Hundreds of films were released into our worlds in 2015, and every single one of those were made up of bouts of dialogue, character arcs, sequences of silence, an array of noise, music, songs, tears, laughter, confusion, frustration – it goes on an on. Like our very everyday lives, the motion picture experience can depict all manner of moments, and emotions, and action, many of them memorable in many different ways. The following 30 Memorable Movie Moments from 2015, in three parts, are a collection of scenes plucked from the film writing stratosphere, from myself and like-minded film nuts. Not necessarily the best (who is to say that though, really?), but all very worthy of mention.
A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night – Temptation
The immediate spiritual connection between Arash and The Girl is a given, you embrace it so naturally. A somehow familiar bond emerges as they listen to music in her apartment, it builds slowly and intimately through no words, and barely any physical contact. As they come to face each other the truly beautiful moment arrives as The Girl exposes Arash’s neck but resists the temptation to take him, and instead rests her head on his chest. Sometimes life appears to move in slow motion as your heart races on.
The Assassin – Curtains
A film of rich textures and colors throughout, and simply one of the year’s most gorgeous films, the photography of Hsiao-Hsien Hou’s The Assassin reaches its own climax in a scene where appointed assassin, Nie Yinniang (Shu Qi), finds her target, Tian Ji’an (Chang Chen), in his bedroom. Veiled through layers of sheer curtains blowing in an evening breeze, the camera assumes Nie’s POV, tucked above in the rafters, keeping a steady though alternately obstructed/not obstructed eye on her target. Metaphorically the scene mirrors the mood of our assassin, who struggles with her resolve to kill.
The Danish Girl – It Has To Stop
Artists exploring beyond their talents into the realm of repressed identity are wonderfully portrayed by Eddie Redmayne and Alicia Vikander in The Danish Girl. The first significant turning point comes the morning after the night before, were Einar’s transformation into the woman Lili results in boundaries beginning to be shattered in their seemingly flourishing marriage. The trembling, tearful Gerda knows the line has been crossed, an ultimately life-changing, emotional line, as Einar too realizes this is no longer a game. This is Alicia Vikander’s magic moment, one of many in 2015 for the actress having quite the epic year indeed.
Star Wars: The Force Awakens – Joy Ride
Joy Ride on the Millennium Falcon. There are plenty of scenes I could choose from J.J. Abrams’ hugely entertaining sequel/retelling of A New Hope, but I’ve decided to go with Finn (John Boyega) and Rey (Daisy Ridley) kicking the dust off a piece of junk and escaping from the clutches of the First Order. Not only is it an exciting set piece, but both Boyega and Ridley share the same feelings as the audience – that we’ve just taken ours first steps into a much larger world, and we’re figuring out the kinks as we go along.
Phoenix – Speak Low
Every film comes to an end, the conclusion leaves the most mark in a particular viewing. There are rare times when a film not only recognizes that but uses it as the basic plot point. Phoenix is the central character’s journey from the ashes to a new life. What she lost, she longs for but it can’t come back. Its gone, burnt, demolished. Former nightclub singer and now a holocaust survivor Nelly (Nina Hoss) performs the unshakable “Speak Low” in front of her friends and her husband who deceived her in two very different ways. He doesn’t realizes that this is his wife who he gave away to death but someone like her. The whirlpool of so many emotions, so quietly shown with the subtle changes in expressions and emotions on the faces speak for themselves. Facades are broken both sides and their affect is different. Best ending of the year, a cinematic mic drop unlike many.
Love & Mercy – Pleading
There have been an endless number of biopics made about famous musicians over the last few years so that sub-genre feels like it is worn thin. That is until you see Love & Mercy about Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys. The film shows two distinct periods in Wilson’s life and he’s portrayed beautifully by Paul Dano who plays Wilson in his hit-making heydays of the 1960’s, and John Cusack who plays the broken and disheveled Wilson of the 1980’s. They are both marvelous but there is a scene involving Cusack and his burgeoning love interest Elizabeth Banks that absolutely breaks your heart. At that point in his life Wilson was being controlled and manipulated by his Therapist (a conniving Paul Giamatti), who is over-prescribing medication to keep Wilson pacified at all times. Wilson is in constant threat of being thrown in a padded cell and locked up if he doesn’t follow Giamatti’s instructions, so when Banks is over at his house and he hears the doctor pull up he pleads with her “I want you to leave but I don’t want you to leave me.” He repeats it over and over and over, as his mannerisms become more and more panicked. I’m glad that Dano is getting attention from critics for his performance, but this scene by Cusack is simply unforgettable.
Beasts of No Nation – Color
In the midst of such a gripping, disturbing motion picture experience like Beasts of No Nation, a sudden color palette change may be distracting or unfathomed. Not here, Cary Joji Fukunaga, director and cinematographer, intricately alters our lenses, our visual contrast settings, as the nature of greens, browns and pale blues morph into vivid pink during a scene of battle. It’s a remarkable work of film photography overall, and this tiny sequence exhibits that, blending right back to the original colors and normality – or at least as normal as these characters know.
The Martian – Starman
It’s not one scene per se, but a series of very quick ones that goes from Mark Watney drilling holes in his space-jeep to the crew of the Hermes communicating with their loved ones, to NASA working together with China to send supplies into space. All these scenes individually wouldn’t be great, but what ties it together is the song “Starman” by David Bowie is playing through it all. It’s a fantastic song that fits ever so perfectly with what’s going on. It’s also a great scene because it had re-invigorated me to listen to David Bowie.
Avengers: Age of Ultron – Lifting The Hammer
Joss Whedon’s second outing into the Avengers franchise wasn’t as groundbreaking as the 2012 team up of Iron Man, Captain America, the Hulk, Thor, Black Widow and Hawkeye, but there is this great scene of all the members of this band of heroes during their downtime, which involves alcohol and Thor’s (Chris Hermsworth) hammer, Mijoner. The legend states that only those who are deemed worthy can wield the Norse God of Thunder’s hammer and powers, but the rest of the team is very skeptical of this. What follows next is just about everyone trying to lift the hammer to no avail. This scene works so well because it gives us a chance to see these characters play off one another, and because it gives the audience a break from the action and see them how they like to shoot the breeze.
Steve Jobs – 1988
The ultimate power image of Steve Jobs as realized by the relentless Michael Fassbender as the film switches into the second of three distinct time parts arriving at 1988. The montage is seamlessly and slickly edited by Elliot Graham and envisioned by cinematographer Alwin H. Küchler. Drector Danny Boyle and screenwriter Aaron Sorkin prove to be a ridiculously good story-telling partnership then, no a frame of film or piece of dialogue is wasteful. The film Steve Jobs is one huge moment in fact, so picking just one is both difficult and easy, depending on how you look at it. This is just one of many showy, impressive sequences.
Part Two and Three follow shortly.