Cruising

Have you seen the trailer for the fourth Mission: Impossible film?

Many fans of both the original television series and film series star Tom Cruise might be forgiven for heaving a sigh as the chaotic action explodes across the screen—hammering the viewer with blink-and-you-miss-‘em shots cut against the fashionably sassy and percussive musical accompaniment of the Eminem and Pink song “Won’t Back Down”—and thinking to themselves oh, Tom, too little, too late…I’m so over ya.

Not me.

That trailer got me juiced enough to take a few moments now to admit and share my unabashed man-crush on the shorter-than-you’d-expect, couch-hopping Scientologist everybody loves to snicker about. Some find him unattractive. Others think he can’t act. Many find the details of his personal life to be nearly michaeljacksonian in their strangeness.

Not me. (Well, maybe that last part) I’m a big fan. Here’s why:

The book Everything I Needed to Know About Succeeding in Hollywood I Learned from My Pit-Bull contains the Tinseltown wisdom that utterly defines the secret of Cruise’s success. This theory has been stated often and elsewhere about others, but seldom have I seen it phrased better:

You are an actor because of your ability to submerge yourself in a role that you play. You are a star because of the part of you that won’t submerge.

Who could deny that Cruise exists high up in that stratosphere of performers we call “movie stars”? Ever since his first breakthrough performance, Cruise, like Cary Grant, John Wayne, and Clint Eastwood before him, has tuned the peculiar instrument of his unique personality into beautiful box office music. He is not known for disappearing into his parts. He is known for his swagger, his sharp good looks, his blistering smile, and the raw charisma he turns on with the apparent ease of flicking on the switch of a blowtorch.

More so than the performers I just mentioned, I locate Cruise in the tradition of past cinema swashbucklers, those “action stars” of yore that include the likes of Douglas Fairbanks and the actor I feel he most resembles in his appeal, Errol Flynn. I can’t imagine Tom Cruise in a contemporary remake of Robin Hood, but oddly enough, I can easily picture him starring (and delivering the Flynn performance) in The Adventures of Robin Hood.

Part of Cruise’s appeal on the screen is that he articulates a fierce energy of modernity while embracing a compelling classical acting style. Cruise never delivers experimental performances (well, almost never, but more on that later); his star turns are instead cut with old-school craftsmanship and burnished by choices echoing the kind of attention to structure and well-oiled formula a writer puts into crafting a “well-told story.” In other words, Cruise’s acting does not please because he nourishes a volatile unpredictability (see: Daniel Day-Lewis), it pleases because he gives you, time and time again, everything that he knows works.

There’s nothing disrespectable about “giving the public what it wants” when you prove yourself able to do it with class over and over again. That is not selling out. It is not hackery. It is pure, expertly calculated professionalism. Of the contemporary actors who attempt to do this sort of thing, few accomplish it with his regularity.

Has he disappointed from time to time? Of course. It’s impossible to have a career as long and fruitful as his without a few misfires—though I would argue that his most talked-about “bombs” as a performer turn out to be much more intriguing than many other mainstream actors’ successes.

I think M:I:4 (officially known by the more ungainly title Mission: Impossible—Ghost Protocol) just might be the tipping point for the Cruise Comeback. Not that he ever really went away—but his “stock” did seem to fall quite a bit with his much-ballyhooed plunge into the revived United Artists studio and a few releases that left critics underwhelmed. And then there were the matters of his colorful appearance on Oprah’s show and his outspoken devotion to Scientology, which gave rise to the revelations of his prickly opinions about the psychiatric profession.

Not of much interest to me. I’m officially jazzed to see him (hopefully) returning to form. In that spirit, let’s cruise through some of the unforgettable appearances that no doubt put him in good stead with Xenu—not to mention his few hundred million fans around the world:

Risky Business One of Cruise’s earliest remains one of his best. It may not enjoy quite the status of The Graduate in terms of defining a sensibility and an era, but I have little doubt that the film’s profile will only continue to rise with the passage of time, and come to be seen as perhaps the definitive 1980s picture. Cruise plays Joel Goodson (a brilliantly simple, symbolically charged name), the high school kid left home alone long enough to get into lots of funny, scary, and sexy trouble. I say with absolutely no irony nor overstatement that his now-legendary solo dance bit is as iconic as anything by Astaire, Kelly, Travolta, you name it:

A Few Good Men People tend to think of Rob Reiner’s courtroom thriller (based on the Aaron Sorkin play) as Jack Nicholson’s film (“You can’t HAN-dle the truth!”). That’s wrong just as a matter of fact—the story indeed belongs to cocky Navy JAG lawyer Lt. Daniel Kaffee and the murder trial that guides him from cynicism to idealism—but it’s also not so true that the venerable Jack steals the film out from under Cruise with his delicious chomping of that cigar (and the scenery). If you want to see a sterling example of acting craft at its best, I’m recommending not that you take another look at the scene where the drunken Cruise storms around his apartment in that made-for-Oscar moment, but instead revisit the more subtle scene much earlier when Cruise travels to Cuba with associates Demi Moore and Kevin Pollak for their first meeting with corrupt colonel Nicholson at Guantanamo Bay, hoping to get clear answers to some “standard-issue” questions surrounding the suspicious death of a lackluster Marine.

Their breakfast interview session turns into an ugly confrontation where Jack takes things a little too far, assaults Cruise’s manhood (“What I do want is to see you stand there in that faggoty white uniform and with your Harvard mouth extend me some f**king courtesy.”) and makes exactly the wrong enemy. Colleagues on the set with Gary Cooper used to fear he was delivering horrible performances because he didn’t appear to be “doing anything,” but once they saw the rushes, they realized that what “little” he did actually delivered quite the opposite effect, the camera picking up the smallest nuances of performance that resulted in terrific emotional power. Cooper wasn’t doing a lot of indicating (like stretching your arms and yawning to demonstrate “I am tired now”), and that remains one of the keys to great screen acting. This is exactly what Cruise does well often, and especially in this moment: We see the tumblers quietly spinning around in Kaffee’s head, and it’s riveting.

The Firm Casting Tom Cruise as the star of a John Grisham legal thriller was inevitable, given their shared status as “best sellers.” Lucky for us, he landed in what seems to me (admittedly, never having cracked the pages of a Grisham tome) to be the most effective of any of the movies derived from his books. But then, Cruise is backed up by the extremely reputable Sydney Pollack sitting in the director’s chair, and receives the gift of Gene Hackman in a you-love-him-you-hate-him supporting role every bit as colorful and nuanced as his Oscar-winning turn in Eastwood’s Unforgiven the year before. Cruise would further capitalize on the integrity-fueling-the-plot thing in Jerry Maguire a few years later, but here, the notion of literally saving your life by way of some creative moral thinking is made particularly exciting.

Mission: Impossible The best James Bond movie released in the 1990s was what Brian De Palma gave us with this stylized updating of the popular ‘60s adventure series. As a cosmopolitan caper, it was so accomplished it made you question the Bond producers’ dictum about never hiring a director whose style would overwhelm the franchise. On the other hand, Mission Impossible: 2 showed exactly how that rule works well, because for all of John Woo’s magnificent talents, his readily identifiable approach seemed genuinely alien to the brand. The common touch brought to all the M:I films, however, is the presence of Cruise as the debonair man of action. His credibility as the agent who accepts impossible missions was cemented perfectly in the discussion of the plan for the NOC list heist (“We’re going to do it.” Cue pulsating opening hits of Lalo Schifrin’s M:I theme!), not to mention the mission itself, where De Palma orchestrates the suspense with yes, Hitchcockian brilliance.

Magnolia Much was made of Cruise satirizing his own public image in Paul Thomas Anderson’s ensemble drama. He delivers one of the finest, most audacious “meta” performances I’ve ever seen, playing a luridly profane and overconfident self-help huckster selling feminized and self-castrated men on the idea that the secrets of masculine strength are transferable, as salable as lunchmeat across the counter. This is Cruise deconstructing the alchemy of his superstardom for all to see, a revealing assault on not only the entire “How to Get Girls” scam, but also the psychological machinery that keeps Hollywood mythmaking like his alive and well.

A veil has not been pulled back with this much potency since the Wizard warned us not to pay any attention to the man behind the curtain. Plus, it has the benefit of being unbelievably funny. Warning, some bad language ahead:

How sorely tempting it is to include each and every segment of the “Seduce and Destroy” seminar here, as each and every second of these scenes is pure movie gold. This is a comic (yet nakedly honest) performance fully worthy of his third Oscar nomination—to date, the last time he has been so honored. Was it his best shot at a “legitimate” win? I submit that Cruise is far from being out of gas.

Cruise appeal was so strong it led the world’s most powerful film director, Steven Spielberg, to break with his “the movie is the star” casting philosophy—twice—to have Tom topline the provocative and vigorous sci-fi thriller Minority Report and participate in his utterly perplexing decision to revisit War of the Worlds. I don’t have a knee-jerk disapproval of remakes, but I found the WOTW update to be utterly superfluous, destined to be remembered mostly as one in a series of big-budget films that saw Hollywood uncomfortably working out America’s collective neuroses over 9-11, Toho-style, by fusing images of mass destruction into fantasy-based plotlines, ever in search of gravitas or at least added frisson.

tom-cruise-interview-with-a-vampire-eyes-wide-shut-lions-for-lambsWhen Cruise “fails,” though, it’s unlike the failures of other stars in that his work still often becomes what they used to call watercooler talk (we call it viral now). Hate his turn as Lestat in Interview with the Vampire? I will allow that his casting overshadows the movie in a way that Brad Pitt’s does not, but Cruise challenged himself by accepting the part. It requires some effort to forget you’re watching Tom Cruise in a role Tom Cruise probably shouldn’t be playing, but, once you’ve done that as much as you can, his contribution to the film has its genuine pleasures and completely fits, in a weird way, snugly into the generally subversive vibe of the Rice novel.

He went all Woody Allen on us and allowed audiences—and Stanley Kubrick, of all people—into his bedroom by starring in the surreal sex drama Eyes Wide Shut with then-wife Nicole Kidman. The film is equal parts hypnotic and aggravating, and, like most of Kubrick’s work, it demands multiple viewings to even begin to successfully comprehend. To sign on to a Kubrick film means you’re no coward, and simply having this credit brands Cruise as a performer of uncommon judgment and daring.

Ditto his decision to venture into the turbulent waters of studio management (or mismanagement, as some might say) with United Artists. Lions for Lambs may not have made Cruise any new friends in the heartland, but his portrayal of an overzealous conservative politician has more nuance to it than he’s been credited for in a film that is yes, preachy, but preachy in a way that recalls the lively cinematic activism of the 1970s. (Which is why it should come as no surprise the film marked one of Robert Redford’s rare returns to the director’s chair.) And while the movie is overly didactic, the fact of that also demonstrates how Cruise can navigate his way through films with big agendas just as well as he can those with no agendas.

I haven’t seen every Cruise picture. In fact, I’ve missed a few that many readers might feel represent the core of his curriculum vitae—which is to say I never watched Cocktail and Days of Thunder. My Cruise fandom got off to a rocky start mainly due to Top Gun, which I vaguely remember believing was as grossly idiotic, empty, and pointless an ode to the jock mentality as I thought it would be after seeing the trailer, then the film, and disparaging its popularity to anyone and everyone who would listen back then to my proto-emo rants.

I could go on about my fascination with the Cruise filmography: I realize I haven’t said anything about his solid turn in Rain Man, his partnerships with power directors Oliver Stone, Martin Scorsese, and Michael Mann, or the good-natured silliness of his Tropic Thunder mega-cameo. What could I possibly offer by way of a bite-size appraisal of Vanilla Sky? Impossible, but we’ll meet at the watercooler if you like.

Meantime, I have some catching up to do. I balked at seeing Valkyrie, perhaps unduly persuaded by lukewarm responses to it and my worry that perhaps Cruise was now stretching his limits a bit too far with the whole Nazi/eyepatch gig. I feared he would fall out of my favor—but what way is that for a fan to demonstrate his loyalty?

Cue it up, because I intend to lead by example and encourage anyone who may have written off Cruise due to his tabloid-friendly “issues” to give the top gun a more committed look.

.

  • Rufnek

    I never liked Cruse in his early films and still don’t like him. He’s a no-talent, lame-brained pretty boy: Always has been, always will be.

  • Dave Sheehan

    Tom Cruise is nuts.

  • dixieheat1

    He’s as lame as they come. He was ok a kid star.Would not walk across the street to see him. YAUN

  • tom clark

    I also liked him in “Collateral?” where he was a hitman with Jamie Foxx as his cabbie. It was an interesting dark side to Mr. Cruise’s abilities as a full plate actor. He was far from a “pretty boy” in that adventure.

  • Michael Otis

    LOL, I didn’t know there were so many Cruise haters..I join them. No talent self-centered star wannabe. In the days of Gable & Wayne he would have been relegated to also featured. I was especially disappointed in the first “Mission”…never went to see the rest.

  • Dave Manning

    When “Born on the 4th of July” was released, i thought that as a veteran i could never be convinced by any performance of Tom Cruise that he was an actor capable of pulling off the angst and tragic fall of auch a dedicated Marine as was Ron Kovic. I was woefully wrong. He was quite passionate and created a sad yet committed picture of the disillusioned Vietnam vet who became an intensely committed zealot spokesman on both the hypocrisy of the war but on the plight of the disabled. Nuts or not, Cruise is a skilled actor.

  • SteveinSedona

    He was good in Taps, although admittedly a small role.

  • Chuck Millstein

    Agreed that in the days of Gable and Wayne, he would be ignored- but in his early movies (Top Gun and Taps) we saw that he had more than one dimension- he ain’t Bogart- but then who is?

  • joan m. slotnick

    Sad that so many people dislike Tom Cruise. He is not as bad and actor as some say. He has had flops, but so has Tom Hanks. There are by far worse actors than Cruise. They look too much at his personal life, not what he is capable of on screen. He was terrific in Born on the 5th of July. His worst film by far was the one with his then wife Nichol Kidman Eyes Wide Shut.

  • joan m. slotnick

    Sorry, meant 4th of July…..

  • maxfabien

    Cruise is so expendable. I can picture ANY of his roles being played by a much more talented actor. Thank God his days are waning. I could go on about the ‘rumors’ but to what purpose? There so so few ‘pretty boy’ movie stars who can actually act. The few include Johnny Depp, Matt Damon,the late Heath Ledger, and, showing promise, James Franco. These all seem to take their craft seriously. Cruise just likes the glory and the money. The only role of his that was truly convincing was his role in the one “Soth Park” episode!

  • maxfabien

    “South Park”

  • Douglas Solomon

    The Cruise Haters crack me up. They call him nuts, and a no-talent. However, he continues to be a top box office star 30+ years into his acting career. Makes me wish I could be a no-talent star too. So here is a question to all the Cruise Haters out there. What have you accomplished in your lives? Are any of you millionaire celebrities? Do any of you have name recognition outside of a small circle of friends?
    The point is, you may not care for an actor, or their body of work, but unless you are an accomplished actor or acting teacher, your opinion of an actor’s talents are null and void. Also, I am not a Scientologist, but I believe that a persons spiritual beliefs are just as valid as those of anyone else, and therefor should be respected.

  • Sharon

    Some of his performances have been okay but I would never, ever compare him to Errol Flynn in his younger days! I have never been able to warm up to Tom Cruise and wouldn’t pay to see him in a movie.

  • Diane

    Thought I was the only person who thinks Tom Cruise has no talent. I have never been a fan of Tom, but do like his wife Katy Holmes – I’ve seen her in comedies and dramas and she can do both well. Poor Tom, even before he jumped on Oprah’s couch, I thought he was a bit goofy…

  • Mr. Ed

    After reading the “Cruising,” I felt I just wasted about 5 minutes of my life that I will never get back. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion but the subject matter is hollow. My take of Mr. Cruise is that his ego gets in the way of the character he is presumed to play.
    When Mr. Cruise takes on a role it is still Tom Cruise you are watching and not the character is is supposed to play.

  • Keo Nansel

    I thought he should have received the Oscar nomination in Rainman. He wasn’t required to perform as someone with medical/psychological problems. Therefore, his performance was much more subtle. He did amazing emotional scenes saying nothing; just facial expression. 1st time I ever identified an Oscar-worthy performance while I was watching it occur.

  • Gary Vidmar

    Cruise played teens with skill – still does! Paul Brickman told him he would make him into a bourgeois bombshell if he took the role in RISKY BUSINESS, and so he became a star, which took its toll on Scientologist Tom, as he slowly but surely started to display his insecure pathology to the public and the ever-grateful tabloids. Signing up for another MISSION IMPOSSIBLE movie clearly proves he’s now a has-been looking to milk an old cash cow.

  • Lucy

    I simply do not understand the Cruise Haters. He is definitely not an untalented actor. And I’ll bet these same people worship someone like Jack Nicholson – who only plays Jack Nicholson. Tom Cruise is an engaging actor who absolutely deserves his star status. I have not seen many of his early work, but thought he was impressive in Last Samurai, Collateral, Magnolia, etc. He’s a good actor and from all accounts a good man as well.

  • JH West

    I certainly don’t hate him in any sense, but never liked him or his movies. A lot of people do, I don’t. My favorite is the parody of him in Scary Movie 4 when he appears on Oprah and goes nuts. Very funny and with more than a bit of truth to make it even funnier.

  • Shawn McGinnis

    I don’t mind Tom Cruise. I don’t see a movie just because he’s in it, but I have enjoyed some of his roles. I do agree about comparing him to Errol Flynn. Despite his personal problems, Flynn just dripped with charisma. Cruise has to work for it, and barely passes it off.

  • maxfabien

    Re: Douglas Solomon. You got it wrong. It’s the movie-going public’s opinion that DOES matter. If some acting teacher tells someone they have talent, but the public doesn’t think so, the teacher’s opinion is the one that is null and void. As for “what have you accomplished in your lives? Are any of you millionaire celebrities?”…If you base your life’s worth strictly on how much money you make, then I feel really sorry for you (you must be a republican). When someone makes millions of dollars just cuz he/she is pleasant to look at, that is money NOT earned. Give me a Philip Seymour Hoffman over a Tome Cruise any day!

  • pipman

    Equating Tom Cruise?! with Errol Flynn – that is beyond ludicrous!

  • hiram grant

    I am not a big fan, but Cruise should have two Oscars on his mantle — for “Jerry Maguire” (instead of Geoffrey Rush in “Shine,” repetitious schtick in a performance occupying half a movie) and for “Magnolia,” a truly courageous career choice (instead of the estimable Michael Caine for “The Cider House Rules” in a year in which his supporting performance should have bested by any of the nominees[Law in "The Talented Mr. Ripley," Osment in "The Sixth Sense," and Duncan in "The Green Mile."])

  • Mayka

    To me, Tom Cruise is a very good actor. Unfortunately, his personality and religion makes people very unconfortable, people that can’t separate the actor from the person. Since I’m never going to meet him, go to his house, be his friend, etc. I don’t care about his personal siden, I just care about the actor and Tom is a very good one. Unfortunately he will be another good actor without an Oscar, just probably one at the end of his life like so many other good actors.

  • Nina

    I totally disagree that Cruise ”failed” as Lestat in ”Interview with the Vampire”. I thought he was brilliant in that role. The movie was perfectly cast all the way around.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000472580319 Max Gantt

    He is the worst. Even Kubrick couldn’t fix him.

  • Trippy Trellis

    Tom Cruise is third on the list of alltime top ten box office stars. For 20 years he was one of the top ten solid-gold, money-making stars in the world. In 79 years, only John Wayne (24 years) and Clint Eastwood (21 years) spent more years at the top ten list.

    And on the same list, Tom Cruise holds the record as #1 box office star of the year. He has been number one seven times! Bing Crosby, Burt Reynolds, Clint Eastwood and Tom Hanks tie for second place with 5 times each.

    Fifty million Frenchmen can’t be wrong!

  • Douglas Solomon

    Re: Maxfabian
    Tom Cruise is very popular with the public, so your argument is still null and void. You certainly took offense at my question concerning what you have accomplished in life and the amount of money you make compared to Tom Cruise. No, I don’t base my life’s worth on the amount of money I made, but if you live under an underpass, maybe you need to take stock of your real worth. In other words, it doesn’t hurt to have money. I still go back to my original argument. You are not an actor and have no idea what that entails. So, on what basis do you claim he has no talent? Based on personality?
    When someone has made as much money at their chosen profession as Tom Cruise has, your claim that he has no talent is pretty much baseless. To simplify it for you, if you can’t do the job well, you will find yourself out of a job.

  • Gary

    How can you even put him in the same arean with Cooper, Fairbanks, Flynn,the Duke, Clint… this is a no brainer… he can’t act, he’s nuts and the only way I watch him is if I’m bored and he is the only thing on… it’s the others that act that make the movies he’s in…

  • M. L. Wirick

    I have “liked” a few of his movies. I’ll never forgive him for what he did to Mission Impossible. I tried to see the first one and walked out. It takes a lot for me to walk out on a movie. I don’t think of him as a “movie star”, only a celebrity. There’s a dfference.

  • Gord Jackson

    Tom Cruise the Scientologist does not interest me. I don’t give a toss abut what he believes or why he believes. Nor do I care whether Oprah’s couches were used as trampolines or not. What I do care about is whether Tom Cruise delivers in a movie in which he has been cast. And to that, I say he definitely does. I remember after seeing “Rain Man” that I told an associate that if Tom Cruise hadn’t been so good, Dustin Hoffman would not have had anything off of which to play. He was excellent in it, as he was in “Cocktail”, “Magnolia” (a film I otherwise quite hated), “Collateral” (brilliant), “A Few Good Men”, “The Firm”, “Jerry Maguire” and “Valkyrie.” And again, the critics were so busy reviewing Tom Cruise jumping-Jack Scientologist that they forgot to review Tom Cruise the actor in that last mentioned title.

    Finally, I remember seeing Cruise on “Inside the Actor’s Studio” and the one thing he constantly emphasized was his belief that researching and understanding the character he was going to play was priority number one. If nothing else, the man does have credibility.

    No, not everyone is going to like Tom Cruise. I have never been able to enjoy watching Ty Power, but that doesn’t mean he couldn’t act – it simply means I don’t like watching him.

  • http://www.facebook.com/whatever41 Cynthia LaRochelle

    WOW,,, what a bunch of green eyed monsters. So he may not be academy award material. I really don’t care about his religious views or if he loves himself. I think he’s talented & if he wasn’t he would not still be making movies. Maybe some would like him more if was ugly????? and they say women are catty.

  • maxfabien

    John Wayne couldn’t act either and he was #1 box office too. Burt Reynolds was everyone’s favorite for a while? Great actor? I hardly think so. Personality does not replace talent. Popularity doesn’t equate to acting ability. If that were the case, Paul Giamatti would be on everyone’s list! So would Sam Rockwell, And the aforementioned Philip Seymour Hoffman. Tom Cruise is a PERSONALITY, a MOVIE STAR, but definitely not a good actor. Like John Wayne and Clint Eastwood, he always plays the same character, just with with different costumes. You like watching him, great! Knock yourself out! I don’t begrudge you your little pleasures. But Oscar nominations are giving occasionally based on the person’s popularity, not talent. But those kind never win one.

  • celebkiriedhel

    Tom Cruise – of course has talent as an actor. And before he made his personal life a public mockery, I enjoyed his films as light diversions. (Never saw the Kubrick)

    However, once he did the public crazy act, it made it impossible for me to watch any of his films. His public craziness overshadows any talent he may displayed. No matter what character he attempts to play – the effort it takes to see the character and not the crazy man, is more than any of his films are worth.

    Like Charlie Sheen after him – he’s wiped all the pluses of his film career by his public image.

  • M. L. Wirick

    I only “liked” some of his movies. I’ll never forgive him for what he did to Mission Impossible. I tried to watch it, only to walk out because I was very dissapointed and upset. It takes a lot for me to walk out on a movie. To me he is no where near a “movie star”. He is only a celebrity. There’s a difference in the two.

  • P. Perone

    He’s arrogant, rude and obnoxious, period! Why would I or anyone else want to see one of his movies. Are some going to go to his movies like sheep with no moral standards whatsoever? Probably.

  • Johnny Bolin

    totally agree Rufnek

  • smlanner

    Never cared for Cruise. I do like the movie Rainman. But I only like it because of Dustin Hoffman

  • ekim smada

    I like Tom Cruise. He has just enough talent and skill to pull off any role he chooses. I agree with others that his facial expressions are his best skill. He was superb in A Few Good Men. I think he held up very well in scenes with Nicholson. As for his private life or religious choices, you have to consider the environment that he lives in. Hollywood or California in general, you have to be crazy to live every day of your life under the threat of drowning in the Pacific when the “big one” comes!

  • http://www.moviesunlimited.com George D. Allen

    Nice to see what (at last!) became something of a variety of opinion. Not just because some of the opinions hew a little more closely to my own, but because an actor with Cruise’s box-office clout can surely be counted on to have a few supporters (and surely some of those supporters must occasionally read this blog!). So thanks to everyone, yea or nay. Now then:

    Just to quickly respond to a few of the naysayers —

    I would start by offering this: There’s a certain A-list actress (who I will not name here) that absolutely doesn’t “do it” for me, and I have just about zero interest any time she’s at the top of a movie’s cast. It takes a lot of other factors (good director, co-stars, etc.) to get me interested in shelling out the money and the time to take in a film in which she stars. Having said all that, I would never make the rookie mistake of dismissing her as untalented or unworthy of comparison to the starlets of yore whose performances I admire. Contrary to what may be popular opinion, the world’s most bankable stars don’t get where they are in spite of their talents. They do indeed get there because of them.

    And that’s how I respond to those who say I had no business comparing him to Errol Flynn, for example. I’m not necessarily making any “skill” comparisons here (though I certainly believe those to be valid, too), I’m talking about their appeal from a pure show-business standpoint. Flynn was not known as a chameleon–he was hugely popular because he could bring his superstar charisma to blockbusters. And, of course, those who are venerating Flynn and slamming Cruise for being “nuts” and simply a figure of the tabloids would do well to remember (as I would suspect they do) that Flynn had his own share of issues in the limelight.

    Sneer if you will at the non-movie-related headlines he makes, but as of this date, Cruise has yet to enter a courtroom on charges (however ill-founded) of statutory rape.

    It’s enjoyable to “argue” an actor’s merits on screen with this or that performance, by way of specifics, but some of these broadly dismissive swipes—taken in view of the power and influence Cruise wields in Hollywood—can, at the most generous, only be regarded as unserious.

    Further, to those who are attempting to deny Cruise his rightful place in the Hollywood pantheon vis-a-vis the leading men of Ye Olden Days: Attempting to make the case that he hasn’t the “chops” of your favorite stars of the past? All you have to do is look at his filmography and compare it to the “oldies” stars who have similar generic appeal, and you will see that yes, whether because of the more liberated filmmaking era he occupies or by his own personal design (I argue both), Cruise can be judged to have taken more “risks” with his public image, and thus, by your own standards (since the type of actors some commenters would seem to regard as superior would be more readily known for risk-taking), Cruise stands equally high if not higher on the flagpole of greats. Of his type.

    I believe someone earlier offered the opinion that popularity alone would allow an actor like Cruise to get an Academy Award nomination, but “those” actors “never win.” (INSERT GREAT, NOISY CLEARING OF THROAT HERE) Everyone out there raise your hands if you think the Academy always awards the “best” and not the “most popular” choice the coveted trophy.

  • man

    Simply put, he is a moron!

  • MrMovieClassics

    The guy’s a real jerk! A complete California-style flake! Can’t act either. Comments made regarding Brooke Shields’s health/lifestyle choices were completely uncalled for. What self-centered arrogance from a spoiled Hollywood brat!

  • john

    I don’t usually get to upset when I see people give their opinions about various topics. After all it is THEIR opinion. However, to identify Tom Cruise in any way, shape or form to such great and legendary talents as Cary Grant , Errol Flynn, John Wayne and Gary Cooper, is an insult to any rational thinking human! I could list dozens of lesser talented actors than the ones I mentioned above, who could still out act and outshine………..Tom Cruise?? TOM CRUISE?? Can anyone say anything so outlandish, so idiotic and so far from the realm of truth and get away with it? The answer must be yes.But, I won’t let him get away with it! Tom Cruise……..HA!

  • Andrew

    Not really a big fan of Tom Cruise but, his role in “Born on the 4th of July” was definately moving. It’s the first time I ever choked up over a movie. Oliver Stone really scored on that one.

  • Tom Webb

    I don’t have any strong feelings either way. I’m not a big fan of Tom Cruise, but I think he has given some very good performances- “Born on the Fourth of July,” “The Color of Money,” “The Last Samurai,” etc. I think he does have a charismatic appeal, and perhaps IS comparable to Golden Age stars in that way. I don’t think it has to be an either/or- who was better- Cruise or Flynn, Cruise or Wayne?, etc. I love John Wayne and Errol Flynn, but that doesn’t mean that a newer actor can’t also be good. Some of Cruise’s private beliefs turn me off, but those are his choices, and as long as he doesn’t hurt anyone, that’s his business. I’ve always thought that he most resembles Robert Taylor, in his appeal and abilities. Like Cruise, Taylor was often underrated as an actor, and seen only as a Pretty Boy. And, like Cruise, he sometimes took career chances. It was probably harder for Taylor to do that, under the old studio system, but he gave edgy performances in Film Noirs and Noir Westerns. For a romantic idol, he shockingly played psychos on some occasions. Perhaps if Cruise had worked under the studio system, he would seem more appealing to many. The studio would have kept his private beliefs under wraps, and just shown his star side. Guys like my favorite, Flynn, still made the tabloids, but maybe not as much as stars do now.

  • Science Fiction Guy

    Cruise was good in Risky Business. And Oliver Stone beat a good performance out of him in Born On The Fourth of July. He has otherwise been awful. I have a connection to the film business, and know from people who worked with Cruise that he can be very unprofessional on set. I have no interest in anything he does, especially the Mission Impossible films.

    Regarding the comparisons to Grant, Wayne and Eastwood- I think Cary Grant had much more acting range than any of the others. Wayne, Eastwood and Cruise all made careers of playing themselves. However, Wayne and Eastwood are more interesting people (off camera) than Cruise, and it shows on the screen.

    Cruise will continue to be regarded as “big box office”, as long as Mr. Allen and others like him keep going to his films. It is nothing more than self-fulfilling prophecy.

  • Susan H

    Bugs me big time – my first though (naturally).

  • http://www.moviesunlimited.com George D. Allen

    Tom W, I’m very, very interested in your Robert Taylor comparison, thanks :)

    SF Guy, as for Cruise’s behavior on his sets (as reported by who-knows-who), I can only say that second- or third-hand gossip doesn’t interest me nearly as much as the results obtained on the screen. Those sorts of concerns, as you should also know from your connection to the film business (or any business for that matter), are always a “problem” inversely in relation to the value that talent brings to the project. If you’re high-maintenance and low value, big problem (for you). If you’re high maintenance but you really deliver the goods (in terms of craft and/or moneymaking ability), far less of a problem. To use perhaps the most extreme example, Brando could be quite the diva and a pain in the ass, but he continued to secure work because he was worth it. I love mentioning Kinski every chance I get, and he was another good example of the same. Ask Herzog if he would trade any Kinski performance for the hours upon hours he had to babysit him and deal with every petulant tirade.

  • Lynn

    I think too many of you are influenced by his personal life and confuse that with his professional skills. Get over yourselves. One thing should have nothing to do with the other.

  • Evie

    I’m always on the fence about Cruise until I think about his body of work or I’m dragged by friends to the latest Tom Cruise movie. Then I always think to myself. ” Yeah, I really like Tom Cruise. He’s good!”

  • wayne fowble

    There is total unbelievability in his acting. When he tries to portray the tough heroic protagonist in his films, I always view them with the feeling that my 80 year old mother could kick his ass.

  • http://www.moviesunlimited.com George D. Allen

    Tom Cruise vs. an ass-kicking, 80-year-old grandma is a billion-dollar pitch I think you should take to Cruise-Wagner/UA immediately. :)

  • maxfabien

    The only time I saw a convincing Tom Cruise role was the “closet” South Park episode. LOL!

  • C. Shepard

    Though the story-lines of his movies are usually good, I might have enjoyed them more with another actor. The best movie was Rainman, but only because of Justin Hoffman who really did background work for the part. I always enjoy him–not so with Cruise.

  • David Kennett

    Tom Cruise was featured in several movies with major stars (such as Dustin Hoffman and Paul Newman)to help build his image as a star. It is my opinion that he is a capable actor, but not a superior actor. You cannot question his popularity or record as a box office star. I have liked some of his movies and not liked some of his movies that I have seen, and there are several that I have not seen. As for the Mission Impossible roles, I found them a complete turn off. I think it was a combination of the roles themselves and the way he protrayed them. My personal opinion is that Tom Cruise is not in the class of Errol Flynn, Gary Cooper, John Wayne, Clint Eastwood or Cary Grant. I think he was a good looking guy with some talent and charisma that came along at the right time to be groomed for stardom. And he did become a big star. But in my opinion he is not among the greats, nor is he a bad actor. He has been fortunate enough to work with great talent over the years and has been part of some some very good movies. He has also had his share of dogs and then some. If you make enough movies some of them will be dogs. But the really great talents had a minimum of dogs.

  • http://www.moviesunlimited.com George D. Allen

    David, thanks for a completely respectable difference of opinion! I see a lot of disapproval of the M:I movies; I wonder if people who were not as overly familiar with the original series (as I am certainly not) are the ones who have less of an issue w/the films (though, as I say, I really think the 1st one is by far the best and they could have stopped right there and I’d have been quite happy about it).

    Meanwhile, “A Minimum of Dogs” sounds like a great title for a Hollywood memoir.

  • Daniel W.

    Cruise more often than not annoys me. His acting is boring and rediculously bland. I CANNOT believe Mission: Impossible and the Master, Hitchcock, were mentioned in the same sentence. The only performance of Cruises I liked was in Collateral. He was astoundingly deep and thought provoking. Beyond that his characters are not interesting. That’s not to say a few of his movies, mainly his early ones, aren’t fun, but his performances are uniteresting. Just because his sex appeal sells doesn’t mean he is interesting.

  • http://www.moviesunlimited.com George D. Allen

    Daniel W, much as I’d love to take credit for being the first person to outrage the reading public by comparing De Palma to Hitch…well, you see where I’m going here. I’m about the zillionth person to make that same comparison. Fair enough that most people use that side-by-side to say that De Palma too often goes beyond “homage” to slavish mimicry of Hitchcock (see: “Dressed to Kill,” “Body Double,” the second of which I love, by the by)…but I’ll stand by my appraisal of the NOC list heist as brilliantly accomplished in the spirit of The Master of Suspense, an expertly put-together sequence of parallel action/cutting/sound design by De Palma (& editor Paul Hirsch, let’s not forget, who did similarly excellent work w/De Palma for “Phantom of the Paradise.”) that’s both nail-biting and humorous at the same time. I was there in the theater — and you can tell when a movie is really crackling & winding the audience up, and I vividly recall just how well that whole bit played to a packed house.

    And while we’re on the subject of Hitch, I’m sure you are well aware that quite a few people would be more than ready to knock him off that high pedastal you place him upon as nothing but a purely “technical” director of nothing but shallow, B-grade material.

    I am not one of those people, by the way.

  • Ron C Clair

    Tom Cruise is a flaming a——! Guess I gotta stop beating around the bush and come out and say things!!

  • http://www.moviesunlimited.com George D. Allen

    Because otherwise you are afraid that sentiment might remain unspoken? :)

  • John Hester

    As far as I am concerned “The Last Samurai” is his best performance. Very Intense.

  • Carol Daniels

    Oh come on, Tom Cruise is a very sexy man and a pretty good actor. Get over yourselves.

  • Anne

    Thank you, Gord Jackson , for bringing some sanity into the discussion. I, too, am not a big Tom Cruise fan, but I can’t understand where all the vitriol is coming from. Liked him well enough in “Rain Man” and “Collateral”. And I thought that he did a very good job in “Knight and Day” — quite funny. But for most of his other movies, he was a cipher to me — I was watching other actors (well, even in “Rain Man” I was watching Dusty). So why all the hate?

    I, too, was never able to watch Tyrone Power although everyone else seemed to think he was wonderful.

  • RAMONA SMITH

    THE SO CALL RELIGON HIS IN IS A CULT?BUT I DO LIKE SOME OF HIS MOVIE’S. LIKE WAR OF THE WORLD AND OTHER’S.

  • Don Sheridan

    Since he came out with his anti-semitic diatribe, he is definitely on my DO NOT SEE list!

  • Mike B

    Don’t like Tom Cruise. He’s got no talent, he doesn’t impress me as a spy in the Mission Impossible movies and he was worse as a German in Valkyrie. His antics on Oprah’s couch was disgustingly lame and he is so full of himself. To take a quote from that South Park episode, “Tom won’t come out of the closet”

  • Vic Damico

    Anyone that says Tom has no talent is brain dead. I don’t care about his private life. He’s made so great movied on of which was Collateral. He was great in the Vampire Diaries, he was great in Born On The 4th of July and was also great in A Few Good Men. I think you Tom haters hate everything about YOUR life, get over it.

  • Vic Damico

    Sorry for the typos.

  • MissKitty

    …I guess no one saw or remembers Legend with him and Mia Sara and Tim Curry…

  • Celia

    I really liked “Minority Report”. Tom worked with a really talented group of actors so, it didn’t just feel like a “Tom Cruise” vehicle. Good Sci-Fi movie. Check it out. I so agree with Shawn McGinnis that Errol Flynn “dripped with charisma.” He also oozed charm!

  • Mike B

    Us Tom haters don’t have to get over anything and no, we enjoy our lives thank you. Ever notice Cruise surrounds himself with great actors in his films? He rides their backs to help carry him through the movie. Nicholson, Hackman, Hoffman, etc. Without them he is just an also ran.

  • Luigi From NYC

    i– too — am not a Cruise fan but i must admit that i enjoyed him in 2 Flicks –

    1= FAR AND AWAY

    2= EYES WIDE SHUT

    (ps) Read His Unauthorized Biography —
    Quite — An Eye-Opener !

  • JIM RICK

    I NOTICE MOST OF THE NEGATIVE OPINIONS OF CRUISE ARE FROM MEN….JEALOUS?

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