Tribute page: “Vanilla Sky”

Few films have touched me as deeply as “Vanilla Sky.”  This is my page to discuss why, and to pay homage to one of my two favorite modern writer-directors, Cameron Crowe (the other is here).

In my new book, I wrote about how deeply the movie “Vanilla Sky” impacted, and continues to inspire me.  The following is excerpted from Life Lesson 12: “Love may be infinite – but time isn’t,” in which I discusses two movies that helped awaken me to the need to live every day as fully as possible.  Specifically, these two movies helped me to realize that contrary to the Peter Pan-view of time I held prior to adopting Shayna (that whatever I didn’t do today, I can do tomorrow, because there will always be another tomorrow), unless something happens to me, Shayna is going to precede me.  It also describes my embracing of strategies to live each day as fully as possible, and most importantly, to give Shayna every opportunity I can for joy, discovery and pleasure.

The second movie that really punctuated this theme for me, in several additional, profound ways, was “Vanilla Sky” (2001; trailer), a psychological thriller & love story by one of my favorite modern writer-directors, Cameron Crowe. The main character, David Aames (Tom Cruise), realizes that he’d treated a woman who loved him very poorly – and that her resulting psychological breakdown ended up costing him a lifetime with the first woman he actually loved (Penélope Cruz). Then, in a soul-jarring moment of self-realization, when someone else chronicles how carelessly he lived his life – and how a life is composed of individual moments and decisions – David whispers, seemingly asking the universe:

The little things… there’s nothing bigger, is there?

After I adopted Shayna, and saw these movies again, those lines took me by storm. They reminded me that no matter how grand my dreams, or how much I hope to achieve, or how hard I tell myself I’m working to provide a better life for myself and Shayna, that’s not what she sees and experiences. Rather, what she sees and experiences are individual moments that collectively constitute an hour, a day, a week. That’s all that matters. If someone were to ask her, “Shayna, was today a good day? Did you have fun with your dad?,” my objective, my obligation, is to ensure that if she could answer, as often as reasonably possible, she would respond with an enthusiastic, “Absolutely!”

As I am a visual thinker, I found that a pictorial analogy helped me to drive home this life lesson: when one looks at a brick wall, they see a solid object. But in reality, that wall is a collection of individual bricks, affixed together with mortar. Similarly, the “mural” of my life is constituted of individual moments, stitched together in sequence – whether I am conscious of it or not.

My job, as I came to see it, is to ensure that that mural, that wall, our life together, is filled to the smallest degree with elements that are happy, healthy and fulfilling. And this is the singularly most enjoyable, rewarding, important job I’ve ever had.

“Vanilla Sky” shook me to my core, for this and a thousand other reasons.   And it galvanized Cameron Crowe as one of my two favorite modern writer-directors.

Here’s a really cool fan edit to one of the film’s most awesome songs, “Everything In Its Right Place,” by Radiohead:

 See more videos (with songs) from “Vanilla Sky” here.

About the Author

I am multimedia graphic designer, writer and creative consultant, based in Charlottesville, VA (jonsutz.com). Most recently, I authored my first book, "Saved By Shayna: Life Lessons From A Miracle Dog," about the dog that helped to save my life after 9/11, and am creating an activism campaign to help prevent dogs from suffering in hot cars: HeatKills.org.

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