Dec 11, 2010
BEST MOVIE SCENES OF THE YEAR
Howard Hawks once said that you only needed three or four good scenes in a movie for the movie to be good — the rest was just filler — and we are inclined to agree with him. For all our admiration of narrative architecture here at TBTTM, we must admit that movies can be won or lost in the space of a single scene, or even moment; Hawks himself was a master of such moments, having Lauren Bacall on hand, which always helps. Here, with a big SPOILER ALERT, is a selection of our favorite such scenes from the last year, bearing no or little relation to our opinion of the film as a whole, and collated by means of that rigorous, scientific method known as sitting down at a desk and seeing what comes to mind first. Any other suggestions?
1. TRUE GRIT
The horse-ride home. A case of a single scene making a whole movie, all the cussedness and cruelty of the Coens wild west falling away for a single act of selflessness, as Rooster scoops up Maddie and drives his horse through sleet and snow, day and night, to get her back home. Even the back-projection felt magical, with a touch of Night-of-the-Hunter to it.
2. LOVE AND OTHER DRUGS
The scene where Jake Gyllenhaal seduces Anne Hathaway by reassuring her that yes, he is indeed a shithead, as advertised. "Do you promise?" "I promise." A wonderfully sexy, inverted premise, worthy of Wilder, perfectly realised by the actors: saying those words Gyllenhaal looked, for the first time in his life, as if they might not be true.
3. THE SOCIAL NETWORK
The very first scene — not the break-up scene, but the running-through-Harvard-at-night to Trent Reznor's zombie minuet. I treasure film beginnings the way some people collect endings, and this one gave me goose-bumps: you don't know what is going on, or even what this film could be about. You just know you will not be moving for the next two hours.
4. THE TOWN
Jeremy Renner's death scene. It begins with Jon Hamm blowing Jem's cover — "Officer?..... officer?.... Coughlin!" — and ends with a slurp of coke, snatched behind a mailbox, before heading into a hail of bullets. Who dies at the movies any more? The intimations of Butch-and-Sundance felt fully-earnt.
5. KNIGHT AND DAY
The sequence in which Cruise and Diaz escape — via a helicopter, a skydive, a speedboat, a jungle, a jeep — but all from the point of view of Diaz, who is drugged. A great gag at the expense of senseless action sequences. Would that the rest of the movie had taken heed.
6. SHUTTER ISLAND
7. TOY STORY 3
Lotso's backstory, as narrated by Chuckles the Clown. A dexterous genre parody, plucking at the heart-strings, served up with mordant deadpan — Chaplin meets Bogart. Who knew that the most efficient spelunker of our Jungian movie unconscious, besides Martin Scorsese, would turn out to be Pixar?
8. FISH TANK
My colleague James Wolcott has jogged my memory about another of my favorite movie scenes — I told you this wasn't scientific! — so it's goodbye to the exploding-brunch from Inception, I'm afraid, and make way for Mark Ruffalo and Julianne Moore's sex scene in The Kids Are Alright, a riotous mixture of white-flanked awkwardness and lusty, ass-grabbing gumption.
10. BLUE VALENTINE
The end credits — a montage of the relationship we have just born witness to, over a scrim of fireworks, set to a song by Grizzly Bear. One of the few relationship montages to pull its weight. One imagines it was conceived as a way to leaven the bleakness of the ending, but it releases the feelings of the film so beautifully as to becomes a new ending in its own right.