With Ruth’s (and Ted’s) wonderful contribution of late to Andrew’s fine idea of blogging about our favorite scenes over at A Fistful of Films Blog, I was inspired to take part. Okay, Ruth asked…and I can’t deny her. That this was subsequently turned this into a blogathon (which I’m so, so late in joining!), also pushed me to contribute something. Here’s the gist of what Andrew had in mind for the kinds of scenes he’s referring to:
“We all have them in the back of our minds; those moments that make us think “man, this is what the movies are all about”. We relive those moments in our mind’s eye, remembering them and dissecting them and adoring them. They come in all shapes and sizes, from all types of films, and yet they all share one very important aspect; they define why we love the movies. It could be the way that the moment is cut; the way it’s edited together. It could be the way the moment uses it’s actors to evoke a powerful emotion from us. It could be the way that music floods the scene and draws us even closer to the moment in question. It could be a grand climax, a breathtaking introduction or a simple interchange. It could be any and all things, because for every film lover, the list is different.”
The rules were indeed “…super simple, so simple they may as well not be rules, just suggestions.”
1) Pick a number between 1 and 100 (any more than 100 is just gaudy)
2) Choose that many cinematic moments that are either your all time favorites or ones that could, on any given day, be your all time favorites
3) Post them on your blog (or Tumblr or whatever) with the above header (or one you create for yourself)
4) Send me the link by either posting it here in the comments or getting ahold of me on Twitter ( @fististhoughts )
Andrew has already posted a summary with updated links to all participants who made his deadline of April 6th. I’m joining way past that mark, but that couldn’t be helped. Family and work can do that. Since I could pick a number, it’ll be my favorite. Natch. As well, I focus on the cinematic moments that I’m naturally drawn to, with regard to what I regularly offer here on Ye Old Blog. The “needle dropped” movie variety.
Hard to limit this to such a small set, I must say. There have been so many through the decades of both film and music. More than a few of them have affected me merely through their viewing. But clearly, I’ve my favorites. So I present the following list as my entry. Going for as diverse a musical display in this movie moment piece I could muster to fit the subject at hand. And in no particularly order…well, maybe my own. 😉
Honorable Mentions (the last I cut to get down to 13, in other words)
Fantastic Mr. Fox use of Bobby Fuller Four’s Let Her Dance for its closing scene
Beauty and the Beast and its big Be Our Guest number
Close Encounters of the Third Kind and teaching a musical vocabulary
The Big Chill‘s opening with I Heard It Through The Grapevine (over Kevin Costner’s corpse)
Manhunter‘s use of Iron Butterfly’s In A Gadda Da Vida in its final confrontation
Top Gun‘s Danger Zone opening sequence
Pee Wee’s Big Adventure and dancing to The Champs’ Tequila…in a biker bar
Almost Famous‘ use of Tiny Dancer on the bus
Jackie Brown playing The Delfonics Didn’t I Blow Your Mind (This Time) for Max Cherry
My 13 Perfect Cinematic Moments
Malcolm X and Sam Cooke’s A Change Gonna Come
Having watched this again on the big screen during last week’s TCM Classic Film Festival, this has lost none of its power. The culmination of Malcolm X‘s journey from child to adult; from criminal to minister of the Nation of Islam; from staunch separatist to the devoted family man who reevaluated his views. Set to Sam Cooke’s seminal song, which became an anthem to the Civil Rights Movement, as he drives to his assassination.
The Shawshank Redemption and Mozart’s Canzonetta Sull’aria
The Frank Darabont adaptation of Stephen King’s novella accomplished a rare feat. The director-screenwriter created and added a new segment — which didn’t exist in the source novella — to an already redemptive story. Simultaneously brought about a sweet-sounding and singular sequence that could only be part of the cinematic experience. The unexpected use of the aria from the Marriage of Figaro by Mozart.
Breakfast at Tiffany’s and Audrey Hepburn’s Moon River
I firmly believe you don’t need length, or expansive scenes to have a perfect cinematic moment. Especially if you have Audrey Hepburn in it. The brief musical instant in Breakfast at Tiffany’s with Audrey at her best in a signature role, singing the number Henry Mancini wrote specifically for her, was that one. The lovely, melodic, and the rare vulnerable moment of Holly Golightly’s that took Paul Varjak, and the rest of us, prisoner.
Ferris Bueller’s Day Off and The Beatles’ Twist and Shout
Speaking of a signature role, hard to get past the one John Hughes and Matthew Broderick fashioned with the ditching high school senior Ferris. He who crashed Chicago’s annual Von Steuben Day Parade by lip-synching his way to immortality. First with Wayne Newton’s cover of “Danke Schoen”, but reaching old and young alike, at the parade and in the movie audience, with The Beatles’ Twist and Shout. Simply magical.
An American Werewolf in London and Credence Clearwater’s Bad Moon Rising
Since I’ve also mentioned the Moon, might as well include my favored sequence in one of my all-time favorite werewolf films. An American Werewolf in London. While the song “Blue Moon” was repeatedly used in the film1, it’s this most quiet but meaningful, film progression, one that keyed off Credence Clearwater’s Bad Moon Rising, that remains a testament to the film’s tragic essence and emotional content.
Jackie Brown and The Brothers Johnson’s Strawberry Letter 23
For a film filled with great scenes, needle-dropped songs, and the ever distinguishable Tarantino dialogue, this may be my favorite. Jackie Brown used The Brothers Johnson second pop/funk hit to complete its 70s vibe, placing it into intriguing motion. The juncture when Ordell Robbie “lets go” of an employee. The song enters at the gunrunner’s mastery of the situation…the point when his mixtape drops into the cassette deck.
Beetlejuice with Harry Belafonte’s Day-O
Let’s not forget the unanticipated moment in Tim Burton’s Beetlejuice where he interjected a traditional Jamaican mento folk song into the urbane dinner conversation hosted by Charles and Delia Deetz. The yuppies who’ve unknowingly just renovated a haunted house. Never has Harry Belafonte’s signature song, Day-O (The Banana Boat Song), been used so unpredictably and divertingly. Especially by its close2.
Dr. Strangelove and Vera Lynn’s We’ll Meet Again
While I’ve noted Stanley Kubrick’s and Pablo Ferro’s sublime opening title sequence and song for Dr. Strangelove, I think for this its closing scene was the true stunner of a cinematic moment. While most didn’t realize the song “Try a Little Tenderness” accompanied the former, surely Vera Lynn’s rendition of “We’ll Meet Again” in the latter was readily apparent to viewers, along with its dire tone, in the stark black comedy.
2001: A Space Odyssey and the Adagio of the Gayne Ballet Suite
Stanley Kubrick’s Adagio sequence heralds the entrance of the Discovery space ship and its small crew on their way to the secretive Jupiter mission. It is simply an elegant and evocative piece of music, used by him to denote the lonely and tentative existence these people find themselves in the large cold vacuum of space. Simply, music as dialogue in one of the most cinematic and amazing sequences ever filmed, in my opinion.
Casablanca’s La Marseillaise
I’m not afraid to admit this scene, a rousing cinematic moment if there ever was one, primarily through its music, in my favorite film still gets to me. It’s inspiring beyond my own belief whenever I watch it, or hear the French national anthem that is La Marseillaise, sung. Still sends chills up my spine and I mist over every single time. Did just that replaying it once more as I wrote these words on my computer screen. What of it?
Michael Mann’s Heat and Moby’s God Moving Over the Face of the Waters
Just no way I couldn’t include the final scene from my favorite Michael Mann film, Heat. By the time the audience and the two antagonists reach the climatic sequence, with hints of Peter Yates’ Bullitt airport chase, Heat’s tense climax on the outskirts of LAX is another one of those great cinematic moments. Mann skillfully brings their chase and relationship to a poignantly moving close with Moby’s song of God’s actions.
Mulholland Drive and Llorando
As I already said regarding Roy Orbison’s “Crying”, “So when Rebekha Del Rio performed an a cappella version of the song, in Spanish no less, entitled “Llorando”, for all the world to see in Silencio theatre for David Lynch’s 2001 film, Mulholland Drive, the result was simply jaw-dropping. The movie scene says it all, and then some. Without shame, Rebekha’s cover can get me crying. Every time.” A lovely, haunting moment.
A Hard Day’s Night and The Beatles Song
I’ll end with the cinematic moment I believe set me on the path I’ve been on. Although I’d heard the Fab Four’s songs on the radio beforehand, it was this movie, and A Hard Day’s Night opening scene, that first mesmerized me. Still within its impact. Not only did that triumphant strum of guitar, bass, and piano herald the film, it opened the Pop era for me. My eyes and ears uncorked to the possibilities of what film and music3 could bring as a result.
- Sam Cooke’s version being the one that accompanied the film’s startling werewolf transformation. ↩
- One he’ll repeat by the film’s close with another Harry Belafonte standard, Jump in the Line (Shake Senora). ↩
- A case could be made for all of the song presentations in A Hard Day’s Night, along with a few memorable ones from The Lads’ follow-up, Help! ↩