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Episode 117 - Top Gun vs. Minority Report (w/ Tom Reimann and Abe Epperson)

Episode 117 - Top Gun vs. Minority Report (w/ Tom Reimann and Abe Epperson)  

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  1. 1. Which film enters The Canon: Top Gun or Minority Report?



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This week, Amy is joined by Tom Reimann and Abe Epperson of the podcast Cracked Movie Club to pit two Tom Cruise films against one another: "Top Gun" and "Minority Report." They discuss the usage of "Top Gun" as a military recruitment tool, as well as the film's unapologetic hyper-masculinity. Then, they discuss the theme of privacy and the use of CGI in "Minority Report" before giving their final arguments.

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There's some kind of moral imperative to force a Cruise film into the Canon and we're not talking about Born on the Fourth of July?

 

I'll listen in, but I'm not voting for either of those.

 

After listening: why should anyone vote for either one of these when the whole discussion is how ridiculous each one is?

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I really don't like Top Gun. Like, at all. I think Minority Report is a far superior film by a director who understands the medium of cinema in a way few people do.

 

But I can't deny Top Gun's place in pop culture history. It has (and will continue to have) an impact upon culture in general in a way that Minority Report never will. So as much as it pains me to do so, I vote Top Gun.

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I can't believe I'm saying this, but I have to cast my vote for Top Gun. Minority Report is–by far–the superior film, but I was convinced by the discussion. Not the rather petty arguments Amy and that one dude aimed at it, but the point made at the very beginning of the episode about cultural relevance.

 

Top Gun is a touchstone in a way Minority Report is not. I think there's an argument for the way the film's production design and visual style influenced action films after, but Top Gun epitomizes a time. Its sense of ra-ra America masculinity reads pretty toxic now, but it's impossible to deny that those sensibilities were the dominant American outlook basically until after 9/11.

 

Still argue that Minority Report has more coherent plotting and character work as well as a grander sense of purpose, but I can't deny that Top Gun is the more relevant film just because I hate the way you can identify which act you're in by which song is playing on repeat. The best I can hope for is that watching it would drive someone to watch Scott's other, better films.

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Day by day, Minority Report has proven it's relevance in not just how well it predicted how the future will look but also the deterioration of civil liberties in a post-Patriot Act and post-Snowden world. I would also say Cruise isn't playing the stereotypical Cruise role and instead gives a very haunted performance.

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This is a question that's always been interesting to me when defining what qualifies a movie for The Canon: is it more important for a film to be good or for it to be important? This week, we have a versus episode that directly challenges that debate in that the obviously better film (sorry, Amy) is also clearly less culturally significant.

 

As much as it pains me, I voted TOP GUN.

 

What it came down to is that – while MINORITY REPORT might be better – neither film is great. Neither qualifies for The Canon on sheer quality, so you have to look at other factors. MINORITY REPORT is a very fun sci-fi romp, but it's not even close to Spielberg's best movie, or Cruise's best movie, it's not had a particularly strong impact on the world of filmmaking, nor has it persisted in the broader pop culture. TOP GUN, on the other hand, is goofy slice of '80s cheese that hasn't aged particularly well, but it was a monumental film for one of our premier movie stars, it was a seminal piece of '80s culture, and its legacy still persists in the popular zeitgeist. *Everyone* knows this movie, even if they've never actually seen it.

 

MINORITY REPORT is the better movie, but TOP GUN is far more deserving of a place in The Canon.

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Tom Cruise is a fine actor, but gosh, I'm not feeling either of these films.

 

Top Gun is so meh. So is Minority Report--or Mehnority Report--but if I'm going to pick the one I want people to see? Minority Report. There's all this disconnected dead weight on the fringes. I'm not a fan of either of these, but Minority Report is pretty good, with solid storytelling. So, there you go.

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First off, I think we've had too many of these "versus" episodes between two movies that are not particularly Canon-worthy. The original versus concept seemed more like a chance to pit two worthy films against each other in a difficult choice. A choice that forces people to vote without enthusiasm for a mediocre entry . . . just isn't as much fun.

 

Anyway, I am also surprised to be swayed by the podcast arguments that Top Gun is more worthy of a Canon spot despite not being as good a movie or artistic statement as Minority Report. I wasn't convinced by Amy's poor arguments against the latter (the plot is just "bolted on"? WTF?), but Tom's argument that Top Gun is more memorable despite not being as well-made or well-written? That's 100% true. So if I have to choose a movie that future generations should watch in order to understand something important about cinema history, then it's clearly Top Gun. It's iconic and influential, much more so than Minority Report. Perhaps it's not influential in many good ways (you can draw a straight line between this and the Michael Bay Transformers travesties), but it's influential nonetheless. Minority Report is a good film with a good message, but not especially notable in the careers of Tom Cruise or Steven Spielberg (it's not even the best film Spielberg made that year); for both Cruise and Tony Scott, I'd say Top Gun definitely is.

 

So I'll hold my nose and vote for Top Gun, unintentionally hilarious homoerotic Navy commercial though it may be. It's still a notable moment in film history. Minority Report is a pretty good effort by people who are capable of more.

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Even if this were just a competition between MINORITY REPORT and the TOP GUN poster, the winner would be clear. Both of these are far from perfect films, but TOP GUN's iconography alone should get it into The Canon. Love him or hate him, this was the film that made turned Tom Cruise into "Tom Cruise." Every time I've seen it (my last viewing actually just a few weeks ago after a late night cable showing of "Hot Shots" put me in the mood), I'm reminded of how surprisingly deep it is. If you just focus on the volley ball scene and the other moments that have been parodied to death, it makes you think it's just 80's fluff. But the film makes me care a surprise amount for the characters, who on the surface seem like mere types. I think the cast is uniformly excellent, especially Edwards and McGillis, one of the best and most mature romantic pairings of Cruise's career. I also have a nostalgic spot for Rick Rossovich. My mother was friends with him in high school and I'd be lying if I hadn't fantasized a few times about the idea that he could have been my father. Naturally that would have included the occasional set visit to "Top Gun" and "The Terminator." TOP GUN should be commended for the fact that it made such a lasting impact on the culture, that I felt like I had seen it even before I ever watched it. It was everywhere, and in many ways still is.

 

When MINORITY REPORT was released in 2002 I really loved it. I wasn't always the world's biggest Phillip K. Dick fan, and I felt that this was a refreshingly deep and complex example of his work. I watched it fondly over the years, and to this day there are sequences in it that I really love. The last time I watched it I was attempting to show it to my wife. I prepared her, telling her that it was a really great sci-fi movie with an unfortunate third act that really nose dives. But throughout the screening, I found myself apologizing for more than just the ending. I do feel though that this was the moment in Spielberg's career when his style and storytelling changed. Notably, this is where he began to routinely insert unnecessary, sentimental, and apologetic endings. His desperate need to reassure the audience something that they didn't need to know (that the Pre-Cogs got to live peacefully in a cabin upstate) is infuriating. It's as if he was terrified that the audience would desperately be wondering what happened to them while driving home from the theater. From here on out, I found that many if not most Spielberg films typically go on 5 minutes longer than they should, often undoing good will that may have come before it. This is true for films that I otherwise really like including "War of the Worlds," "Catch Me If You Can," "Lincoln," "Bridge of Spies," and others. (the cemetery bookends in "Saving Private Ryan" preceded this, but that's a whole other debate worthy of having another time.) To conclude, there is much to love about MINORITY REPORT. Upon first discovery, I was enamored with it, but time hasn't been as kind to it. While a film that I used to hate, "Blade Runner," finally won me over years later as I learned to appreciate its rough edges and imperfections as qualities that actually enhanced the experience, MINORITY REPORT now feels too polished and clean to have enough of a real edge to it. Unlike Amy, I do think that a lot of Tom's charm is still on display in this film, for at least the first half, and I enjoy the casting of Samantha Morton, but at the end of the day, this is just another Phillip K. Dick movie. Another Spielberg movie. Another Tom Cruise movie. Even if it is a better example of those than some others. That is why we should immediately vote TOP GUN into The Canon before this supposed sequel comes out and ruins it forever.

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Since this may very well be the one and only opportunity for Minority Report to be discussed in the the Canon, I feel like it's my responsibility to defend it. From the very first moment, as the production title cards - Dreamworks, so on - roll across the screen, everything is submerged in water like a dream. This is more than just a cool gimmick; it's Spielberg's attempt to connect the experience of watching the film to the precog's nightmarish visions of the future. This is later reinforced with a few techniques which Spielberg isn't known for but are nonetheless used quite well, and those are surrealism and absurdity. After John goes from enforcer to fugitive, he is confronted with nightmarish imagery, including Hineman's plants, Dr. Solomon's surgical devices, and the spider-like sentries that force peoples eyes open in order to scan them. Then there are moments that just feel a bit off, and this is a testament to Spielberg's fine attention to detail. There's the woman doing yoga in the high rise, Hineman's out-of-nowhere kiss, the spoiled food, and most memorably, the laughing woman in the hotel lobby. And, of course, all those side characters that come across as loony mad scientists. These moments are often funny, frightening, and most importantly remind us that we're on a journey into a distorted reality, and one shaped by technology. One takeaway - that technology isn't always born out of invention but is often the manifestation of our collective subconscious, our deepest fears and desire.

It all speaks to what I think is the film's main purpose - an affirmation of free will, yes - but a message to the average consumer to question both the media and technology we consume and at what cost. By making the precogs more than just mindless human machines, Spielberg allows us to see innovation as both a blessing and a curse and to be skeptical of propaganda in its power to shield us from the harsh truths about our system. Minority Report remains relevant in an age of mass surveillance (used both as a tool for law enforcement and commercialism), mass incarceration, escapism, automation, and the exploitation of labor. If we can be made to care for a trio of young psychics, then we can also acknowledge the workers who make our I-Phones in horrible conditions overseas. In a film filled with cameras and screens, most of them cold and sterile like the bleached out backgrounds surrounding each frame, what we need is a shift in our perspective (a new pair of eyes), to see that a dream for some is a nightmare for others. The least we can do is confront it, which is the point of Agatha's stirring monologue near the end of the film. Minority Report is a well crafted thriller with many layers of meaning ( I could discuss the parallels to Greek mythology, and so on), but it's the film's style and aesthetic that is most striking, and one that no doubt went on to influence the likes of J.J. Abrams and most recently, Black Mirror. It might not be Spielberg's best film or even Tom Cruise's best performance, but it is a vital piece of dystopian sci-fi, and for that reason, deserves a spot in the Canon.

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I am usually a proponent of cultural impact influencing which films belong in the Canon, but I can't put aside how profoundly obnoxious I find Top Gun to be. It's a big slab of military propaganda and machismo pornography. The only thing I find interesting about TG is its homoerotic undertones. I would never want to make another person watch it. Minority Report gets my vote for being an OK movie.

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Full disclosure Tom Cruise fan here.

 

none of the defense of Minority Report seems valid or convincing.. this entire podcast is summed by the words:

"nobody is thinking about or talking about Minority Report expect the three of us today"

 

Top Gun all the way.

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I voted Top Gun. I found both films somewhat mediocre. Both have a couple of memorable scenes, one has got the better structure and better directing, the other the more memorable soundtrack, but generally, both kind of meh. but believe it or not: If I can choose between a medicore film with Meg Ryan and one without Meg Ryan, I will get the one with her every day.

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Amy, you're one of my favorite people out there on the Internet/podcasts. I share your exasperation over Jerry Maguire not making it into the Cannon. I just didn't get how people could "be against" Jerry Maguire. That said, I was so frustrated with you on this episode because the way you bashed Minority Report made it very clear that you weren't just guaranteeing that a Tom Cruise movie got into the Cannon, you were shoe-horning Top Gun in by putting it up against a selection you thought was weak. Compared with Born on the Fourth of July, Magnolia, or Vanilla Sky, yes, Minority Report is a weak movie. However, as movies, I rate Top Gun a 2-star film, I give Minority Report 4 stars. That's why I'm voting Minority Report. Not that Rotten Tomatoes is the end-all-be-all, but Minority Report has a 90% critics vs. Top Gun with 56%. I have to say that is pretty spot on. If Top Gun makes it into the Cannon I'm gonna be very put out. For me, putting Top Gun in the Cannon would be like putting Pretty Woman or Point Break in. I just can't do it.

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From above:

 

"Minority Report-is-by far-the superior film..."

-ijustliketowatch

 

"I really don't like Top Gun. Like, at all. I think Minority Report is by far a superior film..."

-mrm1138

 

Yes. I agree.

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This must be our punishment for dissing Jerry Maguire. Both Top Gun & Minority Report are movies undeserving of canonization. As Tom Cruise movies go, Born On The Fourth July or Risky Business would have been a better face-off. Yes, Top Gun speaks to the zeitgeist of 80's culture. But it was corny then and it's corny now. As far as Minority Report goes, it didn't age very well and it's not even that old. Also, it's one of Steven Spielberg's worse movies so why should it even be up for a vote? I know how Amy feels about the neither vote, but this will be a no vote for me. May the best/worst movie win?

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The guy stumping for Minority Report keeps arguing it's the better film, but is the film good enough compared to the films which haven't made it into the Canon? I don't think so. And Top Gun is clearly the more canonical, quality aside.

 

I'm not really that impressed by Minority Report as a scifi movie. Spielberg drastically changed the story from Phillip K. Dick's into a much more standard wrong-man action-thriller. It's a decent example of that, but the extra flashy bits on top aren't enough to elevate it above something like The Fugitive. The original story fully commits to the premise, which is the essence of literary scifi. Star Wars is sometimes called a "fantasy" or "space opera", rather than scifi because those are really just trappings put on a more traditional story, and I think that's also the case with Minority Report. There was the suggestion that no scifi is consistent, but many such stories are, whether PKD's or films like Primer, and we can use that standard to criticize the film. I don't merely have a problem with the scifi in it though, there are also character decisions like Burgess' at the end which MAKE NO SENSE.

 

I find it particularly ironic that the guy stumping for it and giving credit to PKD doesn't seem to know what's actually in the story and confused it with the changes made for the film. The theme of predestination is really central to Dick's story, but the film flinches away from that.

 

I also thought the film seemed to handwave away everything that happened after PreCrime was dismantled. It was really focused on just the cases involving the central characters rather than society overall. Amy mentioned that the released prisoners will be monitored, but there are new criminals every year who won't be. If this system was really saving hundreds of lives (which would be the case if homicide was abolished) you'd think they'd just come up with extra safeguards from something like the guy in charge deliberately trying to falsify the scenes used as inputs.

 

I was somewhat surprised there was no discussion of Samantha Morton's performance, which is somewhat more distinctive than Cruise's more standard action hero.

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While, I agree with Abe that Minority Report is the better film, I don't agree with his assertion that the better film is the more Canon film.

 

I'm voting for Top Gun solely for its incredible cultural impact. There are many better Spielberg films left to include in the Canon, but a film that convinced such an enormous number of people to join the military has earned canonization based on that feat alone.

 

That said, if either of these movies were in a solo episode, I can't say I'd vote yes for either one (just as I voted no on Jerry McGuire and Mission Impossible). Tom Cruise definitely deserves canonization, but I find that very few of his individual movies are Canon-worthy (A Few Good Men would get a big yes from me though).

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Tom Cruise definitely deserves canonization, but I find that very few of his individual movies are Canon-worthy (A Few Good Men would get a big yes from me though).

 

Magnolia, Collateral (though I guess Amy has a weird opinion in not liking this one), Rain Man, Born on the 4th of July, Eyes Wide Shut, and as you note A Few Good Men. Most of these would stand a decent chance of getting my vote.

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This was a very strange episode. The only conclusion I could come to at the end of the discussion is that Abe Epperson doesn't really like any Tom Cruise movie.

 

I suppose we should be thankful he didn't choose Magnolia, Eyes Wide Shut, Born on the Fourth of July or any other Cruise film that merits a real discussion.

 

In terms of canon worthiness, it is impossible to imagine modern sci-fi cinema without the influences of Spielberg and Dick, and Minority Report is a pretty bad representation of them both. (I think it's biggest impact, culturally, was actually on UI design - but I'm not tech savvy enough to really form this argument myself.)

 

Pitting Top Gun against such a minor film distracts from a very interesting question (and the reason I think Top Gun would probably lose the in a solo episode). It seems easier for us to endorse a propaganda film from way-back-when; Stalin and Hitler were monsters, but the films that aggrandize them are just artifacts today. They lost their power to mobilize a crowd.

And Top Gun is still pretty cool.

This comparison is absurd. But right now Top Gun still has a potential to influence hearts and minds. And that makes it a hard film to support for anyone who disagrees with its politics.

This issue did come up again and again in the episode, but I think the "battle" with Minority Report (which btw is pretty much on the other side of the political spectrum) offers too convenient a way to ignore it.

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Reading this thread, I'm especially upset that Magnolia wasn't in the conversation. In fact, I watched it the day before the episode dropped, and even though it's ostensibly the ensemble-ist ensemble feature there is, Tom Cruise is so crazy good in it. How did Michael Caine win an Oscar over Cruise??? Not only that, Magnolia, as hands-down messy as it is, is far more canon-worthy than either of these. Risky Business is more worthy than either of these films.Even Rain Man is even better.

 

I don't know if I agree that Top Gun was chosen to be shoehorned in--though, that did definitely cross my mind. I'm guessing one of the Cracked guys brought it in without much of a defense. So, whatever. If it was the case, that Top Gun and Minority Report were chosen just to get Top Gun in, that'd be incredibly weird, but I really, really don't think Amy would do that. In any case, it is a little uneven. But whatever. Worse films have made it in, I suppose.

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As others have pointed out in other threads I feel like this show really needs two dedicated hosts. Guests are always going to be more polite in their discourse given the inherent status of coming onto someone else's show. What ends up missing is calling the host out, which is something Devin did a lot to Amy (and vice-versa). Without those checks and balances the show develops an unevenness that I felt a lot in this episode.

 

One of the more notable examples of this happened later in the episode (around 1:07:30) where Amy trivializes the guest's point by saying in a mocking baby voice "oh but we're supposed to care that his kid died...".

 

This kinda thing irks me because--

 

A.) You can single out any plot element in any movie with that voice to make it sound ridiculous

 

B.) You can flip this around to Top Gun and say "oh but we're supposed to care that his dad died..."

 

The guest tries to call her out on pivoting but I feel like it doesn't have the same weight as Devin or another dedicated host doing it.

 

Minority Report is far from perfect and Amy does make a lot of good points about some of its shortcomings, specifically about some of the odd tonal shifts that happen and the way his wife is portrayed. What I don't understand is her dislike of dead children in Minority Report but her pass on the dead father in Top Gun.

 

 

Dead family members work because they're elemental, everybody can relate to them especially parents. Just because something is done a lot doesn't mean its any less effective. I could understand if they just shoe-horned that part in with exposition but Anderton losing his child is the driving force for all his actions in the movie.

 

It causes him to join the PreCrime police force.

It causes him to dope which later gets him in trouble.

It causes him to kill Leo Crow in the future which in turn causes the prevision that sets the story in motion and is ultimately the thing that changes his character.

 

It's not just some part of his character's backstory that's tacked on in a cheap attempt to add depth to him.

 

If there are going to be versus episodes they should probably stay within the same genre. Pitting romantic military action against neo-noir science fiction doesn't make a lot of sense. Especially since they have completely different tones.

 

If it needs to be a Cruise-off it should have been something like Top Gun vs Born on the 4th of July or Minority Report vs War of the Worlds.

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As others have pointed out in other threads I feel like this show really needs two dedicated hosts. Guests are always going to be more polite in their discourse given the inherent status of coming onto someone else's show. What ends up missing is calling the host out, which is something Devin did a lot to Amy (and vice-versa). Without those checks and balances the show develops an unevenness that I felt a lot in this episode.

 

One of the more notable examples of this happened later in the episode (around 1:07:30) where Amy trivializes the guest's point by saying in a mocking baby voice "oh but we're supposed to care that his kid died...".

 

This kinda thing irks me because--

 

A.) You can single out any plot element in any movie with that voice to make it sound ridiculous

 

B.) You can flip this around to Top Gun and say "oh but we're supposed to care that his dad died..."

 

The guest tries to call her out on pivoting but I feel like it doesn't have the same weight as Devin or another dedicated host doing it.

 

Totally agreed. I have little doubt that Devin would have ripped this argument to shreds.

 

I was also bugged by the criticism of Minority Report having a bunch of broadly-played, colorful characters that we only meet once or twice. Really? That's a problem? A lot of noir movies and detective stories do that! It's an effective way to make a procedural compelling on a character level, and help the audience distinguish between a large cast.

 

Like the "dead child" thing, it seems like the only criticism here is for it being a cliche. That's a criticism I don't often find compelling, since certain storytelling devices get used a lot precisely because they work. I'm more concerned if a movie uses the device BADLY. I don't think Minority Report does this badly.

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If I had to pick one of these movies to watch, it would be Minority Report. I loved it when it came out. It was a Spielberg movie that didn't look like a Spielberg movie.

 

But I have to vote Top Gun on this one. It's such a part of the pop culture tapestry. I don't see anybody ever quoting Minority Report, but Top Gun has so many (dumb) quotable lines.

 

I would have liked to see Top Gun vs. Rain Man, but I think in that case, Rain Man would be the clear winner.

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