After it’s all said and done, I’ve ended this series with 51 scenes. It was daunting, which I’m sure you noticed considering how I fell off at the end. I was especially getting pissed off at the videos that had embedding disabled. Anywho, I’m sure there are other scenes out there that I’ll remember later and kick myself for not including, but it’s an imperfect attempt to try and audit my favorites. Maybe there will be a supplemental post down the line. In any event here are the final six. One last thought…some of the scenes aren’t the exact scenes, but clippings of them in a trailer. Hopefully they’ll be representative of the scenes.
Stoned as Hell: Boogie Nights
One of my favorite scene’s from Boogie Nights is an oddity. It’s a weird balance between off the wall humor and terror. Said scene is a drug deal gone wrong with the film’s central character, Dirk Diggler, in the middle of it all. The humor stems from the presence of a gun wielding, coked out Alfred Molina as he dances to the music of the 80’s with nothing but an open robe on. The terror emanates from the unpredictable nature of the characters involved, some of which are desperate and high on their choice of drug. Amplifying the potential for danger is the presence of an Asian teen (or at least I hope it is) who is lighting off fireworks. Each controlled explosion feels like a precursor to a shootout in the works. Stylistically, Paul Thomas Anderson’s at the top of his game. Each moment is drenched in the insufferable style of the 80’s as smoke and lunacy cloud the room. Even more impressive is PTA’s music selection that gets bombastic as the scene moves along, gaining more and more momentum until a few bad choices lead to bloodshed. Boogie Nights is full of terrific scenes, but this is the one that defines it.
You Always Hurt: Blue Valentine
Blue Valentine is a balanced look at the birth and death of love. Featuring terrific performances from its leads, Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams, Blue Valentine is solely invested in crafting a love that doesn’t creep out of the studio system. Instead, it’s focused on emulating the magic of meeting a new person and the genuine emotions that can form between humans. Demonstrating this notion is an enchanting, ad-hoc scene where Gosling’s character plays a ukulele and sings “You Always Hurt the Ones You Love”. All the while Michelle Williams does an amateur tap dance routine to the blissfully unpolished voice of Gosling. Taking place in front of a cozy shop that you’d find in a small town, the scene is rewarding in its organic construction. Everything just feels like a natural progression. This is in part because the two leads like one another. That much is discernible from their body language, which suggests their connection doesn’t stem from words written on a page. Williams herself is beyond adorable, while Gosling is charismatically disarming. Together they craft a magical scene that gains an unbearable amount of weight when the rest of the film is taken into account.
Speaking of fantastic musical moments that grow organically, let’s direct our attention to the unheralded Once. Once is a minimalist musical that takes pride in the fact that its two leads are not actors, but musicians. Having the leads be amateurs can be threatening to a film’s quality, but not in the case of Once. What Marketa Irglova and Glen Hansard lack in acting talent, they make up in superior musical ability. The singular moment that best demonstrates this is their first musical moment together. They’re two perfect strangers who come to together in a piano shop, sit down, and play music as one entity. The song at the epicenter of their musing is the Oscar-winning “Falling Slowly”, a song that tepidly builds to a trembling crescendo. Starting apprehensively, almost as if they’re figuring one another out, the two eventually hit their stride and deliver a performance that would only exist between two lovers. For me, the most significant thing about this scene is that our performers radiate sheer joy from their musical consummation. Both Guy and Girl have a found a counterpart that adds layers to the music they compose and the life they lead. No extravagant sets, no dancing and no pyrotechnics. They’re just two human beings submitting themselves to their music and each other.
OK: Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
When we look past the trippy premise of Eternal Sunshine…, it’s easy to see that the film is wholeheartedly about not regretting love or limiting it because it can provide us with a mass amount of speechless moments. This is especially true when we look at the ending where Joel and Clementine find out about their sordid history. Initially their qualms about one another drives them away, but despite their expected downfall again, they take a leap of faith and decide to be in each other’s life. All of this isn’t done in grandstanding fashion. No, there aren’t any earth shattering pieces of dialogue or massive romantic gestures. What we get are two confused people, who only know fragments of one another due to their previous erasure processes, in the middle of a nondescript hallway. The best they can offer each other are the warm graces of “ok”. Whether they break up again and hurt one another is beside the point. They know they’ll experience love and human connection in a way that supersedes any pain that may emanate between them. Immediately following the scene is a loop of Joel and Clementine running along the snowy shore in Montauk. It plays over and over again, suggesting that their relationship is killed and resurrected many times. What’s more romantic than that?
He Needs Me: Punch-Drunk Love
‘He Needs Me’ is a somewhat obscure song written by Henry Nilsson that was anchored to the live action film version of Popeye the Sailor Man. Buried in what was deemed a horrible miscalculation, He Needs Me ended up finding new life in Paul Thomas Anderson’s Punch-Drunk Love. The song is terrifically placed over the maturation of our hero Barry Egan as he flies to Hawaii in an attempt to capture the heart of the girl (Emily Watson as Lena) that has tagged his soul. Barry’s attempt at travel is all the more significant considering he’s never flown on a plane and has never been romantically involved with anyone that wasn’t his right hand. Oh and he verbally assaults his abusive sister over the phone, a deserving moment of empowerment. Our protagonist’s ascension is already enough to have me sold, but Paul Thomas Anderson’s camerawork and Robert Elswit’s cinematography are gushing with a sweeping romance. Making the scene more potent and matching He Needs Me’s innocent nature is the childlike enthusiasm and nervousness that comes from Adam Sandler. The lack of experience has an inkling of sadness to it, but there’s a level of unbridled charm that makes Barry’s first encounter with love endearing. The mixture of acting, direction and production reaches an unimaginable high when Barry and Lena collide for a whimsical first kiss in the shadows.
Ocean of Oil: There Will Be Blood
My last scene is a riveting piece of work that can only be found in Paul Thomas Anderson’s masterpiece, There Will Be Blood. I know, I know. I think I’ve verbally sucked off PTA enough, but I can’t deny the audacity of this scene. First off, it’s beautifully shot. Cinematographer Robert Elswit somehow captures the effervescent glow of Hell seeping up from the ground in a way that is both alarming and enchanting. The wonder of it all makes it easy to understand how Daniel Plainview can be seduced by such a moment. Speaking of Plainview, what makes the scene all the more jaw dropping is the moral complexity on hand. Here you have Plainview’s son, who is seriously injured, clawing desperately to his father only to be pushed away in favor of oil. Daniel Day-Lewis is beyond phenomenal as you can see the greed consume the comfort in his eyes. Suddenly oil takes precedence over a man who was teetering on the fence of morality. Clearly he has fallen on the unscrupulous side. Compounding the dramatic influence of the scene is the chaotic and hypnotic score from Radiohead guitarist Jonny Greenwood. Featuring a collection of diverse sounds mixed with classical instrumentation, the score fuels the emotional chaos within Plainview and the craziness developing around him. The sporadic sounds in the score slowly unite just as Plainview’s inner turmoil resolves itself. As the score’s strings reach a damning buzz, we all but know the path Plainview has chosen. He embodies the cold hand of capitalism and prepares to make good on the film’s title.