Alejandro Amenábar‘s Abre los ojos, a psychological horror film about self-loathing and self-mutilation and penance, opened 27 years ago. I was intrigued by it but less than a fan. It was definitely an odd detour flick if I’d ever seen one.. I pretty much decided “okay, first-rate film but too unsettling and therefore never again.”

And then along came Cameron Crowe‘s Vanilla Sky (’01), an English-language remake that creeped me out even worse. It’s been 22 years and change since my first and only viewing. In my head this wasn’t a film about Tom Cruise‘s youung publisher character going through all kinds of traumas and convulsions and suppressed freak-outs…it was about me and my selfishness and assholery and self-delusion.

To this day I can’t recall another 21st Century film that made me feel quite so awful as this one.

The quality of Vanilla Sky is/was undeniable — a haunting Manhattan nightmare vibe, first-rate direction, superb John Toll cinematography, powerfully acted by Cruise, Penélope Cruz, Kurt Russell (I don’t even remember who or what Russell played), Cameron Diaz, Jason Lee, etc. It’s definitely a stretch movie — Crowe and Cruise stepping outside of their safe zone and then some.

The more I think about it the idea of re-experiencing the commanding assurance of this film, the high-dive plunge of it all, is tempting, but I don’t want to drop into that pit of dread and anxiety ever again.

HE’s 15 Richest, Best Crafted, Most Compellingly Performed Tom Cruise Films (in this order and excluding all of his high-powered, robo-bunny formula action franchise films): Jerry Maguire, Collateral, Risky Business, The Firm, Born on the Fourth of July, Rain Man, Jack Reacher, American Made, The Color of Money, Tropic Thunder, A Few Good Men, Edge of Tomorrow, Losin’ It, Interview with the Vampire, Magnolia.

HE’s 14 Least Favorite Cruise Films (excluding all of his high-powered, robo-bunny formula action franchise films): Cocktail, Far and Away, Legend, Days of Thunder, Eyes Wide Shut (very well made, compulsive watchable but finally a curiously chilly experience), Minority Report (irritating Kaminsky bleachy-gray color scheme), Vanilla Sky, The Last Samurai, War of the Worlds (good film with atrocious ending), The Mummy, Knight and Day, Valkyrie, Lions for Lambs, The Outsiders.

Posted on 7.29.15: The basic thrust of Mark Harris‘s Grantland piece on Tom Cruise (posted as part of the site’s “Tom Cruise Week” tribute) is that his decision to become the dominant 50something energizer bunny of the action-franchise realm is unfortunate because he seems to have concurrently shut down his ambitious acting game.

Eight or nine years ago Mark Harris obxserved that Cruise’s peak acting years happened between 1988 and ’99, or the timespan in which Born on the Fourth of July, Jerry Maguire and Magnolia were released. That’s because Cruise’s performance in each landed a Best Actor nomination, but that’s not encompassing enough.

Cruise also delivered riveting, touch-bottom performances as a selfish, resentful younger brother in Barry Levinson‘s Rain Man (’88) and as Vincent-the-compassionate-assassin in Michael Mann‘s Collateral, and he delivered aggressively A Few Good Men (’92), The Firm (’93), Interview with the Vampire (’94) and Vanilla Sky (’01).