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2012’s Great Movie Moments: September

2012’s Great Movie Moments: September

Spring Breakers – Opening Sequence

Having been at TIFF this month, attempting to select favorite scenes without going entirely overboard– well, it may not exactly be as drastic as Sophie’s choice, but that is the first label that comes to mind. Spring Breakers is one of many very strong showings from Toronto this year, and certainly one of the most talked-about here at Sound on Sight. I might provide greater variety to go with one of De Palma’s masterful sequences in Passion or one chapter from the genius 101 of Kiarostami’s Like Someone in Love, and so on and so forth, but I would be lying if I did not say one scene that has stuck with me the most is the opening of Korine’s simultaneously hilarious and terrifying latest. The much-discussed slow motion, booze-soaked and bikini-clad (or, really, not clad at all) introduction to the world of Korine’s Spring Break on what is at that point any-beach, U.S.A. is an all-out barrage on the senses, shame-free in appearance yet inspiring of shame for America’s youth. James Franco may steal the show later on, providing grounds for what may be the picture’s key themes while boasting a rainbow of differently colored shorts and serenading machine gun-toting teens with a Britney Spears ballad before the aesthetically unparalleled finale, but it is this opening that abruptly charges at we the viewers, thrusting us in to a brick wall to loudly inform us as to what we’re in for. The shock, the humor, the disgust and the irony have lodged in my head like an obnoxiously catchy pop song I want to say I’m too good for yet secretly jam out to.

– Tom Stoup

The Master – Processing

Like imposing upon myself to narrow my TIFF viewings down to a single favored scene for the sake of merciful brevity, selecting but one scene from The Master (a TIFF official selection to be sure, though one I did not prioritize during the fest due to its impending wide release) is quite the challenge. The so-great-he’s-practically-holy Paul Thomas Anderson took a deviant creative direction with There Will Be Blood and with The Master arguably sharing most in common with that work from the man’s filmography to date, one of the new film’s most interesting aspects is how Anderson’s own characteristic writing fits in to this direction. Relevant to the subject at hand, Anderson’s knack for defining and punctuating a timeline with outstanding scenes is on full display here though ostensibly more subdued, of course, than in relatively more bombastic prior successes. Perhaps the most remarkable accomplishment amongst this outing’s scenes comes during protagonist Freddie Quell’s initial ‘processing’, in which co-lead Lancaster Dodd learns more about his new point of fascination through his cult’s line of applicant questioning. The lengthy ordeal – possibly the longest confined segment in the piece – is shot almost entirely in tight over-the-shoulder close-up, lingering often on Freddie’s expressions as he opens up with definitive brash honesty and important emotional reveals all presented with that quintessential freedom Dodd admires and is only just beginning his attempt to chip in to. A thesis could be written about the correlations, implications and consequences of this scene – a scene that utterly mesmerizes and hypnotizes despite its beautifully reserved, classically refined visual quality.

– Tom Stoup

Arbitrage – Closing the deal

Arbitrage isn’t a great film. Actually, it’s not really even a good film. Still, there’s room in there for Richard Gere to remind us why he was once one of the biggest stars in Hollywood. Setting aside a mostly run-of-the-mill performance, Gere comes to life as Bernie Madoff stand-in Robert Miller in a scene where he finally closes a strenuous, lucrative deal with a clandestine business partner. Gere is as giddy as his awesomely off the wall Tony in Looking for Mr. Goodbar, and injects a sense of purpose and life into an otherwise drab character.

– Neal Dhand

Killer Joe – Chicken-wing

Is there any scene to talk about in Killer Joe other than the chicken-wing climax? Throwing Matthew McConaughy’s pretty-boy image under a bus and then dumping a ton concrete on top of that bus, William Friedkin directs the viciously, nauseatingly cringe-worthy high (or low, depending on who you’re talking to) water mark of the film. McCohaughy’s Joe humiliates Sharla Smith (Gina Gershon) with the use of some fried food, a lot of thrusting, and some seriously funny reaction shots from Thomas Haden Church.

– Neal Dhand

Compliance – Sexual harassment

A great film filled with great scenes, the best in Compliance might also be the least comfortable. Taking the prank call to nearly illogical extremes, director Craig Zobel moves swiftly from long-distance harassment to rape. The brief moment where Becky (Dreama Walker) engages in sexual activity (whether willingly or unwillingly is up for debate) with her boss’s husband (Bill Camp) is successful in its restraint. A few extreme close-ups, some exaggerated creaking sounds, and a well-timed transition are enough to tell a whole lot of the story.

– Neal Dhand

The Master: The beach

The opening beach sequence of The Master introduces us to the demented mind of Freddie Quell. He and his colleagues act like boys in a schoolyard, horsing around in the strangest of ways while dealing with post-war stress. With shades of Beau Travail and Billy Budd – exquisite cinematography (shot in 65mm) – and Johnny Greenwood’s masterfully eerie score that wastes no time driving home the film’s overarching themes – It becomes clear right away, that you are about to watch an incredible cinematic experience.

– Ricky D

Looper – Torture scene

One of the major plot points in Looper is the matter of the “Loopers” having to assassinate themselves 30 years into the future – but in the present day – or past? The highlight of the film shows what happens to a “looper” if they break their contract and let their future selves escape. The torture sequence in Rian Johnson’s sci-fi/fantasy is one of the most frightening images from any movie this year. Paul Dano’s Seth is taken captive and tortured beyond belief – his limbs cut off one at a time along with his nose. As hard as his older self tries to escape, it quickly becomes clear there is no hope as he is directly effected by the torture as well.

– Ricky D

Dredd – Car chase

The first 30 or so minutes of Dredd is an electrifyingly kinetic and insanely frenetic action flick stacked with a need for speed car chase. Cinematographer Anthony Dod Mantle, a key player in contemporary digital aesthetics, adds a slightly artistic edge to the proceedings and the throbbing score helps elevate the action.

– Ricky D

[Rec] 3 – Chainsaw wielding lunatics

Filmmaker Paco Plaza sends the franchise into yet another direction wisely dropping the reality style gimmick of the first two instalments and offering fans something new. This lean zombie thriller is punctuated with humour, horror and emotion as the cannibal zombies ruin a perfectly fine wedding. The movie’s highlight features the bride (Leticia Dolera) grabbing a chain saw, which she first uses to cut off part of her wedding dress before massacring a dozen or so zombies directly afterwards.

– Ricky D

Holy Motors – Monsieur Merde

Any Carax fan who saw his segment in 2008’s anthology movie Tokyo, will be pleased to know that the character known as Monsieur Merde returns in Holy Motors. The goblin-like beast runs through a graveyard-Beauty-and-the-Beast sequence, in where headstones are engraved with website addresses. He crashes a fashion shoot, kidnaps a model (Eva Mendes), drags her back to his hideout and begins to eat her hair and her money, before stripping himself bare while fully covering her beauty.

– Ricky D

Holy Motors – Motion-capture sequence

An earlier sequence sees Oscar performing motion-capture scenes in a special effects studio. Wearing a fitted black jumpsuit, he dances in a darkened studio with only the sensors on his bodysuit capturing the light. After various backward somersaults and acrobatic leaps, an erotic dance take place as Oscar is accompanied by a tall, busty, platinum blonde. It’s a visually startling scene, akin to something out of a virtual sexual fantasy.

– Ricky D

Holy motors – Kylie Minogue

Holy Motors lead actor Denis Lavant offers one of the year’s best leading performances. Lavant is amazing in his ability to adopt disguises and personas who are completely unalike. While Lavant’s characters are impersonal, his performances evoke strong emotional reactions and his characters are convincingly incredible and often heartbreaking. The most emotionally rewarding scene in Holy Motors is a musical sequence featuring Lavant and Australian pop pixie Kylie Minogue, backed by the Berlin Music Ensemble. It recalls the best of classic musicals and is entirely engrossing.

– Ricky D

Berberian Sound Studio – Opening credit sequence

Set entirely in the offices of a sleazy Italian film company in the 1970s, a British sound technician, played to perfection by Toby Jones, travels to Italy to work on the sound effects for a gruesome blood-soaked giallo film called The Equestrian Vortex. Berberian Sound Studio actually opens with the credit sequence for that film, the movie within a movie. The opening montage is quite astonishing and the best credit sequence of the year.

– Ricky D

The ABCs of Death

In The ABCs of Death, 26 short films run the gamut from animation to film to digital; from horror to comedy to exploitation. Some segments feel as if they were made with love while others feel like a chore. Essentially what you get here, is a short film festival masquerading as a feature film. Director Ben Wheatley (Kill List, Sightseers) delivered the finest of the bunch, an effective excursion into demonic possession titled Unearthed – think The Exorcist entirely in the point of view of Linda Blair.

– Ricky D

Sightseers – Dysfunctional couple argument

Ben Wheatley’s Sightseers offers a number of memorable sequences thanks to the fine performances from Alice Lowe and Steve Oram. Their deadpan performances are the true heart of the film. In one scene the couple stops alongside the highway and begin to argue after running over an innocent bicyclist driving by. This is just one of the many great scenes that makes Sightseers one of the best films of the year – striking the right balance between sharply observed characterization and black comedy.

– Ricky D

VHS – “10/31/98″

The final of the five segments from the horror anthology VHS, serves as a genuinely creepy, satirical devilish delight. “10/31/98″ features a balls out Scooby Doo chase through a haunted house – up to the attic, amidst an exorcism, down to the cellar, and through long corridors complete with spooky peripheral occurrences that give way to levitating objects, vampire bats, and disembodied hands that merge from walls (think Repulsion). The chase features fun special effects, a collage of pop up horror, spectacular weirdness, and fantastic imagery. It is without a doubt the highlight of the pic.

– Ricky D

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