The Ten Best Movie Scenes of 2014

The video owl in Her

In a film filled with imagery there is one visual that stands out over all of the others. Joaquin Phoenix’s beleaguered protagonist Theodore has, it is fair to say, become somewhat emotionally reliant on his technology. Out for a walk he pauses to rest on wall by a bank of video screens. Unbeknownst to him an image of an owl, claws open to snatch its next meal, comes up behind him. He is framed by the talons and the picture says a thousand words about how he has fallen prey to a electronic facsimile of something that should be honest and natural. Something that isn’t real but it certainly looks like it will hurt him badly. That’s my reading but whatever you take from it, it’s a beautiful slice of mise en scène.

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Gandalf cleans his pipe in The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies

In a movie full of spectacle and high emotion the most memorable scene just has Bilbo and Gandalf sitting on a rock.

The titular battle has finished and the titular halfling is feeling pretty raw from everything he has seen. He’s encountered monsters and madness, he’s made new friends and seen them die. Gandalf, the ‘man’ who got him involved in all of it ought to have some words of comfort and wisdom but on this occasion the only sound he makes is the scratching of a stick inside his pipe. Bilbo’s well being apparently not as important as removing little bits of burnt weed. Maybe there’s nothing to be said, maybe nothing should be said, maybe he knows Bilbo can handle it or maybe this has all just been another day in the life of a wizard. Either way is a lovely character moment after the carnage.

Lip syncing in The Skeleton Twins

This film came and went with little fanfare in the UK but it had two of America’s biggest comedy stars, Kristen Wiig and Bill Hader, playing it straight as suicidal siblings in a moving family drama.

There is one moment where Milo wants to cheer up his sister Maggie and starts to lip sync to Starship’s Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now, clearly picking up on something they used to do in their teens.

Reluctant at first, Maggie succumbs and soon both of them are going for it.

I love that particular song beyond all reason and I’m also a big fan of lip syncing (it’s the new karaoke) so I was with them from the opening line. Mouth it with me – ‘Looking in your eyes, I see a paradise’.

Doc Brown in A Million Days to Die in the West

Seth MacFarlane’s follow up to Ted was widely derided, coming up now in many worst film of the year lists. It is self indulgent in the extreme and only occasionally funny but I was entertained. Among the jokes that do land are two western cameos. One of these sees Jamie Foxx turn up as Django to make a good point about institutional racism but the other is better.

Wandering through the street late one evening MacFarlane’s protagonist Albert hears knocking coming from a familiar looking blacksmith’s shed. Peering inside he interrupts Christopher Lloyd as Doctor Emmett Brown who frantically starts to cover up a certain DeLorean with a tarpaulin. It’s an obvious gag but immensely satisfying.

The opening dance from Guardians of the Galaxy

It had to be here. After the heartbreaking opening scene in which young Peter Quill has the worst ten minutes imaginable we flash forward to him as an adult Indiana Jonesing his way toward a mystical space relic. The setting is atmospheric and visually impressive but then he pauses, presses play on an old Walkman and the true tone of the film is set.

The opening fight in X-Men: Days of Future Past

The moment in this film that gets spoken of the most is Quicksilver’s kitchen dash but I think the opening fight between the future mutants and the sentinels is way better. It is simply the best choreographed action/effects sequence of the year and unlike most scenes of its type you genuinely can’t predict who is going be victorious. You generally know the good guys will win in the end but it quickly becomes obvious that this is not necessarily the case here.

The female has her head in her hands in Under the Skin

I’m about to spoil the end of this film a little so if you’re keen to see it (and you should) skip to the next one on the list.

When I say that the extra terrestrial female has her head in her hands, I mean literally. This brilliant sci-fi has a largely low budget sensibility throughout but then at the end the alien creature’s human covering splits and her true form is revealed. Suddenly it is apparent that the film has a reasonable special effects budget to play with after all.

Bewildered by what is happening to her she stairs down blankly at the face she has been wearing and it returns the gaze.

It is a haunting and powerful image and one that has stayed with me since I saw the film in April. Brilliant.

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Bill Nighy and Imelda Staunton making sandwiches in Pride

Like the scene with Gandalf and Bilbo this takes place near the end of the movie, after most of the drama has passed. Once again two of the main players sit together, engaged in a mundane task. To tell you what they say would be another spoiler and this time I will keep the secret. Let’s just say it is a lovely, delicately underplayed moment that shows the truth of both characters.

Setting some ground rules in The Amazing Spider Man 2

Andrew Garfield’s second Spider Man film was significantly flawed. If you view it as a super hero movie it is lacklustre and nonsensical; a poor example of a crowded genre.

If you think of it as a romance though it is far more satisfying. The Peter Parker/Gwen Stacey dynamic was the highlight of the first film and that element is strong here too. The chemistry between the leads is excellent and their relationship totally believable (other than the fact that he can climb walls and pick up cars).

There is one particular scene where the two of them, having split up, are setting the ground rules necessary for them to continue as friends. All of the super hero trappings are dropped and we are left with a flirtatious, sweetly affecting scene between two young people who desperately want to be together but can’t.

The I’ll Give You What You Want song from Muppets Most Wanted

The latest Muppet film was not quite as successful as it’s charming predecessor but it still had its moments.

The greatest, quirkiest, funniest, most surreal of these was the song Kermit’s evil doppelgänger sings to Miss Piggy to distract her from the suspicions she has that he is not what he appears. In some respects it is an interesting comment on the nature of love, empty promises and avarice but mostly it is just very funny. As the frog, in a white lounge suit and medallion, offers a mix of the mundane, the clichéd, the easily rhyming and the increasingly bizarre it is all just wonderfully muppet.

“You want a unicorn?
I’ll give it to you.
You want a puppy dog?
I’ll give it to you.
You want an ice cream cone?
I’ll give it to you.
You want a mortgage loan?
I’ll give it to you.
You want a satin pillow?
I’ll give it to you.
You want an armadillo?
I’ll give it to you.
You want a diamond ring?
I’ll give it to you.
You want a thingy thing?
I’ll give it to you.

You want a taste of fame?
I’ll give it to you.
You want a cupcake?
I’ll give it to you.
You want a cockatoo?
I’ll give it to you.
You want a kangaroo?
I’ll give it to you.
You want American car?
I’ll give it to you.
You want a Hollywood star?
I’ll give it to you.
You want to go to the moon?
I’ll see what I can do.

You get the idea but actually the lyrics alone do not do it justice.

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