 on clothing in an afternoon.

Meanwhile, a woman gets off the bus from Florida for her interview with Carrie Fisher, and she was also once in a fire that burned her badly - only I couldn't really see the burn marks that everyone was talking about and reacting to.  Was this a problem with my DVD copy, or was her burn make-up not prominent enough?  I don't know.  She did wear long black gloves all the time, were her arms supposed to be burned, too?  We soon learn that she might be in town for a completely different reason.

Also meanwhile, a teen actor has trouble on the set of his TV show as he's upstaged by a younger, cuter, funnier kid.  He's also just coming off of rehab, and secretly hitting the club scene again with his actor friends.  His mother acts as his agent, as his father is some kind of new-age massage therapist mixed with a psychologist, who forces people to re-live their childhood traumas as he gives them massages.  Because that's not f'ed up at all.  One of his clients is the actress, Havana.  

Tying it all together is a man who's a limo driver, but also wants to be an actor.  He's the sort-of boyfriend of the burned girl, but he also drives Havana around sometimes.  Slowly even more connections are revealed between the characters, and some of them are deep secrets with sinister implications.  So in a way it's reminiscent of films like "Short Cuts" and "Magnolia" - they've been running "Magnolia" recently late at night, I see it while I scan through the TV listings.  That's a film that's probably overdue for a re-watch by me, maybe in November when I have some time.  

But it's debatable whether "Maps to the Stars" is a work of interlocking genius that I just didn't appreciate, or merely a warning to never, ever move to Los Angeles.  

Also starring Julianne Moore (last seen in "Non-Stop"), Mia Wasikowska (last seen in "Lawless"), Evan Bird, Olivia Williams (last seen in "Anna Karenina"), Robert Pattinson (last seen in "Water for Elephants"), Sarah Gadon, Carrie Fisher (last seen in "Star Wars: The Force Awakens"), Kiara Glasco, Dawn Greenhalgh, Justin Kelly, Emilia McCarthy, Gord Rand, Ari Cohen.

RATING: 4 out of 10 energy drinks  

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