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20 Great Scenes from 20 Great Movies

One might be surprised to discover that my two favourite scenes of all time from movies are both from films directed by Paul Thomas Anderson. About two months ago, I revealed my favourite scene of all time and promised to try and work on a list of great scenes. Well now I’ve finished compiling the list, and here it is, unleashed. They’re in no particular order, as it would be too hard to rank them, but I’ll start off with my second favourite scene of all time.

1: The Drug Deal Scene, Boogie Nights (1997)

Everything in this scene is pitch perfect. The tension works brilliantly, with the firecrackers and nervous tics. And the soundtrack… unbelieveable. You’ve got to hand it to P.T.A., he can pick the right music for any movie and it suits perfectly. There’s also a 45-second closeup of Mark Wahlberg (6:30-7:15) that is perhaps my favourite shot in the movie. Not because I like Mark Wahlberg, but just because it’s a perfect little piece of Anderson, and it reveals so much about Dirk Diggler without saying a word. Fantastic.

2: The Goy’s Teeth, A Serious Man (2009)

A perfect example of what makes the Coen brothers so unique. They can have a long, rambling, incredibly interesting monologue with virtually no meaning and it makes sense. The scene is both fun to watch and full of anticipation. Sure, it might be a let down to discover there’s no point in the whole thing, but it’s part of life. A lot of what we go through is long, tedious and has no real affect or reason, and yet, we live through it. The truth is, some questions weren’t made to be answered, and this scene sums it up perfectly.

3: The Street Shootout, Heat (1995)

Michael Mann’s visually daring 1995 heist movie features one of my personal favourite sequences of extended violence and warfare. Imagine a gritty shootout between many men, placed in the middle of a bustling street. Might not sound like the most original idea now, but back in 1995, it sizzled.

4: The Briefcase, The Killing (1956)

Though I sadly cannot find a video for this fantastic final scene to Stanley Kubrick’s heist movie, I can assure you it is brilliant. When two thieves are getting on to a plane escaping with millions in a briefcase, the unexpected happens, the briefcase opens, and all Hell breaks loose. A visually stunning shot, that in some ways anticipated Kubrick’s whole career.

5: Gutterballs, The Big Lebowski (1998)

A perfect combination of stylistic music and sexual innuendo combined with the Dude’s love of bowling, this priceless sequence makes the entire movie worth watching and symbolises (like #2) the uniqueness of the Coen brothers. No other director/s could have pulled this off.

6: “Hello, Dimitri?”, Dr. Strangelove (1964)

If there was a top prize for awkward, subtle humour in film, Dr. Strangelove would be a definite contender for top spot, and this scene explains exactly why. It makes me laugh every single time I watch it, and the first time I saw it, I was in tears by the time it ended. Fantastic. If you like to think you have anything resembling a sense of humour, you must see this movie.

7: Alice’s Monologue, Eyes Wide Shut (1999)

This is not actually the whole scene, but it’s enough of it to get the point across. Nicole Kidman is absolutely fucking fantastic in this scene, spitting out each line perfectly in character and in a manner that almost puts the viewer into the same drug-induced trance as her. A fantastic look at the effects of marriage and human relationships, this is definitely the film’s highlight.

8: Mr. Blonde, Reservoir Dogs (1992)

There are a lot of scenes which deserve a spot on here from QT’s breakthrough debut and it was really tough making a decision, but no other scene has the raw impact and masochistic beauty of this brilliantly filmed violence overblow. QT laughs in our faces and left me gaping when Mr. Blonde exited the warehouse and everything changed for those brief few seconds. He’s a genius, and this scene is a testament to his ability.

9: The German Girl, Paths of Glory (1957)

I hope you have a box of Kleenex, because you may be about to cry. The following is technically two scenes, one in which Kirk Douglas tells his boss where to stick his promotion (my favourite line in the film occurs at 0:59, listen for that one), and in the second part, in a scene that really is a testament to the heartlessness and cruelty of war, a German girl is forced to sing by a bunch of rowdy, drunken, ogling American soldiers, but the unexpected happens. Seriously, this scene… I cannot express my love for it enough, and it is one of the main reasons it’s placed so high among my favourite movies of all time. The best scene Kubrick ever directed. Ever.

10: Perfect Day, Trainspotting (1996)

Apparently, embedding is disabled so you can watch it here if it doesn’t work. What follows is an example of Danny Boyle’s great talent. He hear combines a scene where we see the protagonist Renton (Ewan MacGregor) take a “final” hit of heroin, and uses the best possible music to ironically describe the hellish levels to which he has sunk. Spectacularly depressing.

11: The End, Dogville (2003)

I warn you now, do NOT watch this scene if you have not already seen the movie. It contains spoilers that should NEVER be spoiled. It is the almost perfect, sadistic ending to Lars von Trier’s amazing stage-play filmed Dogville. It’s definitely in my Top 5 for jaw-dropping scenes. You will be stunned.

12: The Club Silencio, Mulholland Dr. (2001)

A beautiful, artistic, memorable scene from David Lynch’s amazing movie, this is a really well-done look at the thin line between dreams and reality, and how easily we can be tricked.

13: Don’t Leave, Magnolia (1999)

I know I’ve mentioned and shown this scene all over Southern Vision a few times, but if you haven’t seen it, it really is worth it. In general, I dislike Tom Cruise as an actor. But in this scene… wow, he really packs a punch that’s difficult to shake. Amazing portrayal of grief and loss.

14: Plastic Bag in the Wind, American Beauty (1999)

The scene has such emotion, and beauty, that there’s really nothing much left to say that Wes Bentley doesn’t say himself. Great background score from Thomas Newman, one of my favourite musical score composers of all time.

15: The Pool Scene, Let the Right One In (2008)

Almost poetic in its use of strewn body parts, sudden deaths, and great audio, this scene forces the audience to use their imagination which produces much more horrific results than any scary imagery. A beautiful, terrifying scene.

16: The Boardwalk Scene, A Clockwork Orange (1971)

The perfect combination of sickening violence and amazing classical music, Stanley Kubrick’s controversial masterpiece features countless great scenes of amazing direction, but this one tops them all.

17: Standing In Line for a Movie, Annie Hall (1977)

Woody Allen’s famous comedy works more like a series of hilarious sketches, and it’s difficult to pick just one, but when I watched it the first time, this scene really struck me as very funny, and has been parodied often in pop culture.

18: Lovefool, Hot Fuzz (2007)

This list would go uncomplete without a reference to the funniest of all the hilarious scenes in this Edgar Wright classic. The look on Simon Pegg’s face is hysterical.

19: The Copacabana Shot, Goodfellas (1991)

You’ll have to skip to two minutes before the actual shot starts, but it is a brilliant one. One of the most famous and influential tracking shots in all of cinema, this really pumps up the class in this Scorsese classic and is one of the many reasons it is as brilliant as it is.

20: Dreams, No Country for Old Men (2007)

A fitting way to finish off this list is with the disquieting, eerie, brilliant final scene that tops off an amazingly fantastic movie. Tommy Lee Jones leads the Coen brothers’ western-style classic to an awesome conclusion.

There, that’s my list. There’s plenty more I could add, but this is enough for now. So, what do you think? Anything you’d like to add? Leave a comment below.

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25 Very Short Film Reviews

I love writing reviews. I love it a lot. And I like it when reviews turn people onto movies they wouldn’t normally watch, as they have for me on many occasions. But sometimes people don’t have the time to read a full review, and just want people to get to the point. To satisfy these impatient but forgivable men and women, here is a list of twenty-five films, reviewed within one paragraph. They range from the completely terrible to the utterly brilliant. This of course, is all based on opinion, which is what makes the process of leaving a comment so integral. So make sure you do that. Anywhere, here they are, in a completely random order:

1: Freeway (1996)

It’s hardcore dark humor that is difficult to appreciate combined with the complete impossibility to sympathise with either of its main characters might normally make this a bad movie. But in some strange way, it has a charm, which obviously appealed to Executive Producer Oliver Stone. 7/10.

2: Short Cuts (1993)

Robert Altman knows a lot about people, as this mammoth 3-hour film proves. Back in ’75, he did it with Nashville, and retaining some of the jazzy musical flair, he returns to weave a complex web of a range of emotions that was a nice follow-up to The Player and a major influence on Paul Thomas Anderson. 9/10.

3: Fear and Desire (1955)

Stanley Kubrick’s first feature film was a disappointing one; so much so that he went as far as to withdraw all copies from distribution. It can still be found on the internet, but Kubrick was right when he said it was his worst film. 4/10.

4: Wild at Heart (1991)

My least favourite David Lynch film (and I LOOOOOOOOOOOVE Lynch) is a twisted romantic thriller with all the familiar Lynchian character types and plenty of Lynch’s snazzy retro styles but seemingly devoid of emotion. The highlight is easily the ugly Willem Dafoe character, but he only barely manages to save this wreck. 5/10.

5: The Green Mile (1999)

Seeing this at age 14, I felt a poignant sense of love for a film in a manner which was new to me. If, at that age, I had compiled a list of my favourite films, it would probably be number one. Growing up, I realized my fickle naivety at loving this Darabont gem so much, but it still retains power. 8/10.

6: Somewhere (2010)

Though Coppola’s take on an age-old plot is rather inaccessible, it is undoubtedly original, and her solid directing and some very touching cinematography make this so wickedly awesome to look at. Plus, the boozy relativity of Stephen Dorff and the contrasting charm of Elle Fanning make this an underrated treasure. 8/10.

7: See No Evil, Hear No Evil (1987)

Of the Gene Wilder and Richard Pryor pairings, this is certainly not the most well-received, glamorous or best, but seeing it at age twelve I could NOT stop laughing. They play the respective roles of a deaf and blind man in such a hilarious manner that it’s impossible not to. But at the end of the day, this is them doing what they’ve already done, in many ways. 6/10.

8: Liar, Liar (1997)

I saw this in theatres with my Dad when it came out and we had such fun. Turning ever slightly into a more bearable personality with each film, Carrey seems to hold up the role of a flabbergastingly talkative lawyer with ease, slipping in dozens of clever, witty one liners and winning the audience one chuckle at a time, despite its flaws. 7/10.

9: A Serious Man (2009)

It took more than one viewing to fully appreciate what Joel and Ethan Coen were trying to convey with this deceivingly simple story of a Jewish man’s struggle in middle-class society as everything he touches breaks (metaphorically) and he is subject to blackmail, deceit and countless unlucky circumstance. Honest about life and a real eye opener, it proves that the Coens will perhaps forever retain that undeniable charm. 9/10.

10: The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975)

With a bit of a mind flip, you’re into the time slip, and nothing will ever be the same. Though I certainly never went as far as to dress up and gather props, watching this cult classic gives you an appreciation for its intelligence about comedy and its beautiful tributes to science fiction and exploitation hits alike. 7/10.

11: Casino (1998)

I’ve never been to Las Vegas, but watching Scorsese’s Casino felt like a three hour trip around a rollercoaster of emotions that encircle the pretty-on-the-outside city. De Niro’s stony appearance and Pesci’s familiar disturbing intolerance as well as general greed and sin are an unattractive portrait of a moment in time where no one was safe from corruption. 8/10.

12: Gigli (2003)

I had suspected something stinky early on, but when Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez started their pathetic argument about penises and vaginas, I began to feel really sick. What makes it even worse is the presence of Martin Brest as director and screenwriter. How can a person so quickly move from things like Midnight Run and Scent of a Woman to this? 3/10.

13: One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1975)

For a fleeting second in this superb adaptation of Ken Kesey’s novel, whilst watching the DVD, I grabbed for the remote to pause it but found myself unable to. I realized when it had finished that that flash of a second was me deciding this was the best film I’d ever seen, but within moments, that exaggeration was gone. It isn’t the best one. But it’s a f*cking good one. 10/10.

14: The Brown Bunny (2003)

From its famed disastrous Cannes screening to the nightmarish controversy which followed, Vincent Gallo’s second directorial film was always going to garner the wrong sort of attention, but I think it is vastly underrated. It took me more than one viewing to even begin to like this movie, but now that I’ve had time to think about it, I realize what Gallo was trying to achieve and I respect him even more. Read my full review here. 7/10.

15: The Killing (1956)

Probably the first “great” film Kubrick released, this tense, pacing heist flick is full of brilliant scenes and the early stages of what would soon famously become the “Kubrick” cinematography style, and a final end scene completely coated in excellence. Impossible to hate, it is a must-see for all heist movie fans. 8/10.

16: Punch-Drunk Love (2002)

When compared with the films that preceded it, Paul Thomas Anderson’s quiet little drama might seem a little disappointing, but it’s arguably an excellent work of art, full of Anderson and the emotion he’s so talented at conveying. It also features cinematography and a use of light that is, in a word, stunning, and quite unexpected, much like the notable performance from a frustrated Adam Sandler. 8/10.

17: The Diving Bell and the Butterfly (2007)

A beautiful movie that makes you feel quite triumphant, this magnificent true story about a paralysed man who communicated and “typed” his entire autobiography to a typist by blinking (and doing only that) is not a frightening vision of a rare but dangerous affliction but rather, a tale of succeeding, when the rest of your body was telling you to fail. 8/10.

18: Rain Man (1988)

Dustin Hoffman’s remarkable performance as the Autistic Raymond would be enough to turn any self-indulgent prick like Tom Cruise’s character into a more emotionally respectable person, and as if that weren’t enough, his love for K-Mart, fresh underwear and Who’s On First make him instantly likeable. 7/10.

19: City of Ember (2008)

While babysitting my sister’s kids, we (meaning they) decided it would be awesome to watch this futuristic drama. Though the presence of Tim Robbins and Bill Murray is enough to stir the eyes of any adult in bland interest, neither of them are trying anything comedic here and while the premise is interesting, it is ultimately disappointing. 5/10.

20: October Sky (1997)

I feel sorry for a lot of people for this movie, Chris Cooper most of all, because when accepting this role he probably thought it would be the only time he would have to play a self-indulgent prick of a father. Then along came American Beauty, and self-indulgent prick was an instant typecast. Anyway, this movie is a bland but fair true story about some kids who build rockets, but it’s more for kids. 6/10.

21: Being John Malkovich (1999)

Hello, Kaufman. Hello, Jonze. Hello again, instantly despicable but strangely appealing John Malkovich. Hello, good movie. The interesting premise of this comic drama follows through nicely, retaining a lot of originality and pacing itself neatly enough. The only disappointing scene is one that also seems to be strangely witty, involving a chimpanzee flashback. 8/10.

22: Dogville (2003)

Lars von Trier is a director who I don’t think has ever (or will ever) make a really accessible movie. Dogville is no exception to this rule, but it is also Trier’s best. The use of setting the whole thing as a stage play makes it seem smaller, down to Earth, and a whole lot easier to follow, and the acting performances by a collective group of great actors playing members of a small town is equally impressive. 8/10. Heck, maybe 9 considering the fantastic ending.

23: A Fish Called Wanda (1988)

Revealing some unpleasant truths about relations between Brits and Americans, this absolutely f*cking HILARIOUS movie is flat out funny, all the way through, with Pythonesque jokes, and a thought-provoking analysis of the system of slapstick crime movies, this continues to delight and impress with each viewing. Sooo funny! 8/10.

24: Bruno (2008)

What may be so appealing about Sacha Baron Cohen is his disregard for social convention and love of all things outrageous. His follow-up to Borat, goes further than its predecessor, into the realms of homophobia and stereotypes, but still managing to come up clean on the other side, though some scenes might be excessive. 7/10.

25: Amores Perros (2000)

Spanish (or Mexican, whichever you consider to be most applicable) cinema is one of the most intriguingly relevant of foreign cinemas today. Celebrated director Alejandro Gonzales Iñàrritu creates tense sequences and stories of life in Mexico that are full of raw, uncensored emotion, particularly some heartbreaking sequences in the last half. Surprisingly brilliant. 9/10.

That’s my opinion, now what’s yours? You know the drill. Do you agree/disagree with what I’ve said about movies above? Leave a comment with some very short reviews of your own. It can be from any movie at all.

Thanks for reading.

Kubrick Konfidential #3: The Killing

 

A group of would-be criminals plan a dangerous robbery in Kubrick's "The Killing"

Stanley Kubrick’s third feature film is probably his first great one. Let’s face it: Fear and Desire (1953) and Killer’s Kiss (1955) are not very good films. There’s no denying it. They have some great moments, but overall in comparison with the work that followed, they’re a complete letdown… almost. The Killing (1956), however, changed things, if only slightly.

The premise is simple: a group of men plot to rob a racetrack on the day of an important horserace, but predictably (and unpredictably) thinks don’t go to plan. The film stars Sterling Hayden, who would later reappear more famously as General Jack “precious bodily fluids” D. Ripper in Dr. Strangelove, or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964). Hayden gives a golden performance, as do the supporting cast members whose names slip my mind.

The story itself is clever and works well enough but what I really enjoyed was the way it told all the varying and complex differing points of views of tons of characters within a running time of approximately eighty minutes. Kubrick has done this very well. All the stories are captivating, and the jumps back and forth through time are particularly well-done for a film of its era. The screenplay is also tremendously well-written, and the film shot well, too.

The events of the fateful day all lead up to one of the best endings to a heist movie ever. It’s not a big twist or anything like that, it’s just beautiful and perfect and it involves a briefcase at the airport. A must-see for Kubrick fans and/or heist movie fans.

The Killing:

My Rating: 8/10