Over the years, there are more than a handful of movies that I have intentionally avoided, even if these films are cultural touchstones for entire generations. “Titanic”, “Frozen”, “Dirty Dancing”, and many more. I didn’t NOT watch these films out of personal protest or a misguided sense of contrarianism. I just never spent the time viewing them because I knew that these movies are not for me. They’ll just annoy me. To watch them would be self-torture.
Why would I subject myself to a movie that would not only annoy me but would make me hate the majority of humanity for EMBRACING such mediocre crap? Why would I ever force myself to watch a movie, nearly “Clockwork Orange” style; Tied down with my eyeballs forced open so that I can’t avoid the horror on the screen. Why the HELL would I do this?
Apparently, I will do this for YOUR amusement. I hope you sick bastards are happy.
To christen the launching of this ship of horrors, I’m choosing the American classic movie, “Top Gun”. Pray for me.
As with most of these movies, I’m not completely ignorant to their content. They’re all usually successful enough films that I’m conversant in the major plot points without needing to see it. I know what these movies are about, and THAT is why I avoid them. It’s a big boat. A poor boy and a rich girl fall in love. The boat sinks. He dies. The rest is just filler. A princess has some struggles. She builds a magic snowman or something. They sing a lot. She needs to “let it go”. I assume that by letting it go, her problems eventually resolve and the princess is happy at the end. It’s not a hard guess to make. As for “Top Gun”? I’d heard enough jokes about how unintentionally homoerotic it is. Other than that? It’s Navy pilots in the 80’s. All fighting to be the best of the best of the best at an elite fighter pilot school. And Tom Cruise’s partner Goose dies. (I have been told “If you don’t cry when Goose dies, you aren’t human.”) Surprisingly, this just wasn’t enough to whet my appetite. Because I’ve already seen this movie, even if I’ve never seen it.
But that’s not good enough for you sick bastards. So… fine. I’ll cave in and finally watch. Let’s get this out of the way. Just remember that this is on your souls. Once we start, it can never be undone. There are things that can’t be unseen. And “Top Gun” is one of them.
The other night I sat down and watched the entire movie, taking copious notes. Let this be a warning to others to not do what I’ve done.
00:45 – In the opening credits we are told that in “1969, the United States Navy established an elite school … …to insure that the handful of men who graduated were the best fighter pilots…” I believe that the word you are looking for, insanely expensive Hollywood blockbuster, was “ensure”. NOT “insure”. But, thanks for playing.
That’s a shitty omen. This is going to be a long night.
1:00-3:00 – The first few minutes are soft focus shots of men in helmets all working in slow motion on an aircraft carrier. It’s the perfect thing to lull you into comfort when BAM! We’re on the Highway to the Danger Zone! Play it loud, and enjoy the hell out of your government sponsored “Navy fighter jet takeoff and landing porn”.
4:30 – No reason to fuck around. Let’s bring in the Russians before the five minute mark. It’s the 1980’s. America is at peace. But those godless communists are good enough to be the enemy for Rocky IV, they can sure be the bad guy for THIS movie too. So, when the MiG fighters show up, you know this is serious business! (Or trite cliché’s but, it’s still early. Let’s TRY to give them the benefit of the doubt.)
Oh! Hey! It’s Tim Robbins! That’s a surprise. I didn’t know he was in this. That must mean he’s going to die soon. (Note: Nope- He just never appears in the movie again. Ta-ta, Nuke LaLoosh. Your cameo was appreciated, though. Usually I will try to transcribe my notes as they happened rather than comment on what happens LATER, but some moments call for closure or full context.)
4:30 – 10:00 – Sit back and enjoy 5+ minutes of completely baffling footage where the only way to really understand what is happening is to ignore the actual aerial “combat” and just focus on the blatant cues that the movie provides. Are Tom Cruise and friends smiling and cocky? Then they are winning. Are they shouting at each other and the music is more tense? Then they are losing. This methodology applies to EACH AND EVERY flight scene in the movie. Trying to follow what is happening by listening to the dialogue or trying to piece together the action is just futile. It’s a mishmash of cut shots and buzzwords. (“I’m switching to guns!”) Just let the tropes and clichés hold your hand and take you where you need to go. It’s not complicated.
Pro Tip: Maybe the next time you make a movie where a pilot flies close enough to fly upside down and take a polaroid of the Russian fighter pilot he’s been playing ‘tag’ with, it might be a good idea to actually SHOW the damn picture at some point. That felt like a decent gag that was wasted. Show me the polaroid of the surprised Rooskie… Jeez… was this thing written on the way to the set?
10:00 – The planes are suddenly dangerously low on fuel and need to get back to the aircraft carrier. NOW! Which begs the question, why were they so far away from base if they were that low on fuel in the first place? What was their training mission before they were so rudely interrupted by the Russians? “Fly on fumes and risk dying 101”? And, after a ‘surprise interaction’ with dangerous Russian fighter pilots, I’m now supposed to be nervous because they’re low on gas?
11:30 – Cougar has PTSD and has trouble bringing in his plane. Because… I dunno. Because they wanted to show how nerve-racking being a Navy pilot is. It just makes ME wonder about their recruiting process if a guy is going to crack that easily.
What kind of guy takes “Cougar” on as his codename? (John Mellencamp doesn’t count.) For that matter, some of the other names these pilots have are also pretty lame. Slider? SLIDER? Who takes the nickname of a shitty square hamburger?
14:15 – Maverick buzzes the control tower. Because even in the buttoned down Navy, he’s a rebel who does things his own way. He can’t be tamed. He won’t follow the rules. Even though he’s in an institution where breaking the rules that blatantly and repeatedly (he’s buzzed “5 Air Control Towers, and 1 Admirals Daughter”) would get him thrown in the brig.
After a serious and headline worthy military encounter with the Russians, AND after the drama of a fellow pilot barely making it back safely, Maverick still has to cap off the day by endangering himself, his co-pilot, his $30 MILLION dollar plane, and one poor officers cup of coffee, all so he can “buzz the tower” like a frat boy jagoff.
I’m now rooting for the USSR.
14:45 – Maverick being chewed out: “You’re a hell of a pilot. Maybe too good.”
Oh, fuck you, movie.
15:15 – “You screw up, you’ll be flying a cargo plane of rubber dog shit out of Hong Kong.”
The next time you wonder how the military can spend billions of dollars every year, it’s because of things like this. The Navy has no business being in the novelty toy business. I’m disgusted and want to write my congressman.
15:30 – After chewing out Maverick (and Goose) for buzzing the tower, telling Maverick that he’s almost TOO good of a pilot, and after threatening them with the potential punishment of a job in international cargo delivery, their superior tells them “That is all. You can tell me about the MiG some other time.”
In peacetime, for undetermined reasons, Naval Fighter pilots found themselves engaged with Russian Fighter pilots, but they can tell you about it “some other time”? This potentially headline news is worth putting off, because it’s more important to make it clear to Maverick that you “want his butt”? And, with Maverick now shipping off to Top Gun school, wouldn’t a debrief of this military engagement be a top priority? Of course not.
“So, even though this recent afternoon’s military action could have consequences that lead us to the brink of WWIII, we’ll chat about it later. No biggie.”
But before you can get too worked up about this odd indifference to the Russians, we’re back on the Highway to the Danger Zone! (Play that music, show some jets flying, and it’s a mental reset button.)
17:30 – “Here are the rules of Top Gun…” Yawn. It’s camp. The best of the best of the best are in a contest! For a Trophy! And if you win that trophy, you can choose to come back and be a counselor at the camp NEXT year… I mean come back and be an instructor at this elite military academy.
20:30 – “Who is the best? Me.” “Nuh’uh… I’M the best”. It’s male posturing between the best of the best of the best. Staredowns! Insults! Male bonding via tension and aggression!
Just fucking kiss already.
However, just when you want to think they may be gay (not that there’s anything wrong with that…), the scene immediately changes to a bar with women, just to prove that these pilots may be ALL MAN, but they LIKE GIRLS!! This is something that happens on multiple occasions in this movie. The homerotic tension is jacked through the roof, and then they immediately change to a scene where we’re led to believe that they are heterosexual.
22:00 – So, any old asshole can just grab a live microphone and start singing at this bar? I would HATE this place. Maverick and pals sing a routine that immediately made ME imagine just how much practice they needed to get that tight with their harmonies. Even though they’ve all just started attending this elite school and don’t know each other beyond their own co-pilots.
24:30 – Oh good, the Ben Roethlisburger approach to bar romance. Follow the woman into the restroom.
Dating Tips from Maverick: Did she politely turn down your musical advances? Fear not, there’s always a backup plan. Just wait until she enters the women’s restroom, and then follow a moment later. For best results, do this when she’s alone and less capable of defending herself. And then engage in witty banter that would make Tracy and Hepburn slit their wrists.
30:00 – Y’know, if your movie opens up with tense encounters with the Russians, it’s hard to give a shit about any of the training segments. The stakes are too low. Then again, I’m probably the only person looking for plot or story here.
33:30 – “I’m gonna buzz the tower again”.
The response to this? Does Maverick, the Navy’s biggest douchebag, get thrown in the brig? No. Some officer shouts that he “wants some BUTTS!” That’s it. Nothing more. It’s as though they don’t know who is breaking the rules, or somehow can’t figure out who is flying the plane. It comforts me to know that in real life, that by his second or third tower buzz, Maverick would be cleaning toilets with his tongue. Sadly, this is a movie. So, that also means that Maverick is not likely to get fragged by his own crew before this thing ends.
37:00 – The Top Gun commander speaking about Maverick: “Maverick. I flew with his old man”.
No. I don’t care. This B-plot will not be good. I don’t care about Maverick’s old man. I don’t need a mystery solved or a sudden reunion or a watch being handed over after it was stored in another man’s ass for 30 years… No. Sorry. I’m tuning this out.
41:00 – The Volleyball Scene. You think I wasn’t aware of this? I’d had people make me watch this scene in the past. I knew it was nothing but shirtless and sweaty men playing volleyball. That’s not MY thing, but, hey, if it works for you, congrats. But let’s not pretend this is anything other than very softcore gay porn.
Or maybe not! Because Maverick has to pull himself away to go be with a GIRL!!
Also, prepare to start hearing “Take My Breath Away” start and stop over a half dozen times in the next 15 minutes or so. Reminding yourself that this will all be over soon is a good way to prepare.
47:15 – Talk of Maverick’s mysterious daddy! Lots of talk about Maverick taking a shower! Talk, talk, talk! And NO sexual tension or chemistry. Bring back Iceman. THEY have chemistry.
50:00 – Goose’s wife and child are here. I don’t care. I know Goose is going to die. This is just so that I’ll feel worse when it happens now that I know he’ll be making Meg Ryan a widow.
52:45 – “I can’t hear you over the loud sound of me revving my BIKE! Now excuse me, heterosexual girl partner, I need to drive off in a huff! Some might even call it a snit!”
Maverick is making me wish for war, just so I could see his name on the casualty list.
53:30 – Heterosexual girl partner to Maverick: “I just didn’t want anyone to know that I’ve fallen for you.”
Check please. (Ah, shit… there is still 56 minutes to go. Just sit back and endure the awkward, silhouetted simulated heterosexual sex.
1:02:00 – Nah, you go ahead and just play that piano in the middle of the restaurant, Goose. I’m sure it doesn’t bother anybody trying to enjoy their meal in peace and quiet. I’m sure people actually come to this restaurant HOPING some half-drunken local flyboy will commandeer the piano and start loudly playing, unasked.
Will common decency stop Goose from ruining other people’s meals? No. What WILL stop him? His wife shouting out that Goose needs to “take her to bed or lose her forever”. Loudly. At noon. In a family restaurant. In front of their 5 year old child. THESE are the memories that 5 year old will cling to when trying to remember his daddy after he dies later in the movie. That kid will lovingly look back at the time his loud mother demanded his loud drunken father stop banging on a piano at the local Cracker Barrel and take her home for some sex. Good times. Good times.
1:04:00 – None of this matters! We’re back on the Highway to the Danger Zone! (This is the THIRD time they’ve use this song.) The Top Gun Trophy is still up for grabs! I still don’t care!
1:07:00 – For reasons I don’t understand, Maverick has lost control of the plane. They eject, and Goose, wearing a helmet, bumps his head on the plastic canopy. His parachute works as it should, and he gently floats down to the ocean, where he is dead. For reasons I not only don’t understand, but refuse to accept other than laughingly. He ejected from his cockpit. Properly. This killed him? Meh… I know I shouldn’t expect logic or reason or plot… but, they couldn’t even TRY to come up with a more plausible way that he could die?
Goose is dead. I was not sad. I am therefore not human. I can accept this ruling if that’s the critera.
Also, for a movie that was supposed to be a huge recruitment tool for the Navy, the whole message of this entire scene is “In a controlled training exercise, your $30 million dollar plane could simply stop working for no good reason, and when you follow procedure and eject properly, you could still die. Join the Navy TODAY!”
1:09:30 – 1:18:00 – Maverick, in nothing but a pair of tighty whiteys, takes Goose’s death hard. Later, in a training mission, he can fly, but he can’t pull the trigger. For reasons that are never explained. He didn’t lose Goose because he accidentally shot him down. Why is he now capable of still flying yet somehow gun-shy?
Just keep telling yourself that it doesn’t matter. Maverick will get over this. He’ll grab those tin cans, fire up that E-meter, and get those thetans out and he’ll be a kick-ass pilot in no time. More importantly, you don’t care. (This may be the best time to give thanks to narcotics for their hand in helping me endure this movie.)
1:18:00 – “Hi. It’s Wolfman. Maverick just quit.”
Who the fuck is Wolfman? Who did he call? If only I cared, maybe I’d figure it out.
This leads to about 8 minutes of Maverick’s internal crisis. Should he stay quit or go back to Top Gun? His heterosexual female partner seems to be leaving for a great job in Washington. Maybe a talk with the Top Gun commander can help. Maybe getting closure on Maverick’s daddy will help him clear his head.
1:26:00 –Graduation/Trophy Day for Top Gun Academy. Held at the local Marriott Suites, apparently. Will Maverick show? Will he make it?
Apparently not. And the trophy goes to Iceman and Slider.
Oh, wait. Here’s Maverick. So, he ISN’T quitting. He’s just showing up late to graduation. Because that’s how Maverick rolls.
1:27:45 – And none of that mattered, because now everybody is back together to take on a sudden ‘new’ crisis, which is actually the same crisis from the START of the movie. Apparently the Russians were waiting until Maverick finished up Top Gun school before continuing with their foolish plan of fucking with ‘Murrica. So, to recap, it’s the Russians, and they need some good old fashioned American justice.
In a scene where everyone is so sweaty that it appears to have been filmed in a sauna*, Iceman questions Maverick’s ability to be his wingman. Oh, Christ… just get this over with. I don’t care, okay? I dooooon’t care. I’m at Jay Cutler level of NOT caring. We get it. Iceman and Maverick have beef.
*- This was a giant Hollywood blockbuster movie. The copious sweat was not a mistake or a byproduct of filming on a hot set. This was an intentional and conscious decision by someone that Tom Cruise and the rest all needed to be COVERED with beads of sweat. There is no way that someone didn’t see this and have the chance to correct it. Instead, more likely, there was some producer on set looking in a monitor and shouting “More sweat on TOM!”
1:34:30 – While holding his dead partner’s dog-tags, Maverick says “Talk to me Goose” when what he MEANT to say was “Help me, Obi Wan”.
Somewhere after this, the Russians are taken care of. A few are even blown out of the sky. This would potentially be one of the biggest news stories of the decade. But, let’s leave that for the historians and politicians, because…
1:40:00 – …Maverick buzzes the tower AGAIN. Oh, that Maverick.
1:41:15 – Iceman to Maverick: “You can be my wingman anytime.”
“…Now let’s fuck.”
1:41:45 – Perhaps Goose’s family would like to have his dog-tags as a way to remember him. Nah… Maverick is going to chuck ‘em into the Indian Ocean.
1:42:00 – “Well, Maverick, because you’re a hero, they’re going to let you choose whatever assignment you want.”
With further aggression against the Russians seeming imminent (I mean, they only blew up a plane or two. I think Russia has MORE), what job does Maverick want? Does he want to be on the forefront of whatever fighting force continues to protect American ships and other interests in the Indian Ocean. No. He wants to go back to the safety of camp and be a counselor. Show that Navy Pride and Bravery, son.
Completely making a mockery of the Top Gun Trophy, Maverick gets what he wants anyway. Maybe Iceman will be upset, maybe he will be thrilled to hear that with them BOTH being instructors at Top Gun that the shirtless volleyball will continue for years.
Yeah, I know Maverick’s heterosexual female partner comes back and says that she left her big job in Washington because she heard that Maverick was coming back to teach at Top Gun, but… you just know that relationship isn’t going to last. Iceman and Maverick? I’d bet they’re still together to this very day.
This was painful to watch. I knew what I was getting into, and there wasn’t anything that really surprised me, but, that didn’t make the experience any less painful. I hope you bastards appreciate the sacrifice I made for you. It’s going to take me a long time to get over this.
Coming soon: Frozen. Because I can’t avoid it forever.
-Andy Lurie is host the semi-popular but always hilarious podcast “Ready, Set, Vent!”, found on the Radio Misfits Podcast Network. If you liked this blog, check out the podcast. It’s the exact same thing, except out loud. If you didn’t like this blog, check out the podcast. It’s nothing like this piece of crap.