Tom Cruise is intriguing to me because of the number of different phases his own career has gone through – he once turned down a record-setting contract to star in Top Gun 2 so he could play second fiddle to Paul Newman and Dustin Hoffman. He was an up-and-coming character actor. He followed Mission: Impossible and Jerry Maguire with Eyes Wide Shut and Magnolia. He delivered dynamite films with Steven Spielberg.
He grew up destitute, abused by his father, and attended 15 different schools. Should I admire his success in the face of such odds? He’s member to what many people think of as a cult. He’s been accused of spying on an ex-wife. Katie Holmes left him overnight to keep their child from Scientology. Should I hate him?
The truth of his character may lie somewhere in the middle, and it’s intriguing to trace the path of that career over his best performances – how they reflect his goals as an actor, how they reflect our interactions with his films. I always say, I avoid making lists unless there are greater points at hand. I do my best to get at a few here:
Tom Cruise’s 10 Best Performances
Recently, I wrote a piece at Article Cats about the burgeoning popularity of nation simulation. This takes a number of different forms. Some of it involves YouTube videos where users predict the future borders of countries as they break apart and assimilate each other.
A far more organized version takes place around strategy games, where game A.I.s will compete as different countries and cultures and fans will argue over who will eventually win. By now, this comes with leagues, play-by-play analysis, and color commentaries by analysts. It’s a sport, but it’s also a clash of cultural fandom. Read my full article at AC:
Grand Strategy & the Strange Sport of Nation Simulation
I ranked the 10 best movies of the year so far for Article Cats. I also snuck one big asterisk in, which if you’ve read my review for it, makes complete sense. It’s difficult to figure out where a great piece of art that wants to be a bad movie really fits. Take a look here:
The Best Movies of 2015 (So Far)
One thing that’s really bothered me about the coverage of the Charleston church shooting is how what the shooter said almost directly echoes a conservative talking point that Donald Trump focused on in his presidential announcement. Trump obviously didn’t cause the shooting, but there is a repeated mentality among conservatives that both bolsters and encourages racist elements in this country to carry out their violence in larger and more public ways. Read it here:
Donald Trump & the Charleston Gunman Sound Eerily Similar on People of Color
My review for Jurassic World on AC is glowing. Too many sequels think that respecting the original movie in a franchise is about emulating it endlessly. It creates watered-down copy-pastes that diminish the franchise each time. That’s the problem with The Lost World: Jurassic Park and Jurassic Park 3.
Jurassic World thinks the best way of respecting the original movie is to play with it, to interact with it on a meta level. If you love Jurassic Park, it seems to say, you shouldn’t put it on a pedestal and never touch it again. You should poke and prod at it, interact with it, and take all its themes and spin them on their heads just to see where they land. Jurassic World is a movie written as non-seriously as possible and then filmed at face value, a self-aware film featuring one of the most self-deprecating leads on film today in Chris Pratt. It does some things wrong, but it takes a lot more chances than I ever would’ve expected. Read my entire review on AC here:
A More Perfect “Jurassic World”
Well, technically I phrase it why it’s “impressive, fun, and a complete disaster,” but chiefly it’s about the complete disaster part. And the film’s weird obsession with slow-motion cleavage shots. It’s like Joss Whedon suddenly turned into Michael Bay.
Here’s my review over on AC.
I’m sure Unfriended was imagined as a quick cash-in – a horror movie based entirely around social networking. For cast and crew, especially those getting their first and perhaps only break, nothing’s just a cash-in. The people involved in this film took real risks in assembling the most important POV horror film since The Blair Witch Project.
What seems like a gimmick at first glance becomes a bold and experimental approach to storytelling on film. It doesn’t feel like anything I’ve ever seen before. It’s an intense and bittersweet allegory that’s one of the best films of the year. To read my review and Bechdel Test analysis:
“Unfriended” is Brilliant Horror That Hits Close to Home
This sort of article is often treated as a quick toss-off for writers. That’s always annoyed me. A critic will name the first few directors that pop into their head regardless of how appropriate they are.
To me, it’s an opportunity to introduce to you directors you may not know yet. Sure, you’ll recognize Darren Aronofsky and David Cronenberg, but other names I suggest might not be as familiar.
An article like this should end up with more names off the list than make it on. It shouldn’t be word association with director’s names. So here’s my take on who should replace David Lynch now that he’s exited Twin Peaks. Click over for my article on Article Cats. I think you’ll be surprised at some of my suggestions:
9 Directors Who Can Replace David Lynch on “Twin Peaks”
I put a lot of love into this article. It was tough to find my way into it – I was assigned to write about a controversial all-white, all-male band that named itself Black Pussy. What does a name like that communicate? Does it pose a danger? Does it encourage a view of African-American women as promiscuous, as targets, or as conquests?
I looked at the Washington Redskins, rap group Die Antwoord, and a controversy surrounding new Daily Show host Trevor Noah for guidance about how we discuss and react to controversies about racism. My ultimate question – does the band Black Pussy have a responsibility to explain itself? Read it here:
What 4 Racism Controversies Tell Us About One Band’s Responsibility
I put Furious 7 through the ringer in this review. While it’s a tremendous opportunity for many to see heroes that aren’t normally represented on film, it’s also obsessed with the male gaze and objectifying women. I love this film for its action, humor, and especially for how it chooses to bare its soul and cope with Paul Walker’s death, but it has to be taken in context. Read more over on Article Cats:
“Furious 7” is Insane, Important for Minorities, Terrible for Feminism