Hi there. We’re already more than halfway through January but we’re still in the thick of awards season so I’m still allowed to talk about the films of 2016, right?
While everyone’s still talking about their favorite films of 2016 and making top 10 lists, I thought I’d focus smaller and cover the individual moments that made cinema in 2016 so memorable.
Of course with hundreds of films that come out in a year and hundreds of scenes that make up those films, there are almost 20 billion scenes to choose from (my math may be a little off), so of course some great moments didn’t make the cut.
Great moments like the porch epilogue in Hell or High Water, the final cemetery scene in A Monster Calls, the “arm” scene in Green Room, the blurry interrogation in The Conjuring 2, the miracle on the Hudson in Sully, the ending of Kubo and the Two Strings, Blake Lively straight up wrecking a shark in The Shallows, and countless phenomenal action sequences that constitute more than one scene – like the airport battle in Captain America: Civil War, and the finales of Rogue One, Hacksaw Ridge, X-Men: Apocalypse and The Magnificent Seven.
But let’s get to the ones that actually made the list.
Oh, and beware: Some possible spoilers are ahead.
10. A chat with the dean – Indignation
There’s much to be said about this film that focuses on a freshman (Logan Lerman) at a college built on tradition who feels misunderstood and at times persecuted for his differing principles, attitude, social and romantic life, and religious preference – or lack thereof – all of which comes to a head in the first interaction between Lerman and the dean (Tracy Letts).
What occurs is a verbal spar lasting roughly 14 minutes between a stubborn youth who feels challenged and an elder trying to be understanding but missing the point by pushing his own view points.
9. A girl, a dog, and a car – Don’t Breathe
This film about three young burglars trapped inside a house with a blind madman is intense enough, and yet one of the most heart-pounding moments comes outside of the house when Rocky (Jane Levy) tries to escape in their car only to be pursued and then trapped by the blind man’s vicious Rottweiler.
It’s bad enough that she’s cornered by this beast, but then it gets inside and suddenly the audience is suffering from heart palpitations.
8. Ralph Fiennes: dancing queen – A Bigger Splash
As far as Ralph Fiennes scene-stealers go, I almost went with “would that it were so simple” from Hail, Caesar, but I kept coming back to this scene, one that perfectly encapsulates the very presence of his character.
Harry (Fiennes), as a music producer and ex-boyfriend of Tilda Swinton, and his grand, extroverted personality always manage to overtake the room and therefore the scene (another reason Swinton and Matthias Schoenaerts didn’t want him to crash their vacation) and his dance-dance extravaganza put that on full display.
7. “Another Day of Sun” – La La Land
There are a handful of memorable song and/or dance numbers in this modern throwback musical, like the “A Lovely Night” tap number or the planetarium dance sequence, but the film starts strong with the opening number in a traffic jam on a Los Angeles freeway.
From the song itself to the choreography to the costumes consisting only of bright, solid colors to the way the camera maneuvers through the scene, it all comes together in an unforgettable scene that sets the tone and raises the bar for the rest of the film.
6. “Drive It Like You Stole It” – Sing Street
Yup, another musical number, just go with it.
Throughout this ’80s set coming of age musical, we see the kids make cheap, fun music videos for their otherwise great songs. When we finally arrive to this song – for which the lead character took a piece of his older brother’s wisdom and turned it into the chorus – we see what the number should look like through his eyes: a ’50s set American prom inspired by Back to the Future complete with a hundred students, props, decorations, costumes, choreography, etc.
It’s a perfect representation of these kids’ passion come to life, even if they’re the only ones who see it.
5. Jackie wipes away the blood – Jackie
This is perhaps the shortest and possibly simplest scene on the list, but probably the one that best represents the film itself. It occurs shortly after the assassination of John F. Kennedy as Jackie wipes the blood off of her face on Air Force One, watching herself in the mirror.
As she sobs heavily, she carefully wipes away the blood from her face one spot at a time, displaying outward control despite her inner chaos as she does throughout the rest of the film.
4. Wayne Murders – Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice
Yes, we’ve seen Thomas and Martha Wayne get shot a million times by now, but the way it plays out in this film is remarkable. Not only are the visuals both beautiful and haunting (the shot of the gun slide breaking the string of pearls is striking) but the specific way in which it plays out informs Bruce/Batman’s thematic arc.
The fact that Thomas choosing to strike first leads to the bloody conclusion is mirrored by Bruce choosing to take out Superman without properly assessing first whether he is a legitimate threat or not. Plus later, seeing Batman tower over an innocent man, ready to kill him as he flashes back to that innocence shattering night that led to this moment, creates and emotional perspective rarely explored in the Batman films.
3. The diner – Moonlight
The film doesn’t have a typical A-B-C structure, and yet it still feels like it’s building toward this scene.
Moonlight sees Chiron struggle with his identity, his surroundings, and how people treat him for it. So when Chiron reconnects with a prominent figure from his past, we see him wrestle between the person that time has made him, and the person perhaps he truly feels comfortable being.
2. The missile is fired – Eye In the Sky
This real-time thriller spends much of its time watching its characters debate whether or not to initiate a drone strike on a wanted terrorist as they wade through red tape, line of command, collateral damage, public reception, etc.
When the bureaucratic hullabaloo is all said and done and the decision to fire is made, an element you didn’t expect enters the situation and the moments that follow become some of the most intense, gut-churning, heart-pounding seconds of the year.
1. Sabotage – Star Trek: Beyond
All the people this year who decreed that “film is dead” seem to have forgotten the scene where the crew of the USS Enterprise surf an evil army of drones while blasting a song that is so hardcore, it literally makes the bad guys explode.
It’s fun, creative, explosive, and actually thematically resonant.
The scene, meant to display a moment of Kirk reclaiming his identity after years of internal uncertainty, not coincidentally utilizes the Beastie Boys song that was played in the 2009 film when we are first introduced to Kirk while doing something similarly reckless.
It’s a badass moment that secretly brings Kirk’s journey as captain full circle.
So that’s it for now? Which scenes do you agree with? Should I have included a scene from Gods of Egypt or did I do OK?
Let me know and be sure to check back for more.
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