Heroes of the Zeroes is Nick Rogers’ daily, alphabetical look back at the 365 best films of 2000 to 2009.
A vinyl collector’s version of Jacob’s Ladder, 2001’s Vanilla Sky bravely dove into surreal, head-swimming sci-fi — casting Tom Cruise as an unhinged, maimed malcontent and examining the folly of substituting entertainment for experience.
Adapting 1997’s Abre Los Ojos into a pop-culture parable, writer-director Cameron Crowe found himself on foreign sand.
Coming off an Oscar win for Almost Famous, Crowe was demonstrably deft at dramedies that simultaneously spoke to three generations. But Sky’s damningly divisive critical response beat his milquetoast retreat to Elizabethtown.
Yet Sky’s daring gamble pays off even when Crowe’s ambition exceeds his grasp — a freak-show reflection, but not rejection, of Crowe and Cruise’s Jerry Maguire, with redemptive romance tempered by resentment, melancholy and bitter humor.
Cruise is David Aames, a narcissistic playboy who survives a car accident with severe disfigurement. He’s accused of murder, but is it a conspiracy to wrestle away his empire? And while falling for Sofia (Penélope Cruz), why is he beset by visions of Julie (Cameron Diaz), a needy mistress who supposedly perished in the wreck?
From David’s haunting Times Square sprint to a fascinating conclusion with multiple interpretations, Sky thrusts us into dreams and hallucinations — like pushing headphones into ears while cranking “Revolution No. 9.” Meanwhile, as Alfred Hitchcock did for Jimmy Stewart in Vertigo, Crowe pushes Cruise to dark, albeit not image-shattering, places.
The burning cauldron of the subconscious can boil over with too much pop culture poured in. Keep that in mind, and Sky will have you at “What the hell?”