90’s Showdown: Tom Cruise.
Today in Andrew’s 90’s showdown Tom Cruise goes up against one of the performances I vetted for originally but I still have words for his showiest yetmost unconventional work. He has his share of haters or doubters, one of is a passively indifferent co-worker who says that he was lucky enough to land his character in Magnolia, Frank T.J. Mackey, and that the character’s success has more to do with Paul Thomas Anderson’s writing more than it does with him.
But every other money-making star for the late 90’s is too old, Middle American or blatant with their comedy. He hits the right spots, actually reminding me of the way cartoon characters like the ones in Home Movies or, to a lesser extent, Bob’s Burgers do. He bends and extends and moves and bounces elastically for his masculine audience until they disappear and he gets winded out.
Cruise makes Frank look a bit physically ridiculous under the spotlight he makes for himself, accepting the comedy that comes with a modern-day preacher of sex. He pulls off what he claims he is – a charming womanizer. No one can ever say the word ‘cock’ the same way he does, ensuring that those aggressive consonants stand out. His physical acting makes every word he says quotable. His face is still as intense but he gets to cut his regular histrionic tics. There’s also a bareness or coldness to his words – he doesn’t want Frank to seem too cocky. Besides, this appearance of candour won’t let us question that his affable nature, with or without his audience, is a mask itself.
But of course there’s a sad back story to Frank’s life and early years, leading to two confrontations. He tries to charm his way out of the first one, deflecting with some fake wisdom, but the story makes Frank fail eventually. The last seconds of his interview, taking place in the movie’s climax, is him being afraid of how violent he is when being ‘accused.’ He confronts the latter like an adult, which is hard when characters meet their estranged fathers. It eventually making him succumb, with tears that make us cry with him as well. In a movie about a city full of sad, unloved people, Cruise makes Frank’s plight stand out. And if you agree with me, vote for him here on Andrew’s 90s Showdown.
Yes or No: MI – Ghostocol
Like other series in this blog “Yes or No” is ripped off Nathaniel. It also won’t last long because I just see the good and the bad within movies instead of seeing what switches the movie could have made. Brad Bird‘s Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol is one of those rare cases where the thing that can make the movie better is already within it, it just needs highlighting while pushing the boring parts out. With….
Yes: Action sequences. Especially the first two which are immaculate pieces of cinema, starting from when Agent Hanaway (Paul Gross lookalike Josh Holloway) almost gets away from the bad guys. Then we get to when our hero, Impossible Missions Force Agent Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise), escapes from a Russian prison with the help of a few friends. I apologize for conflating them but they just have the same spirit.
These scenes have the greatest acting in the movie, from Lea Seydoux as Sabine Moreau – more about her later – to the goofy way Simon Pegg‘s IMF Agent Benji Dunn says ‘sorry,’ to Cruise actually pronouncing ‘Bogdan’ (Miraj Grbic) properly. It also took me days to realize that I was listening to Eminem, the perfect background music to Cruise punching out Russians of both hot shirtless prisoner or armed guard form.
It’s a surreal adrenaline pumping dream where there’s a tiger behind every door, or in this case an enemy behind every turn, back alley or hallway. These remind me of video game levels, Bird’s animation training translating so well in hyper-reality. If only he could have sustained this energy. Sure, that sandstorm was ballsy and visually ambitious but the movie hurriedly goes from one locale to another, making these changes feel forced.
No: Mikael Nyqvist as sadistic, apocalypse lover and nuclear warhead fetishist Hendricks. “For some reason, this $100 million tent pole movie couldn’t afford to hire Christoph Waltz. I’m underwritten, mostly silent and one note.”
Yes: It’s sad that Seydoux as Sabine is an afterthought in some of the criticism I’ve read. How else can a relatively unknown actress magically transform herself from an idealized young lover Midnight in Paris to a sashaying gunslinger in this movie? Sabine is an assassin getting paid with diamonds, which is a hilarious, borderline sexist stereotype by the way. But her reptilian yet graceful demeanour, the way she literally bears her teeth while exclaiming ‘Tuez-le!’ is what I look for in a beautiful yet scary woman If there’s anything I love, it’s an actress’ dedication to camp even in a secondary role.
No: Auteur-izing an actor here, but Jeremy Renner picks characters who obsessively follows esoteric, self-inflicted honour codes brought on by the post-traumatic, stressful, working class ‘modern’ masculine condition. His character, ‘analyst’ William Brandt, is one link more helpful in saving Ethan’s life in that thrilling Burj scene. But he’s so negative, nagging his teammates during missions and constantly picking fights with then. Is this who we want to spend two hours with in the new MI movies?
Yes: Instead of William, Agent Jane Carter (Paula Patton) seems more of a deserving heir for Ethan. Since she and Hanaway were an item, both she and Ethan are kindred spirits in the ‘I lost love for this job’ cliché. She also hides her pain during missions most of the time. And there’s also something about Patton’s performance as a woman in the field, never seeming vulnerable like the way other movies present women. Her bone structure doesn’t get in the way of her being occasionally worn down, not caring which angle makes her face look better.
This is especially true in the Mumbai scenes. Ignore that image where she bites a cherry so seductively that it’s cartoonish. It’s probably her biceps talking but it seems like she’s wearing her slit green dress like an athlete, revealing skin for a public appearance but she stops being that ‘feminine’ once she’s in a more private place.
Yes and SPOILER: Mrs. Julia Hunt (Michelle Monaghan). Monaghan is a great actress and a national treasure just like many actresses who broke out in the mid 2000’s and are now stuck within girlfriend roles and worse. I’ve spent most of this post praising this movie’s women. I think I’m straight. 3.5/5
Seduction and Jerry Maguire
The titular Jerry Maguire (Tom Cruise) wears two shirts two sizes too big to a Mexican restaurant. Afterwards, he walks his single mother of a date (Renée Zellweger) up her porch and hands her the leftovers. He meekly and respectfully pecks her on the lips but she reaches for his neck and returns the favour. They try to tell each other good night, trying to set each other’s boundaries. But they do things on that porch what they could do in a place that has four walls.
This is what sex could look like in movies. Director Cameron Crowe and his chooses to show kisses and close-ups of the two fully clothed lovers’ faces together. A director could plop a tripod near a wall of a dimly lit bedroom but there’s something in the implicit and romantic that makes two people falling in love look like an art form. This reminds me one of the earlier scenes in Frank Capra’s You Can’t Take It with You, Cruise and Zellweger whispering to each other like Jimmy Stewart and Ann Sh…Jean Arthur, both couples basking in stylized warmth.
Another great aspect of their romance is that they’re surrounded by people who love each other, including Cuba Gooding Jr., who won an Oscar for his role here and Regina King, who plays Gooding Jr.’s wife.
I remember seeing this movie when I was younger but not this scene. I just remember the first part and another one with Zellweger and a then young and nerdy-looking Jonathan Lipnicki, who plays her son in a car. Or maybe he was in the car with Cruise. Anyway, the scene I’m describing in the past two paragraphs feel like something I would have seen as a child. God knows which movie couples whom kids are watching and learning from these days. I also don’t remember – and correct me if I’m wrong – Cruise doing anything further than this despite of his Hollywood crush object status. His character in Eyes Wide Shut was probably the most sexually frustrated one.
And the joke is that I can’t even stand these two people. Couldn’t then, couldn’t now. But still, I really like how effective this scene is.
Singin’ in the Dark 80’s
About time, eh? It’s been a month since Shawn Hitchins‘ Singin in the Dark, 80’s edition and it’s taking me just this time to write about the memory lane – or lack thereof – and the associations I remembered while watching his art piece.
Andrew McCarthy‘s face is so comically expressive that if was born sixty years earlier than he did, he would have given Chaplin a run for his money.
Did I have a chance to see Ferris Bueller’s Day Off on the big screen when I still had money to see and decided to skip it to argue with a good friend? Twice. Did I buy the DVD only to pop it in my laptop to get screen caps and never watch the whole thing? Yup.
We Asians are very visual. I caught more jokes from This is Spinal Tap than my mom while watching this on the big screen, but this ‘Big Bottom’ song flew right on top of our heads. Took some closed captioning to find it funny.
This song’s tune is really catchy but I didn’t realize the staccato lyrics were so hard to keep track of. Also haha, Lake Titicaca. And Appolonia. Purple Rain did not help my confused adolescent sexual identity at all.
Eh, close enough. Thoughts on Back to the Future here.
Remember that scene when he just eats a TV dinner without microwave-ing it? Yeah, me neither. We all know the scene but have never watched all or Risky Business, which is on tonight at 9 at the BLB. This movie is SLU-tty, like a straight man’s wet dream.
I love how I know none of the lyrics to any song in this series but when a Madonna clip comes on I don’t even have to look at the screen to sing the words. Anyway, the point she’s making in W.E. is that she wants to be that girl in this picture again. It’s up to you to decide if she can turn back the clock.
Beaches! It has the best post funeral scene ever which involves a fucking horse. Fucking rich people.
Thoughts on Flashdance here which I saw AFTER Dogtooth.
Andrew McCarthy again! Thoughts on Pretty in Pink here.
This song sucks without context.
I thought he was Robert Downey Jr. instead of Alan Cumming. Romy and Michelle’s High School Reunion was my favourite movie when I was ten, playing the soundtrack incessantly on tape. I don’t know if it’s my third world view but nobody in the late 90’s dressed like that. Also if Mira Sorvino and Lisa Kudrow made a movie together this year, it would be indie and awesome.
Did you know that Kristin Scott Thomas is in this movie? You’d almost forget because they kill her off at the first twenty-five minutes. Killing off Emilio Estevez is fine, but killing off KST is unforgivable. As Nathaniel R wrote, she has to put up with so much shit. With all due respect, she can serve this movie better than Emmanuelle Beart can.
Director Brian de Palma long takes, putting us inside Ethan’s (Tom Cruise) POV during a mission. He also likes canted angles. He uses it when Ethan when his team dies in Prague and contacts someone higher up at the IMF (not the real IMF). This guy here is accusing Ethan of supplying money from the IMF to add to the bank account that his father’s illness would have bankrupted. Ethan knows nothing about this money. He’s also accusing him of betraying the agency for a certain Max. Who the h is this Max?
You know what, Cruise is a pretty good-looking guy. I don’t know why I never got it, except for the fact that he oversells half of all the scenes that he’s in. And when stuff explodes, his arms flail. If I ever saw flailing arms on an actor, I would never consider casting him in any action film. Which is probably why I’m not a casting director.
This is obviously the best installment on the Mission Impossible series, having the class, panache, clean finish, glamour and sex while the others are too focused on the action-y, physical aspect of the action film. But yes, I am still looking forward to the new sequel because of Jeremy Renner, who’ll at least bring the sex part into the equation.
The State of Movies Today
Just after work, I run into a coworker my mom’s age who’s waiting for a bus taking her down to the subway line. I tell her ‘I have the choice of watching a 1960’s movie about French guys teaching a loose woman a lesson or a new movie about alien sex.’
She oohed and replied, ‘Good luck with that.’ Then we talked about how useful her sons are in the kitchen. I tried to steer back the conversation to my topic. ‘I was thinking about this yesterday, that I’d rather be the new school film lover who says “Fuck Citizen Kane, 2010 is a great year” instead of the one who says “Citizen Kane is the greatest movie ever, get off my lawn.” But then I feel like the latter right now.’ She laughs.
I’ve always been the kind of person who thinks that good movies are there if you find them, but with financial constraints, it’s really hard to do that now.
I then look at my other choices, eventually becoming entertainment for the both of us. ‘On Etobicoke, there’s The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. You should have read how Norah Ephron made fun of the lead character. “I’m gonna smoke intensely because I have small breasts.” ‘
‘Poor girl. Small breasts are nothing to be ashamed of.’ We get off the bus into the station, walk down to the platforms.
‘On the West end, there’s a movie where Michael Caine shoots a bunch of teenagers.’
‘Yeah, I’ve heard of that.’
‘There’s a probably old movie called What I Learned from LSD, playing in some guy’s living room. I’ve been there -‘
‘That’s the kind of place you only go to once. Promise me you won’t go there,’ she says in her best mother-like tone.
‘Fine. That reminds me of a short experimental film playing tomorrow afternoon at the Harbourfront called The Power of the Vagina.’ She then reverses her motherly tone by making jokes about vaginas and barbells. Don’t worry, I wasn’t freaked out. We’re close. And I’ve said a lot of stuff to her that’s too much information for her. Or anyone.
ph. Whitney Seibold
‘On the east end, there’s the Tom Cruise movie.’
‘I can’t stand looking at his face. It’s like with Angelina Jolie.’
The train stops at St. George. My coworker asks, ‘Is this your stop?’
I answered ‘It would be if I was watching the French orgy movie. I’m gonna go with the weird alien sex one.’
‘Ok, have fun.’
I get off at Bathurst. I dig down my pockets for my phone. There’s two messages, the first from a friend who has the hat I lost on a birthday party. The second is from Lars, who told me about the End of Youth Triple Bill on TVO, with The Last Picture Show, Y Tu Mama Tambien and River’s Edge. I gratefully replied ‘Thanks for the heads up, I was almost gonna see Splice.’
By the way, how much are prices at the Carlton these days?