29 December 2014

2014 in Review: Best Scenes in the Films of 2014

Once again I felt like waiting until the last gasp of 2014 to put out my best of list - all those people who rush at the beginning of December really aren't absorbing everything that the year has to offer. With one last mighty breath, 2014 is extinguished and we head into the throngs of 2015. Hoverboards, ya'll! But before that, let us take a moment to describe the best scenes, actors, trailers, music, trends, and films of 2014. This post is going to be wicked drippy. Actually I think I'll split it up, because there's way too much going on here. Let's just talk about the scenes.

Best Scenes of 2014:

There are some spoilers here for sure, because some of these are the endings of films and stuff, so if you haven't seen a lot of these flicks, just skip ahead. I like the idea here of highlighting a lot of crappy movies that had really awesome scenes, along with the best films of the year who did have incredible moments.

#15: Creating the World in Noah

Noah really isn't an altogether terrible movie, or at least it really wasn't as bad as people purported it to be. I mostly enjoyed it because it's trippy as hell and has all these bizarre moments like Rock Angels and other insane gritty moments of like, Ray Winstone eating a live rat on board the Ark. It falls apart because no one cares about Noah, and the character himself grows insane to the point of being unlikable. The production design is also other-worldly and ridiculous, and I've never seen the Biblical account of the World's Creation rendered so creatively.

#14: Breast-feeding in Neighbors

I wanted to pick one scene from Neighbors because it really deserves recognition for being one of the funnier movies of the year, but it's really hard. The set-up for the breast-feeding scene is epic, though, and it wins as possibly being the most painful moment in a movie built upon painful moments. I almost picked the Dance Off, though, as much for Seth Rogen's doofiness as for Rose Byrne's conniving stares.

#13: Ending Concert in Whiplash

There's a lot of painful tense scenes in this film, the rushing or dragging scene above is one of them, but there's no better moment that subverts both the entire movie's set-up and what should have appeared to be a classic "rough teacher just trying to push his students harder" bit of acceptance and redemption. Instead it's nuts and Miles Teller has to become a badass on his own instead of getting it handed to him by J.K. Simmons. I'd love to find a clip, but I think it's a bit too fresh to be online yet.

#12: Home Invasion / Club Fight in John Wick

John Wick succeeded by being a perfect antidote to a lot of action movies out there right now, along with giving Keanu a role that should be really natural for him but we haven't seen him do in a while. And it doesn't suck! If you look at these two fight scenes you'll notice a few things - how fast they are yet how much you're allowed to breathe and actually take in the action, along with how creative and fast-thinking John Wick actually is as he's reloading and dodging bad guys. It's clear, crisp, concise action that's done more in the real world than with CGI. Who would have guessed this style was visually appealing?! And here is the club scene.

#11: Smile in Why Don't You Play in Hell

Why Don't You Play in Hell is a bonkers Japanese film about a young film crew that sets out to film the greatest movie ever with a bunch of gangsters, which really just becomes the gangsters actually killing their enemies on film. It's got a real sense of beautiful mania to it, and the final blood soaked battle jumps off from where Kill Bill Vol 1 (2003) left off. But really, the Smile Scene is where it's at for pure weirdness.

#10: Opening of Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

There wasn't more impressive character work done this year than in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, especially considering 1) They weren't human, 2) They hardly spoke, and 3) They were CGI motion captured. Everything you need to know about the principal Apes in the film comes across in the first five minutes of the film and then it spirals from there into lunacy like Monkeys shooting guns from tanks and Koba getting the Hans Gruber treatment. But watching and immediately understanding an entire Ape Society without resorting to this is a ridiculous feat.

#9: The Avalanche in Force Majeure

I haven't seen all of Force Majeure but I have seen this scene (and another one where some girl at the ski resort mistakenly hits on the family's father and his buddy), and it's spectacular. From the sudden tension and drama that unfolds after a "controlled" avalanche goes awry to the complete failure of a father to protect his family to the calm way the scene just picks up where it left off once the snow passes, it's a few minutes where you can identify an entire film.

#8: Birdman takes Flight in Birdman

Maybe I shouldn't say this is the best scene in Birdman - I mean, the whole film is rallying against scenes like this, right? But it is the moment where reality and fantasy begin to really blur (maybe I should have picked that ending), and it forms this elegy for Big Blockbuster Temptation - commercialism that will make you a man more than any crappy artistic play could. It's really the crux of the film and it's also where Michael Keaton's Riggan Thompson finds his mojo. And maybe he dies, who knows.

#7: "Ooh Child" in Guardians of the Galaxy

I wanted to pick a musical moment in Guardians and to me, this is the best. Others may go with Redbone or Blue Swede, but for me, Peter Quill's A Cappella "Ooh Child" Dance Off with Ronan is the highlight of this flick. It's Star-Lord's irreverence slamming headfirst into Ronan's antiquated villainous monologue-y attitude. It's a moment of sincere hilarity in what would otherwise have been any other superhero climactic struggle. And most importantly, it actually works, distracting that big jackass long enough for Rocket and Drax to do their thing and blow his weapon apart.

#6: Andre Allen's Hits Bottom in Top Five

There are a lot of spectacular moments in Top Five, but it mostly relies on verbal jokes, revelations, or riffs on various topics. When Chris Rock's Andre Allen's night in Houston goes from the greatest of his life to the worst of his life, though, I was laughing out of my seat. Cedric the Entertainer has never been more over the top and every element to how this scene was constructed, from the early expectations to Chris Rock's perfect terrified face as things go completely awry is perfect.

#5: The Frozen Arm in Snowpiercer

Snowpiercer is full of insane amazing scenes, and many would probably go with the mid-car ice bridge darkness axe battle, but the Frozen Arm is the first indication that this is a special movie. It's an ingenious use of the movie's own universe to dish out punishment that also provides excellent world-building. You're not quite sure what those portals are or what the man is doing with his shirt off, but as you figure it out on your own it dawns on you how brutal and perfect it is. The limb-losing becomes a common thread, and you can begin to tell that this is something that many people in the back of the train have gone through.

#4: Docking in Interstellar

How does Matthew McConaughey know how to do this? Who cares, but this scene is set up with aplomb and is one of the most tense of the year. First we see Matt Damon complete screw up his docking, which causes all kinds of hell to break loose. Then McConaughey gives it a shot and kicks ass, even though his ass is kicked doing it. Nolan does a great job in this movie of framing concepts that are difficult to conceive, and two objects spinning around in circles trying to line-up with each other could have been pretty boring. Instead, it's the highlight of the film.

#3: Throat-slitting in Gone Girl

Here's the ultimate "OH SHIT WTF JUST HAPPENED" moment of the year. We already know that Rosamund Pike's Innocent Victim Amy is really a conniving bitch, but this is the first true measurement of deep her insanity lies. Like I said in my review of this, I don't really like calling her insane because I think the film justifies a lot of her actions, if in their own way, but this is a brutal out of left field moment that cements her status as the most dangerous creature at the party. It's shocking, in character for everyone, and pushes the ending to a natural delicious tortured finish. It's a sizzling caper to an electric film.

#2: Time in a Bottle in X-Men: Days of Future Past

In terms of sheer awesomeness, it's tough to beat this one. At once it's both how much of a Deus Ex Machina Quicksilver is and a brilliantly majestic use of song, special effects, comedy, and character. It's not so much about advancing plot here as it is just getting the gang out of a jam, but on sheer irreverent cleverness alone this earns some big points for existing in an otherwise self-serious movie about time travel, robot apocalypses, and blue girls kicking ass.

#1: Fire Breath in Godzilla

This should hopefully cause some controversy, but I thought long about this and I decided that my most rewarding moment at the theater this year came from that first little charge up the tail and ended with a giant monster's head being melted off. Maybe it's just that we spent forever waiting for the big guy to even show up and start fighting and you know that his most powerful weapon, the Nuclear Fire Breath is coming. It's also just so well designed visually. The way that glow lights up the night where you didn't even know the G-Man was there. Godzilla is the kind of throwback movie that does all the little things right, and this is really the crux of all that waiting and the payoff is the greatest scene in the film. It's the ultimate cheerable moment, and as Godzilla stands King of the Monsters you can't help but feel a little pride that he's on your side.

Bonus: The Devil in Winter's Tale

I had to include this scene. It's not great by any means, but it's certainly the most downright bizarre in the most bizarre movie of 2014. What is Will Smith doing here? Why is he almost a convincing devil? Honestly, this YouTube video only has like 10,000 views - no one even knows that Will Smith is in this movie. And lest we not even forget what is actually happening in this scene - what the hell is going on? Why is there this bureaucracy for Demons on Earth? It's completely mystifying and spectacularly terrible.

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