“John Cusack an Actor and Not a Music Critic: A Sign of the Times”

When you look up the movie War, Inc. on wikipedia, if for some odd reason you were to do this, you get several desultory little facts: the film is an “action/comedy” (a term that appropriately enough seems oxymoronic), it was co-written by John Cusack, it came out in 2008, a significant year for the economy. You get a summary of the plot, and a couple review scores, deservedly: 29%, 21%, etc. Indeed, there’s a reason why you’ve never heard of this movie.

And also, indeed, there is a reason why it’s still sitting on the shelves at our downtown library. It does feature John and Joan Cusack, Marisa Tomei and Dan Aykroyd.

I’d like to proceed that Dan Aykroyd pops up in the movie talking exactly like he does in Blues Brothers. And yeah, he’s about as funny as he is in Blues Brothers. It’s like the sight of a giant man deliberately bludgeoning your faith in humanity, a mountain of an entrepreneur blatantly sinking his teeth into what worked for him capitalistically 21 years ago, making sure to dispel all fears that maybe in his brain may be contained any dissatisfaction before the vapid, streamlined shape taken by American pop culture following the war in Iraq.

Ok, let me back up here a little bit. Because War, Inc. is indeed, deservedly, critically unacclaimed. Of course begging the question as to what film would actually whet the public’s whistle in 2008 (I personally viewed one film other than Harold and Kumar and Super Troopers between 2007 and 2010, and it was Darjeeling Unlimited, which I liked, as a yellow dog Wes Anderson fan). This was the onset of The Hangover, right? Ok, never mind.

The question ACTUALLY begged is, why the hell would the American public still need movies? We can do so much with music itself that it should never be unentertaining, and John Cusack should know this. This is just the nature of the place where we live. Our ghettos are SO ravaged, their population SO angry and desperate, that they have created music obliteratingly invincible, and anyone who denies this, or the fact that they could never themselves walk a mile in Staten Island or Detroit in a million years, is an a**hole. People sorely lack the understanding of America’s current sum total of independent sound, and it’s the same thing with these a**holes who say they “only like old music” or, “there haven’t been any classic albums made lately.” And don’t even get me started on the whole, “Where’s Beach House from? Oh, probably California.” Anyone who reads this blog should be well versed on this discourse.

I know what you’re thinking, why doesn’t this blowhard actually name some music. Ok, The Internet. His name, his moniker, is The Internet, and he was formerly a member of the LA hip-hop trio (which, also per former discourse brought about on this blog, is oxymoronic), a trio which featured the menacing Tyler the Creator and the menacing Earl Sweatshirt. All very menacing stuff, but you put on The Internet, it’s cafe jazz for your home French Press, there are cats dancing outside in the rain. I actually like this new Julian Casablancas album too, for a similar reason — it is of a style that shirks all of convention, it does not copy the playbook of anything else out there. Say what you want about who needs what, what needs who… anyone who truly, actually, holds music as paramount in life, should understand, respect and seek this very tenet.

And the real irony of this whole situation, this whole post, is, John Cusack does! And so apropos of what I mentioned earlier, how when you look up War, Inc. on wikipedia, you get the plot, the ratings… what you don’t get is the soundtrack. Maybe ’cause Damon Albarn is British? But anyway, there’s a scorching blisterer of  a whipper snapper of a ditty on there, but I’m not even sure if it’s (early) Blur or Gorillaz. I’m guessing it’s the former, because I usually despise the latter, and indeed this War, Inc. song is devoid of the maddening, herky-jerky “rhythm” of the cartoon troupe that cashed in on one of Del’s best performances ever, but don’t rely on the internet to tell you about music. Just John Cusack. And don’t rely on people to tell you about John Cusack, because High Fidelity, as fine of a film as it is, didn’t really have anything GROUNDBREAKING going on audibly, I mean it was really more about sex than it was about music, which makes it quintessentially Chicago in this regard (the most popular song in Chicago is probably “The cubs are gonna win today”). And reading early pitchfork reviews by guys like Ryan Schreiber and Brent Dicrescenzo, as useful as these are, it’s easy to see why an inherently nice guy like John Cusack would be averted from such a scene, but the truth is I bet he could have been a pretty good, if not music critic, perhaps lacking the a**hole streak necessary for such, at least music ruminator. Kierkegaard was a music ruminator, which his best work comprises, and also the most readable Amiri Baraka work, in addition to actually appearing on the Roots’ album Phrenology, handles topically jazz and the white man’s irrespective, denounceable opinion of it.

You could tell me that John Cusack had impeccable music taste, and I’d probly be like, Ok. Sounds good. You could tell me, now, different from two years ago, that High Fidelity is a good movie, and I’d probly be like, Ok. Cool. Movies. They’re for people who’ve run out of things to listen to, a category I thought I was in, until I heard this new Julian Casablancas album, which, like the dog in the sound byte at the start of Pearl Jam’s Binaural creeper “Rival,” charges from the gate eschewing extant style, and spreads a dizzying mosaic of artistic directions on the canvas. People make fun of Green Day, yet they’ll throw away half a day watching Seth Rogan blaze an indefatigably palpable new trail in the un-funny. Remember, in an absurd world, never try too hard.

John Cusack’s best movies are chick flicks, he’s a chick dude. My sister used to love Say Anything, and I’ll admit, the guy’s generally pretty good at what he does, when he’s critically acclaimed. I actually find High Fidelity the movie to be an improvement on Nick Hornby’s novel, which similarly takes the overly deliberate, I’ve-got-all-day disposition. He even tends to look the part for these films — the haggard but sensitive Midwestern face, contrasted with some other Hollywood actors who just look ignorant and untouched by life.

So what’s the main point of the plot of High Fidelity? Some girls are different from others, I guess. Some girls actually like music, and discern from the other. In this way they’ve got a lot of guys beat. Girls, and generally people in affluent communities, still love this film, and it should be commended for handling music, and not relying on cultural bulwarks of glamor like war or murder. But, just like at a roller coaster, there’s a red line, and your anger can’t be above THIS level in life, or the first thought on your mind viewing the first scene will be: SHUT UP! Whether or not the angry are under the unique illusion that it’s virtuous to find something better to do with your two hours than listen to someone mope about mixtapes and relationships, there is, actually, music out there to cater to people who hate High Fidelity, so I guess I’m lucky to find myself in this category. I guess there’s a reason why I could never get a job in Chicago.

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