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Friday, June 21, 2013

The Tony Scott Lists

First there were The Stanley Kubrick Lists.
Then The Michael Bay Lists.
Now we will take a look at the director who changed the Action Movie genre forever.

Today would have been Tony Scott's 69th Birthday.
He left us too soon, but gave us many classic films and carved out a legacy in the business.
Big films, with big stars, innovate cinematic techniques and a signature style. 
That's how I would "define" Tony Scott's work.
He directed 16 features and we've both ranked our Top 5.


Before we get to my list, a few honorable mentions that did not make the cut:

ENEMY OF THE STATE- Jack Black appeared in two Tony Scott films. STATE is classic Black.
DAYS OF THUNDER- Cole Trickle! This was a great Cruise flick and Robert Duvall rocks in it.
THE LAST BOY SCOUT- When I was like 10-12 years old I thought this was the best movie ever.

Okay, now for My Top 5

Denzel Washington and Gene Hackman on a nuclear submarine. 
It's a great formula and was the first of many notable collaborations for Washington and Scott.
The movie is wrought with tension.
It's sweaty and cramped and a high stakes game is playing out in front of your eyes.
TIDE's subject is right in Scott's wheelhouse and his style is ever present.
After this film, people understood that Scott was more than just an action junkie.
He could do real suspense without things blowing up every second.
Sometimes the threat of action is more thrilling than the event.
Here is a great scene:

I don't give a rip what anyone says, THE FAN is awesome.
It may have been a box office flop, but it's got a whole lot of stuff that I never tire of:
Robert DeNiro as a strange, baseball obsessed killer.
Wesley Snipes' character Bobby Rayburn obviously being based on Barry Bonds.
Benicio Del Toro as Juan Primo and the fight over the jersey number.
John Leguizamo as Rayburn's ultra 90s agent.
And finally, DeNiro belting out Rolling Stones songs and giving history lessons in the process.

The film is insanely violent.
I love that they made DeNiro's character a knife salesman.
As if they needed to logically justify why he has knives.
Apparently DeNiro went all out for this and met with doctors to better understand stalkers.
It's super bleak, and there is not much in the way of redemption.
The ending is truly, one for the books:
(Warning video has foul language and violence):

Completely underrated film.
SPY GAME has everything you'd want in an espionage flick:
Great action, fast, deep dialogue, international settings, politics, bribes and deals.
Robert Redford and Brad Pitt have a great "old veteran teaching the rookie" dynamic.
The story goes across decades and it truly is an epic.
Vietnam, The Berlin Wall, assassinations, kidnappings and the tricks of the spy trade.
It is hard to catch every detail the first time you see it, but it's brillant and perfectly done.
Plus it has awesome montage where Redford teaches Pitt about spying with a dope techno track:

One of Quentin Tarantino's best screenplays.
Sure, they messed around with the ending, but this movie is AMAZING.
Gary Oldman as Drexl Spivey has to be one of my all time favorite movie characters.
It's the best of Tarantino mixed with the best of Tony Scott and you can't ask for much more.
Patricia Arquette's role as Alabama is off the charts good and culminates in a disturbing battle with the recently deceased, James Gandolfini. Gandolfini appeared in three of Scott's films and is just one of the many tremendous actors that Scott would use in small, but important roles.

I quote TRUE on a regular basis and I really never get sick of watching it.
Many classic dialogue scenes here, but the most outstanding is obviously the completely wild Christopher Walken/Dennis Hopper scene. If you have never seen it, you should watch the whole movie so you understand the context better. In one ten minute segment you realize what an immense talent Quentin Tarantino is and that Tony Scott completely understood. 
Here it is in all it's glory:
(Warning, Language/Violence)

Crank up the Berlin and Kenny Loggins because TOP GUN is a joy.
Scott's use of the camera is nothing short of masterful.
The revolutionary cinematography will last forever and in fact, some of the scenes from TOP GUN are still shown in military training videos, almost thirty years later. I'm not trying to short cinematographer Jeffery L. Kimball, but when a film is as wall to wall incredible as TOP GUN, the director probably deserves the lion's share of the credit. The movie was the top-grosser of 1986 and is still in the Top 175 all-time, and if you adjust for ticket price, it's almost in the top 100. 

The soundtrack went to #1 on the Billboard Charts and has sold over nine million copies.
Nobody had any idea this film would be so great and do so well. 
You can mention Goose or Iceman or Maverick to anybody and they will know who you are talking about. 
TOP GUN is Tony Scott's opus and deservedly will live on.

So that's the list.
Happy Birthday to Mr. Scott and if you need me, I'll be 'Playing With The Boys'.
Absolutely Classic.


#5 - The Last Boy Scout

I remember wanting to watch this movie so bad when I was about 8 or 9. All I remember about it during that time was it had something to do with football and the funny bald guy from In Living Color (and maybe the Boy Scouts?). Rightfully so, my parents did not let me watch it. So when I eventually saw it several years later, I realized it is about a whole lot more than that. With a script by the newly revitalized Shane Black (Iron Man 3), Last Boy Scout was super fun (Bruce Willis and Damon Wayans have great chemistry) despite a ridiculous plot (but don’t all action films, especially in the ‘90s). 

#4 – The Fan

Same director, different sport. And again, when I saw it was about baseball, I wanted to see it. And I agree with Dan, definitely an underrated flick. Wesley Snipes (in his first return to baseball since Major League) plays an egotistical slugger, so obviously based on Barry Bonds, who finds himself faced with an obsessive fan (played by the fantastic Robert De Niro). Plus, Benecio Del Toro as dueling slugger Juan Primo. Awesome.

#3 – Man on Fire

I have not met many people who don't like this movie. How could you not? Denzel Washington, as a broken down former assassin, learns to love again by taking care of a sweet little girl (Dakota Fanning). When she is kidnapped, he swears bloody vengenance against those responsible. But the best part of the movie? Christopher Walken as Denzel’s off-kilter buddy (is there any other kind of Walken performance?).  

#2 – Top Gun

Maverick. Goose. Iceman. Hot, young Meg Ryan. Highway to the Danger Zone. Take My Breath Away. That homoerotic volleyball scene. Enough said.

And I was going to post the volleyball scene too, but since Dan beat me to it, this will have to do:

#1 – True Romance

Was there really any doubt this movie wouldn’t be #1. Scott, directing Tarantino’s first big script, is definitely at his best here. I don’t know what is my favorite part: Val Kilmer as Elvis, Gary Oldman as Drexl Spivey, Brad Pitt’s Floyd, Bronson Pinchot as Elliot Bllitzer, or that fantastic scene between badass legends Dennis Hopper ("So that makes you part eggplant.") Christopher Walken (“You're a cantaloupe.” Best retort ever). But given, the events of earlier this week, I guess we should go with the late, great James Gandolfini. 

Skip to about :45 secs to catch Gandolfini at his finest

BONUS: Along with his brother, filmmaker Ridley Scott, Tony was a producer and champion of The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (one of my all-time favorite films), so I owe him so much for that alone.

To end things, RIP Tony Scott, you are missed.

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