For part three of the “Breaking Emotions” blog-a-thon, Mettel Ray has chosen a couple emotions that really get to the heart of why we watch movies — or why I do, anyway. With these two emotions, the difficulty wasn’t in thinking of movie scenes that fit; the difficulty was cutting the lists down.
Those emotions? Smiles and thrills.
First up, smiles. Mettel defined this as “scenes that have made you laugh and smile in the most happiest way possible; everything positive and joyful.” Which suits me just fine. I may be pretty hard on the comedy films of today, but I love a great comedy — you’ll note most of the entries in my Favorite Films list are comedies. If a film can keep me laughing and smiling throughout, it’s a pretty easy way to brighten up my mood after a bad day, or to top off a good one. And there are some scenes that still get me no matter how many times I’ve seen them.
I love just about everything about the old Adam West Batman TV series and movie, as has been noted a few times on this blog. The movie cheerfully takes refuge in audacity as both problems and solutions come out of the blue with absurdity being the only consistent logic. The scene that always gets me laughing — and which provides one of my most-quoted movie lines for those days when everything goes wrong in the weirdest way possible — is when Batman finds himself dodging children, nuns, ducks, and a marching band, observing that “Some days, you just can’t get rid of a bomb.”
The Blues Brothers was one of my mother’s favorite films, and ran often on cable, so I saw it many times growing up. It quickly became one of my favorites as well. One of the funniest moments in the film comes during the sprawling, chaotic car chase sequence at the end. The head of the Illinois Nazis finally gets what’s coming to him as his car goes flying off an unfinished bridge, hitting the road several hundred feet below with such force that it leaves a car-sized hole. Just before it hits, his trusted lieutenant turns to him, and states, with total stoicism, “I have always loved you.” The timing, and the combined incongruity of the characters, the phrase, and the tone make it absolutely hilarious.
I sometimes get interested in how films are made, and while occasionally this takes the magic away, often it makes things better. This is one such scene. How do you have a car fall hundreds of feet and make it look realistic? By having it fall hundreds of feet, of course. That director John Landis air-dropped a Pinto for comedy just makes me smile even more.
Let it be known: if you are fond of the song “Putting on the Ritz”, and enjoy hearing it played straight, do not play it anywhere near me. It takes more willpower than I generally have not to imitate Peter Boyle’s strangled interpretation.
And here’s the other emotion I’m generally going for when I watch a film. While I can enjoy a thoughtful movie, or an informative one, most of the time I’m looking to be entertained. That usually means smiles and laughs, or it will mean excitement. Life’s serious enough; sometimes you just want to watch something blow up. Or watch a car smash into a wall at 100 miles per hour. Or just watch a clever con man proving just how clever he really is.
One note of warning: The text of my first entry here sort of spoils the ending of the 2002 Jim Caviezel version of The Count of Monte Cristo. (I say sort of, because it’s mostly a detail of the ending that is spoiled; most viewers will be able to guess the general ending of the picture anyway.) If you haven’t seen it, you might want to just note that’s the movie I’m picking, and skip to the next picture.
The 2002 version of the film provides a bit of a lighter, softer version of the Count than is shown in the book, but what’s consistent between the two portrayals comes down to two things. First, he’s obsessed with revenge. And second, he’s extraordinarily good at it. His schemes aren’t simply to hurt the people who wronged him, it’s to destroy everything they’ve built up in their lives, and the schemes are very elaborate and thorough. The 2002 version has this culminate with Fernand Mondego, the last and most personal of the wrongdoers, running to retrieve his private getaway stash of gold. Chest after chest proves to be empty… until the last and largest one. It holds a single chess piece, a wooden king, that had been a memento shared by him and Edmond Dantes. Right in that moment, Mondego finally realizes what’s going on, who is messing with him, and how utterly screwed he really is. The audience has known all of this from the beginning, but “Kings to you” is a great instance of a revelation to a character being thrilling for the viewer.
The series tagline had it right: “If adventure has a name, it is Indiana Jones.” An old-school pulp adventure story with a 1980s blockbuster budget, Raiders of the Lost Ark gets things started by having Indy face one death trap after another, culminating with a giant boulder. Once the stone’s rolling, so is the film, and the excitement just keeps going.
I’ve liked superheroes since I was a kid, but growing up there weren’t a lot of really good superhero movies, at least not serious ones. It was pretty much Superman and nothing else for a long time. I loved Adam West’s Batman: the Movie, of course, but I wasn’t under any illusions that it was a thrilling action movie. Tim Burton’s Batman was okay, but it always felt “off” to me, and the follow-up was lousy as Burton overdid it with his macabre sensibilities. Then Schumacher’s zig-zagged the other way and missed the mark as well. Then Blade came out, and was sort of decent. Then X-Men came out and was good. Then Spider-Man was announced. Spider-Man had long been one of my favorite superheroes, and certainly my favorite among Marvel’s stable of characters.
Was I excited to see the movie? Of course. But I was also a bit reserved about it. I was an adult by then and knew full well that Spider-Man was even easier to screw up than most superhero characters, particularly in making him look believable while still making him look like the comic book Spider-Man in action. Didn’t help that the Green Goblin was so terribly off-model. So as I went into the theatre, I wondered if Spidey himself would look right. His movements are more acrobatic than straight-up fisticuffs, and the way he gets around town is virtually unique. It seemed like something that would be a lot harder to pull off than flying. I wanted it to be great, but I didn’t know if it would be. Then came that first sequence of him web-slinging through New York City. They got it right, and it was absolutely spectacular on the big screen.
So there are the scenes that come to mind when it comes to movies that make me smile or which give me a thrill. As always, let me know what you think in the comments, and I’ll have my final entry for the blogathon up sometime after the Thanksgiving holiday.