In a prelude to my list of favorite films of 2011 (though there are a few films I have yet to see), I put together a list of fifteen cinematic moments that stuck out the most for me this past year and though many of these were my favorite films of the year, most of the moments come from a range of films that do not quite land in my top ten.
15. Car Explosion from “The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo”
The company I work for did some advertising for the film “The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo” and I remember when the images of Lisbeth Salander (Rooney Mara) standing in front of an exploding car surfaced and how enamored I was with that visual. Though I could not find my favorite image online, the angle aimed at the fiery car with Lisbeth standing in front of the camera, gun in hand, is one of my favorite visuals of the year.
14. Jogging Scene from “Shame”
Though it feels like an odd scene to pick from this film, there was something very contemplative about the jogging scene from “Shame”. Michael Fassbender commands this role and even though this scene is much less apparent of that, this long tracking shot really sticks out in my mind when remembering this film.
13. Rowlf The Dog’s Skipped Story in “The Muppets”
Probably the smallest joke from the film “The Muppets”, for some reason, this one sticks out above all the rest. As Kermit attempts to get the gang back together for one last big show, we are treated to several scenes of meeting the different Muppets at their current line of work. Gonzo is running a toilet company, Fozzy has his own Reno comedic act, and Miss Piggy is working for Vogue in Paris. As Kermit convinces the Muppets, they are shown piling in the car, but some of the acquiring stories are not shared and those Muppets simply appear in the car. The film is so self-aware that Rowlf pokes fun at this concept of glazing over certain stories so that we are treated with his back story, which is Kermit approaching him on a hammock and Rowlf responding with a simply “yes”. The simplicity of this joke is so perfect that it became one of my favorite moments of the year.
12. Oliver meets Mute Anna from “Beginners”
We are introduced to couples in just about every film we view, but how they meet becomes the challenging part of setting films apart from one another. In “Beginners”, Oliver (Ewan McGregor) meets Anna (Melanie Laurent) at a Halloween party. They are both dressed wildly different than anyone else at the party and Anna cannot speak, due to laryngitis. This aspect of Anna communicating through writing and Oliver’s witty and sometimes humorous responses make for a great love story.
11. Backyard Party of “Crazy Stupid Love”
“Crazy Stupid Love” is the first of these moments that also makes my top ten for favorite films this year. The portion of the film that resonates most is a scene involving the plot lines of the film unraveling in one glorious backyard party scene. Filled with reveals, humorous moments, and characters flying off the handle, the scene ends in a fight between most of the male characters of the film.
10. Harry Potter and Voldemort Jump in “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part Two”
If one moment had to be picked to act as the crescendo for the entire Harry Potter series, I would have to pick the moment when Harry Potter grabs Voldemort and tells him that they must end this together, then grabs Voldemort and jumps off a ledge. I remember seeing this moment in the trailer for the film and being blown away. There is something about Potter finally touching Voldemort and sacrificing himself to defeat Voldemort that encapsulates the final film.
9. Train Crash of “Super 8”
Easily the most memorable train crash scene in cinema history, this moment is what “Super 8” is ultimately known for. Even the teaser was based around this crash scene, which is basically what sold the film. The visual effects mixed with the natural reactions from the stellar teenage cast make this epic scene that much more intense.
8. One Shot Long Take Chase from “The Adventures of Tintin”
Few animated films have ever made me step back and say “wow”. Leave it to Steven Spielberg to create this masterpiece of an animated film and include one of the most jaw-dropping single take long shots. I would easily see this film again just for that chase scene.
7. Anna’s apartment door from “Like Crazy”
Though the entire film is charming and heartfelt, there is no scene in “Like Crazy” that encapsulates the emotions of the film quite like the moment that Anna and Jacob share after their first date, at the bottom of Anna’s steps, standing on opposite ends of a closed glass door, “touching” hands through the glass.
6. Disappearing Kitchen in “Paranormal Activity 3”
No other moment in 2011 cinema made me leave the theater wondering how the director accomplished such a feat quite like the disappearing kitchen act in “Paranormal Activity 3”. As to not ruin it for anyone who has not seen it, simply imagine a camera trick of a swiveling camera, in which one minute the kitchen is there and the next minute it’s gone, with a huge surprise looming around the corner. Not only the scariest portion of the film (that’s not saying much), this was a technical feat of cinema.
5. Skyscraper Scaling of “Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol”
Nothing can quite keep you on the edge of your seat in suspense like Tom Cruise hanging off the side of the world’s tallest building in Dubai. With some unique IMAX effects mixed with suspense, action, and comedy, there is almost no beating the grand scale of this epic Mission Impossible scene.
4. Closing Sequence of “Melancholia”
Never has a film been so overwhelming in emotion and grand scale orchestra that I had to close my eyes and ears to avoid the sheer impact of what was about to happen. “Melancholia” does many things to its viewers, but only a theater audience can appreciate the grandness that is the closing sequence of the film.
3. Forest Chase of “Sherlock Holmes: A Game Of Shadows”
Being a huge fan of the Holmes-O-Vision in both films thus far, the Forest Chase was so enthralling that it easily made my top three best moments of the year. Through the blasting shards of trees and dirt, Robert Downey Jr., Jude Law, and Noomi Rapace still put on great performances, including my favorite portion, where both men fall to the ground, are able to get up and fight two armed men, ending with Holmes handing Watson a loaded gun and Watson taking out the sharpshooter following them with great timing and precision, in both execution and literally within the scene.
2. Sandstorm Chase of “Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol”
For some reason, there was something about the tilted camera, the billowing sand clouds, and Tom Cruise sprinting in a suit that screamed best moment of the year. Even though “Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol” was chalk full of amazing moments, the sandstorm chase is the one that stuck with me. Had the camera angle been changed or the shots not flowed as well, this scene would have meant much less to me. But the way that it was handled created a truly one-of-a-kind moment in cinema history. Even up to the car collision in which Tom Cruise must duck to miss a car almost slamming into him was executed brilliantly.
1. Elevator Kiss in “Drive”
Not only was “Drive” my favorite film of the year, it also contained my favorite moment of 2011. The elevator scene encapsulated everything I loved about the film, with some of the best cinematography I have witnessed all year, some of the most euphoric musical score from Cliff Martinez, and wonderful acting from both Ryan Gosling and Carey Mulligan. Nothing says “I love you” like a long passionate kiss in a dim-lit elevator just before smashing in some hitman’s skull.