Saturday, 6 June 2009

The Best Scenes of the Decade (So Far)

So we're halfway through 2009 and the time is very nearly upon us when we can look back at the noughties and reflect on what the decade gave us. Opinions seem divided on its overall contribution to cinema. Most people I've talked to agree that this decade hasn't produced as many classic films as the nineties but recognise that movies have come a long way in the last ten years. There have been plenty of films that will be remembered for many years to come but it has also been a decade of great moments; individual scenes or sequences that stand out in the memory even if we forget most of the rest of the film. This list of personal favourites could very well be dominated by the many visual effects sequences of technical brilliance that have occurred over the last ten years but instead is focused on innovation and excellence in areas such as acting, camera-work, direction, dialogue and most of all their emotional impact. These are the scenes that play out in your head long after you have seen them...

Oh, and there may be some minor spoilers along the way.

10. The Pale Man- Pan's Labyrinth (2006)

Why? In a film that inspired the imaginations of almost everyone who saw it, this scene highlighted the shear inventiveness of Guillermo del Toro and his design team. The Pale Man's eyeballs-in-hands are perhaps the defining image from the film and this incredibly tense and dark scene beautifully sums up this very grown-up fairytale.

9. Ritchie Tenenbaum's suicide attempt- The Royal Tenenbaums (2001)

Why? Wes Anderson has always incorporated dark themes into his offbeat world but with this scene he took things a step further. It's wonderfully edited and in Elliott Smith's 'Needle in the Hay' you have a perfect use of music in film that's difficult to beat. It packs a powerful emotional punch.

8. Winkies- Mulholland Drive (2001)

Why? It's a masterclass in tension and one of Lynch's greatest surreal moments in a career of great surreal moments. This scene has found its way on to several 'scariest moments' lists and for good reason; you know damn well that there will be something around that corner, you prepare yourself, and every time it still makes you jump.

7. "Call it"- No Country for Old Men (2007)

Why? Anton Chigurh is one of the best villains to emerge this decade and this scene demonstrates Bardem's superbly menacing performance. The Coens lift Cormac McCarthy's brilliant dialogue and showcase it with a directing flair that made them well worthy of their Oscar.

6. Anton Ego's flashback- Ratatouille (2007)

Why? I had to include something from Pixar in this, and choosing which scene was extremely difficult. They may have taken animation to the next level but it's in their storytelling that Pixar really showcase their genius. In this scene, scornful food critic Anton Ego is taken back to his childhood by a simple dish served up by aspiring chef Remy the rat. Its the sort of emotive and truly touching moment that Disney was so good at in their glory days. Never dismiss it as 'just animation;' this is one of the most moving scenes of the last ten years in any film.

5. "I drink your milkshake!"- There Will Be Blood (2007)

Why? People got so caught up in the meme surrounding this that many of them forgot how good a scene it was actually from. In it we feel the full force of Daniel Day-Lewis's performance; the best of the 21st century so far and a strong contender for one of the greatest ever. Don't forget Paul Dano's performance in this either. All in all a demonstration of great acting and dialogue.

4. Battle tracking shot- Children of Men (2006)

Why? The tracking shot in the car earlier in the film could quite easily have made this list too but this scene takes a truly thrilling approach to the absolute mayhem occurring on screen. We follow Theo as he races to rescue Kee in the middle of an intense battle. It's not actually a continuous shot but it is testament to the editing and CGI trickery employed that it appears to be completely seamless. A thoroughly different approach to an action scene.

3. Guiding the blind man- Amélie (2001)

Why? It can make you smile every time. It's such a simple thing, but it takes a lot of skill to create such a feel good moment. Take Amélie, one of the most lovable characters in film history, performing one of her kindest acts and combine it with the unique cinematography, the colourful market scene and the look of joy on the blind man's face and it all adds up to a big, satisfied grin on even the stoniest of faces.

2. Hallway fight- Oldboy (2003)

Why? The best fight scene of the decade. The progress is slow and the fighting may not be pretty but it is filmed with such innovation that you feel yourself becoming physically exhausted with Dae-su Oh. It may seem more brutal than skillful but the sheer amount of fight choreography that must have gone into such a long take would be immense. On top of everything else the hint of black comedy that counteracts the violence really makes this scene.

1. The 17 minute single shot- Hunger (2008)

Why? Simply stunning. This may seem like an odd choice; the film was well received but is probably the least well-known on the list but there is no scene as integral to plot and in possession of such brilliant acting and dialogue as this one. In it, hunger striker Bobby Sands discusses his past and morality with his discouraging priest and for nearly seventeen minutes we see the two, sat at a table and having a conversation in a single shot. Actors Michael Fassbender and Liam Cunningham briefly moved in with each other and practiced the exchange continuously for days on end to get it right, stretching their acting skills to the limit, but it truly pays off. Oh, and if you're wondering if two blokes having a conversation about morality can really be that absorbing don't worry. The dialogue is compelling and incredibly fluid and provides an insight into Sands' mentality and determination that is absolutely crucial considering the harrowing scenes that follow this conversation. In a film that is brutal and often difficult to watch, this scene is utterly compelling.

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  1. Lists like this are subjective, but I have to take a fence (cymbal crash) to number 1. That scene was beautiful, no doubt about it, but unlike the other scenes mentioned, it was in no way innovative. It was a stationary camera and two people: simple and elegant, but nowhere near the best of this decade, especially in a decade where we had works like Eternal Sunshine (any scene, really), Wall-E (perhaps the best photographed animated film ever) or the very innovative Russian Ark! Well, I'll step off my soap box now!

  2. It's a crime that Ratatouille is on here and the Space Dance between WALL-E and EVE is nowhere to be found.

  3. Where, I ask, is the Dark Knight?

  4. This is kinda stretching the "of the decade", as this movie was released in 1999, but one of my favorite scenes of all time is the scene in "Magnolia" when all 9 characters are singing along to Aimee Mann's "Give Up".

    But, at least you have TWBB on the list.

  5. This comment has been removed by the author.

  6. What about Let The Right One In's pool scene? The shot of Oskar underwater and watching the bullies dragged around was pretty excellent. And seeing the aftermath was pretty amazing as well.

  7. I would include "You shall not pass!" by Gandalf (vs the Balrog)


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