JUSTICE IS COMING: An Overdue Anti-Rant about My FAVORITE Film!

As of today, I’ve been actively blogging for sixteen months and 4 days. That’s not a long time (not even a year and a half), but I’ve spent a fair amount of it blathering about movies and television series. Because of this, and because I injected into this blog – from the deepest regions of my heart – my profound disbelief over the deplorable miscasting of the titular character in Jack Reacher, I feel I would be remiss to let another week go by without taking the time to exalt my favorite movie.

I’m talking about my favorite movie of ALL TIME.

Most movie buffs have one – a film we’ve seen so many times, we don’t even know anymore how many times we’ve seen it. Today, I’m going to rhapsodize about mine. Keep in mind that I’m not here to write a film review; I am not a film critic. I’m here to make a (fruitless) attempt to convey how much I love this movie. I mean, I’m passionate about a lot of movies, so when I say that one is my ALL-TIME FAVORITE, that’s saying a lot.

It’s the only movie I can see again and again with perpetual excitement, my ardor sustained at the same stratospheric level over the last 21 years. It’s also the only movie that compels my inner film-geek to come out and actually recite the characters’ lines out loud, right along with them, which Callaghan had the misfortune of discovering when we watched it together a couple of weeks ago.

[Aside: the first time I saw it with Callaghan, we were still new together, and I was too shy to recite all the lines. I bit my tongue the whole time. Now that we’re married and he’s stuck with me, I let it all hang out. Typical! I did warn him in advance, though.]

So what movie am I talking about? It’s not The Big Lebowski, as some of you are probably thinking, though that’s up there in my Top Three.

I’m talking about Tombstone.


From left: Val Kilmer as Doc Holliday, Sam Elliott as Virgil Earp, Bill Paxton as Morgan Earp and Kurt Russell as Wyatt Earp in Tombstone (1993)

From left: Val Kilmer as Doc Holliday, Sam Elliott as Virgil Earp, Bill Paxton as Morgan Earp and Kurt Russell as Wyatt Earp in Tombstone (1993)


Historical fiction set where the main events took place here in Arizona, Tombstone is a western. This film is perfection. I’m not even going to bother adding “in my opinion,” because I truly believe that Tombstone is objectively perfect.

When Tombstone was released in 1993, I went to see it with John, my boyfriend, in central Phoenix. I remember that he lost his wallet there, and we spent about half an hour searching for it. I don’t remember whether he found it, but I do remember leaving the theatre feeling like a ten-year-old at Disneyland jumping breathlessly off the Star Tours ride, eager to run back to the line to wait for another go. Let’s do it again!

We returned to the theatre a few days later… John wanted to see Tombstone again, too. Not long after that, we went back for a third viewing. The fourth time I saw it, I went with some friends. I’m pretty sure I went a fifth time, but I don’t remember with whom. I want to say I went to see Tombstone five times… that seems about right. I remember feeling sad when it left the theatres.

But then Tombstone came out on video (VHS)! I bought it and watched it repeatedly over the years, and when the tape wore out, I picked up another one. Obsession alert: the years were rolling by, and my Tombstone-watching zeal was not dissipating! When DVDs came into existence at the end of the ‘90’s, Tombstone was the first DVD I bought. Shocking! Since then, I’ve seen it maybe, I don’t know, several hundred times more. Well, that’s an exaggeration, but you get the idea.





I figure between all the theatre tickets, video and DVD purchases, I’ve never paid a cast of actors so well as I’ve paid the Tombstone cast. Kurt Russell; Val Kilmer; Sam Elliot; Michael Biehn; Powers Booth; Bill Paxton; Dana Delaney, et al AND the entire film crew and production team behind them deserve every cent.

Also, may I just say that the music… that score! Just… never mind. Here, listen:



Many a film score stirs me, but Tombstone’s score fills me with happiness and revs me up like no other film score ever has… and it sure sounds a lot like mid-19th century Old West justice to me. It captures the essence of:

You tell ‘em I’M coming … and hell’s coming with me, you hear? HELL’S COMING WITH ME!

Ah, Wyatt.

I’m just fascinated with this segment of Arizona’s history – the historic gunfight at the O.K. Corral and the ensuing vendetta ride of Wyatt Earp’s posse – and this movie puts me there.

As I’d suspected, I’m finding it difficult to articulate why this movie impacts me to such an extent; the most flawless films in existence won’t make my “favorites” list if they don’t resonate with me somehow. Tombstone resonates with the core of my being. Critics may find flaws with Tombstone, but it’s a masterpiece as far as I’m concerned. My affection for Tombstone borders on adulation.

And yes, I admit it… the greatness that is Val Kilmer’s channeling of Doc Holliday kills me to this day, blah, blah, blah. I’m not going to bore you with that. I will say, though, that I haven’t seen cinematic charisma that potent before or since Tombstone. Val Kilmer’s performance is superb. If there’s ever been a more magnetic portrayal of Doc Holliday than Kilmer’s, I want to know about it, because I would have to see it to believe it. Kilmer manages to ooze Southern gentleman sex appeal and charm brilliantly from every tubercular pore in Holliday’s wasted, alcohol-saturated body in every one of his scenes. It’s not as unsavory as it sounds, believe me. He pulled it off.


Val Kilmer as Doc Holliday

Val Kilmer as Doc Holliday


You know what’s kind of unbelievable? I’ve spent 21 years of my life here in Arizona, and I still haven’t visited the town of Tombstone! Kind of like how I’ve been to Paris five times and never visited Jim Morrison’s grave. Unlike that, however, my failure to visit Tombstone isn’t an extreme first-world problem, because I can easily jump in the truck and drive myself to Tombstone any time I want. I just haven’t gotten around to it yet.

Interestingly, Val Kilmer also played Jim Morrison in The Doors, and that’s my second-favorite role of his.

At any rate, if you haven’t already, do yourself a favor and watch Tombstone. I highly, highly recommend this film. Just trust me on this. It doesn’t matter if you’re not into westerns. It doesn’t matter if you don’t like action movies. (I know people who don’t care for either genre, but they love Tombstone.) I would be so bold as to predict that you’ll love this movie, or at least enjoy it. It draws you in, and what’s not to love about a sweeping tale involving family bonds and loyalty, lawmen and outlaws, revenge, romance and the sexiest Latin-quoting, quick-drawing, card-playing badass Southern gentleman you’ll ever see?

Oh, Johnny… I forgot you were there. You may go now.

Merry Christmas!

I was the last one to wake up this morning, and when I did, the whole family piled onto the bed. I opened my eyes to find myself buried beneath Callaghan, Ronnie James, Nounours and the spread of gifts that had somehow migrated there. Santa’s getting efficient, streamlining the process to where you don’t even have to get out of bed! I figured I must have slept in, but it was only 7:30. (Who says I don’t have kids? I have three… two in the shape of cats, and one in the shape of Callaghan.)

Fifteen minutes later, I’d removed my retainers, brushed my teeth and jumped back into bed with the coffee Callaghan brought me, deliciously creamy and sweet with my favorite almond milk and stevia, and we all opened our presents. It was our first Christmas with Ronnie James and Nounours, and they got right in on the action with no prompting whatsoever.

Our celebration actually started yesterday when we went to the movies and caught American Hustle. I have two words: Jennifer Lawrence. Just… 23 years old, really? Wow. The entire cast turned in supremely well-crafted performances, though. It’s always a pleasure to go to the movies and leave feeling like it was worth it.


Christmas Eve. We got to the theater 40 minutes early, so we waited at the coffee shop next door.

Christmas Eve. We got to the theater 40 minutes early, so we waited at the coffee shop next door.


This morning - Callaghan modeling his new beanie!

This morning – Callaghan modeling his new beanie!


Ronnie James pounced on his stocking immediately.

Ronnie James pounced on his stocking immediately.





And here's Nounours, deep in contemplation...

And here’s Nounours, deep in contemplation…


...before he passed out...

…before he passed out…



...at the same time as Ronnie James.

…at the same time as Ronnie James.






Too much excitement for kitties. As for us, we’re taking it easy, too. I hope you’re all enjoying a splendid day!

Le Scaphandre et le Papillon (The Diving Bell and the Butterfly)

I remember reading about the French film Le Scaphandre et le Papillon (The Diving Bell and the Butterfly) in The New Yorker and thinking that I really wanted to see it. This was back when it came out in 2007. Somehow, my mental note got lost in the drifts of clutter in my brain, and it wasn’t until yesterday that it fluttered up to the surface and I finally saw the movie. I’m so glad that I did, because it’s a stunning piece of cinematic art, and, as cliché as this sounds, my life is richer for having seen it.

This is the true story of French journalist Jean-Dominique Bauby (former editor-in-chief of Elle magazine), who suffered a stroke, fell into a coma for three weeks and awoke to find that he couldn’t move, speak or swallow. It was determined that he had Locked-In Syndrome. Fully cognizant yet unable to communicate, his entire body paralyzed except for one eye, medical circumstances had sentenced him to a life of confinement: His body had become his jail cell.

Jean-Dominique was known as “Jean-Do” by his friends, a fact that forms a poetically interesting, rueful sort of coincidence. “Jean-Do” is pronounced like the English “John Doe,” which is the generic name American hospitals and authorities commonly assign to men of unknown identities… men with amnesia, for instance.

Jean-Do Bauby did not have amnesia. He knew exactly who he was. He could only move his left eye, but with the use of that single, flickering movement, he managed to write an entire book – his memoirs, entitled Le Scaphandre et le Papillon (The Diving Bell and the Butterfly), in which he detailed his experience with Locked-In Syndrome and included some of his life prior to his stroke.




Jean-Do literally wrote this book with his eye. Every day, an assistant sat with him for hours reciting the letters of the alphabet arranged in order of “frequency of use.” He would blink his eye when he wanted her to stop on a certain letter, and she would write the letter down. In this fashion, he was able to form words. It took the duo almost a year to complete the book.

Years later, screenwriter Ronald Harwood’s exceptional adaptation of the book led to the production of the film, and with that, director Julian Schnabel gave us a profound experience… he gave us an inkling of what it must be like to be imprisoned in your own body. Frankly, for me, watching this film was harrowing; I was completely taken in and consumed by it. It was like being immersed in visions that triggered sensations, emotions and mental states, as Jean-Do was immersed in the deep blue depths of his isolated existence. Laced with internal dialogue, the film is a strangely beautiful collage of scenes from a dream-like inner life, flights of freedom through imaginative interludes interspersed with flash-backs and reality dappled with horrifically potent drops of fear, loneliness and regret.

“Other than my eye, two things aren’t paralyzed, my imagination and my memory,” Jean-Do said, unforgettably (those words have haunted me since). I doubt that he experienced writer’s block while working on his book. It’s humbling to realize that I, with my two fully-functioning hands and ten fully-functioning digits, am often more paralyzed than he was when writing. Where most writers at least occasionally struggle with paralysis in their minds as they stare at the blank pages before them, Jean-Do was free.

Upside-Down in the Jungle

I spent yesterday sitting in my long-awaited Session d’Information Sur La Vie En France (“Life in France” course), Module 1. I did not learn how to do a champagne toast. Instead, the instructor covered different administrative sectors of the French government, both at the national and state levels.

The theme ran ruthlessly through every sub-topic: France is broke. There are cavernous deficits in all administrative areas. Consequently, people are getting less of everything while paying more and more into the system. Allocations are meager at every level. Unemployment is astronomical, which compounds the other problems. There also seems to be a massive epidemic of bureaucratic disorganization that, from what I could discern in class, is responsible for the slowing down of procedural undertakings for everyone – French and foreigners alike – by way of plain old interference. Processing of all administrative actions is slow. Very, very slow.

This brings to mind my favorite Callaghan quote to date:

“My sloth will not be like their sloth. My sloth will be a different sloth.”

Ezma the Sloth - created and drawn by Callaghan

Ezma the Sloth – created and drawn by Callaghan

Callaghan did not utter these words in the context of the French administration. The subject came up in a recent conversation about how the sloth he’d draw would be nothing like the other cartoon sloths out there… and the sloth he drew after that discussion was indeed his own. Another Callaghan original! We named her “Ezma,” after Bella’s daughter, Renesmee, in The Twilight Saga:  Breaking Dawn – Part 2, which we had the misfortune of seeing the other day.

Now that France’s painfully slow processes and extortion of money from French citizens have been officially noted in the classroom, Callaghan and I have elected Ezma as the face of the administration.

After all, as was also explained yesterday, the French enjoy freedom of expression as long as it’s not “slanderous or injurious”… and we don’t believe that using a sloth to represent the administration violates either of those stipulations, though I doubt President Hollande would appreciate a Zazzle shop carrying t-shirts imprinted with a Sloth replacing the noble Gallic Rooster as the French national emblem. It’s just as well, because I don’t think “Paresseux Gaulois” has the same ring to it as “Coq Gaulois,” even though “Coq Gaulois” sounds, to me, less like an emblem and more like a hearty poultry dish to be paired with a bold red wine.

But where the French administration is concerned, Callaghan has been outraged since the dinosaurs inhabited the earth, so Ezma the Sloth seems like an appropriate representative for it. This is a democracy, right? The people choose. Callaghan stormed to his desk and started on the new Ezma drawing immediately after reading my class notes. Cabernet Sauvignon, anyone?

A Fan’s Perspective: Will the Real Jack Reacher Please Stand Up?

Bad Guy: *touches his gun*

Reacher: Hang on a second while I get a chair so that I may stand up on it and head-butt you.

If this scene exists in any of Lee Child’s 17 Jack Reacher novels, then congratulations, Jack Reacher film team… you’ve done well to cast Tom Cruise as Reacher.

The movie Jack Reacher opens today. I’m in France, where it won’t open for another week or so, but that’s irrelevant because I’m not going to go see it.

Before you dismiss me as a whiner harping on the height issue, let me just say that I know it’s hard for you movie-goers uninitiated to the Jack Reacher novels to comprehend the far-ranging negative reaction to this casting. I mean, with all of this brou-ha-ha over the casting, there must be something more to it, wouldn’t you think? So, I’m going to ask you this question to make it easier to understand (or at least to appreciate) the disbelief:

If you were looking forward to the making of a movie about the Vikings, the legendary drifting explorers and warriors of the north seas, would you want to see Tom Cruise cast in the lead Viking role?

Think about it. I mean, try to envision it. If you don’t know enough about the Vikings to form a mental image of Cruise as a Viking, then do some reading. Familiarize yourself. Get to know the subject matter. Get to know the Vikings.

Now tell me what you think.

Is Tom Cruise Viking material?

No? Okay, what if he was 6’ 5” tall and weighed 250 lbs – would he be Viking material then?

Still no? Why not? I thought the concern was his size, since that’s the obvious issue, but okay, let’s go further and imagine growing out and bleaching Tom Cruise’s perfectly styled, clean-cut, dark brown hair into a haphazard, dirty-blond un-style. Also, we’ll fit him with colored contacts to give him the icy blue eyes of the typical Viking.

Does that do it? Alright, then how about this: We’ll drag Tom Cruise face-down on a gravel path so his skin roughens up appropriately (I know what you were thinking… he’s “too pretty” to be convincing as a weather-worn, battle-scarred Viking who was never good-looking to begin with), and we’ll also give him a voice box transplant to replace his higher-pitched, bookish and slightly nasally voice with the deeper, quiet menace of the Viking’s voice – or at least what you’d imagine a Viking’s voice would sound like. Potentially thunderous, when needed, but not often needed. No need to talk much when you walk into a room and people instantly react to you because you’re, well, a Viking.


What? After all that modification, you’re still saying “Tom Cruise is not a Viking?” That makes no sense at all, people. This is TOM CRUISE. He’s a great actor with years of experience making mega-millions at the box-office, guaranteed to deliver a cinematic hit! Oh, ye of no faith. Tom Cruise may be small, but he has massive star power. He may not be Mr. Universe, but he can carry this movie and the whole franchise, to boot. Give Cruise and the movie a chance. You might be surprised. Do I need to remind you that he’s not just any movie star, but an action movie star? TOM CRUISE IS A VIKING.


Now, replace “Viking” with “Reacher” in all of the above, and this is exactly where you arrive. At best, you’re still going to be scratching your head, thinking about it. No amount of “Give him a chance… size isn’t everything” is going to change the fact that Tom Cruise is not Jack Reacher, because even if we do forget about his size, there’s still a lot wrong with Cruise in this role.

Here’s an example of a well-known Reacherism: Mobility. Reacher walks a lot. Walking is his favorite mode of transportation. He walks almost as much as he drinks coffee, and that’s a lot. Second on his list, he takes the bus. Third, he hitch-hikes. And fourth, he takes the train.

Although Reacher can and does appropriate and drive whatever vehicle suits his needs at any given moment, it’s been firmly established that Reacher is not a driver. He dislikes driving, and he’s never had a civilian driver’s license. This is why Reacher fans know immediately that something is off when the first sound in the movie trailer is the gunning of a V-8 engine with the supposition that Reacher is behind the wheel. From that second on, the Reacher fan is thinking, “Wait! I thought this was a movie about Jack Reacher….?” Jack Reacher is not a driver.

So why do we have a movie called “Jack Reacher” with Tom Cruise agilely maneuvering a sports car around using every flashy show-off trick in his action-flick auto repertoire? Looks like Tom Cruise being Tom Cruise the Action Hero under the name of Jack Reacher. OH SHIT – Jack Reacher has been hijacked!!

That was the first part of my multi-tiered reaction to the movie trailer.

I found the trailer by accident. It was a thrilling little moment of discovery: YES! There’s a Jack Reacher movie!! I eagerly clicked to open the trailer, and I was instantly confused. I couldn’t find Reacher. All I saw was Tom Cruise. Once I understood that Cruise was supposed to be Reacher, I couldn’t believe it and kept looking around for the real Jack Reacher. (“Will the real Jack Reacher please stand up?” HA.) I remember thinking, “Okay, uhh… I see Tom Cruise acting tough and trying to sound threatening with his little round voice and looking sharp with his perfect hair and preppy outfit, but where is Reacher? OH… SHIT TOM CRUISE IS SUPPOSED TO BE JACK REACHER??” The trailer wound down to an end, and the final assault materialized before my eyes: the movie title “JACK REACHER” glowing in blue letters on the screen. Not only does Tom Cruise play Jack Reacher, but the film itself is called Jack Reacher. I went on Facebook and dashed out something that ended with *headdesk.* It felt like my fingers were throwing up.

Jack Reacher has a certain combat style, the central criteria being a massive physical form. In his case, size is not mere window-dressing, decorative and changeable according to whim. If it was, then sure, festoon Tom Cruise with a bunch of ribbons and bows and call it a day. In book after book, Jack Reacher the Pain Inflictor (if I may call him that – I like the way it rhymes, it’s corny and it sums him up) incapacitates and destroys his opponents using moves that would be physically impossible for a shorter-than-average man to perform.

In the first Jack Reacher book I ever read, Reacher “snaps forward from the waist” and head-butts two guys, one after the other, laying them out flat. The guys are described as “each about six-two and around two hundred or two hundred and ten pounds. They had long knotted arms and big hands. Work boots on their feet.” (The Affair) Hours later, after they regained consciousness, “Both of them had noses like spoiled eggplants. Both of them had two black eyes. Both of them had crusted blood on their lips.”

Sorry, Tom Cruise. You are not going to convince anyone that you can damage two big goons in this manner. Even with elevator risers in your shoes, you are not going to stand there and head-butt two guys who are 7-8 inches taller than you. That arrogant smirk on your face isn’t going to add to your credibility, either. The Tom Cruise smirk doesn’t call to mind the expression of quizzical bemusement that’s another Reacherism. It’s not ominous. There’s no gravity behind it. It’s just… the Tom Cruise smirk.

In the end, this casting is simply unfair. It’s asking too much of a Reacher fan to try to reconcile the profile of Jack Reacher with Tom Cruise. We’re not a tough crowd to please. We’re not looking for the “perfect” Jack Reacher actor, because we know that there’s no such thing. It’s just that as loyal fans, we would feel respected if an honest attempt had been made to cast an actor who could be more believable as Reacher, an actor who could better embody the essence of and maybe even slightly resemble the Reacher that has been constructed for us on the written page. I think there’s something to be said for a good effort to preserve the integrity of an artistic creation.

Unfortunately, no honest attempt at an appropriate casting took place here. After years of expressed interest in Jack Reacher, Tom Cruise bought the rights to the book (One Shot) and went ahead and produced it and starred in it. Author Lee Child, who at one point said that Tom Cruise was “way too short to play Reacher,” has since tap-danced all over the table justifying (yes, he does have to justify it – he owes it to his baffled million+ fan base, without whom he would have nothing) his approval with flimsy assertions like “No one else could do it” (really?) and “Reacher is a metaphor” (simultaneously evading the issue and elevating his work to a higher level of prose than the pulp fiction that it actually is, excellent though it may be).

Of course we Reacher fans are feeling ripped off getting Tom Cruise as Jack Reacher. (Or, shall I say, Tom Cruise instead of Jack Reacher.) How great would it have been to be able to anticipate this film, as so many fiction fans do when their favorite books are being adapted to film? Harry Potter fans got an amazing cast for their literary obsession. Hunger Games fans’ heroine Katniss was done justice by the brilliant Jennifer Lawrence. Johnny Depp as Jack Sparrow in Pirates of the Caribbean works, I think; in his elaborate stage make-up, he is Jack Sparrow when you look at him, not Johnny Depp. But Jack Reacher? All anyone will see when they look there is Tom Cruise. No attempt was made to adapt his appearance to fit that of Reacher. It’s Mr. Clean-Cut Risky Business-As-Usual Cruise showing up to play the part of a hulking, Viking-like character. It’s a colossal disappointment for Reacher fans. An actor who would actually make sense in the role could’ve taken it and run with it all the way through the franchise. Jack Reacher would have his own face – not Tom Cruise’s.

So that’s why I’m not going to buy a ticket when Jack Reacher gets to France. I have no desire to watch Tom Cruise play himself in another Tom Cruise action movie, when what I want is to watch an actor playing Reacher in a Jack Reacher movie.

If I want to see Tom Cruise, I’ll rent Tropic Thunder again, or Jerry Maguire. See? I’m not a Tom Cruise hater. I’m just a person who loves Jack Reacher.