Monday, October 20, 2014

5 Perfect Moments in Modern Cinema

I like movies. I love movies. Movies are my default activity. If I'm doing nothing else (which is rarely the case) then I'm watching movies.

I watch a lot of bad movies. It's easy to do because most movies are pretty bad. A lot of the films that are not bad are merely average. They're mediocre and safe and bland and that could be argued to be a crime in itself. But I still enjoy watching most bad movies. You know those terrible films they make fun of on Mystery Science Theatre 3000? I watch those sorts of films for fun, without the extra commentary (and sometimes with...) I just love to watch movies and I can enjoy a bad film despite its flaws.

Part of it is that I'm a hopeful movie goer. I am willing to sit through dozens of bad and average and forgetable films because I know that, eventually, I will see something great. Sometimes it will be a whole movie, but sometimes it will just be one moment. That's what this blog is about. I want to share with you five moments in modern cinema that I think are truly perfect. That isn't to say the whole film is great, but in these scenes, absolutely everything went right and they could not be improved.

So I present to you, in no particular order, five perfect moments in modern cinema.

1. You Shall Not Pass

The Lord of the Rings is a series that has helped define all aspects of cinema in the 21st century. My personal favourite is the first installment, The Fellowship of The Ring, but they're all good. Watching this scene, I feel like I'm being kicked in the arse with its epic scope every time. It's just one old man and some CGI but it is nothing less than perfect.

2. The Blue Fight

I had originally intended to put in the fight in the bamboo forest from Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, but when I rewatched that scene, I couldn't call it perfect. It's good and I love the whole movie but it wasn't a perfect scene. But then when I thought about comparable fight scenes, my mind went straight to this moment in Hero. The whole film is a great example of how cinema can be just as expressive and powerful as any other art form. The precision that went into creating this fight astounds me and it is so much more than just a fight scene. And some people call martial arts "dancing" as if that's a bad thing...

3. Chew bubblegum and kick ass

The Live is an entertaining movie but it is not great. Your first instinct is probably to write this scene off as silly 80s cheese and I wouldn't tell you you're wrong. But it's silly 80 cheese with a little bit more. Tell me this: How could you improve this scene? Sure, it's not the most artistic or profound, but how would you improve it? Could you make the dialogue any more memorable or any more efficient? Could Roddy Piper's expression be any more on the mark? Could you frame the shots any better, getting in the action and those ever present commands of obedience? Deep down, They Live is an intelligently dark and comic film and all of that shines in this one moment, even if not in the rest of the film.

4. Huey Lewis and The News

Speaking of dark and comic. American Psycho. Wow. This film, much like the book, is a punch in the gut. You can't tear yourself away from it, though you want to, and you feel bad every time it makes you laugh - and it will make you laugh. Like the scene in They Live, this one moment embodies everything the film is trying to do and trying to say and it does it with the kind of subtlety and grace that you rarely see displayed in any medium. Everything from the comment about the newspapers to the selection of music to the way the blood splatters Christian Bale's face is perfect. This is how you use the nature of film to show your audience more than you could ever say with words. Respect.

5. Tears In The Rain

Then again, there's a lot to be said for words, too. There's also perfection to be found in simplicity. Not a lot happens in this moment. It's a just a small monologue but Rutger Hauer proves he is a man with some powerful acting talent in how he delivers it. Even those few glimpses at Harrison Ford reacting, confused and afraid are perfect. This is what can happen with as little as two great actors on set and a camera rolling.

There you have it. By no means an exhausting list and, obviously, not one that goes too far back in time. But I tried to take a few from films you might not immediately think of as "great films" or classics. Of course most of them are great films or at least damn good, but that's not the point. This isn't a list of five "MOST AMAZING FILMS EVER IN THE LAST THIRTY YEARS." This is only to speak to those moments that stand alone, regardless of how the rest of the film is made. These are the times when everything went as right as they could for as little as 66 seconds of film.

Let me know your thoughts and what moments in film you think are perfect.

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