Every once and while I’ll be watching a movie and I’ll just get knocked out by some amazing cinematic trick, a real wow moment in a movie where I suddenly really appreciate the millions of ways movies can be so fun to watch. Sometimes it can be the littlest thing, a little move of the camera or the use of music at the perfect time. Other times it can be an epic moment or some huge technical achievement. Big or small, the magic moments that populate the movies are my favorite thing about the movie watching experience – and I thought I’d share a few of my favorites with the internet.
This will be a list of ten. As usual I will count down from ten, starting with the first five.
Once again, I’m going to rely on YouTube here – so we’ll see what happens.
10) Shame – Steve McQueen
This might seem like a small one, but it completely blew me away in theater. Our protagonist comes out of his apartment and goes for a jog. The camera starts in a still position and then follows him through a busy city, perfectly paced, before leaving him at a crosswalk where he runs on and we do not. The movie, from start to finish was still, quiet and intimate – forcing us to witness our protagonist’s weaknesses. And in this scene we run beside him while he runs from his lust, from true intimacy and, well, just to run. A great camera moment. (Shame’s Director of Photography was Sean Bobbitt)
9) Old Boy – Park Chan-wook
Most movie fight scenes are full of cuts – editing, sound effects and music do most of the work and we’re left feeling exhilarated. But not always. Sometimes a movie will go its own way. Sometimes a movie will break all the rules of how to shoot a fight sequence and those usually become the classic moments we all remember. One of the best examples of this is the “corridor fight” in Park Chan-wook’s “Old Boy”. It is packed with excitement, amazing choreography (that doesn’t feel choreographed) and a certain claustrophobic dread. As I watched I was certain our hero would get out of it SOMEHOW but they sure do make things exciting. (Old Boy’s Director of Photography was Chung-hoon Chung)
8) Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind – Michel Gondry
Charlie Kaufman and Michel Gondry’s Eternal Sunshine is one of the best movies that’s been made in my life time. The music and photography in the movie is hypnotic and heart breaking, and Gondry’s decision to use as many practical effects as possible sets the film apart as an essential film experience. For example, in the scene above Jim Carrey’s Joel tells a story from his friends’ living room about going to visit his girlfriend at her work. The scene cuts to the bookstore like any movie would, but then instead of cutting back to the living room when the story is finished, Gondry has Joel walk straight out of the bookstore and into the living room in a single mind-blowing take – the sound of the lights blowing dark behind him as he walks in made my jaw drop in the theater and is still one of my favorite scenes.
7) The Shining – Stanley Kubrick
The first time I saw The Shining, it was THIS sequence that really burned into my memory. The book had a certain terrifying monotony about it – a sense that you were going to be slowly driven insane along with the characters. In this mesmerizing sequence Kubrick follows Danny’s tricycle as it goes round and round inside a big, empty hotel. There’s something sinister and brutally suspenseful about it all as the music creeps in and then up and up into a frenzy. Finally, Danny rounds one last corner and sees something famous. Something INFAMOUS in cinema history.
6) Mulholland Dr. – David Lynch
You know that moment when someone is telling you about their nightmare and you suddenly start to get afraid too? David Lynch captures that moment perfectly in one of the best scenes in one of the best movies ever. This sequence is right near the beginning and I’ll never forget watching it for the first time. The way David Lynch uses noise, and music, and silence, and a swirling, unsettling camera becomes an unrelenting push towards the scene’s climax. When I was visiting my brother in Los Angeles a few years ago we found this diner and went behind it. It was scary as hell (Btw for the purposes of this blog I found and posted these scenes – but I couldn’t watch this one all the way through…).