Friday, January 1, 2010

Whispers, sweat and sharks: The Top 10 film scenes of the decade

By Lucy Jones The Telegraph : December 23rd, 2009

I’m getting rather bored with lists, aren’t you? Best film, best television show, best celebrity… How much more interesting would it be to read about the Top 10 Weirdest Items Deep-fried in Darlington or the Top 10 Shrews who can Trapeze?

So, in an effort to be a little narrower, here are – in my mind – the best film scenes of the last 10 years:

10. The Soggy Bottom Boys in O Brother, Where Art Though? (2000)

While the Coen brothers’ No Country for Old Men is a better film, it has no obvious standout scene. O Brother, on the other hand, does. The Odyssey-based film charts the journey of three chain gang escapees. Their fortunes turn when they record the song Man of Constant Sorrow at a radio broadcast station. The zenith of the film occurs as the main character, played by George Clooney, tries to win his wife back at a campaign meeting they’ve snuck into. Cue the Soggy Bottom Boys:

9. The Pale Man in Pan’s Labryinth (2006)

I walked out of Pan’s Labyrinth feeling like a piece of gum on a frozen pavement. Spat out by a serial killer. But what a tour de force. Guillermo del Toro’s imagination continues to twist and screw in his film, set during the Franquist repression. I’ve chosen the scene where Ofelia finds herself in the lair of the Pale Man, a child-eating monstrosity. He is seated at a magnificent banquet and you know what’s going to happen if she allows herself just a little taste, a mere morsel, only the one grape, from his table…

8. The Jaguar Shark in The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou (2004)

This film divides people. Some prefer The Darjeeling Limited – an infinitely inferior film, in my book. The comedy by Wes Anderson stars Bill Murray, Angelica Huston and Willem Defoe. It details Zissou’s quest to take revenge on the “Jaguar shark” that killed his best friend Estaban du Planter. After various romantic complications, kidnappings, pirate attacks, and paternal reunions, the film ends as the remaining cast discover the shark in question and decide it is too beautiful to be slaughtered. Sigur Ros provides the ethereal accompaniment.

7. The dogs in Waltz with Bashir (2008)

If you haven’t seen this you must. It’s stunning, sophisticated and you’ll walk away from it feeling like you’ve been punched. I haven’t chosen the obvious scene in the film – when the animation turns into real-life footage of the Sabra and Shatila massacre – but this comes close. The film is made by Ari Folman who was an infantry soldier in the Israel Defence Forces. He tells the story of his own search for lost memories of the 1982 Lebanon War. It kicks in at 0.50 minutes.

6. The accident in The Lives of Others (2006)

I think Das Leben der Anderen, or The Lives of Others, was the best film of 2006. It’s about a German playwright and his actress lover who are being monitored by the Stasi in East Berlin. It’s a tale of paranoia, betrayal, lust and loyalty but you’re never prepared for what happens in this scene. In fact, I’m pretty reluctant to include it because it really needs to be watched in context – and it’s also rather upsetting. Perhaps don’t watch it if you haven’t seen the film yet.

5. The Canned Heat dance in Napoleon Dynamite (2004)

This kooky comedy about a sensitive high school geek contains possibly the best supporting character of the decade in film: Napoleon’s brother Kip. The scene I’ve chosen isn’t just a silly dance to a Jamiroquai song; it’s the triumphant sweetness of adolescent acceptance, finally.

4. The whisper in Lost in Translation (2003)

The perfect thing about Sofia Coppola’s film is that the love affair between Bob (Bill Murray) and Charlotte (Scarlett Johanssen) is never realised. They meet in Tokyo and become friends, united by loneliness and doubts about the choices they’ve made. On the way to the airport in a taxi, Bob spies Charlotte in a crowd and runs to her. The last few minutes of the film are tense, understated and heart-thumping. What does he whisper in her ear?

I’m afraid I coudn’t find the clip for this – and I didn’t want to give you digitally enhanced videos with the suspected final words layered on top.

3. The Angkor Wat scene in In the Mood for Love (2000)

Another whisper scene but this time by Wong Kar-Wai. After a complicated love affair, Chow Mo-Wan, played by Tony Leung, visits Angkor Wat. He whispers his secrets into a hole in the wall before plugging it with grassy mud, which he believes will shore up them up forever.

2. The Milkshake scene in There Will Be Blood (2007)

Can Daniel Day Lewis do no wrong? The famous “milkshake” scene secured an Oscar for the actor for his portrayal of Daniel Plainview, an oil man. As soon as I watched this bit, I thought “this is going to be repeated on those shows with all the clips and ad breaks and stupid talking heads with nothing better to do on a Saturday night until the end of time.” It’s creepy and magnificent. And yes: utterly iconic.

1. The Opening Scene in Sexy Beast (2000)

“Urrryeah. Bloody hell. I’m sweatin’ here. Roastin’. Boilin’. Baykin’. Swelterin’,” drawls Ray Winstone. A searing sun. Cicadas. The camera pans to Winstone’s oily, pink body. There’s a bottle of Hawaiian Tropic oil to one side. “Fan-dabby-dozy-tastic”. The Strangler’s Peaches bass riff comes in as he levers himself up to get a beer. Is this the best beginning to a film ever? Well, that’s another post…

Right my wrongs in the comment box below. There were many moments I had to leave out…

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