Saturday, 3 March 2012

Encore Awards (2011 in Review): Memorable Scenes: Take One

This, the first in a two part series, is less about choosing what were the finest scenes of the year and more about recalling those significant ones which stuck with me most. There are some films which sort of eschew this sort of list-making, and I can’t single out a single scene that says “best” and generally it would take much meticulous delineation to come up with that list anyhow. What this is, is a list of scenes which have stuck with me long after the credits rolled on these respective films – sometimes jarring, sometimes moving, sometimes hilarious but always – always – memorable.

The Adjustment Bureau /First Meeting
Whenever I think that my B for this film was premature, I remember that its strongest asset was always the rapport between Damon and Blunt, and that sort of chemistry is worth millions. When congressman David meets wedding crasher Elise in the bathroom, it’s such an obvious meet-cute but I don’t even care. Blunt has never been as easily charming, I can’t recall the last time Damon was so easily boyish and together the two are dazzling. review

The Beaver / The Beaver loses control
The paradigm on which The Beaver is developed is so closely evocative of a horror film and no scene as much as this. The decidedly unsettling beaver which has never been benign, but never completely antagonistic loses control and becomes an embodiment of Walter’s most treacherous inclinations. It’s a fine scene for Mel, and a finely directed one by Foster. And, an absolutely bizarre and horrifying one for the audience. review

Beginners / The Party
Like The Adjustment Bureau this involves another meet-cute, and I can’t quite divide the scene up into bits since it’s as much the extended party sequence as it is the entire first moments of Oliver and Anna’s moments together. Laurent and McGregor are fabulous in the latter bits, the lilts of the fringe characters navigating through the party is lovely to behold and the peculiar sweetness and charm which exudes from the film’s every beat is irresistible. Also, Arthur is adorable (and I don’t even like dogs). review

Bridesmaids / The Bridal Shower
from my review: “...with less than thirty minutes to go the film gets an epiphany. When Annie screams “Are you fucking kidding me?” at a ill-fated wedding shower it ends up being a whole lot more cathartic than you’d think. It’s Wiig’s triumph of the film because she manages to make that breakdown come off as less that clich├ęd but it’s also a significant moment for the film – or it should be – because we realise just how serendipity is fucking with our protagonist.”

Contagion / The Autopsy
If there was any question that Contagion was disinterested in being beautiful or sweet that jolting autopsy of Beth is proof that it’s all about the endgame. It’s one of the most chilling images of the year, and one I still shudder when I recall. review

Coriolanus / Kneeling for Coriolanus
Someday in the future I need to watch Coriolanus again, an interesting film in the best of ways. There are a number of interesting facets to Fiennes updating of the Shakespearean tale, but the highlight – for me – is that very layered scene where mother Volumnia, wife Virgilia and son Martius make their way to the exiled, and changed, Coriolanus to plead his return home. Redgrave and Fiennes come off best for the acting in the film, but Chastain’s simpering wife is particularly powerful here. snippet review

Drive / The Elevator
Maybe its oversold as something of the crux of great cinema, and then again it really is sort of tremendous. The mixing of genres and the dance between charm and grit is something which Drive depends on and as we move from that too-perfect kiss to that too gruesome beat-down the film reaches one of its peaks. (Also the music.) review

Hanna / The Interrogation
So many great scenes in this film to take note of, but I’m particularly fond of the first interrogation. It’s all sort of crazy madness (that score!) and the fake-out of Marissa’s entrance and Ronan’s wise excellence all make for a scene that’s ridiculous, and perfect. review

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 / Pensieve
The best scene from the film? Doubtful. Especially when the entire film is a series of excellent scenes (Gringotts, Room of Requirement, Dumbledore!) but this one sticks with me. The ambiguous Snape has always resented a significant portion of what makes the series and as we journey into the Pensieve and we get the throttle of information it’s just as devastating to see as it was to read. In a final instalment that’s all about wrapping up loose strands, this scene can’t help but be moving. review

The Help / Meeting Celia Foote
“Aibileen told you’d be early,” and the rest is history. Celia has appeared in the film before, for a bit, but it’s our first real introduction to this dim-witted, but ferociously resilient new bride. I will continue to vocally treasure Chastain as my favourite thing in The Help and its fine ensemble. The scene is perfect blend of humour and pathos which (at his best) Taylor has a firm handle on, and the rapport between Spencer and Chastain becomes one of the beacons of the film. Also, one of a slew of excellently outfits by the talented Sharen Davis. review

A Separation / The hospital
It’s roughly halfway through the film and it’s when it becomes obvious that things haven’t gone bad yet, they’re only about to get catastrophic. True, the stunning Bayet is off-screen but with Hosseini, Moaadi and Hatami all playing in different registers but all of them together explicating how much of a mess this thing has turned into this scene stands out for me as the proof of the splendid ensemble, Farhadi’s great direction and writing and just excellence in filmmaking all around. review

Shame / Brother and sister faceoff
The film reaches its peak in that tense scene where brother and sister face off. I still don’t really buy Brandon as played by Fassbender, and then I think that perhaps the film might have been more interesting had it been focused on that filial relationship. Either way this scene is a keeper. review

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy / The Library
This is not the best scene in Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, but then, in a way the film is such a labyrinth of hidden agendas and secrets that it’s difficult to extrapolate that anyhow. And, I hate that the scene I choose is the one which is most overtly thriller-esque but, there it is. For one, the library is one of the excellent bits of this top-notch production design, the music is in full swing (Iglesias is a master) and Alfredson’s direction is brilliantly controlled. review

The Tree of Life / Mother
Scenes from a life, that’s the real title of The Tree of Life for me, and the scene I recall most from it is a generally wordless one that just unfolds itself with so much ease, beauty and emotion. That montage of the boy’s relations with their mother when their father away is just one of the most beautiful scenes of the year, beautifully shot, gracefully directed so much that it doesn’t seem like something performed just something existing. review

The Whistleblower / Breakdown in a brothel
There is no question that The Whistleblower manages to work primarily because of Rachel Weisz’s astonishing performance, even as its one which is quite controlled and understated. The first moment of an actual breakdown happens late in the game as the horrors of the human trafficking at work is realised and Kathryn pleads with a frightened victim to make a decision.Kondracki knows well enough not to make the scene overly stylised and instead to just depend on Weisz, and it’s heart-breaking. review
So, those are the fifteen runners up. I still have my list of top ten scenes (from nine films, two of them already mentioned) for later. But for now…which of these fifteen streams thrilled you most? Take a guess at what you think are some scenes that'll feature in my top ten. 


Chip Lary said...

There are too many to comment on so I will just say that I agree that the scene with Snape finally getting to show some emotion in the last Harry Potter movie definitely was a great scene.

Off the top of my head, the scene that comes to mind for me is in The Artist. It's the one leading up to "BANG!" and then the immediate aftermath.

Luke said...

LOVE me some Celia Foote! I don't understand why more people didn't think that she was best in show. So great and so polar opposite of her performance in Tree of Life. And clearly the bridal shower was a phenomenal scene!

Andrew: Encore Entertainment said...

chip nice choice in the artist. if i had to include a scene from there, it would be peppy's bit in his dressing room. so sweet.

luke celia foote is just a delight. recently re-watched her scenes in the film. ADORABLE!