Tag Archives: Jean-Pierre Jeunet

10 Magical Movie Moments

In response to A Fistful of Films’ blogathon, 10 Perfect Cinematic Moments, here are Sean’s. Check out Matt’s and Jay’s as well!

The Usual Suspects – “The greatest trick the devil ever pulled…”

As surprised as I was to find out Kaiser Sose’s identity, it was the way the reveal was handled that puts it on this list. This is more than a “gotcha” moment; it is an amazing sequence that was perfectly executed by Kevin Spacey, Chazz Palminteri and Brian Singer, and I am sure a lot of others. The movie would still be good if this sequence was something less, but the scene makes this movie a classic and makes this moment one of my favourites.

Gladiator – Battle of Carthage

This battle is not the film’s climactic one but it is the turning point in this movie. For Russell Crowe’s Maximus, it is his rebirth. For his fellow gladiators, it is when they find their leader. And for Joaquin Phoenix’s Commodus, it is when he realizes his days are numbered. It is such a fantastic battle that is so well filmed, has such high stakes, and perfectly captures that underdog victory feeling.

E.T. – Flying Bicycles!

This was the first moment that Jay and I came up with for this list, and at the same time, I think that says a lot. Of all the moments ever filmed, this one comes to mind because it is so magical and unexpected,  because it really shows you that anything is possible and there are no limits at all – if you can dream it, you can do it. That is the essence of movies and that feeling is what we hope to see captured in some new way every time we see something new.

Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back – “I am your father”

I had to put this one on here.  It’s part of my childhood.  This was the moment I realized that things are not just black and white.  There isn’t just good and evil.  It took me a while to understand how this was possible but when I figured it out I loved what it said about the world (though I was a little scared by it too).  By the way, Darth Vader’s life before these movies was much better in my head than it was when put up on-screen in Episodes 1-3.  And it always is, isn’t it?  Some things are better left to your imagination.

Big – The Big Piano

How perfect is this moment?  So perfect that when I went to New York for the first time only a few years ago, seeing this piano made me feel like a big kid.  Exactly the way I like to think Robert Loggia is made to feel by Tom Hanks’ Josh in this scene.  It’s hard to keep touch with that feeling in the abstract, sometimes we need help. This scene gives me that help every time and that is a powerful thing.

Raiders of the Lost Ark – Swordfight

This swordfight is not much of a fight at all.  It is totally one-sided and that is what makes it so brilliant.  Indiana Jones’ reaction here sums up the character perfectly – there are no rules, this is not about being a hero, there is just a goal that he is going to accomplish and no one will stand in his way.  Steven Spielberg has such a gift at doing that, at distilling things into a five second wordless sequence that others would have to spend dialogue and time on.  It’s so much better this way.

Rocky – Gonna Fly Now

Rocky has gone through a lot at this point.  He hasn’t had an easy life and he has been trying to become more than a punched-out shell.  Not many believe in him, possibly including a lot in the audience.  This scene is where it turns around, for Rocky anyway.  After this it doesn’t matter what happens, he’s already won.

Singing in the Rain – Singing in the Rain!

For a movie that has been around more than 50 years, it took me a while to get to it.  I shouldn’t have waited that long!  Singing in the Rain is amazing all the way through but the title song is really something special and stands out above all else.  It is simply magical and no one else does it like Gene Kelly does.  Brilliant!

Days of Thunder – “He always goes to the outside”

Cole Trickle plays the long game in this movie.  He spends an hour of screen time setting up Russ Wheeler for this moment, and we all see it coming but Russ himself.  I like that we see it coming.  It makes it that much better when Cole slingshots past Russ, and the best part is that Cole still takes the time to smash Russ into the wall.  Of course he did.  That’s Cole Trickle.

Amelie – Walking with a Blind Man

This one gets me every time.  It is so joyous and so magical with so much energy.  Again it feels like the movie leads up to this point.  The music adds so much and it’s another moment where director Jean-Pierre Jeunet is not constrained by the rules of our world.  If a blind man is happy why shouldn’t he glow?  It just makes sense.


Sean and I are celebrating our wedding anniversary in Paris; today we’re actually renewing our wedding vows at the Eiffel Tower so I’m posting about a wonderfully romantic French film about love and life in Paris through the eyes of an idealistic and imaginative young woman.

Gloriously known as Le fabuleux destin d’Amélie Poulain (translation: The Fabulous Destiny of Amelie Poulain), this film introduced the rest of the world to Audrey Tautou, seemingly born to play the role though it was actually written specifically for Emily Watson, who turned it down because she doesn’t speak French. A passion project for director Jean-Pierre Jeunet, he’s been collecting the various memories and curiosities that make up the story of Amélie since 1974. Who knew that the guy who brought us Alien: Resurrection had such magic and whimsy in him?


Amélie was brought up in a rather protected fashion, her father being very concerned about her supposed heart condition. To make up for her isolation, a young Amélie lives in her imagination, and her grown-up self is still very much a dreamer, a wondrous observer and devoutly introverted. She devotes her life to making others happy, and lucky for us, she’s surrounded by a very quirky bunch.

For her father, she fulfills his lifelong dream of travel (tough for a recluse) by stealing his treasured lawn gnome and sending it all over the world. This was inspired by true events – in fact, a rash of pranks perpetrated in the 1990s in England and France.


The traveling gnome was inspired by a rash of similar pranks played in England and France in the 1990s. In fact, the theft of garden gnomes is so pervasive it even has a name – “gnoming.” A gnome is taken from someone’s garden and released back “into the wild” (wherever that is for an inanimate object – the shelves of Walmart?). In 1997, a the leader of the Garden Gnome Liberation Front was convicted of stealing over 150 gnomes – his prison sentence was suspended, but he did pay a hefty fine.  (A couple of years later, there was a “mass suicide” of garden gnomes in a small town in France – residents woke up to find 11 gnomes hanging from a bridge, swinging from the nooses around their necks). At any rate, Amélie was responsible for bringing the whole garden gnome kidnapping thing to our attention, and the idea was later used by Travelocity in an ad campaign.


Although the movie is shot in a dreamy sort of way, with Paris polished, glowing, and blemish-free, some of the locations can actually be found in Montmartre. The cafe where Amélie works, for example, can be found on Rue Lepic (and is conveniently also named “Les Deux Moulins”). The fruit store run by M. Collignon is at 56 rue des Trois Frères. And of course the church where Amélie’s mother is crushed to death by a suicidal jumper is none other than the uber-famous Notre Dame  cathedral.


Amélie’s watchful neighbour paints the same painting yearly – he’s up to 40 copies of Renoir’s Luncheon of the Boating Party, and he still hasn’t got the girl-drinking-water’s expression quite right. Pierre-Auguste Renoir is a French artist of the impressionist variety and I’m looking forward to ogling his stuff at the Museé de l’Orangerie, but that particular painting can actually be found in The Phillipps Collection in Washington, DC.

If you haven’t seen this, you should, and if you  have, no time like the present for a re-watch!