Hollywood Grind: Tony Scott, Aurora Dilemma, Porn Industry on Hold

Peter Martin, Managing Editor

Filmmaker Tony Scott died on Sunday, August 19, and since then the coverage has been divided between tributes to his work and speculation about his death.

Originally I'd planned on devoting this entire column to Scott, but my feelings on his films are more mixed than most, and, besides, at this point others have expressed themselves far better than I could. (David Hudson has rounded up a fine collection of articles at Fandor's Keyframe Daily.) And, truthfully, the speculation on his death has begun to gnaw at my soul, with conflicting reports about his health and news that bystanders allegedly filmed his fall and then tried to sell the footage.

Perhaps Scott's death hits me more personally because I grew up in Los Angeles and my father worked for a time in San Pedro. We drove over that bridge -- not often, but often enough that it holds a place in my memory for its height and graceful curve in the air over nothing spectacular at all.

After I moved away from home, I recognized the Vincent Thomas Bridge in William Friedkin's To Live and Die in L.A.; it's the bridge from which William L. Petersen leaps in an attempt to test his nerve. Now the bridge has another, tragic memory tied to it.

Scott's bold stylistic choices drove me to distraction in much of his recent work, yet this week I kept thinking of Crimson Tide, and its multitude of high-tension conversations -- imagine that, nothing but men arguing and perspiring -- and the slick charms of Enemy of the State -- Gene Hackman yelling at Will Smith: "Because you made a phone call!" -- and the dreamy emulsifications of time and space in Domino, and the sheer anger of Denzel Washington in Man on Fire, and the agony and ecstasy of watching Top Gun for the first time.


Last month's big story in the U.S. was the horrendous mass murder in Aurora, Colorado -- 12 people dead, 58 wounded -- which passed from the public eye fairly quickly, as these things go.

The Century 16 multiplex has remained closed since then, according to Los Angeles Times, and now city officials are seeking public opinions about what to do with the site.

The theatre complex is owned by Cinemark, which operates the third-largest circuit in the U.S. (The company also operates in 13 countries in Latin America.) Cinemark has not commented publicly on their plans for the Century 16.

In the aftermath of the shooting, The Dark Knight Rises director Christopher Nolan issued a statement, in which he said in part:

I believe movies are one of the great American art forms and the shared experience of watching a story unfold on screen is an important and joyful pastime. The movie theatre is my home, and the idea that someone would violate that innocent and hopeful place in such an unbearably savage way is devastating to me.

The question in Aurora is: How do you heal? Evidently many local residents have suggested adding some kind of memorial at the multiplex, which seems appropriate, and a better solution than keeping it closed or converting it to another use.


The production of pornographic movies in the United States is officially on hold. Reuters says that several cases of syphillis have been reported among adult film actors. "Clearly our industry's priority is the health and well-being of our performers," claims Diane Duke, executive director of the Free Speech Coalition.

Not to be self-righteous, but it's mind-boggling that the adult film industry does not enforce the use of condoms. The report notes: "Existing California workplace laws already mandate the use of condoms by porn performers, but critics say that statute is not specifically aimed at the industry and is widely flouted."

Obviously, the porn industry is a big business, and Los Angeles is Ground Zero in the U.S., employing an estimated 1,000 performers, plus thousands of behind the scenes people required to churn out product, which means tens of millions of dollars that are poured into the California economy every year. The workplace laws requiring the use of condoms sound like most workplace laws, which means they rely on self-enforcement by management and workers, as well as reports / complaints by workers if the laws are violated.

The movers and shakers in the porn industry may be non-conformists at heart, but they're also highly-motivated professionals whose economic future is at stake. Stricter self-enforcement seems like a no-brainer, but when money's involved, all bets are off.


Hollywood Grind is a periodic column on filmmakers and the Hollywood studio system.

Photo credits: Century 16, photo by Karl Gehring / Denver Post / July 20, 2012; protesters, photo by Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times / 2011.

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