10. Chiron Reveals Himself – Moonlight (2016)
Throughout “Moonlight”, Chiron walks around with the camera following right behind him. We can never read his emotions because he doesn’t fully understand his feelings either. As a kid he doesn’t know what any of it means, as a teenager he’s bullied and harassed into not feeling it, and in his adult life he bulks up his muscles to perform like someone else. There’s a moment where someone asks, “Who is you?” And in the end when he finally reveals himself, he realizes who he is now. An entire lifetime has built to this moment, and in the end as we reflect on the life that brought us here, we see him as a kid once more. And this time he turns to the camera, knowing who he is.
9. The Death of Queen Jane – Inside Llewyn Davis (2013)
The Coen brothers have partaken in dragging their characters through the most humiliating of scenarios. Some have accused them of becoming the nihilists they openly mocked in “The Big Lebowski”, but I disagree. They’ve certainly become comfortable with telling melancholy stories but they’re not without life or passion.
Everything before this moment he has to perform, Llewyn’s been on the bad end of life, never getting the benefits of any scenario. So, he performs this beautiful song and we can tell he gives it his all. But alas, the executive tells him “I don’t see a lot of money here.” This is the story of a man who goes out and tries to achieve something, anything, but time and time again just doesn’t have what it takes to get there. For every Bob Dylan there’s probably a million Llewyn Davis’. But he accepts it, and lives with it.
8. The Apple – Once Upon a Time in Anatolia (2011)
Through a long, tiring journey in the early hours of the morning as a team of officers, doctors, diggers, and guilty men look for a dead body buried in the Anatolian desert – we suddenly get this scene. It gets our attention because it breaks away from what we’ve seen and stays on the journey of an apple as it tumbles downhill.
The whole film is told mostly through characters conversing with one another with provocative stories of life and death. What it really translates to is how they’re going to live after what has happened. And with something as simple as an apple falling from a tree, we see a piece of fruitful life stuck in place as it awaits it’s decay.
7. Processing Scene – The Master (2012)
In the film’s most stunning moment, Freddie’s sat down and forced to answer questions rapidly without blinking – if he blinks, they start over from the beginning. Lancaster repeats the same questions over and over, knowing it will get to Freddie and make him get increasingly frustrated. But as the questions go on, they get more personal. Revealing to us the tragic past of Freddie’s life, from his alcoholic father, the incarceration of his mom, and his sexual encounters with his aunt.
Phoenix finally breaks in this moment; we’ve seen him as a collected man with nothing to feel up until this point. But after this brutal psychological evaluation is when he finally finds something, because this is the first time he’s been the one broken down by something. This is the moment he devotes himself to “The Cause” and follows Lancaster on his crusade of wild, ridiculous stories.
6. Anwar sees the truth – The Act of Killing (2012)
In 1965, the Indonesian military carried out an anti-Communist crusade to exterminate a mass amount of lives. In the end over one million people were murdered between 1965-1966. Gangsters, Anwar Congo was promoted from selling black market movie theater tickets to leading the most powerful death squad in North Sumatra. Anwar is said to have killed over 1000 people. As Anwar sits there and relives his acts it finally comes crashing down on him, what he truly did and what his victims felt. Or at least he thinks he understands what they felt, but Oppenheimer makes it clear to him that he can’t possibly know what it is they felt because he’s still here and they’re dead.
5. Victim Pickups – Under the Skin (2014)
One of the trademarks of Italian Neo-Realism was the casting of non-actors in roles to better convey the realism of the world. These scenes might make one think that there’s no way a man in real life would actually be gullible enough to get in a car with a stranger all for the sake of sex. But this is where the neo-realism has its most provocative power, the men Scarlett Johansson picks up aren’t actors – they’re real men who were unaware they were being filmed by hidden cameras.
The film serves as a meditation on isolation, sexuality, and emotional need. This creature, what it may be and whatever its objective was, is a nameless being with no feeling, meaning, or identity. But it wants to learn more, it wants to feel something, and it wants to experience more than what’s physically on the surface.
4. A.C. can’t save O.J. – O.J.: Made in America (2016)
We’ve all seen this famous footage dozens of times before, but what you’ve probably never experienced is the intimate relationship between O.J. and A.C. Cowlings in this life altering moment. As the whole world was watching a low-speed police chase on the LA freeway something else was happening inside that white bronco.
In one memory told, someone pulled a prank when they brought a fake gun to the football field to scare O.J. – A.C., not realizing it was a prank, jumped in front and said “If you want to get to him you’ll have to go through me!” All these years later, after he jumped in front of O.J. ready to take a bullet for him, he’s now helpless as O.J. holds a gun right underneath his chin. Now a whole new world of repercussion is brought into this moment. If you think you know everything there is to know about the O.J. trial, think again.
3. The Birth of the Universe – The Tree of Life (2011)
I’m willing to bet a lot of you who come to this site are sick of reading about “The Tree of Life” aren’t you? I can’t speak for anyone on the site, but what I can say is that there’s not many films I’ve seen that made me feel like I was hypnotized than this stunning sequence. Much like how Job questioned God as to why he has allowed suffering to exist in the world, a mother too questions God and asks, “what are we to you?”
There are many different explanations out there as to why God, if he/she even exists, allows tragedy and sadness to exist in the world. But what’s most fascinating about this scene is that instead of answering anything it instead takes us on a profound journey through space, time, biology, and life and lets us decipher for ourselves why everything happens the way it does.
2. The Eye of the Storm – Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)
“Mad Max: Fury Road” is a series of perfectly told stories within amazingly choreographed actions scenes, one after another after another. But not only is this scene breathtaking in its visual intensity and scope, but it serves as the breakthrough into the land of no return. This is where characters make their final decision on where they’re going and what they’re willing to risk.
Furiosa is seeking redemption both personally and universally, Max has to act quick to be the ultimate survivalist, and Immortan Joe and his crew are willing to do anything to retrieve their prized possessions. Redemption, freedom, survival, and breaking away from imprisonment are the central themes in “Fury Road” and in this one epic scene is where everything is brought together in one stunning piece of filmmaking.
1. The “Hallucination” – A Field in England (2013)
As we watch “A Field in England” we start out in what seems to be an ordinary field in 17th century England, but soon enough we realize that something else is happening that stretches far beyond its titular location and time period. The field in question is an isolated area, no one else in sight and stretching on forever. These men at one-point question what they must’ve done to incur God’s wrath to send them to such a place.
After escaping from the English Civil War these men are seemingly cast to this purgatory, left to wander its empty ruins for ages. So, is this all a dream, a hallucination, or a vision of the afterlife? Whatever it is it’s endlessly engrossing and provocative the entire way through. They encounter a man named O’Neil, but what could ultimately be possible is that O’Neil isn’t really a man at all but rather the devil himself, according to many traditions the devil takes on many forms and shapes.
The whole film is an experiment in which these men question the very reality around them. At the beginning of the film they come across mushrooms and use them for their meal, not knowing how hallucinogenic they are. Drugs such as these have been used in spiritual and religious rituals for many of centuries to ‘broaden one’s mind’. But since the film is relying on questioning the reality around us, these visions are the key to understanding this. The men, as well as us, are forced to question what’s reality and what isn’t. These men walk through this field in 17th century England but soon walk across the universe itself, balancing somewhere between life and death, heaven and purgatory, until they finally meet their end.