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Fatwah / August 21, 2012

Dear General Public,

I’ve had to speak to you before about your gruesome reverence for dead celebrities. Every famous person who dies is instantly idolized out of all recognition. The same ugly venal toad of a has-been star or notoriously despicable no-talent hack that you were mocking or simply ignoring on Tuesday becomes a beloved secular saint on Wednesday, the second his or her diseased heart stops beating.

This maudlin nonsense really must cease! Your hypocrisy is rank and stinks to heaven! Try to have a modicum of decent self-restraint!

Yours in contempt,

Eileen J.

The problem with Tony Scott is, his films aren’t good. They really aren’t. And I say this as a person who loves genre films with an all-encompassing love. Tony Scott movies aren’t even good “popcorn movies,” so-called, any more than Brett Ratner’s or Michael Bay’s movies are. But if Michael Bay died tomorrow—and the thought is a delightful one—the same people who now scorn every stupid, worthless film image he ever captured will all swear they loved him like a brother and were personally enriched by his cinematic oeuvre.

Here are some highlights of Tony Scott directorial career: The Hunger, Top Gun, Beverly Hills Cop II, Days of Thunder, The Last Boy Scout, True Romance, Crimson Tide, Enemy of the State, Man on Fire, Domino, Déjà vu, The Taking of Pelham 123, Unstoppable.

Out of that appalling list of crap films, what can you salvage? Some memorable sequences from The Hunger and True Romance. That’s it!

But what about the rest of his legacy? The heinous film that made Scott an A-list Hollywood director, Top Gun, helped define that truly, mindlessly despicable era of 1980s American culture. For the rest of his life, Tony Scott proudly wore the red baseball cap he’d donned while shooting Top Gun, till it turned pink and ratty with age atop his bald head.

And to top it all off, consider that for the last ten years Denzel Washington has sacrificed his own immense talent starring in Tony Scott movies, thus making them almost bearable. Now THAT is a genuine loss to American cinema.

But to hear people tell it now, Tony Scott’s death leaves a giant crater-sized hole in our national cinema. Ron Howard tweeted, “No more Tony Scott films. Tragic day.” Roger Ebert called him “an inspired craftsman.”

And Scott Mendelson, writing for The Huffington Post, argues that while Scott’s early macho-stupid action films like Top Gun were regrettable, in the second half of his career he reformed and became an admirable savior of the smart genre film for adults:

In an era dominated by mega-budget fantasy spectacles, Tony Scott was often the last refuge for the old-school ‘movie.’

I’ve written quite a bit about the endangered species that is the star-driven high-octane genre vehicle.  In the mid 2000s right up to the beginning of this new decade, it seemed like draconian restrictions on the R-rating as well as the allure of the $500 – $800 million all-ages global blockbuster had doomed the adult thriller to extinction.  While Jerry Bruckheimer fell into family-centric fare (such as Pirates of the CaribbeanNational Treasure, and The Sorcerer’s Apprentice) and Michael Bay became consumed by the Transformers franchise, Tony Scott never gave up the good fight.  Tony Scott became one of my favorite directors for the same reason Denzel Washington became one of my favorite actors.  Both, often working together, used their capitol to make big-scale, adult-skewing mainstream genre fare that didn’t require fantasy worlds or copious fantastical effects to entertain.  In an era when “R” became the scarlet letter, much of Scott’s work (Beverly Hills Cop II, Crimson Tide, Enemy of the State, Spy Game, The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3) was R-rated not because they were grotesquely violent or gore-drenched, but merely because they didn’t feel the need to edit around their genuinely adult content or apologize for their adult sensibilities.

And the truly hard-R pictures in his filmography (The Last Boy ScoutTrue Romance, The Fan, Man On Fire) often pushed the envelope in terms of violence that nonetheless never used violence as an excuse to cop out on character development, compelling narratives, or groundbreaking visual styling.

It’s dizzying, reading this argument. You feel the room spin around you, it’s so disorienting to consider embarrassing travesties like The Last Boy Scout and Beverly Hills Cop II and The Taking of Pelham 123 as examples of serious, risky, “genuinely adult” filmmaking. All I can assume is, Mendelson’s counting on nobody actually remembering Tony Scott movies such as The Last Boy Scout. Admittedly, they’re hugely forgettable movies.

Nevertheless, I remember! Certain terrible Tony Scott films seen at the time of their theatrical release seared themselves directly into my muscle-memory, so I still wince violently just at the mention of a Scott title like The Last Boy Scout!

Tony Scott’s expensive, distracting, phony, overblown TV-ad directing tics are now his “groundbreaking visual style”! Getting R-ratings for action films now constitutes “fighting the good fight”! Is there anything we WON’T praise if it was done by a newly dead celebrity?

Oh, hell, there’s no use fighting it. I will now capitulate to public pressure and find something to praise about Tony Scott.

Lessee….

Well, I will give him this: he died interestingly. Very few famous people kill themselves deliberately and unequivocally, in such a way that it can’t be argued they took an accidental overdose of their drug of choice or something like that. (Lots of seemingly accidental overdoses: Heath Ledger, Elvis Presley, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Judy Garland, Marilyn Monroe…)

But I can’t think of a single one who ever did it by jumping off a bridge into deep water. Spalding Gray jumped off the Staten Island Ferry to his death, and Hart Crane also jumped off a ship, and Capucine jumped out a tall building window, and Virginia Woolf drowned herself. Those are the closest to the Tony Scott Method that I can come up with.

No, more typically it’s guns (Hunter S. Thompson, Kurt Cobain, Freddie Prinze, Ernest Hemingway, Gig Young, George Reeves—unless he was actually murdered), or pills (George Sanders, Lupe Velez) or pills plus wrist-slitting (Diane Arbus, Max Linder), or hanging (Alexander McQueen, David Carradine).

Jumping off a bridge is pretty bold. And he didn’t hesitate, either, according to witness reports—just up and over.

So, points for a remarkable celebrity death, Tony Scott!

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41 Comments

Add your own

  • 1. Strelnikov  |  August 21st, 2012 at 2:41 pm

    “So, points for a remarkable celebrity death, Tony Scott!”

    Zing?

  • 2. Ozinator  |  August 21st, 2012 at 3:09 pm

    All his films may suck but one and to that one you didn’t give proper credit. True Romance is a favorite of mine and I am now reminded to go watch it again. Many may argue that Tarantino made that movie what it is (writers always get fucked for recognition) but I argue that Tarantino would have ruined the movie like he almost did with Pulp Fiction by being in it. Tarantino may fool young people or otherwise people who have never had interesting lives, but he’s a movie watching dweeb who never lived one, all his movies minus Pulp Fiction suck and I can only guess that this Tony Scott guy made TR work.

  • 3. Zoner  |  August 21st, 2012 at 3:15 pm

    David Carradine wasn’t a suicide-by-hanging, it was an auto-erotic asphyxiation session gone wrong. Remember, kiddies, to practise safe masturbation methods.

  • 4. Required  |  August 21st, 2012 at 3:17 pm

    10.

  • 5. helplesscase  |  August 21st, 2012 at 3:52 pm

    Been on a roll these past two days, Eileen!

  • 6. dm305  |  August 21st, 2012 at 3:59 pm

    Enemy of the State was awesome.

  • 7. MQ  |  August 21st, 2012 at 4:15 pm

    I agree on Enemy of the State. Good paranoia flick — not up to the great ones of the 70s, but still good. And effectively dramatizes what technology is making possible.

  • 8. bulfinch  |  August 21st, 2012 at 4:22 pm

    George Sanders’ parting shot:

    “Dear World, I am leaving because I am bored. I feel I have lived long enough. I am leaving you with your worries in this sweet cesspool. Good luck.”

  • 9. thomzas  |  August 21st, 2012 at 4:33 pm

    Here, Here, Eileen.

    I always thought that there’s something very creepy going on in some of his films…

    In both Man on Fire and The Last Boy Scout the broken man has to kill as many people as possible to gain acceptance from the family unit. Typical action stuff maybe, but the docile smiles the mother and daughter wear at the end of Boy Scout are like something out Jonestown.

    Man on Fire was fucking nasty piece of work. A man regaining his self respect through torture and bloodletting, with Christopher Walken (as Tony) telling us it’s all for a righteous cause. It’s like the morons who wholeheartedly cheer on Travis Bickle at the end of Taxi Driver have made the film they really wanted to see.

  • 10. Marc  |  August 21st, 2012 at 5:20 pm

    I will happily sit up into the wee hours and watch Spy Game every time it gets re-run (and it alway. On the other hand, I never saw Top Gun the first time around – although my friends have dropped quotes and references for years. When I finally saw it on TV about six months ago, I nearly puked.

  • 11. Flatulissimo  |  August 21st, 2012 at 6:12 pm

    C’mon, reviewing some tv show I’d never heard of, and then pissing on the grave of the guy who directed Top Gun? Low hanging fruit, Eileen.

    How about reviewing the new Friedkin? I hear it is pretty violent, and it might even be good. You might like it. It probably won’t be in theaters for long, and I want to know if I should fork over my cash to see it or not.

  • 12. bugjackblue  |  August 21st, 2012 at 7:15 pm

    True Romance exonerated his soul for all his warmongering BS tripe. I am still to this day struggling to come to terms with my fear and desire.

  • 13. Punjabi From Karachi  |  August 21st, 2012 at 7:35 pm

    No.

  • 14. CensusLouie  |  August 21st, 2012 at 8:35 pm

    Tony Scott takedown!

    Top Gun: If you judge movies by pure entertainment value, then few can rival the sheer sense of wonder that Top Gun provokes. Figuring out how someone unintentionally made the gayest movie of all time is like wondering who built the Easter Island statues.

    Last Boy Scout: Watch the first 5 minutes for a hilarious take on Football and the pistol touchdown, then walk away.

    Enemy of the State: Someone took a look at The Conversation and decided it needed more Will Smith. WHY, Gene Hackman!

    Beverly Hills Cop 2: I think it’s time we admit that only about 10% of Murphy’s material was funny and has aged well.

    The Taking of Pelham 123: Watching the original (you should) and Tony’s remake is a pretty good showcase on how modern Hollywood movies suck. In the original you have believable people in believable situations acting in believable ways where the directing never self-consciously overshadowed the story. In the remake you have XTREME camera work, those obnoxious green filters Tony was so found of, and INTENSE in your FACE overacting. For more of this phenomenon, watch The China Syndrome, Andromeda Strain, or The Conversation. Then watch Armageddon, Outbreak, and Enemy of the State and compare. It’s heartbrecking. The movie going public will never go for “boring” movies like those originals again.

    Man on Fire: Anyone who says this was a good movie needs to watch the subtitle scenes again. Those things would embarrass a music video director.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yEJ7AjQnfbc

  • 15. Trevor  |  August 22nd, 2012 at 7:07 am

    Have these critics actually seen his later films? They all look like they were made on PCP or something. I know the news says he’d left suicide notes to friends and family, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Tony Scott was so high he thought he would bounce off the water and fly to Mars.

  • 16. Cerberus79  |  August 22nd, 2012 at 7:48 am

    Raiding the cemetery again, Eileen? Really, this fascination with trashing the dead is telling us more about you than you’re telling us about the cinema. Scott is dead; he will never again make pictures just to annoy you so why the extreme rage?

  • 17. gc  |  August 22nd, 2012 at 7:58 am

    But if Michael Bay died tomorrow—and the thought is a delightful one—the same people who now scorn every stupid, worthless film image he ever captured will all swear they loved him like a brother and were personally enriched by his cinematic oeuvre.

    This is painfully, horrifyingly true.

  • 18. Greg  |  August 22nd, 2012 at 8:10 am

    Re Mendelson’s egregious horseshit that Scott’s movies “didn’t require fantasy worlds or copious fantastical effects to entertain”: 1) regarding “fantasy” I wondered immediately whether he’d seen the sci-fi-like abortion that is Deja Vu; and 2) re “copious” vfx – the fact with Scott, as with fellow Bruckheimer/Simpson megalomaniac peer Bay, is that at a certain level of commercial success a director is able to stage lavish & expensive *practical* effects sequences which obviate the need for digital vfx. Scott and Bay simply have the luxury of blowing shit up for real–it’s not a grand aesthetic choice (I say not to the reasonable, discriminating viewer, but to a shithead like Mendelson)…

    Regarding the encomia on Scott from Ron Howard and Roger Ebert: when both of those men shuffle off this mortal coil, I think both deserve no less a whipping for their work/legacy than Eileen Jones has accorded Tony Scott…

  • 19. kjs  |  August 22nd, 2012 at 9:12 am

    Tony Scott was a fascist tailor-made for the Reagan De-evolution. Military-masturbatory shit such as “Top Gun” re-fetishized the military. “Man on Fire” was a gruesome capitalism-and-racist rant on saving Precious Young White Vaginas from swarthy hordes of the poor (with that pretentious black eunuch, Denzel Washington, giving cover). I also saw “True Lies,” which if I recall, nullified the threat of nuclear bombs without even a hint of irony.

    Since he was a Brit who made a lot of $$$ in the U.S., I anticipate Tony Scott will posthumously receive his knighthood, as making $$$ in the U.S. and making U.S. morons feel good about themselves seems to be the only qualification for that old hag to knight you these days…

  • 20. Mr. Bad  |  August 22nd, 2012 at 10:35 am

    I can’t believe I’m writing these words but Eileen is 100% right and the people defending Tony Scott are lobotomized idiots. They need to have their eyelids pulled back, be strapped into a chair and shot up with “vitamins” while “Domino” is played over and over and over and over again.

  • 21. Chris  |  August 22nd, 2012 at 11:52 am

    Another great article ma’am (tips the hat). Spy Game was ok in places and I thought Enemey of the State was ok. Man on Fire was just another shitty mainstream death porn film. At the end of the day it is all relative. Scott looked like a genius compared to Michael Bay and yet in the wider scheme of things he was hardly one of the best. Nevertheless, kudos on having the balls to do something that most people just talk about.

  • 22. MQ  |  August 22nd, 2012 at 12:55 pm

    The Taking of Pelham 123: Watching the original (you should) and Tony’s remake is a pretty good showcase on how modern Hollywood movies suck.

    This is so true. I felt a powerful urge to ask for my money back after seeing this movie.

  • 23. CensusLouie  |  August 22nd, 2012 at 7:38 pm

    #19

    What did Scott have to do with True Lies?

    #22

    That point made me realize something. For over a decade, Hollywood has completely lost the ability to create a believable workplace. Original Pelham 123? Believable metro workers. Andromeda Strain? Believable scientists. Even the cheesiest of 70s disaster movies had more believable emergency workers.

    Now you only have a choice between Aaron Sorkin’s preaching tough guys (Why yes, Social Network, I totally believe that the president of Harvard university talks like a Hollywood producer and is rude to millionaire legacy students) or Michael Bay machos screaming GET ME THE PRESIDENT.

  • 24. CensusLouie  |  August 22nd, 2012 at 7:41 pm

    Or the most painful instance of all: Alien vs Prometheus.

    Alien- Believable space truckers, believable scientist.

    Prometheus- Anyone who believes that a scientist would justify her work as “Because I choose to believe” should be exiled to the deep south.

  • 25. Tigerhan  |  August 23rd, 2012 at 2:26 am

    This time Eileen you are way of the chart! But since this is not a jehova’s witness kumbaya congregation, I respect your difference of opinion.

  • 26. Ridley Scott  |  August 23rd, 2012 at 10:36 am

    He ain’t heavy,
    He’s my water-filled, wrinkled, critically fellated, utterly talentless suckup of a
    Brother

  • 27. Jay  |  August 23rd, 2012 at 12:03 pm

    For a second I thought you’d said Freddy Prinze, Jr. had committed suicide. You got my hopes up.

    Would people somehow find a way to pay tribute to Wing Commander and Scooby Doo 2?

  • 28. jyp  |  August 23rd, 2012 at 12:20 pm

    Lots of dead folks on your list of supposed suicides were actually murdered. You spend too much time in dark theatres. You should read maybe read more.

    Tony Scott? Who’s that? Is that the brother of that other guy? The guys that made 3000 ADS? Since when do we take such hacks seriously?

    Friedkin. Now there’s a mensch!

  • 29. damn red  |  August 23rd, 2012 at 1:52 pm

    I was wondering why you didn’t like “The Taking of Pelham 123″ Then I just remembered there was a remake that was terrible and he directed that.

  • 30. Marlon Brawndo  |  August 24th, 2012 at 5:35 am

    Enemy of the State – Thumbs Up!

  • 31. Toba  |  August 24th, 2012 at 9:50 am

    The original Pelham 123 was a classic and the remake was just awful. It should have been left alone. Last boy Scout was just garbage and I only relished in the disposition and attitude of the Team Owner .I loathe Willis,Smith and Wayans equally
    No great loss is the way I see it also because of Beverly Hills cop.
    it seems he had cancer and didn’t want to go the pain and vegetable route. Sort of cowardly

  • 32. Arch Stanton  |  August 25th, 2012 at 11:40 am

    He’s still dead. That’s the important thing.

  • 33. bendy  |  August 27th, 2012 at 1:17 am

    Did you know that True Romance is a remake of a French movie? The American version is much more dynamic, but still… Quite a few of American comedies are remakes of French movies from the 70s and 80s.

    The Hunger was probably the most interesting of his movies.

  • 34. The Gubbler  |  August 27th, 2012 at 2:59 am

    I thought the little blonde girl in “Man On Fire” was pretty good in a couple scenes.

    I think about her sometimes when I am drinking with my bible and gun in the bedroom above the garage.

  • 35. CensusLouie  |  August 28th, 2012 at 11:38 am

    Here we go, the height of this stupidity:

    Salon’s article “Tony Scott: Better than Ripley”

    http://www.salon.com/2012/08/20/tony_scott_better_than_ridley/

    For fuck’s sake.

  • 36. ILoveLamp  |  September 1st, 2012 at 1:59 pm

    Man on Fire was good! Sorry, but it has to be said.

    BHC2 was definitely shit though.

  • 37. gink  |  September 1st, 2012 at 11:48 pm

    Top Gun was a good pop corn movie for its day and a bit dated and hilarious now but at the time it was good.

    True Romance holds up….rather enjoyed that one so……ja….no grudge.

  • 38. Jimmythehyena  |  September 7th, 2012 at 6:14 am

    It looks like Tom has a vagina in that picture. Either they were conscious of that in which case they’re even more fucked up than was thought or they weren’t which means they’re totally oblivious which is in a way even more fucked up than fucked up and forces one one to pose the question; What dark forces rule the world we live in? and how can we ever defeat them?

  • 39. The Gubbler  |  September 7th, 2012 at 10:50 pm

    @38

    When it looks like Tom has a vagina, the only course of action open to real men is to…

    1. Place a pillow upon their bed approximately three feet from the wall.

    2. Lie upon the bed with head on pillow ass and feet on wall.

    3. Push with feet upon wall until erect penis is several inches give or take several inches from tip of outstretched tounge.

    4. Ejaculate upon outstretched tounge while making “sexy eyes” at erect penis.

    If enough of us follow this simple protocol, dark forces beware.

  • 40. The Gubbler  |  September 7th, 2012 at 11:45 pm

    I feel so truly terrible, so unnatural…

    I wrote “vagina” when I could have written “bajiner”.

    I swore I would never do it.

    So I offer this correction to you all and especially to Gaia almighty…

    When it looks like Tom has a bajiner (the most true pronunciation of the holy you-know-what), the only course of action open to real men is to… (continued in comment above).

    BAJINER!!!

    BAJINER BAJINER BAJINER

  • 41. Applemask  |  March 11th, 2014 at 3:20 pm

    “Now that he’s dead, his films are all shit!” – you’re right, that is much more tasteful and worthwhile.


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