Saturday, 20 February 2010

2009 in Review: 25 Scenes (Ep. 1)

I like to rethink my favourite parts of films as the year ends. Of course it’s a work in progress. Quite often a favourite does not mean that said film is my favourite and sometimes it does. It’s the moment of the film you remember most, the scene that makes you shed a tear or makes you laugh…the scene that brings my nostalgic memories or worry for the future. It’s the power of films as such. So I’m unveiling my 25 scenes of 2009. I did not include openings or endings because they often serve a completely different purpose, maybe I’ll recap my favourite of each later, perhaps. I can’t say. I tried as much to prevent repeats, but I couldn’t. The fifteen runners up will be listed in alphabetical order and then the top ten by favouritism. It’s purely subjective though, so bear with me.
   
[Click on the links for my reviews]
     
500 Days of Summer: “Just Friends”
I know quite a few were bowled over by this, and I suppose there were many more obviously funny or romantic scenes that I could have chosen – the greeting card moments come to mind, but this is the single moment of 500 Days of Summer that I carried in my memory after seeing it. The preamble of it begins at a club as a persistent patron asks to buy Summer a drink. Tom gallantly gets into a fist fight and he is nonplussed when Summer is miffed on their return home. She grimly responds that they’re just friends when Levitt gives his best scene. His response is so real and so emotional as he leaves – it’s the most poignant part of the film.
     
Brothers: “The Second Dinner”
MaGuire’s breakdown as the end was a contender but the film finest scene occurs with the ensemble present as they all gather for Maggie’s birthday. Sam is already on edge and the tension is palpable.Isabelle opens the door to see her Uncle there with his new date, and she’s already upset. Grace can feel something is amiss and Izzie just keeps pushing it further and further. Sam keeps telling her to stop playing with the balloon with leads to her (fraudulent) claim – you’re just mad because Mom would rather sleep with Uncle Tommy than you. It’s piercing, it’s surprising and it’s incredibly memorable. I love Jake’s reaction as he looks down, as if disappointed and Natalie’s Grace is not so much aghast as saddened and of course Tobey and his perpetual look of bewilderment. A wonderfully directed scene.
    
Duplicity: “Getting A Copy of the Plan”
Duplicity thrives on the mystery, and that ridiculous hair growth scheme. My favourite part occurs when Julia’s Claire must find the blueprints and fax it to her allies in the dead of night. The fine editing is in place and Julia, Clive and the rest of the ensemble do fine work – considering that many of them are already lying to begin. Gilroy knows how to up the adrenaline and he does it here, pulling out all the stops.
     
An Education: “An Important Loss”
This scene is just a tidbit, but it stands out. The tale of “Mr. Rochester” has travelled to The Head Mistress, whose office Jenny is called to. It’s a monologue really, and Emma sells it completely – “There may well have been the odd sixth form girl who has lost an important part of herself – perhaps the best part – while under our supervision. These things happen, regrettably. If however we are made aware of this loss, then of course the young lady in question would have to continue her studies elsewhere, if she still has any use for A-Levels. Is that clear?” It is perfection.
    
Harry Potter & the Half Blood Prince: “The First Horcrux – The Cave”
It’s one of the most chilling parts of the novel and it translates well to screen. Gambon and even Radcliffe sell the emotional weight of the scene and it is sooooo beautiful to look at. The mosaic image is palpable; the cinemotgraphy is enchanting the visual effects are always subtle but never underwhelming. The finest part of an already good film.
   
The Hurt Locker: “A Suicide Bomber”
The scenes don’t seem to have a specific beginning or end, though I did appreciate the cameo of the always wonderful Ralph Fiennes, but the film makes it point in when a suicide bomber enters the picture. Jeremy Renner’s guilt as he’s unable to defuse the bomb is potent and the tension is built up so heavily. It’s a powerful scene.
     
In the Loop: “First Press Conference”
This another film with continuous pieces of brilliance, the one that stands out is the first press conference as a self conscious Tom Hollander all but sinks his career. It’s the first time we see the wonderful Mimi Kennedy (who I cannot stop singing praises to) and the diffidence of Hollander and the obvious humour of the situation cannot be ignored. Such an uncomfortable moment for the characters, such a lovely moment for the audiene.
       
The Lovely Bones: “Finding the Evidence”
I didn’t expect this to be my favourite of the film, but weeks after it’s the one that I remember vividly. Susie’s sister enters Harvey’s house to find important evidence. The screen is taut with tension and shot by shot Jackson keeps up hooked. It’s also a strong moment for Tucci who sells his character without words. What thrill ride.
     
Nine: “Be Italian”

Need I go on? It's more than the hook being catch, because it's not my favourite song. But the choreography is sensational, the imagery is lovely, the sand in the tambourines, the dancing whores. It's a number that completely satisfies.
    
Precious: “The First Class”
Precious soars highest when it comes down to the simple things, like Each One, Teach One. The chemistry of the girls is lovely to watch and Paula Patton oversees it all with such candour. I love Jo Ann’s colour choice – fluorescent beige and I love Gabourey’s delivery here – so blunt, and yet a little shy – I can cook. If only the entire film could have felt so sure of itself.
     
The Princess & the Frog: “Almost There”
It’s the token “I want” solo number [Part of this World, Belle, Reflections] and Anika owns it with those vocals, and of course the design is beautiful too.
      
The Road: “Goodbye, Wife”
I really wish Charlize had more to work with in The Road, she’s phenomenal with her slight role. Her departure from the film is heart-rending and I love Viggo’s reaction. It’s the saddest moment of the film, which is strange considering it’s all rather depressing.
     
A Serious Man: “This is not about woopsy-doopsy.”
I didn’t like this much, but it has one of the best scenes this year, when Judith asks for a divorce I thought the Coens’ were on to something. The dialogue here is brilliant.
Judith: Sy and I have become very close…. In short: I think it’s time we start talking about a divorce.
Larry: Sy Ableman.
Judith: This is not about Sy.
Larry: You mentioned Sy.
It all leads to one of my favourite lines this year “I haven’t done anything. This is not some flashy thing. This is not about woopsy-doopsy." I am so going to use that in a conversation some time.
    
A Single Man: “Dancing”
I’ve told you before I was very impressed with Ms. Moore’s bit role in A Single Man, and of course she’s in a favourite scene of mine. As she and Colin dance it’s a really lovely moment in the film (though I suppose it’s not as important as some of the more obvious ones) still, the scene and the subsequent confessions is just sublime in my eyes. Perfection.
     
Where the Wild Things Are: “Meeting the Wild Things”
Whatever it’s errors Jonze captures the wonder of this other world brilliantly. Max's meeting with the wild things is funny, and sweet and magical all at once. It's also a surprisingly strong acting moment for Records who meanders through brilliance and mediocrity for me. Of course Catherine O’Hara’s Judith is a good source of laughter here already setting the pace for her excellent voice work to come.
      
So these are the fifteen runners up, tomorrow I’ll be back with my ten favourite scenes of the year from 9 good films. Interestingly enough one of the films listed there isn’t even in my top twenty, but you’ll see tomorrow.

6 comments:

Jude said...

I forgot how good that scene in Duplicity was! I was on the edge of my seat watching Julia try to find the fax machine!

Castor said...

Great post! The opening scene of The Hurt Locker sure was edge-of-your-seat thrilling.

Luke said...

So glad you included A Serious Man on this post. Judith was great. I thought the move had some of the best character work of the year.

joe burns said...

I'm glad you included A Single Man on this post. I was really impressed by Colin Firth's performance.

Jose said...

Ugh Emma Thompson was perfection in actress form in that movie.
I kept imagining she'd just arrive to the set, put on her dress, do her hair and just be so wonderful.
Then go back home.
She's that kind of actress who makes acting seem obscenely natural. Her "you're not a woman" to Jenny might be my favorite line reading of the year.

Andrew: Encore Entertainment said...

jose i know right? that scene works simply because emma makes it look so very easy.

joe glad you were.

luke i'm still not hot on it, but that scene kills me every time i think about it.

castor it was a thrill ride.

jude i don't think you're the only one. why has everyone forgotten how fun that movie was?