Fisti has put forth this brilliant challenge of telling what, for us, are our absolute favourite moments in film. Matt has already risen to the challenge and wrote beautifully and vividly about his own favourites, and if you’d like to read others’, then do check out the blogathon at A Fistful of Films. If you’re sticking around to read mine, please be warned that these inevitably include spoilers.
I wanted to pick that scene in Good Will Hunting where Matt Damon, having previously asked a dude if he liked apples, pounds on the window, presses the phone number against it, and asks “How do you like them apples?” because that’s a great scene. Great movie moment. But there’s another nugget in this movie that overshadows it, for me. It’s at the end, when Ben Affleck pulls up to Matt’s house, knocks on the door, and no one answers. We already know that Ben has always secretly hoped for this very thing: that one day his brilliant friend will disappear from his desultory life and chase the stars. So we know that Ben is happy, but we also know that he will inevitably also be sad, having just lost his best friend, and having no such escape route himself. It’s a very bittersweet moment where not a single word is spoken, but so much is said. All of this is communicated with just a slight grin, but the script and the director have set this moment up so perfectly that it plays on the audience’s emotions for all it’s worth. Love it.
As a little girl, I was fascinated by this movie I kept hearing about, E.T. I got the movie (VHS, baby!) one year for Christmas, probably a few years after its initial release, when it was age-appropriate. Almost the entire movie holds magic for me. This was the first movie that I remember wanting to watch and rewatch, and wanting to own so I could do just that. How do I pick just one moment? The Reese’s pieces, the glowing finger, “I’ll be right here”…and yet, for me, it was the moment Elliot’s bike first detaches from Earth. I can still almost feel the gulp in the pit of my stomach. One minute they’re riding along, just like I did around my own neighbourhood, both wheels kissing the ground, but then the next they’re gently pulling away, with wonder in their eyes, and in mine. That was the moment I realized that movies could tell stories. Made up, magical stories – that there was an infinite sea of possibility out there, not just in my own imagination, but in others’ as well (no, the alien hadn’t tipped me off, it was definitely the flying bikes).
There are a thousand movie lines that have become classic quotes and catch phrases, but I don’t think any have affected me quite as much as “Fasten your seat belts; it’s gonna be a bumpy night!” This is of course uttered by Queen Davis and it wouldn’t have spit forth from any one else’s lips nearly so well. Bette Davis’s Margo in All About Eve was probably her crowning role, one she was born to play. It was released in 1950 so I missed seeing it in theatres. That famous line was part of our cultural lexicon by the time I was born. There was a time when I hadn’t yet seen All About Eve, but there was never a moment in my lifetime when that line didn’t mean something. Though I’ve seen the movie several times by now, no viewing will ever compare to the first time I heard that line out of Bette’s lips. The timing is perfect, the delivery classic. It darn near knocked my socks off.
I’m not sure if there’s one moment in Up that I can point to, rather it’s a point in myself, that moment when I’m sobbing uncontrollably, reaching for my 3rd or 4th tissue, and we’re not even 5 minutes in. Very quickly into the film, there’s a fantastic montage that basically outlines a couple’s life together. Carl and Ellie meet as kids and have a life full of adventure, but also heartbreak. I love the scene of their wedding, where her side is cheering raucously, and his is sedate (remind you of anyone, Sean?). I love the painted hand prints on the mailbox. And I am totally in awe of what must be the first miscarriage hinted at in a Disney movie. It’s done with such tenderness and sensitivity that I always end up bawling. This montage is only a few minutes long but gives you such a sense of who they were (even though they’re fictional cartoons!) that you can’t help but be touched. This movie obviously found its way into my heart, and at a time when I found myself falling in love, so I guess it’s no surprise that there’s an adventure book in my own home, and a soda bottle cap pin on my lapel, and a drawing of little Carl and Ellie on our wall, and that same drawing tattooed on my back. No matter how many times I watch this movie, I am always bowled over by the sweetness that goes along with the hilarious saltiness. I just love knowing that this is possible, that you can tell a story so purely that makes so many feel all the feelings.
I’m starting to feel like there’s a certain theme to my favourites here. Christopher Guest is one of my favourite directors, I love everything he’s ever done and I’m angry at him for not doing more. I might not be able to pick a favourite among his movies, but I can talk about this one scene from A Might Wind. Catherine O’Hara and Eugene Levy, two Guest regulars, are playing a folk duo who had a relationship and a successful career but watched both implode. Many years later, there’s still a lot of pain there, but they agree to perform together at a special show as the guests of honour. During their greatest hit, once a testament to their love, they pause to give each other a kiss, just like old times. Again, I have to say that this moment works so well because the director has paid his dues. The whole movie points to this very moment. I hate movies that grab cheaply for tears and admire those that earn them. This moment is played quietly but the emotional payoff is epic.
Wes Anderson is another favourite director of mine. I get absolutely giddy when I watch his creations. My favourite, and I do have one – it’s that good – is The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou. Its ending is maybe Anderson’s finest work- the scene when the whole damn cast is crammed into a tiny submarine, and they finally, finally find the elusive jaguar shark. It’s great, no STUPENDOUS, because 1. Bill Murray cries 2. for a movie called The Life Aquatic, this is pretty much the only aquatic life we see c) Sigur Rós’ song “Starálfur” plays, and its beauty and melancholy are just perfection 4. the shark is a metaphor, but for what? In the end, Steve doesn’t kill the shark, because it’s too beautiful, and also for lack of dynamite. It could be no other way, but only the mind of Wes Anderson would know this. Gets me every time.
I think a few of our fellow bloggers already have Inception on their lists, rightfully I think, for the hallway scene. It’s pretty crazy. But I’m thinking more of the last shot of the movie- the fucking top. Do you remember watching that on the big screen for the first time? How it spun and spun, but will it fall? We have already been told what it means: as long as it continues to spin, he is dreaming. If it eventually topples over, he’s awake. In that famous last scene, we hope he’s awake, and yet the stupid think won’t fall. It keeps going, but – oh, is it about to fall? No. But surely it must be close. Isn’t it faltering? Not quite. But it’s slowing down, right? It’s a simple top, but it manages to create a thick, greasy layer of tension is a theatre that’s already exhausted. And then, brilliantly, director Christopher Nolan cuts to black, so we are left to wonder, or perhaps to make our own judgement call, given the other facts of the movie. Is he or isn’t he? It was a perfect way to end the movie, and it was THE water-cooler topic for weeks. It made us question the nature of reality, and whether ‘reality’ was really the important thing anyway – maybe happiness and emotional connection are reality enough. Christ. I’m twitterpated all over again just writing about it!
The Broken Circle Breakdown is a film out of Belgium that shows the growth of a relationship between two bluegrass singers. The film goes back and forth, with sporadic scenes of courtship, love, marriage, babies, and breakdown. We know that their beloved daughter falls ill (cancer) and we know that the couple ends up in a very dark place, but glimpses of the kid are elusive. It feels like a real game of cat and mouse, trying to piece together what has happened to this family, but you’ve come to love them and you root for them like mad, so the scene where we finally know for sure that the kid is dead JUST FUCKING SLAYS ME.
Almost the whole of Big Fish could make this list, but I’m going to focus on the part where Billy Crudup is carrying his dying father in his arms down tho the water, and I’m going to try (and fail) to write this without tears. His whole life, his father has told him tall tales, which has bred distance and resentment between father and son. Only as his father lies dying does he come to understand that these stories are a legacy, a version of immortality, never so important as when death is knocking on one’s door. When father is incapacitated, son tells the final story: how he brings him down to the river to be bid adieu by all the fantastic characters that he’s known along the way, to finally pass into the arms of his beloved wife, and to finally become what he always was – a very big fish. I find it very moving and inspiring. Isn’t this what death should look like? Fuck heaven. Tim Burton knows how to do death right.
I read the book, pilfered from my grandfather’s collection, when I was far too young, but The Godfather is so goddamned good that it impressed me even then. The movies offer a whole plethora of perfect moments, but I’m taking mine from the second one, where Al Pacino delivers the kiss of death. As Michael leans in to kiss his brother Fredo’s cheek, he whispers “I know it was you, Fredo. You broke my heart. You broke my heart!” Fredo doesn’t die in that scene, but we all know he’s as good as – he’s marked. He’s always been the Corleone family’s weakest link, but now we know for sure that Michael is the strongest. There’s something a little Judas-y about being betrayed by a kiss, something halfway between forgiveness and vengeance that really paints Michael as a complex man and leader. This kiss gives me chills.