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Alex Carnevale

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Pretty used to being with Gwyneth

Regrets that her mother did not smoke

Frank in all directions

Jean Cocteau and Jean Marais

Simply cannot go back to them

Roll your eyes at Samuel Beckett

John Gregory Dunne and Joan Didion

Metaphors with eyes

Life of Mary MacLane

Circle what it is you want

Not really talking about women, just Diane

Felicity's disguise

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Entries in mission impossible (2)


In Which Someone Wants To Kill Tom Cruise

Insults to Katie Holmes


Mission Impossible - Rogue Nation
dir. Christopher McQuarrie
131 minutes

Tom Cruise's body is barely slipping, but his face is becoming notably more bloated. He enters a vinyl shop in the opening scene of Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation and starts talking Coltrane with a woman in the shop's employ. Later, he prevents another, similar looking woman from assassinating the prime minister of Austria. There is a type of woman that Tom Cruise is attracted to: she is a brunette around 145 pounds (a blonde would be too silly), she wears her hair to her shoulders, and she absolutely implores Tom to stay safe. "They want to kill you," she informs Tom.

Going Clear, Alex Gibney's documentary about the Church of Scientology from earlier this year, spent a solid half hour documenting how Tom Cruise has profited from his association with the organization. It went a little bit past the point of 'the lady doth protest too much' — I guess Tom really upset Gibney, perhaps by forcing him to watch Mission Impossible III.

Gibney did us all a major disservice in that we can never watch Tom Cruise smile at a woman without thinking of some other peripheral woman being harassed by T.C.'s religion. For that describes Scientology perfectly, and it is not even the worst of its kind. All religions are quite cruel to their apostates.

To Tom Cruise's credit, he has just kept on going on with his life despite the fact anyone who has seen Going Clear views him as a massive joke. At one point he is in a car which flips over seven times, and he is absolutely fine, so why would a smear campaign related to the method by which he rid himself of dangerous thetans have any effect on him whatsoever?

Tom's main market is outside of the U.S.A., where no one has seen Going Clear. Many people in the East and West probably see no meaningful difference between Scientology and a kind of disturbed Americanism. Tom is still exporting himself as a representative for this silliness. Going Clear, however, was also kind of a mess. It made Scientology seem like a cruel prank rather than a genius plan by focusing on the peccadilloes of its founders. "Isn't this wacky?" it crowed. Looking down on something, even something evil, from a great height is gratifying. It is also a waste of time.

It is harder than ever to watch Tom prance around Europe. First he is in London, where he pops into a phone booth and escapes the dully named Syndicate that wants to use him for purposes he doesn't quite understand. The action moves to Vienna, where director Christopher McQuarrie does his best with an opera set piece that involves Tom Cruise and Simon Pegg flirting with each other mischievously on Google Glass. Mission Impossible - Rogue Nation might actually be interesting if it brought out the clear romance between these two men, but instead Tom has another brunette love interest to conquer.

Cruise's Katie Holmes-esque opposite number is Ilsa Faust (Rebecca Ferguson). Like Holmes, Ferguson was a teen model. Her vague Swedish accent only accentuates the general sense of innocence she gives off. Cruise becomes her corrupter, tempting Ilsa with another life path. The overall complexion of the situation is downright creepy, especially when Cruise and Pegg start ogling Ilsa in a bathing suit after flying to Casablanca.

Ferguson's cadence and general mien is rather dull, and her resemblance to Ethan Hunt's wife (a conspicously absent Michelle Monaghan) is never even commented on in McQuarrie's script, which has set pieces of twenty minutes or more when almost no words are spoken at all. Tom has moved beyond them into pure signification.

McQuarrie tries his best to spice things up, but the problem with Mission: Impossible is that the second we stop being able to take what is happening seriously, the series becomes a bloated parody. The water weight in Cruise's cheeks aside (he looks like he is storing food for the winter), not even Alec Baldwin seems like he is having any fun in his role as Alan Hunley, director of the CIA. He probably should have just been cast as the villain — it would have made Rogue Nation about a thousand times more entertaining.

Eventually Simon Pegg is abducted by Tom's enemies, and he suddenly springs into action. For a moment you can feel him hovering on the brink of confessing his love, but then he draws himself back. He stores his excess thetans for the winter, hoping to release them at some other, future time. Though it would have been nice if he at least gave Jeremy Renner a soft hug.

Alex Carnevale is the editor of This Recording.

"Solitude" - Milltown Brothers (mp3)

"Boy Kisses The Girl" - Milltown Brothers (mp3)



In Which We Die Slowly During A Mission Abroad

The Most Magnificent of Protocols


Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol
dir. Brad Bird
133 minutes

Tom Cruise's actual name is Thomas Mapother. He comes from a long line of Irish Mapothers. There was Uncle Vasho Mapother, something of a miscreant, potentially a talented lyricist, not an agent for the mythical IMF. In Ghost Protocol, Thomas Mapother gently insists "the entire IMF has been disavowed!" which is a traditional Mapother ululation, analogous to, "My wife has not taken care of the chores."

Deeply forgiving and deeply inspirational, Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) has not actually recently suffered the loss of his wife. This was a cover for something else, possibly a weekend alone. Give director Brad Bird $140 million for his first live-action film and you expect something decently entertaining. When they gave that money to Brian DePalma, he at least insisted on crashing a helicopter in a train tunnel.

The incandescent Paula Patton portrays Tom's #2, the creatively named "Jane." (Actors have to be "smalled down" to work with Tom like the hobbits in LOTR.) Despite being virtually Thomas Mapother's height, she looks like a complete giantess next to him. What must it have been like to be Rebecca De Mornay, living with Tom Cruise in an apartment in New York in the mid-1980s. Cruise's subsequent dalliance with Mimi Rogers represents a similarly frightening image in the mind's eye. We need to find that apartment and make it a shrine, if someone else has not already done that.

In Ghost Protocol Tom never touches a woman. He's active in areas around them, but he just hovers like a Jehovah's Witness or a Franciscan friar, which is also within his current range if you want to remake The Name of the Rose later on. The one time Tom stared into a woman's eyes she felt it was excessively confrontational and he's never done it since.

Other roles I could see Tom maturing into:

- concept piece where he portrays every character in Dr. Zhivago

- controversial scion in musical reimagining of Light in August (opportunity for blackface!)

- he plays Lars Von Trier, Lars Von Trier portrays Nicole Kidman, and Bryce Dallas Howard plays a whore

- Mozart, Beethoven, Brahms. (The heart of a composer lies in this man)

- sequel to Jerry Maguire where he accidentally runs over Cuba Gooding Jr. with his car

- The passion of the Tom

- Blade remake

At one point, Thomas Mapother drives a car forty feet straight down to the ground, it was extremely impressive. If he had aimed at Sawyer from Lost, he would not have received his check from J.J. Abrams. This is just the beginning of the collateral damage Hunt/Mapother is willing to cause. A foreign car is just not symbolic enough.

Ghost Protocol begins when Tom is rescued from Russian prison. Ghost Protocol doesn't show him being abused in the confines of his cell, but the fact that he enjoyed it is implied. Tom has grown quite close with his bunkmate, who believes he's a Russian and swears by his masquerading friend. (To protect his cover, Tom wears the same mask as in Eyes Wide Shut.)

Then this guy's bomb blows up the Kremlin. Not one seems very upset; we don't even see the wreckage, just a wall of flame as Tom strides away to find a hospital that takes his insurance. After that, there's a lot of climbing. Tom is very tired from the climb, and he looks all of his 49 years. Tom's wrinkles are appendages in themselves, because they extrude and wiggle in the air, separate from what it was thought time could not touch.

Tom ascends the phallic Khalifa Tower for about half of Ghost Protocol's screen time, which outside of Cliffhanger and Last Tango in Paris is a cinematic record. Having Tom Cruise scrape across the glassy exterior makes Brad Bird no less culpable than the people who did than same thing to Angelina Jolie or the entire cast of Tower Heist. It's a deeply emotional treck; there is a reason you have to watch all 133 minutes. The agony of the climb is the experience of mounting at length.

Instead of interacting with women or his environment, Ethan Hunt eschews such predictable trappings for a weird relationship with the other alpha male in the group, Brandt (Jeremy Renner), a field agent masquerading as an advisor to the head of the IMF (Tom Wilkinson). Hunt goads Brandt into several very awkward occasions where they are face to face, or holding a gun at each other, but not the trigger, just like holding it so you know the threat is always there.

Here we have a healthy and somewhat understandable fear of women. Men are completely susceptible to them. According to the 2010 census, women are more than twice as likely to be a double agent as a man. They require more of you than you ask, but what can you do but go on climbing?

Ethan Hunt was hurt by a beautiful woman. She was more into Jon Voight. She said she found him more virile. She betrayed Ethan and a lot of other people to do Jon Voight. She preferred him, overall. She wasn't averse to sampling Ethan, but ultimately her sympathies lay with Jon Voight.

Alex Carnevale is the editor of This Recording. He tumbls here and twitters here. He last wrote in these pages about the journals of Susan Sontag. You can find an archive of his writing on This Recording here.

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