Random Play by Graham Reid


The Lion Doesn't Sleep Tonight

The other night on the E! Channel -- or it could have been the news on One or TV3, there’s been such a convergence -- there was a piece about Tom Cruise and how he refused to be drawn on his political affiliations.

Even though he’s one of the most powerful players in Hollywood, you wouldn’t think Cruise’s politics would be of much real interest. But in the celebrity obsessed culture of America -- where the Fox news had a running thread recently which seemed to be naming and shaming Hollywood directors who have lined up for various Democrat nominees -- it was no surprise to see Cruise stopped on a red carpet, smile like a reptile when the question was asked, then be moved on by his minder.

In this instance however the question seemed fair enough: Cruise’s latest flick is a penetrating look at contemporary American politics and society.

Lions for Lambs directed by (and starring) Robert Redford is a three-ring act: Redford plays a liberal professor pushing a young and increasingly disillusioned student into using his talents for the good of all, and two of his former students are seen as soldiers on a mission in Afghanistan.

Those segments of the movie are fine -- spare us the bombastic music in the military sequences, and the inevitable heroism however -- but the clincher is the long exchange between Cruise as an intelligent, articulate, oily Republican senator and presidential possibility who has a new plan for winning the war in Afghanistan, and of course break the back of the enemy in the war on terror.

Cruise schmoozes, entices and intellectually seduces an older journalist (Meryl Streep), and invites her into his gameplan by giving her exclusive information just to use her as the vehicle to take this good news message to the American people.

It is scary performance by Cruise who uses that screen intensity he commands to bring this ambitious, clever and utterly evil character to life. And he does it by seemingly giving parts of himself away to the journo, a seduction that crackles on the screen.

Without spoiling the movie any more for you -- it is flawed but certainly worth seeing when it opens in a week or so -- it is an insight into the mind of the conservative cabal behind the visible players in Washington DC.

You can only be glad Dick Cheney possesses none of the charm that Cruise has.

Pete Hammond in Maxim has already described it as "an urgent, impassioned wake-up call for America, a hot-button politically incendiary work that is certain to become the most controversial and talked-about movie of 2007."

"Current big star-laden Hollywood films rarely take the kind or risks this one does," he says. "It's been over three decades since Redford made The Candidate and All The President's Men but clearly he's still out there, using motion pictures to try and make a difference. Agree or disagree, love it or hate it, you won't be able to turn away."

That might be over-egging it a little, my guess is despite the Redford/Cruise/Streep firepower on the marquee, and that it will open in 2000 cinemas in the States next month, it will still go largely unseen by the many who might need to have their politics questioned.

Certainly the Republicans will come out guns blazing at it, doubtless hauling out the old “liberal left-leaning Hollywood” argument again. Others will write it off as a typical conspiracy-theory flick where the media and academics set themselves up to be the good guys in possession of greater truths than elected officials and so on.

Fox will have a field-day and that should be fun. Lotsa name-calling is my guess.

Either way -- and yes, those are valid criticisms -- this is classic 70s-style movie-making right out of the Nixon Era in many respects. It is film as a fuse to ignite discussion.

Frankly though, my guess is that the discussion won’t go much further than folks asking themselves what Tom Cruise’s politics are.

Please God he isn’t a Republican and someone persuades him to run for office.

If he brought just half that impassioned, terrifying intensity to the campaign trail as he does to this part he’d be having Katie chose the crockery for the White House in no time at all.

And apropos of nothing, and too far after the event: what was up with the music awards this year?

By my recollection there was only one musician presenting (Milan from Pluto, I’m not counting Paul Holmes). Did we really need the self-aggrandising and naked self-promotion of James Coleman for his morning tele-show? The leggy Petra being the leggy Petra? A surfer and snowboarder?

Maybe that’s the kind of convergence some people like to see, but I doubt having Tiger Woods present a Grammy, or even Graham Brazier present a trophy at some Sportsperson of the Year event would fly.

More musicians at the music awards I think, and more diversity of music represented live on stage.

But that’s just me. And I’m a guy who thinks Tom Cruise is a pretty good actor.

PS: After an absence when I was overseas then kneecapped by computer problems Music From Elsewhere is back with a roar. There’s interesting and different music at right here -- and also under Absolute Elsewhere lots of essays, musician interviews and the like. Interesting and some weird photos from Malaysia and Singapore too. Have trawl.

Nice to be back. Nice to be anywhere actually.

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