Month: December, 2012

Cosmopolis and top films for 2012

After a busy but excellent Christmas, Seema and I hunkered down last night and saw perhaps our last film for 2012; Cosmopolis and you can read my mini musing here

cosmopolis

2012 has been an curious cinema going year for me.  I found it difficult to to get out and see many films (study commitments took precedence) and I don’t expect next year to be any easier.  However, I did stumble on a couple of gems  that easily are my “best of 2012” … no other films come close to Leos Carax’s Holy Motors and Benh Zeitlin’s Beasts of the Southern Wild.  These are my top two for 2012 and I can’t split them despite their disparity.  Some films that I have missed that I feel might have expanded my top two are, Michael Haneke’s Amour, and Paul Thomas Anderson’s The Master.  I shall hopefully see them in the new year.

Happy New Year everyone!

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Top ten memorable scenes: #1 Saving Private Ryan

Saving Private Ryan is not a great film by any stretch, and certainly far from my favourite film. However, there is no doubt that the opening twenty minutes that cover the Normandy landings are the most disturbing, and therefore the most memorable, minutes in cinema that I have ever seen. I remember where I was sitting in the cinema when I saw the horrors of war unfold before me. Not enjoyable, but disturbing … and memorable. I take my hat off to Speilberg for not holding back in conveying the necessary realism … not that I know the realities of war, but from all reports this sequence is so very close to the real thing that it moved war veterans to tears. The horror of war was never this clearly realised on screen. It is because of this that I must place the Normandy landing scene in Saving Private Ryan as my most memorable scene.

Top ten memorable scenes: #2 No Country for Old Men

The coin toss scene with Javier Bardem is perhaps the most talked about scene in the Coen’s excellent No Country for Old Men. As with many films directed by the Coen brothers there are so many superb scenes to choose from. However, the palpable tension in the “waiting in a motel room with a shotgun” scene is by far the most memorable for me. No music, no dialogue … this scene is so tense you could literally hear a pin drop. Again Roger Deakins shows what a master of cinematography he is. I’ll let this excellent scene do the talking. You can see it below:

Top ten memorable scenes: #3 Apocalypto

This film is brutal … this scene is brutal. It pays its dues to the film’s excellent build up and character development, without which this scene is just a clever piece of action. As a result, the horror that is so central to this scene really relies on its setup. To really empathise with protagonist Jaguar Paw (Rudy Youngblood), you really have to know his journey. Once you do, then this scene really has impact. Gibson unapologetically crafts the development of his characters, which obviously cannot be garnered from this scene as a stand alone. Anyone who has seen Apocalypto I’m sure will remember this scene and felt its horror. If you didn’t then you must be a robot. It ironically reminded me, both visually and thematically, of Apolcalype Now’s end sequence, and I’m sure there’s an intentional connect there. Apocalypto is a fantastic film and you really must see this film in its entirety … however, if you must see the scene separately then the Youtube clip is below:

Top ten memorable scenes: #4 Existenze

David Cronenberg is one of my favourite directors and eXistenZ is one of his best. Here, Ted Pikul (Jude Law) is fumbling his way through a virtual gaming world, and fish soup at the same time. The reveal in this scene is brilliantly realised. It comically skirts the fine line between reality and the fantastic. Ted’s compulsion to construct a weapon from his fish soup is well acted, well written, and nicely shot by Peter Suschitzky, who collaborates so well with Cronenberg, brushing his screen with a distinctive style. A memorable scene because it completely caught me by surprise in such a humerous and pleasing way. You can watch the scene below which starts about 1 minute in:

Top ten memorable scenes: #5 Children of Men

At number five is this six minute take from Children of Men, directed by Mexican director Alfonso Cuarón. This is an amazing piece of scifi realism and due partly to its successful use of long takes, of which this scene is its longest. Despite the effort that went into the scene (it took 14 days to shoot) it is easy to not notice the lack of cuts … you just wonder why it’s so exhausting to watch. The incredible fact that this take is a non-stop six minute action sequence, without a single cut, is astonishing in a film that doesn’t make a song and dance about the fact. So much so that it only occurred to me after the showing what an incredible feat this was. This scene conveys an incredible amount of realism making you feel very much part of the action. You can watch the clip below:

Top ten memorable scenes: #6 The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford

This is a beautiful film by New Zealand born director Andrew Dominik. A long slow burn that ratchets the tension up to this final scene. It troubles me to show this as a standalone as it really should be seen within the context of the entire film to be fully appreciated. That said, this scene still stands up as an amazing piece of cinema in its own right. Acting chops are really shown by the superb cast (Brad Pitt, Casey Affleck, and Sam Rockwell). Dominik cleverly orchestrates the suspicion and relational manoevering of Robert Ford (Casey Affleck) and Jesse James (Brad Pitt) culminating in four minutes of mastery shot by Roger Deakins. Roger would have to be my favourite D.O.P. and this scene shows why … it is nothing short of amazing. Unfortunately the YouTube clip below doesn’t capture the scene in its entirety but its the best I could muster up.

Top ten memorable scenes: #7 Trainspotting

Danny Boyle is quite the visceral director which lends itself well to this scene. Here Renton (Ewan McGregor) fishes around a shit infested public toilet (the “worst toilet in Scotland”) for his mislaid opium suppositories. The uncomfortable wonder of Renton swiming serenely through toilet water is perfectly realised and delicately balances the awkward dichotomy of the euphoria of drugs and its associated squalor. Boyle does such magical job of recreating filth and beauty at the same time. He did it again in Slumdog Millionaire which I’m sure was motivated (at least visually) by this scene. Trainspotting is such a brilliant film … I’ll let the scene do the talking.

Top ten memorable scenes: #8 Raiders of the Lost Ark

Not much to say here really … we all know the iconic scene that introduced Indiana Jones to this franchise. There is so much iconography on show in the first twelve minutes of this film; the rolling ball, the poison darts, the hat, the whip etc. I was ten at the time I first saw Raiders and it has to be one of the most enjoyable films I’ve seen. Watching it now it still fills me with nostalgic awe and magical wonderment. Despite recognising the irony of Spielberg’s pulp nostalgia, Raider’s still effortlessly transports me to the fantastical world of swashbuckling archeaology in the thirties.  This scene (and yes, perhaps I am taking liberties calling this large 12 minute chunk a “scene”, it’s more a sequence of scenes), set deep in the Mayan jungle, can stand alone in its own right.  It is a so well defined and the boundaries are layed explicit for all to see.  The pacing, the production design, the lighting, the direction, and Harrison Ford; what’s not to like.  You can view the scene here.

Indiana Jones and Raiders of the Lost Ark

Raiders of the Lost Ark