In anticipation of my favorite films of the year list which should be appearing soon, I offer up some moments out of 2006 films that made an indelible impression on me. Older online buddies will recognize this as a recurring event. This list is a collection of film dialogue, gestures, camera movements, moods or looks and ideas within a given scene. This list is inspired by Roger Ebert's list of movie moments as well as the once great (now dead) yearly wrap up in Film Comment. Feel free to add your own.
1. The shot of the year- a crane shot up and over a building, briefly outlining the body of a person laying in a field of grass, shifting right, then following a police car down an alley- even though DePalma’s “The Black Dahlia” suffers from many things, its still a technically proficient and sometimes exciting effort.
2. After an argument, the gun shot that pierces the air in a genuinely surprising moment in David Jacobsen’s “Down In the Valley”.
3. Not only the entire performance of Q’Orianka Kilcher, but the moment she runs back into frame and clutches onto the arm of John Rolfe (Christian Bale) and James Horner’s music swells on the soundtrack- the perfect fusion of image, sound and emotion in Terence Malick’s grand masterpiece, “The New World”.
4. As Tubbs and Crockett (Farrell and Foxx) speak on a cell phone on the roof of a nightclub, the way the color of pink, purple and black illuminate the sky behind them in Michael Mann’s “Miami Vice”.
5. Robert Downey Jr. bursting into his crummy pad, pushing a bike as he mumbles” Total. Total.Total. Tot… total providence”… and then the five minute discussion between him and Woody Harrelson as they argue over the gears on the bike. “A Scanner Darkly”.
6. Penelope Cruz bringing a restaurant to a stop as she sings in “Volver”.
7. Two people casually meeting on the steps in the upper left hand corner of the frame.. such a hidden but telling moment in the film of the same name. in Michael Haneke's “Hidden”.
8. The torture sequence in “Casino Royale”. I was hurting right there with him.
9. The glances exchanged when a student (Shareeka Epps) sees her teacher (Ryan Gosling) crouched in the corner of a seedy motel room smoking crack while Broken Social Scene’s Shampoo Suicide plays wildy on the soundtrack in “Half Nelson”.
10. A group of people praying together… and the pure emotion that rolls out of Paul Giamatti as we realize he’s praying more for himself than for his visitor in M. Night Shyamalan’s greatly underappreciated “Lady In the Water”.
11. The regretful way in which Robert Downey Jr. flirts from the street with his first girlfriend (Rosario Dawson) as she sits at the window playing with her daughter. The whole film is masked in regret, but this scene stands out in “A Guide To Recognizing Your Saints”.
12. “Is it real?” and the way DiCaprio nervously looks to his left and bites his lip when asked this question in “The Departed”. Probably the most electric scene between a couple on film all year.
13. The totally unexpected (and restrained) response from Nick Nolte when he sees Maggie Cheung waiting outside the hotel, leaning on her bike in “Clean”.
14. The tale of Sonic Youth driving the streets of New York looking for a mentally unhinged Daniel Johnston in the year’s best documentary- “The Devil and Daniel Johnston”.
15. The best representation of ‘beer goggles’ ever put on film- “Beerfest”.
16. In IIya Khrzhanovsky’s “4”, a five minute scene as a woman wanders through a foggy, barren industrial landscape, the soundtrack filled with mechanical hisses and thuds, and she inexplicably arrives at the foot of a small hill where a funeral procession full of screaming, crying women appears in front of her. Russian cinema at its most bizarre.
17. The cast of a long shadow against the rubble of the ground where a skating rink once stood- Rocky (Sylvester Stallone) pointing to where he remembers Adrian and himself skating in “Rocky Balboa”… probably the surprise of the year as boxing takes a backseat to numerous scenes that emphasize nice acting and genuine heart.
18. Pell James as Maleria, the down home good Baptist girl corrupted in “The King”- a performance full of innocent sexuality and girl-next-door appeal who surely holds her own against the acting force of Gael Garcia Bernal.”
19. “You know, they say it’s not the apple on the tree that causes problems, but the pear on the ground.” Just one of the many great lines from John Michael Higgins that warrants repeating in Christopher Guest’s “For Your Consideration”.
20. The silent look that falls over Mos Def’s face when David Morse enters the bar- tension that could be cut with a knife in Richard Donner’s workmanlike action pic “Sixteen Blocks”.
21. The lateral tracking shot across the killing floor in “Fast Food Nation” and the single tear that falls down the face of Catalina Sandino Moreno in Linklater’s “Fast Food Nation”.
22. “I come to New York only with one suitcase and a veil full of gypsy tears to help protect me from AIDS”…. Straight from the mouth of “Borat”, one to never mince words.
23. That first glimpse of something in the darkness… as if the paranoia and claustrophobia of the film’s first 45 minutes wasn’t enough….. “The Descent”.
24. In “Miami Vice”, the static, beautifully composed scene as Gong Li chats with her boss on a bed in front of a huge glass window, and outside stands a tall oak tree with fluorescent lightning crackling in the background.
25. Virtually any scene that features Mia Kirshner in Brian DePalma’s “The Black Dahlia”, an actress whose vitality and sexuality single handedly saved the film from becoming truly horrendous, and especially the way she looks directly at the camera and wipes away a tear as she curls up her torn-stockinged legs in a vain attempt to mask her vulnerability.
26. The minute long tracking shot that nervously follows Ethan Hunt (Cruise) as he runs and runs and runs down the street, narrowly avoiding wicker carts and people. “Mission Impossible III”
27. In the film’s most affecting thread, a deaf Japanese teenager (Ryuiko Richici) enters a rave and the film is rushed into hyper overdrive where drum beats and flashing lights takes control. If anything, director Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu has always been in full command of sound editing. “Babel”
28. Allow me to digress into the TV world for a minute- the performance of Peter Weller (yes, that Peter Weller) on “24”, the perpetual badass who finally rivals the hardcore edge of Jack Bauer (Keifer Sutherland). If only Jack would've given him 30 more seconds inside that apartment....
29. A man slitting his throat in front of us, and the way his body falls violently to the ground. “Hidden”
30. The response given by Elizabeth Rodriguez after she enters a white supremacist’s house and he tells her, “go ahead and shoot me, and she dies” in “Miami Vice”, a scene worthy of Dirty Harry pulled off magically by a tough actress who deserves so many more screen roles.
31. The numb expression on Jason Schwartzman’s face as huge plates of food cross over the table in front of him and his new wife. “Marie Antoinette”
32. The opening of “The Proposition” as sunlight streams through the bullet holes.
33. “Lady Vengenace” running against the wind and snow with a black brick wall behind her.
34. “Do you want some big ass fries to go with that big ass taco?” asks a mechanical food dispenser in Mike Judge’s sharp but slight “Idiocracy” 35. Martin Sheen’s body falling,, and falling.. off the roof of a building. “The Departed”.
36. A soldier telling the true story of his (wrong) split second decision to shoot and kill an Islamic woman in a black dress as she walks towards a tank in “The Ground Truth”.
37. Beatrice Dalle slowly swaggering her way around a pool table with a cigarette dangling from her mouth- no one makes hanging out seem cooler than Olivier Assayas in “Clean”.
38. The quick fadeouts as Dito’s father (Chazz Palminteri) begins to suffer a heart attack in “A Guide To Recognizing Your Saints”
39. “They got this house, and like… there’s a hole in the wall with.. like.. this tube stuck in the hole and its pointing towards this clock tower… and they like.. what time is it?” No one tells a story quite like Dave Chappelle. “Dave Chappelle’s Block Party”.
40.The sheer confusion and dread, subtly underplayed, as planes start dropping off the radar in “United 93”.