The Relative Strangeness of Brian De Palma on Mission: Impossible

This is a guest post by Navarre Megali, a filmmaking student at UNCSA and North Carolina transplant by way of California, where he enjoys a saturation of craft beer and the use of the word “barbecue” as a noun.

While it isn’t uncommon these days to have “auteur” filmmakers behind big Hollywood franchises, it was practically unheard of in the 90’s, and therefore quite a strange circumstance to find Brian De Palma helming a big splashy action/adventure vehicle for Tom Cruise in 1996. Both Cruise and De Palma at this point were known names in the industry, but their pairing–both then and now–seems to be something of an anomaly. Indeed, the crafting of the first Mission: Impossible and its subsequent success seems to be a sort of happy coalescence of talent and timing.


The Mission: Impossible Soundtrack as Mere Shadow of the Glory of 1990s Soundtracks

Film soundtracks were at their best in the 1990s. It was an important genre in the last pre-download era, because it provided space for down-list acts. And in the 1990s, record companies’ down-list acts, at various points, included Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, Mazzy Star, Bjork, Pulp, the Flaming Lips, the Cardigans, and other art rock favorites that couldn’t rely on radio play to move units. (Plus lots of great hip-hop and R&B but like an idiot I tuned that out until Stankonia opened my eyes.) Headline acts used soundtracks to stretch out their muscles, trying out new ideas, performing covers — there must’ve been five hundred versions of Harry Nilsson’s “One (Is the Loneliest Number)” on 1990s OSTs — and using up their album leftovers. By the end of the decade soundtracks were stuffed with terrible nu-metal, rap rock, and Smashmouth, but for a few weird years soundtracks were one of the best ways to become introduced to cool new music.


Programming Note: The Fair Jilt Does Mission: Impossible

This week is the 20th anniversary of the first Mission: Impossible film. For reasons that seem strange even to us, we are celebrating this anniversary with a symposium on the film. Over the next week or two we’ll be posting essays on a variety of M:I aspects: analyzing it as a film, locating it within the geopolitical environment of the day, contextualizing its soundtrack relative to other 1990s soundtracks, discussing what a big move this was for Tom Cruise (and thus mid-1990s American cinema), and praising Emilio Estevez’s best film performance since The Might Ducks. Among other things. We’ll have several interesting guest contributors as well.

So check in periodically or follow our Twitter feed (@fairjilt) for updates. Also note: as of last night Mission: Impossible was available for free stream on Amazon Prime, so if you want a refresher you can find it there.

Up first, a Mission: Impossible Roundtable: Twenty years later we talk Ethan Hunt as the American anti-Bond, the oddness of Brian De Palma helming a blockbuster franchise, and how M:I changed Tom Cruise’s career.

From Kindred Winecoff, the Mission: Impossible soundtrack’s place in the surprising pantheon of great 90’s movie soundtracks.

From Amanda Grigg, why you’re missing out if you’re talking about Mission: Impossible without also talking about Tom Cruise and Scientology. 

From Josh Smicker, Ethan Hunt, the 90s as Transition, and the Power of Non-Identity in Mission: Impossible.

What Does the Sanders Campaign Mean?

According to Salar Mohandesi:

What we have emerging, then, is a new, diverse cohort of predominantly young people, the majority of whom belong to the working class or a collapsing “middle class,” now open to socialist ideas, clamoring for systematic change, and who are increasingly networked, trained, and experienced in organizing. The vast majority of these people are, like Bernie, not socialists in any specific historical sense, but they are willing to fight for major changes. The potential here is enormous, and for this, we have to thank the Sanders campaign, whether or not we like Bernie’s social democratic politics.

I’m not sure we know enough about the Sanders coalition to definitively state what that quoted paragraph says. As political coalitions the Sanders group is not all that diverse, actually; they appear to be mostly non-ideological, and they are largely comprised of the most flighty (in terms of political activity) demographic group in US politics. Moreover, it is not clear that they are “willing to fight for major changes”. Fight who? Fight how? So far this has been a costless fight, so it is presumptuous to presume depth of commitment.


Is Sanders Hypocritical for Taking Tax Deductions? No. But…

… it does de-fang a lot of his criticisms of the practices of corporations and economic elites. Before I explain why let me set the stage. Here’s Kevin Drum:

This isn’t even close to hypocrisy. If you don’t like the designated hitter rule in baseball, does that mean you should send your pitcher to the plate just to prove how sincere you are? Of course not. You play by the rules, whatever those rules are.

Lemieux at LGM loves it, but this is a category error. Sanders is not simply saying that he does not like the designated hitter rule. He is saying that anyone who employs a designated hitter is hopelessly corrupt, a crony (or tool of cronies), an active destroyer of the well-being of the 99% and indeed the entire world economy. He has said that people who use the designated hitter should be thrown into jail and have their baseball teams dismantled by diktat. He is suggesting that teams that employ foreign designated hitters are practically enemies of the state. He has argued that anyone who has given a paid speech to a group that supports use of the designated hitter is not qualified to play baseball.

Given all of that, it is absolutely legitimate to criticize Sanders for using a designated hitter.