9 perfect cinematic moments.

So, there’s this blogathon that’s being done by A Fistful Of Films. Seeing how i am an avid reader of said blog, I thought it only fair to participate. But first, a question – What defines a perfect cinematic moment?

“We all have them in the back of our minds; those moments that make us think “man, this is what the movies are all about”. We relive those moments in our mind’s eye, remembering them and dissecting them and adoring them. They come in all shapes and sizes, from all types of films, and yet they all share one very important aspect; they define why we love the movies. It could be the way that the moment is cut; the way it’s edited together. It could be the way the moment uses it’s actors to evoke a powerful emotion from us. It could be the way that music floods the scene and draws us even closer to the moment in question. It could be a grand climax, a breathtaking introduction or a simple interchange. It could be any and all things, because for every film lover, the list is different.” – Fistful Of Films

So after thinking about it for a while, I came up with 9 moments that I will always remember. In no particular order, here they are.

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The opening of Star Trek was definitely unexpected. (Unexpected-ness is a theme I’ll get back to later on.) At one point I was saying to myself, “This is the opening to a science fiction film, with spaceships and aliens and explosions and stuff – in this scene, too – and I’m actually CRYING.” I don’t know how J.J. Abrams pulled it off, but I know that Star Wars is in good hands with this guy.

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If we’re going with more prolific film beginnings, I fondly remember the opening moments of Citizen Kane. In about a minute of screen time, Orson Welles allows us to witness Kane’s last word. The genius of the directing and the atmosphere is that we are completely invested even though the film has just begun. All we want to know is, ‘Who is this man, and what is the significance of ‘Rosebud’?’ And the rest of Citizen Kane is about answering those questions.

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Or maybe I should consider movie endings. One finale that comes to mind is the end of Sunset Boulevard, which truly comes full circle. The film’s finale is what I remember most about the film. It really makes you think about everything you have just witnessed – exactly what a good ending should do. And it leaves Norma Desmond in such a state where you pity her and fear her at the same time.

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Another movie ending that I’ll always remember can be found in The Truman Show. Because the viewers say they love Truman, but once the Truman show ends for good, the film ends with one guy turning to the other and saying “What else is on?” Some people say they would have liked to see Truman adjust to the world, reunite with Sylvia, or confront Kristof. But that’s not what the director felt was important to show. The bottom line is, Truman’s story itself might not be over, but in the eyes of the shows audience, it is.

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Moving away from beginnings or endings, there are moments that seem to go beyond what cinema was capable of before. I realize that I’m on the minority on this one, but I was completely blown away by the black hole scene in Interstellar. (picture not shown because I don’t want to give it away and it looks better in motion.) I remember thinking to myself, “This is real. This is what the universe is all about. No human being could have come up with his.” “But Christopher Nolan did.” “Well, Christopher Nolan doesn’t count; he’s a god.”

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Then there’s the scene that I love so much I did an entire post on it, Forbidden Friendship. There’s something so simple and yet so magical about this moment, how it bridges the gap between man and beast and shows a true connection being made, all done with virtually no dialogue. It truly makes the movie, and anybody who thinks that the “sequel” is better need only watch this scene and ask themselves if the second film had anything close to this amount of sincerity or subtlety.

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And while we’re on the subject of my favorite movies, I have to bring up Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium. Now, for the longest time, I couldn’t decide on which scene to choose, because there are so many great moments in this movie. But if I have to choose, I’m going with the scene when Eric tries to make friends… with an accountant. This scene is kind of like the ying to Forbidden Frirndship’s yang. It looks like they’re going to make a connection, but they don’t. (Not yet, anyway) Zach Mills and Jason Bateman give great performances, and the ‘Don’t Be Shy’ song fits the mood of the scene perfectly.

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Or maybe you could look back for moments that touch you that still get to you years later. Take the film Mary Poppins. Why is it that in a movie filled with so many magical scenes, the moment that gets me the most is a moment that doesn’t involve magic at all… it’s when Mr. Banks is solemnly waking down the dark empty streets to the bank, knowing he’s about to lose his job. The atmosphere is incredible, and director Robert Stevenson allows you to sink it all in. It moves me every time I watch it.

But it’s one thing when you’re told in advance that you’re going to see something amazing, but every once in a while, you have a unique experience where you have no expectations going in, and are blown away by the discovery of something truly great. About a year and a half ago, I had to watch this movie for school called Under The Same Moon. And I remember looking online to see if the movie was praised at all, and it wasn’t. It was basically a quiet spanish language film that nobody cared about. The setup was simple. It was about a spanish immigrant to the United States who is separated from her son.

And then, early on in the movie, this happened.

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In this scene, the mother ‘Rosario’ is calling her son ‘Carlitos’ on his eleventh birthday. And when the scene was over, my jaw was practically on the floor. Not because of how the scene was written or directed or anything, but because of Kate del Castillo. I had never heard her name before, but when that scene was over, all I could think was, “Forget being nominated, how did she not WIN the Oscar?” And keep in mind, this is super early on in the movie. And she was flawless in the rest of the movie, too. But if the movie had ended right there, I would still refer to Castillo’s ‘Rosario’ as one of the greatest performances I had ever seen in any movie.

That moment, when the phone call ended, I suddenly understood why many film bloggers were going out of their way to see films that nobody else paid attention to. There’s always the possibility that any film could contain something truly great that people are overlooking. I would gladly see as many films as I could if there was even the smallest possibility that I could discover something as brilliant as Kate del Castillo.

That moment when the phone call ended, that discovery of amazing talent, that curiosity of what I might be missing by overlooking certain films…

That moment truly changed my life.

13 thoughts on “9 perfect cinematic moments.

  1. Thank you so much for playing along Connor! I love so many of your mentions here…that conclusion to Sunset Blvd, Mary Poppins…but I’m most happy to see that scene from How to Train Your Dragon here. It was my favorite moment in the film, and it truly moved me. These are great, great moments!

  2. Such an amazing list! The opening to Star Trek was amazing when I first saw it in theatres and even now. Unexpected is the perfect way to describe it.

  3. Glad we both agree on that ‘forbidden friendship’ scene! As I had just seen Sunset Boulevard, that scene is still fresh in my mind and indeed it’s perfect!

  4. Wonderful choices all but my favorites are the unexpected pick from Mary Poppins, as soon as I saw the shot I knew where it was in the film and what it was about but there is so much to see in the film it never hit me quite the same way. I’m looking forward to watching the film again and having that shot come up with the renewed perspective.

    My other favorite is the last shot from Sunset Blvd. That whole sequence is so tragic and haunting and includes so many great shots, Max’s broken look as Norma descends, Hedda Hopper weeping quietly as she watches from above, Norma’s clueless descent through the reporters but her approach to the camera at the end is exactly right, brilliantly done and played.

  5. You’re not the only one that was moved in the first scene on the Star Trek film…it was a massive surprise, same with the Godzilla film (the newest one), I found myself crying at the start,

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