The Top 10 Scenes of 2016

I haven't published a Top 10 Scenes since 2013! That's a bit hard to believe.

The great thing about publishing after watching all of the nominated films is that I have the opportunity to recognize some films that I wasn't able to watch before publishing my Top 10 Films. Including "Tanna," "The White Helmets" and a film that might have made my Top 10, "My Life as a Zucchini." Although I would hate to imagine taking "Sing Street" off of that list, so maybe it was meant to be.

I am also including two television scenes, one of which I discovered on Facebook and the other the old fashioned way.

And finally, I can give you a bit more insight into why I loved the films that I loved that indeed made my top 10.


1. Silence

"Rodrigues apostatizes."

"Silence' is about two Jesuit padres, Rodrigues and Garrpe (expertly acted by both Andrew Garfield and Adam Driver) who meet to discuss traveling to Japan to find their mentor Father Ferreira (Liam Neeson) and discover whether or not he has abdicated, denouncing God, and living a life in Japan as a fallen priest. They take the journey to Japan, finding other Christians along the way on their search to the truth. At the end there is only Rodrigues, who, himself is faced with whether or not to abdicate himself.

Near the end of "Silence," Martin Scorsese gives us one of the most profound scenes I have ever seen on film.

It begins with Kichijiro, a fantastic character, powerless over his sin, who has followed Rodrigues, Gollum like, throughout the film once again asking for confession from Rodriguez, with Rodriguez complying.  Faced with the decision of whether or not to spare the 5 Christians hanging in the pit by apostatizing, Rodriguez, in a stunning bit of acting by Garfield, finally hears what he has been listening for.

All sound is removed and when the silence is broken my heart stopped. Only Scorsese (and maybe Friedkin in the opposite spectrum with the devil in "The Exorcist") can use those images of Christ, so boldly, and bring about such powerful emotions from the audience.

2.  La La Land
"Someone in the Crowd"

I could very easily pick 4 different scenes from "La La Land" to be on this list. There is the obvious opening number, "Another Day in the Sun,""Audition," a scene that reminds me of "My Man" from "Funny Girl," but with Mia choosing her dream over the man. And then there is the incredible "Epilogue." 

But I'm going with "Someone in the Crowd." The first time I saw the film I remember feeling a bit jarred when this tune began. On my 2nd viewing I understood why. Beginning with this number, all my expectations were smashed. I had hoped the film would live up to the hype, but I never imagined it to surpass it. 

There is so much here. The song itself, the incredible visual of the four girls dancing on the street, the intricacies of the choreography, cinematography, costumes and camerawork.  And most importantly Emma Stone's performance. Don't be fooled into thinking that what she does here isn't award worthy. We learn everything about Mia in this number. It's sets the tone for the entire film and even projects where we are headed.

3. Steven Universe
"It's Over, Isn't It."

One night this summer I was lying in bed but not quite ready to unattach my iphone from my hand and go to sleep. I opened up Facebook and saw that a friend had posted a musical clip from the animated show, "Steven Universe." I am not sure why I watched it. Adult animated television has never been my thing. But I watched it. And I was floored. I think I must have watched it about 5 times that night and many times since. To this day I really have no context for this scene other than discovering a live performance of the song by singer Deedee Magno-Hall and grasping a bit about the character from the comments.

Watching it this morning, it still gives me chills and brings me to tears. The song is fantastic and Magno-Hall's vocals are remarkable and (I'll include a link to the live version as well).


4. Moonlight
"The beach scene"

Like "La La Land" there are several scenes I could pick. I was planning to pick the scene at the diner between adult Chiron and Kevin, but I keep coming back to this scene at the beach. Ashton Sanders and Jharell Jerome are so good as teenage Chiron and Kevin. It's the only scene in which Chiron and Kevin act out on their desires.  In LGBTQ cinema, moments like this are so rare. Even "Brokeback Mountain" didn't go there this intimately.

5. Jackie

When "Jackie" first premiered at Venice, it seemed like Portman was destined for a 2nd Oscar, with the film on its way to a Best Picture nomination as well as screenplay recognition for Noah Oppenheim and perhaps a director nomination for Pablo Larrain. But for some reason, the film didn't quite connect. When writing about my 3rd favorite film of the year in my Top 10 I called "Jackie" an experimental character study. It's the experimental part that should have led to multiple nominations but instead seemed to have prevented them.

In one of the film’s highlights Oppenheim and Larrain imagine one of Jackie’s last nights in the White House. All alone, she plays “Camelot,” drinks vodka, smokes incessantly, all the while changing into what seems like every outfit she owns. This scene comes across as both believable and fantastic. Utterly plausible but also fantasy. It’s a fine line on which Larrain expertly balances throughout the entire film.
6. My Life As a Zucchini
"Simon and Zucchini"

Again, there are so many great scenes from "My Life as a Zucchini," the Oscar nominated animated feature about a 9 year old boy, Zucchini, who ends up in a group home for adolescents after his mother dies. Things aren't easy at first, but Zucchini eventually befriends all the orphans, including Simon, the bad boy of the bunch. But when Zucchini has an opportunity to leave and start a new life and Simon finds out we get this very touching scene.

You can see the scene as well as read about it over at Indiewire.
‘My Life as a Zucchini’: How They Came to the Moment of Truth in the Animated Oscar Contender (Video)

7. Better Things
"Only Women Bleed"

When I post my Top Television shows of the year, "Better Things' will be near the top. In "Better Things" Sam Fox (played by the amazing Pamela Aldon) is an actress, who is also a single mother raising three daughters -- teenager Max, eccentric middle child Frankie, and spicy youngest daughter Duke -- in Los Angeles. In one of the best episodes of the season, "Only Women Bleed" the seemingly perfunctory act of trying to get her kids to school turns into so much more when she discovers that Frankie doesn't want to use the women's restroom at school. The episode explores gender identity in a way that only Aldon can do. And it's only the beginning. In the final scene of the episode, Sam and her kids are driving along the freeway, singing to "Only Women Bleed" while we flash to individual moments between Sam and Frankie, a sleeping Duke and teen Max on the phone, perfectly recapping all the feelings we feel from the episodes before it. In the final moment, the youngest daughter grabs Sam's hand in a moment of powerful female solidarity.

8. The White Helmets

"The Miracle Baby"

Volunteer rescue workers put their lives on the line to save civilians amidst the turmoil and violence in Syria and Turkey, as depicted in the Netflix documentary short, "The White Helmets." In the most profound moment of the film a baby is discovered in the rubble, buried alive.
I couldn't find the scene although it is featured in the trailer, but I did find some incredible footage of the actual event that I've linked below as well as the trailer and a link to watch the full short on Netflix.

The White Helmets on Netflix

9. Tanna
"The volcano scene"

“Tanna,” the Australian-Vanuatuan film is a remarkably shot movie co-directed by Martin Butler and Bentley Dean and shot by Dean. This film is both intimate and grand in its telling of the Romeo and Juliet style love story of Wawa and Dain, living in a time of intertribal war. 

When Wawa is betrothed to a man from another tribe, she and Dain run away. We see the passion of their love in a remarkable scene set against an erupting volcano as they decide whether or not, despite Wawa being betrothed as part of a peace deal, to run away, risking pursuit by enemy warriors. 

Again, I don't have access to the scene, but check out this video about the filming of the movie.

10. Elle
"Basement Scene"

I almost didn't put this on the list, but it is the epitome of what make "Elle" and Isabelle Huppert brilliant.

I have heard "Elle" described as a rape/revenge tale. And I could not disagree more. It is an exploration of sexuality and cause and effect. The backbone cause/effect being an event in Michele's childhood and the inciting incident cause/effect being the rape.

After Michele discovers the identity of her rapist, he attacks her in the basement but it is different. She fights back but also surrenders. It is very hard to describe out of context.

Huppert herself talks about this particular scene in an interview with Scott Feinberg at the Hollywood Reporter, so I suggest you take a listen.


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