My Favorite Screen Scene

What is your favorite “snapshot” in a movie? You know, the one shot in a film that tugs at your heart or makes you say, “Oh, Yeah!” Maybe other people—normal folks—don’t think about stuff like this, but I spend more than a fleeting second each day pondering such ideas.

A friend recently reminded me that usually in movies, when the snow starts falling, everything becomes right with the world and suddenly problems melt away. Come on, snow!

There are often those shots where a man and woman stand quietly admiring a breathtaking vista, and the girl says something like, “How beautiful.”

The man, staring in awe at the woman, murmurs a response. “Yes, beautiful.”

Of course, you also have the agonizing scene of the man and woman on either side of a closed door, longing to say the things they just can’t. Those shots always make me want to yell, “Just open the door and tell him!”  It never works. They can’t hear me. Even if they could, it wouldn’t matter. The movie would end there, and I’d feel cheated out of the second half of the show.

What about the simple shots—the ones without dialog—that have become so iconic to moviegoers that nothing else is necessary to convey the message?

I love the shot of the hero walking (not running, ducking, flinching or otherwise reacting) from a huge explosion behind him. He’s too cool for anything more than a casual stroll. Not even a feigned, “Did I do that?”

A shot from inside a refrigerator, though usually no more than a few seconds on the screen, tells us that a character is bored, and often in terrible need of a grocery run.

A high-speed chase involving a semi? You know without a doubt that someone will be swinging from a door or tether strap in heavy traffic. If it doesn’t happen, you’ll be disappointed.

When watching a suave spy movie that includes a black-tie dinner with dancing, I always count down to the tango scene. I’m seldom let down.

In funeral scenes we look for the mysterious stranger leaning against a nearby tree. In shots of dark hallways we hold our breaths waiting for the cat to jump out. Rain is for sad, lonely characters facing something terrible. When the leading lady is staring across the pillow at her sleeping co-star, you know she’s planning to leave.

If an action star has to dismantle a ticking bomb, he must ask his partner what to do. “Is it the red wire or the black?” And for whatever reason, whichever wire he’s instructed to cut, he always cuts the other one. And it works. Why bother asking?

Have these scenes become cliché or are they the staple ingredients for a successful film? What do you think? What’s your favorite shot or scene? Give me your opinion!

That’s a wrap for this Toast to Cinema. Thanks for reading!

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