Top 5 Magical Movie Moments

Posted on June 6, 2010. Filed under: Ramblings, Top 5 | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , |

Yet another post inspired by channel hopping to films on TV.  Back in October I told you about my Top 5 fight scenes, but today I want to get you thinking more generally about those moments that are just great pieces of cinema.  The ones where the direction, the acting, the score, the cinematography, everything just comes together for a scene that makes you think “wow.”  When I was thinking about what I’d put down, I realised that for a lot of these scenes, it’s the combination of the action and the music that really makes it a perfect scene for me.  I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, a great score can really make a movie.

Although I’ve called it Top 5, these aren’t necessarily in ascending order.  It’s more 5 great moments.

1.Where does my allegiance lie if not here?

This is the scene that got me thinking.  Now, we all know that I can rave about LOTR until the Orcs come home, but before you start rolling your eyes hear me out.  This scene really is pure magic.

Howard Shore’s score is so perfectly matched it’s scary, building the drama and then breaking away for Billy Boyd’s (self-penned) haunting melody.  What I think really makes this scene though is the foley work.  As the score takes over, we lose some of the sound.  The commands of the men and Orcs are silent screams, but the creaking of the bows remains, really hammering home the suicidal misson that faces the brave riders. It’s just epic.  Add to that the juxtaposition of Denethor almost frantically eating while he tries to ignore what’s happening, with blood running down his chin, and you end up with an awesome movie moment that is just melodramatic enough without over doing it.

2. At the Moulin Rouge you’ll have fun!

I have written about this scene before but I just couldn’t exclude it when talking about my favourite cinematic moments.

Energy and colour are what Baz Luhrmann does best, so when it comes to Moulin Rouge that first scene when you’re taken on a rollercoaster ride through the dance hall is just mindblowing!  In one 3 minute scene we get a mash up of no less than 6 songs culminating in a supercharged Can-Can.  The best thing about the scene is that we’re seeing it from the same position as Christian, so we too are bewildered and enthralled by all the flashing colours (and flashing flesh!)

3. Welcome to Port Royal Mr Smith

Best. Entrance. Ever.

Before he even says one word we know eveything we need to know about Captian Jack Sparrow from his incredible entrance to Port Royal. Who else would stand so proudly on the top mast of a ship which was more than three quarters sunk?  The best part is it doesn’t even seem to faze him.

As soon as he set foot on that board walk I knew I was going to love this film

4. He is The One.

Another great moment for movie music.  This scene is slightly marred by all the crazy superman stuff we see Neo do in the two Matrix sequels, but when he first stands up and stops those bullets I always want to jump up and cheer!  I love how effortless it all becomes for him, he just turns and says “No.” He even fights with one hand behind his back!  It’s a great turn around having just watched him have the crap kicked out of him.  The music is perfect here too, that great strings slide that runs through the film really captures the idea of being in a dream while still sounding artificial, but the addition of a choir brings back the human element, mirroring what’s going on on screen.

5. Oh Captain my Captain

I know it is incredibly cheesy. And I know that it is orchestrated to be a heart wrenching moment. But cynicism aside it’s still a great scene.  Ethan Hawke makes it for me.  It’s not so much the getting up on the desks that has the magic but the obvious guilt and pain of Hawke as everything he has been taught not to believe in is once more forced down his throat.  And Robin Williams is a better actor than he lets on…(may have to come back to a post on that later)

Those are mine, what are your stand out moments of cinema?

**Disclaimer: thank you to all the YouTubers whose clips I’m borrowing.**

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A Scanner Darkly

Posted on May 2, 2009. Filed under: Movies to see before you die | Tags: , , , , , , , , , |

This weeks ritual chips and movie night took place a bit earlier than usual, giving me time to blog with the film fresh in mind.  The movie in question: A Scanner Darkly.

Not quite underground enough to be called a cult movie, yet not mainstream enough to be well known, its a film I’ve wanted to see since it came out (in ’06) but never actually got around to.  A trip to the HMV sale with 1/3 of our saturday night audience rectified that.

ArctorA Scanner Darkly is a brilliantly surreal movie, made all the more striking by the visual effects which overwrite live action performances with graphic novel style animation.  Not only does this contribute to the dreamlike feel of the movie, it also allows for artistic scope that would be difficult to put across in a less cartoon-y approach.  The switches between hallucinations, fantasies and reality are particularly effective, especially in the opening scene.

Paranoia is the theme of this movie, captured by a well rounded cast including Robert Downey Jr, Keanu ReevFreckes and Winona Ryder.  Rory Cochrane is particularly good as the twitchy Freck, as is Downey Jr in a  fast talking/dark humour role he’s not unfamiliar with but very good at.  Even Reeves, not renound for his Oscar worthy talent, performs well in this movie, but like Downey Jr, he’s also playing a role we’re very used to seeing him in.

The film is long, and at times it drags, but in a way this adds to the meandering and bewildering tone of the movie, reflecting the lives of the protagonists whose shifts between aimless banter and sudden fear are very well written and performed.  The twist(s) is (are)  not so much shocking as confusing and do seem to come all at once in a sudden dash for action, but the ending is good with the final redemption of Arctor and it all becomes clear when you take a step back and put all the clues together .  The beginning and end are also the only two incidences of (obvious) music in the film, the rest of the action carried out mostly in silence, giving a background of realism to the surrealist storyline.

Barris

A Scanner Darkly reminded me a lot of  Trainspotting, as a gritty depiction of drug abuse and addiction told in a fantastical way, and I think it stands up well in comparison.  The realism of the film really comes home with author Philip K. Dick ‘s list of dedications which roll before the credits, bringing you out of the distopic “not too distant future” straight back into the real world.

A definite recommend, just detach from reality before you start.

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Yipee ki-ay….

Posted on January 30, 2009. Filed under: Movies to see before you die | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , |

I’m a big fan of films involving guns and explosions and, having wathced Die Hard 3 last night, thought I’d give you a run down of the best action films out there.

In my opinion, the movie that defines the genre is Die Hard.  The original movie is a spectacular cocktail of explosions, one liners, german-speaking terrorists and profuse bleeding; what more can you ask for in an action film?  John McClane is probably the best action character ever, created out of a well established formula of maverick cop who doesn’t always obey the rules but gets the job done.  Die hard is so well made though, and the combination of Bruce Willis and Alan Rickman is perfect, making it the ultimate action comfort film (if such a thing exists).  Die hard also gave us the immortal line that I’m using as a title, and for that we are eternally greatful.

McClane

As for the Die Hard sequels, none of them stand up to the original, but Die Hard with a Vengeance (3) comes pretty close, aided by the work of Samuel L Jackson and the brilliant Jeremy Irons.  The two even numbered sequels are not quite up to standard, with Die Hard 2 being a favourite kicking post for critics, but the most recent 4.0 isn’t bad and does have some great moments.  The digital plot is just a bit flat, especially since the original is such a classic 80’s movie. McClane just wasn’t built for the digital age.

For me Die Hard is the ultimate action movie, but I know others would argue that Lethal Weapon is the author of the genre.  Having only seen the first installment once, I’m not quite qualified to put up a defence, but I’ll come back when I’ve watched it again.  What I do remember is that Lethal Weapon is that little bit darker than Die Hard, with an underlying suicide theme which is great for character development but makes it that little bit less fun than watching wise-cracking Willis running around a skyscraper bare foot.

Another contender for ultimate action movie is Speed, a movie in which Keanu Reeves actually acts (almost)!  Another great collection of explosions and unhinged psychopaths out for revenge, but this time set on a bus, Speed has some great movements; most famously that jump over the gap in the highway.  Reeves is good in the role, supported heavily by Jeff Daniels and Dennis Hopper.  The decision to carry Sandra Bullock’s character into a sequel, I think, was a bad one, especially since she’s pretty irritating in the original, but at least Speed 2 has Willem Defoe giving it his creepy best.

The score of Speed is also pretty great, but there is pure genius in the use of Beethoven’s 9th in Die Hard, which keeps coming back in inverted forms throughout the score.  A similar idea is used in Die Hard 3, unfortunately I can’t remember what the piece of music is called (please someone comment and help me ‘cos its maddening) but if you ever sang “the animals went in two by two” in primary school you’ll know the tune I’m on about!

All of the above are going into the movies to see before you die, but if you’ve only got time for one, go for Die Hard.

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