Hmm, here’s a problem. I don’t have a number 100 movie yet. I started this whole project before I actually finalized my list, so as it stands this moment I only have 99 movies on the list. So, I guess today’s post will only have 4 scenes. Everything else remains the same: the movie titles will link to a full review if I have one. See entries one, two, and three for more scenes, and my full list for full listiness.
70. Take Shelter – Blow up at dinner
This scene is a pretty big spoiler, so if you haven’t seen Take Shelter yet, stop now and go watch it. While this scene isn’t the climax of the film, it does contain the turning point of the film. For the majority of the movie, the audience is privy to Michael Shannon’s growing paranoia but he hides it from his family. Here they see his fury for the first time, and it’s quite a sight. But the more important part is what Jessica Chastain does after he explodes. She looks at him, shocked, but slowly realizes that she still loves him, and that he’s having issues. The hug is not a healing one, exactly, but one of acceptance.
37. Paths of Glory – No Man’s Land.
With Paths of Glory, Stanley Kubrick expertly creates one of the most intense war movies of all time. World War I was full of terrible ideas, trench warfare being only one of its great travesties. Here, Kubrick captures just how horrible a situation the grunts were in. Kirk Douglas first walks through the trenches, but he offers no words of encouragement. In fact, the only words in the scene are a countdown to the push into No Man’s Land. And there pretty much everybody dies. War is chaos.
94. Fargo – Cooperating
If there’s one thing the Coen brothers do amazingly throughout their career, it’s document the way we talk. Theirs is not usually a very realistic milieu, but rather a heightened one. The people of Fargo (or, more accurately, the North Dakota area, since only one scene actually takes place in Fargo) probably don’t really talk exactly like this, but the Coens and their performers have taken the peculiarities of their speech and twisted it, enhanced it, “you betcha”ed it up some more, so that it becomes one of the defining characteristics of the movie, the contrast between the “Minnesota nice” way of speaking and the horrific violence that the characters bring into the world.
89. 7th Heaven – Climbing to Heaven
Frank Borzage isn’t often a subtle filmmaker. He likes to paint with large brushstrokes, and in the vibrant colors of love, loss, suffering, and life, even if he does so mostly in black and white. Here, just after Chico rescues Diane from killing herself on the street, he brings her up to his apartment in the sky. The long, slow climb up the stairs in one long tracking shot is technically marvelous for 1927, but it’s the visual metaphor that draws me in. Look at the light at the bottom of the stairs as compared to the top. He’s literally bringing her up into Heaven. This opens the door for the final scene of the film and builds Borzage’s beautiful visual palette.
That’s all for now. Like anything you see here? Let me know. Like any other scenes better than the ones I picked? Ditto.
I went on a mini-vacation but now I’m back with more scenes from movies randomly selected from my new top 100 list. See entry one and two for more fun. Movie titles will be linked to full reviews if I have one.
31. The Thing – Blood Test (WARNING! Not for the squeamish)
The Thing is one of the most macho films on my list. There’s not a woman in sight, and the men become more and more paranoid as the movie progresses until it reaches its zenith in this tense scene. It’s the paranoia running just barely under the surface here that makes everyone in the first half of the scene utterly still. The bursts of fire from the flamethrowers are the only real movement, echoing their pulses, maybe, or their anxiety. So they sit their as each sample of blood gets tested until one of the people starts shaking and transforming. Then one of the best practical effects movies starts showing off again and there’s blood and grossness and everything you ever wanted in a movie.
58. City Lights – Drunk at a Restaurant
This scene takes place after The Tramp rescues a rich man from an attempted suicide. As thanks, the rich man stuffs The Tramp full of alcohol and takes him out on the town. What follows is maybe the funniest I’ve seen Chaplin be. His faux-gentility gets amplified by the alcohol and the frou-frou setting and the absurdities of it all. We go from questioning why a person wouldn’t be able to tell the difference between eating spaghetti and a coiled streamer to laughing at just how long he eats that streamer. And when the music takes over his body and he charges onto the dance floor we can see just how great a performer Charlie Chaplin was.
48. The Night of the Hunter – “The Devil Wins Sometimes”
How insidious a character is Robert Mitchum’s Mr. Powell in The Night of the Hunter? Here is a con man, a thief, a murderer whose false religiosity combines with his powerful charisma to fool nearly everybody he meets throughout the course of the film. The husband and wife who run the local ice cream shop are probably the worst part of the whole movie, and yet this scene, in which Mr. Powell explains his new wife’s transgressions, still works thanks to Mitchum’s amazing pull on screen. Of course, it’s all just a build up to one of the best visuals in all of cinema, his wife floating in their car at the bottom of a river. The floating plants mirror her flowing hair, and the whole scene takes on an eerie beauty. That beauty is only increased when viewed from above and then from the side, allowing us to appreciate her naïveté and the power Mr. Powell had over her from the start. Amazing.
19. Hoop Dreams – Graduation
If you’ve been around the block with me a few times in this whole top 100 thing, you probably already knew the scene I was going to pick for Hoop Dreams. I teared up again when I watched it for this post. When Roger Ebert reviewed the film he started with these words: “It takes us, shakes us, and make us think in new ways about the world around us. It gives us the impression of having touched life itself.” The scene that exemplifies this power is suprisingly one in which the two stars of the film, William Gates and Arthur Agee, take a back seat in favor of Shelia Agee, who finds out that she’s graduating from a Nursing Assistant’s program at the top of her class. It’s her joy that makes you realize just how powerful achievement can be. She is, as she says, at the beginning of her journey, but it’s an important first step and an example for her son, Arthur, who will have his own ups and downs in his life. Shelia is the center of the movie.
73. Repulsion – Cracks, clay, and creatures
What tricks will our minds play on us when we are alone? Do you run up the stairs when you turn out the light with visions of hands grasping at your legs? Are you brave enough to turn around after that quick ascension to see if there really was anything there? There isn’t much dialogue in Repulsion but there is a lot of noise. Flies buzz around a rotting rabbit corpse left out of the refrigerator, clocks tick away the seconds minutes hours and days, and walls moan and crack under the pressure. While the specifics are never clarified, Catherine Deneuve’s character is clearly messed up, and her weekend alone is bad news for her and the unfortunate people that come into contact with her over the course of it.
Those five will do it for today. Any thoughts or other favorite scenes from these movies to share? Leave a comment and let’s talk a bit.
Second verse, same as the first. Mostly. Again, like the first in the series, I’ll be talking about a scene from five movies in my top 100 list. The movies will be chosen at random, but you can see the full list here.
51. Rear Window – Meet the Neighbors
The opening scene of Rear Window is a masterpiece of table setting. First, we’re introduced to the world around us via a push through an open window and a nice, leisurely pan around the buildings that make up Jimmy Stewart’s visible world. The camera then finds each neighbor in turn and gives us a fleeting glimpse at their situation via a shot (always from the apartment’s POV) and some sound, but not too much sound. We need to feel like we’re spying on these people, so we never get their full story, only what Stewart can observe from his lonely wheelchair. It plays wonderfully on the big screen, which at once makes the movie feel larger than life and confines us to what the camera can see. The screen becomes a second window, and we are fully controlled by Alfred Hitchcock’s genius.
50. Jaws – “Anyway, we delivered the bomb.”
Look at the shots Spielberg uses here. We start with a medium two shot, Quint in the foreground and Hooper unfocused in the back. This is how we see about half the speech. We get 3 cuts to Brody and one or two to Hooper, but for the rest we’re seeing Quint in some way or another. The shots break from the medium two shot as Quint looks back and forth between Brody and Hooper (glances that the camera mimics, of course) and then we get a much closer version of the shot that opens the scene. Here the tension increases, as people start to die. Finally, we get a slow push in on Quint as he describes the time he was most frightened. That shot ends with the line quoted above. It’s an intense speech that is heightened perfectly by Spielberg’s supreme understanding of movie making.
28. Miller’s Crossing – The End
After two movies talking about camera stuff, let’s give the sound guys some love. This scene happens out in the woods, so the only noises for the majority of it are the leaves crunching underneath Tom and Leo’s feet. Except, of course, after the line, “Goodbye, Leo.” There, we hear the trees creaking in the background. It heightens the silence between the two men, and in a movie so literate and talky, that silence is key. And then, of course, the spectacular Carter Burwell score kicks in as the two men put their hats on (“There’s nothing more foolish than a man chasing his hat.”) and we’re left with a kind of pleasant melancholy. Music to my ears.
75. Oslo, August 31st – Sitting at a Cafe
One of my favorite ideas to see dramatized is the fact that everybody you meet has their own story. You can sometimes see your role in the lives of your friends or family members, but usually we’re just background players. Every once in a while, a book or movie will demonstrate this concept and I’ll pretty much always fall in love with it. Here is Joachim Trier’s version of that scene, replete with snippets of conversation. It also engages in some active imagination on the part of our protagonist, following people as they finish their run or sit on a park bench. We all do this kind of thing and Oslo, August 31st is really great at capturing that, among other other events small and large.
61. The Quiet Man – Falling In Love in the Falling Rain
There are few scenes more romantic than this one. As the winds howl and branches shake, John Wayne and Maureen O’Hara take refuge (of a sort) in an old cemetery. The sound and fury of the storm matches their tempestuous embrace, and signals that this won’t be your typical romance. Indeed, this one ends with a ten minute long fight scene that starts at one end of town and finishes at the other. The passion that begins here will only end in bloodshed and then, finally, acceptance. For those that like their love stories to be biblical in scale, this is the movie you need to see. (And if you can, see it in its newly restored format. So pretty.)
That’s all for now. Do you love these movies or scenes as much as I do? Leave a comment and let’s talk about it!