A thank you letter to John Cusack

Say_Anything_iPhoneHi, John Cusack.

Is that really you?

If you’re reading this, you’re probably on set between takes and you’ve stumbled upon this column on your iPhone because you were Googling yourself. Not judging. We all do it.

So while I have your attention, I just wanted to say this:

Thank you.

Say_Anything_PenI’m fully aware that you’ve been in over 75 movies. That you’re a provocative voice in politics. That you’ve starred in critically acclaimed films like “The Grifters,” “Bullets Over Broadway” and “Being John Malkovich.” But what I really want to thank you for is this:

Thank you for always getting the girl.

That’s it. I figured out your secret weapon. I figured out why you’ve starred in some of my favorite films of all time.

For example, take 1985’s “Better Off Dead.” I was buying a lot of OXY 10 when I first saw this movie on VHS. This film had the audacity to satirize high school suicide and had the subtle nuance of a live-action Looney Toons. But I could relate to Lane Myer, a kid who didn’t quite fit in. An artistic loser to root for. A daydreamer longing for, and eventually getting, the girl.

It’s an archetype you perfected in “Say Anything.” Look, you grew up outside Chicago. I grew up in Hawaii. You’re 6’ 2.” I’m 5’ 8” in the mornings. You’ve got boyish good looks. I’m Asian. We have little in common. But you made me believe I could be Lloyd Dobler. You made me believe I could win a girl over with a mix tape (“In Your Eyes” was our prom theme song). You made me believe I could land a Diane Court. And just between you and me — I did. Ask my wife.

2000’s “High Fidelity” was a brilliant adaptation of Nick Hornby’s first novel. The film came out in my 20s, when I was failing miserably at being a proper grown-up. Your character, Rob Gordon, showed me I wasn’t alone. He was Lane Myer or Lloyd Dobler 10 years later, and he was nowhere near figuring it out either. We managed to grow up together without growing up.

One of my all-time favorite, little-known films of yours is “The Sure Thing.” On the page, this is a by-the-book, uptight-girl-meets-scruffy-guy 80s rom-com. But not many know that this was the film Rob Reiner made between “Spinal Tap” and “Stand By Me.” This charming little road movie was also the precursor to one of the greatest romantic comedies ever, Reiner’s “When Harry Met Sally.”

But more importantly, your Gib Gibson worked his way into my DNA. I didn’t realize it back then, but I modeled my high school persona around this guy. And to this day, I believe the smart, fresh-faced Daphne Zuniga-type always trumps the “Sure Thing” beauty of the Nicollette Sheridans of the world.

But my all-time favorite film of yours has to be “Grosse Pointe Blank.” You turned Lloyd Dobler into an assassin. And your writing helped inspire my own script, “The Rogues Gallery,” which ultimately became the star-studded, hot-mess of a film “Operation: Endgame” (that title still hurts). Just like you, I wanted to create a hitman movie with heart. One of us got it right.

So thank you, John Cusack. Thanks for the laughs. Thanks for the great performances. Thanks for being so darned likeable. Like Tom Hanks, Michael Keaton or the fine line of loveable everymen who came before you, I hope you find that role that eventually gets you the Oscar nomination that you deserve. I know that great film is in you. And I know that in that film, you’ll inevitably get the girl.

“Say Anything” screens at Consolidated Theatres Ward on Wednesday, Feb. 24 at 7 and 10 p.m. as part of the Hana Hou Picture Show.

Movie poster courtesy of MVNP

Film 101: C’mon. It’s ‘The Godfather’

GodfatherBrando“The Godfather” is back on the big screen this Thursday night for Consolidated Theatres Oscars Classics series at Ward.

I have. So much. To write about.

Next to “Citizen Kane,” “The Godfather” is widely regarded as THE best film of all time. It won three Oscars in 1973: Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Actor (Marlon Brando) and Best Picture. It’s influenced modern gangster films and TV shows from “Goodfellas” to “The Sopranos” to “Breaking Bad.”

I can practically phone this column in.

But wait.

What can I say about “The Godfather” that hasn’t already been said?

Hmm … How about this. I do an entire column about how influential people were influenced by “The Godfather.” Like this:

“I was pulverized by the story… And I also felt that I should quit, that there was no reason to continue directing because I would never achieve that level of confidence and the ability to tell a story such as the one I had just experienced. So in a way, it shattered my confidence.” ~ Steven Spielberg

Okay, that works but appropriating other people’s quotes seems a little lazy.

Coppola sports his hipster beard.

Coppola sports his hipster beard.

What about this: I’ll do “The Godfather for Millennials,” and write about why the next generation of multitasking, mustache-sporting hipsters need to see this rich, epic drama on the big screen.

I can talk about how director Francis Ford Coppola had the spirit of a Millennial. He was all about freedom and product over process. He even moved to San Francisco and founded American Zoetrope with his buddy George Lucas to do things differently from Hollywood. Not to mention, he likes wine.

Oh, wait. I already used that angle for last year’s Oscars Classics Series film, “The Bridge Over the River Kwai.” Plus, there are only so many artisanal cheese-making jokes a guy can make.

CoppolaLucasStarWarsWhat if I play the “Star Wars” card? I’ll talk about how Coppola initially didn’t want to do “The Godfather” but George Lucas convinced him to take the job because American Zoetrope was broke. The success of “The Godfather” helped Coppola finance and produce Lucas’s breakout film “American Graffiti” in 1973. And without “American Graffiti” there would be no “Star Wars.”

Or I can talk about the myriad impossible studio obstacles Coppola faced to make the film.

Or the astonishing fact that Al Pacino and Diane Keaton were relative unknowns when they were cast.

Or how the film’s success hinged on the authenticity that Coppola brought as an Italian American making a very specific movie about Italian Americans.

Or how “The Godfather” is a family film.

GodfatherMichaelOr the film’s parallels with Greek and Shakespearean tragedy.

Or how the movie is a metaphor for capitalism.

Or a whole column about the brilliant pasta-cooking lesson by Clemenza.

I give up.

Do I really need to convince you to see one of the greatest and most influential films ever?

C’mon. It’s “The Godfather.”

“The Godfather” screens on Thursday, Feb. 19 at 7 p.m. at Ward Consolidated Theatres as part of its Oscar Classics Series. “Gone With the Wind” screens on Thursday, Feb. 26 also at 7 p.m..

“The Godfather” Nerd Trivia:

• Producer Robert Evans originally wanted Robert Redford to play Michael Corleone.

• The only non-Italian headlining cast members in the film were Robert Duvall, James Caan and Marlon Brando.

• Talia Shire (Connie Corleone) is Francis Ford Coppola’s sister.

• Three weeks into shooting there was talk of firing Coppola. Elia Kazan (“On the Waterfront”) was suggested to replace him. Coppola’s cut of the Michael, Sollozzo, Captain McCluskey scene literally saved his job.

• Mario Puzo’s “The Godfather” novel spent 67 weeks on The New York Times bestseller list.

• For films over 2½ hours long, there was traditionally an intermission. An intermission was planned after the Sollozzo scene, but producer Robert Evans said, “No. We’re not going to have an intermission. It’s too powerful. We don’t want to let them off the hook.”

• In 1972, “The Godfather” was the highest grossing film of all time (“Jaws” topped it in 1975).

Trailer review: Cameron Crowe’s ‘Aloha’

Bradley Cooper, Emma Stone and a shaka in "Aloha."

Bradley Cooper, Emma Stone and a shaka in “Aloha.”

I know what you’re thinking.

Has it come to this? Have our attention spans atrophied so much that we’ve stooped to reviewing film trailers? Don’t you know trailers have more to do with marketing than the actual quality of a film? Don’t you know it’s a moot point since the “Mad Max Fury Road” trailer is easily the best trailer of all time?

Well, this one’s different. This one’s a big deal. This one’s personal. Yesterday, the trailer for Cameron Crowe’s “Aloha” premiered. The film was shot almost entirely in Hawaii during the fall of 2013 and is finally being released on May 29. A whole lot of Hawaii crew worked on this film and a big opening for “Aloha” could attract even more film production to the islands.

Not to mention, Cameron Crowe (“Jerry Maguire,” “Almost Famous”) is one of my favorite writer/directors of all time.

But I won’t get into that here. The next Consolidated Theatres Hana Hou Picture Show is “Say Anything,” Crowe’s directorial debut, so I may elaborate on my fan-boy love for the man I call the Nora Ephron (“When Harry Met Sally”) of bromantic comedies for that Feb. 25 screening. Until then, here’s my breakdown of the “Aloha” trailer. Will it be a modern Hawaii classic like “The Descendants,” or a box office bomb like “The Big Bounce?” Watch it here:

:09: Wait, is my volume on? Oh, I see what you did. Subverting expectations. We’re in good hands.

:12: Whoa. Kenny Powers is in this movie?

:15: Alec Baldwin is channeling his legendary NSFW sales speech from David Mamet’s “Glengarry Glenn Ross”? That’s it. I’m all in. #AlwaysBeClosing

:29: Failure. Similar inciting incident as “Elizabethtown.” Just like in “Jerry Maguire.” Overcoming failure is a theme in Crowe’s work.

:31: Wait. “From Academy Award nominated writer Cameron Crowe.” Yes, he was nominated for “Jerry Maguire” but he WON an Oscar for writing “Almost Famous.” Marketing guys, you’re fired.

:35: “Did you know the human head weighs eight pounds?” I just paused the trailer to Google Jonathan Lipnicki (now 23). Thankfully, not a train wreck.

AlohaBillMurray:38: Wait, was that BILL MURRAY?!

:40: Hey, guys. I can see my house!

:43: A friend who was on the crew of the film said Murray was a genuinely nice guy and everything you’d imagine him to be. So he’s got that going for him. Which is nice.

AlohaEmmaStone:46: Uh-oh. This centers around the military in Hawaii. Kind of a touchy subject. I won’t tell the mainland if you won’t. It just goes to show there are plenty of stories to tell in Hawaii. Also, a maile lei.

:47: Emma Stone. The new Julia Roberts? Or was Anne Hathaway the new Julia Roberts? Either way she appears to be playing the new Kelly McGillis. That’s a “Top Gun” reference for you Millennials.

AlohaRachelMcAdams:55: Whoa. Rachel McAdams. She. Is. So. Perty. Hashtag #BEAUTIFUL, all-caps. Even that mole on her shoulder is dazzling. I bet her hair smells like unicorn.

Sorry. That got weird. Wait, why isn’t Rachel McAdams the new Julia Roberts?! #FreeRachelMcAdams

1:02: Ah, that clever Crowe banter. It’s like screenwriter catnip.

alohaCooperMcAdams1:05: Hey, I just realized: this is like a Claire and Sack reunion from “Wedding Crashers.” It just gets better and better!

1:12: No special effects needed, people. Just a typical day in Hawaii.

1:18: Ooh, first false note. Emma Stone doing the hula. It looks bad, but maybe it’s out of context. Let’s pretend that didn’t happen.

1:21: “There’s greatness in this guy.” A direct descendant of “I am looking for a dare to be great situation,” from Lloyd Dobler in “Say Anything.” That’s a good thing.

1:25: We’ve got a love triangle. Stone or McAdams. Wait! Cooper was faced with a similar impossible choice in “She’s Not That Into You” (yes, I watched it). In that film, he had to choose between Jennifer Connelly and Scarlett Johansson. Brad Cooper sure has a tough life, doesn’t he?

Personally, it’s McAdams and Connelly, no contest. That is, AFTER I choose my wife (just testing to see if she actually reads this). Sidenote: I really hope this film is nothing like “She’s Not That Into You.”

You may be Rocket Racoon, but I'm very tall.

You may be Rocket Racoon, but I’m very tall.

1:29: Hey, Jim from “The Office.” Apparently there are absolutely no ugly people in this film.

1:52: Ah, “Sometimes you have to say goodbye before you can say hello.” Because “aloha” means “hello” and “goodbye.” I see what they did there. “Aloha” is a much better name than the prior working titles: “Deep Tiki” and “Volcano Romance.”

2:05: And here comes the climactic montage highlighting the much anticipated Cameron Crowe-curated soundtrack (this song is Cold War Kids’ “First” in case you were wondering).

2:10: Seriously, who isn’t in this movie?

2:15: Chee-hoo! There’s the shaka.

Hey, Hawaii Theatre!

Hey, Hawaii Theatre!

2:20: Preach it, Bill Murray.

So maybe the trailer isn’t quite as good as “Mad Max Fury Road.” But in a year stacked with “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” “Jurassic World,” and “The Avengers: Age of Ultron,” this little story is going to be a big film for Hawaii in 2015. For me, summer officially starts on May 29. And I’ll be spending it indoors.

Cameron Crowe’s “Aloha” premieres on May 29th. Crowe’s directorial debut, “Say Anything” screens on Wednesday, February 25th for the Consolidated Theatres Hana Hou Picture Show at Ward.

10 Things I learned from ‘Boyhood’

Photo by Matt Lankes from the book "Boyhood Twelve Years on Film."

Photo by Matt Lankes from the book “Boyhood Twelve Years on Film.”

Sunday night, “Boyhood” won three Golden Globes for best director (Richard Linklater), best supporting actress (Patricia Arquette) and best drama. The ultimate coming-of-age story, filmed over the course of 12 years, is a clear frontrunner for this year’s Oscars.

This summer, I wrote about “Boyhood” in a column called “My Summer In Baby Jail.” I boldly predicted that it would’ve been my favorite film of the summer… if I actually had time to see it. Alas, I was dealing with a newborn boy of my own. Last week “Boyhood” came out on Blu-ray and I was finally able to see if it lived up to my own expectations.

Predictably, It did.

Photo by Matt Lankes from the book "Boyhood Twelve Years on Film."

Photo by Matt Lankes from the book “Boyhood Twelve Years on Film.”

I’ll admit, it’s hard to be objective with a bouncing baby boy of my own, but here are 10 things I learned after watching one of my favorite films of 2014 (and the first weeks of 2015).

You’re never too old to experiment
Shot a week at a time over the course of 12 years, “Boyhood” is a middle finger to tent-pole filmmaking and traditional storytelling. It’s a testament to Linklater, who I’m naming the official spirit animal of Generation X. While his Gen X contemporaries, Tarantino, Nolan, Wes Anderson and PT Anderson may have the flashier films, Linklater’s audacity captures the sensitive, scrappy and questioning voice of a generation. We may be getting old, but we’re going down fighting.

Never wear khakis
If there is an antagonist in this film, it’s khakis. And minivans. And alcoholism. But mostly khakis.

Photo by Matt Lankes from the book "Boyhood Twelve Years on Film."

Photo by Matt Lankes from the book “Boyhood Twelve Years on Film.”

Time travel is futile
Have you ever been asked, “If you could go back in time, what would you tell your younger self?” “Boyhood” proves that no matter what you’d say, your younger self wouldn’t listen. Because when you’re young, NO authority figure is going to tell you what to do. Plus, your future self is wearing khakis.

Boyhood is a horror movie
From the birds and the bees in a bowling alley to the inevitable mini-vanification of the parentals, the moments captured in “Boyhood” are enough to make any grown parent pull the sheets over their head and weep quietly in the fetal position. Not that I’m talking from personal experience or anything.

“Life doesn’t give you bumpers”
The film is filled with similar clever Linklaterisms that are a signature of his writing. My favorites: “There is no favorite Beatle.” “Any dipsh*t can take pictures.” And “The moment seizes us.”

“Boyhood” is a sequel
Sort of. Watch these Linklater films in order, to create the ultimate Gen X movie binge-athon.

Dazed and Confused (1993)
“Slacker” (1991, which I wrote about in “The Best of Slacker Cinema”)
“Before Sunrise” (1995)
“Before Sunset” (2004)
“Before Midnight” (2013)
“Boyhood” (2014)

boyhood“Boyhood” is the culmination of Linklater’s fascination with time, memory and defining moments. These movies are fueled by mesmerizing performances and inspired ideas. His films show us that life isn’t about the big moments—the first kisses and the funerals—it’s about the moments that happen in between.

Boyhood rules. Adulthood sucks
“Boyhood” could have easily been called “Adulthood.” It shows us that when we’re young, life is full of possibilities. Every door is open. As we get older, those doors sadly start to close. Puberty may not be pretty, but adulthood can get ugly. Especially when you choose to sport a patchy moustache in your 30′s.

Spoiler alert!

Spoiler alert!

A lot of nothing adds up to everything
One of the critiques I’ve heard about this film is, “Nothing happens.” Well, that’s kind of the point. Change happens slowly. The seamless edits between Mason’s years mirror our own, blink-and-you-might-miss-it growth of our kids. I mean seriously, when did my four year old get so big?

You’ll never have all the answers
As a child we believe our parents know everything. As “Boyhood”—and any parent can tell you—adulthood serves up more questions than answers. Case in point, random questions from my four year old: “How does Santa get in the house when we have no chimney?” “Is God real or pretend?” “Did the baby come out of mommy’s butt-butt?” Which brings us to the last and most important thing I learned from “Boyhood”…

“We’re all just winging it”
Through an ambitious process and performances, “Boyhood” is a mesmerizing meditation on the passage of time. It’s a moving artistic achievement that shows us cinema still has the power to surprise, spark a sense of magic, and evoke the universal truth that we’re all in this together.

If there’s one thing to take away from this extraordinary, 12-year project, it’s that eventually we all have to grow up, but we never really stop growing.

Frolic gift guide: For the pop culturist

Frolic Gift Guide Pop CulturistIs the term “pop culturist” just a fancy way of saying “nerd?”


In the same way “wine enthusiast” is a fancy way of saying “wino.” The thing is, I’m too old to be a “nerd.” I’ve got kids. I’ve got a mortgage. I can no longer eat Jack in the Box monster tacos. And I know I’m not alone. So I’m giving all fellow nerds over the age of 34 a promotion. From this day forward, consider yourselves “pop culturists.” Update your LinkedIn profiles appropriately.

Now the best part of being a pop culturist is we’re the easiest people to shop for during the holidays. We’re collectors. We love nostalgia. We obsesses over the obscure minutia of geekdom. So for you, and more importantly, the significant others who shop for you, here are some ideas that will make Christmas Day for the pop culturist feel like, well, Christmas.

Reaction FiguresReAction Figures
The first thing I ever truly desired in my entire life was a “Star Wars,” C-3PO action figure from Woolworth in Kahala Mall (like I said, I’m mature). It was gold and shiny and it was a 3 ¾ inch piece of the coolest movie I ever saw. Ripping open that blister pack was my gateway drug into geekery.

Well, Funko has brought back the magic of those action figures with its line of ReAction Figures. Done in the Kenner “Star Wars” style, these are the toys from movies you wanted but never had. Marty McFly from “Back to the Future.” Chunk from “The Goonies.” Even the Gimp from “Pulp Fiction.” You can find these online or at Gecko Books in Kaimuki. The true pop culturist will want to collect them all.

“Guardians of the Galaxy” Cassette Mix Tape
Did you know that the certified Gold, “Awesome Mix Vol. 1” soundtrack of “Guardians of the Galaxy” was actually sold as a limited edition cassette tape? This special promotion was released on Record Store Day on Nov. 28. Needless to say, these cassettes are very rare — a plus for the pop culturalist. Jelly’s Hawaii told me Oahu only received one cassette. ONE. So head to eBay and be prepared to drop around 40 plus bucks. Now if you could only find something to play it on.

Serial Notebook“Serial” Notebook
If you haven’t caught up on “Serial,” the podcast phenomenon of the fall, please stop reading, apologize and start downloading now. This true-crime story brought to you by the storytellers of “This American Life” dissects the case of Adnan Syed, a high school kid convicted of murdering his ex, Hae Min Lee. But did he do it? For the “Serial” fanatic, This American Life’s website is selling a “Serial” notebook to keep your darkest secrets. This is the perfect journal to admit into evidence in case you too are mysteriously murdered.

Flux Capacitor Charger“Back to the Future” Flux Capacitor Charger
It’s a USB phone charger. It’s a Flux Capacitor from “Back to the Future.” It was nerdy in 1985, and it’s nerdy now. If you’re willing to buy this for your significant other, you’re a keeper. If you’re willing to ride in the car of your significant other with this thing plugged in the dashboard, put a ring on that finger.

OrangeIstheNewBlackPoster“Orange is the New Black,” Signed
Nothing says I want to look smart than a fine leather-bound book on our bookshelf. For the binging “Orange is the New Black” fan, the Easton Press is selling a leather-bound edition of the book that inspired the series, signed by author Piper Kerman. Imagine that. A book on your bookshelf that you’ll actually read.

Hollywood Heroes Vintage Toys
Remember that toy you wanted as a kid but never got? For me it was this “Star Wars” Death Star playset. I really wanted to play with that trash compactor.

Well, if you watch the Travel Channel show “Toy Hunter,” you know these collectables are worth hundreds and even thousands of dollars today. Jordan Hembrough, the “Toy Hunter” himself, sells his rare finds on his Hollywood Heroes website and eBay store. So if you really want to give your beloved pop culturist a Christmas to remember, give them a piece of their childhood back. If there’s some treasure your significant other really wants, from a Castle Grayskull to a Ninja Turtle Sewer Playset, go to the Hollywood Heroes website and send Jordan and email. Just be warned. Childhood isn’t cheap.

Fellow pop culturists, what are some of the awesome items on your Christmas list? Tell me in the comments below. Merry Christmas!