“In later years, Tony Scott‘s editing became downright experimental in films like Domino, Deja Vu and The Taking of Pelham 123. It didn’t always work, but you got the sense — and here’s where he proved himself the very opposite of a hack, something he was often accused of being — that Scott was constantly trying something new.” — from Bilge Ebiri‘s “They Live By Night” blog, posted this morning.

In his howling, most darkly self-doubting, four-in-the-morning convulsions of the soul, Steven Spielberg wishes he could be the kind of uptown “hack” that Tony Scott was. He dreams and then weeps, knowing that train left the station decades ago.

“What we like to think of today as the Michael Bay/Jerry Bruckheimer aesthetic was, in fact, originally the Tony Scott aesthetic (often deployed in films made for Bruckheimer and his late partner Don Simpson),” Ebiri goes on. “Only back then there was a lot more art to it. Scott famously cross-bred an amped up, high-stakes kineticism with a certain romantic quality: He liked to intercut frenzied scenes of violence with elegiac moments, often with dreamy music playing in the background. This guy made guy movies, or at least what boys liked to think of as guy movies: He shot gunfights and sports stadiums and cars and planes and machines the way other directors might shoot pastoral scenes.

“In so doing he also helped lay down the foundations of the boys-with-big-toys blockbuster style that we’re still contending with today. Along the way, sometimes his people stopped being people and became myths: His long lenses flattened and almost abstracted the characters, and his use of slow-motion and heroic silhouettes caught small, fleeting moments and stretched them until they felt monumental. Indeed, Tony Scott movies often hovered on the edge of abstraction.”