' ' Cinema Romantico: In Memoriam: Tony Scott

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

In Memoriam: Tony Scott

When I think of Tony Scott, the British film director, I, of course, think first of “Top Gun.” Lord, have I written an awful lot about “Top Gun.” That’s because as a devout patron of the cinema who was reared in the 80’s, the allure of “Top Gun” and its Ray-Bans and its karaoke and its glorious, unrepentant cheesiness and its Val Kilmer Pen Twirling demonstrations was unmistakable and unavoidable. If you’re of my age bracket you know – you KNOW – there could never be a more thankless task than flying a cargo plane full of rubber dog shit outta Hong Kong.

Last year I wrote about my 25 year relationship with "Top Gun." I addressed, briefly, my own personal Dark Ages, the time when I snootily turned up my nose at the video game antics of Maverick and his hokey liaison with Charlotte Blackwood. I had become an eager, passionate student of old-school cinema and knew full well that Tony Scott and his MTV-y operandi was no match for the classics. And hey, I still love the classics. I still love old-school cinema. But I also now know that my dismissive attitude toward “Top Gun” was misplaced. Thus, I re-embraced it. I owned my love of it. I’ve told this story so many times as to induce aggravation but driving through Miramar, CA in my tenacious Tempo in the middle of the night discussing fake call signs with my friend was a moment I still cherish – and the one moment in my life that made me wish I had some Kenny Loggins on hand.

Watching it last year at Lincoln Hall was a treat. One of my takeaways of that umpteenth viewing was the way in which it ends. No, not the scene where Maverick and Charlie are re-united, but the way in which Scott chose to employ the end credits – serving up an image of each character paired with the character and actor’s name. It’s just such a cheery thing to do, like you’re not quite ready to part ways with these people and so he grants you one more instant with them before they go. And then he tags that concise montage with the shot of the fighter jets roaring off into a sunset.

Of course, this isn’t even the most memorable sunset in the Tony Scott canon. No, that would arrive seven years later in “True Romance”, complete with intriguing backstory. Penned by pop culture maverick Quentin Tarantino, the dynamic, violent spin on the age-old Lovers On The Lam story originally concluded with Clarence (Christian Slater) meeting his Maker. It was Scott who decided Clarence should live and so rather than ending with a California Tragedy it ended with a California Sunset, Clarence and Alabama (Patricia Arquette) and their young son frolicking in the surf. It was the right call for the material and even Tarantino admitted as much.

Tony Scott died on Sunday at the age of 68. He leapt to his death from the Vincent Thomas Bridge in the Los Angeles Harbor. Why? That’s his business. Reports now abound that he had inoperable brain cancer. We give our movies happy endings with big orange sunsets and bouncy tuneage because real life so rarely affords them. Tony Scott probably knew that better than anyone.


Alex Withrow said...

Very moving, eloquent tribute here. I love your explanation as to why he is no longer with us. It is his business indeed.

Either way, I will definitely miss the uniqueness he brought to the game.

Anonymous said...

Man, you write tributes like nobody's business Nick! TOP GUN was THE coolest movie in the 80s, you said it, the unrepentant cheesiness is legendary but like I said on my post, it's GOOD cheese!! I saw the clips with the 'Take My Breath Away' song last night and just embrace it for what it is, a bombastic good fun... and gorgeous men in uniform, ehm.

I love what you wrote here... 'We give our movies happy endings with big orange sunsets and bouncy tuneage because real life so rarely affords them' So true isn't it? Well at least Tony shall have his happy endings in his movies.

Nick Prigge said...

Alex: As will I. It's just a shame that on account of going out how he went out that now the public is probably going to be his family through the ringer. It would be nice if they were just left to mourn in peace.

Ruth: Thanks. It is GOOD cheese. The BEST cheese! I am yearning to re-watch it so bad right now. I really should own it.

Andrew K. said...

Scott's passing is sad (and he's done such good work producing with Ridley, specifically The Good Wife most recently). You, and everyone else, writing about TRUE ROMANCE makes me sad for another reason, though - Christian Slater.

I mourn the the state of his career. Surely, surely he should have amounted to something better? He's not untalented.

Nick Prigge said...

Very good point. I thought about him when I re-watched True Romance on Monday night (because I had to) and how Patricia Arquette made it on to the contenders list if not the final bracket for your Performances of the 90s and yet Christian Slater was nowhere to be found.

It might be odd to compare Slater to Montgomery Clift but when I read Clift's biography earlier this year they talked about how he never won an Oscar because he always disappeared into the fabric of the movie - he just became ONE with the movie. And I think that's kind of what happened with Christian Slater in True Romance. He's so perfect for that part you don't even notice what he's doing as an actor.

Derek Armstrong said...

I've been trying to figure out how to acknowledge Scott's passing on my own blog, and I think I'm just going to let it go. Every mention I've made of the guy (probably three or four over the course of 3.5 years) has been a disparaging comment that uses such films as Domino and Man on Fire as though they were the sum total of what he did. I like to conveniently forget that I really like Crimson Tide and Deja Vu, in addition to the two classics you mention.

Nice piece, as always.

Nick Prigge said...

Thanks. I'm guilty of having employed Tony Scott's name in a less than nice fashion as well. His style has just become so prevalent I think it's easy to use his name as shorthand when you're describing another film like it.

I have not seen Deja Vu but, man, do I love Crimson Tide. That's just pure entertainment to me.

Derek Armstrong said...

When The Savages came out, I was *this close* to writing a post entitled "Oliver Stone does his best Tony Scott impersonation." Of course, you COULD say that Scott's own style was influenced by some of Stone's films, namely, Natural Born Killers. (Not coincidentally, Tarantino has collaborated with both guys, and I guess so has Trent Reznor, if you count the fact that about six NIN songs appear in Man on Fire, and Reznor was music supervisor on NBK.) I might have actually written the post if I hadn't been on vacation at the time.

Nick Prigge said...

THAT would be a really interesting post. They have kind of seemingly influenced one another back and forth, haven't they?