Tuesday, August 12

My 10 Favorite Movie Scenes

If you think it's difficult to come up with my 50 Favorite Films, imagine the stress I've caused myself coming up with my 10 favorite scenes.  Eight of them will be a bit of a review because they come from my favorite films and two are films not a part of that list. 

What they all have in common is that they get to me emotionally.  Most, in some way, have to do with love.  A number feature children and a couple showcase animals.  Half of them feature a parent or parents.  Only one is from a comedy.  One is even wordless.  In the last two days, I have watched them all.  My heart is happy even though most are about unhappy events.  Alphabetically they are:

The Big Country, 1958

This is my 9th favorite film and when I did the posting on it, I mentioned and showed a clip of my favorite scene. It was when crusty old Burl Ives barges into wealthy neighbor Charles Bickford's fancy house during a ball and takes him to task over his mean behavior. It won Ives the Oscar.

Brokeback Mountain, 2005
I have just recently written about this film, my favorite of all.  I said that what is known as the I wish I knew how to quit you scene is my favorite scene of all time. There's no need to go over it again here. There is even a clip of the scene in that posting... in case you missed it.

The Champ, 1979

I've never shed more tears than I did in the final scene of this film... has-been boxer Jon Voight's death scene as he lay on a table after he's taken one blow to the head too many in a match (which he actually won). He knew it was nearly a given that he wouldn't make it, but his son T.J. knows no such thing. The champ can't see as he calls his son to him. Father says encouraging words to the son about the boy's mother, Champ's ex-wife, because he knows mother and son will soon be living together.

Suddenly he closes his eyes and quietly dies. At first the boy doesn't get it. Wake up, Champ, he cries, wake up. He moves his father's head, not getting the result he hopes for. Crying uncontrollably, he moves about the crowded room, going up to various men, most also crying, asking them to wake him up. Finally his father's manager tenderly says he's gone, Son, he's gone, and the boy cries and cries and cries. No. No.

I was so shaken that I barely noticed the horrible acting and bad writing for Faye Dunaway as she comes in the room. Still, it/she didn't take away from a very beloved scene.

E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, 1982

It is, of course, the end scene, at the site of the spaceship... the goodbye, when two beloved friends have a good hug and a cry... myself included on that crying part. It's the scene I used when I did the posting on this, my 20th favorite film. I thought Henry Thomas was just the perfect casting as Elliott.

Guess Who's Coming to Dinner? 1966

Here is another scene I mentioned and a clip was provided when we covered this one as my 12th favorite film. It has the honor of all the scenes mentioned here of being the longest. It was, of course, the film's finale where Spencer Tracy grabs all the others to sit in the living room and hear how he feels about his daughter marrying a prominent black doctor.

Making Love, 1982

My 33rd favorite film (it should be higher... oh now I tell you) is about a doctor who leaves his 8-year marriage for gay life. Zach has had a hard time telling his wife Claire about this change of events. She knows, of course, that something is bothering him... she just doesn't know what. I can handle it no matter what it is, she tells him, I just can't handle the silence.

Finally, he's ready and sitting in their living room as she comes home. Claire, we're gonna have that talk, he says with feigned confidence. He fumbles around, talking about discoveries and repressed desires and finally says I find that I'm attracted to men. With that she gets up, walks to the phone and as she's dialing says Gotta call Barb. She wants to know if we'll have dinner with them Saturday night. (I loved that. Classic.)

He hangs up the phone and among other things says I've stopped denying it. I've been with someone. She walks away saying what do you want for dinner? He stops her, turns her around and she slaps him twice... hard.

He speaks of their friendship, how they've always had it and alluding to it always being there. What about passion?, she yells. What about support?, he counters. What about betrayal?, she heaves.

He tries to console her, she half-listens and then leaves the room. Their marriage will not see a 9th year.

Old Yeller, 1957

Here is still another instance when I mentioned by favorite scene (No Mama. He was my dog. I'll do it.) when I wrote of this film, my 45th favorite. Yes it was the scene where a weepy Tommy Kirk as Travis puts his long rifle through the openings in the side of the corn shed and shoots and kills his beloved yeller dog because it got hydrophobie. As a young kid watching this, I was stunned beyond words. The animal star of a film has been killed? I made a decision then and there never to be happy again.


Ordinary People, 1980

The truth of this film is that it actually contains quite a goodly number of my favorite scenes of all-time... and perhaps that's why it ranks #22 of my favorite movies.  My choice, however, is the one when the (world's wickedest) mother, Beth, comes home, in an obvious mood, causing her husband and son, who are putting up a Christmas tree, to ask what's wrong.  That comment launches us into one of the most emotionally-charged, well-written, raw scenes of family dysfunction that one could want.  I have never forgotten it.

This is a family dealing with a lot of pain due to the drowning of a cherished son in a boating accident and survival of the other one.   In a scene that has the look of discussing why the surviving son quit his swim team a month earlier, it is much more about dissecting this small family and their terrible troubles.

The mother hates hearing the news of the swim team from a friend and is determined to not put up with her surviving son's lying, covering up and frequent disappearances.  But more importantly her son's death has caused a death in her and if she ever really knew how to express love to anyone other than him, she has forgotten how.  

The son, Conrad, seems to enjoy hurting his mother because she has withdrawn.  At issue is also the fact that she never came to see him in the hospital after the accident.  He takes her to task on this using more vivid language than I choose to use here.  He also hates that his father never takes the mother to task.  But beyond it all, of course, is the guilt he feels in being the survivor.

The father, Calvin, is the peacemaker but oblivious to much within his household.  He enables his son, who, in turn, thinks Dad is lost in Lalaland, and assumes his wife is simply grieving and will pull out of it.  He couldn't be more off track.

I wish this scene were available to copy.  I would certainly have used it in my posting of the film.

Out of Africa, 1975

My third favorite film has quite a number of scenes I love... the hair-washing scenes, any scene featuring lions, his funeral, the sparring over how to live, to name a few. But my top honors go to a completely wordless scene... the yellow biplane ride over the African plains and valleys, flying low enough to stampede the wildebeasts, over gorges and over water in competition with pink flamingos. Of all my Africa-based films, this is my favorite scene to stir my imaginings of visiting there. When Karen Blixen reaches her hand back to touch Denys Finch Hatton's, I gave her mine. Credit for such a beautiful scene must go to David Watkin's magnificent photography and John Barry's utterly stirring original piece, Flying Over Africa.

Victor/Victoria, 1982

Do you know the scene without reading further?  Do you know the character, Graham Stark?  He played the droll waiter in the restaurant scene where hungry, down-on-her-luck singer Victoria Grant is going to place a cockroach in her salad so she can get a free meal.  I'll tell you, this scene cracked me up like few comedy scenes ever have.  Victoria, if you recall, first wolfed down a roasted chicken dinner and then a beef bourguignon and then told the waiter the latter was a little tough.  Maybe the way you're eating, your jaws are getting tired, he says.  Inspired. 

Naturally the cockroach adventure doesn't quite pan out.  It is nowhere to be found in the salad she feels she dumped it into.  When she feels it crawling on her person, she and her friend Toddy scream out, jump up and our same poor sap of a waiter takes a tumble, knocking down another waiter.  Best of all is when the offending creature crawls over to a customer's buckled shoe-- a haughty, zaftig women eating alone-- and then up her chubby instep and on up into her nether regions.  She lets out a blood-curdling scream and the restaurant becomes pure pandemonium as Victoria and Toddy steal away into the night.

Burton Without Taylor

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