Monday

Favorite Movie Scenes

Rain drops on roses and whiskers on kittens…blah, blah…favorite things.

Favorite things! Favorite things!  How about favorite movies?  I have lots of favorite movies!  Favorite ghost movies, favorite musicals, crime, comedy, drama, science-fiction, foreign, romance, westerns, on and on and on.  Some of these movies are my favorite because they are just really really good.  But sometimes I get a yearnin’ for a real stinker.  You may not know this but occasionally good movies and stinker movies both have a scene or scenes that require one to watch that movie over and over.  So, because I like making lists and who doesn’t, I have come up with a list of some of my favorite movies, be they good or stinkers, based on a scene or scenes in that movie.  It’s just that there are just some movie moments that stay in ones mind forever.

In chronological order:

My Man Godfrey, 1936, starring the great Carole Lombard, William Powell, Gail Patrick, Alice Brady.  This movie is one of my all time
favorite screwball movies.  Watching the dysfunctional Bullock family stampede through a lot of silliness always makes me smile.  Tucked inside this wonderful movie is a scene that I always watch for.  This particular moment showcases the talents of one of Hollywood’s great character actors, Misha Auer playing the role of Carlo Mrs. Bullock’s “protégé”.  The fun starts when Mrs. Bullock asks Carlo to imitate a monkey.  It’s a laugh from the moment he bounces around with an orange in his mouth to the end when he’s sulking by the doorway.  A very funny moment and by the way, Misha Auer was nominated for best supporting actor for his role in this movie.

Shall We Dance
, 1937, Fred Astaire, Ginger Rogers.  Oh, there’s nothing better than an Astaire-Rogers movie!  This couple created some beautiful dance sequences…who can forget the floating ostrich feather gown of Rogers and all the feathers sticking to Astaire’s black tux (Top Hat) or the exquisite beaded dress who’s sleeves keep whacking Astaire in the face (Follow the Fleet).  However, I love watching, without interruption, the roller-skating Let’s Call the Whole Thing Off moment.  I don’t know how many takes were required to film this wonderful sequence…probably if one wanted to, one could set down and count the cuts, but why bother when you can just sit there and watch a masterful moment by two greats and on skates!

The Maltese Falcon
, 1941, Humphrey Bogart, Mary Astor, Sidney Greenstreet, Peter Lorre.  Forget that over used “here’s looking at you kid,” from Casablanca!  I prefer this film noir movie and always get a chill when Bogart mutters “the stuff that dreams are made of.”  But my favorite moment is the scene right before that memorable quote.  In typical gumshoe manner Sam Spade (Bogart) gives Mary Astor up.  “If they hang you I’ll always remember you…don’t be silly your taking the fall…I won’t play the sap for you…you killed Miles and you’re going over for it.”  Tears glistening from Mary’s eyes as the elevator door closes and she’s taken to jail.  Great scene!  Great film noir!

Ivy, 1947, Joan Fontaine, Herbert Marshall, Patrick Knowles.  This is a little known black and white gem of a murder story.  Filmed at odd angles, utilizing close-ups along with the effective use of dark and light we follow the narcisstic psychopath Ivey (Joan Fontaine) as she plots to murder her husband.  One of the best moments is when she’s putting poison in a hidden compartment in her purse.  Her face is hidden in shadows; we only see her hands as she spoons the poison in.  The anxiety of the moment intensified by the odd harpsichord music playing in the background as Ivy hurries to do her handy work.  This is a rare film that’s hard to find, occasionally it is shown on TCM and if ever you get the chance, I recommend you do watch it – you won’t be disappointed.

Rashomon, 1950, Toshiro Mifune, Masayuki Mori, Takashi Shimuram Machiko Kyo.  As much as I admire this film beauty and consider it a classic, ushering in Japan’s golden cinema, there are moments while
watching this movie when I just have to shout: “quit screaming, get to the end of the woods and stab the guy!”  However, if you have never seen what some consider one of Japan’s finest movie, what are you waiting for?  Set some time aside and watch.  The plot is a narrative of a murder but it is told from 4 different viewpoints and in the end we never know which one is the truth.  My favorite scene is in the very beginning when the robber first glimpses the woman hidden beneath the veil.  The breeze stirring gently through the trees lifting the veil aside revealing her beautiful face and then the trouble begins.

The Quiet Man, 1954, John Wayne, Maureen O’Hara.  What a feel good movie!  This lovely little movie is one of my favorites and in my opinion John Wayne’s best.  It’s full of whimsy and Irish stereotypes – there isn’t a bad Irishman I n the group, and, that includes the IRA members.  The Highlight of this movie for me is when John Wayne pulls Maureen O’Hara from the train and drags her 5 miles to her brother’s house.  Over hills, rocks, streams, she swings at him, he kicks her, she loses her shoe and all the while the village people follow behind, cheering the feuding couple on.  This scene is representative of a feel good movie with just a touch of blarney thrown in.

Rear Window, 1954, James Stewart, Grace Kelly.  Oh sure, there are scarier Hitchcock movies out there, but one doesn’t have to be scared to have suspense.  Sort of.  This movie is for voyeurs – we watch an incapacitated Jimmy Stewart as he watches what his neighbors are doing.  He starts with just a pair of
binoculars; along the way he draws his girlfriend, nurse, friend and us into his watching.  Eventually, they all have binoculars while he has graduated to a camera with a telephoto lens.  He becomes obsessed with what he believes to have been a murder of the neighbor across the street.  I love watching this movie, watching all the little stories go on, but my favorite moment is when the killer (Raymond Burr) slowly looks up and stares menacingly into the camera.  Gets me every time.

Jaws, 1975, Roy Scheider, Robert Shaw, Richard Dreyfuss.  Dun-dun! Dun-dun! Dun-dun-dun-dun-dun-dun-dun-dun, da-na-na!  What a riveting movie, doesn’t lose anything with time and contrary to what you might think, my stand out scene is not the swimmer at the beginning of the movie.  Although, I will admit that scene keep me from swimming for a long time.  Nope, my scene is when Chief Brody is “chumming” for sharks – and gets one – a big one.  The expression on his face is priceless, the cigarette hanging from his mouth as he backs in the boats cabin, his line memorable: “You’re gonna need a bigger boat.”

The Killing Fields, 1984, Sam Waterson, Haing S. Ngor, Julian Sands, John Malkovich.  This is a award winning story of being left behind, being abandoned, whether it’s a friend or an entire country, that’s what this film is really about…abandonment.  This story covers the 1973 fall of Cambodia, the establishment of the Khmer Rouge regime and eventual genocide of the Cambodian people.  We follow a group of newspaper
reporters who are trapped inside the country, the Western reporters are able to get out, Dith Pran is not so lucky.  The main part of the film highlights the harrowing journey of Dith Pran as he attempts to survive and eventually escape.  I have two scenes from this movie; the first one is the heart pounding evacuation…the race to the helicopters, the odd oriental percussion music adding to the desperation of the moment.  The other scene is when Dith Pran has escaped through the rice paddies eventually falling in a murky causeway filled with odd twigs.  Then in horror we see that he has really fallen into what is actually a “killing field” or dumping ground for decaying corpses and skeletons.  Very powerful movie.

Babette’s Feast, 1987, Stephane Audran, Birgitte Federspiel, Bodil Kjer.  Food film!  Food film!  Unlike a lot of the food films out there, this lovely little Danish film is about more than just food.  It’s about enjoying the pleasure of renewed friendship, harmony and love.  With just a little whimsy thrown in.  It takes place in a strict religious community located on the dreary desolate coast of Denmark.  Seeking refuge from one of the French revolutions is Babette.  For 15 years Babette is a servant for two spinster sisters in a Lutheran sect, life goes on, nothing much happens until one day Babette wins the lottery.  What does Babette do with her winnings?  Why, she makes a sumptuous meal for the twelve elderly members of the religious community.  This is the lengthiest scene I’ve picked, the meal is truly magical to behold and the affect it has on everyone involved is a pleasure to watch.  It is a lovely film, and I highly recommend this to anyone who loves art and beauty.

There are a lot of great movies and a lot of great scenes that didn’t make my list…but I do have some honorable mentions:  Wizard of Oz, 1939, tornado scene; When Ladies Meet, 1941, a melodramatic stinker, but watch for the two women together scene; The Lady Eve, 1941, the shoe scene; It’s a Wonderful Life, 1946, George and Mary on the phone scene; Duel in the Sun, 1946, a melodramatic shoot out at the end; Treasure of the Sierra Madre, 1948, “we don’t need no stinkin’ badges” scene; White Heat, 1949, “top of the world” scene; Sunset Boulevard, 1950, not the stairway scene at the end, but the body in the pool at the beginning; Niagara, 1953, Marilyn Monroe’s death scene at the tower; Les Diaboliques, 1955, bathtub scene; The Court Jester, 1955, vessel with the pestle scene; Psycho, 1960, shower scene; Dr. Strangelove, 1964, Dr. Strangelove being choked by his own hand and the eventual Nazi salute; Planet of the Apes, 1968, Statue of Liberty scene; Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, 1969, “Think ya used enough dynamite there, Butch?” scene; Godfather, 1972, “leave the gun, take the cannoli,” scene; One Flew over the Cuckoo Nest, 1975, bathroom sink scene; Rocky Horror Picture Show, 1975, Tim Curry arriving in the elevator; Annie Hall, 1977, Christopher Walken and Woody Allen suicide discussion car scene; China Syndrome, 1979, dying Jack on the floor “I can feel it; Alien, 1979, crawling in the duct work; Basic Instinct, 1992, leg cross scene; Schindler’s List, 1993, red coat scene; The Two Towers, 2002, Legolas’ interesting method of mounting a galloping horse.

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