Friday, August 30, 2013

Ten sensational scenes from movies I just watched

While comics will always be my main thing, I love to get to the movies as often as possible. But there have been sod-all films in the past few months that I was desperate to see in the cinema. And then the film festival rolled into town, and suddenly a whole bunch of interesting things were also showing up at normal theatres, and for a few weeks now, I’ve been gorging on new cinema.

I could blather on and on about how much I’ve enjoyed these movies, but instead, I’m just going to mention my favourite scenes in each film, which adequately sum up what I liked about each movie. Some of those scenes were just a few seconds long, while others went on for 20 minutes, but I can always forgive a mediocre film if it’s got one great scene, and all of these recent films have certainly got that.


The lovely wife said this was the creepiest fucking film she'd seen in years, and I think she’s right. I liked the way every shot was just a little bit wrong, and all the performances were just the tiniest bit off. But I thought the bit where Matthew Goode shows up out of the dark while Jacki Weaver is in a phone booth - and then gets in there with her – was the best horror movie scene I’ve seen since Let The Right One In.

The Lone Ranger

There were almost no surprises here – the latest crack at the Lone Ranger was a flabby, ponderous and tone-deaf blockbuster, and that was almost exactly what I expected. (To be honest, the only reason we went was because of the wife’s huge Armie-crush).  But twenty minutes from the end, the William Tell Overture kicked in and the Lone Ranger was riding his horse along a rooftop, and I really wasn’t expecting how excited I got.

Even after all these years, the overture is a ridiculously stirring and exciting piece of music and is used wonderfully in the film’s climax, building and building into an outrageous crescendo, while cowboys fling themselves around train carriages tearing up a track, blasting away at bad guys and laughing in death’s face.

The film might not have found much of an audience, but with a climax like that, it was far more thrilling than it had any right to be.

Upstream Color

The brilliance and beauty of Shane Carruth’s films is partly due to the fact that the entire story can rest on one small piece of dialogue, or some unexplained action, and if you missed it, too fucking bad, because it’s not going to wait around for you to catch up.

There is a moment like that in Upstream Color, where one small snatch of dialogue completely changes the story, as it reveals that the boy in this surprisingly sweet romantic mindfuck has gone through the same horrible experience as the girl, and that this isn’t an isolated incident, it’s some kind of horrible cycle that never ends. This has happened before and will happen again.

In any other film, this would send the plot spinning off in some new direction, but in Upstream Color the information is casually thrown away, despite being a key part of the story. It influences everything that is still to come in the film, without ever overwhelming it, and it’s just so bloody nice to watch something that doesn’t hit the viewer over the head with the same thing over and over again, and just gets on with the show.

Only God Forgives

The scene where Ryan Gosling just gets the shit kicked out of him by the Angel of Vengeance gave me a sense of enormous well-being.

A Field In England

Ben Wheatley’s latest – which really is a spiritual prequel to all his films – has a terrific balls-out tripping scene, where somebody who has gorged themselves on hallucinogenic mushrooms flips the fuck out, and it’s an onslaught of visual and audio craziness, which is much better than most tripping scenes, because they usually rely on people looking spaced out as they wander around a graveyard or something.

But the scene that stuck in my mind the most was another great horror moment, and another great unexplained  moment – you don’t see what’s happening in a canvas tent in the middle of the titular field, but you can hear the screams, and then Reece Shearsmith comes out of the tent, and he is bound by rope and madness, gurning wildly as he stumbles forward in ultra-slow motion.  It’s weirdness for weirdness sake, but I never think that is a real criticism, but it’s also the most purely cinematic moment in any of Wheatley’s films, and one I could’ve kept watching forever.

The Dance of Reality

This was Alejandro Jodorowsky’s first film as a director in more than 20 years, and while it was often a shrill and grating experience, it also had loads of charm and plenty of delightful oddness. (All the hip young filmmakers of the film festival were keen to show off how weird they could be, but when it comes to proper strange, none of the young turks came close to Jodorowsky, who has someone cured of plague with some graphic pissing).

But for all the strangeness, the semi-autobiographical Dance of Reality also has moments of tender truth, and there was one part where a group of churchgoers are so happy to have received simple chairs to sit on that they burst into rapturous song, and I found it enormously moving, as they celebrate the joy of simple pleasures and the kindness of their fellow man.

Of course, being a Jodorowsky film, the scene ends with the chair maker dropping down dead in front of them, but there are worse ways to go.

Venus: A Quest

This was a lovely little documentary film that has cartoonist Dylan Horrocks investigate his family's connection to Jeremiah Horrocks, who discoevered the Transit of Venus, and gets into what family and history and a merging of cultures and all that means. Like Dylan’s comics, the documentary is a little ragged around the edges, but also like the comics, that’s where a lot of the charm lies. But it was simply fantastic to see the one brief bit where his cartoons come to life, which now has me convinced that an animated Hicksville would be a very, very good idea.

World War Z

Most of the film was predictably weightless, but I have a particular soft spot for the bit right at the end when you finally discover why Brad Pitt has had that ridiculous haircut while he's been running away from zombies, and it's because he's SEXY JESUS, come to save us all from the undead plague.

The World's End

Bill Nighy's “Yeah. Fuck it.” was the best line in the film, because Bill Nighy could swear for England, but my favourite scene in the entire film was the first major fight in the pub, where Nick Frost just goes apeshit and kicks the crap out of the robot villains.

I liked it mainly because it made me feel like I was watching a Terrence Hill and Bud Spencer film, and Terrence Hill and Bud Spencer films were my favourite non-Star Wars films ever when I was seven, because they had the best fight scenes, with Spencer’s massive hands slapping goons around the head, while Hill dived around all over the place, and watching The World’s End took me all the way back to that pure thrill of a good movie brawl.

Only Lovers Left Alive

Capital punishment and the filmography of Jim Jarmusch remain the two fundamental differences between the lovely wife and I. I believe that society should be better than its worst examples, and that the death penalty is totally unjustified, while she is total eye-for-an-eye; and I think Jim’s films are slick, funny and effortlessly cool, while she thinks they are a load of old bollocks.

But I finally got her to dig a Jarmusch, and all it took was a languid and half-naked vampire Tim Hiddleston. Only Lovers Left Alive has lots and lots of VampHiddleston lying about and being gloomy, and there wasn’t much plot, but damn, he looked good. And Tilda Swinton and her epic hair didn't hurt, either.

I'm cheating here, because there wasn't one great scene, it was just one long groove of pale immortals hanging out in clubs and apartments, and walking around empty streets (which gave a pleasant Mystery Train vibe to the proceedings).  And even though every Jamursch film is one long groove, this was just groovy enough for her, which is more than The Limits of Control ever managed..

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