Best of 2013: Top 10 Movie Scenes

Bestof13_light

This is without question one of my favourite lists to make. A particularly amazing scene within a movie can elevate the entire film in the eyes of anyone it affects. Much like a memorable character, a well executed scene can also overshadow a mediocre film. But either way, a notable segment of film is always a talking point, and an immensely enjoyable talking point at that. The following scenes made me stand up (not literally) and take notice throughout 2013. Some were scary, some were amusing, and some just blew me away, but all were captivating in their entirety.

Spoilers most definitely follow, given the nature of this list.

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VR BEST OF 2013 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. Respectful disagreement is welcome.
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10. News Team Rumble, Round Two – Anchorman 2

I wouldn’t say Anchorman 2 is better than the first one – it’s way too long and tries a bit too hard to make a point – but I laughed quite a lot during the movie anyway, which was somewhat of a pleasant surprise. It occasionally suffers from a desire to revisit old jokes, but it manages to pull most of these off, none more spectacularly than when Ron Burgundy’s news team finds itself in the middle of another obscene inter-network brawl. The number of big-name cameos that take place in this scene borders on ridiculous, even compared to the over-the-top equivalent battle in the first Anchorman. The actors who show up (I won’t name them just because the film is still so fresh in theatres) mostly aren’t even comedic ones, but they all clearly relish the chance to make fun of themselves. Minotaurs, werewolves, cannons and fighter jets then get involved. The revisitation really shouldn’t work, but it does.

9. Hong Kong Showdown – Pacific Rim

There are perhaps four major robot vs alien fight sequences in Pacific Rim, a movie well and truly defined by said fight sequences. The longest one, which in my opinion is also the most memorable, is the one between the revered “Jaeger” (robot suit) Gypsy Danger and two unnamed “Kaiju” (giant alien monsters) that just do not want to die, smack-bang in the middle of the film. This fight has the best choreography, most extravagant effects and coolest enemy designs in the whole movie. It starts just off a Hong Kong shore and soon moves to the colourful nighttime streets of the city proper. As great as the fight is to watch, the fact that such a pivotal scene takes place in HK (or, let’s be honest, outside America at all) is an extremely refreshing change from the standard disaster movie shtick.

8. Suburban Rampage – Kick-Ass 2

The defining moment of Mother Russia’s characterisation and far and away the best scene in all of Kick-Ass 2, the one woman path of destruction that the Soviet super-minion cuts through a run-of-the-mill American street has to be seen to be believed. Faced with some potentially worrying police presence during a crucial plot point, the film’s gang of cartoonish villains get ready to retaliate, but most of them don’t do anything but watch, because all MR needs to take the fuzz out of the equation is her own strength and resourcefulness. This wonderfully choreographed scene features guns, blood, blunt force trauma and some creative use of a lawnmower. From this point on in Kick-Ass 2 there is only one character you want to see fighting.

7. Nurburgring, 1976 – Rush

Throughout the entirety of the first and second act of Rush, the film’s audience becomes aquainted with an intense and surprisingly relatable screen version of real-life Formula One driver Niki Lauda. And the whole time, you know something bad is going to happen to him, because you’re either familiar with Lauda’s horrific real-life burn injury at the infamously devious Nurburgring track in Germany, or you keep thinking back to the very first sequence of the movie, which directly refers to his misfortune on that fateful day in 1976. So when the story finally reaches the inevitable point, the pent-up tension is tangible. When the crash happens, it’s spectacular. And the immediate aftermath is masterfully handled.

6. Settling Down – Elysium

Kruger, my favourite movie character of 2013, has many opportunities to showcase his dangerous insanity and formidable physical abilities in a handful of action sequences throughout Elysium. Yet he is at his most terrifying in a relatively quiet scene in the film’s second act. He arrives with henchmen in tow at the abode of Frey, the childhood friend and love interest of protagonist Max, and begins to interrogate her in a chillingly faux-passive register. Though his number one priority is finding Max, he takes the time to tell Frey that he “always wanted a wife” and that she might be the girl to make him “want to settle down”. All of this while Frey’s daughter Matilda is right there. Oh but don’t worry, he asks her in a creepily polite voice to close her eyes while he is intimidating, and then beating, her mother. Because that totally makes it better.

5. The Big Dance – Silver Linings Playbook

The very weird climax of Silver Linings Playbook calls to mind the offbeat, spontaneous brilliance of the Jack Rabbit Slims scene in Pulp Fiction and the jovial catharsis of Little Miss Sunshine‘s ending. It certainly has the raw nervous energy of both classic denouements, due mostly to high plot stakes and some earnest performances from the likes of Jennifer Lawrence and Robert de Niro. After all the odd events of David O. Russell’s masterful dramedy, alternately tragic and comedic, the motley crew of flawed individuals making up the main cast come together with the shared goal of seeing the film’s klutzy alpha couple score at least a 5 out of 10 at a classy dance competition. The entire ordeal is emotionally gratifying and a joy to watch.

4. The Transformation – Oz the Great & Powerful

Going in to Oz the Great & Powerful, not only did I have rather low expectations for the film as a whole but I had a hazy memory of the original The Wizard of Oz and next to no idea about how or when the famous Wicked Witch of the West would show up in the movie. The iconic villain’s eventual appearance thus took me by surprise, coming as the indirect result of a tragic piece of carelessness on the part of our main man Oz combined with a little Machievellian work from the very clearly evil witch Evanora. So the circumstances of the appearance are memorable, but her actual debut sequence is downright spellbinding. Director Sam Raimi expertly uses minimalistic lighting, eerie shadows and some roundabout camera angles to ensure the audience has to wait just a little bit longer than they thought to see Mila Kunis in green makeup.

3. Final Exam – Ender’s Game

I hadn’t so much as read a word of iconic 1980s sci-fi novel Ender’s Game when I went to see the new movie adaptation on a whim. So I was just not expecting the (probably famous) twist at the end of the film at all. After a very tense and visually impressive sci-fi spectacle, the story reveals that gifted and certainly troubled child tactician Ender has unwittingly become an agent of genocide after assuming that his “final exam” was merely a simulation rather than a full-scale pre-emptive strike on a possibly diplomatic race. The twist abruptly changes the direction of the movie and I was still reeling from it when I left the theatre. Though if I had read the book I just know I would have been analysing the way the crucial plot point was handled, as things stand it probably justified my decision to see the movie all on its own.

2. Let It Go – Frozen

If you’re a Disney fan who grew up in the so-called “second golden age” of animated classics with memorable songs (think The Lion King, Aladdin, Beauty and the Beast etc), as I did, Frozen is a breath of (forgive me) icy cold fresh air. Its soundtrack is far and away the best since that golden age ended, with a number of worthy new songs, but one of these in particular stands tall above them all. Let It Go, performed by Idina Menzel of Wicked fame, is an absolute show-stopper that builds in intensity and proves to be pivotal in both the plot of the film and the character growth of co-protagonist Elsa. The scene looks amazing but it sounds even better. Make no mistake; your safest Oscar bet early next year is that Let It Go will walk away with the Academy Award for Best Original Song. And thanks to Disney you can watch the entire sequence on YouTube right here (though I’d recommend you see the film in its entirety first, as the song’s impact works slightly better in context).

1. Career Maker – Monsters University

Up to the last moments of Monster’s University, the movie is essentially a college campus comedy slash sports movie. A good one at that – it’s funny and heartfelt, after all – and it has what seems to be a rather satisfying plot trajectory. That is, until it abruptly declares it isn’t quite done and undoes the neatness of its victorious supposed ending to take our heroes Mike and Sulley in a very different direction that raises the stakes of the story far higher than any comparatively petty university contest could. Through a purely emotion-driven act, the pair end up in the real world, complete with allegedly toxic adult humans, where they gain a great deal of perspective on their lives and are forced to use all their resourcefulness to construct a scare stronger than any on record. The markedly different animation style required of the technicians at Pixar here works extremely well thematically, but above all the surprising twist nails the emotional closure fans of the original Monsters Inc had been waiting for the whole movie, which is what makes it my favourite movie scene of 2013.

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Honorable Mentions
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Israeli Wall – World War Z
The single most lingering image from all of World War Z‘s trailers proves to be the single most memorable part of the film itself, as Brad Pitt’s character arrives in Israel just in time to witness the concentrated stupidity of a group of noisy people. Cue a terrifyingly ant-like zombie mound that soon surmounts the giant wall of the international safe zone and spells its end.

Baboon Ambush – The Hunger Games: Catching Fire
In a movie that is ultimately more about an overarching tone of dread and political unease within a dystopian society than standout individual moments, Katniss and co’s encounter with the Capitol’s mutated baboons in the Quarter Quell arena proves to be a tense, well-framed exception.

Bullet Train Fight – The Wolverine
Though the physics at work in this inventive action sequence are complete BS, it is relentlessly exciting to watch and one of the best pure action moments in cinema in 2013. Our mate Logan finds himself fighting members of the Yakuza both inside and on top of the iconic Shinkansen (“bullet train”), coming up with a handful of creative takedowns and maneuevers to get past them.

Initial Impact – Gravity
The destructive moment that kick-starts the drama of Gravity after a long introductory sequence is nothing short of absolutely stunning to witness, especially when watched in 3D. It’s scary too, absolutely, but above all it is staggeringly (and strangely) beautiful.

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