Thursday, January 14, 2010

2009's Best Scenes

When I was going over the 32 films that I had seen in 2009 to compile my top 10 list, I kept finding myself thinking "I really like the part where......but I just don't like the whole film." Or when I did love a film, a certain scene or image would immediately come to mind. It is because of this that I bring you this, my 10 favorite scenes of 2009. Some of them are from top 10 films, while some are from films that didn't make the cut for various reasons.
10. "Drill Jump," Star Trek
It's a shame that I can't find a good video of the whole jump, so you'll have to watch the movie to see it for yourself (you won't be sorry). This scene stands out as one of the most thrilling sequences in the reboot, and perfectly encapsulates the balance between old and new that Abrams was aiming for: though the action features an action-hero Kirk and Sulu (Chris Pine and John Cho, respectively) and much better effects, there's more than a few callbacks to the original series (you know what they say about red shirts). Here's the opening part of the scene, just before they jump onto a Romulan drill in order to prevent it from destroying another planet:
9. "Suicide Bomber," The Hurt Locker
The Hurt Locker is intense all the way through, but no scene truly captures both the intensity of the action and the nature of the characters, particularly that of SFC William James (Jeremy Renner), than this one. As James goes in to diffuse the bomb strapped to the man's chest, you can see the fear in every single person's eyes: this is a dangerous situation that none of them want to be involved in. James' humanism shines through the tension, and the ending of the scene is especially heartbreaking. Watch it here:
8. "Bill Murray's Mansion," Zombieland
The celebrity cameo is a tried and true comedic asset, usually used to give the audience a cheep laugh as someone famous parodies themselves. However, Zombieland is no average comedy, and Bill Murray's surprise appearance is no cheap laugh. Instead, we get a healthy dose of Murray nostalgia, accompanied with the realization that it's been way too long since Murray has made a decent comedy ("Any regrets?" "Garfield, maybe."). It's smartly written, and Murray steals the show with his performance. See it here: and here:
7. "Eviction," District 9
District 9, as we all know, is an allegory for aparteid in South Africa. Aliens have accidentally landed in Johannesburg, and the humans have seperated them from society, treating them like monsters even though they mean no harm. The world of District 9 is intricately layered and wonderfully displayed, as you can see in this scene where Wikus van der Merwe (Sharlto Copley, in a fantastic debut) hands out eviction notices to the residents of District 9 so that they can be moved to a new camp. Wikus is very much a company man, and even though they are (very good) special effects, you never stop to think that it isn't real, and the Prawn's reaction is one we can all sympathize with. See it here:
6. "Parent Interviews," Bruno
Bruno itself was an uneven comedy; a drastic fall of quality from its predecessor, Borat (though of course they were really different movies, but that's a discussion for another time). The film worked best, however, when Bruno surprised average Americans, and it was never better than when he interviewed parents for the "hottest baby photo shoot ever!" It starts off with a bang, and as Bruno's questions escalate in ridiculousness, what really shocks is the parents responses. If there were ever evidence for the need for natural selection, its this. See for yourself: (unfortunately, this isn't the whole scene).
5. "Dirt Clod Fight," Where the Wild Things Are
I'm still upset that this film, which was number two on my year-end list, didn't get a single nomination. Not for costumes? Not for direction? Best Picture? Original song? Original score? Visual effects? Nothing? Anyway, this scene is one of the best, capturing the childlike wonder of playing "war" while also proving to be a thrilling ride. The scene, though, ends in melancholy, as Spike Jonze also confronts the problems of this dysfunctional family known as the Wild Things. Alternating between excitement and emotional depth, the scene is a perfect representative of everything I loved about the film. Here's half of it (for the rest, rent the movie):
4. "Mary Goes to Social Services," Precious
Precious is a film that is full of great performances, and there are plenty of great scenes to choose from. But when it comes to raw emotional power, there is nothing more incredible than the end, when Mary Jones (Mo'Nique) goes to social services to request custody of Precious. After everything we've seen Mary do so far, to see her break down and show her emotions is almost sympathetic. I say almost because also based on what we've seen of Mary, we know she is manipulative, and the genius of Mo'Nique's performance is that we never really know whether she's being honest or not. Unfortunately, I can't find the scene online, so do yourself a favor and see the film when you can.
3. "Dance Sequence," (500) Days of Summer
This is probably the most infamous scene of the movie, and with good reason: it's a perfect metaphor for getting the girl you want. It's a perfect scene in a fantastic movie; this is another film that really upsets me to know that Summer did not get a single nomination. Honestly, just for this Joseph Gordon-Levitt deserves a nomination (and check him out on Saturday Night Live too). Ever since I saw this, I haven't been able to listen to "You Make My Dreams" without smiling. Enjoy it here:
2. "Hans Landa Meets Shoshanna," Inglourious Basterds
One of Tarantino's greatest motifs is his use of confrontation, and Basterds is full of great ones. And I know I've raved about the tension in The Hurt Locker, but there is no tenser scene in film this year than this one, where Col. Landa (Christoph Waltz) meets Shoshanna (Melanie Laurent), who escaped him years earlier, at a restaurant. Does Landa recognize her? It's not immediately given, but he does initiate an intense game of verbal cat and mouse. Shoshanna plays good defense, but its obvious from the the beginning that Landa has total control of the situation. Waltz and Laurent give a master class in acting, proving once again that Tarantino is horribly underrated as an actors' director. See it here:
1. "Married Life," Up
This may be one of the best scenes I've ever seen in my life. Seriously, its that good. Its definitely the most emotionally moving scene Pixar has ever put together, showing the life of Carl and Ellie in under five minutes. Its funny and touching, comedic and tragic. And what really makes it perfect is the fact that it is completely wordless, the only sound coming from Michael Giacchino's magnificently emotional score. This one makes me cry every time. See it here:
What do you think? Comments welcome.

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