Acid In The Coliseum
April 15, 2015 5:32 PM   Subscribe

"When Tony Scott took his own life in 2012, we lost an unquestionably significant filmmaker. Some dwelled on the whys of his demise (thus leading to the rumor that the man was dying of terminal cancer when he jumped from San Pedro’s Vincent Thomas Bridge), but ultimately none of that matters one bit. Scott was a genius behind the camera, leaving behind a filmography that was unified in tone and consistently flat out entertaining. It’s a shame that his pictures have been regularly dismissed as nothing more than hollow diversions; mindless drivel meant for mass consumption and disposal. While their appeal is most certainly broad, there’s nothing vapid about them." - Acid In The Coliseum: The Films Of Tony Scott posted by brundlefly (17 comments total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
true romance is a personal fave of mine :P (with that hans zimmer score!)
posted by kliuless at 5:55 PM on April 15, 2015 [2 favorites]

What the what, I didn't even know Tony Scott killed himself. His films weren't masterpieces but they were solid as hell. That's sad.
posted by turbid dahlia at 5:56 PM on April 15, 2015

I also had no idea he was dead. Wow. Huh.

posted by kbanas at 6:05 PM on April 15, 2015

Yeah, Scott wasn't one of my favorite directors but his strengths were strong as hell. You could count on every new movie being as him as humanly possible and entertaining if nothing else. The fact that Tony Scott isn't out there being Tony Scott right now is still baffling to me and I get a bit sad whenever I think about it.
posted by brundlefly at 6:29 PM on April 15, 2015 [2 favorites]

true romance is a personal fave of mine :P (with that hans zimmer score yt !)

Yes and yes. I have that song on my iPod right now. And I have the movie on tape.
posted by LizBoBiz at 6:57 PM on April 15, 2015

1983: The Hunger
1986: Top Gun

It blew my mind to learn that these were directed by the same guy.
posted by paper chromatographologist at 7:24 PM on April 15, 2015 [1 favorite]

Thanks for posting this! I wouldn't have seen it otherwise.

I fucking love Tony Scott's movies. This is a fantastic list (Deja Vu ranked high!), and the writer makes a LOT of good points about all of them. Realizing I've never seen The Hunger, may have to go back and watch through his whole filmography.

The fact that Tony Scott isn't out there being Tony Scott right now is still baffling to me and I get a bit sad whenever I think about it.

I have said almost the exact same thing before. Sometimes I watch newer movies and think, "Oh this director is just trying to do a Tony Scott thing. Why didn't they just get the actual Tony Scott? Oh yeah." and then I get real sad.
posted by dogwalker at 7:37 PM on April 15, 2015 [1 favorite]

I had a bit of an internal battle before posting this, so please work with me here. Of course I do not intend to speak ill of the dead, but I'm not sure I can agree with most of the major points of this article.

While it's true that Tony Scott's work was certainly consistent, made a lot of money, and gave cinema-goers what they want, I'm not sure I can consider Tony Scott a "genius."

I would describe most of his films using the exact word that Jacob Knight is sure cannot be used: vapid.

Throughout the article we see mentions of a number of changes that Scott and Bruckheimer made to the film landscape, especially in the arena of the blockbuster Hollywood picture. While it's true that these changes happened, and these men were on the forefront of that movement, I wouldn't say the end result is any kind of display of impressive artistic merit.

Of course this is all subjective. Where some people might see Top Gun as "one of the decade’s defining motion pictures," I'm not sure that's necessarily a good thing. If you consider Top Gun to be some of the most misguidedly populist, jingoistic, gung-ho America claptrap, as I do, then that's not much of a positive definition of film for the 1980s. If you don't describe Top Gun the way I do, then what are it's positive markers? It's fun? It entertains me? It's got great action (dogfight) sequences? It's over-the-top? These can all be good things, but I'm not sure I'd want any of them being part of a decade's defining motion pictures.

The article is replete with comments about how Scott's films were "really dumb," "cinematic bummers," and "a confection made for mass consumption." Then it goes on to talk about why these descriptors are either okay, or don't matter, because of the overwhelming financial success.

One of my favourite parts of this article is as follows: "Roger Ebert famously quipped in his semi-positive review: "Movies like Top Gun are hard to review because the good parts are so good and the bad parts are so relentless.” That’s bullshit."

Well that's not bullshit. It's completely accurate. A movie can have great parts and awful parts. And the awful parts can often ruin a film. When I think of Tony Scott's movies I can't help but realize that I only enjoy them if I turn my brain off to watch. That's not an indictment of anyone's intelligence, it's just something I feel genuinely. My experience isn't any better or worse, it's just different. When I watch these films, with my brain on, I can't help but hate all the bad parts that end up making the film seem inconsistent, silly where it doesn't need to be, or cool for the sake of looking cool.

I guess what I'm saying, even though I'm sure it will sound elitist, is that when you make a film you're either trying to make art, or you're not. If you're not making art, then what are you doing? Just trying to entertain? That's fine. But it's just fine. Ask me any day of the week if I want to watch a film that's art, that also entertains, that demands I keep my brain turned on; or watch a film that demands nothing of me other than my money and my eyeballs; and I'll pick the former over the latter every single time.
posted by LoRichTimes at 7:57 PM on April 15, 2015 [10 favorites]

I loved Gladiator. For many reasons I enjoyed that film, so the slash job on Ridley Scott does not endear me to the writer's opinions. I saw Tony Scott's Top Gun, but that is the only one of his films I chose to attend.
posted by Oyéah at 8:39 PM on April 15, 2015

Look, I love Man on Fire. But it is also the worst of American (well, whatever you want to call it) filmmaking. Of the Scotts, Tony is more prone to this sort of contradiction, but Ridley has his moments as well (I do think you could easily make Black Hawk Down without it being screamingly racist). I don't think there needs to be a critical retrenchment about (Tony) Scott because his work just isn't that complex -- if I could get Denzel Washington to show up for my stuff, it would probably look pretty awesome on its worst day, as long as he got to look off into the distance with that troubled steely gaze that foreshadowed some serious shit every ten minutes.
posted by 99_ at 9:51 PM on April 15, 2015 [2 favorites]

LoRichTimes nails it. Tony Scott had some serious craft, but like Whitney Houston and Phil Collins (he said deliberately sidetracking into an entirely different form), that does not in any way guarantee what I'd call quality work, let alone genius. Unlike his brother Ridley who really has delivered on that level a few times.

I've only seen True Romance once and it was a long time ago, but I remember suddenly thinking about halfway through one of its overlong action sequences that the director was blowing it. He was letting his chops get in the way of story's inherent drama and tension -- the directorial equivalent of chewing the scenery.

The man's death was tragic, no question. But he was still a hack.
posted by philip-random at 9:55 PM on April 15, 2015 [1 favorite]

It's a good list and breakdown of his films, though for me there's a lot fewer I would say I'm a fan of. My Tony Scott list, in no particular order:

Unstoppable - Clearly the train was, in fact, stoppable, else it would've kept on going after the closing credits. Great sustained action and suspense.

True Romance - Tarrantino's script and dialogue and Scott's slick photography were the perfect match. As well as the perfect cast. Gets overviolent and unpleasant in parts, but is mostly great fun.

Man on Fire - This is a solid film that (spoiler alert) suffers from a completely implausible recovery by Denzel Washington's character before he goes on his revenge spree. Otherwise it's quite gripping.

Crimson Tide - More great casting with Washington and Hackman, great suspense and drama, even if the action gets rather silly. Tony Scott's best film.
posted by zardoz at 10:25 PM on April 15, 2015

It turns out I have watched nearly all of his films, often at the cinema. He is mostly vapid. However The Last Boy Scout is the last and possibly only time Damon Wayans was watchable and is the best Die Hard film Shane Black was ever let near.
posted by biffa at 11:51 PM on April 15, 2015

The absolutely ace podcast Denzel Washington is the Greatest Actor of All Time has thus far covered two of Scott's movies - Deja Vu and Crimson Tide.

philip-random: if Whitney Houston's a hack, then I'm Team Hack 4 Life.
posted by Gin and Broadband at 11:53 PM on April 15, 2015

I love Crimson Tide, but it's not a masterpiece. With both Hackman and Washington, you do get (and presumably, paid for) a certain minimum level of quality.

Top Gun is neck to neck with The Lost Boys for homoerotic action film of the decade—I love them both dearly, but view them primarily through the rose-tinted glasses of being a completely uncritical teenager when I first saw them.
posted by flippant at 12:17 AM on April 16, 2015

Man on Fire might be the one movie that most drove home my understanding that I can't handle relentlessly stupid violent revenge porn any more.

Looking at this list, I think I too would come down on the "this guy made movies worse" side of things, even if I enjoyed a bunch of them at the time.

(Also, I am starting to wish people would stop doing the psychedelics-as-metaphorical intensifier thing so much.)
posted by brennen at 11:31 AM on April 16, 2015 [1 favorite]

Unstoppable and Taking of Pelham 123? Why am I not surprised that both of those films had the always annoying doppler train whistle sound effect during a swipe edit used relentlessly, to unintended comical hilariousness, like the Mrs in the other room, not even watching the movie, imitating said audio effect in anticipation of its arrival on the basis of a break point in dialog, and getting it totally right a distressingly funny amount of times. Its now our shorthand for any awareness of impending predictability: "Neyoooow".

And those helicopter shots in Unstoppable looked like somebody really loves riding in helicopters doing stunt flying. I get it, and if you have the budget and authority to spend it, great, have fun. Doesn't mean you have to use ALL of that footage in your film.

And Crimson Tide is not a masterpiece, but it is fun watching Hackman and Washington gnaw so much scenery. Scott's output may have unintentionally benefited from forcing him to keep his story in one tube. Less chance of helicopter shots, let alone train whistle effects.
posted by dglynn at 2:08 PM on April 16, 2015 [1 favorite]

« Older "The lexicographer can only hope to escape...   |   Biohackers work in earnest on a seeming oxymoron Newer »

This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments