Monday, March 3, 2014

The Little Things

The idea of a "favorite" has been driving a lot of my thinking. What makes a movie or book or tv show or food someone's favorite? If asked right now, I would say my favorite food is barbecued ribs, but I haven't eaten those in four years and may never eat them again in my life. So how can they be my favorite? My favorite movie is The Wolf Man, but I can't even remember the last time I watched that. Do you have to repeatedly experience something in order for it to be your favorite?

I like a lot of movies, but my favorite parts of movies aren't always the big set-pieces or the memorable lines. So today I want to point out some of my favorite parts of some movies, even if they movies aren't my favorites. It's these little things that make the movies for me. You couldn't do these things in books. Comics? Maybe. Especially the last one below.

Let's start with Jurassic Park. Yeah, the dinosaurs are great, and the effects hold up better than most movies made last year. But you know my favorite part? When Wayne Night is having that clandestine meeting with the guy from Ingen, and the guy shows him the fake shaving cream canister rigged to hold the dinosaur eggs or whatever. Nedry/Knight/Newman laughs with glee when he finds out that the shaving cream actually works, and expels some onto his hand. Not knowing what else to do with it, he puts the shaving cream onto some poor schmuck's pie at the next table over. There's something about that dollop of shaving cream that's just right. It's also a great moment to set up Nedry's character. Jurassic Park rightly doesn't get much credit for its script (that monologue in which Alan Grant scares that kids about the raptors makes no sense), but that scene with Nedry and Dodgson is pretty great.

Dodgson! Dodgson! We've got Dodgson here!

Samuel L. Jackson saying "Hold on to your butts" is pretty great, too.

Then there's Cary Grant's socks in North by Northwest.

Why can't I find any good color pictures of those socks?

Then there's one specific shot towards the end of Fellowship of the Ring, when Boromir blows the horn of Gondor to call for help, and Aragorn takes off running to him. The shot starts out fairly low, but then the ground slopes away and you see the full scale of the battle taking place in the woods. There's a lot of movement and characters moving, and it's a full twenty seconds long. It was done with the camera on a wire, remote controlled. It's starts 8 seconds into this clip.

Let's end on a moment from Superman: The Movie. My favorite part is that few seconds after the balcony interview, when Lois goes back inside and Clark comes in to pick her up. At 26 seconds into this clip, Clark takes off the glasses, straightens his posture, and prepares to tell Lois who he is. Then Lois comes out of the other room, and he chickens out.

That's all for today, folks.

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