Best of 2012: Top 10 Movie Scenes

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There’s nothing like a great film scene. When you’re sitting in the theatre and something happens onscreen to make you lean forward in your seat, or sit bolt upright, or cower into a fetal position, that’s what going to the movies is all about. In 2012, I experienced quite a few of those moments. Here they are, arranged in convenient order for your reading pleasure. Please note that while I won’t be going out of my way to include spoilers, the very fact that I am talking about impactful scenes within movies should suggest the kind of caution with which you might want to approach this list.

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VR BEST OF 2012 DISCLAIMER
This list represents my opinion only. I am not asserting any kind of superiority or self-importance by presenting it as I have. My opinion is not fact. If you actually agree with me 100%, that’s scary. You have been warned, fanboys.
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Spoilers

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10. Sky Ball – Chronicle

Chronicle is a film with some pretty dark interpretations of the age-old “What would it be like if normal teenagers actually got superpowers?” question. Yet the most memorable scene of the movie for me was the joyous initial expression of physical freedom in which the three main characters engage soon after recieving their new telekinetic abilities. Once they learn to levitate themselves, the wonders of flight are shown in all their shackle-less glory through a wonderfully shot sequence culminating in a sky-high game of catch. It really feels like you’re there, thanks to the film’s “found footage” gimmick.

9. The Rainmaker – Looper

Looper plays around with conventional villain presentation in some interesting ways. The role of the movie’s primary antagonist can actually be filled by a number of characters, including the main one, depending on how you view the story. The man who fits the traditional Big Bad categorisation, however, namely the enigmatic “Rainmaker”, is deliberately never seen onscreen in his fully realised evil form. The only glimpse you get of his terrifying power comes in a punchy twist deliverance slow-mo shot where a seemingly meaningless early plot thread is brought back into all-too-relevant focus in a shocking “rain” of blood.

8. Something Goes Wrong – The Raid

The Raid, also known by its full Indonesian title The Raid: Redemption, is a brutal and stylish movie of a much higher action-to-anything-else ratio than pretty much any Western blockbuster released this year. The point at which it changes from a movie about a raid on a corrupt residential building to a movie about surviving the perils of said building without reinforcements of any kind is a real humdinger. Someone makes a mistake, cover is blown, and in the space of a few very hectic minutes the ranks of special forces recruits still alive inside the building is a fraction of what it once was.

7. Crack – The Dark Knight Rises

Choosing the best scene from a movie with so many good ones is a tough task, but going past this one is tougher. The duplicitous Selina Kyle leads Batman into an underground trap not of her making, but of bulky mastermind Bane’s. Hans Zimmer’s score grinds to a complete halt. Words are spoken and then a fistfight ensues; one in which Batman for once is well and truly outmatched. The lights go off and Bane gives a speech that has already been immortalised on the internet. Then he does what so many comic book fans had been hoping director Christopher Nolan would have the guts to let him do: He breaks Batman’s back. Then swaggers off.

6. Cemetary Shootout Story – Seven Psychopaths

The quirky Seven Psychopaths, directed by the man behind the equally quirky In Bruges, is a truly unpredictable film, where you just don’t know what is going to happen next. Yet one of its leads, played by the always amazing Sam Rockwell, seems to have it all figured out. In the middle of the desert at night, just before the actual climactic showdown of the film, he tells his two companions how he hopes things will turn out. His insanely exuberant description of a gunfight in a cemetary is Hollywood bravado turned on its head, featuring all manner of unlikely participants. Rockwell’s hilarious narration is the reason it sticks in the memory so well.

5. Eleven Down – The Hunger Games

Most detractors of the film adaptation of The Hunger Games cite its over-reliance on shakycam, but there is one scene for which the technique is a really good fit. After an hour of build-up, the final countdown to the start of the Games themselves is a genuinely tense sequence, with lots of short close-up shots and minimal use of music. Then the Games actually do begin, the cuts between shots get even quicker, and the brutality of the story’s central conceit is shown in full. The rapid and shaky shot sequence both increases the urgency of the scene and cleverly avoids a restricted rating for the film by refusing to dwell on any one gory shot for too long.

4. Cyanide and Madness – Skyfall

The scene in which the audience is introduced to Silva, Skyfall‘s main villain, is a brilliant use of fixed perspective that truly allows Javier Bardem’s monologue delivery to shine through, but it is eclipsed for sheer impact by the sequence in which he finds himself trapped in a glass case, talking to his former mentor M. His crazed motives are revealed with bitterness, after which he shows the MI6 head what cyanide does to a man’s mouth. The combination of make-up, special effects and performance in that one moment is so impactful that it sticks in your head more than anything else in the film.

3. “Manual Procedure…” – Prometheus

Prometheus may suffer from a bit of an identitiy crisis as an overall package, but it has some standout individual sequences. The most affecting of these, at least for me, is the ode to survival instinct that occurs soon after our heroine Elizabeth Shaw finds out what her ship’s cargo has been doing to her. With a squid-like alien creature growing rapidly inside her womb, the panicked Shaw overrides the vessel’s male-only surgical machine to cut her open and get the thing out. You see just about everything. The tension is unbearable and the partial employment of old-school puppetry only adds to the visceral impact of the scene. I was literally on the edge of my seat for this one.

2. Iran, 1976 – Argo

Argo could have been a very confusing film, especially to those in the dark about the events leading up to the Iran hostage crisis. I was in that category and if things weren’t adequately explained I would have found it hard to get into the film’s story. Instead, an excellent narrated sequence more than adequately sums up the complex political powder keg leading into the crisis, setting the stage for a knife-edge embassy invasion set piece that rolls along with unrelenting pace. It’s almost hard to believe such an event actually happened, but Ben Affleck’s camera matches individual shots to real media photographs of the day to amp up the realism.

1. “Puny god” – The Avengers

The absolute runaway success of the comic fanboy’s dream-come-true that is The Avengers isn’t due to the big budget special effects or action, although there is plenty to like about those elements of the film, but rather due to the demographic-busting appeal of Joss Whedon’s dialogue zingers. The one scene that probably best sums this up is the Hulk’s crowning moment of awesome, a brief meeting with chief protagonist Loki on the top floor of a rather impressive skyscraper. Loki begins to give a speech about his superiority, but is interrupted by the big green man’s fist, then by the hard floor on which he was once standing. Several times. Hulk walks away, utters those two words, and film audiences around the globe cheer. Moments like that are just universal.

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Honorable Mentions

–Wooded Chase – Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows
–Opening Titles – The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo
–ALL the Easter Eggs – Skyfall
–Airport Finale – Argo
–Drug Phases – 21 Jump Street

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