I’m still hoping to see The Hobbit, Catching Fire, Saving Mr. Banks, Nebraska, Frozen and Blue is the Warmest Colour before the end of the year but because Christmas week is already full of wonderful things I’m sharing this list early.
Here are my ten favourite film scenes of 2013:
10. The whole opening scene of Star Trek Into Darkness was great fun showing that the movie was not going to be as sullen as its title suggested. The finest moment is after they have escaped from the spear throwing aliens when the USS Enterprise rises up from beneath the surface of the sea. It has always been a cool looking ship but this is its finest cinematic moment.
9. There is a scene at the start of gothic vampire drama Byzantium where Gemma Arterton’s Clara is running away from a male assailant. Eventually they end up in the same room and the tables turn with Clara getting a string around the man’s neck. She starts to garrotte him and you see the cord cut into his throat at which point you think you are getting the measure of how gory this film is going to be. Then you realise you had underestimated things slightly because the she keeps pulling and soon the guy’s head has come right off. It seems macabre to celebrate such a scene but it is a very powerful and surprising bit of film making in which you learn that this woman and this movie mean business.
8. I connected with The Bling Ring more than a lot of other people, really liking it’s morally ambiguous and downbeat storytelling. There are also a few nice directorial moments in there. My favourite of these is the moment when one of the girls is arrested. Rather than just getting more shots of police bursting in we watch her as she eats breakfast. Sirens approach, clearly nothing unusual in LA but you slowly see her reaction as she realises that they are not going to pass, they are coming for her.
7. I loved this little interchange in The Way Way Back. Our misfit hero is lying on the car enthusiastically singing along to Can’t Fight This Feeling when the pretty girl next door catches him. He tries to style it out but she totally calls him on it:
Susanna: You like REO Speedwagon?
Duncan: Not really! My mom borrowed my IPod. She must of put the song on it.
Susanna: So you decided to put it on and sing the shit out of it?
6. It isn’t really a movie scene but it is a part of the film that is so often forgettable that it is great to see it done so well. I am talking about the closing credits and Iron Man 3. A series of images from the previous two hours are paraded on the screen but it is the music that plays underneath them that stands out. The track is Can You Dig It? by Brian Tyler and it is essentially just a jazzed up version of the main theme. Never before though, has such a tune so perfectly described the movie it comes from. The piece is dramatic, silly, occasionally surprising yet always fun just like the film. It is reminiscent of Neil Hefti’s original Batman theme with a splash of The James Taylor Quartet and a final Bondian flourish. Perfect.
5. Of course there are a number of brilliant moments in the main running time of Iron Man 3, mostly puncturing the conventions of action cinema. The biggest of these involves the Mandarin character but I also love the bits where Stark’s armour keeps failing him at inopportune moments. My favourite bit though is where one of the nameless henchmen pleads for his life, throwing his weapon down and his hands in the air. Fifty years of mindless minions unquestionably following orders to the point of death are then called out with the words “I don’t like working here, they’re just weird.”
4. Gravity is a wonderfully poetic film dressed up as an action thriller. It isn’t the subtlest metaphor but the point where stranded astronaut Ryan Stone’s moment of rebirth is signified by her floating into the foetal position is just beautiful.
3. Stoker is a string of beautifully composed cinematic moments but the greatest of these has to be the piano duet. Creepy uncle and strange niece find an uneasy alliance at the keyboard showing that they don’t have to trust one another to work together. It is the turning point of the film and we get a delicious slice of Philip Glass’ music along with it.
2. Made for cinema as much as it was made for TV, the Doctor Who 50th Anniversary Special, The Day of the Doctor was to all intents and purposes a film. Certainly it provided one of the most joyous moments I had at the flicks this year. The bit where the motorbike rode into the Tardis is the greatest use of 3D I have ever seen but it was the arrival of all thirteen Doctors, flying around Gallifray in their little blue boxes that really filled this nerd’s heart with joy. ALL THIRTEEN!
1. The Lone Ranger is certainly not a film that will be turning up in my films of the year list in a few weeks time but flawed as it was it did contain the craziest most tightly choreographed action sequence I saw all year. In fact you’d need to go back a lot more than twelve months to find its equal. There have been some great moments in the last thirty years (the pram down the steps in a The Untouchables, the foyer shoot out in The Matrix, the oil fight in Transporter, the foot chase in Casino Royale, the truck flip in The Dark Knight which they ripped off from Terminator 3) but in terms of a sustained series of connected events building up to a victorious pay off I think the train scene at the end of The Lone Ranger is possibly the best thing we’ve seen since Indy was chased by a boulder in 1981. Two trains, seven main characters, a spade, a tunnel, a ladder, some trees, cherries, several revolvers, a bridge and a horse all come together in a frisky ten minute symphony of cinema played out over Hans Zimmer’s version of Gioachino Rossini’s William Tell Overture. It is just brilliant.