Bosh and bunkum.
We here at As Little as Possible (and by “we” I mean me and my intern, and by "intern" I mean my fridge) do not wallow in the excruciating minutiae of rank celebrity, unless it serves a sensible and greater purpose and does not engage in feckless fawning or rancor. That is why you don’t see hotel heiresses here. That stuff is for Defamer, which does an excellent job both covering and lambasting the third-rate dog and pony show Hollywood has become. In fact, Defamer should be granted exclusive rights to this particular arena, because too many people are trying to wrest the spotlight from the spotlit.
The non-stop Cruise-a-thon has been humming along for one year, since this (although this is funny as hell). I don’t dispute that Hollywood engineers “stunts” to trumpet releases. It’s the nature of the biz, and we, as consumers, have the ability to block the media onslaught. We can simply turn off Access Hollywood or close US Weekly.
That said, I feel the need to offer some fairness and balance, because even some of the most culture-savvy and levelheaded folks I know are letting themselves be marginalized by Cruise’s theatrics.
Simply put, we need to remember something: Tom Cruise makes good movies.
He hasn’t hurt anyone with his personal life—don’t tell me without proof that his tirade against prescription drugs has injured anyone—and his personal life hasn’t hurt the quality of his movies. That’s all that should matter. He can be as “crazy” as he wants, as long as it stays in those parameters. The moment his personal life taints his movies, I’ll be the first to pin him to the wall. After all, he wasn’t the one who made Battlefield Earth.
Point of order: Cruise would not make my list of modern cinema’s great actors. His range doesn’t come close to that of, say, Geoffrey Rush or Russell Crowe. We all know that. But he is a good actor, an indelible movie presence, and he has the clout to finance great movies. Imagine if he turned all his powers to nurturing independent films (like when he produced Shattered Glass and Narc).
So let us not ask “Is this it, then, for Tom? Is his unprecedented reign as the movie star over?” Let us, instead, reflect on four movies. I hate two of them. I love the other two. But I think Cruise is perfect in each, and each perfect for Cruise.
1988. Rain Man. I hate this movie. But Cruise comes so close to redeeming it. Dustin Hoffman won an Oscar for playing a walking set of tics without a personality. Cruise should’ve at least been nominated—there is not a more truly supportive performance in the annals of moviedom.
1998. Magnolia. I also hate this movie. But Cruise gets to exhibit a nasty, un-Disneyish side. He sinks his teeth into an operatic part, and never do we get the sense that he is being self-conscious or non-commital. He is the only reason to see this massive miscalculation (even poor Julianne is saddled with a preposterous role).
1999. Eyes Wide Shut. The flip side. Cruise’s role as Dr. Bill is all subtext. There is no showboating, which means there’s an even larger margin for error. It’s the trickiest role of his career. Cruise no doubt owes much to his director, but not even Kubrick the Kontroller can totally manipulate an actor's performance. The subtlety and control are Cruise's, not Kubrick's.
2002. Minority Report. Scandalously under-credited and overlooked. The world’s heaviest heavies—Cruise and Spielberg—combined their exhaustive talents and turned out a gripping, glorious sci-fi murder mystery. Technically superior and narratively exquisite, it ennobles Cruise's “screen presence,” his ability to carry blockbusters like Top Gun, The Firm, The Last Samurai, War of the Worlds and the Mission: Impossibles.
To make a long story short (too late), Cruise has been at the top of his game for 23 years. That’s an astonishing run. Has anyone matched it? I don’t think so. I eagerly await M:I 3 because I know—through 23 years of evidence, Cocktail aside—that it will be, at the very least, worth the price of admission (which we can't say for 95 percent of the dreck currently in theaters).