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Great Scenes – FIVE EASY PIECES

This is one of the earliest and greatest examples of Jack truly being Jack, playing the anti-hero and societal drop-out in Bob Rafelson‘s Five Easy Pieces (1970), his first starring role after stepping out of Roger Corman‘s b-movie shadow with buddy Dennis Hopper‘s Easy Rider a year earlier. By the end of the decade Nicholson would have worked with the finest directors film had to offer and would come to change our perception on leading-man charisma forever. Just look at a few select movies from his 1970’s run of films: Mike NicholsCarnal Knowledge, Hal Ashby‘s The Last Detail, Michelangelo Antonioni‘s The Passenger, Roman Polanski‘s Chinatown, Milos Forman‘s One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s NestArthur Penn‘s The Missouri Breaks and Stanley Kubrick‘s The Shining. That’s the type of decade you could really hold between your knees.

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February 21, 2012   No Comments

20 FANTASTIC FINALES FROM FILMDOM (4 of 4)

If you’ve been following us for the last month and a half, you know that we partnered with BoxingUweBoll to bring you The TOP 20 CLOSING SCENES in film, as selected by the writers on both staffs. And today we bring you the final installment, numbers 1-5:

5.) Inception (2010) –  Christopher Nolan

[by Sean Carnegie]

The dream is over. Cobb (Leonardo DiCaprio) wakes up upon successfully completing the process of inception and walks dazedly through US customs, back to the home he once knew. Once he arrives at his house, he instinctively pulls out his totem and gives it a spin to reassure himself that he isn’t still dreaming. His attention is soon drawn away however, by the sight of his two children and as they rush into his arms the camera pans back to the now forgotten top. The music builds, the top wobbles and… Cut to black.
I have never heard so many theater goers simultaneously exhale in surprise at the ending of film as I did during that final cut of Inception. With this movie, Christopher Nolan built something as puzzlingly complex as a house of cards stuffed inside of a Russian nesting doll. All the way through my first viewing of the movie, I was convinced there was no possible way for him to land a satisfying ending after creating such a wonderfully complex narrative. Yet all it took was the slight wobbling of a top and a perfectly timed cut to knock the wind out of my lungs and set the internet on absolute fire with the question, “Is Cobb still dreaming”? Even though there have been millions of words spent on the subject, the bottom line is that the question is far more important than the answer. Nolan left the blank. It’s up to you to fill it.

[admin. note: embedding has once again been disabled – but please follow the link to see the ending.]

4.) The Thing (1982) – John Carpenter

[by Boaz Dror]

Carpenter’s soon-to-be-prequel’d remake of the Howard Hawks‘ classic begins with a bang and spends the entire 2nd act building suspense as an alien shape-shifter infiltrates a rag-tag pack of Alpha Males and wreaks havoc on their minds, bodies and souls. Against a harsh arctic landscape, the twists and turns hold increasingly higher stakes, as the fate of the world hangs in the balance. And though the eye-candy that fuels this film is Rob Bottin‘s amazing creature effects, the ending is as bare-bones as possible: having seemingly killed the creature, super-cool helicopter pilot R.J. MacReady (Kurt Russell) stumbles to what his final resting place by the camp’s flickering remains. Suddenly his rival Childs (Keith David) appears, “you the only one who made it?” the weight of his words filled with meaning. “Not the only one,” MacReady replies, insinuating what we’re all thinking. As Childs protests that he’s as human as the next guy, it occurs to us that the next guy – Mac himself – might not be so human. “Why don’t we just wait here a little while… see what happens.” Carpenter drops the curtain on the two men and freezes them figuratively in our minds before winter freezes them literally in their tracks, and whether we’re watching two combatant species or two of humanity’s unknown saviors, it’s a perfect ending to a movie in which no one is what he seems, and nothing can be trusted. It’s a delectably open-ended resolution to a masterpiece that won’t be topped anytime soon.

[admin. note: for a more in-depth review of the Thing look here.]

3.) The 400 Blows (1959) –  François Truffaut

[by David Micevic]

When Truffaut shot The 400 Blows, he was an outsider in the film industry, more than that, a hostile adversary—a fiery critic who famously wrote a call-to-arms deriding the stagnation he saw enveloping French cinema. At odds with the industry, by the famous final shot of his groundbreaking debut, he arguably now was the industry. With The 400 Blows he placed an indelible mark on the French film landscape, ushering in a new era of auteur cinema. To watch this scene in isolation doesn’t do it justice. It requires that you come to fully understand the plight of the film’s protagonist, renegade youth Antoine Doinel; to witness his persecution at the hands of authority figures, his eventual confinement in a juvenile detention center and his sudden escape from it all. If cinema, to paraphrase Godard, is not the station, but the train, Truffaut knew that his film needed to expresses that sense of endlessness. To convey the open-ended nature of Doinel’s journey, Truffaut employed a simple, but now-legendary cinematic technique. As Antoine makes his way onto the isolated beach, the camera zooms in on a freeze-frame of his face, and then the film abruptly ends. Truffaut leaves us with a haunting image of absolute uncertainty. There is no resolution; no reprieve. Antoine remains forever frozen in our minds, caught between the captivity of his past and the endless expanse of the unknown future.

2.) Chinatown (1974) –  Roman Polanski

[by Steven Short]

Although it’s remembered both for its technical dexterity and its unflinchingly bleak view of humanity, the ending to Chinatown is perhaps most revered for it astronomically high tragedy-per-minute ratio. In a scant five minutes, the hero is falsely arrested, his lady is shot in the head, a screaming child is carried away in the arms of an elderly pedophile, and the film’s main villain skulks away into the night. The gravity of the sequence is bolstered by a jarring lack of music, and an incorporation of eye-level shots and sparse editing lend the otherwise stylistically bold film an unpredictable, documentary-like feel. Through Polanski’s smart use of shaky P.O.V. shots, the viewer is standing right next to protagonist Jake Gittes as this shocking display of inhumanity unfolds. Everything Gittes has accomplished up until the film’s final moments has been for naught, and before all hope is extinguished a colleague mutters the famous phrase, “Forget it, Jake; it’s Chinatown.” As viewers we know those words have fallen on deaf ears, as his already dreary worldview was shaped by a similar incident in the past. He won’t forget Chinatown, and his compounded cynicism speaks to those of us who know the world can really be that bad.

1.) The Usual Suspects (1995)Bryan Singer

[by Boaz Dror]

There are gimmick endings and then there are outright shocks, culminations that cause us to question not only what came before but also the very nature of storytelling. The Usual Suspects, which pushes the concept of an unreliable narrator to dizzying heights, proves that “the bigger the lie, the more will believe it.” As smug agent Kujan (Chazz Palminteri) – with whom we’ve identified the entire film – bullies lowly Verbal Kint into finishing his account of Satanic Keyser Soze, we know his betrayal will earn him death. We pity Kint as he’s released, which is our undoing – for in the ensuing moments everything is transformed. Without Kint to lead him, Kujan finally sees the truth – and we see through his eyes. As Spacey shapeshifts from Kint to Soze in one of the greatest tracking shots in film, the audience’s collective jaw drops beyond the fourth wall. We realize we’ve not only been the victims of the greatest sleight of hand in film history, but that we’ve been active participants in our own undoing – we wanted this unbelievable tale-within-a-tale, of a mythical superman and a pathetic gimp, of colorful bad guys and outlandish double-crosses. And as Soze disappears forever, his greatest triumph is the one bit of fiction proven to be true: of his own greatness. Though as an audience we’re left exposed – swindled even – this fleeting fiction is an ultimate Truth we can cling to, a wisp of smoke in a hall of mirrors. The perfect ending to a perfect lie. And then – poof – it’s gone.

[admin. note: unfortunately, embedding has once again been disabled – but please follow the link to see the ending.]

What do you think? You agree/disagree? Either way, we hope you’ve enjoyed our countdown – be sure to revisit parts 12, 3, and to also visit Boxing Uwe Boll for the first installment, The countdown of the top 20 film openings! Please keep visiting both blogs for fantastic writing about movies, and look for more collaborations in the future! Thanks!

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August 8, 2011   3 Comments

SCORE! The 150 greatest OST’s – pt. 10 (of 15)

60.) Mishima (1985) - Philip Glass

Paul Schrader, the writer of Taxi Driver, Raging Bull and countless other classics directs this biographical film about Japanese author and mega-personality Yukio Mishima. The Philip Glass score is hypnotic and ethereal, as is his score for Errol Morris’ The Thin Blue Line, which might have gotten the nod were it not packed with dialogue. Also recommended by Glass is Music from Candyman, as well as the Koyaanisqatsi-Powaqqatsi-Naqoyqatsi scores. Check out track 12, “The Last Day”:

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and track 14, “Mishima: Closing”:

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59.) The ‘Burbs (1989) – Jerry Goldsmith

Joe Dante directs this underrated black comedy starring Tom Hanks, which takes place in a prototypical American suburb, where strange new neighbors, the Klopeks, stir up suspicion among the residents. Jerry Goldsmith is one of the most pedigreed of composers, responsible for the score of Papillon, Planet of the Apes, Chinatown, Gremlins, Rambo and Poltergeist. His score for The ‘Burbs is inventive, dark, and full of bells, violins, gunfire and quacking ducks- and seems to have been a profound influence on Danny Elfman. Here’s the main title, “Night Work”:

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and track 6, the gunfire-filled “Let’s Go”:

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and track 15, “The Note”:

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58.) An Elephant Called Slowly (1969) – Howard Blake

James Hill directs this film about a 5 year old elephant called Poly-Poly (or Slowly-Slowly) who lives out in the African wilderness, and the foreign couple he adopts – in this sequel to Born Free. Howard Blake, who also composed the orchestral score for Flash Gordon, supplies the funky music filled with bass clarinets. Here’s track 1, “An Elephant Called Slowly”:

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and track 3, “Mr. Mopoji – Wild Dogs”:

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57.) After the Fox (1966) – Burt Bacharach

This Vittorio De Sica directed film scripted by Neil Simon stars the amazing Peter Sellers as The Fox, top criminal mind and master of disguise, who escapes from prison and immediately plans his next job, pretending to be a famous director on the set of his new movie in order to smuggle gold into the country. This score comes courtesy of the great Burt Bacharach, composer of the songs “ target=”_blank”>Close to You” and “ target=”_blank”>What the World Needs Now,” who also composed the scores of What’s New Pussycat?, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, and the original Casino Royale. Check out the always entertaining Peter Sellers collaborating with The Hollies on the title song, “After the Fox”:

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and track 6, the swanky “Italian Fuzz”:

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and track 15, “The Via Veneto”:

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56.) Yojimbo (1961) – Masaru Satô

Akira Kurosawa borrowed the themes and plots of Dashiell Hammet’s Red Harvest and created the masterpiece that is Yojimbo, the tale of a wandering samurai who arrives in a town ravaged by two competing gangsters and plays one side against the other, a narrative later re-recycled to become Sergio Leone’s A Fistful of Dollars. And where Leone had Morricone, Kurosawa had Satô, who also scored The Hidden Fortress, Throne of Blood, as well as Hideo Gosha‘s The Wolves, Kihachi Okamoto‘s Sword of Doom, and several Godzilla films. His work on Yojimbo‘s score features rhythmically intriguing melodies like the following main title:

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and track 3, “White Horse Lodge”:

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as well as track 23. “Women”:

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and track 45, “Strange Basket Dealer”:

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55.) Q the Winged Serpent (1982) - Robert O. Ragland

Larry Cohen is king of the B’s, the man responsible for The Stuff, God Told Me To, and Hell Up in Harlem. In this well crafted low budget monster movie, a giant flying lizard – the mythical Quetzalcoatl - terrorizes New York, and only an out-of-work, ex-con piano player (played by Michael Moriarty) knows the location of the monster’s nest- and he ain’t telling. Ragland’s score is full of target=”_blank”>theremins, bass clarinets, and all the other goodies you’d expect from a good ol’ fashioned monster movie. Check out the main title:

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and track 16, “Ritual In The Warehouse”:

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54.) Valerie And Her Week Of Wonders (1970) - Luboš Fišer

Jaromil Jires directs this surreal Czech coming of age film which feels like an elaborate dream filled with vampires, priests, underage girls in silk pajamas, magic earrings and burnings at the stake and has something to do with menstruation. Whatever it’s about, it’s highly recommended, in large part because of the music, which is enchanting, ethereal, and full of angelic voices and eerie melodies. Here’s track 5, “Losing the Way”:

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and track 9, “Dense Smoke”:

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and track 12, “Disquiet”:

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53.) Il Postino (1994) – Luis Enríquez Bacalov

Michael Radford‘s commercial and critical hit tells the tale of an uneducated postman hired to hand-deliver the mail of exiled poet Pablo Neruda, the famous Chilean poet, who learns something about love and the power of poetry along the way. The soundtrack by Luis Bacalov will teach you something about love and poetry as well, filled with warm strings, a forlorn accordion, and a chorus of clarinets. Here’s track 2, “In Bicicletta”:

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and track 11, “Milogna Del Poeta”:

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52.) Evil Dead (1981) - Joseph LoDuca

The movie that launched Sam Raimi and Bruce Campbell’s careers tells the tale of 5 friends, a cabin in the woods, a book of the dead known as the Necronomicon, and an unspeakable evil determined to claim the souls of all. It also features a memorable score by LoDuca, who would go on to score Raimi’s proto-remake/quasi-sequel, Evil Dead 2, as well as TV syndicated powerhouses Xena and Hercules. In Evil Dead he employs staccato plucking of strings, electronic swells, and weeping violins to create a palpable sense of dread. Here’s track 1, “Introduction”:

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and track 4, the pluck-heavy “Rape of the Vines”:

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and track 6, “Automatic Writing”:

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51.) Mirrormask (2005) – Iain Ballamy

Writer Neil Gaiman and Graphic Artist-turned-Director Dave McKean – frequent collaborators on the Sandman comic book series – collaborate on this fantasy about a girl named Helena with a bed-ridden mother who falls through the looking glass into a strange world filled with bizarre creatures and masked inhabitants, where the white queen has fallen ill and can only be saved by the MirrorMask. The music is fractured, haunting, and yet beautiful, mirroring (sorry) the imagery. Here’s track 3, “Spanish Web”:

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and track 24, an eerie rendition of Burt Bacharach’s “Close to You”:

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and track 25, “A New Life”:

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and track 27, “Butterfingers”:

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Click to see part 1 (OST’s #141-150) , part 2 (131-140),  part 3 (121-130), part 4 (111-120), part 5 (101-110), part 6 (91-100), part 7 (81-90), part 8 (71-80), part 9 (61-70), part 10 (51-60), part 11 (41-50), part 12 (31-40), part 13 (21-30), part 14 (11-20) and part 15 (1-10).

October 25, 2010   No Comments

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