Friday, January 23, 2009

Moments of 2008

In conjunction with my favorite films of the year list, I offer up some moments out of 2008 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. Possible spoilers so beware!

1. The performance of Robert Downey Jr. in "Tropic Thunder" and his many reaction shots.
2. In Christophe Honore's "Love Songs", the dreamlike image of a man hovering towards the camera down a rainy French street.
3. In You Le's "Summer Palace", the shot of a man and woman silently walking in silhouette against a sun-drenched river.
4. Richard Jenkins finally letting out his emotions on a man behind glass in an immigration center. "The Visitor".
5. In an internet cafe, cut to a dog, back to a man waiting for an internet connection to connect, back to the dog outside... timed to a U2 song. "Tell No One".
6. No finer performances this year than Laura Linney and Paul Giamatti in HBO's great, epic "John Adams".
7. The slow zoom into a blank TV screen and the reflection of a man (Sam Rockwell) waiting silently in a chair with a shotgun draped across his lap in David Gordon Green's "Snow Angels".
8. The ice-cold evil image of the Joker (Heath Ledger) hanging his head outside the back window of a police car, hair blowing wildly in the wind, completely at peace with the chaos he just created in "The Dark Knight".
9. The performance of Winona Ryder as Death Nell in "Sex and Love 101"- one scene with her in a diner is worth suffering through the whole movie.
10. Medium length shot down a blood splattered hallway as Beatrice Dalle ferociously tries to kick down a door separating her from her pregnant prey in the French horror movie "Inside".
11. The dream like home movie images that open "Paranoid Park" as skaters rumble across concrete ramps.
12. The POV shot from inside a closet- Brad Pitt looks at the door, to the bathroom where George Clooney is taking a shower, across the bed, to a window... and then back to a purple pillow laying on the bed. More visual brilliance from the Coen Brothers in "Burn After Reading".
13. Mickey Rourke, emerging from his slumber in the back of his van to playfully wrestle with some kids outside... a giant with a heart of gold in "The Wrestler".

14. In "My Blueberry Nights" alcoholic bar patron David Straithern explaining the symbolism behind the colored poker chips in his wallet.
15. The way Christine Collin's (Angelina Jolie) first phone call to the police registers sadness and confusion... and the way her voice cracks when she first tries to explain her name- either a marvelous stretch of method acting or serendipitous coincidence that loans her performance a gut wrenching sense of loneliness. "Changeling".
16. A little girl covering her ears and standing motionless in silhouette as doctor's restrain her storytelling friend in "The Fall".
17. Col von Stauffenberg (Tom Cruise) looking down trying to follow which briefcase is his in Bryan Singer's impressive, taut thriller "Valkyrie". One of the many moments that gets the viewer's pulse racing and brow sweating with tension.
18. Ed Norton's face dropping with sadness the first time he sees Betty (Liv Tyler) on a park bench. "The Incredible Hulk".
19. A car passing a woman on the street... and two lovers not reuniting in "Summer Palace".
20. "My tooth really hurts" "I can fix that for you." the final lines of dialogue spoken in "Ghost Town", ending on the right note of connection and tenderness.
21. A young boy sitting on a train, tapping the top of a trunk... and a final scene that reverberates with chilling connotations. "Let the Right One In"
22. In "Rachel Getting Married", the rehearsal dinner scene that runs on for far too long yet creates a palpable sense of community.... until Kym (Anne Hathaway) stands up and gives her speech. I could feel the tension in the theater rise with every word, waiting for the breakdown.
23. In "The Visitor", the way Richard Jenkins slowly turns his head to give a mother her moment while reading a letter from her son.
24. The way that Heath Ledger curls out the response "yes" after being asked "you think you can just come in and here steal from us!?" The Dark Knight.
25. The non-chalant and robotic way that a shirtless Asian man picks up a gun and walks into a room to kill someone just because he's told to do so in Oliver Assyas' abstract thriller "Boarding Gate".
26. The long take of a woman trying to get comfortable on a hotel room bed while a man unrolls his black bag of knives and utensils on a table in the corner of the room in Christi Mungui's agonizingly brilliant "4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days".
27. A foot chase across a busy French highway in "Tell No One" and pretty much the exact way a foot chase across a busy highway would end.
28. The first phone call to Cox (John Malkovich) and Brad Pitt's reading of "the security... of your shit." "Burn After Reading"
29. A smoke outside a cafe on a cold night with an ex-girlfriend and the uncomfortable, all-too-real conversation that follows in Wong Kar Wai's much maligned and overlooked gem "My Blueberry Nights".

30. "Damn, I don't know why that smelled like bologna." Robert Downey Jr. in "Tropic Thunder".
31. A seance captured in night vision, full of hidden corners and ominous sounds that had the hair on the back of my neck standing straight up. "The Orphanage".
32. The contest of putting dishes into the dishwasher. "Rachel Getting Married".
33. The quick zoom as Randy the Ram (Rourke) looks up to the second floor and sees Marisa Tomei gone, and his jump into the oblivion. "The Wrestler"
34. In Neil LaBute's nice return to suburban-malaise-form "Lakeview Terrace", the way Samuel Jackson quietly turns a dinner party into an aggressive attack on inter-racial marriage.
35. I'd like one mocha coffee, black." "Can't you see we're havin' a conversation here... white." Craig Robinson in "Zack and Miri Make a Porno"
36. A penguin making a break and wandering off into the white abyss by itself in Werner Herzog's overly pretentious but visually sumptuous documentary "Encounters at the End of the World".
37. What happens if you don't invite a vampire in... and the explosive hug that Oskar gives Eli after seeing it. "Let the Right One In"
38. The slow motion way that Harvey Milk (Sean Penn) puts his hands up in a vain attempt to stop the bullets in "Milk".
39. The first sounds of Etta James' voice (Beyonce Knowles) partially obscured by a bathroom door, and the mournful voice that overtakes the film. "Cadillac Records".
40. A cell phone ringing... and ringing... "Slumdog Millionaire"


RC said...

what a great and thoughtful list...i too loved many of these moments and your list brought them back.

nice work.

(i can still hear the ringtone of that slumdog ringtown)

Joe Baker said...

Thanks RC!

I think I could've listed 80 moments, but decided to stop before I reach the official "overkill" level of year end wrap up posts.

Mike Doc said...

I love that you still do this list every year, and I also love that we share fondness for the closing lines of "Ghost Town". What an unexpected treat that movie was. It was my in-flight entertainment on the plane from Los Angeles to Philadelphia this Christmas -- Continental Flight 73 is an odd place to laugh your ass off at Ricky Gervais, and be unexpectedly touch by Tea Leoni's mid-film monologue.

Joe Baker said...


Better than the in-flight movies I've had the privilege to sit through- namely one of those horrible Eddie Murphy comedies.

And yes, I recommend "Ghost Town" every chance I get.