Vanilla Sky Review and DVD Features
14 Dec 2001
Behind the Scene and other Major Plot Points
Pertaining to the theme of the movie
In the opening of the film where Tom Cruise gets out of his car and runs in Times Square, you can see an episode of The Twilight Zone, Twilight Zone: Shadow Play(1961) being shown on the large screen. The episode is about a convicted man who tries to convince those about to execute him that the world all around them is just his recurring nightmare.
First Scene was actually shot in Times Square
The scene with Tom Cruise alone in Times Square is not computer enhanced. The production was given unprecedented permission to shut down Times Square for one Sunday. At the time, the news ticker was providing updates on the George W. Bush-Al Gore election. To avoid dating the film, Crowe got permission to change the NASDAQ sign in post-production.
Views from Cameron Crowe (Production Notes)
Cameron Crowe summed up the movie in the production notes with the following words: “Snowboarding through life, David Aames appears to lead a charmed life. Handsome, wealthy and charismatic, the young New York City publishing executive’s freewheeling existence is enchanting, yet he seems to be missing something. Like the pointillism of an Impressionist landscape, a life can appear to be entirely different when examined close up. In one night David meets a girl of his dreams and loses her by making a small mistake. Thrust unexpectedly onto a roller-coaster ride of romance, comedy, suspicion, love, sex and dreams, David finds himself on a mind-bending search for his soul and discovers the precious, ephemeral nature of true love.”
Views from Cameron Crowe (about the making of film)
Cameron Crowe has said, “We constructed the movie, visually and story-wise, to reveal more and more the closer you look at it. As deep as you want to go with it, my desire was for the movie to meet you there.”
Views from Cameron Crowe(about the similar film earlier made)
Cameron Crowe says, “The original film is like a song our band really liked and we decided to cover it our own way. I view my adaptation as a ‘remix’ rather than a ‘remake’; the film is a genre-bending, mind-twisting portrait of the American male as he exists five minutes into the future. Hopefully, it honors the original. I like the idea it could be sort of a dialogue between the two movies. I kept thinking of the original like a folk song. There’s so many different ways you can play it, and you can reinvent it in your own way. I would never say to somebody, ‘Don’t see his, see ours.’ I want people to see both.”
Views from Cameron Crowe (about John Coltrane hologram)
Many people have asked Cameron Crowe when a consumer version of the John Coltrane hologram will become available, only to be disappointed when informed it was all a special effect. He explains, “I conceptualized the idea of a holographic stereo to show that David Aames is rich, cutting edge and, because he publishes magazines, companies send him new technology in hopes of getting a product review. The invention doesn’t actually exist and was created using CGI – with classic Coltrane footage used as the source material.”
Clues to beginning of Lucid dreaming
When David is awoken on the street by Sofia – where he chooses his splice to be – as Sofia crouches to talk to him we see the sky in the background. It is vibrantly colored and very much resembles a Monet painting, specifically “The Seine at Argenteuil” (Vanilla Sky). Another “clue” that this is where a lucid dream begins. Further, one can hear the sound effect of a tape rewinding and, as mentioned before, an audible “slice”
Significance of poster in the start of the film
Two posters from the French New Wave are in David’s bedroom, Breathless (1960) andJules and Jim (1962). Crowe hero, Francois Truffaut wrote Breathless and directed Jules and Jim. These are significant later in the film when the “lucid dream” is revealed. Both Breathless and Jules and Jim deal with self-destructive free-spirited characters whose personal relationships suffer and violently end because of their own needs to be “free”. Jules and Jim ends with Jeanne Moreau driving Henri Serre off a bridge in a car the same way Julie did to David in Vanilla Sky.
Views from Cameron Crowe (Six supported theories)
According to Cameron Crowe’s website, The Uncool, there are six supported theories on the nature of the film. The site reads, “#1 – The movie is just as its explained. David commits suicide, he is frozen and the splice occurs, etc. The sound you hear is David awakening in the future. #2 – Everything up to the car wreck was “real” and the rest of the entire film was ALL in David’s head as he lie in a coma (until the end when he wakes up). #3 – The entire film is a dream as David struggles with his vanity, his sexual past, his ideal woman, etc. The only “real” scene in the entire film would be the last, as he wakes up. #4 – The movie is writer Brian Shelby’s fictional story about his friend (David Aames). A story of the sour and the sweet. He plays the unsung hero to the playboy. #5 – The whole thing is a dream in that the depictions we see take place as reflections within a dream. However, the events are real until the splice, at which time they become fiction. Tech support states that David has been asleep 125 years. David’s sessions seem to be reflections of his past. I think a fair interpretation is that the reflections have been tampered with by the subconscious to reflect his love for Sophia and the regret of his carelessness with Julie. You are relying on the unreliable narrator as to the details like his love sort of being all around him before he meets her, his fears, dates and the music. Like retelling a story that you know ends badly, you may create clues to take the edge off or tip off your subconscious that this is a reflection, a memory, not reality. #6 – Christian Metaphors – A Story of Divinity – David commits suicide, finally driven to it by the guilt over the death of Julie Gianni. As he is dying, his life is passing before his eyes. While his life is passing before his eyes, he is also being tempted to sell his soul to the devil for the chance to make things right (i.e. the dream like Utopian scenes between Sophia and David). a. David is asked many times “Did you sign a Contract? b. Lucid Dream, Lucifer? c. Both women at LE have red hair. d. Tilda Swinton has hot sauce behind her. e. More importantly, Tilda Swinton is exactly the kind of personality you would expect the devil to have at the time of one’s death, vaguely sexy, assuring, calming, and persuasive… The ideas of David’s Christlike-ness are from the following ideas. He dies at 33, as did Christ.. His father wrote “THE BOOK”… The book was called Defending the Kingdom… The magazine is called Rise…”
When David is arrested, the plaque on his photo lineup reads “W85N 494 T85 4R51M 253OM5 1 N978TM1R5?” Some elementary code-breaking reveals “WHEN DID THE DREAM BECOME A NIGHTMARE?”. There are two other coded messages (mentioned on Cameron’s commentary) on the 3D X-Ray of David Aames’ skull. To the lower left of the skull it reads “4ON0TW1K589MUP” = “Do not wake him up.” To the lower right there is the message, “PL: 51S1NT 4R51MS”, or “Pleasant Dreams”.
In the scenes with McCabe interviewing David in the prison cell, the word DREAM can be seen written backwards on a blackboard in the background.
The Uncool, Cameron Crowe’s official website, says, “at the party, when Brian Shelby comes into the second apartment where David and Sofia are talking, you can see his t-shirt with the words ‘fantasy’ in sparkly sequins. This supports the idea that the whole movie (until the last scene where David wakes up) is all but a dream.”
Views from Cameron Crowe (Songs for the film)
When asked by fans about clues to the film’s ending, Crowe said, “Songs for the film were chosen so that the lyrics constantly relay the emotion of the scene. When the characters aren’t speaking, the lyrics take over and continue to carry the set emotion…..listen to them closely. For example, the song that plays over David leaving Sophia’s in the morning is Jeff Buckley’s, ‘Last Goodbye,’ which that morning was there last one true goodbye. Yes, they see each other after this, but after the car wreck when both of their lives are forever changed. ‘Last Goodbye’ also contains the lyrics: ‘Kiss me, please kiss me, but kiss me out of desire, babe not consolation’ which follows David’s plight rather well (as the next time he sees her is after the accident and he wants her affections but not sympathy for his disfigurement). Bruce Springsteen’s ‘The River’ album (featured in the closing montage) also has some lyrical significance. One of the best lines from the song ‘The River’, is: ‘Is a dream a lie if it don’t come true, or is it something worse?’ Also, two R.E.M. songs are featured. Don’t forget what R.E.M. stands for: Rapid Eye Movement. As in a state of sleep. It’s when you dream.”
Views from Cameron Crowe (Contrasting Songs in the film)
Director Cameron Crowe stated on his website, “The events that take place directly after the splice (when the lucid dream begins) involve some of the ‘sweetest’ scenes between David and Sofia (‘REM”s ‘The Sweetness Follows’). This stands in contrast to the sour of Radiohead’s ‘Everything Is In Its Right Place’, which opens the film.”
This is a revolution of the mind
This was LE’s response to naysayers who think cryogenics is a useless sham, and cryogenically-frozen people will never be able to be revived at some point in the future. Part of their sales pitch is a leap of faith, and you are betting on some future technology, both to revive you from the dead, and also to apply the “Lucid Dream” option that also did not yet exist.
RT/Meta Critic Review
This just shows how little credence you should pay to professional opinions on works of art. This movie floored me and stuck with me for years. To come here and see it scored below dreck like Doctor Dolittle and Zombie Strippers is an absolute insult.
If you’re a fan of high concept science fiction and have at least a triple digit IQ, you owe it to yourself to watch this movie and come to your own conclusions. Criminally underrated.(EricT/MetaCritic)
Expect top notch work by Cruise, Crowe and Co.(click here to see)
…A seriously weird and intriguing psychological drama.(Click here to see)
Crowe asks the viewer to absorb this more viscerally than intellectually; how much one enjoys (or even accepts) the experience will likely depend on the extent to which one is willing to do so (Click here to see)
Commentary: This is a commentary from director Cameron Crowe and composer/wife/collaborator Nancy Wilson. Listening to Crowe’s commentary tracks reveals an interesting personality. There’s a hippie-ish goofyness to his laugh and his occasional way of throwing words like “man” into sentences. On the other hand, there’s also an interesting and genuine enthusiasm that Crowe displays for everything, as if making a big film is not stress, but still something new and cool. Last, but not least, Crowe is often insightful and informative. Crowe is all these things again here, if maybe it isn’t his most involving discussion of one of his films (See “Say Anything” or “Almost Famous”). The director is quite funny and informative, discussing both the story and technical production issues. There’s also some funny moments with the relaxed atmosphere of the commentary, as Crowe’s kids run in at one point and start adding their own discussion for a little while. Wilson provides occasional comments, but often provides a pleasant, light background guitar score to Crowe’s comments. Even star Tom Cruise provides comments via phone at one point later in the movie.
Prelude to a Dream: This is a wonderfully done montage of clips from the production and pre-production of the picture, accompanied by Crowe’s informative and interesting voice-over, discussing his thoughts upon trying to remake the picture and the film in general. This 6-minute introduction is certainly enjoyable.
Unreleased Teaser Trailer: I’m not sure why this trailer remained unreleased; while it doesn’t tell the audience much of anything about the story, it uses scenes from the movie very well and grabs the interest. The International Trailer is included as well, but remarkably didn’t interest me as much as the teaser trailer, which was more surreal, told less and had a better rhythm.
Photo Galleries: Eight photo galleries are included, complete with an audio introduction from long-time Crowe friend and “Vanilla Sky”‘s still photographer Neal Preston.
Hitting It Hard: This documentary about the “Vanilla Sky” press tour has been prepared by Crowe’s Vinyl Films. Also, it’s not something that should be watched for those who occasionally take a peak at the supplements before they see the film. Like something out of the “America’s Sweethearts” outtakes, we see Cruise, Crowe, Cruz and other memebers of the “Vanilla Sky” team going across the globe to promote the film as they’re met by mobs of fans and legions of reporters. Yes, there’s an element watching the screaming mobs of “yes, we know everyone loves the celebs”, but the documentary also provides an interesting perspective for the audience, as the viewer is looking outward at the sort of controlled chaos that accompanies pop culture, whether in the US or anywhere around the world.
Gag Reel: A 5 1/2 minute gag reel is included, but it is a hidden easter egg. (Sort of a hint: it’s picture-perfect).
Also: An interview with Paul McCartney and a music video for “Africa Shox” by Leftfield/Afrika Bambaataa.
“Vanilla Sky” is presented by Paramount in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen. The image quality is very good, although it helps that the cinematography by two-time Oscar winner and Crowe’s “Almost Famous” collaborator John Toll is gorgeous and the settings are opulent and beautiful. Sharpness and detail are usually very good, although there were a few scenes that seemed as if they were intentionally very slightly soft.
The picture displayed a few minor flaws, but nothing that was very major, or even very mild. The print used was in excellent condition, with only a speck or two and a couple of tiny moments of grain. Edge enhancement is slightly visible on occasion, but I didn’t find it that annoying. No pixelation or any other flaws were spotted.
The film’s color palette is a change from Crowe’s usually vibrant looking pictures. While there are some interiors that are warm and rich in appearance, most of the film has a moderately cool, crisp feel that suits the sleeker material well. Colors were well-presented, appearing crisp and well-rendered, with no smearing. Overall, this is a very nice transfer that does justice to Toll’s remarkable work.
SOUND: “Vanilla Sky” is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1, but this is not a particularly active soundtrack. Crowe’s music-heavy presentation recieves the most attention, as the music is nicely spread out across the front speakers and occasionally gets reinforcement from the surrounds. Otherwise though, the surrounds go mostly unused, with the exception of some occasional ambient sounds. Audio quality was excellent, as the songs really came forth with energy and terrific clarity. Dialogue and sound effects were also quite clear. A nice soundtrack that is perfectly fine for the material