Mission Implausible

By all accounts Mission Impossible – Fallout, starring the bionic version of Tom Cruise in more ways than you can count, or would want to – is a hit.

It opened worldwide this weekend and has already accrued about $140,000,000 plus ($60 mill in the US alone) at the box-office.

It is the best reviewed of all SIX films in the franchise, receiving positive reviews from 100% of our country’s top film critics – all of whom should be ashamed at the ease with which they have been lulled, co-opted and otherwise seduced into dropping their necessary job description of sometime party pooper.

That’s right.. I said it.

And it is a BIG hit with filmgoers, earning a 93% favorable audience rating also from Rotten Tomatoes  – the universal, and in this case, totally unreliable, arbiter of what is generally good, bad or middling at the movies.

For in truth, the only area the new M.I. movie excels in is seeming to be a wonderful, diversionary summer entertainment.

Yes, Mr. Cruise looks almost the same as he has for decades if you squint a bit in the way he seems to be permanently doing these days, though to his credit with exactly the same seemingly earnest, genial manner.

still short though #shade #lifts #imtallerthanhim

And sure, Mr. Cruise also appears to have just as much stamina as he ever did as he drives motorcycles through the streets of Paris at top speed, parachute jumps out of planes from 25,000 feet in the air, and gets in and out of helicopters that he himself glides up and down and through and past various mountain tops and other quite dangerous terrain.

And of course, ABSOLUTELY, for you doubters (Note: Or party poopers, because someone has to be and live in the real world), that IS actually the real Mr. Cruise DOING HIS OWN STUNTS – EVEN THE DANGEROUS ONES!!!

The filmmakers have given countless interviews stating it is this action star’s commitment to authenticity that makes his appearances in this franchise so convincing.

I’m so impressed

This, of course, is amusing in a film where nothing is convincing or makes much sense at all, even in those rare moments when the twists and turns are discernible. Though those are not to be confused with any other number of other scenes where some poor actor has an unsellable chunk of dialogue designed to summarize the objective of the next set action sequence and make it believable.

There was a time when summer action movies like Die Hard or Indiana Jones (#1 and #3), or even November releases like the Daniel Craig as Bond remake of Casino Royale, found a way to give us death defying thrills along with memorable and even vaguely human characters whose actions didn’t need to be explained but instead simply unfolded. These kinds of films were not so much deep but infinitely watchable diversions where fantastical still things happened and the day was still saved by seemingly superhuman, larger than life guys.

The difference was these guys were flawed, they failed – often fatally – and their outer shells didn’t look as if they had been dipped in formaldehyde and frozen for all time. They were slicker and wittier and quite a bit less wordy than any of us real people but when they spoke they nevertheless actually sounded as if they could be us if we were possessed with great luck, superhuman strength, a fab outfit (or two or three) and one or two fancy gadgets.

OK.. maybe not every gadget.

What they were not, or at least what they never seemed to be, were manufactured for maximum audience tastes – an amalgamation of major studio index cards.

A director, a writer, an actor or even a costume designer (or some combination thereof) somewhere along the way gave these guys a real soul and took him beyond a carbon copy of an action hero. Instead, they invented a true man who rose into the role of hero, often against his better instincts because at heart you knew that as far as the world goes, he was not crazy enough to think that HE, ALONE, COULD FIX IT.

Of course, the above might be exactly why we have a character like Tom Cruise/Ethan Hunt currently burning up the box-office – a guy whose ex-wife even says she sleeps better knowing he’s on-the-job.

Never Forget

It’s an uber desirable contemporary fantasy to have this kind of slick looking guy come in and save us from our worst selves with no discernible super powers other than his own moxie and experience. It’s even more tempting that he be someone who has been around a long time but still seems ageless – with hair that’s a real color and outfits that don’t so much show off his wealth but the flattering lines of his body.

He’s almost like an Apple Edition of our much-needed 2018 action hero – a high tech version with all of the all-American qualities we need to take our country back.

Excuse me Chair, what am I.. chopped liver?

Now, if only he were real – or at least seemed that way. We could either put him to work immediately or use him as a model to train someone else to help get us out of the mess we’re currently in.

As it stands now, however, he’s a mere shell of everything we need. Much in the same way that we are a shell of everything we once were.  Or will be, unless we find out a way to rescue ourselves.

That’s our real Mission – should we decide to accept it.

Mission Impossible TV Show Theme Song

 

Advertisements

Who Ya Gonna Call?

Screen Shot 2015-02-01 at 12.50.22 PM

Women are often accused of being more emotional than men but certainly we guys can get just as hysterical – even more so – if given the right issue.   When forced to provide examples the more macho among us might cite topics as varied as the rampant terrorist attacks in the Middle East, the way the movie American Sniper portrays them or how to enforce the minimum weight requirement of a professional football without interfering with what MSNBC commentator Steve Kornacki explains away as the edge EVERY team tries to get in a game. (Note: Yes, he’s the only openly gay, New England Patriots fan that I ‘ve ever heard of).

Talk nerdy to me

Talk nerdy to me

As for me, I don’t know much about football but I do know a lot about men – having been one for all my life and, well, for a lot of other reasons. And I can testify that this week there was one more undeniable item added to the hysterical, emotional and just too damn bad list for many of them us. What is it? Well, the planned reboot of the 1984 classic film Ghostbusters with AN ALL FEMALE CAST – what else could it be?!!!

I mean – How dare they???

Oh, don’t get me wrong – I LOVE the idea. Not only because I find Melissa McCarthy, Kristin Wiig, Kate McKinnon and Leslie Jones all HILARIOUS but because I like anything that upsets the power of the patriarchy that I never felt a part of. Not to mention the other reason. I didn’t really love the original and um, well, never actually found it particularly all that funny.

Seriously Chairy??

Seriously Chairy??

Wait, wait. It isn’t that it’s NOT funny. It’s just that it wasn’t my cup of green tea. The same way I never liked mashed potatoes and find both whipped cream and Jell-O sort of revolting whether served separately or together. Don’t even get me started on ambrosia.

Call me a freak, and many have, but this is my truth. However, it is not the truth for several generations of guys who have somehow grabbed onto the Ghostbusters franchise as some sort of weird touchstone of their youth that is not to be tampered with under any circumstances. Sort of like women would feel about similar enduring female buddy film franchises such as — ummm — is there one?

Well you ain't getting a sequel from us

Well you ain’t getting a sequel from us

I suppose this is the overall point if one is to suppose anything about something so ludicrous as the Twitter and social media outcry against a male director like Paul Feig (Bridesmaids) daring to reimagine a 30 year-old movie.

And no, I don’t think the Alien movies count. Besides – what guy would dare to play Ripley anyway aside from James Franco? As for mainstream rom-com series franchises, they always have males in the co-starring roles. So don’t even think about that.

Here's Francooooo

Here’s Francooooo

(Note: And yes, I realize someone out there will be writing in with a male Sex in the City remake and I for one would be in full support. But only if Steve Kornacki could play Samantha instead of James Franco – who undoubtedly will be granted that part, too. Unless they go with another Hemsworth brother – are there any more or can we make do with the two we already have?

Why yes of course! Meet Luke Hemsworth... the short one.

Why yes of course! Meet Luke Hemsworth… the short one.

You know you’re in trouble on the stage of public debate when the only prominent person on your side of the argument is Donald Trump. Just this week he took to video and ranted out loud:

…Now they’re remaking Ghostbusters with only women – what’s going on???

This was right after he screamed at us that:

They’re remaking Indiana Jones without Harrison Ford!! You can’t do that!!!

And thanks to the power of photoshop we know exactly what that would look like.

And thanks to the power of photoshop we know exactly what that would look like.

Well, it could have been Charlize Theron if I were either George Lucas or Steven Spielberg, Donald, so perhaps you should be grateful. (Note: Don’t tell me there is even a one of you wouldn’t like to see her with a whip). Not to mention, how long does poor Harrison have to keep wearing that leather jacket in the 120-degree desert heat? Till he’s the same age as the temperature? That couldn’t be any worse than Charlize OR Chris Pratt, the actor who is rumored to be the new studio choice to step into his boots.   Which begs the question of whether Michael Keaton should still be playing Batman, Tobey Maguire could still get away with Spiderman or if you really want to see today’s Hayley Joel Osment in even a walk-on in any proposed Sixth Sense reboot. I mean, next to those images James Franco starts to look fresh.  Sort of.

Of course, we haven’t even addressed the real jumbo jet of the elephant in the room – how we’ll all feel when we actually do see Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher and Mr. Ford all grown up and then some in the newest and latest chapter of Star WarsThe Force Awakens – when it actually does arrive in theatres this December. No, there is no James Franco joke to insert here – unless any of you have one. Though I’d wager he’d have one.

I can literally be in anything!

I can literally be in anything!

My favorite male objection to this looming remake la femme worldwide web debacle came courtesy of a rant that was picked up by the fabulously la femme website Jezebel.com, which I often click to for information on this sort of thing or even when I need a laugh (evidence here). And the rant comes from the Twitter handle: halfcastpodcast, who if one is to believe his accompanying picture, is just some guy living in Brooklyn. It goes like this:

Screen Shot 2015-02-01 at 12.20.07 PM

Half, do you ever plan to date a woman again? Or are you merely content with the 79 views the last video you posted on your YouTube channel received?  That’s even less than the number of people reading this hipster, feminist and, to make it a trifecta, very gay post. Though who am I kidding? Even if it weren’t, I have the sense that we’d still beat you in the key demographic of 18-54 year-old men AND women with disposable incomes, the ones who really count in the real world these days anyway – and they most certainly include more than a few hipsters, not to mention feminists. #GhostbustersLaFemme4EverSucka$$$$.

I don’t mean to be too harsh. After all, I was quite upset several weeks ago when I found out that one of my favorite Hitchcock movies, Strangers On A Train, is being reimagined at Warner Bros. by Gone Girl writer Gillian Flynn as a starring vehicle for Ben Affleck. To me this would be like the American people hiring Sarah Palin to reinterpret the Declaration of Independence for Indiana Congressman Aaron Schock (Note: Look him up. Or better yet —).

Is this crossing the (party) line? #CongressmanBeefcake

Is this crossing the (party) line? #CongressmanBeefcake

Still, it does feel like all of us men could loosen our grip on humanity just a little. It’s admirable to be a fighter for the issues you believe in but as you get older you begin to realize what’s even wiser is to pick and choose the right battles. Hopefully Mr. Trump, Mr. Half and all the rest of the aggrieved masters and misters of the universe out there will begin to realize this soon so #Hillary2016 doesn’t have to spend such a large chunk of her time educating them. There’ll be a lot more pressing matters she’ll have to attend to as the decade rolls on.

Dickens, The Super Bowl and Me

ARGHHH

ARGHHH

I will never play in the Super Bowl.  But that’s okay because I don’t want to.  First of all, there’s the matter of concussions.  If you’ve ever had one, which I have, you would never ever want to risk one again.  Unless you’re a professional football player.  Which I’m not – nor do I ever want to be.  As I’ve said.

As horrible as it was to have a concussion, and it was – partly because for months afterwards you feel like bright lights are the devil spawn and everyone is speaking to you from a faraway land in an only oddly familiar language (Note: Do not confuse either of these conditions with life in Hollywood) – it has also informed my life in many good ways.

I walk much more carefully down slippery floors, treasure almost every moment I can concentrate for more than 5-10 minute stretches at a time, and literally bask in the knowledge that not being good at sports like football no longer makes me a nerd but a wiseacre who knows how to play the long game of life.

I can be flip about all of this now because my “concussive” and “post-concussive” days happened approximately 20 years ago and feel like a chapter out of someone else’s past life.  However, this was not the case at the time.  Like a section of a good, classic novel by someone like Charles Dickens, the moments can be re-read or relived with a sense that this is the moment that will exactly define our main character (us?) forever.  That it is this dramatic occurrence, or this particular occupation, or this specific life circumstance that is who this person IS and primarily ALWAYS will be.

My life in clipart

My life in clipart

But in the case of the novel, that is only because Dickens was an exceptional writer who can make us believe it to be so — until he unveils yet another twist and turn in his story that will take his reader on yet another path.  In real life, we have the choice of a writer EVERY DAY to rewrite our chapters and redefine the focus of our existence.  That’s why the stories of lives are much messier than the stories of books, plays, screenplays or short stories.  We create our own dramatic structure (some would argue that many good writers also do this but that’s the subject of another discussion) and don’t have to amuse our audience – only ourselves.  We’re free to have our chapters go off on tangents, or have our main character make seemingly inexplicable and unsatisfying decisions, and to do both for as long as we choose despite the best advice or preference of others.  In fact, we can keep doing the ill-advised and never learn a lesson until the day we die AND we can do it all and still be an unsatisfying anti-hero because we have chosen to have our lives have no overall dramatic point WHATSOEVER (though it might serve as a lesson of what not to do for someone else, but there’s no way of controlling that).  In short, we can screw up, do the unexpected, chase dragons we never slay AND have a great or bad time doing all of it if we decide to do so.

Yet the ONE area where our lives are EXACTLY like a well-constructed story is this – every single action or decision or job or mini-life that we live will cause another future action that we take or a detour that we seemingly spontaneously choose to travel down.  Just as my concussion caused me to change the way I glide upon shiny surfaces, or to appreciate my intellectual life as a non-football player, your horrible job experience with the boss from hell in a given field can cause you to change career directions to pursue something else, enable you to bear down and speak your mind and create a change that will steer you to a more preferred position of power in this same field, or perhaps free you to focus more time outside your work life which will then cause you to meet the love of your life – or the lover who will forever change your life.

In writing classes this is a simple concept called “cause and effect.”  Meaning every decision a character makes – every single one – opens some small or big door for something else to happen – something inevitable that would not have happened if that small or big door had not been pried from its resting place earlier.  Syd Field, a much unfairly maligned screenwriting guru from the seventies who taught me quite a lot at one period of my life, rightly compared this to the scientific theory of Sir Isaac Newton’s laws of motion.  Neatly summarized in non-scientific language – for every reaction there is an equal and opposite reaction.

Always better with a Cookie

Always better with a Cookie

It has come to my attention as a teacher of college students and a professional writer in Hollywood, and as a mere human being, that many of us still don’t exist as if we believe this – for both good and bad.  But here’s the dirty truth:

THIS. IS. NOT. AN. OPTION.

Nor do we want it to be.  Cause and effect is a kind of magic – one that goes along with making choices and not knowing what the result will be.  Not every choice will have a big, opposite reaction or, if it does, it may not set something big in motion that is recognizable until many years or even decades later.  Or – it might.  But that seemingly bad choice now might turn out to be a good one, or a good lesson, in hindsight for you and who you are.  That is why I spend a lot of time telling my students, and myself, that truly there are no wrong choices – only choices.

I mean — I and others might not understand why you could ever think the first season of Smash is well-written but heck, maybe it’ll lead at least one of us to write a better musical for TV one day – or at least a cool piece of journalism of what the blankety-blank went wrong with a show chock full of so many accomplished professionals. 

Don't worry Deb, we smell it too!

Don’t worry Deb, we smell it too!

At the very least, perhaps it will inspire me to re-examine my love of Broadway – or even television – and become an opera or ballet aficionado.  After all, one man’s train wreck, is another one’s object d’art.  Or wrecking ball.

You might think what you are doing right now in your life is unsatisfying and ultimately insignificant, or so perfect  that you are positive you will be doing just this forever, but – quite simply –  that is mostly not the case.  Sen. John Kerry, who I voted for but am not a groupie of, acknowledged this some days ago when he spoke to the Senate and the world as a senator one last time just as he was formally confirmed to follow Hillary Clinton as our next US Secretary of State.

Choking up as recalled his long career as a Massachusetts senator and remembering the names of two even more famous politicians from his home state who came before him, he admitted:

“Standing here at this desk that once belonged to President (John F.) Kennedy and to Ted Kennedy, I can’t help but be reminded that even the nation’s greatest leaders — and all the rest of us — are merely temporary workers.”

To embellish on Kerry’s statement, and why not – add one more thing.  His presence in the Senate is no different than anyone’s presence in any particular job.  We’re all, all of us, doing temp work.  In fact, we are all also temporary.

Sure, but Kerry’s going on to be freakin’ Secretary of State from being a senator and I’m stuck in a dead end job getting coffee, or a dead end relationship not getting much of anything at all, you might argue.  Well, to that I say – how do you know how it’s going to turn out for him?  Or you?  This is just one moment among many for the man who lost the presidency to, uh…..George W. Bush just eight years ago.  To repeat, like many of the rest of us, he lost to George W. Bush!

Was it my wife?? Really?

Was it my wife?? Really?

Here are some other salient facts about a few random people you might have heard of to take into account.  Did you know at one point in time Andrea Bocelli – the Italian opera singer who was blinded at 12 years old after a football accident, AND has sold ore than 80 million albums worldwide, AND someone who you might find annoying or brilliant depending on your personal POV – was at one time thought of as a….court appointed lawyer??   Uh, yeah, that was what he did in his twenties.  You might also want to consider that at age 12, after his football accident, he was also merely a kid in Italy whose parents so wanted him to see once again that they allowed his doctors to desperately resort to treating him with…leeches?  I’m not kidding.  Were the leeches or the law merely side roads or did they in some way contribute to who this guy is today – well, only Dickens could probably be worthy of connecting the dots story-wise on that one – or would care to.

Want more?  Well, you know that Harrison Ford was once merely the hunky California carpenter next door who was married with a kid, and a part-time actor, until one day he happened to be working for a guy in the film business named George Lucas who decided to cast him in a few movies? (uh – Star Wars, for one).  Or that Marla Gibbs, the iconic sassy TV maid of the 1970s and 80s as seen on The Jeffersons was primarily known to friends, family and many other co-workers as a sassy airlines employee– a job she kept for the first three years of that hit series.

Yes, in this scenario you are Indiana Jones (you're welcome)

Yes, in this scenario you are Indiana Jones (you’re welcome)

Obviously, I could go on with a lot of examples.  Plus, we haven’t even gotten into what will happen or not happen in five, 10 or 20 years to your doctor, your waiter, the gardener down the street, your American Idol, the real life and fictional stories as told and lived by your favorite writer – me, Lindsay Lohan (let us pray) or — you.

It’s easier to use celebrities to illustrate this point because they seem bigger than life and it’s rules.  But they’re not.  Nor, are any of the rest of us.  Which, in the end, could be a very good thing.  No matter what you think of the decisions Martha Stewart has or has not yet to make.