Saturday, July 16, 2016

Tom Cruise and Rodney Dangerfield - No Respect

OK. I never imagined myself doing this, until a few weeks ago, when I had a sort of mini-revelation.

Why does Tom Cruise get no respect?  

Yeah, I know.  The studios respect him because he brings gobs of money to pretty much every project he touches, and he has a huge fan-base.  But if you ask the average film freak to make a list of the twenty-five great actors working in American film, he will probably be conspicuously absent from the lists so produced.

But why?  He has been in some great films, and been great in some not-so-great films. 

The guy is smart about the jobs he takes.  He is well aware of the limits of his range and chooses his projects accordingly.  Often his roles are written specifically to make use of his particular talents – and that’s not only just fine, it’s actually very smart.  Everybody wins.  He works the role with confidence and tickets get sold by the boatload.

Tom Cruise is a significant and talented actor.

There.  I said it.  And having said it, I must also say something about the man’s most obvious feature – his teeth.

I have a friend who is also a big movie freak, and when we mention Tom Cruise we usually refer to him as “’possum boy.”  Do you know why? 

It’s because the opossum has more teeth than just about any warm-blooded critter.   50 teeth!  More than Farrah Fawcett!  Just look at this face…

Photo: Tree & J. Hensdill via Wikipedia

Remind you of anyone?  Yes!  They have the same teeth!  Just look at this still from an Early Cruise effort, “Legend.”  

Yup.  Toothy bugger, ain’t ‘e?  But I think it’s part of his charm.  I’m not sure what all that business with braces was all about…  I loved the snaggly look.  

But teeth aside, Cruise is a handsome devil.  And he’s aging remarkably well.  I predict he will be doing romantic leads for some time.

And there’s something else.  When he’s dodging bullets, alien tentacles or other flying objects I want him to win.  I root for him.  I become distressed when he’s in peril.  He’s usually a likeable character.  And no, it isn’t because I have a crush on the guy.  I know almost nothing about him.  He’s a Scientologist and he’s had braces.  OK, fine.  I don’t see the point of either, but that’s his business. 

Fawcett's iconic poster that sold a record-breaking 20 million copies in 1976.  Look at those choppers!

A very toothy "Jack" in "Legend."
 Point is, he plays characters that I like.  His performance makes me believe them, and like them (or hate them – if they’re baddies).  And isn’t that the whole point of acting? 
Now, think about "Top Gun."

From: Wikipedia
“Top Gun is a 1986 American action drama film directed by Tony Scott, and produced by Don Simpson and Jerry Bruckheimer, in association with Paramount Pictures. The screenplay was written by Jim Cash and Jack Epps, Jr., and was inspired by an article titled "Top Guns" published in California magazine three years earlier.

The film stars Tom Cruise, Kelly McGillis, Val Kilmer, Anthony Edwards, and Tom Skerritt. Cruise plays Lieutenant Pete "Maverick" Mitchell, a young Naval aviator aboard the aircraft carrier USS Enterprise. He and his Radar Intercept Officer (RIO) Nick "Goose" Bradshaw (Edwards) are given the chance to train at the Navy's Fighter Weapons School at Miramar in San Diego.

In 2015, the United States Library of Congress selected the film for preservation in the National Film Registry, finding it "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant".

The film opened in the United States in 1,028 theaters on May 16, 1986. It quickly became a success and was the highest grossing film of 1986. It was number one on its first weekend with a $8,193,052 gross, and went on to a total domestic figure of $176,786,701. Internationally it took in an estimated $177,030,000 for a worldwide box office total of $353,816,701. The film sold an estimated 47,650,100 tickets in North America in its initial theatrical run.

In addition to its box office success, Top Gun went on to break further records in the then still-developing home video market. Backed by a massive $8 million marketing campaign including a Top Gun-themed Diet Pepsi commercial the advance demand was such that the film became the best-selling videocassette in the industry's history on pre-orders alone. It was also one of the first video cassette releases in the $20 price range. Top Gun's home video success was again reflected by strong DVD sales, which were furthered by a special-edition release in 2004. Bomber jacket sales increased and Ray-Ban Aviator sunglasses jumped 40%, due to their use by characters in the film.  The film also had boosted Navy recruitment. The Navy had recruitment booths in some theaters to attract enthusiastic patrons.”
The cheap sticker-price of "Top Gun" put inexpensive mass-market video on the map.  Within a year of that time, my video collection swelled to over 400 titles.  In large part, "Top Gun" made that possible. 
In 2000 I saw the writing on the wall and sold my VHS collection and started on a DVD collection.  With the odd Blu-Ray disk. my collection passed the 400 mark last year.  I'm closing on 500 now.  

OK.  It wasn’t just Tom Cruise that made all that happen.  But imagine it happening without him.  Who would have done as well in his place?  See?

Look.  Here’s a few of the movies he’s done that I liked.  Check it out:
"The Last Samurai" took some liberties with history, but was enjoyable throughout.
Cruise as Lestat in "Interview with the Vampire" where he was hampered by fangs that left him slinging spit like an over-bitted Saddlebred horse.
Here he is in the so-so "War of the Worlds", where he delivered the line, "No Robbie!  Not like Europe!", which had me in stitches for days. 
Tom Cruise And Emily Blunt, both excellent in "Edge Of Tomorrow."
Cruise did well in "Oblivion", another science-fiction fun-ride.
So don't sell Tom Cruise short. Sure, he's no Alan Rickman, (DoG rest his soul), but he fills an important niche in entertainment. Credit where credit's due. 'Possum Boy, I mean, Mr. Cruise rocks. And that's a good thing.

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