When the cinetrix suggested we do this homage to Film Comment's "Movie Moments" feature, I got nervous. I've discovered that I have a remarkably poor memory for certain specifics such as lines from movies and books or even whole scenes. I tend to remember whether or not I liked a film, how I felt while watching it, and the basic overall plot. Still, for all I forget, certain movie moments are as vivid to me sitting here now as when I first experienced them . I will always get chills from the last shot of Sunset Blvd., and I never cease to giggle watching Ferris Bueller race home through the neighborhood backyards. Just thinking about Donald O'Connor's "Make 'Em Laugh" in Singin' in the Rain thrills me just as the memory of the poor little dog Flike running away from the title character at the end of Umberto D makes me want to cry. My all-time favorite moment quite possibly could be that instant at the end of Magnolia where just as the guitar plays through its big riff in Amy Mann's "Save Me," Melora Walters smiles, and we cut to black.
Two of my moments have already been listed,. I'm quite shocked, actually, that Liz's Eternal Sunshine moment wasn't one that instantly flooded back to me, but my inevitable memory from that film is in a similar vein. (And for the record, as Liz's companion at The Merchant of Venice, I can attest to the fact that she did turn to me and whisper, "That's Gareth from The Office!" She seemed quite excited!)
So without further ado, and wrapping-up my own part of this fantastic conversation, here are my most memorable moments (not in any specific order):
- Cinetrix mentioned it, but I adore that moment during Before Sunset in the back of the cab when Celine is looking away, and Jesse reaches to pet her hair but at the last second, pulls his hand away. The reality of their relationship is exposed in that moment. Just as everyone gets caught up in their rekindled affection, we're reminded that this isn't a natural situation. We're reminded that they don't really know each other, and they're not really a couple. Jesse remembers that too: not only does he have a wife back home, but this isn't his girlfriend or even a mistress. Does he have the right to caress her? It's as if they're two teenagers on a first date, and the boy just doesn't know if he's allowed to make his move.
- I love Liz's Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mindmoment, and mine is similar because I savor all the physical representations of memory breaking-down. But the sequence at the beach house near the film's end, as the entire physical world crumbles around them and Joel tells Clementine he'll find her … it really doesn't get any better than that.
- Three of my moments are thanks to the brilliant performances involved, and all of them are primarily, if not completely, wordless. In Vera Drake, Imelda Staunton's complete transformation from a cheery, optimistic, hard-working, loving woman to a withering, virtually empty shell during the interrogation scene will stick with me forever. But it wasn't just her performance that made this scene. In a world where we're used to Law & Order and NYPD Blue interrogations, this was something completely new -- police detectives being as nice as can be. They sympathized with Vera, but still had to do their jobs. So why the hell throughout the entire scene did I want to stand-up and yell at the screen, "Stop torturing her! She's just a frail old woman! Leave her alone." Regardless of the movie's other flaws (particularly the too lengthy lead-up to the arrest), that scene is perfect.
- I believe I saw someone allude to this in the comments, and I didn't love the movie, but the shot of Nicole Kidman sitting for how-long-was-it? at the philharmonic in Birth is astounding. Without saying a word and the camera tightly focused on her face, unwilling to flinch or turn away, Kidman, using only her eyes, clearly expresses all the confusion and uncertainty that has taken over Anna's entire being. She only physically sits with her husband at the symphony; emotionally she's 1000 miles away. When he tries to whisper something in her ear, she jumps, startled out of her trance, looking completely lost. Now that's memorable.
- Don Cheadle gave a wonderfully restrained performance in Hotel Rwanda, but the tie-tying moment was anything but. Liz describes the scene in her post much better than I ever could, so I'm happy she got to it first.
- The Incredibles may not have always been subtle, but for my money it was one of the best films about family (rather than simply a "family film") I'd seen in a long time. Two specific moments stick out: the first when Violet finally discovers her own self-worth and confidence and brushes her long hair, behind which she's always hidden and been invisible, behind her ear. The second, which just made me grin, was when the family is reunited on the island for the first time and comes together to fight. That pose of the four of them in a clearing stopped me cold, and I internally heard myself say, "Who needs the Fantastic Four next summer. This is better."
- It may not be a great moment, but I don't think I laughed harder at anything this year than in Dodgeball when Rip Torn says, "It's like watching a bunch of retards trying to fuck a doorknob," a line that could only Torn can pull-off. Well, it might be rivaled by Harold and Kumar's ride on a wild cheetah!
- I was quite disappointed with Wes Anderson's The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou, but there's one scene I just can't get out of my head. When Cate Blanchett's Jane interviews Bill Murray's Zissou, he sits in front of a window through which we repeatedly see a killer whale having a good ol' time just swimming around. It sounds like nothing, but it was one of the few magically quirky scenes in this film that made me smile and will stick with me.
- And finally, again following in Liz's wake, I have some negative moments too. For me, there are two bits in Collateral which exemplify this movie's worst dues ex machina-related flaws. Early in the film, after the first kill when the cab gets stopped by the police, Jamie Foxx is ordered to open the trunk (where the body is), but he stalls. Just when he finally has no choice, a call comes over the police radio, forcing the officers to rush-off and let the cab go. Far more aggravating, but probably only because it came near the end, was the death of a cell-phone battery at that one moment when the worst thing that could possibly happen is a cell-phone battery dying. I think it was at that moment I decided to not let Collateral bitch-slap me around anymore, and I simply said, "Fuck you, Michael Mann."
Sure, anyone can end a list on an upnote. I prefer going the other way! But all these moments wonderfully represent what's best and worst about the movies. A little sliver of time that can say so much; in each of these cases, bits that say more than entire movies.
I want to thank the cinetrix for inviting me to be part of her illustrious posse, and acknowledge all of you for not just reading, but participating. I will also continue to check-in with the comments, and hopefully, we'll start a new conversation sometime soon. Until then….