Though we may be suffering the Chinese curse (May you live in interesting times), one of the great things about life these days is how you just never know. Who would've predicted that this week we'd be talking about Barack as eminently electable? Or that I'd be talking about Tom Cruise as an inspirational role model?
As you may've heard by now, Cruise and his partner Paula Wagner at United Artists have apparently made a deal with the WGA. Thus their studio would be the first to break ranks with the producers' alliance since the strike started, and (my, all this "hope" and "change" rhetoric is kinda infectious) this could very well signal a major shift in the whole debacle.
Such a Tom thing to do! You gotta hand it to the guy. We may've thought he'd gone coo-coo for coca puffs, but no: it's like that great scene in the middle of Michael Clayton where Tom Wilkinson, who's been acting so psychotic, suddenly turns all steely-eyed legal hawk on George Clooney, revealing a glimpse of what's made him such a formidable heavy hitter.
As if playing the money role in, like, a Tom Cruise movie, the Tomster has alpha-dogged himself ahead of the pack, seizing a golden opportunity that's been lying there in plain sight -- Cruise, Wagner and UA are now able to hire the best writers and talent around, as they greenlight movies while the rest of town's down. And they'll be applauded (at least on the writers' side) for fighting the good fight.
It's the ballsy kind of business move they probably teach in Scientology seminars.
Self-serving though it may be (again, a typical Cruise movie role character-driven flaw), Cruise's gambit also pays tacit homage to Hollywood history. Though it's easy to lose sight of UA's origins through the foggy prism of its last moribund decades, the original United Artists studio was founded by major mavericks: Charlie Chaplin, D.W. Griffith, Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks -- heavy-duty creative talents who bucked their day's establishment by literally taking the matter of film production into their own hands.
What Cruise and co. have done in the present day is just as dramatic (while of course being one cool way to recharge a career). Though it's not a role for which Cruise can finally win an Oscar, he may help us win The Oscars, should a domino effect end this strike sooner than late February. As Nikki Finke put it: "This is big. This is BIG."
Shall we go for huge? Well, not yet, of course, since only time will tell if this is the fatal crack in the alliance that will signal an ultimate crumbling. And there are those who would argue that having some people back at work -- as opposed to an entire industry in shutdown -- is actually counter-productive to the Guild's goal. Nonetheless, since Letterman's Pants agreement with the WGA sprung the first hole in the dike, and a rumor's already flying that Lionsgate may follow UA's lead, it's hard not to buy into a kind of wonderfully ironic scenario.
These guys (the AMPTeeBeePee-whatever they want to call themselves) are all about the money, as in: holding onto every godforsaken penny of it. Wouldn't it be perfect, then, if what brings about their alliance's downfall is the infamous lust for money and power that's always been so quintessentially Hollywood?
It's hard to imagine these 600-pound gorillas of greed sitting around just watching competitors like Cruise snatch great deals out from under their paws. Nothing drives a studio crazier than seeing a rival studio grab the movie (and the money) it wants to make.
As fellow blogger Brett put it, in
her his Bucket of Love post:
Could their greed be greater than their loyalty to their robber baron brethren? If so, then Gordon Gekko is again proven right: "Greed... is good. Greed works."
It's a little twisted to be cheering under that particular reptile's banner, but boy, are we ever in a po-mo, New Ironic moment. Just as America's need to feel better about itself may prove a winning factor in a black man's bid for the presidency (See? We told you we're the good guys!), it may take one charismatically cocky movie star's ruthless grab for power to trigger our Power Community's meltdown.
Interesting times, indeed.