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Mania Remembers Tony Scott

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Mania Remembers Tony Scott

There will never be another Tony Scott…

By Rob Vaux     August 21, 2012
Source: Mania.com

Tony Scott never won an Academy Award. Indeed, he was never nominated for an Academy Award, a sign of both his unapologetic commercialism and the Academy’s overall snootiness. But his films – good and bad alike – changed the face of movies in ways many Oscar winners never could. Scott, who killed himself yesterday after an apparent bout with inoperable brain cancer, reveled in commercial crowd pleasers, and his brazen kinetic style came to define popcorn entertainment for an entire era.
Like his brother Ridley, Tony applied an artists’ sensibilities to his productions… which his critics (and I rank among them) blasted as overtly superficial. They were all sizzle and no steak: pretty images that meant nothing and served merely to distract us from the utter lack of substance beneath. But therein lay the essence of Scott’s appeal. The image was the aesthetic to him. The visceral emotions they generated became the purpose of the exercise; we experience them almost in the abstract, with the story and characters providing the only basic pretense of structure to channel our responses. 
 More importantly, they didn’t look like anything else out there. Even in the latter half of his career, when every film school grad madly copied his techniques, his films stood apart from the pack.  To paraphrase one of his characters, he never trusted air he couldn’t see. His quick cuts and MTV sizzle could be spotted a mile away, his characters’ faces constantly looming in front of hazy sun-streaked cityscapes. His technique carried an enthusiasm that less dedicated directors lacked. As openly corporate as they were, his films never felt cranked out. He spoke to us as an individual, using terms that the rest of Hollywood often adopted, but which came from an auteur’s perspective rather than a committee’s.
Unlike Ridley’s films, they never asked big questions. Instead, they dealt in intriguing hypotheticals and then left us to think about them while the sounds and lights crashed around us. What would we do with a suitcase full of cocaine? How would we respond if a vast government conspiracy turned its apparatus against us? If we were a naval officer and nuclear war were brewing, would we trust our commander to pull the trigger or fight like hell to confirm the order? Few of these questions had any bearing on practical reality, but they made excellent pretenses to put the actors through their paces. 
That may explain why he attracted such top-notch talent to his corner. Denzel Washington was a fixture in his films, but the likes of Bruce Willis, Gene Hackman, Brad Pitt, Robert Redford and Will Smith also signed up with him. You rarely saw any flashes in the pan in his films; no fleetingly popular actors who would vanish a year after shooting wrapped. They all had staying power and while the big paychecks were a part of it, they also flocked to him because he would keep them center stage at all times. They never just shot guns at the bad guys or raced around in cars; they always grappled with something the audience could really relate to. We had to work to spot it sometimes amid the New Wave editing and thundering rock score, but when it shined through, it was a thing of beauty. 
 

That brings us to his most iconic film: Top Gun, which along with Stallone’s Rambo helped define the action aesthetic of the 1980s. I won’t lie to you: I hate it. I hate it with the undying fury of a thousand suns.  But it has endured over the ensuing thirty years, and its themes and visuals have become an indelible part of our cinematic language. “Goose” is the go-to short term for doomed sidekicks, latent homoeroticism never found a more potent couple, and the crowd-pleasing dogfight shots still stand as shining examples of technical artistry. I may not like it, but a lot of people do – and it wouldn’t still be with us without Scott at the helm.
And now we face the disheartening reality of a cinematic landscape without that voice.  A prolific career has ended too soon, leaving us to contemplate what might have been instead of appreciating what was. As sad as we are at the prospect, it also reminds us of the body of work he left us, a body that helped make the movies what they are. There will never be another Tony Scott… and cinema won’t be quite the same without him. 

COMMENTS AND RESPONSES

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SarcasticCaveman 8/21/2012 2:39:56 AM

 I hope they at least give him a retrospective at the Oscars this year.

HudsonTaco 8/21/2012 6:02:56 AM

 Was never a huge fan of Top Gun either, but some of his films were amazing, True Romance (one of my favorites), Crimson Tide, Man on Fire. Beverly Hills Cop 2 was great fun. 

Sad to hear, but inoperable brain cancer is a shitty thing to die from also. RIP

nemesis1_57 8/21/2012 9:13:05 AM

Tony Scott made movie for poeple to enjoy and thats all that matters. Oscar or not Oscar his work speaks for itself.

Higgy 8/21/2012 10:32:25 AM

I really liked Top Gun, Enemy of the State and Beverly Hills Cop 2.

alienstatue 8/21/2012 11:00:15 AM

I really enjoyed Top Gun, and Deja Vu. I know I've seen Beverly Hills Cop 2 but I can't remember most of it. Man on Fire was awesome. I'm not sure I've seen True Romance. Have to check it out.

 

wrrlykam 8/21/2012 1:32:03 PM

Top Gun still looks great. Always a treat to watch when it is show on TV. RIP Tony.

Just this second been on the news that some people are trying to sell images or videos of the jump. Some sick or desperate folks out there

Shellhead88 8/21/2012 2:38:01 PM

Tony Scott is my second favorit director, with his brother being first. I know I own a lot of their movies. I would like to thank him for all the entertainment that he has provided us. RIP Tony you will be missed.

shac2846 8/21/2012 2:41:52 PM

 Didn't like top gun either but True Romance, Crimson Tide are great. And Beverly Hills Cop is a great action flick. RIP Tony. 

zentonto 8/21/2012 5:41:25 PM

Well said Rob!

I've always loved The Last Boyscout, I still think it's much better than Top Gun, and True Romance is the best looking Tarantino film (my favorite of Scott's). The thing about Tony Scott is that we love his movies because of the flair he brought to them, regardless of the story being told. That was his power.

I'd like to think that he went out on his own terms and took the cancer down with him.

 

XeroWarp 8/21/2012 6:03:39 PM

Best Tony Scott, films.

1. True Romance

2. Man on Fire

3. Top Gun

4. Crimson Tide

RIP, Tony....

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