As the Memorial Day themed church service began this morning, I just knew I was going to be in the right mood to cry during the movie in the afternoon. Some days ya’ just know.
The opening sequence confirmed what I suspected—but the dam held.
Oceans, forests, hills, deserts, mountains, jungles, and, oh yes, skies are the appropriate natural descriptors for how much emotional size was packed into each and every scene. Skies and skies of feeling, packed onto a smaller and smaller IMAX screen.
Still, squinted eyes were able to hold back the waters.
Somewhere in the training sequences I consciously decided that I was going to just let it happen, no matter who might look over and see.
When Phoenix has the birdstrike, her quick identification of the malfunction and even quicker reaction to save the aircraft struck a chord and finally a few tears came out. It felt amazing.
Then when Maverick surprisingly appears to run the course in 2:15, there was no holding back. No sobbing, mind you. But definitely communication from my soul in the form of slow building tear bombs dropping down my cheeks.
I wanted Maverick to succeed. He’d been talking like a boss the whole movie, and finally he was going to show the world that he could back up his words with action.
My life looks very, very different than it did leading up to and during my time in US Air Force pilot training. It’s astonishing to me to even consider who I was then and who I am today. But more astonishing is how this movie affected me. It brought to the surface something long buried deep within.
That something is the following fact: Pilot training was the last time in my life where I wasn’t embarrassed to do my best.
We all did our best.
Not anymore. That’s not allowed.
I’m up to fifty pushups five times during the walks with my toddler, these days. Right out in public. Fifty. Cars driving by. Same spots. Neighbors able to see. Fifty. All the way down and up. Fifty. I’m forty years old and struggle to do fifty pushups, but I also know that not one person who may happen to see the struggle can do more than me.
That’s the closest event (maybe these blogs when I’m in the mood) I can consider as one in which I give my best anymore. Even my best friend from college doesn’t want to play when I really put effort in.
But my pilot training class of ‘05? We did our best.
What’s changed? Now that’s a weeping good question.
He was Top Cadet, Top Friend, Top Suburban Son, Top Forrest Boy, Top Gun, Top Bartender, Top Brother, Top Veteran, Top Car, Top Immigrant, Top Lawyer, Top Informant, Top Vampire, Top Spy, Top Spy 2, Top Spy 3, Top Spy 4, Top Spy with a Sense of Humor, Top Sports Agent, Top Freak, Top Motivational Speaker, Top Crazy Man, Top Future Cop, Top Samurai, Top Hit Man, Top Normal Guy, Top Politician, Top Director, Top Nazi Traitor, Top Rock Star, Top Ex-Cop, and most recently Top Astronaut. I can be talking about none other than the Top Actor of the World, Tom – T.C. to me – Cruise!
Just the facts: I saw Top Gun when I was 8 and went on to become a military pilot. My first anniversary out of the military occurred last year, and I figured it would be a good time to watch the movie again. It had been about 7 years since I last saw it. So much had happened in my time in the military that I was curious what I would think as I watched it again. You know what? As the movie ended, I felt like I was 8 again. I thought to myself, “Man, I can’t wait to grow-up so I can be a military pilot.” Then I realized, “Wait a minute, I’ve already done that!”
The moment that followed was singular. I realized that I don’t think I ever actually wanted to be a military pilot. I realized that all these years I actually wanted to be Tom Cruise. Or at least like him, Top Actor.
This thought terrified me. You see, recently I joined a Toastmasters public speaking club. Toastmasters is an organization that pushes people to follow their dreams. The club I am a part of is no different. Besides being overly encouraging, they are time keepers. If you tell them your goal, they will help keep you accountable. I knew that if I told any of them that I wanted to be Top Actor, they would literally start encouraging me to follow my dream to Hollywood.
Thus, I was faced with a dilemma. I joined Toastmasters to challenge myself. This was the perfect topic for a speech. However, there was no way I could share this dream of mine with this particular group of people.
Then it hit me! What if I just told them the truth?
Of all the people who make excuses for not following their dreams, I think I have the best excuse ever. I thought that maybe I could convince them that some people just shouldn’t follow their dreams. And I was one of those people.
Think about it. As a pilot, I spent 8 years perfecting my radio-call voice. You know what I’m talking about. The very monotone, betraying no emotion, professional way of speaking. Besides being monotone, a radio-call is also a strictly formatted four-part way of communicating. There is not much room for deviation from the monotone four-part format.
My thesis: I argue that even Tom Cruise himself couldn’t become Top Actor if, like me, he had to overcome 8 years of speaking in a radio-call voice and format.
And I can prove it. In order to do so, I need to take you through a few examples of how his movies would’ve sounded if he made them in a monotone, four-part radio call format.
To begin, allow me to take you back to the living room at the end of Top Sports Agent. In the movie he says, “…We live in a cynical world. A cynical world. And we work in a business of tough competitors. I love you. You… complete me.” To which Dorothy interrupts, “Shut up. (Sniff) Just shut up. You had me at hello.” Pretty powerful stuff, no? Well, let’s see what that would look like if a T.C. would’ve had my restrictions. Here goes.
*Pshh* Ahh Dorothy…This is Jerry…I’m standing in your living room and ahhh…We live in a cynical world. BREAK *Pshh* … *Pshh* …A cynical world. And we work in a business of tough competitors. BREAK *Pshh* … *Pshh* …Ahhh…I love you. You complete me. *Pshh*
*Pshh* Ahh Jerry…Dorothy here…Standing in the same room…Shut up. Just shut up. You had me at hello. *Pshh*
I mean come on! There is NO WAY anyone would have identified with those characters or that sentiment.
I can hear some of you already. You’re saying, “Hey, wait a minute. You picked an easy one, a chick flick. I bet some of his other movies would have sounded alright.” Okay, I’ll take that bet. And I’ll raise you. Let’s jump right to a military movie. Top Lawyer. You remember it. Lt. Caffy thundering away while leading Colonel Nathan R. Jessup expertly toward admitting he ordered the CODE RED. Let’s pick it up with Colonel Jessup. He asks, “You want answers?” Lt. Caffy replies, “I think I’m entitled them.” “Yawan’answers!” “I want the TRUTH!” “YOU CAN’T HANDLE THE TRUTH!..” And then the great speech about walls begins. Now, here’s how the scene would have played out if T.C. was a pilot.
*Pshh* Ahh Lt. Caffy…Colonel Jessup here…sitting in the witness stand…Do you want answers? *Pshh*
*Pshh* Ahh Colonel Jessup…Lt. Caffy speaking…I’m at your 11…I think I’m entitled them. *Pshh*
*Pshh* Ahh Lt. Caffy…Colonel Jessup again…still in the witness stand…Do you want answers? *Pshh*
*Pshh* Ahh Colonel Jessup…Lt. Caffy here…I’ve haven’t moved…I want the truth. *Pshh*
*Pshh* Ahh Lt. Caffy…Colonel Jessup here…once again from the witness stand…You can’t handle the truth. *Pshh*
See? No drama. It would have been annoying. No one would have told their friends to go see Top Lawyer.
At this point, I think I’ve done enough to prove I’m right; and I should not follow my dreams. In all fairness, though, we need to come full-circle. Some of you are thinking, “Well, he seems to have a good point. Maybe he couldn’t become Top Actor. …Except that Top Gun is the movie that really put T.C. on the map, and in it he made radio-calls. So, no, I won’t let him off the hook, his theory is destroyed by Top Gun.” I respond, “Is it?” Do you really believe that the radio calls are what made that movie? We all know what made that movie and transformed Tom Cruise from Top Forrest Boy into Top Actor. The bar scene. “You never close your eyes anymore when I kiss your li-i-ips.” Goose takes over, “There’s no tenderness like before in your feeengerrti-i-ips.” Back to TC, “You’re trying hard not to show it…” Entire bar. (It’s appropriate to join in wherever you are right now, too.) “BAYYY-BEE!” “But baby! Believe me, I knoooow i-it…” And on and on. A scene like that spawns a career. Here’s how it would look radio-call style.
*Pshh* Ahh Pretty blonde woman…Maverick here…at your six…you never close your eyes anymore… BREAK *Pshh* … *Pshh* …when I kiss your lips. *Pshh*
*Pshh* Ahh Blondie…Goose speaking…at your eleven…There’s no tenderness like before…BREAK *Pshh* … *Pshh* …In your fingertips. *Pshh*
*Pshh* Ahh Blonde woman… Maverick again…I’m the one at your 12 o’clock…You’re trying hard not to show it…BREAK *Pshh* … *Pshh* …baby. BREAK *Pshh* … *Pshh* …But baby, believe me I know it. *Pshh*
Whew! Need I say more? Need-I-Say-More? Terrible. I’m bored writing this. “Tom who?” That’s what you would say to me if he had made his movies the way I have had to speak for the last 8 years.
There you have it, proof positive that some people shouldn’t follow their dreams. I am one of those people. Are you? Are you you holding on to any dreams that need to be given up? I find my answers in the movies. Maybe you will to. It’s like in the movie Lion King when Rafiki tells adult Simba that to discover his destiny he needs to, “Look hahhhder.”