Happy Valentine’s Day!

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In honor of Valentine’s Day, this is my all-time favorite romantic scene from a film. From the Quentin Tarantino-scripted / Tony Scott-directed 1993 cult classic “True Romance,” I first saw this at a time when I was a lot like Christian Slater’s character Clarence. This movie gave me hope at a bleak time in my life. Eventually, I found my Alabama … ironically in Alabama … three years later. Thankfully, she was not a call girl, four-days on the job or otherwise. And yes, I’m envious of my friends in Norfolk, Virginia who are watching this on a big screen tonight at the Naro in Norfolk, Virginia.

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“The Last Boy Scout” (1991) dir. Tony Scott, scr. Shane Black

Arguably the best … and darkest … of the high-octane Joel Silver-produced action films from the period between 1982 and 1993 (and that includes “Die Hard” and “Lethal Weapon,” which Black also wrote), “The Last Boy Scout” is a film noir on steroids.  Yes, it has Bruce Willis and Damon Wayans.  Yes, it has lots of over-the-top violence and rat-a-tat dialogue.  But … Willis and Wayans play SEVERELY flawed characters.  Willis is a former celebrated Secret Service agent who lost his job, is drowning in booze and low self-esteem, and has a wife who throws her affair with his best friend in his face.  Wayans is a former professional football player whose promising career was ruined by drug problems.  As you can predict, both characters are thrown together by chance to solve the murder of Wayans’ stripper girlfriend (an early role by future-Oscar winner Halle Berry) and their efforts may lead to a shot at redemption … maybe.  Unlike nowadays, you don’t get the sense there’s been a complete redemption of either character, but you do get the sense that things will go better.

The best scene in the film is featured here.  Unfortunately, it doesn’t include the next minute of the scene which makes the previous two minutes even funnier, but what’s here is damn good:

As much as Quentin Tarantino is celebrated for his mix of humor and darkness, Shane Black is sometimes unfairly underrated for doing a similar thing.  Black is one of the most financially successful screenwriters of all time (“Boy Scout”‘s script set a then-record of a $1.75 million sale to a studio), but because Black didn’t start off in the art-film world, some people have condemned him as a hack.  To those who think this, you really should read Black’s original script, which is way darker than the resulting film:

http://www.imsdb.com/scripts/Last-Boy-Scout,-The.html

Much of the original script made it into the final film, but the last third is WAY different, is much more violent and dark (including a snuff film subplot), and had the original script been shot as is, would have rated an NC-99.  If you’re a fan of Shane Black’s (or even Tarantino), it’s well worth reading.   And of course, the film Scott made after “The Last Boy Scout” was Tarantino’s “True Romance.”  But, that’s another story …

“Gassenhauer” – Carl Orff

The theme music from Terrence Malick’s bone-chilling and mordantly funny 1973 crime thriller “Badlands.”  If you’re a fan of the 1993 Tony Scott / Quentin Tarantino collaboration “True Romance,” you may notice that Hans Zimmer’s theme music from that film pretty much copies note for note Orff’s music. Forget “Carmina Burana,” THIS should be Orff’s best-known piece.

4. “True Romance” (1993) dir. Tony Scott

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This selection on my all-time favorite film list shouldn’t come as any surprise if you’ve been following the blog recently. I recently posted two clips from this film due to director Tony Scott’s recent demise. While the clip on the rooftop between Christian Slater’s and Patricia Arquette’s characters is my favorite scene from the film, this one also ranks high on the list.

Since my entry about this film on my previous blog is gone, I’ll briefly summarize why this film has so much meaning for me (and you can skip this part, if you’ve read this already on my earlier blog). I saw this movie during the fall of 1993, which at that point in my life, I was very similar to Christian Slater’s character Clarence: no girlfriend, dead end jobs, and the only beacon of light was maybe the chance I’d get accepted into a grad school program somewhere. Anyway, not only was this movie enormously entertaining, it gave me a beacon of hope, in an odd way. Granted, my personal beacon didn’t involve a suitcase full of illegal drugs, a prostitute girlfriend, and 10 million bullets, but it did put a big smile on my face back in the day … and still does.

This is my favorite Quentin Tarantino film, even though he was only the screenwriter. Tarantino has admitted that Clarence is autobiographical to a certain degree, because he was a lot like him when he was in his 20s. It’s a very special script and Tony Scott so respected it that he allowed Tarantino to be an integral part of the process of making the film (something unheard of in Hollywood). Their most passionate argument during the making of “True Romance” involved the ending. In Tarantino’s original, Clarence dies. However, Scott made an impassioned case to Tarantino to let Clarence live, not for commercial reasons, but because he said he loved Clarence and Alabama (Arguette’s character) so much, he wanted them to have a happy ending. Scott’s respect for Tarantino was such that he shot two endings, one where Clarence dies and the one where he lives. And Tarantino admitted that Scott’s ending was the better ending for the film that Scott made. A true gentleman’s agreement if there ever was one.

Yes, this is Tarantino so the attached scene is not safe for work or little ones.

Brad Pitt in “True Romance” (1993) dir. Tony Scott

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Sorry, Sean Penn. Forget Jeff Spicoli in “Fast Times at Ridgemont High.” Brad Pitt played the DEFINITIVE stoner in “True Romance” as Floyd.   Pitt absolutely NAILS the lethargic hang-out-on-the-couch-all-day mentality of a chronic pothead. I don’t ever remember laughing so hard during a film than the moment when Brad Pitt asks the mobsters if they want to smoke a bowl.  It was even more hysterically funny than the infamous scene between Christopher Walken and Dennis Hopper.

“The Hunger” (1983) dir. Tony Scott

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In my earlier tribute to Tony Scott, I forgot to mention his stunning first film as a director, “The Hunger.” I remember seeing this on HBO late one Saturday night around 1984 or so and this opening sequence was so mind-blowing, I remember running into people at my junior high who saw the same thing (“My God, did you see that weird vampire movie on HBO?”) and were as flabbergasted as I was.   So flabbergasting, that when I heard he was directing “Top Gun,” a needle went off the record in my mind.  Well, he definitely found his commercial niche and while Scott made some wildly entertaining and commercial films (“Last Boy Scout,” “Crimson Tide,” “True Romance,” “Domino”), it would have been interesting to see if he had continued in this artier, less commercial mode. This isn’t the full sequence that features the seduction / sex / murder sequence afterwards, but you can find the longer version on YouTube if you so desire. You can see a lot of influence on Gaspar Noe in this clip.  Highly recommended.

RIP, Tony Scott (“True Romance”)

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Director Tony Scott died in an apparent suicide yesterday. While some have dismissed him as a commercial hack, he directed a lot of terrifically energetic and entertaining films including “The Last Boy Scout,” “Crimson Tide,” and one of my Top 5 all-time favorite films “True Romance,” which was written by Quentin Tarantino. Scott directed huge commercial films, but was so entranced by the “True Romance” script, he took a chance on it when no one else would and Scott’s interest piqued interest in Tarantino’s other work which was unproduced at the time. Here’s my all-time favorite scene from “True Romance.”