Tom Cruise and Mission: Impossible III

I had to write something about Tom Cruise and Mission: Impossible III.

Okay, if you are like me, you have watched with a bit of stunned horror as the media has had a field day with Tom Cruise.

Apparently, being famous, successful, opinionated and in love is just too much for some critics to stomach.  (I left out rich.  And extraordinarily handsome.  That probably doesn't sweeten the deal any.)

Some writers have even gone so far as to infer that Mr. Cruise's off screen behavior has somehow changed him from being a great actor to a bad actor.  They suggest this without any irony, as if condemning an artist completely, simply because of his personal beliefs, is justified and acceptable.

(This happens to great artists all the time, and perhaps to all great men.  Even great historical figures like Washington have been discarded by critics, because at one time in history they were guilty of doing something that later became unpopular.  Nothing new here.)

Is Tom Cruise a great artist?  Is he a great man?  Not easy questions to answer, especially with passions running hot.   Maybe these are questions better decided in the future, when perspective and time are in greater supply. 

Perhaps an easier question for ordinary people to answer is, "Would you like to enjoy the success Tom Cruise has had?"  Most would answer in the affirmative.

Are people jealous of his success and his impact on the world?  Believe it.  Can jealousy twist one's view of others and make their most admirable characteristics abhorrent?  You know it can. 

Someone told me recently that we americans like to build up our heroes and then tear them down.  I don't think that is fair.  I think americans are disappointed with failures of their heroes, legitimate ones, but always willing to forgive.  I think they love their heroes for besting some impossible foe, be it the second hand, the distance between Earth and the moon, the opposing football team or the domestic box-office.  I think we really love it when they pull off a comeback, when they come from behind and score with seconds on the board.

But there are a few americans who seem to relish tearing down able people, and pointing out their losses with glee.  And when no losses exist, pretend their existence and crow about the invented failures.

As another friend of mine recently pointed out, it takes no special skill to point out someone's flaws: we are human beings; imperfection is part of the recipe.  The real work comes in appreciating others and finding something to admire.  In Tom Cruise's case, that isn't the kind of work you break a sweat over; there is plenty to admire.

What I find unpalatable in the extreme is taking what is decent and human and exceptional in an individual and holding it up to ridicule.  Sure, we've all erred and done that in weaker moments, but when men and women in the media do it, it becomes a vast new level of unfairness that nobody should ever have to experience.

Thankfully, I have never myself had to endure personal attacks of any magnitude.  Probably you haven't either.  Maybe like me, you find it hard to imagine.  I know I can't imagine having the opinion of uninformed strangers criticizing my personal behavior plastered all over the TV news, the magazines in the grocery store, on cable and the Internet, all over the planet, 24 hours a day.  I think that might possibly make me blanch a little. 

Okay, sure- that is the price of fame.   I understand that.  But should we celebrate our ability to criticize and publicly attack figures who by their achievements have distinguished themselves?  Is this one of our most laudable skills?  I don't think so.  I think it should be one of those things we should be quite a bit embarrassed by, and should be high on our list of what we need to improve, instead of revel in and congratulate each other about.

It is always too easy to speak ill of another, and especially so when they are living a life we can only dream of. 

Tom Cruise made his money the hard way; he worked hard to entertain the whole world.  If he hadn't done it successfully time and time again, he would be on that show, "The Surreal Life", not in the number one spot at the box-office... again.  He hasn't, like some politician, manipulated economics to force people to buy tickets, he just makes sure he is doing a great job in "A" projects that will thrill and entertain people, so that they will choose his films, knowing they are going to have a great time.  That means people in Seoul, in Perth, in Budapest... and the people in Burbank.

Now, that said, I went to see Mission: Impossible III not expecting very much.  I'm not nuts about the recent action movies I've seen, a lot of them are nothing but eye candy and insultingly stupid stories.  Well, I was very pleasantly surprised.  MI 3 is a terrific movie, by far the best of the series, and actually one of the best action films I've seen ever.  It is gripping, funny, brilliantly directed, very good at creating tension and excitement, and artful.  The performances are all very well done, and the special effects are remarkable.  I'm utterly satisfied by what I saw, and I wouid see it again gladly.

I know from my own experiences in film that there are a million points during the lengthy process for a movie to go off the rails and flop.  It can be 98% there and that final 2% can just turn it into a stinker.  When a film manages to succeed on most levels, deliver what it promises and provide an enjoyable escape from reality, it needs to be noted and applauded.  This is such a film.  I didn't find a single thing about it that didn't work, that didn't contribute to the success of the whole.  I laughed and I was very exhilarated by it, and I recommend it to you highly.

You might be thinking, "Well, what else is Jim going to say, he's a Scientologist- of course he is going to love Tom Cruise and anything he does".  (Were you thinking that?)

It's true, I am a Scientologist, and I have been for over half my life.  But if anything, my religion has taught me to think for myself.  When good people of whatever faith, are sacrificed on the altar of public opinion when they are only guilty of thinking for themselves, I notice it, and I speak up.

Artists, actors, musicians, writers... these people make our weary lives fun and interesting.  They aren't bullies that we should automatically shout down and ridicule.  Let's save that treatment for the criminals and madmen that truly deserve it.

Jim Meskimen


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