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


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Poll: Episode 117 - Top Gun vs. Minority Report (w/ Tom Reimann and Abe Epperson) (48 member(s) have cast votes)

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

  1. Top Gun (30 votes [62.50%] - View)

    Percentage of vote: 62.50%

  2. Minority Report (18 votes [37.50%] - View)

    Percentage of vote: 37.50%

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#21 Fletcher~Munson

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Posted 29 August 2017 - 10:34 PM

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.

#22 HoldenMartinson

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Posted 29 August 2017 - 11:35 PM

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.

#23 BlackMagic

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Posted 30 August 2017 - 11:06 AM

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.

#24 sycasey 2.0

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Posted 30 August 2017 - 12:15 PM

View PostBlackMagic, on 30 August 2017 - 11:06 AM, said:

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.

#25 Lexotron

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Posted 30 August 2017 - 12:56 PM

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.

#26 bleary

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Posted 30 August 2017 - 05:19 PM

I can't believe the forum opinion on this one, which seems to think (a.) Minority Report is good, and (b.) Top Gun is bad. I'll get back to this though.

First, one of these movies is iconic, and one of them is forgettable. I watched both movies for the first time in about five years before listening to this episode. I had forgotten essentially everything about Minority Report, except for two or three scenes. If I watch it again in five years, I'm confident I'll have forgotten most of it again. Meanwhile, nearly every scene in Top Gun is memorable, with some among the most recognizable in film history. Love them or hate them, the beach volleyball scene, the cobalt-blue lit sex scene, and the Righteous Brothers bar scene are iconic scenes in a way that nothing in Minority Report can compare. I mean, the beach volleyball scene invented a new high-five that we all aspire to master! Next, the soundtrack for Top Gun is one of the most incredible ever assembled. Even if the 80s-ness of it is not to your taste, you can't deny that "Danger Zone," written for the film, is as indelibly linked to the imagery in it as "Don't You (Forget About Me)" is linked to The Breakfast Club. Similarly, whenever I hear "You've Lost That Loving Feeling" or "Take My Breath Away" I can see Goose and Maverick singing at the bar or that profoundly awkward sex scene (which again, as unsexy as the sex looks, the silhouettes in front of the blue light still makes for a great shot). Hell, I still primarily think of Goose on the piano every time I hear "Great Balls of Fire" and there was literally a whole different movie with that title that was about the guy who wrote the song. And then don't get me started on the Top Gun anthem, which is the most 80s thing possible and still never fails to pump me up. Finally, Top Gun has an armory full of memorable lines, including "need for speed," which made the AFI Top 100 Movie Quotes of All Time. Through and through, Top Gun is in the pantheon of recognizable movies and has so saturated pop culture that if you haven't seen this movie, you are missing a crucial reference point for America in the 1980s.

Next, Minority Report is a fine movie. Its strengths come from how good Philip K. Dick's short story is, how cool (at the time) the effects were, and how good at acting nearly everyone in the cast is. I mean, you put Colin Farrell, Max von Sydow, and even slightly sub-peak Tom Cruise together, and you're going to get something decent. But I really think just about everything else in this movie goes wrong. I strongly dislike the desaturated colors. I don't like most of what was added to Dick's story, such as the dead child plot. I HATE the soundtrack, which is completely incongruous with the futuristic imagery of the film. (Don't get me wrong, John Williams is a master, but this is a big swing and a miss. Perhaps the problem was Spielberg asking him to do two straight futuristic soundtracks with this coming right after A.I., which, for all its problems, had a way more appropriate score than Minority Report.) And perhaps most of all, the pacing of this movie is terrible. Much of that is probably due to the changes from Dick's story. The enactment of Anderton committing the "murder" should be the denouement. Instead, after the movie crescendos to that point reasonably effectively, we still have almost an hour left. In Dick's story, Anderton goes through with the murder willingly, and then explains why. Here, although it is the resolution of the inciting incident for the whole story, it's used simply to open up a new mystery, and then the movie limps to the finish line. Oh, and as far as the plot holes: It's one thing to handwave away Star Trek's use of warp speed as being an unimportant detail. Star Trek is not a story about how the warp drive works. However, Minority Report is a story about how every murder has been seen and predicted, so to have Lara pull a gun on the jailer while the Precogs are up and running, and for the jailer not to realize that he's not actually about to be murdered, that's a far more egregious error. If your sci-fi movie is about the invention of a particular piece of technology, make sure that you follow your own made-up rules.

Now, I'm probably not going to be able to convince anyone that Top Gun is a brilliant piece of cinema on par with Citizen Kane and The Godfather. It's not. However, I think a lot of people on this forum are completely missing what the film is really saying about machismo and masculinity. You get it in the first scene when Cougar has his breakdown, betraying the macho image that all the other pilots try to portray. What I find really interesting is that no one criticizes Cougar for this after the fact, even behind his back. It would be easy to show other pilots mocking him for "wimping out," but no one does because all of them are aware of how thin the macho facade they put on really is, and how easily it could break. And then it's interesting that the only person who looks down on Maverick for "wimping out" is Charlie, one of the only female characters in the film. All these supposedly macho dudes see what happened to Maverick and view it with empathy rather than derision. And as mentioned in the episode, Cruise does a great job in his performance, showing the difference in his personality when he's putting on a facade for the other guys versus when he's alone, or just with Goose, or just with Charlie. At any rate, I could talk about the things in this movie that don't work, including the romance and much of the daddy backstory. And I'll avoid getting into whether or not the film is too jingoistic, which I don't really think it is, but I can see the arguments of those who do. But this is a good movie. I feel like people think it's cheesy because of how of the time it was, and maybe it is, but I don't understand how that lessens its quality. I could talk so much more about why Top Gun is good; I haven't even gotten to Anthony Edwards and Val Kilmer doing vastly underrated work. But again, I don't think I'll be able to convince people if they weren't convinced by the podcast.

Finally, a lot of people are throwing out other movies with Tom Cruise that they would have preferred to see. I think that the point of this episode was to pick two "Tom Cruise movies", which is to say that he is the dominating force behind them. Rain Man is not a "Tom Cruise movie." It's a Dustin Hoffman movie that Tom Cruise is quite good in. Similarly, Magnolia, Eyes Wide Shut, and A Few Good Men don't ring to me as "Tom Cruise movies," because the ensemble/director/writer are the stars of those movies, respectfully. Even Collateral just doesn't seem to fit to me, perhaps because it's a true two-hander with Foxx doing great work, and perhaps because Cruise is the bad guy, which seems so different than the rest of his films. Which leaves things like Risky Business and Born on the 4th of July. And those could have just as easily have been picked, but Tom and Abe didn't pick them, so that's that. Top Gun vs. Born of the 4th of July would have been an interesting episode as well, and maybe the latter will get revisited someday along the road.

But come on guys, this is a no-brainer. Top Gun is so already in the canon that it seems silly to have to vote on it for the Canon.

#27 Dale Cooper-Black

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Posted 31 August 2017 - 01:04 AM

View Postbleary, on 30 August 2017 - 05:19 PM, said:

Through and through, Top Gun is in the pantheon of recognizable movies and has so saturated pop culture that if you haven't seen this movie, you are missing a crucial reference point for America in the 1980s.

Where was this logic when it came time to vote for Fatal Attraction?

There are approximately 20,000,000 tons of aviator sunglasses buried in landfills across the Western Hemisphere thanks to Top Gun, which is reason enough to say "fuck that movie," as far as I'm concerned.

Actually, fuck both these movies. My write-in vote goes to Days of Thunder.
Guy Fawkes in Socks

#28 bleary

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Posted 31 August 2017 - 04:15 AM

View PostDale Cooper-Black, on 31 August 2017 - 01:04 AM, said:

Where was this logic when it came time to vote for Fatal Attraction?



I voted yes for Fatal Attraction too.

#29 DrEricFritz

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Posted 31 August 2017 - 07:56 PM

I so rarely post, but I couldn't stay away from this one. Four points:

1.) I have always felt that Minority Report is (unintentionally art imitating life?) a product of its time in that is about the pre-emptive strikes the Bush administration was to take on Iraq. The film came out prior to the invasion but during the discussions of invasion. It's hard for me to see the movie in any other way other than tackling that particular subject (and deciding that pre-emptive strikes are bad). It certainly handles the politics clumsily, but some of the decisions made by the director seem to be motivated by the politics of that moment.

2.) I am surprised that the Quentin Tarentino explanation of Top Gun didn't play into any part of the discussion. I have tried to get that out of my head, but when I rewatched Top Gun, it's really hard not to see that particular reading of the film.

3.) That being said, Top Gun is pop art. Pop art can be good. It often is not, but it can capture a moment or time in a way that only big budget blockbusters can. Top Gun achieves that remarkably better than Minority Report. The Top Gun soundtrack alone beats the heck out of most blockbusters of any era.

4.) Lastly, I am happy that there was some discussion of Minority Report as Philip K. Dick films are often poorly executed when his novels and stories are so excellent. Minority Report holds a place (at its time) where there were very few movies that achieved his ideas of perception and reality and its many complications. That being said, as it was commented in the podcast, Minority Report is a film that is not talked about at all. I always think of the moment when the theme to COPS shows up - the show was long gone in public conscience but someone decided to include it and that is one of its many not so great tone problems.

We now have A Scanner Darkly and The Man in the High Castle that actually put forth Philip K. Dick's ideas, in film, in effective ways. While I have a fondness for Minority Report out of a desire to see good Philip K. Dick movies, (Next and Paycheck are so, so bad) Top Gun is a superior pop art film. I don't like it, but that's how I voted because it was the right thing to do.

#30 burnettski92

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Posted 31 August 2017 - 08:59 PM

I also hate the dead son cliche, but in lesser films. When I see a new trailer for some gritty cop film directed by a nobody and starring Mark Wahlberg that screams "dead son," THAT'S when I groan. Cliches and tropes are cliches and tropes for a reason though. They can be used well if used by the right filmmaker.
And avenging the dead son isn't even the point of the movie! In the Wahlberg version, the film would end with him finding the kidnapper and killing him. In the superior Spielberg/Cruise version, the victory is in moving on, starting a new life, and helping get justice for another destroyed family.

Also, a film doesn't have to be one stagnant tone. It can ebb and flow into fun or scary scenes (look at Spider-Man 2), and still all work together. Just because a movie has varied tones doesn't mean it has "a tone problem."

#31 sycasey 2.0

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Posted 31 August 2017 - 10:32 PM

View Postbleary, on 30 August 2017 - 05:19 PM, said:

Now, I'm probably not going to be able to convince anyone that Top Gun is a brilliant piece of cinema on par with Citizen Kane and The Godfather. It's not. However, I think a lot of people on this forum are completely missing what the film is really saying about machismo and masculinity. You get it in the first scene when Cougar has his breakdown, betraying the macho image that all the other pilots try to portray. What I find really interesting is that no one criticizes Cougar for this after the fact, even behind his back. It would be easy to show other pilots mocking him for "wimping out," but no one does because all of them are aware of how thin the macho facade they put on really is, and how easily it could break. And then it's interesting that the only person who looks down on Maverick for "wimping out" is Charlie, one of the only female characters in the film. All these supposedly macho dudes see what happened to Maverick and view it with empathy rather than derision.


This is interesting to a point, but if the filmmakers really wanted to make a movie about how overt masculinity is toxic, or merely a facade that doesn't accomplish anything, then they would carry that idea through to the end. I think Abe makes the point in the podcast that the movie really doesn't follow through on the complexity Cruise attempts to bring to the character -- Maverick is instantly forgiven for his recklessness and still saves the day at the end without demonstrating that he's learned anything about giving in to machismo.

Hence the prevalent reading that the film is just a clumsy rah-rah advertisement for the military.

#32 BlackMagic

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Posted 01 September 2017 - 07:30 AM

View Postsycasey 2.0, on 30 August 2017 - 12:15 PM, said:


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.



This was mind-boggling to me. How many countless movies employ these types of characters? Regardless of genre there are always going to be movies featuring ancillary characters you only see a few times. In the case of Minority Report those characters served to propel the story.

His scene with Dr. Hineman sets up his goal and the possibility that maybe he didn't commit the crime that was previsioned which adds stakes because proving this would completely break the system he serves and devotes his life to.

He meets the hacker to see Agatha's previsions.

He meets Peter Stormare to get his eyes replaced, which in and of itself isn't particularly propulsive in the scene and a little tonally off, but it does drive the police encounter afterward as well as gives us the flashback to what happened to his son.

#33 sycasey 2.0

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Posted 01 September 2017 - 10:18 PM

View PostDrEricFritz, on 31 August 2017 - 07:56 PM, said:

2.) I am surprised that the Quentin Tarentino explanation of Top Gun didn't play into any part of the discussion. I have tried to get that out of my head, but when I rewatched Top Gun, it's really hard not to see that particular reading of the film.


Oh man, yes. For context:



Even though he gets the last line wrong (it's "be my wingman" not "ride my tail"), the reading holds up incredibly well. All of the early scenes between the pilots (and their supervisors) are loaded with thinly-veiled references to their penises. Much less veiled are the other constant references to each other's butts ("I want some butts!"). The topless volleyball scene is set to a song called "Playing With The Boys." The sexual chemistry between Tom Cruise and Kelly McGillis is nowhere near what he has with Val Kilmer.

It really makes you think the gay subtext was absolutely purposeful, but there's not much evidence from the director or screenwriters that this was ever their intention. It's still the most interesting way to read Top Gun.

#34 DrEricFritz

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Posted 02 September 2017 - 07:44 PM

View Postsycasey 2.0, on 01 September 2017 - 10:18 PM, said:

It really makes you think the gay subtext was absolutely purposeful, but there's not much evidence from the director or screenwriters that this was ever their intention. It's still the most interesting way to read Top Gun.


I am okay with the art having a different interpretation than the artist may have intended. This has come up in the show before and I agree with the idea that art and the artist live separate lives. In this case, there is a strong homosexual reading of Top Gun, though I would posit that it's from a non-homosexual perspective saying gayness is a choice. Or maybe it is saying that coming out is the best way to be and not to be stuck behind the facade of Charlie/Kelly McGillis, which is a more true to life depiction of some gay men's experience. I am the son of a gay man who came out years after his children grew up.

It's such an interesting read of the film, which is why I find Minority Report an interesting film as a (clumsy) argument against pre-emptive military strikes in the pre-Iraq invasion of the Bush presidency. I seriously doubt that anyone intended that when the film was in preproduction, but that is what I got out of it, particularly as an explanation of the ending. Intention is such a dubious and difficult thing.

Thanks for posting that video sycasey 2.0!

#35 daustin

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Posted 06 September 2017 - 06:04 AM

I don't particularly want either in the Canon, but I'll give a soft yes to Top Gun. Hard no to Minority Report, which is a decent but no more than that sci-fi actioner. Leaving me with Top Gun, which I don't particularly love or even like but probably deserves to get in the basis of its zeitgeist-defining qualities. If I had to have a Tom Cruise film in the Canon, I'd probably go with Risky Business.