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10 for 10: Top Ten Movie Moments of the Year

Tomorrow, I’ll be revealing my top ten movies of the past year. It should be a fairly straightforward list, and – to be honest – there won’t be too many surprises on it. Anyway, I thought I’d put together my list of the top ten “moments” from the past year. As ever, I’m Irish – so I’ve yet to see the major crop of Oscar nominees – but it’s worth keeping in mind that there isn’t really a major overlap between this and the list of the best pictures. Some of the best movies didn’t have iconic moments, while some of the best moments were in otherwise lackluster films. Some good movies had great moments, and some great movies had simply okay moments. So, with the rules out of the way, let’s get this countdown under way!

I suppose that I should stick a warning in here that these items will contain spoilers. Two of the moments are climactic sequences, and a few more are just big setpieces that you might not necessarily want to know about. Still, consider yourself warned. As ever, all opinions (however crazy) are my own, and I make all manner of apologies for them. Consider these fodder for discussion. And try to guess how many of these will appear in my proper top ten movies of the year…

Now, let’s get this show on the road.

10.) “I love it when a plan comes together!”, The A-Team

Well, they're "A" team...

The A-Team was a disappointing movie. The film wasn’t sure whether it wanted to offer a solid dose of nostalgic escapist fun or more generic action fare. Bodies dropped quicker than hospital air conditioning units on retro-looking vans, and it just didn’t feel right. If the team is a covert black ops squad, playing it for laughs doesn’t really work. However, at the climax, it seemed like the movie had got the balance right. Distracting the bad guys, the team launched remote-control vans and shuffled the cargo containers on cruise ships – prompting the bad guys to become confused and frustrated to the point of drawing a rocket launcher. The ensuing chaos was beautiful, fun and wild. However, it was also short-lasting. Within three minutes, B.A. was breaking necks again – which didn’t exactly fit particularly well with what had come before. If I had to choose which of the two moods I preferred, it was definitely the former.

09.) Nicolas Cage is back, Kick-Ass and Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans

He shoots, he scores!

I guess this is a “meta-moment”. I imagine it’s hard to be Nicolas Cage. You win an Oscar, win legions of fans, build a reputation as a solid leading actor… and then you make the kind of cheesy action movies that you want to make and you’re the bad guy. However, this year seems to have been the year that ol’ Nic turned it around. Kick-Ass showed us that Nicolas Cage could have fun himself and make a good movie at the same time. Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans was challenging, but far more interesting than the stuff that Cage has been churning out for years. On the other hand, he also released Season of the Witch and The Sorceror’s Apprentice this year – but I guess neither of them can be as bad as Next or Knowing.

08.) Batman doesn’t save Robin, Batman: Under the Red Hood

This Robin's had its wings clipped...

I don’t care for A Death in a Family as a Batman story. It’s horrible-written, ridiculous and possibly racist at certain points. However, the story is iconic for the murder of Jason Todd, the second Robin. It’s a moment that Batman fails. It was inevitable, a deconstruction of the Batman myth – how can he take a runaway boy into his house and expose him to these risks? The animated adaptation of Batman: Under the Red Hood opens with the brutal beating of Robin at the hands of the Joker as Batman races to save his young ward. The changes are effective (for example, in the original story, Batman didn’t know that Robin was being tortured) and the moment is presented solemn and powerfully. The printed image of Batman cradling his young ward in his arms is iconic, and the animated version is almost as powerful.

07.) The rescue, Due Date

Ethan gets his Due...

Due Date was wildly uneven as a film, populated with unlikable characters who have no reason to engage on the roadtrip together. It was at its best when it tapped into its roots as a wild old-fashioned road movie in the style of any number of ridiculously over-the-top sequences. The moment where Ethan comes back for Peter, while ultimately unnecessary (as the officers joke about how worried he is about being imprisoned for possible pot possession), is actually kind of sweet. The stunts that follow are impressive, but also hilarious. If only the rest of the movie had as much heart and energy.

06.) “Iz not my boird!”, Iron Man 2

The parrot probably even does a more convincing Russian accent...

Iron Man 2 was a somewhat disappointing film. I dug the exploration of Robert Downey Jr’s celebrity and the surprise success of the original film, but the plot was admittedly convoluted. However, when Sam Rockwell was on the scene, the film was brilliant. Rockwell offered us a mirror image of Stark (and, by extension, Downey) – a vain, sensitive, insecure and weak-willed sleazebag. Although Mickey Rourke’s performance as Anton Vanko was somewhat less perfect (he never seemed a credible threat, to be frank), but the moments with Rockwell and Rourke worked well together were magic.

That and the fact that “Iz not my boird!” is now a quote that myself and the better half trade back and forth from time to time. Often without context. It’s great.

05.) The rowing scene, The Social Network

Getting our jocks in a row...

A lot of people found the rowing scene, scored with Trent Rezner’s version of In the Hall of the Mountain King, to be a rather odd distraction in the middle of the film, but I loved it. It fits the movie’s themes perfectly and wonderfully underscored Fincher’s core ideas – what defines us is how we react to personal and professional failures. Zuckerberg responded to his romantic rejection by creating Facebook. The twins responded by… suing Zuckerberg. It’s also just a wonderfully-shot sequence with a perfect score which illustrates just how great Fincher is with the camera.

04.) The cannibal “farm”, The Road

A cannibal holocaust...

Perhaps The Road worked better as a book. The simple prose underscored the horror and darkness with an elegant simplicity. On film, the darkness easily over-powered the viewer, becoming bleak and all-consuming. However, there’s one sequence of the film which perfectly captures the horror of Cormac McCarthy’s novel – the scene where the Man and the Boy stumble upon a household run by cannibals, with its own stock of fresh meat. It’s grisly and horrifying and – in one single moment – reveals what a twisted and distorted place this world has become. The rest of the film felt somewhat over-played, but this was the one moment that was impossible to over-play, and it worked perfectly on-screen.

03.) The hallway fight, Inception

It's all topsy-turvy...

Sometimes, just when you think you’ve seen everything, something elegant and simplistic comes along to prove you wrong. Although sandwiched between the layers of a dream, it was Arthur’s adventure in the hotel which really stood out among Inception‘s countless visual treats. Gravity became a plaything as the hallways rotated, stairs adopted impossible geometric shapes and our hero had to figure out how to give somebody a jolt in zero-G. All of which was executed nearly perfectly.

02.) Putting away childish things, Toy Story 3

Toyz in the Hood...

I think we’ve all faced that moment – letting go of something which means so much to you, even if the time is right. Andy’s farewell to his toys as he gave them away to a loving child was perfect. In fact, let’s just reprint it here for completeness.

This is Jessie, the roughest, toughest cowgirl in the whole west. She loves critters, but none more than her best pal, Bullseye! Yee-haw! Here.

This is Rex! The meanest, most terrifying dinosaur who ever lived! RAWR! RAWR! The Potato Heads: Mr and Mrs. You gotta keep them together because they’re madly in love.

Now Slinky here, is as loyal as any dog you could want. And Hamm, he’ll keep your money safe, but he’s also one of the most dastardly villains of all time: Evil Dr Porkchop! These little dudes are from a strange alien world: Pizza Planet!

And this, is Buzz Lightyear, the coolest toy ever! Look! He can fly, oh, and shoot lasers! He’s sworn to protect the galaxy from the Evil Emperor Zurg!

To Infinity, and Beyond!

Now, you gotta promise to take good care of these guys. They, mean, alot to me.

Tissues at the bottom of the page.

01.) The lightcycle sequence, Tron: Legacy

A ray of light...

You know what? I like nostalgia. I make no apology for that. The lightcycle sequence in Tron: Legacy was the best action sequence of the year, rendering the neon games in a style that they richly deserved – technology finally caught up with artistic vision. Extending into three dimensions and scored to a Daft Punk soundtrack, the scene was exciting and dynamic, with a raw energy and vitality.

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6 Responses

  1. I know it’s your own personal list, but I absolutely hated the rowing scene. It seemed more cheesy and completely unneccesary. I couldn’t really see its connection to the themes of the movie.

    • For me, the rowing scene was just underscoring that the Winklevoss Twins weren’t pissed at their idea had potentially been stolen. They were pissed because they had never been raised to believe they could ever lose. Maybe it’s because I’ve met people like that, but it just summed up the sense of entitlement and complacency so brilliantly.

  2. Good list there – Inception and Due Date would probably be a bit higher up in my one. MacGruber also :-p

    Happy New Year!

  3. Dude, THANK YOU for acknowledging Under the Red Hood. I think the only reason the comic was so popular was because it was actual readers’ choice, but the cartoon made it so much better.

    • The book gets bogged down in things like the Superman appearance and Infinite Crisis tie-in. The movie strips the story down to it’s core, and it’s the better for it.

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