A look at the late director’s best films
by Nick Gallinelli
I remember the first time I watched the film ‘True Romance’. It was in film class at the University of Tampa (never heard of it? Neither have NY employers) on a hot, sunny, Tampa-like day. It was Friday. All my friends were in their cars and on their way to St. Pete beach, volleyball, and $2 Coronas. I was sitting in class.
I was the victim of this mental torture every Friday afternoon. While making my schedule for that semester, I somehow overlooked the fact that going to the beach is more fun than going to class. I reasoned that, instead of stacking my schedule during the week’s first four days, I’d spread it out a bit and make Friday my fun-class day. I’d take film on Friday, because film class —where you watch stuff like ‘True Romance’— can only be so boring. Seemingly obvious at the time, this reasoning has proved unreasonable, but at least I’ve learned one of life’s most complex mysteries: the beach is always more fun than class.
(Fortunately, my classroom had no windows, so I was never teased into tears by the outdoors. Windows too often serve as a reminder that while you’re inside inanely clicking away, there is something better going on elsewhere.)
But on that one Friday when Tom Garrett, spacey film producer/lover whose Facebook is currently diffused with St.Petersburg-based ‘Spring Breakers’ production photos, I didn’t fully regret my decision to attend class and miss the beach. The beach is always more fun, but that day the scale was slightly straighter.
That day I discovered two things: an underappreciated and blood-laden Tarantino grit-fest that unfairly dwells in ‘Pulp Fiction’’s monstrous shadow, and the reason for this story—Tony Scott.
This Sunday, Scott, with problems more problematic than sitting in class on a sunny day (reports say Scott had brain cancer), decided to take his own life at the age of 68. After his death, the film industry took to Twitter to sympathize, but like NY Press did with the late David Rakoff, we will remember and honor Scott by his life, not death. And that life had a long list of feats.
Scott never got the attention from the Academy like his brother Ridley, but that doesn’t mean he wasn’t a creative and smart director— ever heard of ‘Top Gun’? You already know my thoughts on True Romance, and Beverly Hills Cop II is still pretty badbutt. Looking back, Scott was an indefatigable director/producer and churned out a lot of television and cinema since his debut in the mid ‘80s. Some of it was great, some not so much. Below, in the opinion of one Tampa alum, are Scott’s best movies.
True Romance (Director, 1993)
Surprised to see this one here?
Highlighted by one of my favorite scenes of all time where Dennis Hopper defiantly (and perhaps unwisely) protects his on-the-run son Christian Slater’s whereabouts from mobster Christopher Walken, True Romance is quick and bloody love story that exemplifies Tarantino’s knack for suspense.
Beautifully and skillfully directed by Tony Scott, the film deserves more credit than it gets. According to my ex-film professor, aforementioned Tom Garrett, True Romance was an audition for Tarantino to warrant funding for his pet project, Pulp Fiction, but Romance is an awesome story when judged with autonomy.
By the way, Christian Slater is not Dennis Hopper’s son and Christopher Walker is not a mobster, but theircharacters are. And I avoided linking to the scene mentioned before (blood/language) but it’s certainly on YouTube. Hopefully this hilarious scene suffices.
The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (Producer, 2007)
It’s surprising that a movie’s title would be a spoiler, but that doesn’t take away from the story of how you got to the ending. Scott, in collaboration director Andrew Dominick, the ever-beloved Brad Pitt, and breakout Casey Affleck, delivered an interesting, nuanced version of one of America’s greatest legends.
The film, as Roger Ebert put it, is a “curiously erotic dance of death” that teeters between homoeroticism and idol and idolater. Add in authentically-rugged Western feel and Scott, along with his teammates, create a wonderfully-acted, macabre film of jealousy.
Top Gun (Director, 1986)
Unstoppable (Director, 2010)
When your entire movie consists of two huge trains moving too fast and heading at one another, it can be a bit taxing on the film’s pacing if you want to slow things down and, you know, develop character, create some sentiment, etc., but that doesn’t stop Scott from making an awesome thriller. With so much intensity, the quality of the film is largely based on the technical aspect of production, and that’s where Scott and his team excel.
Man on Fire (Director/Producer, 2004)
It’s partly because of Denzel Washington starring in both, but when I watched 2010’s The Book of Eli I couldn’t help but compare the mindless flim to Scott’s Man on Fire. Both films have Denzel and both films use an overt, unique style that pervades the film. Many would agree that Book of Eli fails in all aspects, from story to production, but that’s not a problem for Man on Fire. Scott’s eerie, disconcerting and nervous anger throughout the film, paired with Denzel, makes for an entertaining ‘eff you’ vendetta. Just don’t read too much into it.
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