16 December 2019

2019 FINISHED! Movie Scene of the Year

Normally when we run through the year there are a collection of great scenes, both in terrible and great movies. This year was different, though. When it happened I knew instantly that it was the scene of the year, nay, let's call it the scene of ALL years. I haven't found a good cut of everything I want in one video, so here is a bunch, but in 2019 this was everything:

This still chokes me up. There is a lot to unpack and an uncanny amount of earned pay-off here, both helped and hindered by this pay-off not being limited to one movie, but a literal decade of films. It requires a decent amount of knowledge to really understand, but well, I have that knowledge so it tugs at my heart pretty hard.

In Avengers: Infinity War (2018), both Iron Man and Thor get their asses kicked by Thanos. So does Captain America, but it's very brief. He doesn't have the emotional stakes the other two characters have. During their bout here there is a little hesitation with the other two. They know how powerful this dude is. It's great that they gave Cap a chance to shine. That moment when Mjolner flies into Cap's hands was the loudest I have ever heard a theater in my life.

It's full of little moments, too. First, there was always that inkling that Cap was worthy when he nudged the hammer just a little in Age of Ultron (2015). In that same movie, Cap bounces the hammer off his shield to create a soundwave, which he repeats here. This is the second team-up move after Thor lights up Tony's suit with lightning like in The Avengers (2012). These little things show that this team has been fighting alongside each other for a long time and have gotten to know what works.

Cap is just such an earnest figure that this moment feels so deserving. It's a classic, "Of course this is how it should happen" moment, but not one that an audience member would ever believe they'd actually do. Endgame (2019) is such a bonkers movie - it feels like they are headed for a showdown with Thanos early, but then they dispatch him with relatively little effort. It's an amazing ploy, then, that they're able to have their cake and eat it too with the introduction of this feisty younger Thanos.

Throughout the fight we're always wondering what will stop him. Will Thor or Tony get some redemption? Will Captain Marvel fly in and kick ass? Will Ant-Man go inside Thanos' nostrils and expand to giant size, exploding his head? Cap with Mjolner seems like the answer for a while. He gets some good licks in, which we've never really seen Thanos take before (save the axe to the chest from Infinity War, but that's overshadowed because he still wins with the Snap). It's an amazing moment.

But the film isn't content with that. Thanos overpowers the powered up Cap. He busts his unbreakable shield (there is a pretty incredible bit of acting when he does this, just disbelief, and fear, but still resolve). Thanos summons and army and Cap straps in. It's a stunning moment that wisely knows it has more gravitas than the oft-repeated "I could do this all day" line, but that sentiment is there. You know that Cap would stand and fight against that entire army alone. It's downright inspiring.

Then we get another great moment, though. Portals open up, they again call back to The Winter Soldier (2014) with an "On your left" and every character ever (except Daredevil, dammit) appears. There is a reason why Cap is the centerpoint. It's him standing alone. But film-wise it works because one moment leads into the other and it sells itself. It's earned. It's fantastic.


I love that M'Baku and Korg get prime spots as everyone charges into battle. It shows a lot of how random mashing up a lot of these worlds are. I actually just re-watched the entire battle here, which you should also do. There is a ridiculous amount of little lines and moments that connect the franchise. Spider-Man's insta-kill. The Wasp slyly referring to Steve Rogers as "Cap" to Paul Rudd after she made fun of him in Ant-Man and the Wasp (2018). Weird Guardians banter. Funny Valkyrie banter. La Cucaracha. It's as if dumb Ant-Man movies are infiltrating the Avengers movies. Black Panther calls Hawkeye "Clint" after this scene in Civil War (2016). It's actually a little ridiculous.

Most importantly, though, the images I've had in my head literally since the 80s of insane stupid comic superheros mashing up against each other on a big screen comes to life more than I could have ever dreamed. It hit an emotional core I didn't know I had, and clearly affected quite a few other people. This scene entered pop culture in a way that no other scene this year, or in many years has.

It's been the subject of memes, full-on parody, a surprisingly thoughtful musical analysis, and other fun recreations. We're at the point where everyone knows the rhythm of that Cap vs Thanos fight. The Stormbreaker snatch and press into Thor's chest. The Mjolner save and catch. The running spinning smack, the lightning, the hammer shield toss. It's so damn satisfying.

I have a feeling that we'll be returning to this scene quite often. It's the best in any action film of recent memory. Importantly, though, it's because it's steeped in character, stakes, goals, set-up and pay-off. Marvel has its faults for sure, and I won't rank Endgame as one of my best films of the year, because it literally isn't even a movie. It's just a sprawling nightmare. However, this scene is downright amazing and I think folks who tote Marvel as the Death of Cinema ignore how well they can pull off a moment like this. It's not easy.

Oh, and the runner-up is definitely when Captain Wack swims with dolphins who definitely aren't dolphins in The Beach Bum. I cannot find a clip, but here's the next best thing:

What did you think? What is your vote this year?

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