Thursday, August 24, 2006

Lifestyles of the Crazy and Famous

I am among the growing numbers of people who think Tom Cruise has slipped a cog or two and is now paddling his canoe up Cuckoo Creek. Craziness, however, does not necessarily mean a person lacks intelligence or the ability to think and plan well…it just means the person’s thinking and planning are carried out within a framework of standards, beliefs, and perceptions that the bulk of us do not share.

Yesterday it was announced that Cruise and Paramount had, after 14 years, parted ways. Since there was a controversy as to who bounced whom, I spent a little time perusing a variety of websites dedicated to celebrity news, hoping to gather enough diverse crumbs to piece together the most likely scenario.

All things considered, I’m taking Paramount’s version of the event. In the Wall Street Journal Viacom chairman Sumner Redstone remarked “His recent conduct has not been acceptable to Paramount.” Reducing euphemism to Corporate-Speak, what Redstone is saying that due to his increasingly nutty personal behaviour, Cruise’s box-office appeal is declining and, now that contract renewal time affords an ideal opportunity to divest itself of what is beginning to look like a growing liability, Paramount doesn’t want to be chained to a sinking stone. In plain English, Tom’s crazy behaviour is starting to drive people away from the box office and Paramount wants to ends its association with Tom before its profits are hurt. Continues Redstone: “…we don't think that someone who effectuates creative suicide and costs the company revenue should be on the lot."

Yah, he’s cost Paramount a chunk of money…it’s reported that he gets a 25 percent cut of the gross of his movies…one quarter of every coin you spend on a ticket…and the cost of the production has to be borne by what remains. His antics have caused his box office to decline, so fewer people are seeing his movies than in the past…but his budgets aren’t declining. Apparently the production costs of MI3 exceeded the US box office take, of which Cruise got 25% off the top, leaving Paramount to make up the difference. The movie may have been a box office hit, but it left a dent in Paramount’s bottom line. Had Cruise not poisoned his well, more of us would have gone to the movie and maybe Paramount would have made a buck.

One of the problems with this kind of production deal is that misbehaving stars like Cruise, Lohan, or Gibson don’t actually bear the brunt of their behaviour. If they have a substantial cut of the gross of the film, success or failure are immaterial because they make money whether the film does or not…and whether they behaviour influences the ticket-buying public or not. So, Cruise can insult women with post-partum depression, talk down to his host on national television, and revert to his simian ancestry on Oprah with relative financial impunity…even if we stay away from his movie in droves and the thing is a box office flop, he still gets 25% of the take and Paramount drowns in red ink.

Shame…I used to like Tom Cruise movies, but I have to side with Paramount. As a movie-goer, I find it difficult to watch Tom on-screen without images of his embarrassing couch-hopping or his incredibly supercilious pillorying of Brook Shields or his arrogant behaviour towards Matt Lauer overlaying his on-screen character. I don’t want to go to his movies anymore…I don’t want MY hard-won money to fund a silly pseudo-religious cult that was founded by a crazy conman-cum-crappy science fiction writer. I don’t want to be a party to the kind of insanity that publicly scorns the users of legitimate medical treatment absent solid scientific reasons. And I especially do not want my ticket money ending up helping to fund the exploitation of the innocent.

Yes, I’m talking about Suri Cruise. The fact that her daddy is virtually certifiable at this stage does not mean he is bereft of guile and cunning…or greed. “Crazy like a fox” is a phrase that comes to mind here. With the world hanging on the imminent birth of Shiloh Jolie-Pitt, Crazy Tom had the business acumen to realize that his little gift to humanity would be upstaged by the arrival of Brangelina’s babe, so he took the sly tack of hiding Suri from the world until it was sated with Shiloh and suddenly remembered that there was a little Cruise cruisin’ around, sight unseen. And, once Shiloh’s pictures were sold, the value of Suri’s photos could then be established…and if the offers weren’t high enough, she could continue to be hidden from view until the value inched up enough to surpass the benchmark figure of Shiloh’s photoshoot.

Aw, do I really think he is that mercenary and calculating? Yup, I do. Over the past year or so it has become increasingly obvious that Cruise veered sharply off the path of compassion and common sense sometime between his divorce from Nicole and his ensorcelment of Katie…oops—Kate…Holmes. His suffocating control of Holmes, from dictating what she will be called to how she would be permitted to give birth (silently and without drugs!) bespeaks a bone-deep misogyny and ingrained controlling nature that has flourished since the departure of the strong (and strong-willed) Kidman. Pity the girl child raised by such a father…a man who can do no wrong in his own eyes, a man for whom the accumulated wisdom of the world fades into subordination to his own concepts.

Yup, I got to go along with Paramount. They took a sound business decision to unhitch their wagon from a falling star, to a man spiralling out of control for lack of rational touchstones outside his own microcosm of incestuous thought and support. Tom Cruise and Company can contradict Paramount’s announcement with claims of having quit rather been fired, but the fact remains that contract negotiations broke down when Paramount balked at renewing their old, profit-bleeding deal (confirmed by Cruise’s production partner, Paula Wagner). Whether Cruise then walked or Paramount chucked him out the door is virtually immaterial: Paramount made the decision that Cruise wasn’t worth the cost to them anymore and calculatedly made an offer that they knew Cruise had to refuse. Damned by faint praise, as it were.

So the question now becomes, what is to happen to Crazy Tom and his entourage? Will he feather his nest by leaking the occasional multi-million dollar pic of little Suri? Will Kate Holmes ever make another movie? Will Tom? Does anybody really care anymore?

Monday, August 21, 2006

Life’s Odd Little Details…

I have been sick. Not just sick, but sick. And this weekend I finally began feeling a little bit like normal myself.

In the weeks I have been under the weather, life has continued apace. For three weeks I battled one of the worst sinus infections I have ever had, taking three double-strength courses of antibiotics before it was finally brought under control. Unfortunately, that much antibiotic tends to have side effects…and I immediately came down with a fungus infection which, mercifully, was short lived. This was followed by a virus that attacked my joints and muscles and digestive system and lasted nearly a week, which was followed by a mild cold or an allergy…which has reactivated the sinus infection, but much milder than before. Today I’m sitting up, my mind is clear…although my head is still a bit stuffed up…and I feel like I just might make it through the day without resorting either to a nap or pain pills.

Hubby managed to time his business trip to Richard’s Bay…to see the old rotor off to Europe…to coincide with my virus and managed to escape unscathed. Nashie’s sister, Sasha, is getting along better each day…she is now sleeping with the other doggies in the doggie bed, rather than huddling alone on a cushion.

Nashie seems to be unaffected by the addition of another dog to the mix, but Candy is ambivalent. On the one hand, she makes regular attempts to play with Sasha…but on the other hand, she doesn’t want to sleep in the doggie bed when Sasha is in it. Nash, however, has bigger fish to fry…he is being romantically pursued by a Hadeda bird. Yup, you read that right…a Hadeda bird.

We have a really big back garden and after a rain it is not unusual to see a small flock of these big, loud creatures probing the back lawn for grubs and worms. Recently, a single bird has been dropping by and, rather than silently harvesting the goodies from the soil beneath the lawn, it stands in the middle of the open space and raucously calls for Nash to come out. At first we didn’t get what was going on…we opened the doggie door for Nash to rush out and chase the bird…his normal response to them…but instead of flying immediately up into a tree to escape his attentions, the bird took off running! And it ran until Nash came within catching distance, at which time it flew up onto the garden wall, only to come back down and resume the game as soon as he had retreated to a safe distance.

A few days later we saw the bird collecting nesting materials in the back garden and came to the conclusion that it was female, so Hubby christened her “Cleo.” Her visits became more and more frequent, and she became more and more bold. When Nash didn’t respond to her rasping calls, she came looking for him. She would tap with her beak on the window he uses as a doggie door, or flutter her wings against it and, considering the size of her, it made quite ruckus!

This has become a regular thing now, and over the weekend she actually perched herself on a patio chair outside the bedroom window and peered inside, looking for him, crying hoarsely for him to come outside and play. Silly bird…

So, today I’m back on the road to recovery, surrounded by little white doggies and listening to the hoarse song of a lovesick Hadeda bird…my rather unconventional life seems to be coming back on track…