Thursday, March 19, 2015

Ten Perfect Cinematic Moments


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!

34 comments:

  1. Ooo great list. Not gonna lie, I thought of Mommy the second I read the title :P I also love the Whiplash, Band of Outsiders and Romeo and Juliet entries :D

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    1. Right! Mommy has so many moments! The Wonderwall scene, the kitchen dance scene, the Colorblind scene...that moment when Die brings the car home and she tells Steve about a mother's love...UGH!!! I could have listed them all!

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  2. Dude. That Band of Outsiders scene is truly one of the most memorable scenes of all time for me. Just perfect. I hate 8 1/2 and have never been able to get through it, but that opening scene is brilliant. I've at least made it that far. The Children of Men scene. OMG! It changed my life.

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    1. When I think of movies, the first thing I think of is that scene from Band of Outsiders. Like, it is just perfect!

      I'm sad that you hate 8 1/2. I love that movie, but I LOVE Fellini SO MUCH and that film says so much about the struggle to create and to be something special. It's such a poignant tale, and so creatively told.

      Yes, the moment in Children of Men is just...WOW!

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  3. Oh.... Bande a Parte, 8 1/2, Whiplash, Modern Times, The Umbrellas of Cherbourg, Children of Men, & Romeo + Juliet... those are perfect cinematic moments. That is what I live for.

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    1. YES, that's the feeling I was going for!

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  4. I knew you were going to include Mommy when I saw the topic title haha. Great choice!
    Loving you included Children of Men and Whiplash too.

    The 'Tiny Dancer' scene in Almost Famous would definitely make my list.

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    1. Oh, I love that moment in Almost Famous!

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  5. "I was tempted to just say "the entire movie that is Gravity" because it really is just one long incredible moment" FUCK YES.

    Is there any moment as romantic as the fish tank scene in Romeo + Juliet? The Elephant Love Medley in Luhrmann's own Moulin Rouge. I LIVE for the dance scene in Bande a Parte. LOVE that your daughter was so in love with Umbrellas of Cherbourg! The final scene in Whiplash is just breathtaking (even if I didn't love the film as a whole).

    This is a great topic for a blogathon...

    10 off the top of my head: Amelie turns into a waterfall (Amelie), Elephant Love Medley (Moulin Rouge), Norman cleans up (Psycho), "YOU SHALL NOT PASS!" (Fellowship of the Ring), first hyperdrive in the Millennium Falcon (Star Wars), race along the bridge (Jules et Jim), dream sequence - into the movie (Sherlock, Jr.), La Marseillaise (Casablanca), Angkor Wat (In The Mood for Love), one last playtime (Toy Story 3)

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    1. OMG! That final scene in Toy Story 3!!! Why didn't I think of that?!?!

      UGH, maybe I should turn this into a blogathon...it's a tempting idea! I'll formulate thoughts on this over the weekend. It could be a lot of fun :-D

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  6. Nice idea. Of the ones that I've seen those are great shots, the Umbrellas of Cherbourgh is so full of striking images.

    Your so right that the list could be endless. The first one that came to my mind was from How the West Was Won, a film full of amazing shots, right in the middle of the film, one of the main characters, Eve is sending her son off to fight in the Civil War, she doesn't want him to go but knows that he must. In a wide shot to capture the full vista she's standing out on their farm on the prairie, he comes up behind her to take his leave and after fussing with his clothes for a second she wordlessly turns away putting her hand on his shoulder for a silent goodbye. The contrast between the sweep of the shot and the intimacy of the emotions kills me every single time.

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    1. I'm actually halfway through How the West Was Won. I started it a few days ago. It's absolutely GORGEOUS!

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    2. I LOVE that movie so much. I'm guessing you're watching the Blu-ray, they did such a fantastic job with that transfer. Even when it use to have the lines from the Cinerama transfer I loved it but I was just blown away when I saw the restored version. Would love to hear what you think of the film when your finished and who you think is the MVP out of the incredible cast.

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  7. I haven't seen some of the movies you mentioned but are familiar with some those scenes you talked about - those truly were iconic moments that are referenced in other movies one way or another. I recently watched Umbrellas of Cherbourg and it's impossible not to fall in love with the film. The Whiplash scene was amazing, and Gravity was the first movie that came into my mind when I read the title of your post! I loved that Children of Men is here, another fantastic film by Cuaron.

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    1. Yeah, there are so many great cinematic moments. These are just a few that stood out to me, and I wanted to highlight some that maybe not everyone would think of, because I'm all about raising awareness of films everyone should see :-D

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  8. You put a smile on my sick face when you mentioned how your daughter sighed and loved that romantic scene. She will appreciate how much her father instills the love of film in her like my dad did with me. I have to say 2 scenes that always come into my head are-John Wayne in the Searchers-when he comes up to his brother's homestead that has been burnt. The look of horror, pain and loss on his face and you knew he was thinking of his brother's wife was heartrending. The other was Ronald Colman in Lost Horizon. When he is about to leave Sangra-La and looks back with longing, regret and knowing he will not see it again-brought tears to my eyes

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    1. I do love that moment in The Searchers...so raw and powerful. I need to see Lost Horizon.

      I hope that her love for film continues to grow and that she looks back at our snuggles on the couch with tenderness as she gets older.

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  9. Some great moments, here. There are so so many, I agree with Daniel. This is a great topic for a blogathon.

    BTW, the final scene in Toy Story 3 is great, but my perfect scene from that movie would be the incinerator scene. SPOILER ALERT! That was like staring at all of my best friends about to simultaneously die and I couldn't do anything to stop it. Heart-wrenching.

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    1. UGH, that scene is tremendously heartbreaking.

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  10. Oh this is brilliant! Can I borrow the idea and do my own list?

    Love the inclusion - and I'm totally not surprised it's here :) - of that Mommy scene. Definitely the best scene of the movie for me, it was so powerful.

    The ending of Whiplash is really insane, it was my second favorite moment of last year

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    1. Of course! I'd love to see your list, but if you want to wait a day or two, I'm going to turn this into a blogathon, so I'd love for you to save it for that. I'm gonna post the details tomorrow :-D

      And yes, that Mommy scene was just incredible...so powerful.

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    2. Awesome! I already have the post and gifs in draft, so I'll wait for the announcement and post it in your blogathon, this is so much fun!

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    3. Wow, you work fast! I'll have it up shortly :-D

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  11. Awesome idea for a list Drew! LOVE that you described why each scene meant so much to you. I love that fish tank scene in ROMEO + JULIET, now THAT's an unabashedly romantic scene that doesn't feel mawkish or schmaltzy at all.

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    1. So glad you love that scene too!!!

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  12. This is brilliant! I am so glad you included that Whiplash scene.

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    1. I couldn't leave it off. It really defines exactly what this list was all about.

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  13. Excellent list! The final scene in Whiplash though, that's perfection. I could watch that over and over and be in awe every time.

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    1. It really was. I was hesitant to put two scenes from this year on the list, but I couldn't not.

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  14. Wonderful list! Love all of these, too. Surprised and delighted to see Seance on a Wet Afternoon get a mention. That movie is so overlooked!

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    1. It truly is. I just saw it recently, and it is astonishing. That scene in particular was so chaotic, so marvelously handled (and so sharply contrasted with the rest of the film, which hauntingly lingers).

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  15. Love this list. You’re right, that dance scene in Band of Outsiders is so damn stylish. Perfect word for it. Whatta scene.

    The end of Whiplash… forgetaboutit.

    And every time I watch Children of Men, I don’t think they’re going to make it out of that damn compound.

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    1. I love what you said about the scene in Children of Men, because that's what makes it such great cinema. Like, you are so swept up in the momenet that you forget what you already know.

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