Does the title confuse you? Let’s break it down together. First, it’s my annual top 100 Movies List time. Every year I update my top 100 movies list with things newly watched and rewatched, and newly ordered based on whatever whims were coursing through me roughly 2 hours ago, when I (mostly) finalized my list for 2014. I say mostly because summer has become my most fruitful movie watching season and it isn’t quite over yet, so I want to give myself some room to mess around with the back end of the list by having only 99 movies on the list as currently composed and with the last two in the list holding temporary spots. This leaves between 1 and 3 spots available for movies that wow me in the next month or so, and that’s certainly possible, as two movies that I watched over the weekend will be appearing here at some point in the future.
Now, for the format of the presentation. I’ve grown tired of just doing a mini paragraph about each movie with a quote and a link to a full review. If you want that, go to last year’s version of the list. For this year I’m doing something completely different. I’ll be picking one outstanding scene from each film and doing a write up about just that scene. And, to make it even more fun, I’ve run my list through a randomizer and will present five random movies from it every other day or so (don’t worry, fans of order, my full ordered list is available on letterboxd). Wherever possible, I’ll link to a youtube or vimeo version of the scene so you can play along. Where that isn’t possible, I’ll do a quick recap of the scene so that we’re all on the same page. And as always, the title of each movie will link to my full review if I’ve written one. Ready, begin.
The Long Day Closes is one of a good few coming of age movies on my list. It’s something I’m really attracted to in stories, for whatever reason. This particular one is a fictionalized autobiography of director Terence Davies focuses on four places which shaped him: his house, his church, his school, and the movie theater in which he would escape the above three for a few hours at a time. The conclusion of the film takes us back to all of those places and does so in a way that emphasizes their similarities and differences. The entire sequence is shot from above and tracking to the left and as church pews fade into school desks and one authority figure dissolves into another, we see the summation of the forces that guide an shape a young man, this young man. And that song is just perfect.
Charlie Chaplin’s Tramp is one of the most indelible characters of cinema. Always disrespected but never disrespectful, he is the hero of genteel politeness in a body that distracts everybody but the lucky few from his underlying humanity. In this scene he is the test subject of a new machine which will allow factory workers to continue eating while they work, doubling their efficiency. The first fourth or so of the film is as lucid a critique of the modern factory system as we have and the silly invention is the height of both hilarity and satire. When it fails spectacularly, the boss rejects it: “It isn’t practical.” Nevermind the human toll, as the Tramp has collapsed on the floor from the invention’s cruel(ly funny) aberrations.
“Will you every stop asking questions,” Death asks Antonius Block. Max von Sydow’s voice answers, but it’s director Ingmar Bergman’s words, “No, never.” The three Bergman movies I’ve seen are all about questions without answers, and the sometimes joy and sometimes terror they can bring. Here, it’s terror, as a young woman is burned for consorting with the devil. Block inquires about the devil, if only to ask him about God. His constant search brings him to much suffering, and only Death remains absolute.
57. The Diving Bell and the Butterfly – A Phone Call
Max von Sydow makes another appearance here, this time towards the end of his acting career. It’s 50 years after The Seventh Seal and he’s playing the father to Mathieu Amalric’s Jean-Do, a paralyzed man who can only move his left eye. This scene captures the difficult relationship between the two, as they are both trapped, one by age and the other by his body. The movie is about the failings of our physical beings and the triumphs of our spirits, but it’s the gradual defocusing at the end of this scene that seals the movie for me. Throughout the film, the camera often takes the POV of Jean-Do and here, as elsewhere, it tells as much as the words through just the image.
76. Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs – Snowball!
There is something to be said for silliness. Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs has silliness in spades, and rarely is it more on display than in this fun scene that involve karate, ice cream, breaking and entering, poop, and weather reportage. Sometimes you’re asking questions about if God exists, other times you’re throwing mint chocolate chip snowballs at a grown woman’s face.
Do you have a favorite scene from any of these movies, or anything else to add? Leave a comment and I’ll get back to you!