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Jun 24, 2010

Fletch's Favored Five: Cruise Flicks

LAMB Acting School 101 is coming up, and I had yet to write an 'original' (in quotes because how original is a top five list, really?) post on one of the subjects. Damn it, it's time.

The subject, as you might have guessed by the title of this post, is Tom Cruise. Legend, pariah, action star, small man, chronic fake laugher, Maverick. Star or co-star of an impeccable "(TV)"- and "(V)"-free IMDb resume (seriously, 36 credits up there right now and they're all A-list films, short of Losin' It, perhaps). Somewhat embattled a bit by scandal/supposed insanity over the last 8 years or so, Cruise remains a top box office draw and has been at or near the top of the A-list for nearly 30 years. Certainly, choosing but five of his films would prove difficult.

Or not. There's certainly many quality pictures to choose from, but the film chosen below were done almost immediately upon sight of his filmography. you could likely talk me out of number five in favor of another film, but the first four are all locks, and I don't see them going anywhere anytime soon. On with the countdown:

5. The Firm - I never read the book, but I read enough of it to know that Cruise was way off in the casting of Mitch McDeere, who I believe was described as a hulking college football quarterback type, somewhere where in the 6'3" range, if I recall correctly.

No matter. You want a Boy Scout for your story, you could do much worse than nabbing Cruise, the eternal determined, fearless, type-A personality if ever there was one. Sydney Pollack directed the John Grisham adaptation with intensity, a healthy dose of atmosphere (not quite Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil magic, but you get the feel of Memphis pretty good), and, best of all, a sense of humor and a terrific cast of veteran character actors, from Hal Holbrook to Ed Harris to Terry Kinney to David Strathairn to Wilford Brimley, for chrissakes. Not meaningful cinema, but a hell of a solidly-acted film.

4. Mission: Impossible - This was more of a movie catching me at the right time in life than anything else, I suppose. It's not particularly great, with the type of ridiculous finale that I usually laugh at and/or hate. But...short of that, it was an engaging espionage thriller, with a crackerjack intro that had you meet a bunch of characters only to kill half of them off almost immediately (including a shocking Emilio death), some memorable action set pieces (the invasion of Langley, complete with Cruise doing his high-wire dangling act, and Jean Reno and Ving Rhames in the most memorable roles they've had outside of the ones that made them famous.

3. The Color of Money - The student has become the teacher has become the student. Indeed, the setup of this film is not all that original, but Paul Newman owns the screen, and Cruise in the midst of his hotshot Hollywood rise, all with an in-his-prime Scorcese directing? Yes, please! Doesn't hurt that I was once a rising young pool shark myself; okay, that's a vast exaggeration, but I sure did play a lot once upon a time, and unlike The Hustler, there is actually some good pool play on display here.

2. Minority Report - I don't detest the ending of this like Mrs. Fletch does, but damned if it doesn't have the Spielberg Memorial Mega Super Happy Finale flair, complete with the Daddy issues theme that runs like a vein through seemingly all his films. But a phenomenal Phil Dick story remains a phenomenal Phil Dick story, and Samantha Morton makes it all go down so well. Even better is a desperate, on-the-run Cruise in one of his better performances. An underappreciated gem.

1. Top Gun - The cineaste in me, the movie snob, would indeed scoff at this choice, as many of you are probably doing right now (if you weren't already with some of my other choices). Well, though. Sure, it's a homorerotic feast for the senses with bad music, overacting and enough melodrama to rival a soap opera, but it's so much more than that, and if I have to recap it all for you, you clearly haven't seen it.


15 people have chosen wisely: on "Fletch's Favored Five: Cruise Flicks"

Nick said...

What? No "Collateral" or "The Last Samurai"? Those give two of his best performances, especially Collateral. You could say Last Samurai is just a Japanese Dances With Wolves, but it's still a fine film.

Also surprised at your lack of Jerry Maguire, which most consider one of his best and is a sports film (so to speak).

Anonymous said...

Nice work Irwin, Top Gun had to be #1, one of the best action movies of all time, and it made the summer blockbuster trendy... I'll have to check out Color of Money one of these days.

Also what is the deal with the lame Cruise cartoon, do people think he has a big nose or something? I thought it was universally accepted that Tom was almost as good-looking as me...

-K.V.

Fitz said...

Collateral is a must-mention for me, that'll be my post for LAMB 101, but I would go with Minority Report as #1.

Castor said...

Got to agree with Fitz, Collateral is my favorite Tom Cruise movie, I find him to be really the "same" guy in most of his other movies.

Peter Eramo said...

I'm SO GLAD you didn't include the disgrance that is A Few Good Men. And good for you for sticking to your guns on your #1 pick. I loved Color of Money (Hustler is one of my favs), but I feel it hasn't aged well. I'd have to put Magnolia, Rain Man and Born on the 4th for sure on my own list...
A good read, man!!!

Fletch said...

Nick - Jerry Maguire is a good flick, but I've never loved the hell out of it. Fun to watch, but a total chick flick with several lame parts.

K.V. (!) - I've been meaning to email you. What's shaking, brother?

Glad you approve of the list. Hard to know what your exacting standards will deem worthy sometimes. Top Gun is the shit and I love it unapologetically. It doesn't matter that I was 10 when it came out.

I dunno about the cartoon, but at least they played up his mega-teeth.

Fitz, Castor - Will the Collateral love never stop? Nice to see him playing a bad guy, but a lot of Mann's flicks drag on and on...

Peter - I've actually not yet seen A Few Good Men, though it's on the Netflix queue somewhere.

Color of Money...well, the music dates it, certainly, but Newman's performance alone keeps it fresh. I love Old Paul Newman.

Cruise was great in Magnolia, and it's a good flick, but I think it's depressing nature has always kept me from loving it like I do Boogie Nights. Rain Man's certainly great, but I haven't seen it in forever.

Mike Lippert said...

I love how ever Scorsese's worst movie still gets love and top whatever lists. Since everyone has already argued for Cruises other great films (Magnolia depressing but Boogie Nights not?) I'll say I'd add Eyes Wide Shut. Such a complex and rewarding movie. Truely underappreciated.

JacksSmirkingRevenge said...

Fletch, from what i can tell, you and I are pretty much the same age, Im about 33 and a half, and I think i am the only movie buff from our generation that doesnt like Top Gun.

I'd go:
6. Jerry Maguire
5. The Color of Money
4. Far and Away
3. The Last Samurai
2. Minority Report
1. A Few Good Men

Also, while I LOATHE Magnolia as a movie, I thought Cruise was excellent in it.

Dan (Top10Films) said...

Ooh...tough one, I think my top 5 would be quite different. Probably something along the lines of:

5. Eyes Wide Shut
4. Rain Man
3. Jerry Maguire
2. The Color of Money
1. Risky Business

Fletch said...

Mike - Color of Money Scorcese's worst? I haven't seen 'em all by any means, but that seems a bit harsh.

Magnolia centers on death and is a pretty humorless movie. Boogie, while it certainly travels to some dark places, is a hilarious movie and even has a redemptive finale. It's not even close.

JSR - Well, I haven't seen half of your top 6 (4, 3, 1). I'd like to see A Few Good Men one of these days (I feel like I've already seen it, though), but I have little interest in either of the others. And shame on you for not at least ironically liking Top Gun. Did you not see it near its release?

Dan - I'd like to enjoy Eyes Wide Shut more, but I'll have to get past that droning piano score before that's possible. ;) And I've just never gotten into Risky Business, probably due to DeMornay's involvement. I've never really liked her.

Mike Lippert said...

Fletch, I use the word "worst" very loosely when refering to Scorsese.

As for Boogie Nights, the ending to me is tragedy not redemption. Dirk Diggler has become become no more than a cog in the captialist machine of the 80s. Some of his friends have died, video has ruined the porn injustry which is now more concerned with turning out as many cheap titilations as possible as opposed to making films people will want to see all the way through even after they get off and we now get to see Dirk's member which, by that time, it's okay for us to see because it's no longer anything special. Dirk Diggler is no longer a star, he's just a product on the assembly line.

If anything, it's Magnolia that ends in redemption, creating an act of God to wipe the slate clean and begin life again anew.

JacksSmirkingRevenge said...

I saw Top Gun probably when it initially hit the VHS shelves. And even as 10/11 year old i thought is was just ok.
Maybe its because I dont have the need for speed.

JacksSmirkingRevenge said...

Also, you should see The Last Samurai for Ken Wantanabe's performance alone. He is amazing in the movie.

Rachel said...

Jess and I are covering him for the podcast tomorrow. I get to do the Bottom 3 this week. *Insert evil laughter*

Heather said...

I like that you threw out Top Gun as #1. Hell yes!

Mine would go something like this:

The Last Samurai as an alternate.

5. Top Gun
4. Collateral
3. Mission Impossible
2. Magnolia
1. Interview With The Vampire

I'm obsessed with Lestat. I have no objectivity when it comes to him.

Then again this list could change daily. He's had an expansive career that has been very successful and rightfully so, even if he is a massive douche.