Vanilla Sky

When writer-director Cameron Crowe last teamed with megastar Tom Cruise, they generated five Oscar noms for 1996’s “Jerry Maguire” (Cuba Gooding Jr. took home the one win, for supporting actor). And after Crowe’s victory last year for screenplay for “Almost Famous,” this dynamic duo could get some more attention with this year’s psychological thriller “Vanilla Sky.”

“Sky” is a radical departure for both Crowe and Cruise. Adapted almost shot for shot from Alejandro Amenabar’s 1997 Spanish-lingo film “Abre los ojos” (“Open Your Eyes”), Cruise plays a spoiled, vain man who is disfigured in an auto wreck and follows his despair into apparent madness and eventual redemption, thanks to a sci-fi twist worthy of “The Twilight Zone.”

Although the actor race is a highly competitive field this year, three-time Oscar nominee Cruise may have a chance in earning an actor nom with his portrayal of the deeply scarred publishing exec David Aames. Playing a character with psychological problems and physical disfigurement has certainly proved a good move when it comes to garnering Academy attention.

Spanish thesp Penelope Cruz reprises the role she played in “Ojos” and has the best shot among the supporting cast at a nom for her turn as a sweet, nearly spectral woman who inspires Aames’ dreams and nightmares.

Crowe’s strong suit has always been writing and he could get a mention for his screenplay adaptation. His direction subtly takes the film from dream to reality and back again, without prematurely giving away the clues to the film’s master mystery and gives him a shot at his first helmer nom.

Technical credits deserve notice for creating a unique vision of New York that is futuristic, luxurious and lonely all at once. Cinematographer John Toll worked on Crowe’s “Famous,” and won consecutive Oscars for 1994’s “Legends of the Fall” (1994) and 1995’s “Braveheart” (he was also nominated for 1999’s “The Thin Red Line”). Editors John Hutshing — nommed for “Famous” — and Mark Livolsi, and production designer Catherine Hardwicke also appear to be strong contenders.

As in all of Crowe’s films, music is a huge influence and his composer, Nancy Wilson (also his wife) and her futuristic dream-rock score could land a mention from Oscar.

Noms Watch

  • Director: Cameron Crowe

  • Actor: Tom Cruise

  • Supporting actress: Penelope Cruz

  • Adapted screenplay: Crowe

  • Cinematography: John Toll

  • Editing: John Hutshing, Mark Livolsi

  • Production design: Catherine Hardwicke

  • Score: Nancy Wilson
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