Minority Retorts

Post-Cogging Spielberg's Action Allegory


AGATHA SPEAKS!

At the end of Minority Report, Agatha and her pre-cog colleagues have been removed from their awful jobs and are happily reading rare editions of storybooks in a cottage. Bald Agatha has curls now.

"Can you see?" Secret sharers Morton and Cruise
photo: David James/Dreamworks
"Can you see?" Secret sharers Morton and Cruise

Now I don't have to be cogging day and night in that bathtub, while Tom is conducting a symphony and later Mr. Witwer's nose is bleeding—though I was of tremendous social value. Now that's all over and I can sit upright without clinging to Tom and finally just reflect for a change, rehash the past—call me Harriet Hindsight—instead of dwelling on the future all the time, which gave me a stomachache.

I have a DVD player in my room and I just saw Blade Runner, the original and the director's cut, and I just want to say that Minority Report, well, except for my starring role—sigh, I wore no mascara—there's no comparison. Minority Report is just about society and ambition. Oh, there are questions of good and evil . . . whoops, I just slid down in my chair. My backbone had a reversal. I could just go on about the baloney references to Blade Runner, but they're so obvious—eyes; car in country; mean blond man, kind of like Rutger Hauer.

I'm on the Web constantly reading everybody's reviews—though I have to be careful I don't see too many movies or it's like my old job and I'll become brain damaged again. But I was amused to note—I remember turning to my colleague Dashiell, who had his nose in a Little Lulu comic—that Mr. Spielberg gave himself a crash course in noir, watching Double Indemnity or something because he wanted to "make the ugliest, dirtiest movie . . . "

Doesn't Mr. Spielberg know that you have to be born noir—the world's at an angle, no one can be trusted, especially your parents. Noir isn't something you can just learn. It comes from having a terrible childhood—like mine (my mother was a drug addict!)—or Philip Dick, whose mother moved them around because they didn't have any money and then there were all those cats. Though I suppose a person could become noir in adulthood from a war or massive depression. But anyway, does Mr. Spielberg think that by using a bleach bypass and getting rid of blue skies that abracadabra—everything's going to be noir? Oh, here's where I get really worked up—Tom's wife's stomach! How many noirs end with childbirth? True, The Player, a neo-neo-noir, ends with a pregnant wife reaching her arms out for her husband, but he's a murderer who was never punished. Now that's upsetting. No one was upset after Minority Report.

There is more to be said about the shifts and torsions of noir, but I've only been reflecting in this cottage a little while now. Give me a few more months. I had to spend most of my life living in the future. But wait, someone just stuck their head in the cottage window. They wanted to know "Is it now?" Beats me. —Toni Schlesinger


TOTAL SYSTEMS BREAKDOWN

Difficult to imagine Cruise or Spielberg, avatars of wealth, privilege, and domesticity, lasting more than five minutes in a Philip K. Dick worldview. Dick, like Burroughs and Kubrick, is all about the disintegration that occurs when doubt unravels belief in a Perfect System. Dick didn't believe in systems or in Mom and apple pie, which is why he seems so prophetic now, when the corporatization of consciousness has become such a totalizing, repressive, and relentless force. Being our two leading product managers for same, Cruise and Spielberg could never give despair and dystopia their due the way Ridley Scott did in Blade Runner and even the horrid Black Hawk Down. (Samantha Morton, however, gives the most lived-in performance as a mutant since Cate Blanchett in Elizabeth.) —Greg Tate


FACE VALUE

Just give me the legal dream team that pushed through all constitutional obstacles to install Pre-Crime, then get me the real John Ashcroft, and all together we just might be able to forestall the baseball strike that threatens this fall's World Series. Remembering that the tragic death of a child is the source of all motivation in the picture, I kept waiting for Spielberg to deliver closure with an emotional knockout punch—as he did in A.I.'s last act. Spielberg promised as much in interviews, but when the moment comes for hyper-seer Agatha to describe to grief-benumbed parents the supernatural filial love that lives on in their son radiantly after death, frisking somewhere in the unlived regions of the dead child's life, you know the director wants a powerhouse meltdown from Tom Cruise's anguished Anderton, and Vanilla Tom just doesn't come across.

Cruise has famously smothered all his demons with the help of Scientology, and the resultant control he projects makes implausible his sorties into areas where his characters lack control. There is never a gesture, a word, an involuntary action that might reveal his real face, the inner face that might reflect even dimly remembered terrors or humiliations from a less serene time. I look in vain at this face for evidence of a weakness, a decadence, a criminal subsoil, anything mysterious. Cruise's processed charm is so devoid of affecting connections that it's distancing. This is why tabloids pick on him as an implausible lover or husband. He's the stuff beards are made of. Remember, Cruise was closet-vintage Rosie O'Donnell's favorite dreamboat. This Teflon perfection is also why he's actually scintillant in, and the perfect correlative to, the Mission: Impossible stories, whose plots unscroll with the zeal of someone else's dogma—massively convoluted, but too tidy, and difficult to relate to. Drained of any lurking shadow, Tom's franchise face bathes in a lucrative nimbus of inner armistice that reflects nothing back but its own flawlessness. Correction: near flawlessness; at 40 he's now wearing braces to fix up his twisted chicklets.

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