Tag Archives: Demi Moore

And the Hits Just Keep On Comin’

Timecode: 31:46 – 33:47

You got authorization from Aunt Ginny.

Perfectly within my province.

Does Aunt Ginny have a barn? We can hold the trial there. I can sew the costumes, and maybe his Uncle Goober can be the judge.

Uncle Goober

This week’s Minutes involves a pair of (consecutive) scenes that show us Kaffee at his most (sexually?) frustrated (with Commander Joanne Jo and her interference) and at his most relaxed (slinging cliches back and forth with Luther at the newsstand)¹. And while the two scenes have plenty of memorable moments², I thought I might focus instead on what joins them together: music.

By and large, the AFGM soundtrack is a March Shaiman joint, relying almost exclusively on his gripping, original score. In other words, this isn’t exactly The Breakfast Club or Garden State soundtrack that you’d fire up on a long road trip. In fact, there are only four songs used throughout the entire movie — the first of which we hear when Kaffee fires up his ‘63 Chevy Impala and tries to get as far away from Commander Joanne Jo as possible:

That’s right, folks. Four years before Elvis laid down his iconic version of “Hound Dog”³, Big Mama Thornton recorded it first. And like a lot of blues recordings of that era, the sound is far more visceral than anything (even the King himself) could ever hope to achieve. It grabs you by the scruff of the neck and doesn’t let go.

What’s crazy is that until I did the research for this post, I’d always thought a man was singing whenever I watched this scene. In my defense, I was probably unduly swayed by two things: the more popular Elvis version and the fact that the next character you see on screen (Luther at the newsstand) looks like he could be a member of a blues band that would cover this song in a smoky club on some random Friday night. I guess you can add it to the list of gender/race-”defying” voices that have flummoxed me over the years.Can't Beat Em Join Em

As for the song’s use in the film, it not only is the first song featured, it’s ultimately the only one (as the other three songs, discussed below, are all playing in the background of otherwise dialogue-heavy scenes). While I think its placement is largely used for a tonal transition (from one scene to the next), one can’t help but find some echoes of the plot in its lyrics:

You ain’t nothing but a hound dog
Been snoopin’ ’round my door
You can wag your tail
But I ain’t gonna feed you no more

Whether Jo or Danny is the hound dog in this analogy, of course, would depend entirely upon which of the two of them you asked.

As for the other three ditties featured on the soundtrack, you’d have to pay very close attention to even notice them. They merely act as a subtle emotional backdrop for the scene they play behind. In the order they appear:

Patty Loveless, “Timber I’m Falling in Love” (1989)

This plays in the seafood restaurant, while Danny and Jo break bread (and crab legs) and exchange resumes. Given the sappy lyrics of the song, its placement sure feels like a vestigial limb of an earlier draft of the script, in which Danny & Jo had much more of a fully-realized Hollywood love story.

Jimmy Cotton, “Next Time You See Me”(1967)

This plays during Danny’s return visit to the newsstand — right before Markinson stealthily slips into the backseat of his car. Makes perfect sense to choose another bluesy riff (just like “Hound Dog”) to lull us into a sense of security. And the cliche-laden exchange with Luther will double-down on that expectation before…

…BANG! Markinson scares the shit out of us (and Danny). Plus, I mean the lyrics, c’mon! Could they be anymore on the nose? “Next time you see me, things won’t be the same…”

UB40, “All I Want to Do” (1986)

Time after time I say to myself
Working all my life isn`t good for my health
Get old, get tired, get put on the shelf
I do all the work, someone else gets all the wealth
Wish I was on an island in the sun
Where I wouldn`t have to worry how to get things done

While you can’t actually hear these lyrics in the bar where Kaffee meets Smilin’ Jack Ross to tell him about Markinson, they do seem to fit their work-based friendship. On a different night, the two of them could share a beer and a laugh, and they’d never have to resort to cheap shots about daddy issues or softball skills. But tonight is not that night.

Taken as a collective, the thing that stands out is that despite playing an incredibly minor role in the story, the songs have clearly been very carefully selected. It just goes to show you that a movie is nothing more than a collection of thousands upon thousands of very specific choices that are crafted to look like one seamless tapestry.


¹Long live the parenthetical!
²(Chronologically): 1) Jo’s hip-swaying walk to Kaffee’s car. 2) A peek into Louden Downey’s life on the farm. 3) This aforementioned classic. 4) Danny’s 1963 Chevy Impala. 5) Luther’s triumph in a battle of wits.
³Which changed the lyrics a bit from the original.
What? You thought all that business about white people hijacking rock ‘n roll from African Americans was an old wive’s tale? Pssh.
Like Jackson Browne or Ray LaMontaigne (who I thought were black the first time I heard them), or Dobie Gray and Maxine Nightengale (who I thought were white), or early Tevin Campbell or Nina Simone (who I thought were the opposite genders).

The Six Degrees of Smilin’

Timecode: 30:32 – 31:45

I hope for Dawson and Downey’s sake you practice law better than you play softball.

Unfortunately for Dawson and Downey, I don’t do anything better than I play softball.

What better way to kick off the second act then to introduce our final key cast member? Obviously, AFGM’s director, Rob Reiner, was sick and tired of trying to tabulate how many degrees of separation stood between him and Kevin Bacon, so he went ahead and cast him in the role of Lt. (Smilin’) Jack Ross. And boy is the movie better for it.Jack Ross

In the hands of a less seasoned and less charismatic actor, Jack Ross would be blown off the screen by Tom Cruise’s megawatt stardom and be relegated to dispensing exposition in those precious moments between Kaffee one-liners. But this is Kevin fucking Bacon we’re talking about here. I mean, the guy already had Animal House, the original Friday the 13th, and Diner on his resume by the time Cruise enjoyed his star-turn in 1983’s Risky Business. And given the success of Footloose in 1984, you could even make the argument that, for a time, Bacon was the bigger star. (That, of course, would all change when Cruise starred in 1986’s Top Gun and ascended to a level of stardom that few actors have enjoyed before or since.)

The point is Kevin Bacon is not only a dramatic bad ass, he’s also a performer that audiences were (and still are) accustomed to rooting for. And I’m sure that this was the defining prerequisite for casting Kaffee’s legal opposition¹, because if you’re going to spend an hour of your movie in a courtroom (and maintain a high level of suspense), both the audience (and the jury) need to be compelled by the lawyers on both sides of the aisle.

And really, if you think about it, the Bacon casting is a microcosm of what allowed this movie to transcend its genre and become a modern classic. Every role was filled by an actor of the highest pedigree. And acting as part of an ensemble is no different than playing on an athletic team: greatness is more likely to be extracted from an individual if they’re surrounded by other great actors/players. (A concept that Kevin Durant no doubt understood when he chose to sign with the Warriors this past week).

It’s clear basically from the jump that Cruise and Bacon have incredible chemistry (and possibly even some unexplored sexual tension, if you’re to believe this mildly out-of-context still):Sticky Fingers

But (potential) sexual tension aside, their relationship is still among the most nuanced in the film, as they have to walk the tightrope between (professional) rivals and (personal) friends. Based on their back-and-forth in this scene, I’ve always assumed that, while they’ve battled on the softball field² and the basketball court numerous times before, they’ve never actually faced off in a courtroom.

Ross’ “Welcome to the big time” opener also establishes a clear dynamic: he’s the older brother. He’s been here before, and he knows where dad (a.k.a. the Gitmo Marines in this analogy) hides the porn³. And like like a lot of older brothers, he’s trying to look out for the kid…while also subtly manipulating him into acquiescing to his agenda (which, in this case, is a quick and painless plea bargain).

There’s only two problems with this strategy:

1) Their walk-and-talk takes place in a hallway armed with donut distractions. And as we learned in the infamous apple scene, Kaffee is no stranger to eating on the go or sticky fingers.Donut Time

And 2) Kaffee hasn’t been the same guy since Jo pushed his buttons. Think about it: (in the big picture) this scene with Ross plays out identically to Kaffee’s plea bargain with Spradling over the dime bag of oregano. It takes Danny all of about 20 seconds to get Jack to agree to his “12 years” proposal. If he were still the o.g. Kaffee, this case (and the movie) would be over by the time they reached the end of the hallway.

But we’re dealing with a changed man. And Reiner (and his production designer, J. Michael Riva) are there to underscore this point with a subtle visual cue. Just look at the sign behind Kaffee as he exits the negotiation:Courtroom this way

Even if Kaffee and Ross may not know it yet, this baby is headed for court.


¹Well, that and his ability to remember who played the bailiff more than 20 years later.
²I’m sure Kaffee would make a Sherby-for-Ross swap faster than you can say, “let’s get two!”
³In his safe with all his guns. Duh.

That’s The Code

Timecode: 26:48 – 30:31

You don’t need to call me sir.
Is this your signature?

Sir, yes sir.

You certainly don’t have to do it twice in one sentence.

Considering his clients have been in a jail cell for almost 24 hours since their transfer up to D.C., it seems only right that Kaffee should finally pay them a visit. After all, there’s only so much Chocolate City sightseeing you can really do from behind bars, right, Louden? Plus, I mean, I’m no lawyer, but an attorney actually meeting his clients face-to-face seems like something he should probably do before striking a plea bargain or (god forbid) going to trial¹.Is this your signature

The scene marks a sharp tonal shift, which Reiner (and cinematographer Robert Richardson) tip us off to the moment we see the holding cell’s drab coloring and dim lighting (which is made all the more drab/dim by its contrast to the preceding scene: shot outdoors on a bright and colorful softball field). The suggestion seems to be simple: shit’s about to get serious.

And it is.

For the first time since we’ve met him, Kaffee has encountered an audience (Dawson & Downey), who not only don’t find him amusing, they don’t even seem capable of speaking the same language. As much as Jo has rolled her eyes at Danny’s sarcastic quips, it’s clear that (at the very least) she gets the joke. Dawson and Downey², on the other hand, greet Danny’s humor with all the understanding and appreciation that a cement wall greets a tennis ball. And aside from Galloway’s “You know what a Code Red is?” stumper, it’s the only thing that we’ve seen have the power to wipe the smirk off of Kaffee’s face.Oh Harold

[As a quick aside, this got me thinking: what would make Dawson and Downey laugh?

For Downey, the answer is easy: so long as a superior officer wasn’t breathing down his neck, he’d probably laugh at just about anything that didn’t involve clever wordplay or straight-faced sarcasm. This list would include Marmaduke comics, The Great Cornholio, fart noises, every second of Jackass and Tosh.0 ever put on film, and pretty much any inappropriate sex joke that you heard in middle school.Dawson

Dawson, of course, is a whole different animal. If memory serves, the guy doesn’t so much as crack a smile the entire movie (Markinson and Kendrick would also make this list). He’s the fucking bizarro-world version of Smilin’ Jack Ross: Hangdog Harry Dawson. That being said, he strikes me as the kind of guy who would laugh were he reminiscing with a friend or sibling about “the good old days”. In other words, if he’s going to slip out of super-serious Lance Corporal mode, he’d have to be with someone he felt incredibly close/safe with. And I don’t imagine that list of people would be very long.]

It takes all of a few seconds to learn that Kaffee and Dawson mix about as well as root beer and grapefruit juice³. And nowhere is that more evident that when Kaffee calls into question the code that Dawson lives his life by (not to be confused with the code that Danny lives his live by: Softball. Yoo-hoo. Babes. Steak knives.):

Kaffee certainly has no shortage of antagonists to contend with in this movie. He’s got Galloway up his ass basically non-stop. In just a matter of minutes, he’ll have Jessep, Kendrick and Markinson stonewalling him at every turn. And as much as Jack Ross may smile, he is — quite literally — the opposition (that’s how the whole prosecution-defense thing works, after all).

And yet, despite all those heavy-hitters, no character will prove a bigger catalyst for Kaffee’s arc/change than Harold W. Dawson. Their relationship will personify the central theme/conflict of the film. And if you don’t believe me, just look at where their first meeting is placed structurally: the last scene of the First Act (sometimes known as “Conflict Lock”). There’s no turning back from this moment for Danny, just like there’s a concept that Harold’s gonna have to start warming up to: Kaffee’s the only friend he’s got.


¹Although I could totally see the 2016 version of Kaffee FaceTiming with his clients between innings of one of his softball games.
²a.k.a. D+D Music Factory
³Take my word for it.
To say nothing of the ghost of his father lurking behind all of this.
And those are some serious fucking heavy-hitters, especially when you consider the actors who are playing them.
The character being played by the guy nobody’s ever heard of, who’d go on to do guest spots on Charmed.
Frenemy might be more accurate, but the term wouldn’t be invented for another 15 years or so.

You’re Wrong, I Do Know You

Timecode: 23:25 – 26:47

I don’t think you’re fit to handle the defense.

You don’t even know me. Ordinarily it takes someone hours to discover I’m not fit to handle a defense.
(JO just stares at him)
Oh come on, that was damn funny.

If a genie had granted me three wishes as a 12-year-old, it would’ve taken me all of 20 seconds to rattle off my choices:

1) I wish the Giants would finally win the World Series.
2) I wish I could see Kathy Ireland naked.
3) I wish I could be Tom Cruise in A Few Good Men.Jo-Danny confrontation

Well, I still haven’t seen Kathy Ireland naked (and honestly, I think I’d pass if given the chance now). And it ended up being another 18 years before the Giants finally won the big one. But for one magical evening in the Fall of 2005, Wish #3 was granted — for a few minutes, anyway.

I have only one person to thank for that, and no, it wasn’t a genie. It was my friend and USC film school classmate, Katie Wood¹. The scene we shot together (in which I play Kaffee) just happens to be the A Few Good Minutes we’ve arrived at in this week’s breakdown. So, it seemed only appropriate to invite my once (and future?) director to take the reigns this week and evaluate our performance. Take it away, Katie!


* * *

One of the first classes that Mike and I took in the USC MFA writing program was “Directing the Actor” taught by the inimitable (and Academy Award-nominated) Nina Foch. If her long career and trunk full of stories about Hollywood’s Golden Age² weren’t enough to intimidate us, her no-bullshit teaching style took care of the rest. At 81, not only had she seen it all, she saw through it all. Like Jo Galloway, she didn’t let people skate by in some fast-food, slick-ass, Persian bazaar manner.

So, needless to say, anxiety was running high leading into our final project. The task at hand was to direct a scene (from an existing film) within certain limitations: the scene had to be between two characters, and there was no editing allowed. In other words, the entire scene had to be shot in one, continuous take. (You know, like this…but the student film version).

Leading up to the exercise, we learned how to break down scenes like a director, by stating the intention behind every line of dialogue. And while this may sound like a pedantic exercise that would suck all the joy out of a scene, it’s actually really fucking fun! Here’s an excerpt from my breakdown of our AFGM scene:breakdown1crop

Kaffee’s intention is almost always some form of “to show you my dimples.” He’s a charming SOB, after all, and it’s gotten him far in life. In fact, it’s gotten him all the way to JoAnne Galloway: the first person who doesn’t find it particularly cute. Okay, she finds it a little cute, but that just makes him that much more irritating. And for Kaffee, the next best thing to charming someone is irritating them. So, it’s a perfect match, really. I mean, just look at these two going back and forth with one another:

Now, all I had to do was capture that same dynamic with two actors not named Tom Cruise and Demi Moore. Luckily, being in LA, we had easy access to professional(-ish) actors. I mean, they’re everywhere! And they’ll work for free! They don’t even treat you like you’re some idiot kid, either (even though you are some idiot kid!)

But then I remembered that Mike’s favorite movie was AFGM, and I knew that I wanted him to play the part. Why? Well, for one thing, he already knew the dialogue! Plus, he owned softball gear! And he has dimples! I mean, who better to play Kaffee?³

Jo was tougher find. My apologies to the actress, whose name I can’t remember, but she was the only one who could get through Jo’s monologue without stumbling and sound like she had at least some idea of what the words meant. Sorkin really isn’t for the faint of heart. But, in the words of LeVar Burton, don’t take my word for it… Watch for yourself:

Trying our hand at the scene made it that much clearer how perfect the real thing is/was.

There are a few advantages that a Hollywood production has over a student film. Aside from money and talent, there are also Naval uniforms. Of course Jo wouldn’t confront Kaffee out of uniform. Dress whites are the perfect physical representation of Jo’s character. Crisp, spotless, professional (if not severe). The contrast with Kaffee is striking. He’s relaxed and joking and can’t even stop hitting balls to talk to a superior officer. Of course, Kaffee is also in uniform: his softball uniform. He’s dressed for a game, which sums him up perfectly, too.

My choice to set the scene at night was due mostly to scheduling conflicts, but it couldn’t be more wrong. Rather than catching Kaffee shirking his duties, it seems like Jo has stalked him during his off-hours. Our attempt at a classic Sorkin walk-and-talk was somewhat hindered by the length of the sidewalk, lack of a steady cam, and the speed at which I can walk backwards. At the time I was quite pleased with the staging, i.e. which character was leading and which was following. But in the original, every choice speaks perfectly to who the characters are, not just who has the upper hand in the conversation.

Watching the original again, I was especially taken by the way Kaffee doesn’t even take a break from hitting balls when being questioned by a superior officer, though he does miss the ball the first time she questions his work ethic.Jo-Danny confrontation4

Taking on this scene made me appreciate the level of skill of everyone involved in the Reiner/Cruise/Moore version. But I think we did a decent job for some idiot kids.

Now, given that whole preamble I gave you about our no-nonsene instructor, I know you’re dying to know: what did Nina think? Well, her critique of the scene ended up being a simple, “You did the job”, which for her, was a glowing fucking review. And the rest of the class was so impressed that I’d made the grade with her, they bought me drinks at the bar later. And really, isn’t that the goal of any great artist?


* * *

¹“She’s a good woman.” (c) John Norwood, circa ’05

²Most of these stories were about how full of shit most of Hollywood’s greatest actors were. Except Bogie. He was all right.

³Thanks, Katie! Check is in the mail.

Hal, Is This a Blog?

Timecode: 22:45 – 23:24


Another red-brick building. A few M.P.Is stand out front as the cars pull up. As soon as they come to a stop, all the doors swing open and various uniformed and non-uniformed officers hop out and move to the unmarked sedan where they escort DAWSON and DOWNEY, in handcuffs, out of the car.

HAROLD DAWSON’s a handsome, young, black corporal. Intense, controlled, and utterly professional.

LOUDEN DOWNEY’s a 19-year-old kid off an Iowa farm. He’s happiest when someone is telling him exactly what to do¹. DAWSON’s his hero.

The two prisoners stand still for a moment. They might as we’ll be in Oz.

Hal, is this Washington, D.C.?

Hal, is this Washington D.C.

This week’s short scene seemed like the perfect opportunity to a) highlight a bit of Sorkin’s sensational screenplay (which you see above), b) discuss the high comedy that is Downey’s wide-eyed-ness (which we’ll get to momentarily), and c) take stock of the bigger picture with the first installment of our AFGM Power Rankings² (which you’ll find below). But let’s start with the lovably guileless Louden…

His line in this scene is my pick for the most unintentionally hilarious moment of the movie. While there are certainly naive and unsophisticated people in the world³, there’s something about his delivery of the line that is so broad, it bleeds into caricature. In fact, if this were a different movie, say one directed by the Zucker or Wayans brothers, you could see this turning into a full-on gag if the scene continued:

“Hal, is this prison?”

“Hal, is this a toothbrush?”

“Hal, is this my dick?”

You get the picture.

I think my favorite part about the line, though, is the subtext that I’m (more than likely) projecting upon young Lowden. I like to imagine that the question stems not from naivete but disappointment. He gets out of the car expecting to see The White House, The Capitol Building, and the Lincoln, Jefferson, and Washington Memorials all at once. After all, this is supposed to be Washington D.C.! Postcard fucking central. It should look something like this:turn around louden mockup

But nooooo! All poor little Louden gets are a couple of nondescript brick buildings and a dinky metal staircase. I mean, what a gyp!

(Quick side-note: given Downey’s Iowa roots and his inquisitive nature, I also can’t help but think of this famous “Where am I?” moment from movie history:

But hey, at least Shoeless Joe had an excuse for being so dense: I mean, ghosts aren’t exactly known for their crack geography skills. End of quick side-note.)


AFGM Power Rankings 1.0

Listed in ascending order from least powerful to most powerful (at this point in the movie):

136) Downey
“Hal, is this last place?”

135) Santiago
Only his fine penmanship (in that letter he wrote) saved him from the cellar.

118) Sherby
If he kept his eyes open, his chances of ranking higher would increase by a factor of ten.

97) Spradling
Was smoked like a dime bag of oregano.

75) Dawson
Definitely outranks Downey (both militarily and in these power rankings), but he’s shown more acumen with duct tape than he has with the English language thus far.

61) Markinson
We just saw him scolded like a small child. I mean, you half-expected the scene to end with him licking Jessep’s boots like he was his dominatrix.

60) Kendrick
Similarly dressed-down in the previous scene, but at least he’s getting a free lunch at the “O” Club out of it.

44) Weinberg
Has no responsibilities here whatsoever.

27) Capt. Whitaker
Pretty sure that dude next to him with his eyes closed is fantasizing about him in a manner that would push the limits of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”.Requested by division

* Top 5 *

Drumroll, please…

5) Kaffee
He’s pacing himself.

4) Galloway
Had Kaffee all kinds of turned around by the end of their first meeting.

3) Capt. West
‘Dat mustache, tho.

t-1) Jessep
Took a few innings before they finally brought him out of the bullpen, but he came in throwing absolute gas.

t-1) Tom


¹This sentence provides a classic example of why how-to screenwriting books are (mostly) rubbish. They’ll often tell you that you should never include something in the scene description that we (as the audience) can’t see or hear. But when done artfully (and sparingly) – particularly when describing a character for the first time – it can do wonders to help the reader understand what you’re going for. And at the end of the day, that is the whole point of a screenplay.
²Trademark pending.
³And quite of a few of them are probably Midwestern teenagers.
I had no idea until writing this that it’s “What a gyp!” and not “What a gip!” #stilllearning
Military slang for Officer’s Club.

Buried Treasure

Timecode: 16:50 – 17:08

There’s an old adage that says no matter how many times you’ve seen a great movie (or read a great book), you always notice something new (and wonderful) each time you go back to it. Honestly, I didn’t think that was possible with AFGM – not because it isn’t great¹, but because I’ve seen it so many goddamn times². But boy, oh boy, was I wrong!

Last week, while I was studying the on-screen chemistry between Kaffee and that apple, I stumbled upon a small (but hilarious) detail that I’d never noticed before. And so, in true A Few Good Minutes fashion, I’m devoting this entire post to those 18 seconds of screen time and what they can possibly tell us about the greatest movie ever made³.

We now join our scene already in progress…

Kaffee has just been dismissed by Galloway, and Sam decides to stick around to explain away Danny’s devil-may-care attitude — ostensibly, to smooth things over with Jo (and possibly, to keep her from telling his boss, Captain Whitaker, that he and Danny are a couple of maroons):

He’s a little preoccupied. The team’s playing Bethesda Medical next week.

Tell your friend not to get cute down there. The Marines in Guantanamo are fanatical.

About what?

About being Marines.

About being Marines

It’s a great exchange, highlighted by the dismissive, matter-of-fact tone that Demi Moore delivers the last line. But there’s something even more amazing going on in the background. When Kaffee leaves the office, he turns right and heads off down the hallway (out of our view). But if you look closely, you see him re-appear in the doorway a beat later, heading the opposite direction (translation: Danny’s so out of it, he went the wrong way). Here’s the Zapruder-esque footage to prove it:14hsm8

It’s the kind of comedic touch you’d expect from Buster Keaton or Lucille Ball. But what’s more important (at least for our purposes) is to think about the possible reasons for Danny’s about-face. (Do note, however, that whichever explanation you choose likely says more about you than it does Kaffee…)

Explanation #1 (a.k.a. the simplest explanation): Danny is just that oblivious.

Supporting Evidence: We’ve seen him look to Sam for explanations about everything from fence-lines to Colonel Jessep’s resume during the last two scenes. And while Kaffee certainly enjoys playing up his confusion for comedy’s sake (ex. “Was that 0600 in the morning, sir?”), it’s safe to assume that he legitimately has zero idea who Jessep is.

Explanation #2 (a.k.a. the MJ explanation): Danny has a Michael Jordan-esque will to win (at least when it comes to softball), and all he can think about is beating Bethesda Medical next week.

Supporting Evidence: Anyone willing to hit that many grounders to such a stone-handed doofus (a.k.a. Sherby) isn’t playing “just for funsies”. Insert obligatory Kaffee-Crying Jordan meme here:Kaffee Crying JordanExplanation #3 (a.k.a. the “he’s finally met his match” explanation): While he’d never actually admit it, Kaffee was thrown off his game by Galloway’s “my jurisdiction is pretty much in your face” speech — either because she’s the first person to ever call him out on his bullshit, or because he’s sexually attracted to her (or both).

Supporting Evidence: Given what we’ve seen of his interactions with Spradling, Sam, and Captain Whitaker, Kaffee certainly hasn’t been pushed up to this point. So, at the very least, Jo’s “you’re gonna have to go deeper than that” comment is not something Danny’s heard much of in his professional life. And in the scene still to come, where Galloway calls him out yet again (this time in front of his entire softball team), he’ll allude to being sexually aroused by Jo’s take charge, dominatrix vibe.

While it’s easy to default to the simplest explanation, I tend to lean towards Explanation #3, and here’s why:

Danny can’t be that oblivious; not unless this is a different movie, and it’s being directed by The Farrelly Brothers or The Zucker Brothers (or any other brothers known for incredibly broad comedy). Sure, Rob Reiner has superb comedic chops (and Cruise gives us some memorable comic moments in the film), but at the end of the day, this is a story that we’re supposed to take seriously (even if the main character is doing everything in his power not to up to this point). So, the idea that Kaffee would head the wrong direction simply because he’s not paying attention just doesn’t fit the tone that the movie is going for.

Even more to the point, Tom Cruise is a great actor. And like all great actors, his performances are defined by the unique and specific choices that he makes. Those choices aren’t arbitrary; they’re always acutely motivated.

And that’s why, until Tom Cruise tells me otherwise, I will go to my grave convinced that the only explanation for Kaffee’s about-face is behind Door Number Three: Jo actually managed to get under his skin a little.


¹I mean, c’mon, why would I be writing this blog if it wasn’t?
²Rough estimate: 35 times from start to finish (with plenty of other, partial viewings).
³Military courtroom drama division.
And he’s not alone. Right, Michael Douglas?
Tom, if you’re reading this, you can reach me at mpmsclone@gmail.com

Danny Appleseed

Timecode: 12:59 – 16:49

Commander, Lt. Kaffee’s generally considered the best litigator in our office. He’s successfully plea bargained 44 cases in nine months.

One more and I get a set of steak knives.

If you’re a dedicated reader of this blog¹, you may remember that I said Kevin Pollak was the perfect scene partner for Tom Cruise. Well, I was wrong, ladies and gentlemen. Because there is, in fact, another co-star that helps Cruise soar to even greater heights in AFGM. And no, it’s not Demi Moore, Kevin Bacon, or Jack Nicholson. I’m speaking, of course, about the juicy, Red Delicious apple² that Kaffee has a torrid love affair with during his first meeting with Galloway.Apple in the mouth

There’s just no denying it: the first half of this scene is a fucking master class in how business³ can enhance a performance. And as such, it absolutely warrants requires a thorough, bite-by-bite, A Few Good Minutes breakdown:

Kaffee arrives at Galloway’s door with Sam at his side and the apple already down to the nub. I have to assume that Danny skipped lunch to hit Sherby a few more grounders, and this apple is all that’s standing between him and dangerously low blood sugar.

• And yet, lo and behold, that “same” apple is a good 15-20% less eaten when he walks into the office (continuity error alert!) We’ll get to why that is in a second, but first, a couple of important questions: how much apple did Tom Cruise have to eat before they finished shooting this scene? And did he have to camp out in his trailer later that afternoon because of it?

• Back to the magically more-intact apple for a second. Why would Cruise trade out flimsy apple #1 for the beefier apple #2, you ask? Because he wanted to achieve peak “pig at a laua” comedic effect when he puts said apple in his mouth (pictured above), while searching his briefcase for the crumpled up piece of paper that he jotted Galloway’s name down on.

• It also gives us a spectacular, “Stars: They’re Just Like Us!” moment a second later, when Cruise turns profile to the camera and there’s a giant, glistening smear of apple juice across his cheek.

• Then, the second he’s invited to sit down, he grabs a chair, takes a thoroughbred-level bite out of the apple, and doubles down on the business by licking residual apple juice off of his hand.

• Before the scene is over, he actually goes to the “apple in his mouth to free up his hand bit” three times: first when he knocks on the door, then when he’s searching for Galloway’s name, and finally, when he passes the Dawson & Downey file to Sam (like it’s a hot potato) upon receiving it from Galloway.

• And then there’s the coup de grâce: with the apple finally finished, Cruise’s eyes dart around the room looking for some place to dispose of the core. This gets Demi into the act, as she fishes the garbage can from beneath her desk and offers it to Cruise with a glare that says far more about how she feels about Kaffee than any dialogue ever could. The business is so good that you could watch the scene with the sound muted, and you could still understand their dynamic.

• Okay, I lied, that wasn’t the final final blow, because everyone knows that when you eat a juicy piece of fruit by hand, your hands become a sticky fucking nightmare! And don’t think Tom Cruise – the everyman of everymen — is going to let us forget it. No, sir! He resorts to the same “Miyagi hands” approach that every last one of us has used while trying to unstickify our hands when there’s no water, soap or paper towels available.Kaffee rubbing hands apple

I mean, my god! Give the man his due. Forget a set of steak knives, Cruise deserves an Oscar and a paring knife made of Valyrian steel for that performance. (Oh, and throw in one of these while you’re at it; they make apple pie-making a fucking breeze!)

Taken as a whole, Kaffee’s tête–à–tête with the Red Delicious helps to pound home (one final time before the story really gets rolling) both his boyish charm (because, really, what’s more boyish and charming than a farm boy gnawing on an apple from the orchard?) and the nonchalance with which he treats everything work-related.

The key turn in the scene, however, comes when Kaffee tries to wriggle his way out of Galloway’s interrogation by giving her the Dave Spradling treatment (he of the oregano prosecution):

Right. Is that all?

Lieutenant, this letter makes it look like your client had a motive to kill Santiago.

Am I correct in assuming that these letters don’t paint a flattering picture of marine corps life at Guantanamo Bay?

Yes, among —

Am I further right in assuming that a protracted investigation of this incident might cause some embarrassment for the security counsel guy.

Colonel Jessep, but —

Twelve years.

I’m sorry?

I’ll get them to drop the conspiracy and conduct unbecoming. Twelve years.

You haven’t talked to a witness or looked at a piece of paper.

Pretty impressive, huh?

You’re gonna have to go deeper than that.

When Spradling told Kaffee, “I don’t know why I’m agreeing to this” when they settled the oregano case, you could tell that it wasn’t the first time Kaffee’d heard that line before. Given his considerable charisma and that aforementioned charm, it’s probably safe to assume that Kaffee’d heard that line non-stop in the 9 months since he joined the Navy: from JAG lawyers at the end of every plea bargain and from D.C. co-eds before every last call.

But not this time. Not on Jo’s watch. I mean, say what you will about her as a litigator, but no one can question Joanne Galloway’s ability to crawl up a lawyer’s ass. Her jurisdiction is — and always has been — IN. YOUR. FACE. So, buckle up, Kaffee: you’re in the big leagues now.Jurisdiction is in your face

Oh, and you’re dismissed, by the way.always forget that part

I know, I know. You always forget that part.


¹Shout-out to my folks!
²You could potentially talk me into it being a Jonagold, but to anyone who thinks it might be an Empire or Gala, please, do us both a favor and stop reading this blog immediately.
³For the uninitiated, “business” refers to the physical actions an actor performs in conjunction with their dialogue.
Because we all know that apple juice is a diuretic, and that apples are high in fiber, which is good for, you know…
Or is it a metaphor for him trying to dispose of the Corps and all that it stands for??? Just kidding, guys. I’m not a crazy person!
Not a real word
And paired with a few spoonfuls of peanut butter, of course, because an apple with some peanut butter is basically the perfect snack!