12 January 2010
Tops: Small Moments in Big Movies
While doing that whole "best of millennium" thing last month, I realised how many good movies there really were in the past decade. I also realised that more often than not, there are some great moments in movies, shitty or otherwise that either encapsulate the film's meaning, twist something in a new direction or are just pretty damn cool. The following seven films have some incredible tiny lines or scenes that elevated the film into something special. Thus I'm bringing you today, my picks for the BEST SMALL MOMENTS IN BIG MOVIES:
#6: Superman sweats in Superman Returns (2006)
I didn't even notice this the first time (I'm apparently an idiot, Singer zooms right into it), but maybe that's just because a bead of sweat dripping down the hero's brow as he's about to confront Luthor on a brand spankin' new Krypto-Rock Continent seems natural. It's the precise moment Superman goes from God to Man, allowing Luthor to rock his ass with some goons and Krypto-Daggers. It's notable that its key to Luthor noticing it as well, buying his time chatting with Supes until he sees the sweat and brings the beat-down. The fact that Supes doesn't notice his own sweat or steadily increasing weakness is generally retarded, but that's besides the point. In a movie about a man's balance between being the God that a city needs (or doesn't) and the man a woman needs (get some Lois), the sweat becomes a crucial point. Or I just read too much into things.
#5: "¡No me gusta!" in Team America: World Police (2004)
Team America is a constant delight, but the funniest part by far is the small, almost forgotten "¡No me gustaaaa!!!" screamed during the Panama Canal terrorist attack. It's so incredibly stupid and blissfully disrespectful and ignorant of foreign cultures, down to the languages (see also: "durka durka Muhammad jihad!"). It really demonstrates how America views the other parts of the world and its limited knowledge of culture based on general impressions instead of careful research. In essence, it's perfect for a movie all about perceived American World pompetance. Righteous.
#4: Diesel shook up in XXX (2002)
I still have no idea why this is in the movie, but its a crucial part. Just after the Diesel disarms the Ahab missile-boat launching thingie he emerges on the shore of the river in Czechoslovakia or wherever shaken, scared and cold. It's the only moment in the whole movie where the Diesel shows an inch of vulnerability but it makes him human, if only for a second. The following moment is similar:
#3: "I need help" in Jackass: The Movie (2002)
I need to talk about Jackass a lot more, because I'm an unashamed big fan of the general goofiness and cleverness matched up against sheer unabated immaturity. Similar to a shaking Diesel though, the most endearing moment comes from a very small look to the vulnerability of the stars. Set to "If You're Gonna Be Dumb" by Roger Alan Wade, the end credits show some of the aftereffects of the sketches, including Johnny Knoxville severely concussed after a Department Store Boxing Match with Butterbean. He lets a whimper out, "I need help," and it's so humbling to see this man who puts his body and soul through hell for entertainment to admit he needs assistance when he's down. It's an awesome tiny moment showing a brief hint of the reality behind the humour of the show and movies.
#2: "What phone call?" in Frost/Nixon (2008)
This is a great moment that ends up shifting the entire tone of the movie and sets up a superb ending. In the film, reporter David Frost is basically a schmuck interviewing Nixon and doing really shitty the whole time against his awesome power. A few nights before the final interview, Nixon is hammered and drunk dials Frost, revealing some of his insecurities and intimidations. Frost doubles his efforts and prior to the final interview mentions to Dick, "Well, if today's session is anything like our phone call, it should be explosive." Nixon, completely blank face, "What phone call?" Complete black out, oh haha Nixon has problems. In that one moment, Frost has already won. He finally caught Nixon off-guard and is at an advantage in their verbal brawl. The look on Langella's face is the perfect mix of astonishment, fear and incredulity that both surmises the movie's driving theme and cements both Frost and Nixon's character arcs. It's brilliant.
#1: Flaming Trucks/Trains in The Dark Knight (2008) and War of the Worlds (2005)
I lumped both these together at #1 because they're pretty similar, but also probably my favourite parts in both films. In War of the Worlds, after Tom Cruise's house/life is wrecked, he's wandering with his family and a bunch of other vagabonds when they come to a railway crossing. The guard goes down and a train passes through, completely engulfed in flames. It passes and they trek on. It's a grim reminder that even though Tom and Company are safe at the moment, hell is happening elsewhere across the country (also a reminder than in that movie, somewhere HELL IS ALWAYS HAPPENING). It's part of a handful of impressive scenes in what should have been a good movie.
The Dark Knight contains a vaguely similar scene. While transporting Dent (who everyone thinks is Batman) through Gotham, the GPD find in their path a lone flaming Fire Truck, causing them to divert to an underground tunnel, like sitting ducks. It might be my favourite scene in the film and here's why- firstly there's the irony of a vehicle designed to put out fires engulfed in flames. It's the kind of contradiction perfect for a Joker scheme as well as demonstrating that he's going to corrupt the best they have (fooorrreeshaddoww), turn their greatest defense into his best offenses. It's also his means to control their situation. He uses Chaos to impose his own order. The fire burns seemingly randomly, but in fact it diverts the caravan right where he wants them. It's a form of control that stems from Chaos, another contradiction inherent to the Joker's modus operandi. It's sweet.