Sunday, April 5, 2015

A Fistful of Moments Blogathon

So, the wonderful Andrew over at A Fistful of Films made this post the other week about 10 Great Cinematic Moments, and obviously it was incredibly inspiring - one of those posts that remind you why you love films and writing about them and sharing that love with others. So much so that I told him in a comment that it would make for an incredible blogathon. Thankfully, he obliged, and now there will be even more inspiration to spread around! This is what he originally said about Great Cinematic Moments:
We all have them in the back of our minds; those moments that make us think "man, this is what the movies are all about". We relive those moments in our mind's eye, remembering them and dissecting them and adoring them. They come in all shapes and sizes, from all types of films, and yet they all share one very important aspect; they define why we love the movies. It could be the way that the moment is cut; the way it's edited together. It could be the way the moment uses it's actors to evoke a powerful emotion from us. It could be the way that music floods the scene and draws us even closer to the moment in question. It could be a grand climax, a breathtaking introduction or a simple interchange. It could be any and all things, because for every film lover, the list is different.
I, uh, started making this list the day the blogathon was announced and found that I could not stop. And as more and more people started posting their lists, I began cursing myself for not including certain things! As usual with lists - even unranked, representative lists as opposed to ranked, ordered, definitive lists - I want it to be perfect. So I kept adding, and then replacing, and moving around... and finally I just said FUCK IT. Here are 50 Great Cinematic Moments, some of my favorite moments in movies. For your reading (and viewing, where possible) pleasure.

Here are the ten I mentioned on the original post:
Amelie turns into a waterfall (Amélie, Jen-Pierre Jeunet) Takes a feeling we've all had, visualizes it singularly and perfectly.
Elephant Love Medley (Moulin Rouge!, Baz Luhrmann) Like love exploding all over the screen.
Norman cleans up (Psycho, Alfred Hitchcock) The single greatest act of audience manipulation EVER. Even now, after I've seen it a million times, I'm still holding my breath throughout this entire ordeal, hoping Norman doesn't get caught. Don't forget the paper, Norman! How does Hitchcock DO this?!?
"YOU SHALL NOT PASS!" (The Fellowship of the Ring, Peter Jackson) Chilling. Nothing else in Middle Earth has ever topped this.
First jump to light speed in the Millennium Falcon (Star Wars, George Lucas) Even on a tiny screen, you feel it.
Race along the bridge (Jules et Jim, Francois Truffaut) This film is alive and never more so than here.
Dream Sequence (Sherlock, Jr., Buster Keaton) How did such a perfect meta-cinematic moment arrive so early in the history of the medium? A triumphant feat of editing.
La Marseillaise (Casablanca, Michael Curtiz) Not just perfectly shot and edited, but perfectly placed in the narrative.
Angkor Wat (In The Mood for Love, Wong Kar-Wai) As swoon-worthy as Wong's images are, his use of sound is just as impactful, nowhere more so than here. A secret told, a promise kept, a soul cleansed.
One last playtime (Toy Story 3, Lee Unkrich) I could go as far as saying the entire last twenty minutes of this (as far back as the incinerator scene). Also, that now-famous Boyhood "I just thought there would be more" thing? Pixar did it first. And better. But the last scene is really where it's at. Cue crying in 5... 4.. 3...

...and here are ten more:

Elysian Fields (Beasts of the Southern Wild, Benh Zeitlin) My heart feels like it's about to burst. I don't know how this little girl with no previous acting experience was able to convey so many, and such complex, emotions. This scene is magical - even if it's not Hushpuppy's mom frying up that gator.
Rooftop Fight (The Matrix, The Wachowski siblings) Two Words: Bullet. Time. "Dodge this," indeed!
Becoming the Black Swan (Black Swan, Darren Aronofsky) Never has a dance sequence so thrillingly put you the shoes of both the performer and the audience.
"You can see now?" (City Lights, Charlie Chaplin) Doesn't need audible dialogue to resonate.
Opening the door to Oz (The Wizard of Oz, Victor Fleming) Pure magic; it's only after you've seen it a million times that you even realize Dorothy is actually in color.
"The Man That Got Away" (A Star is Born, George Cukor) Put the same scene on stage and it doesn't work half as well as this. On film, it's stunning.
The bridge shot (Manhattan, Woody Allen) STANDING FUCKING OVATION. Glorious.
Leaving Venice (Summertime, David Lean) The face of the Great Kate. Read what I wrote about this great shot here.
"We are infinite." (The Perks of Being a Wallflower, Stephen Chbosky) Perfect encapsulation of what it feels like to be a teenager.
Final Scene (Nights of Cabiria, Federico Fellini) So beautiful. Sometimes all you can do is smile through the tears. Even when we don't want to, life goes on.

...and ten more:
Parting the Red Sea (The Ten Commandments, Cecil B. DeMille) To this day the cinema's most majestic special effects shot.
Opening at the Opera (Senso, Luchino Visconti) Is there such a thing as political romanticism? If so, then Visconti perfected it here. And in glorious, glorious technicolor.
Windswept Kiss (The Quiet Man, John Ford) Eroticism at its peak.
Marylee's Mambo (Written on the Wind, Douglas Sirk) This "forbidden dance" has never felt more forbidden. The intermingling of sex and death has never been more potent.
The Nightclub Shot (Playtime, Jacques Tati) Mind-boggling. (I can't find a video of this but trust me, if you've seen it, you know why I've included it: In this one shot, lasting about thirty seconds, there are at least six storylines converging, each one HILARIOUS.)
"Hey, Boo" (To Kill a Mockingbird, Robert Mulligan) Tears. Again.
Figure Rising from the Dark (Vertigo, Alfred Hitchcock) Most understated scare in cinema.
Loretta walks home from Ronny's (Moonstruck, Norman Jewison) Falling in love is such a high - even when it's someone with whom you know you shouldn't be falling love.
"No photos, please" (L'important c'est d'aimer, Andrzej Zulawski) The whole first scene, really. Heartbreaking look behind the mask of an actress pushed to her brink - she will demean herself to do this in order to keep acting? (Sorry for lack of subtitles in the clip - if you don't speak French, the director keeps yelling at her "Sens-le!" or "Mean it!", and what she says in that heartbreaking close-up translates, very roughly, as "Please don't take any photos. No, I'm a real actress - I used to do good things. I need the money, that's all. Please. No photos. Please.").
"Springtime for Hitler" (The Producers, Mel Brooks) Absurdly, gleefully profane.

...and ten more:
Cody Horn watches Channing Tatum strip to Pony (Magic Mike, Steven Soderbergh) Sometimes watching someone watch something is just as fascinating as watching it ourselves. And oh, yeah, the thing she's watching? Is pretty ridiculously hot.
Funeral Procession (Imitation of Life, Douglas Sirk) TEARS. OMG THE FUCKING TEARS.

"Beauty and the Beast" (Beauty & the Beast, Gary Trousdale and Kirk Wise) Picture-perfect fairy tale beauty.
Off the Cliff (Thelma & Louise, Ridley Scott) Suicide pact as Girl Power? Who cares. It works.
What Happens to the Victims (Under The Skin, Jonathan Glazer) Haunting, terrifying, and beautiful. (MAJOR SPOILER)
Art Gallery (Step Up Revolution, Scott Speer) Single-handedly justifies modern use of 3D. In the theater, this was STUNNING.
Making a dial tone (Adaptation, Spike Jonze) Inspired lunacy
"Love for Sale" (De-Lovely, Irwin Winkler) One song, one shot, multiple timelines, converging brilliantly into a perfect vision of a place and time and people.
Through the Mirror (Orpheus, Jean Cocteau) What was a good but rough effect in the earlier Blood of a Poet here becomes a fully realized, stunning passage to another world.
Married Life (Up, Bob Peterson & Pete Docter) Puts most live-action films to shame over the course of four minutes. Fuck that, over the course of the last two edits. Every time that house got so much as a nick in its paint over the course of the film, I gasped and teared up, and all because of the groundwork laid right here.

...and ten more:
Clementine slides away (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Michel Gondry) Takes my breath away every. Damn. Time.
"Do you believe in an afterlife?" (Cloud Atlas, The Wachowskis and Tom Tykwer) The Wachowskis' grand, ambitious folly is often thrilling, but this particular scene so brilliantly encapsulates the ideas at the heart of David Mitchell's book and the perfectly cinematic way they chose to adapt it. It also makes me weep buckets for no good reason, since James D'Arcy and Doona Bae can barely emote through all that makeup. But the emotion still comes across somehow. D'Arcy in particular just slays me. This is the scene where the movie finally clicked for me, and shifted it into All-Time Favorite status.
Beth's final scene (Little Women, Gillian Armstrong) A RIVER OF TEARS (This is the first scene that ever made me cry. It still does.)
Opening Scene (A History of Violence, David Cronenberg) The cinematography is great, the acting... but the star is the sound. That constant buzzing of insects immediately puts you right in that place.
"The Blower's Daughter", reprise (Closer, Mike Nichols) Not so much tears as supreme melancholy. Horrible people get their comeuppance - but do they really deserve it?
Roxy watches, and then joins, "All That Jazz" (Chicago, Rob Marshall) Brilliant re-imagining of a stage musical, single-handedly re-energizing an entire genre.
"Define dancing" (WALL-E, Andrew Stanton) Makes me grin from ear to ear. This is my happy place.
First Flight (How to Train Your Dragon) Some kids have always wanted to go to Hogwarts. I have always wanted to have a pet dragon. This is why. God bless Roger Deakins for this!
The Bride vs. O-Ren Ishii (Kill Bill, Vol. 1, Quentin Tarantino) Perfectly shot, edited, and scored. The second that Santa Esmerelda song kicks in, it's all over - I'm giddy at the prospect of what's to come.
"That's How You Know" (Enchanted, Kevin Lima) Ladies and gentlemen, the power of musical numbers, writ large. Pure, unadulterated joy (with a perfect dose of disbelief courtesy of Patrick Dempsey).

...and ten from TV (because the small screen can be cinematic, too!)
The entirety of "The Body" (Buffy the Vampire Slayer) Death comes for us all. And there is no preparing for it.
The Mother of Dragons Emerges (Game of Thrones) Reborn from the fire, newfound strength. Now the journey really begins. Bow down, bitches.
"You Sailor" (Bunheads) Perfect expression of an angst-ridden teen's inner life.
"Don't Stop Believin'" (Glee) - Easily the most iconic television moment of my lifetime, and one that still retains its elemental power to thrill even after the terrible horrible no-good very bad mess of wish fulfillment that show became.
The Prom Video (Friends) "He's her lobster!" SWOON
"Let Me Be Your Star" (Smash) Most thrilling musical number, audition sequence, and final scene of a pilot in recent memory - and it's packed with info about every major character. Gauntlet: THROWN.
The Eye (Hannibal) - No television series has ever reveled in the sublime (the "terribly beautiful") as well, or as much, as Bryan Fuller's masterpiece. (I HATE that I can't find video of this)
The Fate of Donna Noble (Doctor Who) AN OCEAN OF TEARS. It's not fair.
The end of "Time Enough at Last" (The Twilight Zone) No really. It's NOT. FAIR.
The entirety of "White Bear" (Black Mirror) The most scathing indictment of modern culture yet put on film - and the most wicked twist of an ending. A gut punch, and then a twist of the knife. And then it just keeps twisting.
The "threshold of revelation" (Angels in America, Mike Nichols) You cannot improve on this scene. Everyone should just stop trying.


  1. Glad you included Andy's farewell, here! I have said, on multiple occasions, that It took Boyhood 3 hours to do what Toy Story 3 did in the final 10 minutes. I didn't hate Boyhood, but thank goodness it didn't win Best Picture.

    I almost included the dance scene from Perks, but it just didn't quite stack up. I love that movie!

    Also, I LOVE Beasts of the Southern Wild, and the entire thing amazes me, cinematically. I just couldn't pick one moment that stood out!

    1. Well, to be fair, it kind of took all of the Toy Story films to achieve that very last scene, but still. I wasn't a crazy fan of them or anything, and I was completely gutted by the end. I have never cried so much in a movie. I feel exactly the same way about Boyhood as you do. I actually think winning Best Picture would have been the worst possible thing for its legacy.

      There were a few films here that I could have included multiple moments from (Amelie, Moulin Rouge...) and Beasts is one of them. I could also have easily chosen the climax where Hushpuppy stares down the Auroch, but the Elysian Fields scene just makes my heart grow three sizes every time I even think about it. So beautiful!

  2. Excellent picks! I love so many of these. I like that you singled out Beasts of the Southern Wild. That was such a beautiful film and I love the track "Once There Was a Hushpuppy" so much.

    1. Thanks! I love Beasts SO MUCH. It was also the first movie soundtrack I bought in a long time.

  3. YAY! I'm glad you expanded on your initial list, because these are some great moments! I'm so happy you mentioned those scenes in Beauty and the Beast and Chicago especially because NO ONE ELSE DID!!! Those are such beautiful and iconic cinematic scenes, and they needed to be mentioned!

    1. DAMN STRAIGHT! Of course now I am thinking of a ton of others that no one else has mentioned, and I might be forced to write an addendum of (at least) ten more moments soon...

  4. Great list! I liked the scenes you chose from the movies I've already seen - Amelie, Lord of the Rings, Toy Story - too many to mention!

    1. Yay! Thank you! As agonizing as this was, it was also fun!

  5. I think we have twin feelings on Closer.


    1. I LOVE that movie/play, and think it's far more open-ended than most people think.

  6. So many great choices. First I have to say I love the inclusion of that shot from Friends. It really is a key moment in the show. I can't list all the ones I love, there are just too many, so I'll just pick my favorite four.

    That whole sequence in Written on the Wind is so brilliantly shot with the quick cuts that give so much information in just about two minutes. Then there's the other Sirk, Imitation of Life which I know you love as do I. The prostration on the casket is tough on the emotions but for me it's Sarah Jane hugging the door weeping after Annie has left her hotel room that has always hit me the hardest.

    The other two are the Judy Garland films. When she opens the door onto Oz it's breathtaking, especially if you see it on a big screen. Lastly "The Man Who Got Away" number is so splendidly staged. I'm guessing that you've seen the original concept for the number which was all browns with the band set back from her. Judy was singing so of course that element was superb but the rest was muddy and Cukor's restaging of it adds so much power.

    Oh and Moses parting the Red Sea, you can't go wrong with that!!

    1. UGH that last scene between Annie and Sarah Jane... devastating. I've always seen it as set-up for the bigger tears to come, though. But it definitely gets the waterworks started (although I think Kohner overdoes the very end of the scene just a tad).

      Yes, I've seen the original concept for "Man Who Got Away" and am so glad they didn't go in that direction. It feel surprisingly natural for a musical of that era, which I think is part of its power.

  7. What a great list! And just when I thought I couldn't love it any more, I saw Doctor Who. Perfect!

    1. New Who in particular is so cinematic in its storylines and presentation that I could have picked any number of moments, but what happens to Donna is just... there are no words, really.

  8. Brilliant list! How could I have forgotten about Gandalf? That's my favourite!
    - Allie

    1. How indeed! Such an iconic moment!

  9. Lots of great choices, here. That shot from How to Train Your Dragon is breathtaking. Great list.

    1. Thanks, man! That sequence in HTTYD just makes me so freaking happy every time I see it.

  10. Dude, you killed it on this one! I actually teared up a couple times scrolling through these. True power all over this page. Beasts of the Southern Wild, To Kill a Mockingbird, Up. All of those moments easily could've made my list as well.

    1. Thanks, man! In general for me, true cinematic moments make my mouth drop, either with a gasp or with tears. And don't worry, there's more to come... I CAN'T HELP MYSELF!