Monday, August 20, 2012

The Essential Tony Scott

In the wake of Tony Scott's tragic suicide on Sunday afternoon, websites and news outlets have been flooding the internet and airwaves with their pre-planned obits that reference Scott's most mainstream recognizable films; such as "Top Gun" and "Days of Thunder". While these films deserve their place in the pantheon of great movies, the obits that reference them seem to be missing the subversive and radical genius of Tony Scott's filmography.

Scott was a master of on-screen violence, stylistic action, and radical techniques in lighting, editing, and sound. Heralding only "Top Gun" and "Days of Thunder" fails to pay tribute to what an unmitigated bad-ass Tony Scott really was behind the camera. His best works present a sarcastic, outsider attitude in reaction to a world that is as frequently violent and chaotic as it is rule-constricted and oppressive.

In honor of the passing of this true master film-maker, I present this alternative list of the essential works of Tony Scott.

5. Domino (2005) - A violent orgy of attitude and style-overload. Many critics consider this to be the one where Tony Scott went too far, but I think it was the ultimate expression of his audio/visual inner-self. I'm glad the old dog got it out of his system before it was too late.

4. Man on Fire (2004) - In the end, this might be considered Tony Scott's best film. It contained an emotional center that many of his other films are often accused of lacking; while also managing to contain a level of intense violence that made his previous decade's worth of on-screen viscera (almost) pale in comparison.

3. Crimson Tide (1995) - Along with the rest of the world, I thought that after "The Hunt For Red October" there simply could not be another high caliber submarine movie. Not only did Tony Scott prove us all wrong with this one, he also established his long collaborative relationship with Denzel Washington, and brilliantly translated the oft-independent-film "men trapped in a tense situation" genre to big budget film-making.

2. True Romance (1993) - There are not enough adjectives or hyperbolic phrases in my vocabulary to do this masterpiece justice. The fact that this movie exists outside of my wildest imagination and actually inhabits cherished shelf space in the collection of every movie geek worth their salt is the ultimate testament to Tony Scott's brilliance as a film-maker. This is a must see, must own movie and deserves to be counted among the very best films of the 1990's.

1. The Last Boy Scout (1991) - The last great 80's action movie (even though it was made in the 90's); this is by far my favorite Tony Scott film. Its sublime dialogue, ridiculous plot, unearthly lighting, and masterful direction make it pound-for-pound one of the most entertaining movies ever made. The way Tony Scott filmed and edited the action/dialogue interplay in this movie should be studied. The BMW/Limo, "Bom means fuck you in Polish" sequence alone is worth the price of admission and watching it should earn you at least 3 credits in film school. (Unfortunately, that scene is not on Youtube, so you'll have to settle for this ingenius intro to our anti-hero.)

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