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One of the more interesting aspects of this job is discovering how many people look upon film critics as the enemy. Especially residents of that filmmaking state of mind known as Hollywood.

That may not seem such a curious assumption, I suppose, given that so many film critics are perceived as disliking so many films. But the truth is there's probably not a single one of us who doesn't love movies with a passion. As deep - or deeper - a passion as those who make the movies.How else can you explain any single person sitting through so many of them? Likewise, it may explain why critics get so tired of movies that deliver to our lowest expectations.

I'm not really able to speak for others, of course, but I go into every movie optimistically, hopeful that it will be an enjoyable or moving experience. I am often disappointed but occasionally pleasantly surprised - and even, on rarer occasions, knocked out by something terrific.

And most likely, the same thing happens to you. Only not as often.

After all, everybody is a movie critic. Everyone who goes to the movies comes out with an opinion - and most people readily express it. To their spouses, to work associates . . . to just about anyone who will listen.

The difference, of course, is that the opinions of armchair critics don't reach as wide an audience as the opinions of someone with a media forum.

All of this comes to mind because a new level of star ego came into play last week with the release of "Days of Thunder."

Tom Cruise is requiring something unusual of TV stations that would like to use a video profile he sat for, that is, an interview with Cruise that Paramount Pictures itself produced to publicize the movie. Cruise is requiring a three-page contract assuring that the station will not misuse Cruise's image or voice in that video piece.

Most of the contract is the usual legal gobbledygook, but the main thrust comes through in Article 4, which states: "No changes or modifications may be made to the Tom Cruise material or to Mr. Cruise's voice or appearance therein. . . ." It further requires that editing the video for time constraints ". . . not materially change the content, substance or meaning of the Tom Cruise material . . . or cause Mr. Cruise to appear in an adverse manner."

The contract goes on to indicate that if the piece is altered, not only can Paramount sue the station, Cruise himself can also sue.

Four copies of the contract must be signed and returned to Paramount before the video profile/interview tape will be sent to any station. And the contract must be signed by an "officer" of the TV station or network.

Is any station in the country really going to succumb to such a ridiculous request? I hope not.

On the surface this probably appears to be merely another movie star ego trip, giving new depth to a line of dialogue from "Days of Thunder" where Cruise's character is referred to as "an infantile egomaniac."

Tom Cruise is so concerned about his dimples that he's afraid someone will try to snip his smile out of a reaction shot. Or perhaps a line of dialogue from the piece might be lifted to sell aluminum siding or be placed on telephone answering machine tapes. Or maybe someone will put Cruise's head on Pee-wee Herman's body - or worse, Pee-wee's head on Cruise's body!

OK, it's easy to make fun of such a demand - but Cruise isn't dumb, and it's hard to believe he can't see how idiotic this contract is. If he's that concerned about this piece of video, why not just have Paramount destroy it? Then he won't have to worry about someone distorting it.

Cruise is an obvious example of the star who thinks film critics are the enemy. Or perhaps journalism in all of its forms.

But we don't all work for the National Enquirer.

Most of us know better than to take cheap shots in print or on TV, because more often than not it makes the writer look bad instead of the star. And, speaking for myself, I have no interest in the gossip - who's sleeping with whom, etc. I'm interested in the work - the movies. That's it.

But because Cruise has been so harassed by the so-called "tabloid" press, it seems he has come to think all of us are out to do him harm. Or maybe, since all of his movies have not gotten raves, he feels critics are out to get him.

Not true.

And even if it were true, to suggest someone at a TV station would take this video piece and alter it to "cause Mr. Cruise to appear in an adverse manner" is even sillier than the plot of "Cocktail."

Let's face it, the publicity machine works both ways - it gives the movie a boost in the public eye and it gives the TV station something with which to fill up a few minutes of time. Something people will watch if they want to see Cruise.

But those viewers will also be happy to settle for seeing Cruise in a clip from the movie instead of a staged interview, and in the case of "Days of Thunder" that's what most TV audiences will likely get.

Hundreds of these profile/interview tapes will gather dust on Paramount's shelves as TV stations around the country decide not to be bullied by Tom Cruise.

And Cruise will doubtless think this is yet another negative decision made by the enemy.