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Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Top 10 Week: Scenes of 2010

#10: Second Chase Scene, The Town

All of the action sequences in The Town are extremely well done, but the second chase scene, which follows the crew as they flee through narrow streets with the FBI in hot pursuit, is especially good. I wasn't quite as enamoured with The Town as many were (at least, it would seem that way given how many top 10s it's landed on and Best Picture nominations it's received), but there's no denying the technical skill demonstrated here.

#9: It's All Fun Before Disaster Strikes, 127 Hours

127 Hours has a lot of really intense scenes (and has, by my estimation, no bad scenes), but this one, in which Aaron enjoys an interlude with two female hikers is laid back and fun, but goes a long way towards establishing Aaron as a character and the arc he must travel. During the course of his ordeal, Aaron comes to realize that he's not the invincible superhuman being that he thought he was. In this scene, however, he's still firmly in that mindset, the cool thrill seeker who can do anything and everything.

#8: Cobb's First Shared Dream with Ariadne, Inception

A film as narratively complex (read: mindfucky) as Inception needs to clearly establish its ground rules to the audience before its story can properly get under way. Cobb's first shared dream with Ariadne does a lot of explaining, but it does so in a very engaging and artistically interesting way.

#7: Picnic with Clara, The American

Man, is this scene ever tense. In the film George Clooney's assassin on the verge of retirement comes to believe that he's fallen into a honey trap. He takes the woman in question to a remote location, ostensibly for a picnic, and then vacillates over whether he thinks she's an enemy or whether he's misunderstood the situation. If he kills her and discovers that he was wrong, then another innocent woman has died by his hand; but if he's right but convinces himself that he's wrong, he ends up dead. It's a great, great scene.

#6: Ree and Teardrop Stopped By The Sheriff, Winter's Bone

... Speaking of taut scenes, this one's pretty nerve-wracking. Ree and her uncle, who like everyone else in the community has an inherent distrust of the law, are stopped by the Sheriff, leading to a brief standoff. For a moment it looks as if it might turn into a shoot out but, ultimately, the Sheriff backs down (though he takes pains to make it clear to Ree later that that's not really what he did), solidifying that Teardrop is the baddest mofo in the Ozarks.

#5: There Are No Exceptions, Never Let Me Go

The characters of Never Let Me Go are brought into the world with a heavy cross to bear, that being the knowledge that they exist solely for the purpose of extending the lives of others. They do not wish to escape their fate, but the rumour that they can apply to extend their time gives them a little sliver of hope that makes life bearable. The revelation that there are no exceptions is devastating, leading to the film's emotional climax.

#4: First Scene, The Social Network

This sharp, rapid-fire scene covers a lot of ground. The dialogue is not only clever, it also gives us a pretty clear picture of the person Mark Zuckerberg is. He's obviously very smart but he's also deeply socially awkward, so alienated that his failure at social convention doesn't even quite register. Sure, he knows that his girlfriend (ex-girlfriend by the end of the scene) is mad, but he's not really sure why. It's a perfectly constructed and executed scene.

#3: Nic's Realization, The Kids Are All Right

There are a lot of melodramatic ways in which a story can reveal an infidelity, but the quiet, minimalist way that The Kids Are All Right deals with the revelation is about 100 times more effective. Nic finds the evidence, returns to the dinner table, and then everything else falls away as she silently puts the pieces together and the truth really sinks in. Annette Bening has a lot of great moments throughout the film, but this is her finest.

#2: Final Scene, The Ghost Writer

I'm sure I'll be discussing this one in the Great Last Scenes series. It is such an exquisitely crafted scene in which The Ghost finally experiences a moment of triumph over his adversaries (finally having discovered exactly who those adversaries are) and then it all collapses. And! We don't even get to see that part, it's merely suggested to us from sounds just out of range of the camera's eye and the loose manuscript pages that float by on the wind.

#1: The Church Confession, I Am Love

This is the big moment in I Am Love and I doubt it could have been handled any better. It's not just a matter of Emma's confession, it's also her husband's response, which is so devastating and cuts straight to the heart of the matter. His retort - "You don't exist." - releases her, freeing her from the unhappiness of her life and giving her leave to start over. It's a perfect scene in terms of both craft and execution.


Film Intel said...

'Scene Of The Year' articles always impress me because there's not a chance in hell I could ever remember the films in enough detail to do one!

Haven't seen a few of these but enjoyed reading it none-the-less. I know some people didn't like it and the music is a little bit of a strange choice but I'd perhaps put the boat race scene from TSN in there with the opening scene, or even the over-the-credits scene where Zuckerberg runs and Reznor's score is introduced - a perfect 'buffer' between the argument and the blogging incident.

Inception's final scene would probably get my nod over their first shared dream.

Completely agree on The Kids Are All Right. A very tense scene indeed.

The Mad Hatter said...

I haven't seen I AM LOVE yet, but that finale of THE GHOST WRITER would get my nod as it is certainly one of the best scenes I watched all year...and indeed one of the best endings ever.

Some other nominations...

The gang in TOY STORY 3 hold hands when facing their mortality.

The "Test Flight" in HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON.


and the quiet conversation that concludes SHUTTER ISLAND, including its iconic final line.

Vanessa said...

Now this is a creative "Top 10 of 2010". Love it!
Really want to see I am Love. It sounds amazing :)

Norma Desmond said...

@Film Intel: I thought about including Inception's final scene but ultimately gave the edge to the shared dream scene.

@Mad Hatter: I actually haven't seen Toy Story 3, How To Train Your Dragon or The Disappearance of Alice Creed, but you're right about Shutter Island. Very strong ending.

@Vanessa: I highly recommend it. Hope you enjoy it!

Andrew Robinson said...

Great piece... I gotta say I'm with you on a lot of scenes. I'd probably add in the scene in THE OTHER GUYS where Sam Jackson & The Rock go after the pros... some may title it "Aim for the bushes"