Filming location for spaghetti westerns in Almería, Spain

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© 1987-2016
Scott Larson

Building façade in Cannes, France

Magic moments

Last year I ended the year by remembering ten of my favorite movie moments during the previous twelve months. I don’t know if anyone else enjoyed it, but I sure did. So I’m doing it again. Apologies in advance for any unwanted spoilers. (I’m serious about the spoilers.) With no further ado…

  • Ben Barnes and Robert Sheehan, as Irish brothers, come to rent a place to live in London in Nick Hamm’s Killing Bono, and who does their prospective landlord turn out to be? Looking frail and older than his years (and, sadly, with a short time left to live), it is none other than veteran actor Pete Postlethwaite, ever the professional, delivering a lovely turn as a gentle man still basking in the artsy atmosphere of Camden and not yet too old to notice the attractiveness of the two handsome lads from Dublin.

  • In Joe Johnston’s Captain America: The First Avenger, Chris Evans as the titular hero recruits a group of men, recently freed in war-torn Italy, to go after the diabolical Red Skull. He meets the men in a bar, and to those of us who were weaned on Marvel Comics there is something oddly familiar about them, particularly the Irish-American fellow in a bowler hat. Eventually, it dawns on us. It is Dum Dum Dugan (played by Neal McDonough) and the other Howling Commands from the old Sgt. Fury comics!

  • American tourist Owen Wilson finds himself rubbing shoulders and engaging with the luminaries of the Lost Generation in Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris. Something that has been obvious to those of us in audience since nearly the beginning of the film finally dawns on him in a momentous epiphany when Getrude Stein goes over the draft of his autobiographical novel with him. “Hemingway did have one plot suggestion,” she says, “he doesn’t quite believe that the protagonist doesn’t see that his fiancée is having an affair right before his eyes.”

  • At the end of Joe Wright’s film, the titular heroine of Hanna downs the implacable Cate Blanchett with an arrow. With a surprising matter-of-factness, she says in apology, “I just missed your heart.” The words carry a frisson because they were also the first words of the movie. Hanna said exactly the same thing when she shot a caribou in the snowy expanse of Finland.

  • David Yates’s (deep breath) Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 is full of memorable moments for fans of the Harry Potter books and movies. But perhaps the most touching is one that comes before the film has really even gotten properly started. In a silent scene, Emma Watson leaves her family home, having wiped her Muggle parents (in order to protect them from the coming supernatural war) of any memory that they ever had a daughter.

  • About a third of the way into John Michael McDonagh’s The Guard, straitlaced American FBI agent Don Cheadle briefs the local Garda Síochána on a cocaine smuggling operation that is expected to unload its wares on nearby shores. Abrasive, cynical and profane sergeant Brendan Gleeson disrupts the meeting with his provocative questions and comments, forcing his superior, Gary Lydon, to remonstrate. Typical of Gleeson’s banter with the irritated Yank is the later comment: “Now I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking, these men are armed and dangerous, and you being an FBI agent you’re more used to shooting at unarmed women and children… "

  • Kenneth Branagh’s Thor captures the heroic yet irreverent spirit of the old Marvel Comics perfectly with a couple of throwaway lines at various points of the action. When hunky god of thunder Chris Hemsworth finds himself stripped of his powers and exiled in the American Southwest, a group of scientists take him for someone with a mental illness. An admiring Kat Dennings states the obvious: “You know, for a crazy homeless person… he’s pretty cut.” Later on, the Norse gods Volstagg, Hogun, Fandral and Sif wander through a New Mexican town in full celestial regalia. Eying them with a raised eyebrow, one government agent says to another, “Is there a Renaissance Fair in town?”

  • What may be the drabbest, least festive Christmas office party in cinematic history is featured as one of numerous flashbacks in Tomas Alfredson’s Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy. The flashbacks are dominated by the supremely unhealthy-looking John Hurt, as Control, maneuvering in his own personal fog of cigarette smoke. As he pours vodka into a punch bowl, he declaims, “It’s take us five hours to get drunk on this monkey’s piss!”

  • Toward the end of Duncan Jones’s Source Code, Jake Gyllenhaal finds that in a computer-generated alternate timeline he is able to make telephone contact with his father even though his father’s existence would be outside the knowledge of the stored memories he is inhabiting. This gives him the chance to achieve the emotional closure with his father that he never got to do before his own body died. We the audience get an added jolt when recognize his dad’s voice as that of Scott Bakula, who starred in the 1989-93 sci-fi TV series that explored the same general premise as this movie, Quantum Leap.

  • A climactic and thrilling chase scene in Martin Scorsese’s Hugo winds up with young Asa Butterfield dangling in the air, clutching onto the hand of a large clock that looms at the top of the Gare Montparnasse, impossibly high over 1931 Paris. This echoes an iconic scene performed by Harold Lloyd in Safety Last!, which our young hero has recently seen in the company of film pioneer Georges Méliès’s goddaughter.

    -S.L., 29 December 2011

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