Review of 2011: The Top 30 Scenes of 2011

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While I’ve honoured what I believe to be the best performances of the year, and will shortly sort the wheat from the chaff in films overall, there’s one other element of film that stands out, and it’s often when a film isn’t quite the sum of its parts. Yes, I thought I’d also pick out my favourite parts this year, and having initially started with an attempt at 25, then 10 and 40, I finally settled on 32. Unfortunately my need for conformity required me to stick to a round number, so I lopped two off the back end of the list and ended up with this top 30.

While the internet is a treasure trove of illegally downloaded material useful promotional clips, sadly I didn’t manage to find the actual clips from all 30, not least because some are still in cinemas. So here’s a collection of some of the actual clips, some other also good clips from the same films and some trailers where I couldn’t find anything resembling a useful clip. (I’m working on the Christmas principle of it’s the thought that counts.)

Finally, a word of warning. While I would normally consider this to be a resolutely PG blog, some of the clips in here are absolutely 18-rated, so those of a delicate disposition should think twice before clicking play on clips 27, 23, 20, 13, 10, 8 and 4, as they feature strong violence, and a fair selection of the others also include naughty language. All that said, I hope you enjoy.

30. Rango – Bar-room bravado

My favourite animated film this year was actually Tangled, but the best scene from an animated movie was this one, where Rango first introduces himself to the townsfolk.

29. Moneyball – Speedy dealings

Moneyball isn’t really a movie about baseball. Despite what you might have been told, it isn’t really a movie about statistics either. It does at times feel almost like a film about Wall Street traders, and this is clearest in the scene, the end of which is here, when Brad Pitt engages in some titanic trading with three different clubs to get the player he wants at the right price.

28. Meek’s Cutoff – Crossing the valley

Unfortunately just the trailer here, but the best scene is alluded to near the end of the trailer. It’s a tense scene when the travellers have to get the wagons across a large valley – the clip at the end of the trailer shows things not going exactly to plan.

27. Miss Bala – Crossing the border

From Mexico’s submission for the Foreign Language Oscar about a wannabe beauty queen caught up with drug runners, there are several scenes where we follow Laura’s viewpoint through messy or dangerous situations, none more so than the scene where she’s caught in a fire fight on returning from a trip across the border as a drug mule. See parts of that in this trailer.

26. Bullhead – The pivotal confrontation

Just the trailer again, but the most memorable scene in Bullhead is best seen in context of the film. It’s a tale of the Flemish hormone mafia (yes, you read that right) and the lead, Jacky, seems to have a terrible secret in his past, judging by the contents of his fridge and the frequent flashbacks to his childhood. About half way into the film, those two threads come together in a sickening act of violence.

25. Animal Kingdom – Baz and the police

Sadly not the scene I was looking for, the most memorable moment in the film is when Baz (Joel Edgerton) suggests he wants to get out of the robbery game, but then has an unexpected and shocking encounter with the police. Instead, to remind us of how great Animal Kingdom is, here’s a scene where matriarch Jacki Weaver is laying down her law.

24. TrollHunter – The bridge troll

One of this year’s best examples of what you can do on a limited budget, the dry humour and fantastic character design are both exemplified in the scene where the troll hunter straps on a metal suit for an encounter with a troll under a bridge. Here we see him after the troll’s gone back under the bridge.

23. I Saw the Devil – Taxi ride for three

I Saw The Devil only showed at the ICA in London due to the distributors getting cold feet over the violence, although it managed to get out uncut on DVD anyway. This is an example from very early in the film, although there are two or three equally impressive scenes later on, and one scene with an Achilles tendon that still makes me queasy now. This isn’t quite as seen in the film, but you get the idea.

22. Incendies – The bus attack

Just the trailer again this time, but you can see the aftermath of the bus attack in this trailer, when Nawal has been caught up in a religious conflict and attempts to do a good deed for another woman and her daughter.

21. Fast & Furious 5 – Safe-dragging

Some highlights here of the climactic safe-dragging sequence. If you’ve not seen Fast Five, then it’s one of the year’s best guilty pleasures, not least when the gang steal a safe and drag it round the streets of Rio behind two cars. The early train heist and the face-off between Vin Diesel and The Rock were also highlights.

20. Final Destination 5 – The bridge flash-forward

The Final Destination series has always been about the deaths, and most of the actual deaths in this fifth film in the series were actually a little weak and unbelievable. By far the best stretch was the traditional flash-forward scene, where the protagonist has their deadly premonition before being given the chance to cheat death – at least for a while.

19. X-Men: First Class – Round up the usual mutants

Plenty of choice scenes again in the X-Men origin story, and the scene where Michael Fassbender’s Eric tangles with three men in an Argentinian bar could have also made this list. But the most crowd-pleasing moment is when Charles and Eric attempt to round up more mutants in a montage, culminating in this crowd-pleasing cameo.

18. Rise of the Planet of the Apes – The bridge sequence

Everyone was pleasantly surprised when the latest Apes film – reboot, reimagining, call it what you will – turned out very nicely indeed. A small clip below leading up to the bridge confrontation, which was the action highlight, although there was plenty of dramatic meat to go with it.

17. Oslo, August 31st – Playing the piano

Another trailer for a fascinating Norwegian film charting a day in the life of a recovering drug addict. The most quietly beautiful moment comes close to the end of the film, when after all that’s gone before, Anders simply sits down and plays the piano.

16. Biutiful – The morning discovery

Trailer time again, but the most powerful scene in Biutiful is the discovery one morning of the fate of a group of workers who’ve all suffered the same tragic fate. In a film that’s bleak pretty much from start to finish it still manages to stand out as the most moving.

15. Snowtown – A bad year for dogs

Actually most animals had a rough year this year, the worst moment – yes, even worse than the dog death at the start of Tyrannosaur – was when John Bunting first started to show his true colours and challenges Jamie to show his, with the dog likely to suffer the consequences. Here’s an alternative clip to show just how powerful Snowtown is.

Snowtown – Clip 1. Watch more top selected videos about: Entertainment, Clip 1

14. Crazy, Stupid, Love. – Apartment seduction

Apologies for the subtitles here, but thought that was a small price to pay for the full sequence. Truly, such is the power of Ryan Gosling’s magnetism that you would apparently even blow off Josh Groban for him. (Yeah, as if.)

13. 127 Hours – Mostly armless

There’s a few sequences on this list that are a difficult watch, but possibly the most tricky is this, the money shot from 127 Hours, where Danny Boyle shows the power of cinema by actually making you feel what it must be like to cut off your own arm.

12. Blue Valentine – Ukulele scene

Maybe I’m an old softie, but for me, watching two actors of the power of Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams reach the end of the line is just as hard as watching a man slice off a limb. So instead, let’s remember their meet cute, possibly the cutest meeting ever with a goofy dance and a ukulele.

11. Tyrannosaur – The wake

For me, the strongest scene in Tyrannosaur was actually the wake; watching characters whose lives are otherwise filled with misery enjoying themselves for a brief moment somehow seems fitting and right to be happening after a funeral. But Paddy Considine’s debut is packed full of great moments – here’s the time when James, Hannah’s controlling husband, comes into the charity shop just as Hannah’s helping Joseph try on a suit.

10. Hanna – The underground takedown

Joe Wright is one of Britain’s most under-appreciated talents, and he’s a big fan of the single take. His memorable shot in Atonement on the Dunkirk beach was masterful, but this moment in Hanna, when Eric Banna takes down a group of assailants in a confined space, is easily a match for it.

9. The Inbetweeners Movie – The nightclub dance

I’ll be honest, I didn’t enjoy the Inbetweeners movie as much as I did the series, but when it was good, it was laugh out loud funny. I still can’t watch this dance without a big beaming grin.

8. The Yellow Sea – Getaway in the docks

At times, the level of carnage in this latest Korean thriller seemed to be chanelling The Blues Brothers – as well as an insurance-frightening car chase, there’s a sequence in the docks which just keeps on escalating with more running and vehicular mayhem. Both can be seen in this trailer.

7. Take Shelter – The table discussion

There’s a number of increasingly gripping moments between Michael Shannon and Jessica Chastain in Take Shelter – the peak of them is when Shannon’s Curtis finally starts to open up to Chastain’s Samantha, some of the finest acting seen on screen this year. This is an earlier moment when Samanatha’s attempting to understand what’s going on. Again, apologies for the French subtitles.

6. Warrior – Brendan fights

A movie which is essentially a mixed martial arts Rocky really shouldn’t have worked as well as this did, but at it’s best Warrior was punch-the-air good. Any of the fights were good, but when people are watching them on TV, you feel you’re in there, watching them and feeling every punch and every emotion. Here’s one of Brendan’s earlier rounds which shows the point fairly clearly.

5. Super 8 – The train crash

The train crash may have been the biggest spectacle in the film, but it’s the tender moments that came before it, the young boys captivated by the moment, that shone brightest here.
Super 8 – Clip Train Crash by ohmygore

4. Drive – The elevator scene

Drive might just be the coolest film of the year, but it’s an icy cool that’s as deflected a fair few viewers, and this pivotal scene is the coldest of the lot. The look on Carey Mulligan’s face at the end is simply heartbreaking.

3. Melancholia – The prologue

The best and most effective combination of sound and visuals this year was the striking opening minutes of Lars von Trier’s art house blockbuster. Using music from Wagner’s Tristan and Isolde, von Trier conjures up a memorable sequence which haunts everything that follows it.

2. Le quattro volte – The hillside panorama

My second pick of the year was from an unexpected pleasure, an Italian film based on a Pythagorean belief about the nature of life. After all of the other dog trauma this year, it’s great to see one dog getting his day.

Click here to view the hillside sequence

1. Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol – The Burj Khalifa

It’s Tom Cruise, on the outside of the 130th floor of the world’s tallest building. It’s visually astonishing, especially in IMAX, and by the end it will have shredded your nerves. Here’s proof that it really was Tom up there.

The Half Dozen Special: Cambridge Film Festival 2011

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It barely seems possible that a whole year has gone by since last year, but I guess that’s how calendars work, so no point trying to fight it. September is here again, so it’s time for the 31st Cambridge Film Festival, and for me the second experience of one of the UK’s foremost festivals of film. Having lived in Cambridgeshire for three years, I’d never even seen a single film at the festival, but last year made up for it in spades, in the end seeing nineteen films over the eleven days of the festival. You can see the full list here on last year’s Half Dozen, but there were some real gems in there. I may not have seen the likes of The Desert Of Forbidden Art, Pelican Blood, Dark Souls or The People vs George Lucas if there weren’t playing at a festival, and I didn’t see a single film that I regretted. In addition, the surprise film, which everyone I spoke to had pegged as everything from The Social Network to Despicable Me, turned out to be Chico & Rita, which was a delight. I can only hope to be similarly surprised again this year.

Ah yes, this year. My cinematic obsession still knows no bounds, it seems, so this year’s trailer run down is somewhat longer. So far I’m booked to see 34 films, as well as talks by Mark Kermode and Neil Brand and the festival’s late night short film festival, Tridentfest. I’m going in having seen one of the 34 already – Drive, which is so good I couldn’t pass up the chance to see it again at the Festival, especially when director Nicolas Winding Refn is due to be there, but even though it’s my second favourite film of the year so far, I live in hope that something will sneak up, surprise me and manage to beat it. And in the process of writing this I’ve already had two recommendations of films that happen to be playing at the Festival that I’m not seeing – yet! Read the rest of this entry »