If I remember one thing from my film classes at Junior College, it was the statement regarding the general difference between American and European movies. European movies tend to ask you: "2 plus 2?" Maybe giving a subtle hint of "almost three", or "not twelve", whereas American movies would go "FOUR, FOUR, FOUR!". I like that analogy, and Vanilla Sky fits it perfectly.

I enjoy intellectually stimulating flicks, not to say i don't like a good world war 2 movie, but an action film purely devoid of intra-cranial simuli would make me cringe in my seat. Vanilla Sky did a good job of making me think as well as feel. I loved the first scene when Tom Cruise finds himself alone in Manhattan, and accompanied by a delicious soundtrack is searching through the usually busy streets. Then, a moment later when he is awake, and back in the crowded streets - the contrast, you can taste it.

I heard several comments along the line of "It was confusing" or "I think that the director had scenes at random to add to the clutter and make you confused." I too, felt the movie confusing, but the confusion was part of it. If you let the confusion carry you through the movie - and you accept it as a vital part of the flick, you would enjoy it so much more.

One thing that greatly lessened my attraction to the movie came at the end. All of a sudded i realized that I had indeed seen this movie before, only then Arnold Schwartzenegger was starring, and I think Sharon Stone was our leading lady instead of Cameron Diaz. I believe it was Total Recall. And then having the whole plot slapped in my face by Noah Taylor screaming "FOUR, FOUR, FOUR." felt dumbifying, however much i enjoyed the revealed plot (which seemed to be none of our explicit business up until now).

As far as the love story goes, I did not surprise myself by being a blunt oaf. Because all I saw at the amorous level of the movie was a player, who was looking for the next piece of fresh meat. So maybe i need to be convinced that love at first sight does exist after all.

In all a tantalizing artwork, maybe not a big-screener - more of a renter perhaps - but if you are like me, and don't think twice about moseying down to the theatre for any little piece of moving imagery, go see it. Indeed.

Open your eyes.

Surrealistic. Colour. Dizzy montages. Floating dreamscapes. I thought this film was an absolute treasure. I just came back from it & my head is still slightly spinning from its surprises & themes, reminiscent of the Matrix in terms of the main character’s reality & perceived reality. David (played by Tom Cruise) is plagued by dreams, and nightmares. He is never sure where the fantasies end and his actual life begins.. Cameron Crowe's incredible visual and mood effects capture the confusion and the levitation of the nuances between dreams and life. It is very tightly directed & at times wholly celestial, for example the scene towards the finish in which we witness an endless glass elevator ride up a Manhattan skyscraper. And of course, the breathtaking (literally.. you catch your breath) opening sequence where Tom Cruise runs down an empty Times Square. In an unprecedented turn of events, Cameron Crowe was granted a three hour time window in which to complete their scene just after daybreak one Sunday morning. They wanted to do it the old-school way, without resorting to computer enhancement. Test audiences marvelled at the "convincing computer effect" regardless.

The film is actually a remake of a mysterious Spanish film Abre los Ojos (or, Open Your Eyes), and is the story of a cocksure young man who has a very lax attitude towards life, being born into wealth, as well as handsome and charming and all the rest. He has inherited a magazine publishing fortune and runs his business with such a nonchalance and broad grin as though he has never had a difficult day in his life - and he hasn't. His peers, "the seven dwarves" as he calls them, are fairly obviously trying to get him out of the business; they refer to him as "Citizen Dildo" behind his back, but it is doubtful David would even care if he knew. He holds a party in his apartment which boasts an amazing array of pop-culture artifacts, my favourite being the hologram of John Coltrane playing his saxophone. He also owns paintings by Monet and Joni Mitchell. He immediately falls in love with Sofia (Penélope Cruz), much to the dismay of Cameron Diaz's character, "the saddest woman to ever hold a martini". Suicidally frustrated that David had been so casual about what he had regarded as their "fling", she drove them both off a bridge. And the film strangely unravels.

I wasn't entirely sure why the film got an R rating, but I suppose the sexual content was fairly intense and violent. In this one particular scene, the nudity is non-explicit but the sex is very prolonged and visceral. Apart from this, you get to see Penelope Cruz's breasts, and they all speak about sexually related things, although to me it faded into the background - it wasn't until I researched why it got an R rating that I remembered.

I have read more than a fair amount of reviews implying that Cameron Crowe's untarnished list of great films ended with Vanilla Sky. These reviewers claim that the montages are too confusing and that although they recognise this is done to create the suspense, it makes for a weak characterisation. In that, if we are constantly re-evaluating the realities in the film, if we are constantly finding our orientation, we are unable to find the time to identify emotionally with the main character. Apparently Tom Cruise's character was 'unconvincing', & we are left wondering, who is he? To this I say firstly that I don't think the movie was necessarily supposed to have been character driven by nature & stood on itself as a great film without that. Secondly, I did identify emotionally with David. The fact that he doesn't seem to have a clear, detailed personality as such in fact makes it easier for one to identify with his situation, as we can sort of project ourselves on to him & imagine we are in his place. He wasn't a definite character; he could have been anybody, and I like that.

Penélope, who I had my doubts about before I saw this film, absolutely won me over. While she was introvertedly charming, and again not very well developed as a "character", she played the part of the dream so beautifully, or perhaps it was just me. She is so sweet like a little bird, & with her little jumps and skips and her cute spanish accent. I fell in love with her too.

In an interview Tom Cruise was asked about Cameron Crowe's tendency to work with music. He says:

"Cameron is a musician also. He’s a writer, a musician, a filmmaker and we just started playing around one day and he just had music. As an actor you just let it wash over you and see what color it’s going to bring to the scene. He also does stuff where we’re going along and he’ll throw out lines at me, it feels like a workshop when we’re working. Everybody is very comfortable and relaxed and there was a lot of focus on the scene and everyone kind of contributes. It helps the actors and sometimes you get different ideas and colors. For this movie we listened to Kid A a lot and to the U2 album. The Icelandic group (Sigur Ros) too. Of course, the Stones and Bruce Springsteen but a lot of Kid A. Walking through New York I think of U2 and I think of Radiohead."

Vanilla Sky touches the idea of making a choice between fantasies, dreams, and all-consuming entertainment, and then the stark realities of actual life. Without giving the plot away too much, I was shocked at David's choice but not disappointed. Or perhaps I was disappointed in his choice but not shocked. It made me consider the way in which humans, when given the choice, will always choose knowledge over happiness. Ignorance is bliss, but no one ever chooses that path; as in the Matrix, no one chooses the blue pill. Humans resign themselves to "reality" (which is subjective anyway), & moan about the tragedies & the bleakness, but when given the chance to be comfortable and peaceful and to luxuriate in pleasantness and dreamy times, one will give it all up in the name of "truth".. it seems odd. But still natural. David's best friend Brian (played by Jason Lee makes references several times to the sweet and sour nature of life, i.e. things are more sweet, when you've experienced the sour. The beauty of life is more truly appreciated when the trials and heartbreak are fully experienced.

When the movie was over, my housemate and I looked at each other and declared, this is seriously now one of my favourite movies. Shock, because I haven't seen a film on the big screen in forever that made it on to my Best Of All Time list. It's often hard to decide whether you are being objective because movies always seem better on the big screen, but I'd rather not be objective in this case because the whole point about whether a movie is enjoyable or not is whether you can find yourself inside it, and I for one was fully immersed. I dropped a coin on the ground as the credits were rolling, and when I looked up, the screen was purple, which shocked me; I walked outside and the cinema lighting was purple, and outside, a storm was brewing - the sky was violet too. Very, very surreal.

Oh and the term "Vanilla Sky" is a reference to a Monet painting, and the way David chose to paint his "backdrops" in his lucid dreams.

ohmygod.. my friend just told me that a girl jumped off the cinema complex in our suburb. & she had a vanilla sky ticket in her pocket. that's... amazing.

I found this film deeply touching, unusual, and connected with our times. I saw parallels with my own life, a new sort of postmodern reality framed within an unexpected science fiction construct. The film was truly special. There's a couple spoilers in here, I'll warn ya. First, though, I'll cover some other topics for this node


Cameron Crowe tied the music intimately to the spirit of the film, evoking emotions and realities well-suited to it. I am going to buy this soundtrack and play the hell out of it shortly. Several of the songs, including "Vanilla Sky", were written for the film.
  1. 2:46 REM - All the Right Friends
  2. 4:09 Radiohead - Everything in its Right Place
  3. 2:47 Paul McCartney - Vanilla Sky
  4. 4:24 Peter Gabriel - Solsbury Hill
  5. 3:52 Julianna Gianni - I Fall Apart
  6. 2:53 Monkees - Porpoise Song
  7. 4:54 Looper - Mondo '77
  8. 5:29 Red House Painters - Have You Forgotten
  9. 3:25 Josh Rouse - Directions
  10. 3:44 Leftfield & African Bambaataa - Afrika Shox
  11. 9:16 Sigur Ros - Svefn-g-englar
  12. 4:33 Jeff Buckley - Last Goodbye
  13. 3:34 Todd Rundgren - Can We Still Be Friends
  14. 4:36 Bob Dylan - Fourth Time Around
  15. 2:44 Nancy Wilson - Elevator Beat
  16. 4:20 REM - Sweetness Follows
  17. 6:29 Chemical Brothers - Where Do I Begin

Vanilla Sky: the song

Vanilla Sky, written by Paul McCartney. I tried my best to transcribe the lyrics. :)

The chef prepares
a special menu
for your delight or mine
Tonight you fly
so high up
in the vanilla sky

Your life is fine
The sweet and sour
Unbearable great

You gotta love every hour
You must appreciate

This is your time
This your day
You got it all
don't blow it away

The chef prepares
a special menu
for your delight or mine
Tonight you fly
so high up
in the vanilla sky

Melting tea leaves
cast your fortune
in a glass of wine
snaggle fish
balloon or dolphin
See your silver shine

This is your time
This your day
You got it all
don't blow it away

The chef prepares
a special menu
for your delight or mine
Tonight you fly
so high up
in the vanilla sky
in the vanilla
in the vanilla
in the vanilla sky...

A little freeform analysis

This film opens with Tom Cruise waking up, set to Radiohead's Everything in its right place. He gets out of bed and hops in his sports car. As he enters the street that mid-morning, he notices it's quiet. When he gets onto the avenue, no one is there. He enters a deserted Times Square as the Chemical Brothers' Where do I Begin, I believe, starts pulsing. He gets out of the car and starts running, as we are presented with a barrage of digital images, flying by, as a woman dances on the screens. From that moment, I thought, ahhh... Radiohead, deserted New York streets, perfect. I have pondered pulling off a similar visual stunt for a music video or something in my small town at 3 AM. just beautiful... Vanilla Sky presented a really intriguing postmodern reality, I thought, literally composing a reality recycled from pop culture components.

Some elements of the film seemed cliche and overwrought, though I think that the actors bravely attempted to do what they could. In particular, the scenes with Cruise jabbering to the psychologist with that mask on smacked of pretension. The mask served as a nifty visual tool through the movie, though. In particular, at the dance club, seeing that ghostly mask from a birds-eye view created a great image.

Spoiler time. All right, this film presented the ultimate postmodern reality (his dream, mostly) framed within a lower-level rational "modern" reality (the Life Extension simulation). Much of the film is composed of people living within cultural ideals, as Cruise is the rich and gorgeous playboy, with his "fuck buddy" stalker and lovely exotic crush (Cruz). Once we reach the lucid dream segment, when he wakes up on the street, the reality crosses from rational but idealized, to complete postmodern recycling. The Vanilla Sky is Monet, the streets are from Bob Dylan covers. Of course everything goes to shit as the simulated reality "glitch" gets out of hand. I thought it was a bit of a pity for the film to encompass the new reality it was building within a computer simulation, but it was ok, still, unlike the end of A.I., for example.

Cruise's character is so horrendously empty and flawed, though he is so apparently idealized. When his face is shattered, he cannot psychologically do anything, and he pushes his friends away ferociously. In reality, he signs up for the lucid dream program and kills himself because he cannot handle "loss of face," if you will. Literally ugliness has made reality unbearable. The tragedy of the tale is that Cruz would have loved him even with his broken face. He had a lot to live for, even with a messed-up face. The tragedy is that it takes a life and death for him to understand that. Cruise's character effectively presented the lonliness and sadness hidden within today's societal role models.

CD listing thanks to http://www.freedb.org/freedb_search_fmt.php?cat=soundtrack&id=f6115311 .
Huzzah! First node of 2002!

You can sit in your seat, and think for hours, but your results and your opinions seem to differ every time. And after all of the debating and arguing has ended, you'll realize that somehow, in some strange yet fascinating way, this movie personifies your life in some way.

It's very difficult to describe how. The role that Cruise plays, and the plot drawn out for him in the movie, well... they leave something to be desired. It was acted well, though the ending and the final revelation of the true plot seemed to spoil what could've been fantastically surreal, yet just confusing enough that each viewer would draw their own conclusions. Without the last sentence of dialogue, though, the whole ending would have been trash.

"Wake up, David."

As for the personification of it all, it's in the eyes of the beholder. Trauma, friendship, the best sex of your life: they all are present in the movie, but you can immediately identify with what you felt at that moment, when you experienced those exact things. Of course, there are some who can't, which indirectly reminds them that their lives also remain something to be desired.

As everyone else stated, this movie is a very straightforward reminder of the postmodern reality that we live in, though David's "life inside the life" was more intriguing, and brings everyone to the "what-if's" that plague us often in our lives. Questioning reality and life is one thing, but to question it, live it, and recycle it for a born-again you? It's farfetched, but in an enlightning way, it's believeable.

This movie is really fantastic. Few movies have touched me so much as this one. It has a really great plot, and is really delightful to try to understand what goes behind the characters mind as the story unveils.

But we already have a lot of nodes reviewing the story. I want just to comment on the musical score of Vanilla Sky. It is simply fabulous. One of the reasons that I fell so madly in love with this movie was that I already had a lot of it's music in my mp3 collection. That really made watching it a much better experience.

Unfornately, the official Vanilla Track soundtrack doesn't contain all the songs that were played during the movie. So, here is a list of the musics that were played during the movie, in order:

Disclaimer: I found this list somewhere else on the Internet. I don't know how accurate it is, but it seems correct to me (from what I remember from the movie)

  1. Radiohead - Everything In It's Right Place
  2. Mint Royale - From Rusholme With Love
  3. Paul McCartney - Vanilla Sky
  4. Red House Painters - Have You Forgotten
  5. REM - All The Right Friends
  6. Looper - My Robot
  7. John Coltrane - My Favorite Things
  8. The Impressions - Keep On Pushing
  9. Looper - Mondo 77
  10. Josh Rouse - Directions
  11. Creeper Lagoon - Wrecking Ball
  12. Peter Gabriel - Solsbury Hill
  13. Juliana Gianni - I Fall Apart
  14. Jeff Buckley - Last Goodbye
  15. Sigur Ros - Svefn-g-Englar
  16. Spacecraft - Earthtime Tapestry
  17. Thievery Corporation - Indra
  18. Sigur Ros - Agetis Byrjun
  19. Leftfield/Afrika Bambaataa - Africa Shox
  20. Chemical Brothers - Loops Of Fury
  21. Underworld - Rez
  22. Two Sandwiches Short Of A Lunchbox - Too Good To Be Strange
  23. REM - Sweetness Follows
  24. Bob Dylan - Fourth Time Around
  25. Joan Osborne - One Of Us
  26. Radiohead - I Might Be Wrong
  27. U2 - Wild Honey
  28. Bobby Holmes - Jingle Bell Rock
  29. Monkees - Porpoise Song
  30. It's Slinky - TV Commercial
  31. The Five Americans - Western Union
  32. Rollings Stones - Heaven
  33. Todd Rundgren - Can We Still Be Friends
  34. Beach Boys - Good Vibrations
  35. Elmer Bernstein - Summer's End (To Kill A Mockingbird)
  36. Sinead O'Connor - The Healing Room
  37. Sigur Ros - The Nothing Song (Njosnavelin)
  38. Freur - Doot Doot
  39. Chemical Brothers - Where Do I Begin
  40. Spiritualized - Ladies And Gentleman We Are Floating In Space
  41. Nancy Wilson - Elevator Beat

Ok. So perhaps you've been to see Vanilla Sky at the cinema. Perhaps you enjoyed it. I went last week and enjoyed it too. Then Channel 4 showed 'Open Your Eyes' (or, to give it its proper name 'Abre los Ojos'), the film of which Vanilla Sky was a remake.

Now, As I have said I enjoyed Vanilla Sky. But i felt that for a large part of the film (roughly the third quarter) I (and none of my companions) understood what the hell was going on. This frustrated us. Now look away if you dont want to know the ending to either film. It annoyed me in Vanilla Sky that the ending (the Tom Cruise character David realises he has been cryogenically frozen and has been living a large part of the film as a dream) seemed so unfeasible when it was explained at the end. No one could have guessed this and isnt that a major part of a film with a twist?

In Open Your Eyes, the same ending is hinted at throughout and we hear a lot more about the company (L.E., or 'Eli') that freezes him and what they do. Basically the story leads on much better. It seems more feasible and I enjoyed it more because of it. This isnt the only reason why I enjoyed it more. Here is my comparison of the two films:

Why they are the Same:
- Same plot and story, in fact the two films are extremely similar, with some of the same lines!
- Penelope Cruz plays the same character (Sofia), very well, in both films

How is Vanilla Sky different:
- Its in English rather than Spanish with subtitles
- Its got Tom Cruise rather than Eduardo Noriega as the main character (David/Cesar)
- Its much more unrealistic, for example Sofia's flat (and she is supposed to be fairly poor) is amazingly decorated and exquisite in Vanilla Sky.
- As I have said the ending is much less expected and seems much less feasible.
- Vanilla Sky is a massive Hollywood blockbuster, making lots of money indeed, and shown in most cinemas across the UK. Open Your Eyes was very popular amongst film critics but it never received the popularity of its remake. It was never (as far as I know) shown in any cinemas in the UK.
- Vanilla Sky (understandably because of its greater investment) has a much better soundtrack, including a song written for the film by Paul McCartney, and all the skies are done in nice colours (hence the name), like a Monet painting.
- The bottom line is, Vanilla Sky made a lot of money for its rich main actor and famous director, Cameron Crowe. Open Your Eyes made a lot less for its (in my opinion) equally talented but less famous main actor and director.

So. There you have it. I must admit I am no film expert. There may be something much better about the acting or directing in Vanilla Sky that I have not seen. However an awful lot of the shots and script seemed identical from one film to the other.

Why is it then that a remake which is worse than its original can become more popular? Well the answer is that it had the right sponsors and people working on it. I urge you therefore to stick with the original, and, for goodness sake, open your eyes.

Movies versus Films

Right, these are my definitions and no one elses. If you want to use them feel free. Please do, in fact I'll feel proud if you do. Lots of pride! This is what I think in response to when people (mad people) ask me why people will go to see rubbish films at the cinema whilst disregarding good small budget films. Or why big business films invariably beat small films. The best example of this, I am told, is Vanilla Sky versus Open Your Eyes.

First I'll deal good vs bad. I think there are two types of things people see at the cinema; movies and films. Bear with me here a minute and I'll explain. Something can be both a movie and a film. Everything that comes out is a movie. Some are better movies than others. Some things that come out are films- these are artistic. Some examples...Planet of the Apes by Tim Burton is a movie. It looks and sounds great with great special effects. An audience will watch it and then leave the cinema none the wiser but suitably entertained (please don't have a go at me for Burton's not being as good as the original, at least it was a good movie...). The original Planet of the Apes was a great film but by todays standards, not such a great movie. It was a great film because it raised all sorts of good issues that made you think; such as human's treatment of animals and also each other. But it didn't look as good as Burton's. It was slower and more demanding. It was less entertaining for those wanting to catch a quick flick at the multiplex. Now there's no question which I'd rather see. But for the average person wanting a bit of fun I'd have to recommend Burton's remake. Do you see?

This is why movies can come out, like Mission Impossible, and do well. And they should do; they are great movies. People want a bit of entertainment. But I call upon the example of Spielberg's AI. Here was a great movie- it looked and sounded great. But it was also a great film, raising all sorts of moral questions. But it didn't do well at all in the cinema. Why? Were people put off by it looking a bit obscure? were people worried they'd have to think a bit too much about it? Now don't get me wrong, I'm as bad as the next guy. AI came out the same time as Moulin Rouge. Moulin Rouge wasn't strong as a film but it pushed new boundries for movies. You didn't have to think, you just sat back and enjoyed the ride. I chose Moulin Rouge over AI and saw it first. I enjoyed it more than AI. But it wasn't a better film.

Now lets have a ganders at Vanilla Sky and Open Your Eyes. They were both great films (both score the same as films, being identical in that respect), but Vanilla Sky was the better movie. Why. Simple fact is that it was funded by big business (Not a bad thing by any means, but I'll come to my gripe later). This meant it could afford to hire Time Square for an hour one morning to get that classic scene impossible for Open Your Eyes. It had Tom Cruise and Cameron Crowe behind it from the start (When something's got Cruise in it you know it will be a good movie- people are entertained by those good looks, not to mention Cruz and Diaz's). Crowe was able to use computers to create lush and gorgeous looking vanilla coloured skys over New York, and was able to buy the rights to use Radiohead in the opening few mintues. Say what you like about the details in difference in plot, essentailly they were the same film. This is why Open Your Eyes wouldn't do well if it was shown in all cinemas nationwide. People just wouldn't feel like they'd get enough entertainment from a Spanish film with unheard of actors and no special effects. As good a film it is, it isn't enough these days to attract everyone to go and see it. It needed something else. It needed what Vanilla Sky gave it. Simple as that...I think.

So there you have; people have become fussy and demanding, asking for what only Big Business can afford to give it. And this is my criticism. Invariably more and more movies are losing any sense of being artistic at the exspense of merely having the ability to pull in large revenues. If we continue to snub 'interesting' films than will all the interesting things that make up movies dry up? After all, admit it, we would never have heard of Open Your Eyes if it wasn't for Vanilla Sky and we wouldn't have ever seen Vanilla Sky if it wasnt for Open Your Eyes. Think about it...

I'm sorry if any of this is confusing or doesn't make sense. You know how it is, when you know something, you just can't adequately explain it to someone. Just someone please write something to agree or disagree with me. Preferably to agree.

One thing I've noticed in reading these writeups is that one of the major points of the movie has been overlooked. That is, that David Aames is cryonically frozen from the start of the movie.

At the start of the picture, a woman's voice wakes David up to a New York that is utterly devoid of people. He runs down the street in a panic, screams, and wakes up to another woman's voice, the voice of Julie Gianni.

The previous voice belongs to Sophia Serrano, Brian Shelby's date to David's party and David's obsession for the duration of the picture.

The only problem with this is that David has not met Sophia at the start of the picture. For her voice to be on his alarm clock, or even in his memory, would require that he have entered the Lucid Dream before the movie began.

Therefore, much like the inhabitants of Paradigm City, David Aames is stuck in an infinite loop. His demise and exit from the system at the end of the movie is not real. Life Extension is evil; they do not honor their end of the bargain.

This is further corroborated by the Tech Support guy looking at his watch while waiting for David to finish saying goodbye to Sophia. That simple gesture says volumes about the character and nature of the people caring for David's soul.

Tech support is evil.

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