Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Cheers to Cruise

We here at Woodshavings are not above making fun of Tom Cruise's crazy-ass, cranky antics he displayed this summer. He was a bufoon and Scientology is the one of the stupidest religions that ever made people look skyward --yet at least they attack pyschiatry and not liberal humanism like Muslims and Christians do. Nevertheless, he's one hell of a good movie star and as Amos Posner of PopMatters.com argues, Cruise has consistently compiled a body of work any actor would envy, yet his career seems to have been discredited along with his religion and his private life choices.
But what's troubling is not the public outcry at Cruise's behavior or the doubts of his continued star power. What's unsettling is the sudden and ubiquitous idea that Cruise was nothing special in the first place, that his body of work is fungible and his talent replaceable, all in reaction to his latest slip-ups. If we are indeed witnessing the death rattle of Cruise's career, then perhaps it's time to give him some credit for what it was that made his stardom so impenetrable for so long.

Cruise may be limited as an actor, but he's always been outstanding as a movie star. He has been more consistently astute in his choices than any other star of his generation. Johnny Depp and Brad Pitt are often praised for avoiding the "easy" superstar path, but both have made some lousy choices both in and out of the mainstream (Sleepy Hollow and The Mexican come to mind). While Cruise has theoretically taken the path of less risk and greater reward, he deserves credit for consistently picking movies that are not just profitable, but actually very good. Risky Business, A Few Good Men, and Jerry Maguire were all forced to cradle his established persona, but all three have held up well over time.
To this day, it's hard to find a better performance in my mind than Cruise's cocky, misogynistic self-help guru Frank T.J. Mackey in Magnolia. Sure, Cruise has always played arrogant S.O.B.s his whole career (which may be indicative of who he is personally), but goddamn it he plays them better than anyone else in Hollywood today.

So while I think Cruise's personal beliefs make him an irrational, egotistical jerk, I raise my glass to his body of work which has entertained me for a good twenty years of my life.

Drink up, for tomorrow Cruise's career could die.