Abre los ojos, abre los ojos, open your eyes. We are getting closer and closer to that number one spot (and being done with writing these pointless articles). This is likely to be the most contentional film on my list of top five favorites. It scored a dismal 40% on RT and a 6.9/10 on IMDB. Unfortunately, I love it nonetheless. By the way, for anyone who hasn’t realized what my title means yet, it is suppose to stand for the DonnyBagg Database. Overly (or underly) elaborate and unfunny, I know but you will just have to deal with it or navigate to another website… wait don’t go, I didn’t mean that, we really need more viewers. I am quite sure the only person who reads our blog regularly is American Patriot and he hates all of us. Let’s get back to business.
2. Vanilla Sky (Crowe, 2001)
Alright there are a couple of things I could talk about here. I did a little research1 to find out what exactly people hated about Vanilla Sky. Obviously because movies for the most part are subjective, I disagreed with everything they had to say. Here is a list of things people did not like about this film in no particular order. David Aames is unsympathetic, how so? He is handsome and narcissistic; a bit, but if he lost his sight I wouldn’t fault him for sparing no expense to regain it. He takes his job, women, and friends for granted; perhaps, but he is not malicious. David supports his friend, Brian (Jason Lee), while in the process of writing a novel and gives his lawyer, Thomas (Timothy Spall), a raise and new office when he thinks he is going to be put out to pasture. He even gives Julie (Cameron Diaz) the courtesy of a conversation after she has clearly been stalking him. He does very little harm and in return loses so much. I personally felt a great deal of sympathy towards the character, and I find it almost unfathomable that people had the exact opposite interpretation.
I continued to dig and found out that Tom Cruise and Penelope Cruz can’t act and have no chemistry. I have previously stated that I have no idea what constitutes good acting and bad acting but I know it when I see it. My untrained radar was unable to spot any bad acting throughout this movie. I have watched Tom Cruise in 23 films (wait…that can’t be right that seems way too high, nope 23 is right) and think that in at least 8 of them he does an outstanding job. Despite not being nominated for an Oscar in the last 11 years (and going through a bit of a crazy streak), I still find him to be an enjoyable actor to watch. Cruise crushes it in Magnolia2 (Anderson, 1999) and Collateral3 (Mann, 2004). He also puts up great performances in Minority Report (Spielberg, 2002), Eyes Wide Shut (Kubrick, 1999), Mission: Impossible (De Palma, 1996), and Interview with the Vampire (Jordan, 1994). The only movies I really didn’t like him in were his most famous; Top Gun (T. Scott, 1986), A Few Good Men (Reiner, 1992), and Jerry McGuire (Crowe, 1996). This, of course, can easily be attributed to taste. I liked the movies in which he did a good job and hated the movies in which he did a poor job. His earlier work seems to be too dated and cheesy for me to take seriously, also campy (am I allowed to use that term?). He may not be the best but he is far from the worst. I would also like to mention that he steals the show in Tropic Thunder (Stiller, 2008), I had hoped that this performance would change the publics perception of him and invigorate his career like Pulp Fiction (Tarantino, 1994) did for John Travolta but that doesn’t seem to be the case. I am too uneducated and biased to say for certain whether or not he is a good actor, but in my opinion I find him enjoyable. As for Penelope Cruz, she is beautiful and amazing so fuck you for thinking otherwise4. Plus she shows her knobs, what more do you want from her? I am not sure if it is possible to quantify “chemistry” in any certain terms but it appears to be almost completely subjective so if I am speaking out of school when I write about good acting, chemistry would be absolute speculation for me.
A further look into these criticisms revealed that Cameron Crowe’s writing and directing were both pompous and overly ambitious, I disagree. For having been around since the 80’s, Crowe has very few titles to his name. This isn’t a criticism, it just means I can only compare Vanilla Sky to Almost Famous (Crowe, 2000), Jerry Mcguire, and Fast Times at Ridgemont High (Heckerling, 1982). I own a copy of Almost Famous but I haven’t watched it in quite some time, from what I recall it was fairly impressive. I saw Jerry Mcguire for the first time about two years ago and Fast Times at Ridgemont High a couple months back, neither of which impressed me to much extent. So as far as his writing and directing go, Vanilla Sky leads the pack by a notable margin. It does take a detour away from his normal canon but from my perspective this appears to be a plus. Critics say that the movie tries to do too much, gets muddled, and fails miserably in its conclusion. It does try to be quite a bit of things at the same time. It incorporates aspects of the drama, romance, thriller, and science fiction genres. It touches on themes varying from the perils of vanity and arrogance, to a fall from grace, to distinguishing dreams from reality, to finding true love, to I am sure many others. It achieves all of these items competently, some more than others, but this can hardly be attributed to Crowe since all of this was taken from the Spanish original, El Amor Prohibito5. As far as composition is concerned, I think Crowe takes a bit of each element, mixes them together, and produces a cohesive and unique story. I am unsure whether people consider it to be muddled half way through because it keeps shuffling between past and present, dream and reality, and Julia and Sophia but, if I am recalling the single film appreciation class I took five years ago correctly, directors do that to give the audience the same sense of confusion and psychosis that David is feeling. I don’t remember if it has a name but I’m fairly certain that’s what it is. If they consider it muddled for that reason, I heartily disagree. If they consider it muddled for any other reason, I regularly disagree. The conclusion is the conclusion. For people who didn’t like it or don’t think it pays off enough then there is really no argument to make.
Finally, the most prevalent criticism of Vanilla Sky is that it is the poor mans version of Abre Los Ojos (Amenabar, 1997). I had to watch Abre Los Ojos again to see just how it stacks up against Vanilla Sky. Then 10 minutes in I remembered it is a shot for shot remake. There are very few and very subtle differences. Cesar is a bit more of a dick than David. Nuria is a bit more of a psycho than Julie. Other than that the stories are indiscernible. Vanilla Sky is just much much more aesthetically pleasing. It has probably the best sound track I have ever heard for a movie, it is in English so the characters are easier to connect with, and it flows together much more smoothly, Crowe made tiny edits to some of the dialogue but it makes all the difference in the world when you are comparing the two. Or it makes no difference. Yes maybe it makes no difference and I have been rambling on for far too long. So I give it:
9 out of 5 of the saddest girls in the world to ever hold martinis
Just a fair warning to anyone out there, the next person to tell me that Abre Los Ojos is better than Vanilla Sky is going to get kicked right in the fucking teeth. A couple years back, in a philosophy class I took, I brought up Vanilla Sky while we were discussing brain in the vat theory. The teaching assistant condescendingly said that I probably hadn’t heard of it but Vanilla Sky was actually based on a Spanish original that was much better and proceeds to cut me off without allowing for a rebuttal. At the end of class, I walked up to her and knocked her incisors down the back of her throat with my size [insert standard shoe size] Pumas. I either did that or I said nothing, brooded about it for the rest of the day, completely forgot about it, and got my revenge years later by posting it on a blog. It has been so long I can’t remember which one it was. What is happiness to you? Because to me, this is happiness, being done writing this article.
 “I will drop-kick those fucking dogs if they come near me.” Frank T.J. Mackey
 “No, I shot him. Bullets and the fall killed him.” Vincent
 A thoroughly formulated, well articulated, eloquent, and logical argument I must admit
 The love that is forbidden
 I have decided to dabble in annotations