There’s a visually engaging Vanity Fair piece called “The 25 Most Influential Movie Scenes of the Past 25 Years.” Except it’s not so much about scenes that were influential as much as highly memorable — scenes that dominated conversations for years to come.
We all have our favorites in this regard, but I would definitely omit (a) the opening scenes in Toy Story and Scream, (b) an allegedly comic axe-murder scene in American Psycho, (c) the flashlight close-up horror moment in The Blair Witch Project, (d) “King Kong ain’t got shit on me” in Training Day, (e) Gollum vs. Smeagal in The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, (f) Diane Keaton cries while writing a play in Something’s Gotta Give, (g) the “chosen one” scene in Star Wars: Episode III — Revenge of the Sith, (h) the chest-waxing scene in The 40 Year-Old Virgin, (i) the favela chase scene in Fast Five, and (j) the sunken place scene in Get Out
But I agree with highlighting (a) the “king of the world” scene in Titanic, (b) the gutterballs dream sequence in The Big Lebowski, (c) the Omaha Beach landing in Saving Private Ryan, (d) the bullet-time action scene in The Matrix, (e) the flying-ballet combat scenes in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, (f) the Gwyneth Paltrow-Nico-“These days” sequence in The Royal Tenenbaums, (g) Bill Murray whispering to Scarlet Johansson at the end of Lost In Translation, (h) the Edward-meets-Bella scene in Twilight, (i) “I wish I knew how to quit you” in Brokeback Mountain and (j) the “I drink your milkshake” finale in There Will Be Blood.
I’m neutral on Michael Moore‘s ambushing of Charlton Heston in Bowling for Columbine. Memorable, okay, but less than profound.
My all-time earth mover and brain–shaker of the last quarter-century — the scene that knocked me for a total loop and gave me a cinematic endorphin rush like nothing else — was the mob-attack-upon-the-van sequence in Alfonso Cuaron‘s Children of Men (’06).
The Vanity Fair piece celebrates this also, but co-author K. Austin Collins belittles it. He doesn’t say that it set a new standard for brilliant action cinematography, which is most certainly did. He says that it “set a standard for showing off.” He also calls COM‘s trio of edit-free, long-take scenes “its loudest accomplishment.”
The high-water mark of both Cuaron and cinematographer Emmanuel “Chivo” Lubezki‘s careers was about loudness and “showing off”? This has to be one of the most asinine assessments of an unquestionably great film that I’ve ever read.
Emmanuel “Chivo” Lubezki quote, posted in VF piece: “Obviously, everybody thought we should do [it] in CG. And for a couple of months, we were all satisfied with the main idea. But every time I thought about it, something felt really weird and wrong. Something told me that shooting that scene in green scene was going against everything else that we’d done.
“By doing tests, I realized that if I was able to hang the camera from the roof of the car, maybe I could do the entire shot in one shot. That was important, because it’s a way of immersing the audience — and also not glamorizing violence. By doing everything in real time, I think you feel the desperation and the claustrophobia of the characters. It’s a very long story, but I found all these pieces that were made for other things.
“I came back to Los Angeles, and we put together this thing that’s called the H dolly on top of a car. And in only one week, we put together this thing that nobody had ever done before.”