Monday, March 21, 2011

The Most Powerful Cinematic Moments (Part One)

Quite a few weeks ago Filmclub conducted a poll about the "most powerful cinematic moments" and more recently the results were made public. I'm not 100% sure about the details of the poll, if there were movies pre-selected or if people came up with their own for instance--but I do know that I wouldn't necessarily dub these moments as "most powerful". Maybe it's because I never got fully attached to E.T.

or because I've never seen Rocky (I know....shoot me later). Heck, I don't think I've even ever seen Bambi because I don't really want to put myself through such low emotional blows. Whatever it is, I just keep looking at this list and saying, "Really?"

1. ET: the Extra-Terrestrial (PG, 1982): ET says goodbye to his friends and heads home in a spaceship, leaving a rainbow trailing across the sky.

2. Toy Story 3 (U, 2010): The toys hold hands and face their fate.

3. Rocky (PG, 1976): The emotionally-charged climactic fight.

4. Bambi (U, 1942): The moment when tragedy touches the young life of Bambi in the shape of his mother's death.

5. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (PG, 1969): The scene in which the besieged cowboys leap out of their bunker, all guns blazing.

6. The Wizard of Oz (U, 1939): When Dorothy opens the door of her grey house to behold a world filled with colour.

7. Battleship Potemkin (PG, 1925): The influential "Odessa steps" massacre scene.

8. Mr Smith Goes to Washington (U, 1939): The filibuster scene makes a powerful case for justice: "I'm going to stay right here and fight for this lost cause."

9. Network (15, 1976): When news anchor Howard Beale announces: "I'm as mad as hell."

10. Miracle in Milan (U, 1951): Final scene when Toto and his friends rise into the sky on brooms.

What is the definition of powerful anyways? A powerful cinematic moment can do a lot of things for the movie goer. It can make them cry, send shivers down their spine, fist punch the air, do Frank the Tank motions (sitting or standing, although for the full effect, standing is the way to go). I mean Toy Story 3 was great and all---but is it really the 2nd most powerful cinematic moment?

As we found in the Top Ten Willies experiment, and by observing the backlash at Bravo's 100 Scariest Movie Moments, lists and poll results are completely bull shit. They are individual accounts, ranking individual picks in an arbitrary order. That is why I'm not mad at the outcome of Filmclub's poll results--I just have some of my own is all, and so will you and so will everyone else. So without further ado--here are my Top 10 Most Powerful Cinematic Moments. Which by the way, I'm NOT ranking.

1. Atticus Passes

To Kill a Mockingbird is one of my favorite films of all time. I became attached to it at a young age, renting it from the library and unmistakably crying my eyes out every time Robert Duvall slunk out of the shadows. Scout's adorably innocent and accepting voice, "Well hey Boo!" never fails to get me and those damn violins know how to get me right where it hurts. But the most powerful moment in To Kill a Mockingbird isn't this heart warming moment. It's powerful of course, but the most powerful in my opinion is after Tom Robinson is found guilty.

Atticus Finch has just argued his case perfectly. The evidence was on his side, there was no physical way that Tom could have possibly strangled Mayella Ewell. And yet--the all white jury, in the mostly racist Maycomb Alabama found Tom Robinson guilty anyways. As the courtroom shuffles out, Atticus begins packing his things. Meanwhile the entire congregation of black people in the balcony have risen. Scout, naively unaware of the importance of such an act continues to sit as the Reverand forces her to rise,

"Jean Louise. Jean Louise stand up. Your father's passing."

The music seems to be just about as tired as Atticus. It's defeated but still strong. I can never quite put into words how much this scene affects me, but it does. It always does.

2. Death Star Explosion

The final life of the Death Star is always met with the same reaction no matter how many times I've seen it. I'm nervous every time that Luke's final shots will miss and my heart races relentlessly. In those last few moments, those last agonizing thoughts that this is the only chance Luke has to hit the target--I start sweating. Like physically, I get sweaty! It's quite possibly the greatest rush I have ever received from a film. That music, the fact that Han Solo swooped in only moments before when we thought he was lost forever. And then Luke shoots, there is a beat. We wait and hold our breath and then like a glorious fireworks display, the beast is gone. In one single instant.

This is one of those moments that requires a yelp of excitement from me every time I watch it. When the films were restored with special CGI and released in the theaters---my theater broke out into a rush of excited yells and whooping in that final moment. If you want powerful---the explosion of the Death Star is your man. Fist pumping action all around.

3. Shawshank Reunion

Words aren't exactly helpful when I'm trying to describe why this scene at the very end of the Shawshank Redemption moves me. It's a feeling--a rush of happiness and emotions. Maybe it's really just my unapologetic love for Morgan Freedom or the fact that the words "hope" have so much meaning. All I know is that the reunion scene between Redd and Andy moves me to tears each and every single time. It's strange too, because all we really get to see is their movement towards each other. But we don't need to know what happens next. We know--that their lives are now open ended and free.

Morgan Freeman's speech in the end of the movie is not only one that I love, but also one that I recorded to my Itunes. Make of that what you will--but let's just say, I know exactly what to play if I need to sleep better at night.

4. Killing Bill

I always get into rows with people about which is the better Kill Bill. The truth is--there is no answer. They were meant to be one film so they should be seen as one film. That answer never pleases people however so I always tell them the truth. Volume 2 is the better and more powerful part of the two parts. Volume 1 may have all the action--but Volume 2 has the soul.

Beatrix Kiddo's final confrontation with Bill is unexpectedly somber. After killing her way towards Bill, after being buried alive, after waking up from a coma--she arrives to kill Bill and finds her daughter to still be alive. Then in the final moments of Bill's life, when Beatrix takes him out boldy and quickly, Beatrix cries. Not a lot--but just enough to remind us of how much shit she went through. And she ended up here, killing someone she loves not because she necessarily wants to, but because she has to. And that my friends---is powerful.

I could watch this scene over and over again and still feel the same amount of admiration, respect and sadness for Beatrix every single time. And I love it.

5. Arise Riders of Theoden

I saw The Return of the King for the first time at a midnight showing on a school night. Maybe my tiredness was responsible for the 12 total times I cried throughout this film or maybe it really just is powerful. Sure, it's kind of unnecessarily long at points but man, it's emotionally charged. I don't usually like war scenes for the very reason that I love this scene. That was confusing I know but let me explain. Before a battle scene in a movie I get all anxious and upset. I always place myself in the position of the people that are probably going to die and I get all panicky. Here though, the riders of Theoden come to battle and it's like we can feel their stomachs plummet into their feet. They see the immense landscape of the ground literally covered with Sauron's army. The chances for survival are slim, the chance for death high.

During Theoden's speech however, I am filled with this crazy feeling of courage. Cheesy I know, but damn it, it's true. It's such a great moment that seems to fly off a lot of people's radars. There are so many elements here contributing to the emotion that all I can really do when I watch this is cry. But it's one of those proud crying moments at least.

Gosh that was an emotionally charged post. I think I'll need a break before uncovering anymore. So? What do you think? What are your choices for the most powerful cinematic moments?


Amanda By Night said...

I've never seen Rocky or Bambi either. I will eventually see Rocky, but forget about that Bambi thng. I know it will end me!

While I was reading your awesome list I had a hard time thinking of moments of my own but came up with a few:

The last shot in Prototype which is a TV movie that takes Frankenstein and makes it about a cyborg. Surprisingly moving film. I cried for about two hours.

The end of Gran Torino. Oh man, tears.

The scene of Peter Falk smashing the car windows in Griffin and Phoenix. I won't say where that scene comes in, in case you never saw the movie, but it's so beautiful and sad.

And Nestor's mom biting the big one in Nestor The Long Earred Donkey!

Oh, and ALL of Elephant Man.

Only two of those weren't made for TV, which shows you where I get most of my entertainment. I should do something like this with TV shows. Elaine's death on SOAP would proably be in my top three!

Andre Dumas said...

Yes, you should do that! I find that I am sorely out of the loop on almost all TV shows, and Tv movies. Sigh. Help me get straightened out!

And wow, you just reminded me that I have yet to see The Elephant Man. What is wrong with me?! Putting it on the queue right away!

Andre Dumas said...

Okay what, Netflix doesn't have the Elephant Man?! Plan B.....

Dod said...

I was thinking recently of doing a post about some moments that make me say "I've got something in my eye."

Maybe I should expand it to be something like this.

I can tell you right now, as divisive as it is among fans, I will have to list the "realization" scenes and the final moments of the LOST finale. I'm pretty sure I remember you enjoying it as well.

Hmm...thanks for posting this list, Andre, because you've got me thinking...

The Mike said...

Lord of the Rings? Really TW?? Although, I was sad when Sean Bean got cashed out. That was a good one.

BUT...Shawshank makes up for it. I might substitute the opera music/PA scene, or the beers on the roof scene, but the whole point is that this whole movie rules the school.

My list might include, along with Shawshank:
The final revelation in The Limey.
The funeral scene from Big Fish.
Dustin Hoffman breaking up the wedding in The Graduate (or, Wayne Campbell breaking up the RIGHT wedding in Wayne's World 2!)
The communication/music scene in Close Encounters of the Third Kind
And probably something from the end of Rushmore with Max and Margaret Yang.

Yup, that's about it.

William Malmborg said...

Great list. Very powerful moments for sure. When thinking of powerful moments myself the one that always comes to mind is the telegram scene in We Were Soldiers where the wives are all learning about their husbands being killed in battle. I can't watch that without getting completely choked up.

Andre Dumas said...

I was vaguely thinking that I should include something from LOST Dod like perhaps Desmond and Penny phone call. God, such a good episode!

TH why you gotta go and drop me like that?! I love Lord of the Rings with a strong and fiery passion. I think they are beautiful films and pffft Return of the King totally won an Oscar so take that. And Ahahah I will never be able to think about The Graduate without thinking about Waynes World 2....such is life!

Dod said...

Oh, my god, the Desmond-Penny phone call. Chills.

deadlydolls said...

Man that's a lot to think about. I'm not the HUGEST fan of the film version of To Kill a Mockingbird just because I was so close to the novel, but that moment you wrote about sticks with me to perfection.

A few other random ones that come to mind...

-the final scene in Parenthood, where we just watch all the family members in the hospital with a bunch o' babies

-WALL-E and Eve's space dance

-another space moment, just cause I'm already there: the captain's death in Sunshine. The sound and visuals bring me to tears

-the final song in The Muppet Movie

man, lots more to think about! Plus I echo everyone here: any scene ever involving Desmond and Penelope.

Crafty C said...

The LOST finale kills me like nothing else - I have watched it 3 times now, and always have soggy wadded kleenex piled up next to me starting with the very first shot.

The only thing that came close before that was when Frodo leaves with the Elfen folk on their ship. I never understood why he leaves, but just that he does kills me every time.

Before that was the last half hour of Shawshank. I'd seen it many times, then watched it once with the Columbian Day parade in Queens going on right outside my window (pretty much the decibel level of an airplane taking off) and even with no sound and thousands of Columbian folks celebrating their heritage very loudly nearby - I still cried through the whole freaking thing.

Other than that the only other moment that comes to me right now is in The Deep when the alien ship thing surfaces. It always gives me a freaked out but completely awe-filled feeling.

I love this post BTW!!!

BRENT said...

Ha ha ha ha!! What a strange subject to bring up in a horror blog!!
All kidding aside, the great thing with cinema is there are so many 'powerful cinematic moments', and we all have them don't we!!
One of mine is the very final scene of The Bridges of Madison County where the children are scattering their mother's ashes and she is narrating 'Go well my children'. Gets me everytime and the tears start follwing!! It is a lovely ending to a truley beautiful film.

deaner said...

I'm going to disagree with you on Toy Story 3. That scene had me bawling & the ending where Andy gives up the toys did too.

The most powerful moment to me is when the mother takes Lucas Haas out of the sink in Testament. Really that whole movie is pretty powerful, but that one scene devastates me.

Unknown said...

Speaking of getting "attached" to E.T. I recently found out that there was more than one porn that stars the little creature.

In the Spanish one I recently came across he's about 8 feet tall and just wonders out of the bushes and into an orgy for one scene (no one seemed to notice).

Pretty strange stuff.

Andre Dumas said...

don't get me wrong deaner, I bawled throughout most of Toy Story 3!

Anonymous said...

Kill Bill, totally agree.
One of my most "powerful" cinematic experiences is the entire running time of "The Fountain."
Also, and this one may cuz massive disagreement, the Brooklyn Bridge scene in "Cloverfield."
Another that pops into my head is the scene in "TCM" when Sally is tied to the chair screaming. That just rips me apart.
And when Juliet is getting pulled into that hole, and Sawyer is reaching out. It's like he isn't just terrified of losing her, but also the man he's become.

Andre Dumas said...

Hey no disagreements from me! Mostly because I've never seen Cloverfield because Netflix refuses to send me a DVD of it that isn't damaged. Those goons.

And agh! That scene is heart wrenching. Maybe I should just do a powerful moments in LOST post?

Dod said...

Yes, do a LOST post!

I just watched that Juliet/Sawyer scene and it's still hard to get through. Their "remembering" scene in the finale gets me every time.

As I'll write in my own post, the scene that gets me EVERY time is Vincent coming to Jack's side in the final moments.

I think I have something in my eye.

rileylendrum said...

In Kill Bill, I'm surprised you put the "You overreacted" moment before the part where she realizes her daughter is still alive. Or, for that matter, in part 1, where she wakes up from the coma and realizes she's not pregnant.

Andre Dumas said...

Is less of the "You Overreacted" part and more of the when she finally does kill Bill part that I think is most powerful. Everything in the films leads up to that moment and the weight of the actual situation is extremely powerful. When she finds out her daughter is still alive is powerful as well. but for most powerful, definitely bill's last moments.