There are a couple of reasons that I've been thinking out this lately. 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.
The list is also kind of endless.
So, in random order (because, like, how do you actually rank these), here are ten of my favorite (not an absolute favorite list, since there are bound to be moments I'm forgetting and some that I'm even thinking of now that would probably rank in my Top Ten and yet I'm leaving off because I want to highlight others) cinematic moments.
|Mary Kate's introduction scene in THE QUIET MAN|
We've been talking about this one a lot recently because of Hit Me With Your Best Shot, and it was because of that that this moment cemented itself for me as, well, perfect. The complete range of emotion that is portrayed here is just remarkable. O'Hara's performance is simply wonderful, but taking it in context of this singular scene, she says so much in just a few seconds. Her face, the way that she's framed, the way she walks right off frame, her head lingering at the bottom of the frame for that extra second as she turns back, the way she walks in and then out of Sean's life (and then back in, obviously) is all so effectively constructed. It's the perfect character introduction because we know nothing and yet everything about her.
|The dance scene in BAND OF OUTSIDERS|
Back in 2012, I filled out a Movie Questionnaire and posted it here, and I listed this as one of my three favorite movie scenes. The whole moment is just so charmingly perfect, really. Keith over at Keith & the Movies just talked about this movie and his review really defines all the reasons that this scene is perfect. This scene kind of captures all of the directorial touches that Godard brings to the table in a perfect compact little snippet. Style oozes from every snap, charm slides into every footstep, grace glosses every twist; it just stops the film to explain these people for an audience in a mere dance, but explain it does!
|The final scene from WHIPLASH|
Yes, this is a newbie, but MY GOD this scene is just perfect. The ferocity of this scene, the way that the editing, which is spitfire fast, and the emotion bleeding from Teller's astonishing performance (he's SO GOOD HERE) come together to create something that is unforgettable. I didn't even love this movie as much as many others did, but I can't deny the fact that when this scene ended I was left with one clear thought; "THIS is filmmaking!" The entire scene, from start to finish, is just remarkably shot. Start with the humiliation, pan to his retreat, his father's embrace, his sudden determination, his waltz back to the drums, his complete DOMINATION. It's a perfect, PERFECT moment.
|The escape scene from CHILDREN OF MEN|
I was tempted to just say "the entire movie that is Gravity" because it really is just one long incredible moment, but I decided to go with another Cuaron directed film because this singular moment (in a film filled with astonishing moments) really set a benchmark for filmmaking. I remember when this film was released and this particular scene was talked about by pretty much every film lover because it really is shockingly brilliant in it's composition. The beauty is in the way that editing is used so sparsely to put us firmly in this moment. It all happens so fast and yet it lingers. The way that everything in the distance gets bigger, closer, more dangerous. The way the light slowly yet so visibly effects the scene. The is a scene that has been done in many films, but this was the first time it became a moment.
|The roller skating scene in MODERN TIMES|
I just love the way that Charlie Chaplin wove such physicality into his films, and there are so many moments to choose from to be honest, but there is something about the (seeming) simplicity about this scene that just makes me smile. There is this graceful fluidity, this charming quality of such unhinged delight that floods the scene, giving it this special something, this lingering identity that embeds itself in my memory. When I think of Chaplin, I think of this scene before I think of anything else. How's that for creating a memory!
|The kidnapping scene in SEANCE ON A WET AFTERNOON|
If you want a cinematic moment that completely understands both sides of a very different conflict, I recommend you feast your eyes on this one. The editing, the score, the enclosed cinematography; all of it breathes such panic into the whole scene that I was literally gasping for air. It's a perfectly composed sequence that shows the mental state of both parties involved, the panic stricken kidnapper and the confused and frightened child.
|The fish tank scene in ROMEO + JULIET|
Is there any scene in the history of cinema that is this romantic? I think not! This is such a perfectly composed moment, truly. The music, the brightly lit cinematography, the youthful innocence bleeding from those young star's faces. My heart still flutters when I see this scene, but the reason this is a perfect cinematic moment is because my heart flutters when I THINK about it. We had already met these two, we already knew who they were, but in this moment we see them collide, their love blossoming before a single word is spoken, and as 'Kissing You' spills into our ears we are swept away in their love story, forever in love.
|The opening dream scene from 8 1/2|
Last month Kieth (I swear, I read other blogs) talked about his favorite dream sequences, and I was THRILLED to see this at his top spot. It really is the perfect moment because it says so much about our lead character and his plight without telling us too much. It's so symbolic (so much of the movie is) and yet it never feels overwrought, which is something in itself. I still remember the first time I saw 8 1/2. I remember watching Marcello break his way out of that car and remember that contained feeling of claustrophobia, but what impressed me the most was the way that the scene finds a way to breathe. It closes in and yet it expands so elegantly, giving us a visual and an emotional moment.
|The train station farewell scene from THE UMBRELLAS OF CHERBOURG|
UGH! This was the moment that inspired this list, to be honest. I was nestled on the couch watching this film with my daughter and as the train pulled out and Denueve stood there in her crushing sadness, my daughter actually let out a sigh. She looked up at me and she said "this is so romantic" and I was so moved by her reaction to the beautifully expressed emotion on the screen. She couldn't understand a word of what they were singing, and yet she didn't have to because the film is so breathtakingly expressive. I sat there and I thought to myself, "this is why we have movies, for moments like this" and so here you have it; a perfect moment for the list!
|The fantasy scene from MOMMY|
I say that this list is random, but who am I kidding; this is my favorite moment from any movie ever. In fact, I could have listed about five moments (more) from Mommy for this list, because Dolan has strung together so many incredible ones in his masterpiece, but this particular moment is the one that will go down in history as a scene to be remember, studied and emulated. From the use of music (OMG, 'Experience' is melodramatic perfection) to the swirling edits (so sharp, so tight) to the explosion of emotion that floods over every scene; this moment is absolute perfection!