WHEN: 11:35am EST, November 10th, 2012

WHERE: In the living room of my apartment in Portland, ME (Isla Nublar)

FORMAT: Blu-Ray on a Vizio 32″ LED HDTV



PREP WORK: I’ve been watching Top Gun every week of 2012 for ten months now. I knew I would be pretty exhausted at this point, so I made a deliberate decision a while back; I wouldn’t watch any special features on the disc for at least six months. Then, when it felt like I had seen everything Top Gun had to offer, some insight into the making of the film would make it seem fresh again.

In August, I listened to the commentary track. It was pretty enlightening, and gave me a better understanding of Tony Scott’s vision for the movie (sadly, this was just five days before his unfortunate death). Before this viewing, I watched “Danger Zone: The Making of Top Gun,” a behind-the-scenes feature with a running time of almost two-and-a-half hours (longer than the movie itself).

Did it liven up the film for me?


  • I still wish the opening scene was a short film. I don’t want the rest of the movie to happen.
  • I am, of course, noticing the rear projection behind the actors a little more, but it’s still really well done. They’re good at tilting the fake cockpit and shaking it and lighting it appropriately.
  • I now know that one of the rules for the script was not to explain any technical jargon and just show pilots speaking the way they do. Unfortunately, the effectiveness of the naval dialogue was lost on me about ten viewings in, as I just started looking up everything they were saying out of curiosity.
  • Val Kilmer was the least sincere actor in the special features, so now I’m noticing him more in scenes. He really saw this movie as a joke, didn’t he? You’re alright, Val.

If I could grab a beer with anyone from Top Gun, I’d pick Val Kilmer to serve drinks to Michael Ironside and me.

  • Tony Scott said baby oil was used to simulate sweat. I got a visual of him spraying everyone down with a baby oil hose during the volleyball scene.
  • This is the first time that I’ve gotten a weird sense of connection to all the other times I’ve watched Top Gun this year. Like there are these cosmically linked time-clones of Bill all watching Maverick drive away together. If only I could concentrate… aww, fuck, that’s the plot of The Butterfly Effect.
  • I’m now trying to figure out if the cockpit rigs can turn a full 180° or if they also rotate the camera.
  • I analyzed whether or not Top Gun is a sports movie in a previous viewing. The writer admitted that that was his approach to the film, which is why he added the trophy to the story. This is why there are so many locker room scenes, so the “players” could analyze their “plays” after each “practice.” I’m wondering now if the locker room scenes are what made me pick up on this.
  • This is completely unrelated to the special features, but it bugged me… Charlie pours a tiny little sploot of beer into her glass while Carole and Mav are talking, then she puts it down. There is plenty more room in the glass and plenty more beer in the bottle. Was Kelly McGillis just improvising some business on the spot? Actors, am I right?

That’s the completed pour. Both half-full. Maybe she… I gotta stop watching this movie.

  • This is my first viewing after knowing which piece of footage was being shot when Art Scholl died. He was filming rear projection footage of a flat spin… for the scene where Goose dies. It felt very eerie this time around.
  • The model they used for the flat spin free fall actually hit the camera, but they still used that take; they show the full clip of the model hitting the lens with a funny thump in the documentary. This didn’t affect my viewing too much, though, as it is one of the more obvious models in the film.
  • Okay, I’m definitely noticing the models in the final dogfight this time. Now that I’ve seen how they were filmed, they don’t… fall right. The weight is all wrong, and they tried to hide this with slow motion. It’s also a giveaway that it’s a model because the camera is shaking more. Not sure why. Maybe they were trying to simulate aerial photography and didn’t realize that it’s pretty damn smooth.
  • Several cast and crew members mentioned how Val Kilmer really hated the “you can be my wing man” line. You can certainly see it on his face in the movie. I think he went with the best delivery he could muster, one that showed both his contempt and his professionalism/need to get a paycheck.

This time around, Top Gun felt more like a movie. What’s odd about that is that I hadn’t ever noticed that it stopped feeling like a movie.

I guess it’s tough to explain. I know, the plot is cliched and the dialogue sounds like a screenplay and… those filters… but I think Top Gun started to feel like its own little world, one that I accepted. A few months ago, I wouldn’t be able to ignore some of the more awkward camera bumps, but I haven’t noticed lately. Watching the special features may have given my brain that little kick it needed to remind me that this is just some Hollywood folks doing a thing. I went through some previous viewings to confirm this, but I couldn’t; I use a lot of filmmaking terms when I talk about Top Gun. But this time it felt like a movie. Its dreamlike quality has worn off a bit now. Does that make sense?

Oh, I’d like to point out that I never once thought about “the gay” during this viewing. Why is that worth noting? Because back when I listened to the commentary, Tony Scott mentioned that Maverick and Iceman’s haircuts were based on a photo in a book of Bruce Weber male model shoots, which was very popular with the gay community and very unpopular with the big wigs at Paramount.

I tried to find this book for a long time, but guess what? They included some of the photos in the documentary. You wanna see where aviator haircuts come from?

Pure coincidence: those are also the actual legal names of the models.

Want more? Yes, you do.

Fascinating, right? It’s like you stumbled across some Top Gun fan’s Flickr set (suggested title: “Manly Wings”), but it’s the other way around. Top Gun is fanfic for these photos. And interesting at they may be, these pictures didn’t cross my mind once while watching. Even during the volleyball. Despite being a fan of black-and-white photography. And men. But not really the military or cars. Ick.

Before I go, here are some extra bits of trivia that didn’t affect my viewing. There weren’t enough for a whole article, but I didn’t want to waste them.

  • The technical guy says Goose’s death is his own fault. The canopy release and the ejector seat are separately controlled. He should have launched the canopy, waited a few seconds, and then ejected himself and Maverick.
  • Tony Scott got the gig on Top Gun because he filmed a Saab commercial in which a car races a jet.
  • The lyrics to “Danger Zone” were written by the soundtrack producer’s Ferrari mechanic.
  • Kenny Loggins was hired just to write and perform “Playing With the Boys,” but he got the job singing “Danger Zone” when Toto dropped out.
  • The actors aren’t even bothering to hit their lines whenever their masks are on. An editor claims that there are takes in the film where the actors are requesting a beverage or asking questions about the scene.