It seems to me inconceivable that Tom Cruise has been nominated for Best Actor just twice, and Best Supporting Actor only once. Before I begin, I will not entertain […]
It seems to me inconceivable that Tom Cruise has been nominated for Best Actor just twice, and Best Supporting Actor only once. Before I begin, I will not entertain comments about how Cruise cannot act. He most certainly can and has spent a fair amount of his time proving that fact. He is a very good actor, and his friends will bear that out, people like Sean Penn, Steven Spielberg, Oliver Stone, Jack Nicholson, Dustin Hoffman, Michael Mann, Martin Scorsese, Paul Newman, Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio, Robert Duvall, Nicole Kidman and the late Stanley Kubrick among the greats who firmly believe Cruise is a very fine actor. How did he become such?
He listened and he learned.
Cruise knew as a young man to become the finest he had to work with the greatest and he set out to do just that. Francis Ford Coppola (‘The Outsiders’; 1983), Martin Scorsese (‘The Color of Money’; 1986), Barry Levinson (‘Rain Man’; 1988), Oliver Stone (‘Born on the Fourth of July’; 1989), Rob Reiner (‘A Few Good Men’; 1992), Cameron Crowe (‘Jerry Maguire’; 1996), Brian De Palma (‘Mission Impossible’, 1996), Stanley Kubrick (‘Eyes Side Shut’; 1999), Steven Spielberg (‘Minority Report’; 2002), John Woo (‘Mission Impossible: 2’; 2002), Edward Zwick (‘The Last Samurai’; 20003), Michael Mann (‘Collateral’; 2004), ‘Tropic Thunder’ (Ben Stiller; 2008) and Spielberg again with ‘War of the Worlds’ (2005). Yet despite work with those fine filmmakers and an array of brilliant performances, he has been consistently snubbed for Oscar nominations and has not yet won an Oscar. In the last few years, he has stuck close to the Mission Impossible franchise where he now calls the shots on the narratives of the Ethan Hunt saga. Too much-producing power, however, can be a terrible thing, proven by his meddling in ‘The Mummy’ (2016) which turned into a crushing failure due to his insistent story alterations, turning what might have been a fine film into a Cruise actioner. In some instances, he can be his own worst enemy.
But when in the zone with a strong director and perhaps a solid co-star Cruise can be a brilliant actor. His supporting work as Stacie Jaxx, a rock star in ‘Rock of Ages’ (2012) was an astonishing performance, a marvellous take on someone who has had his way for far too long. Every movement, gesture, and word was pre-meditated and rehearsed so Jaxx had it down to an art form. Cruise is much the same way when he is before the cameras during press junkets. What was startling about his work in ‘Rock of Ages’, an ordinary jukebox musical was the actor did his singing and was very, very good!
I move through his career in chronological order looking at the performances for which he might have been nominated for an Academy Award but was snubbed.
One question looms.
How did Cruise lose the Oscar for both ‘Jerry Maguire’ (1996), a sensational performance and his toxic maniac in ‘Magnolia’ (1999)?
Here are the snubs.
THE COLOR OF MONEY (1986)
Though many might think Cruise deserved a nomination for ‘Risky Business’ (1983) I would disagree because Eric Roberts in ‘Star 80’ (1983) deserved it a whole lot more. But when Cruise was ignored for his supporting performance opposite Paul Newman in ‘The Color of Money’ (1986), I admit, I was pissed. Newman sent him a letter the day of the nomination announcement stating in his eyes, the older actor felt Cruise “Should have been there”. Yes, he should have. Evolving from the flaky, high-energy pool shark, who hustles for the sheer love of the game, under Fast Eddie’s training he becomes a true shark, confident, willing to lose to make a buck, an absolute hustler. One of Scorsese’s most unappreciated films, ‘The Color of Money’ was a worthy sequel to ‘The Hustler’ (1961) one of the great American films of the sixties. Newman went on to win the Oscar, finally and he was still singing the praises of Cruise a year or two later.
RAIN MAN (1988)
The accolades went to Dustin Hoffman for his performance as the autistic savant Raymond. Trust me for a second and indulge me. Sit in a chair with your hands in your lap, your feet planted on the floor, Tilt your body slightly so one shoulder is lower than the other. Look off into space, connecting with no one, staring as best you can at nothing. Ever so gently, rock back and forth, and speak in a nasal voice, “Pancakes, yeah, pancakes and maple syrup.” Repeat the line over and over, your speech punctuated with “ya”. If you can do that reasonably well, you too could win an Oscar. Hoffman connected with no one, which must have been hell to act with because the connection between the actors is so important. Cruise was left pretty much on his own as the greedy, even treacherous brother Charlie who evolves into a decent man through the film and comes to love his brother. It is a tremendous performance that opened critics’ eyes to the fact Cruise could indeed act. Hoffman was OK in the film, I have never felt his performance was his best (‘Tootsie’ – 1982 gets that vote) or even the best of the year. Cruise deserved to be nominated alongside his co-star for Best Actor and it was shameful the Academy snubbed him among the film’s eight nominations. Shameful.
A FEW GOOD MEN (1992)
Very few actors can go toe to toe against Jack Nicholson and come out looking pretty damned good. In the climactic courtroom scene, Cruise did just that and though Nicholson turns him to a pulp early on, Cruise rallies and ruins Nicholson’s Colonel Jessup. His Daniel Caffey is in the navy and has a great reputation as a lawyer who forces a settlement before getting to court and the military hopes he can put to rest a matter where a young Marine has died. From the moment Caffey meets Colonel Jessup, in line to become a General, even a President, he does not like him, he feels a vibe. He knows however he cannot accuse the Colonel in court without ruining his own career and being court-martialled. He bullies the Colonel, usually how the Colonel usually operates, turning it on him and challenging his authority in court. Caffey knows he must get the Colonel to admit what he did in anger, and eventually he does, after being asked repeatedly about the truth, he rages “You can’t handle the truth!”. Cruise is terrific in the film, a Best Picture nominee and Nicholson found himself among the nominees for supporting actor. Nicholson sent Cruise a telegram that he should have been a nominee too.
THE LAST SAMURAI (2003)
In one of the finest performances of his career, Cruise is Nathan Algren, haunted by memories of the wars against the Indians, by the men and women he massacred and by the memories of seeing his friends murdered violently. Reduced to being a showman for rifles, Algren is an alcoholic, and often too drunk to perform, but once the weapon is placed in his hands he is truly lethal. Approached by a man he loathes to help train the newly created Japanese army, he travels to Japan to help quell a war between the new army and the samurai who live in the mountains. During a battle with the deadly samurai, Algren kills one of them and is taken as their prisoner high into the mountains before the harsh winter hits. One there, he is their prisoner, but permitted to roam freely. As much as they are interested in him, he becomes intoxicated with the way of the samurai. He slowly allows himself to become one of them and sees the army he helped train as his enemy. Now a samurai he is the enemy of the Japanese and fights bravely alongside the fearless Samurai. Though they fight bravely with their swords, bows and arrows, they are no match for the deadly Gatling gun the army has acquired and uses. Cruise is superb as Algren is this superb lush production, praised for its story, performances, direction, cinematography, score and production design. I have never understood how Cruise could be snubbed for a Best Actor nomination as this might be his best performance of the snubs. Ken Watanabe was nominated for supporting actor as the leader of the samurai people, Kasumoto, an outstanding performance. He and Cruise develop lovely poetic chemistry together, and throughout the film, ultimately loving one another as brothers. Cruise was a wonder here.
Dressed in steel grey, his hair the same colour, Cruise is Vincent, a killer for hire in this outstanding noir and moves like a shark through the city. Swift, killing without mercy and even when the cabbie discovers why he is in LA, he continues, killing those on his list. Cocky, quiet, intense, he is lethal. and moves with intense purpose. There are a group of people that must die that night and he rents a cab from Max (Jamie Foxx) paying him six hundred dollars to drive him around until his targets are terminated. Would he pay him once done? Now that Max knows his business?? Though a killer Vincent seems bound by a strange code about keeping his word, so yes, I think he would pay Max and keep his word. Cruise is as cold as blue steel in the film, a razor-sharp, beautifully focused performance that I cannot believe the Academy missed. granted it was a full year, but he deserved to be among the final five. Always intense when he portrays a bad guy, he turns the heat up a bit in this performance and is superb.
TROPIC THUNDER (2008)
One of the most wildly over-the-top pieces of acting ever put on film and a surprise cameo from Cruise as a power-mad movie producer who owns Hollywood. Said to be based on Harvey Weinstein, Cruise is heavily made up, bald, with massive hands, and is constantly touching his groin or talking about his crotch. he is nothing less than electrifying. Though onscreen for less than ten minutes, he walks away with the film, stealing it in every way with his bombastic, gruff, and vulgar performance as a studio executive used to getting his way and not at all used to hearing the word no. Cruise was unbilled until the end credits, and his performance gave the film such an incredible jolt of electricity when he came onscreen, leaving many wondering who he was. They might have wondered who he was, but no one forgot him. He received a Golden Globe nomination for his performance and I hoped the Academy might recognize him…no such luck.
ROCK OF AGES (2013)
OK, ok, before the howls of protest begin just read on a bit. The film admittedly is terrible, but in the middle of all that dreck came a gem of a performance from Tom Cruise who took what he knew about celebrity vanity and funnelled that into his performance as Stacie Jaxx. Vain in a way that cannot be measured by human standards, Jaxx moves slowly because he does not have to move for anyone at all. He is a rock star who knows people will always wait for him and on him, and he has learned how to exploit that with fans, women, his manager, and anyone and everyone who is in contact with him. Dressing to show off his body, when he picks up a microphone we are stunned that Cruise can sing!! He seems to have studied Steven Tyler for his brilliant performance, a diamond in this swamp bog of a movie.
Which films do you think should have gotten Tom Cruise an Academy award. Do let us know!
About The Author:
John H. Foote is among the best known film critics in Canada, and has been active as a critic for thirty years. His career began as co-host, co-producer of the popular movie talk and review program Reel to Real. He left the show after ten years for his first love, print criticism, he longed to write about movies. For two years he wrote for Toronto Life and Fashion Magazine, his work quote in the LA and New York Times, as well as major papers across North America. He was offered a position writing for the internet and has since wrote for incontention.com, thewrap.com, screenrant.com, awardscircuit.com and most recently thecinemaholic.com. In May, 2018 he started his own site https://Footeandfriendsonfilm.com, which has enjoyed great success its first few months. Foote was also involved in film education teaching film history and film genre at Trebas Institute before leaving to be Dean of the Toronto Film School, where he also taught film history and continued his work as a critic. Foote has written two books, Clint Eastwood : Evolution of a Filmmaker, and Spielberg: American Film Visionary. His third, American Cinema in the Seventies is due for release in 2020.
Through his career he has interviewed everyone in the business except Jack Nicholson.