I wrote this essay in 2005, intending to never update it. It was a snapshot I took of a group of friends in 2005, I wasn’t going back to photoshop in a new friend. But saw a movie in 2021 that I just had to add, so here we are:
What did you say? You are going to write a top-ten list of your favorite movies? You are being foolish. Foolish, I say, foolish! How do you possibly compare a happy comedy that made you laugh until you wet yourself to a horrible scary thriller that made you wet yourself with terror? (Besides the obvious comparison that they both made you wet yourself) Or even within a genre: which is better, a movie that was Good throughout (like L.A. Story or Pitch Black) versus one which was Excellent for most of it and then lost its way in the last reel (like Office Space or One Hour Photo)
And, of course, you didn’t see all your movies at the same point in your life. There is a big difference between seeing a romantic comedy film during your first date with the bestest love of your life, and seeing a romantic comedy because it was the only thing showing at the second run theater you wandered into as a way of halfheartedly distracting yourself from the constant sharp pain of her leaving you for a Republican stockbroker from Queens with all of Denise Richards’ movies on DVD. What did you say? You can put that out of your mind and be Objective? Completely objective in making some sort of judgment that is OF COURSE completely subjective? Are you completely psycho? (During the end of MIB 2, Laurel and I simultaneously got stomach cramps from having eaten bad yak. I will never know if it was Objectively one of the worst movies I’ve ever seen. They were bad cramps.)
What follows is a list of some of my favorite moments I’ve had while watching movies. I hope you enjoy it. Feel free to share yours with me. My list has very minor SPOILERS in it (for movies that are over ten years old) – I warn thee, I warn thee, I warn thee.
IN NO PARTICULAR ORDER:
Return of the Jedi: Darth Vader deciding whether or not to help Luke
My brother, my lady, and I saw this in a big old theater in Westwood a couple of days after it came out. Nothing had been spoiled for me. At the moment, at the zoom in to Darth’s mask, I was on my feet screaming “Help him! Help him!” Nobody was annoyed because everybody else in the audience was standing, screaming along with me.
HEAD: The end of the poem
Nobody saw Head when it first came out. People who didn’t like the Monkees didn’t see it, because the Monkees were in it. People who liked the Monkees didn’t see it, because the theme of the movie was, “What, you like the Monkees? You suck.” Too bad, because it was a great movie and Jack Nicholson’s writing debut. At one point, there was this inane poem played to scenes from Head (coming attractions for the movie during the movie itself) and the end was the four of them chanting “Hey hey we are the Monkees, you’ve heard it all before, the money’s in, we’re made of tin, we’re here to give you more. Hey hey we are the Monkees, you’ve heard it all before, the money’s in, we’re made of tin, we’re here to give you …” then there is a shot of a gruesome clip from the Vietnam war, followed by an American girl screaming – looks like she is screaming at the horror of war, but a zoom reveals she is screaming because the Monkees have just come on stage.
Monty Python’s Meaning of Life: The opening theme animation
I LOVED the previous two Python movies, even though they didn’t feel like the show. I thought that Monty Python was over and done with, and was floored when I saw an advertisement for a new Monty Python movie. I was in college, and went with good friends during a stressful week. There was the Gilliam short, which was funny, but also didn’t feel like the show. Then that theme started, with the wacky animation, and that desperate promise of solving all our problems… and for some reason I felt like I was thirteen years old again, watching the episodes downstairs, bouncing on the couch, hoping I didn’t wake my parents up.
Dark City: First shot of Jennifer Connelly singing
There has always been my (not very original) fantasy of the gorgeous singer in a smoky “film noir” bar… and here it was on screen, and she was more beautiful and perfect than I had dared imagine.
Casablanca: The nod
Rick was the selfish jerk, right? Lazlo the glory-deserving hero, right? When Lazlo, big and inspirational, stands center-stage and tells the Band to strike up the opening chords to All You Need Is Love they don’t do it immediately – the bandleader looks to Rick, and Rick is the one who nods… (Yes, I know the behind-the-scenes story behind that particular shot, and I don’t care. It is a great moment)
Yellow Submarine: All-Together-Now number early in the movie
The first time I saw this movie, I was too young to remember it. The second time I was seven. My 19-year-old brother and I saw it on my parent’s television. Because my mother knew how special this movie was to him, and would be to me, she went out and got McDonalds for us. The All Together Now sequence had us lying on the floor, French fry salt on our lips, laughing with delight. (I found out years later that he had had some chemical inspiration – but it doesn’t taint the moment for me)
Raiders of the Lost Ark: the opening part where the bag on the pedastal starts to sink
I had never seen anything like Raiders. That opening part, action upon action upon action. The first moment of “rest” I remember was when Indy put the weight on the pedestal, and took the idol off it. I remember exhaling, literally. “Ah…” And then… the bag… was too heavy… and I realized that the action was NOT going to let up, and I felt sheer giggly glee.
It’s a wonderful life: The ending.
Yeah, yeah, yeah, its a cliche. Fuck you.
Koyannasqatsi: The last few minutes
Hot, sitting on folding chairs in the Red Herring coffee shop (basement of the Unitarian Church) in Urbana. Soundtrack mixed with the sound of the electric fans trying in vain to make things more comfortable. Nervous because my favorite TA was in the audience, having taken her friends on my recommendation of what I’d heard about the movie. The Challenger had blown up that week. The movie ends – the big symbol of what I thought was Man’s Acheivement… and the frame by frame of … and then the reprise of the opening music… I was transported. And the voice: KOYANNASQATSI…
A night at the opera: “They can’t all be funny.”
I was in an auditorium with a bunch of fellow college students. Groucho was on a rant, joke after joke, and we the audience were laughing until suddenly a line didn’t work and the laughter – stopped. From laughter to silence. And then Groucho interrupts his own rant, looks at the camera and says, “Hey, they can’t all be funny.” And then we roared!! It was one of the most brilliant moments I’ve ever seen! The joke was on us!
Life of Brian, the spaceship scene
I discovered Monty Python in junior high, and it was for the most part a solitary thrill. Nobody else had my sense of humor, nobody else got the joke. When I was a sophmore in high-school, there was a clique of juniors and seniors who Got It. And they started taking me to movies with them. We took up the front row of the theater, and there was still one more of us than there were seats. Being the youngest, I sat on the floor, but I didn’t mind. I had a group. And they liked me. And they Got It. And when the spaceship scene occurred, it was the funniest thing I’d ever seen, and I couldn’t see all of it because I was literally rolling around on a movie theater floor.
La Ley del deseo (Law of Desire), “You are my treasure”
I had to look on imdb to find the name of this twisted Pedro Almodovar movie. It turns out that this was one of Antonio Banderas’s earlier films. I was in college, and even the Art films I’d seen were still all straight people. During all the gay men, lesbian women, transgendered women, all romping around, sex and guns and intensity, there was this scene towards the end:One of the main characters was in bed, and her daughter is frightened and comes to sleep with her. She holds her and whispers, “You are my treasure.” This tender moment in the midst of chaos, this expression of pure love, touched me deeply. It hasn’t left my mind.
I said these weren’t in order, and I meant it. Now that I’m revisiting this page, I was thinking about ordering them as a countdown, but couldn’t do it. But there IS a number one on this list. A top movie moment of all time.
The Suicide Squad: The Opening Credits Sequence
Not only is this my favorite movie moment, it is not even fucking close. Laurel insisted I watch this movie, I had no interest, but she said I would love it.
I don’t want to say any more. I know that this essay has spoilers in it. But to spoil, even slightly, this movie moment would be a sin against God. If you’ve seen the movie, you know.
I was blown away.