I’m not going to lie, I completely forgot about this until I started looking back on my old reviews. I really need to start making notes of things like this. Either way, I intend to finish this drawn out series this week. Go me?
The Trolley Song: Meet Me in St.Louis
Usually when Judy Garland’s name gets brought up, it’s within a discussion about the Wizard of Oz. The Wizard of Oz is a tremendous film that catapulted Garland’s career, but I’d argue that Garland’s best work can be found in the heralded MGM musical Meet Me in St. Louis. Meet Me… is a favorite of mine not only for its narrative scope, but for its melodic soundscape that adequately translates the intrinsic tribulations of each character. Demonstrating the heartfelt nature of the film and its songs is a scene in which Garland lays claim for a boy (on a trolley no less!). Garland, per usual, is absolutely adorable and her voice is beyond measure. Only someone like Garland can deliver a rollicking scene while sitting idle on a trolley. No dancing, no absurd set pieces. It’s just a performer at the top her game with material that any actress would kill for.
Into the Deep End: Boogie Nights
Here’s yet another Paul Thomas Anderson film getting love. Much like the other scene I love from Boogie Nights, this one makes a fantastic effort at giving us the point of view of a shitload of characters in a matter of moments and with only a few cuts. Even though the scene’s efficiency is a huge boon, it’s the scene’s level of coolness that seduces me. From PTA’s terrific music selection to the hypnotic tracking shot in a pool, the scene lays out perfectly the temptation that is at the fingertips of Mark Wahlberg’s ‘Dirk Diggler’. PTA is undoubtedly a master at composing intricate scenes filled with a lot of moving parts.
The Interrogation: The Dark Knight
The first half of The Dark Knight has us pining for one moment where the deranged Joker comes face to face with the creature of the night. Once we finally get the opportunity to see these two legends match wits, Christopher Nolan concocts a scene bursting with drama. Batman comes in with a sizeable physical and mental advantage over the Joker, but in a matter of minutes we can see it’s the Joker who has Batman by the balls. Back and forth the two enemies match each other shot for shot until the unhinged mindset of the Joker wins out as he skewers the man behind the symbol. It’s an emotionally intense scene as verbal sparring evolves into physical brutality. Ledger’s performance in the scene, especially where he gets tossed around like a rag doll, is unnerving and triumphant. We’re likely to never see a villain like this again.
Don’t Die You Cocksucker: Magnolia
Magnolia is an oppressive film. It’s wildly serious and contains themes that would make any viewer feel like shit. With that being said, it’s full of performances that leap off the screen. The most significant one is from Tom Cruise who plays Frank TJ Mackey, an infomercial womanizer with father issues. After discovering the failed history between Frank and his father, it’s easy for the audience to see the distance between the two. Yet things take a surprising turn when Frank confronts his father, who is literally minutes away from being in the cold graces of death. Watching Cruise battling between an angered and regretful stance is stunning. His heart is ready to spring a leak, but the pent-up anger tries to patch up the hole. It’s all for naught as Cruise gives his character an emotional breakdown that is unforeseeable from a character standpoint, but is absolutely poignant. I hate to repeat myself, but this another rich character moment from Paul Thomas Anderson.
If a Rat Were to Walk In: Inglourious Basterds
Quentin Tarantino has proven time and again that he has a terrific handle on dialogue. Most of his dialogue hinges on the comedic side of things, but every once in a while he writes a set of dialogue that is so gripping that it makes action or a dramatic plot point seem obsolete. Such a moment is found in his latest film Inglourious Basterds. As a matter of fact, it’s the opening scene and it sets the tone for a film that is dialogue driven and weighted down by the facts of war. It’s in this scene that we are introduced to the cunning abilities of Col. Hans Landa aka the Jew Hunter. The charming performance of Christoph Waltz, who speaks multiple languages in this scene, leads us to believe that Mr. Landa is somewhat likeable despite his Nazi moniker. He’s articulate, thoughtful and utterly convincing in his arguments. But he’s also malicious in his hunting of the Jews, which sets up a scene that feels like a slow burn. Waltz is so charming we want him to stick around longer, but we also know that the longer he sticks around, the more likely it is he’ll find the carnage he’s looking for. It’s a scene of dissonance that’s hard to shake.