Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Highway to the Publicity Zone

The 4th of July. A time for fun, celebration, remembrance and. . .scattering in all directions. At least, that’s what the Left family did.

You see, it’s like this. The parents spent the 4th attending a party thrown by one of Dad’s V.F.W. buddies. They were nice enough to invite me, but I declined. I didn’t care to spend the day viewing some guy’s collection of World War II bayonets. Also, the ‘rents are suffering from serious overexposure to Yours Truly, so I figured they needed a break.

Normally, my sister’s house is a safe haven. I always look forward to hanging out with my nephews, ages 3 and 5, respectively. But this year, Sis went mushy and invited her ex-husband. This meant that her ex-husband would show up with his entire family, including second cousins twice removed, and proceed to eat and drink everything in sight, while hogging the TV. This, coupled with the fact that my former brother-in-law is a walking, talking case of hemorrhoids, made it an occasion I could afford to miss. I opted out.

So how does one spend a holiday alone? I had friends who were throwing parties, but a guy on his own is a third wheel. I was sick of hanging out at home. I did the only thing any self-respecting loner could do: I went to the movies.

Arriving at the local multiplex, I found it to be busier than I anticipated. An unexpected cloudburst had sent people running for cover. Many people, apparently, had nothing better to do. But I was different, I told myself. I was no mere holiday refugee. I was there to make a Serious Study of a burning question of Cultural Significance. Namely, would Tom Cruise’s nutspell be visible on film? Time would tell.

I know a million and one people have weighed in on this subject which, in some circles, has even pushed the war news off the front page. But when all is said and done, media is a secondhand source. Since Hollywood’s golden boy is not listed in the Yellow Pages, I did the next best thing. I saw “War of the Worlds”.

I am not going to review the film. I’ll leave that to Roger Ebert and the boot-licking geek who replaced Gene Siskel. I’ll only say that if you’ve seen “Jaws”, “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” or “E.T.”, you’ve already seen “War of the Worlds”. This screen adaptation of H.G. Wells’ classic novel is a succotash of Spielbergian trademarks: scary lights, John Williams soundtrack, bug-eyed actors staring into the camera, and C.G.I. galore. Note to Steven: time for a fresh approach, bro.

What about Generation X’s answer to Paul Newman? Listen, I was never a Tom Cruise fan. Years ago, I was working in the Electronics section of Nameless Department Store. The store sold TV’s, and in order to demonstrate each idiot box on display, we’d play a video on a VCR that was hooked up to every TV. Trouble was, our manager was a cheapskate who pinched pennies until they screamed. We had only one videotape to play, “Top Gun”. For eight hours a day, Monday through Friday, on a dozen screens for nearly a year, it was “Highway to the Danger Zone”. Some anonymous do-gooder finally, thankfully stole the tape (stop looking at me like that). God bless them, wherever they are.

Needless to say, this left me with little tolerance for Cruise’s cocky, go-getter charisma. With the exception of “Eyes Wide Shut”, I’ve avoided all of Maverick’s oeuvre, except for bits and pieces seen on TV. As far as actors go, I could either take him or leave him.

I was, however, firmly committed to my study. Something crucial, I figured, had to have caused Cruise to go apeshit so suddenly and publicly. Perhaps the genesis of this could be viewed through the brutally honest eye of the movie camera, similar to the tics and twitches of Inspector Clouseau’s progressively looney police chief in the “Pink Panther” series. Surely, film wouldn’t lie, would it?

Alas, all the camera revealed was a first-class performance. Cruise ably and authentically portrays an absentee (cocky, go-getting) father who makes superhuman efforts to protect his kids from alien invaders and reunite them with their mother. Over the course of the film, I actually forgot about my study and the media hoopla and simply accepted him as the character he was playing. That, friends, is acting. Credit must be given when credit’s due. Onscreen for 98% of the time, Cruise alone saves “War of the Worlds” from being a lazy compilation called Spielberg’s Greatest Hits.

True, my study did not attain its objective. But I did come to one important (to me, anyway) conclusion. Cruise’s media antics are what brought me to the theater. Without them, I would’ve passed on this movie, too. Most likely, the crucial something behind his behavior is called publicity. Plain and simple.

Somewhere in California, Tom Cruise is laughing heartily. He’s laughing, because he knows he’s a better actor than anyone ever suspected.


Blogger Le chameau insatiable said...

read an article about Tom's behavior lately. Truth is apparently, he fired or got fired by his publicist, who would keep all the bullshit safeguarded. So this is not "new" behavior, it's just a new publicist's different approach whether good or bad...
I didn't see war of the worlds, nor will I spend 10 bucks on it. HG Wells' book is a classic, people should read it rather than watch an adaptation of it. People should read -period. I love movies but I pick the ones I go see carefully. One of my best friends calls me an intellectual snob, which is probably as close a compliment as he can do.

6:00 PM  
Blogger Doggie Extraordinaire's Mom said...

Thank you for using the word succotash in a blog! I admit, I read it and then had to read it again with Sylvester the Cat's lisp. It was heart-warming and I appreciate the reclaiming of a fantastic word that fell by the wayside!

Tom Cruise is one of the actors I lump in a category with Harrison Ford (limited to two facial expressions) and Tom Hanks (who always seems to think he's a charming kind of geek), and they almost always play the same character. Despite your words of support for his acting ability, I still am going to have to pass on any of his films. Sorry, Cruise. You lost me at "hello."

As for the holiday, you weren't the only one wandering around on a solo quest for entertainment. Part of the reason I enjoy photography is that I can carry my camera and tripod alone anywhere and people don't automatically assume I'm a pathetic loser. That takes a little time to discover. ;)

Thanks for sharing your humorous and intelligent thoughts. You're in my favorites, My Dear.

7:35 PM  
Blogger Dan said...

When he stops filing assault charges against people who squirt him with water, then I'll see one of his movies. I honestly have never sat through an entire Tom Cruise movie, on DVD or otherwise.
Maybe I'll see his next one. But it has to have Katie in it.

8:08 AM  
Blogger Mona said...

I think it's admirable that you were willing to study him with eyes wide open, after everything that has happened. Thanks for the review, and I must say I'm sorry to hear about the dept. store you worked at. That's not right. Inhumane to expose people to that on a daily basis. I would have stolen the tape or bought a selection after week one.

1:18 PM  
Blogger Mona said...

p.s. I think it's also admirable to go ahead and spend the 4th of July alone. It's what I chose to do as well, and it felt pretty good.

4:43 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home