Written for the blogathon hosted by Wandering Through the Shelves. You should join us by picking three movies that meet the weekly topic and telling us about them!
Everyone's favorite awards show is just around the corner, so of course this week's topic is Oscar Winning Movies - from the pool of winners of Best Picture/Best Animated Film/Best Foreign Film. Obviously, this is a treasure trove of great movies (and a handful of not-so-good ones), so I decided to go with my favorite winners in each category. Completely by accident, I noticed a running theme. These all happen to be films with a perfect final scene.
Casablanca (Michael Curtiz, 1945) For my money, still far and away the greatest film to ever win Best Picture. Casablanca is top-notch filmmaking on every level, and I don't think every element of a film has ever worked so well together to create a whole. The script is full to bursting with instant classic lines, the cinematography creates immediate atmosphere in each scene, the editing is perfectly timed, the score is moving and essential. And the performances. It is cast perfectly, from the top all the way down. The last scene, at the airport, is so perfect that nothing will ever top it. This is pure Old Hollywood craft at its finest. Which is pretty damn fine, to say the least.
Toy Story 3 (Lee Unkrich, 2010) The last fifteen minutes. Holy crap, the last fifteen minutes. I liked the first two Toy Story films just fine, but I never had a Woody doll or a Buzz Lightyear action figure or anything. I never felt emotionally attached to them in any way. But I was a blubbering mess for the last fifteen minutes of this. Even now, I get choked up thinking about it. And in that last scene, as perfect an image of leaving childish things behind and moving on to adulthood as has ever been put on screen, the entire trilogy came full-circle in the most beautiful way. Possibly the greatest ending to a film trilogy ever.
Nights of Cabiria (Federico Fellini, 1957) - Can we please just talk about Giulietta Masina for a minute? Because she is glorious, and I feel like no one talks about her anymore - if they ever really did. She has one of the great movie faces - all eyes and mouth, and all so expressive. Her body, too, is incredibly expressive. She may be a tiny thing, but she has an awareness and control over her body that few actresses have ever had. You can see all this in any of her collaborations with husband Federico Fellini, but it is Nights of Cabiria, particularly its final scene, where she shines brightest. The ultimate hooker with a heart of gold, Cabiria has suffered more indignities by this point than any person should ever have to bear, but a passing group of young people, riding on scooters and playing music, surround her, and she lets their joy take over, smiling through her tears in one of the most indelible images in all cinema. If that scene sounds familiar, it's because Nights of Cabiria was later turned into a little musical called Sweet Charity, which was then filmed by Bob Fosse starring Shirley MacLaine. MacLaine is a reasonable facsimile of Masina, but nothing can touch the real thing.
BONUS PICKS: My shortlist for my favorite Best Foreign Language Film was five long, and I was worried I was going to have to do a coin toss or something to choose. When my sub-theme became apparent, I realized I had to go with Cabiria, but I feel like I need to give a shout-out to two recent winners, both of which are absolutely perfect films: Asghar Farhadi's astonishingly precise A Separation and Michael Haneke's devastating Amour.