Andrew’s Fistful of Moments blogathon stumped me at first. He has challenged us to name some movie scenes and moments that took our breath away. I have seen a lot of movies and have had many kinds of emotional reactions but here are 10 that come to mind almost immediately. The rest of this post will be filled with spoilers so read on at your own risk.
Jurassic Park- (1993) I think this is where I started to love movies. I was 11. I’d like to think I would know if a Tyrannosaurus was getting close but Steven Spielberg was generous enough to give us a hint: a close-up of a puddle in the mud as the ground shakes. Despite lacking the gift of stealth, this dinosaur scared the shit out of me. It was the first time I remember being stressed at a movie and liking how it felt. My mom told me later that I was literally on the edge of my seat throughout the last half of the movie.
Face/Off- (1997) I was 16. I’ve been excited about movie my whole life but this was the first time I ever thought about how they were made and the first time I became a fan of a director. The whole movie worked for me but the scene that did it was a mostly slow-motion shootout with “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” playing on a young boy’s headphones. The ironic use of the song, the lighting, the cinematography of Nicolas Cage flying through the air firing two automatic weapons. Nobody but nobody could film mayhem like John Woo did. It was violent but nice.
American Beauty- (1999) I was 18 and couldn’t believe what I was watching. “And then I remember to relax, and stop trying to hold on to it and then it flows through me like rain and I can’t feel anything but gratitude for every single moment of my stupid little life. You have no idea what I’m talking about, I’m sure. But don’t worry, you will”. Cue an Elliott Smith cover of The Beatles’ Because. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen this movie where somebody doesn’t join in reciting along with Kevin Spacey’s final monologue. It’s usually me that chimes in but not always.
It’s a Wonderful Life (1947)- I wasn’t born yet. When I was just finishing high school though I went through a mad rush of trying to catch up on all the classics that I had missed out on account of not existing yet. It’s a Wonderful Life may to this day still be my sentimental favourite. George Bailey really did have a wonderful life and he finally comes to appreciate it on Christmas Eve, stumbling home through the snow yelling “Merry Christmas, Bedford Falls!”. I watch it every Christmas and start crying every time at some point in the last five minutes. If I’ve managed to stay strong though the part that gets me is “Attaboy, Clarence”.
The Sixth Sense (1999)- Someone had already ruined the ending for me but my favourite part isn’t the twist anyway. Haley Joel Osment has seen dead people all along but finally comes clean to his mom at the end while stuck in traffic.At first, she’s furious with him for wasting her time with such a story but she’s won over by his intimate knowledge of her conversation’s with her mother’s grave. “She said you asked her a question and the answer is: ‘Every day’. What did you ask her?” Toni Collette cries as she struggles to say “I asked if I made her proud” and I always cry along with her. Her performance is far better than the film’s notoriously hammy writer-director deserved.
One Flew Over the Cookoo’s Nest- (1975)- Billy (Brad Dourif) is so pleased with himself about last night’s partying that he can finally stand up to Nurse Ratched (Louise Fletcher) and isn’t even stuttering anymore. He resists her attempts to burst his bubble until she hits a nerve. “What would your mother have to say about this?”. And the stutter’s back. Nurse Ratched makes me so mad.
Vertigo- (1958)- I spent a long time trying to get Kim Novak’s scream in the final scene out of my head and I will not go through it again. I’ve rewatched the movie several times but stop it before the end.
Memento- (2000) My friends and I watched it on DVD and enjoyed the experience so much we kept pausing it so we could work together trying to piece the whole thing together. Then comes the ending. We had never considered that maybe our trusted narrator was lying to us and to himself. How many lies have I cleverly planted in my own memory and how many lies have we left behind in our writings for future generations to believe. Christopher Nolan’s best film.
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind- (2004) After spending so much time reliving painful and ugly moments between Clementine and Joel, I was quite disarmament when we stumbled upon a beautiful and tender one. It seems to catch Joel off guard too as he finds himself pleading with the guys erasing his memory to just let him keep this one. Now I often call this my favourite movie but the first time I saw it, I wasn’t sure what to make of it at first. This scene is the exact moment where I realized I was loving it.
Grapes of Wrath- (1940) This is probably my favourite book adaptation of all time. It’s made of so many tragic and hopeful moments, most of them almost directly from the novel. Director John Ford knew better than to mess with Steinbeck. If I had to pick just one scene,it would be the Joad family piling into a truck leaving the only hope they know after Ma Joad burns the family souvenirs they didn’t have room for.