Monday, 19 May 2008

Hollywood Babble On & On #97: The Critical Cruise Crash Crisis

Tom Cruise's second feature for his revivified United Artists Company Valkyrie is stalled, yet again, and folks are revelling in another bit of Teutonic terminology: schadenfreude.

If you don't bother to click the link schadenfreude is a feeling of shameful joy at another's misfortune, and there's a hell of a lot of that radiating off Cruise like malodorous Gamma rays off the Hulk's toilet.

The conservative film site Libertas made a pretty good point, inspired no doubt by my own frequent rantings about audience goodwill, when explaining the source of this:
Part of Cruise’s problem is that he’s not the warmest of screen presences. That aloof quality caused him to lack the necessary reservoir of goodwill which might have helped him get through this. A well known and liked star can stumble and survive. Look at how both Eddie Murphy and Hugh Grant made it through their respective hooker-incidents.
Do you see where this is going?

Well, I'm going to ramble on, even if I've become as predictable as the tide.

Basically, Tom Cruise came to prominence in the 1980s. The Baby Boomer yuppies who made their fortunes during that time shilling leveraged buyouts and suburban sprawl call it the "Decade of Greed" but a more accurate title would be "The Decade of Cocky."

There's a difference between being confident and being cocky, at least in my view.

Confidence is born from a sense of security. A person is confident when they feel secure in themselves and the world around them.

Cocky is born from intense insecurity. It's essentially a facade, a mask of cool, collected confidence to hide the fact that deep down you're scared out of your knickers by your life and the world around you.

I don't know if many remember the zeitgeist of the 1980s, but it was a cocky time. 80s pop culture was swimming in imagery from either what many believed to be our inevitable mutually assured destruction from nuclear missiles, or plunge into dark futuristic dystopia where heartless multinational mega-corporations run our lives (very poorly), it's always raining, and folks wear long coats all the time.

Yet, look at the surface and everybody in pop culture is posing like there's literally no tomorrow to show that they're the toughest, coolest, and most indestructible bad-ass the world has ever seen.

And it was this situation that let Thomas Mapother re-brand himself as Tom Cruise and become, for a while, the King of Hollywood. He embodied the Decade of Cocky as the guy, who obviously wasn't the biggest, or toughest fellow, but you knew he'd come out on top because he played himself so damn cool.

He managed to keep his cool, aloof, and yes, cocky manner, to keep himself on, or near the top of the Hollywood game throughout the 90s, and the early 2000s. But that's when he started blowing it.

Folks are willing to accept cocky on the movie screen, but that sort of bravado doesn't really play in real life. When you're a high school drop-out and you declare on national TV that you know the "real history" of psychiatry, and no one else does, you start jumping on couches because you scored a young babe, and your temper tantrums cause the budgets of your films to skyrocket, it shows that you've actually started believing your own hype.

And that's the death knell for a career.

And like the Libertas guy said, folks may enjoy watching him being cocky on the screen, but they're not going to root for him when he hits a wall. Most folks will just sit back and smirk, figuring the fellow got what was coming to him.

And now, he's gone from being number one, to having to struggle to get a people to like a movie about killing Hitler.

If you can't get people to feel good about killing Hitler, you have hit bottom in the fame game, and it's time to take the red humility pill, leave the Hollywood Matrix, and take a step into the real world.

Others have recovered from worse scandals, because they showed humility, responsibility for their own choices, and a certain self-deprecating humour at their status as a "celebrity." The only thing standing in the way is ego. The audience knows, deep down, that Hollywood is all hype and fantasy, but they can't abide someone in the middle of it, who can't see it for what it really is.

That's my two cents.


  1. How do you explain that arrogant pompous flops addicted celebrity Pitt is liked by people?

    Because either you're a celebrity like Pitt, either a movie star like Cruise.

    Cruise keep doing the movies, and succeed like MI:III and Pitt continues to do commercials for anything.

    Cruise is fine, while everyone trash him, he manage to beat the ass of Batman Begins, Superman Returns, Golden Compass etc, with MI:III

    He's still HUGE.
    Let's see where Smith will be when he'll hit 45.

  2. I think people are taking this a bit too far. Cruise has sc*ewed the pooch with Valkyrie because he's oversteped his abilities. His midwest accent and boyish TOP GUN face doesn't belong in what amounts to a BBC historical drama about a 3rd Reich assasination plot. The results would have been the same if he'd played Richard III.

    Does this mean he's all washed up? I doubt it. He could be back if his next movie is a MI type actioner.