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Tony Scott: No Oscars, but huge influence

August 20, 2012|By Glenn Whipp
(Linda R. Chen )

Tony Scott never won an Oscar. He was never nominated, probably never came close. Critics frequently derided his movies for emphasizing style over substance, but audiences –- and often those working in the industry -– recognized that style as formidable, beautiful and, at its height, groundbreaking.

Scott’s last movie, the 2010 runaway train thriller “Unstoppable,” represented the high craft that the late director could capably summon and deliver. It received a deserved Oscar nomination for sound editing. It also won recognition from several other groups, most notably the Motion Picture Sound Editors, an organization that consistently honored his work. Scott’s films may have often skimped on plot and character development, but they always looked and sounded fantastic. The man knew a thing or two about presentation, which put him ahead of the majority of his peers.

Scott’s biggest haul at the Oscars came with the tense, cat-and-mouse submarine thriller “Crimson Tide,” which was nominated for three Academy Awards –- editing, sound and sound editing -– in 1996. It was an expertly shaped, beat-the-clock suspense drama, sporting great turns from Gene Hackman and Denzel Washington, an actor Scott would work with on four other movies. One could argue that it holds up better than the movie that won the Oscar for best picture that year – “Braveheart.”

But that argument would likely fall on deaf ears, given the academy’s long-standing blind spot toward genre pictures. The only Oscar a Tony Scott movie ever won came with “Top Gun,” which took original song for “Take My Breath Away.” And while the chilly sensuality of Terri Nunn’s singing endures, the accompanying love scene between Tom Cruise and Kelly McGillis, backlit to within an inch of its life, is equally remembered. Debate its taste, but there’s no questioning the power of the images.

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Follow Glenn Whipp on Twitter: @glennwhipp 

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