Monday, February 17, 2014

AFT Awards: Top 15 Scenes of the Year

This is a special category of the 7th Annual AFT Film Awards, my own personal choices for the best in film of each year and the best in television of each season. The AFT Film Awards include the traditional Oscar categories and a number of additional specific honors. These are my fifteen favorite scenes of the year, listed in alphabetical order by film title. Click here to see previous years of this category. Beware spoilers for these films.

Other moments earned more attention, but there’s nothing more devastating and inescapable than when Adèle arrives home from an evening out and Emma accuses her of cheating. In a moment, the entire relationship is over, and, despite as Adèle is not to let it go, there’s nothing she can do to temper Emma’s fury and win her back.

It’s a toss-up between the first “Look at me; I am the Captain now” scene and the final climactic encounter at sea. The latter brings everything to its breaking point, finally allowing the calm and collected Captain Phillips to lose it and to panic in the face of an unknown reality around him, a breathless takedown that doesn’t seem like it could possibly end positively.

This thriller is never more effective than when it shows the intimate meetings of its ecoterrorists. Watching Brit Marling’s Sarah interact with them for the first time and understand just what they are all about is fascinating, and it makes the morals this film all the more confusing and alluring.

To top every awesome moment from the fifth installment, this action blockbuster positions one of its characters hanging from a tank, and assumes that Vin Diesel’s Dom’s first instinct would be to leap into midair to save Michelle Rodriguez’s Letty by catching her and smashing her into a windshield. It’s a gravity-defying stunt that rightfully garnered gasps and applause for its sheer incredible ridiculousness when I saw it in theatres.

It features the best song of the year – “Let It Go” – and it’s the moment in which we really get to see Elsa unleash her inhibitions and present herself as a character. Idina Menzel crooning a great number with all the passion she’s got doesn’t hurt either, but this is a fantastic scene that really launches the film into whole new territory.

After a cell phone video presents an unclear overview of the events to come, this film reaches its inevitable conclusion as a chance encounter on the BART leads to Oscar and his friends sitting on the platform while things escalate uncontrollably. It’s a tense, harrowing, and ultimately tragic experience.

While the entire film could almost be described as one extended scene, there’s none more crucial than the one that starts it all. The initial whiplash that jerks Sandra Bullock’s Ryan away from the station is a jarring, out-of-control moment reined in magnificently by Alfonso Cuaron and his camera. George Clooney’s Matt being cool as ice and keeping things calm with his voice adds remarkably.

All of the scenes in which Theodore and Samantha interact are mesmerizing, particularly the one in which they discover that they can have sex, but it’s their first meeting that’s most potent. The curiosity with which both address the other as they get to know each other for the first time is palpable, and it’s that’s shared striving for every new connection that makes their relationship so fascinating.

Watching Daniel Radcliffe’s Allen Ginsberg experience glee as he races through the halls of Columbia discovering just what there is to love about life is great, and a big part of that comes from Dane DeHaan’s Lucien Carr. While some may perceive it as creepy, Lucien’s presence in the shadows while Allen has some fun with a girl is enormously telling and effective.

In a movie filled with excess, the most powerful moment – and there are plenty more entertaining and colorful scenes that could also be addressed – is when Steve Coogan’s Paul Raymond stares up at the skylight in his ceiling, showing off the ultimate representative sign of emptiness to those who supposedly make him less lonely.

A series of foreboding moments in this film pale in comparison to the scene in which Mud springs into action, grabbing his shirt and putting it on in a way that underlines its magical capacity. It makes Mud a true hero of sorts for the kids who idealize him, and leads into the violent and gripping finale that sends this film home.

Gael Garcia Bernal’s René expresses a generally detached attitude for the majority of this film, and his interest in the “No” campaign is merely financial. But when his ad finally airs, that’s when the tone of the film changes. Watching how the “No” campaign expresses its ideas through film and song is incredible, and it’s truly transformative.

Every time these two get in their cars and rev their engines, this film soars towards glory. Niki’s horrifying accident is certainly well-filmed, but the most powerful and lasting scene comes during the final race in which he has a flash of feeling and pulls over, deeming the track conditions too dangerous and stopping short of his big dream because he realizes there is something else more important than winning.

This movie is full of funny moments, but its best one is actually serious. All hope seems lost when the Boneys are preying on the humans, but when Rob Corddry’s M and the other less-devolved zombies start attacking the Boneys and fighting on the good side, everything changes. It’s an awesome and completely unexpected development.

Every scene in which Sam Rockwell’s Owen speaks is terrific, but his most triumphant moment is actually his final appearance, which serves as a tremendous goodbye to the summer for Liam James’ Duncan. His slide run manages not just to be effective but also to be legendary, and it’s a fitting sendoff for the kid who was more than a “3.”

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