Delenda Est Carthago

Why not delve into a twisted mind? Thoughts on the world, history, politics, entertainment, comics, and why all shall call me master!

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Location: Mesa, Arizona, United States

I plan on being the supreme dictator of the country, if not the world. Therefore, you might want to stay on my good side. Just a hint: ABBA rules!

27.7.06

Top Ten Week: My favorite movie scenes

I was going to go with my favorite movies for the next edition of Top Ten Week, but I thought I'd delve a little deeper and go with my favorite scenes in movies. This is a lot harder, as you might expect, because there are plenty of excellent scenes in mediocre movies, and in some of my favorite movies no one scene stands out as brilliant (I love Fight Club and would put it in my Top Ten of favorite movies, but it doesn't show up here). Some of these scenes aren't that great, but they are my favorites. I will even admit that they aren't that great. But that's what makes this fun! So, in no particular order:

1. I mentioned Mindwalk the other day in conjunction with my favorite poems. It's a strange movie, not unlike My Dinner with Andre (another good movie), in that it's basically a two-hour conversation. John Heard, Sam Waterston, and Liv Ullman walk around Mont. St. Michel in France (which I highly recommend - it's way cool) and discuss a ton o' different things, including quantum physics, torture, clockworks, relationships among people, and, of course, love. Ione Skye shows up briefly, but it's basically these three (Heard and Waterston play old friends, and they meet Ullman for the first time here). Toward the end, after they have thrashed through dozens of topics, Heard stands on the beach and recites part of Neruda's poem because he is angry that Ullman has come up with a coherent plan of the universe without accounting for human emotion. He believes that humanity has a lot more to offer than she does, even though each one of them has been damaged by relationships. He asks Sonia, "Where are the people in your system?" and she doesn't have an answer for him. It's a powerful scene, because we have been enthralled by this swirling conversation for so long that we almost begin to forget that there are people speaking the lines. Heard wistfully reminds his two friends that philosophy doesn't explain everything, and sometimes we need poetry to remind us of that. He stares into the surf as he recites the last line of the poem ("I woke up naked, the only thing caught, a fish trapped inside the wind"), and it turns what could have been simply an interesting discussion into something much more real.

2. In the Name of the Father is one of the few movies that have made me cry. Yes, bash away! I'm so unmanly! It's certainly not the greatest movie, but it's pretty stinkin' good, and when the ridiculously wonderful Emma Thompson stands there in court and shows the picture of that homeless guy to the judge and asks why it was not to be shown to the "defence," I just lose it. It has earned it, though, because of the trials and tribulations that Daniel Day-Lewis and Pete Postlethwaite have gone through and the dogged pursuit of justice that Thompson has gone through. Plus, the "bad guys" are so unctuous that to see them get their come-uppance is fantastic. Thompson sells the scene, too, as she gives us just enough of a pout to make us realize how horrible this is without making it oversentimental. I miss Emma Thompson. She's one of my favorite actresses, and she's done very little for a decade.

3. I have mentioned before how much I love The Fisher King before, and it has a few scenes that make it a classic. One of those is when John de Lancie (most famous as "Q" in Star Trek: The Next Generation) tries to pitch a show about the homeless to Jeff Bridges (and which has given me and Krys a standard fun line to say to each other: "They're wacky, but they're wise"), but the scene that I love is after Robin Williams, Jeff Bridges, Mercedes Ruehl, and Amanda Plummer go out to dinner and Williams takes Plummer home. She has been damaged by men before, and she tells him how the whole night will unfold. As she goes on, telling him that they'll sleep together and in the morning she'll feel so great and he'll be distant and then he'll have to leave and he'll promise to call but he won't, we see Williams growing increasingly upset because he's confused, and in her voice (which I usually hate, I'll admit) we hear the pain of hundreds of bad relationships. Williams finally tells her to shut up (nicely) and says that he's not going to do any of those things. All he wants is a kiss, because to him that's the nicest thing, and he's not planning on coming up to her place. Then they kiss, and it's such a sweet moment between two people who have shown how awkward they are in social situations. A very nice moment comes when Williams keeps saying plaintively, "I don't drink coffee," when she keeps saying that they're going to go up for coffee. Williams is often annoying, but occasionally he's brilliant, and here he is (for most of the movie, even). The scene itself is great, but then, as he walks onto the street, he remembers his wife getting killed, and the Black Knight appears up the street in the fog, and things fall apart. It's all the more tragic because of how good Plummer and Williams are in the scene.

4. Jacob's Ladder is one of the scariest movies I've ever seen, and there's one scene that totally freaks me out. Tim Robbins is in the hospital after going through yet another horrific experience, and he comes out of a stupor and doesn't quite understand what's going on. His ex-wife and kids come into his room, which is strange because he's living with Elizabeth Peña, and they smother him with hugs and kisses. They talk briefly and then his ex-wife says everything is going to be all right. A low, growly voice says, "Fat chance," and Tim Robbins, fear all over his face, looks directly at the camera, whimpering. It's a terrifying moment and signals that this is an even creepier movie than we thought it was. What a cool movie. And what's up with Adrian Lyne? He directs Flashdance, 9 1/2 Weeks, Fatal Attraction, Indecent Proposal, Lolita, Unfaithful, and this? How did he manage to make this in the middle of a career devoted to slick, somewhat sleazy movies about morally bankrupt individuals? Weird.

5. I suppose I should go old school at some point, so I'll go 1940s old school! I'm sure I've mentioned my love for The Third Man at some point, but if I haven't, I'm doing it now! Most people point to this movie and Welles' wonderful entrance in the door, and it's very nice, but it's not my favorite. Others point to Welles' speech about Italy and the Renaissance and the Swiss and the cuckoo clock, and I enjoy that, but the first part of that scene is what makes this one of my favorites. The speech about the Renaissance wouldn't have as much resonance if we didn't have Joseph Cotten and Orson Welles on the Ferris wheel, when they are discussing morality and how far men will go. Welles points out all the "ants" on the ground (the people) and if Cotten would care if some of them just disappeared. He asks Cotten how much money he would want to make one, or two, or one hundred just disappeared. When he opens the door, we, along with Cotten, really aren't sure if Welles is going to throw him out. It's a creepy scene despite (or because) of the carnival music and Welles' calmness, and we understand just how evil he really is. It's tough to fathom, because this is still handsome and suave Welles, unlike the sheriff he plays in Touch of Evil, and it's a wonderful performance by both men. It's a great movie, and this scene is its fulcrum.

6. Another one of my favorite movies is Apocalypse Now. Yes, I love Heart of Darkness, and I love the movie from which Conrad ripped it off (that's for you, Lefty). This is a horrifying portrait of war and Vietnam specifically, and I am riveted whenever I watch it. There are a bunch of great scenes (including any with Robert Duvall, who deserved his Oscar), but the scene when Martin Sheen kills Marlon Brando is visceral filmmaking. Coppola juxtaposes Sheen slaughtering Brando with a machete with the natives slaughtering a cow with the same weapon, and, as Milhouse once said, "I fear to watch, yet I can't look away!" The fact that they actually kill the cow helps, but the not-very-subtle linking of the cattle with Kurtz, who has been used by the government and then discarded, is what makes this such a powerful scene (and I'm not bashing it for not being subtle - Coppola is a great director, but he's not necessarily that subtle). It's a stunning climax to a stunning movie. And then Brando whispers "the horror, the horror." Testify, Marlon! Coppola and John Milius should have sued Conrad because he didn't give them any credit (oh, wait, that was Coppola and Milius who didn't give Conrad any credit!).

7. There will probably never another teen movie as savagely satirical or funny as Heathers, and it has a bunch of great scenes. The greatest is, of course, the funeral of the two football players. Christian Slater and Winona Ryder's plan to kill the popular kids is turning out poorly, and at the funeral, even though they made it look as if Kurt was gay, everyone loves him even more, culminating with his father standing up there and crying, "I love my dead gay son!" It's a great line (there are hundreds of great lines in the movie) that caps off a great scene in, you guessed it, a great movie.

8. I just realized I have two Kevin Smith movies on this list. Chasing Amy is the first one. Yes, Chasing Amy, which might be Smith's best movie (Clerks is still my favorite, but it's kind of juvenile). Anyway, this scene also features Ben Affleck, who seems kind of annoying in real life and always plays a bit of a dick, and Joey Lauren Adams, who has a really annoying voice, so it's kind of surprising it's one of my favorites. The great scene here is when Ben finally admits that he's in love with Joey, who is, you know, a lesbian. He goes on and on about how great a friend she is and how he knows she's gay but he doesn't care because he knows they can make it work. Affleck really does a nice job, and he see how much this is bothering him, and Adams is great in this scene even though she doesn't have a bunch of lines. She just stares at him in astonishment, and then slowly gets angrier and angrier. She finally loses it and gets out of the car even though it's raining hard. She stalks off, but Affleck catches up to her and they kiss. It's a great scene that is a wonderful portrayal of two people who love each other but can't figure out what to do about it. And then, of course, Affleck acts like a dick and blows it all! Good job, Ben!

9. Speaking of Smith, Clerks is still one of the funniest movies ever (even though Tom saw it for the first time last week - for shame, Mr. The Dog!), and it has some great lines and great scenes. Most people remember "37!" but the best conversation is when Dante and Randal talk about the contractors on the Death Star. What a cool conversation, because it's something that geeks everywhere would think. What about the contractors on the Death Star???? Aren't they innocent bystanders? The subject matter is cool enough, but the way Dante and Randal make it zing is great, too. And then that contractor comes in and tells them that those guys working on the Death Star should have known the risks. Very cool. I haven't seen the sequel, because I have heard it's awful, but it can't taint the excellence that is Clerks.

10. Finally, you may mock me at your leisure. My final favorite scene is the end of Rambo: First Blood Part II. Now, First Blood is actually a good movie - really! The sequel, I must admit, is pretty awful, but Sly's speech at the end is awesome. He's all pissed because the Americans left him and the POWs behind and he had to get them out himself, and when he gets back to the base he shoots up the command center with an M-60 (holding it with one hand, which is somewhat unbelievable). Then Richard Crenna, thin-lipped as ever, confronts him. Rambo isn't in the mood. Crenna tells him he'll get a second Medal of Honor for it, and Sly tells him to give it to the POWs. Then Crenna, well, let's get the whole exchange:

Trautman: The war, the whole conflict, may have been wrong, but damn it, don't hate your country for it.
Rambo: Hate? I'd die for it.
Trautman: Then what is it you want?
Rambo: I want (pause), what they want (pause), and every other guy (pause), who came over here and spilled his guts (pause) and gave everything he had (pause), wants! For our country (pause) to love us (pause) as much as we (pause) love it! That's what I want!
Trautman: How will you live, John?
Rambo: Day by day.

And remember - you have to do the great little speech Sly gives about wanting his country to love him with that Sly sneer and that Sly mumble. And then he turns away and mutters, "Day by day," quietly as the credits roll. Awesome.

So that's it for this installment. I'm sure there are tons of other scenes I could think of if I sat down and thought about it, but the point is - these are the ones that leaped into my head. Anyone got any favorite scenes?

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12 Comments:

Blogger HCaldwell said...

What! No "The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the Eighth Dimension" on your list. Shame. With some of the great cheesey lines of all times in it, how could you not include it? "Remember, no matter where you go, that's where you are."

27/7/06 6:10 PM  
Blogger Greg said...

I've certainly skipped a lot of great movies, sir. I love Buckaroo Banzai, but it doesn't have a really great scene that I love. You're right, though - it does have great lines, like "Give her your coat." "Why?" "Because you're perfect." Good stuff.

27/7/06 6:34 PM  
Blogger tomthedog said...

You missed a pause, Greg. "...as much as we (pause) love it!" I loved that movie from beginning to end when I was a teenager, and that speech especially -- I used to be able to quote that last, pause-filled bit from memory.

Another great idea for a list. I'm going to have to steal this one, too.

Also, it's "No matter where you go, there you are."

27/7/06 11:48 PM  
Blogger Greg said...

Dang, you're right - I did miss a pause. I'll have to go back and change that.

This speech is better than the shoe-shine one at the end of the first movie, because it's more coherent and shorter. Sly has to talk to much when he's talking about the shine kid who blows everyone up.

28/7/06 7:50 AM  
Blogger Gordon said...

First, gotta definitely agree with you on that scene from THE THIRD MAN - chilling.

Personal favorite scenes include

*A HARD DAY'S NIGHT - just before the band plays "If I Fell", a technician plays with Ringo's drums. Ringo chews him out, and George delivers the killer line,

"They loom large in his legend"

and

*STAR TREK 2: THE WRATH OF KHAN - Khan has just attacked the Enterprise. Kirk stalls, has Sulu fire a photon torpedo, and Kirk turns to the camera and says,

"Wait for it...here it comes"

Followed by stuff blowing up.

28/7/06 8:06 AM  
Blogger Greg said...

Gordon - I haven't seen A Hard Day's Night, so I can't speak to that, but that scene from Star Trek 2 is very cool. The "Khaaaaaaaannnnnn!" one is more famous, but that one is better.

28/7/06 1:08 PM  
Blogger Roxy said...

I'm going to lend a bit if the chick perspective. And it's gonna be lame, so be prepared.

When I was in high school, I watched the last scene in Sixteen Candles over and over again until I broke the tape (no DVD's here kids). The moment when Molly Ringwald steps out of the church after her sister's wedding and she's in a wonderful, foofy pink dress and she's about to say goodbye to everyone. Oh no! The vail! My sister forgot her vail! (tragedy, people, really)

She goes back into the church, grabs the tulle monstrosity and emerges to see that everyone left poor Molly behind. The cars part perfectly (fluid and choreographed like shiny, synchronized swimmers, and there stands Jake Ryan...

(cue "If you were here" by OMD)

Molly looks down and then sees Jake. He waves. She looks behind her. "Me?" she mouths...

He nods.

She bids her dad goodbye. She and her dad have a moment in where the internal monologue is SO apparent -

"My little girl, growing up."

"I'm not the little girl, anymore."

And then she climbs into Jake Ryan's porsche where he whisks her away back to his house where they sit on top of his glass table (glass?) and her birthday cake is between them.

"Make a wish" Jake says, voice cracking.

"It already came true."

End with crescendo OMD and slow, teenage kiss.

God damn, I'm a pansy.
(please don't remind me of this - ever.)

28/7/06 2:53 PM  
Blogger Nik said...

Clerks II isn't terrible by any means. Doesn't hold a candle to the original but i'd still have to say it's Smith's best movie since "Chasing Amy." Admittedly, that's not saying a lot...

28/7/06 3:37 PM  
Blogger HCaldwell said...

I did like "Clerks". I have hesitated to see "Clerks II" fearing a disapointment by comparison.
I, probably, stand alone here in thinking that Smith's "Dogma" was his best to date. (No really great scenes though.)

28/7/06 4:22 PM  
Blogger Chance said...

A lot of terrific films on your list, Greg. However, low marks for reminding me of Jacob's Ladder, and thereby guaranteeing me a few moments of paranoid panic before I fall asleep tonight. What a creepy movie!

28/7/06 9:18 PM  
Blogger Greg said...

Sorry, Chance. You have to stop by in the afternoon!

28/7/06 9:28 PM  
Blogger Reel Fanatic said...

Being a fan of cathartic comedy, I would have to lobby for "Office Space" There's a lot of great scenes from to choose from, to me, but our hero's initial interview with the Bobs is simply priceless

2/8/06 2:40 PM  

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