' Cinema Romantico: 5 Moments That Made the Movies in 2014

Thursday, February 19, 2015

5 Moments That Made the Movies in 2014

A couple years ago my favorite film critic, David Thomson, put out a book titled “Moments That Made the Movies”, a compilation that focused, as you might surmise, on specific moments from specific films. In keeping with its spirit, the venerable web site Indiewire asked the incredibly esteemed Mr. Thomson to digress on the five moments that made the movies in 2013. It does not, however, appear that he took up the same task for 2014, which is where Cinema Romantico comes in.

To be sure, taking this torch from Mr. Thomson is an act of pure idiocy. I am essentially Nicholas Sparks to his Leo Tolstoy, and yet, like the fool I am, I must forge ahead, even as I suspect he’d look at my moments, his eyebrows raised quizzically, and query: “Those?”

5 Moments That Made the Movies in 2014


Morgan Freeman is legendarily a vocally resonant actor. He’s the go-to for voiceover gospel. He’s played the President, he’s played Nelson Mandela, he’s played God. Which is why when he’s prodded into stupefied stammering, you sit up and take notice. This occurs in “Lucy” when the titular character is getting all #science on him. The titular character is played by Scarlett Johansson. There is a lot of gobbledygook regarding Movie Stars these days; who they are, how they are defined, whether they exist. Well, put away your op-eds and, for God sakes, stuff a sock in those think pieces. Lauren Bacall became a Movie Star when she made the most cynical man in showbiz smile; Scarlett Johansson became a Movie Star when she turned the most melodious man in showbiz verbally inept.


“Somehow Doug feels that this stuff defines him.” That’s what the wife of Doug Brown, former chief engineer of the Deepwater Horizon, says in “The Great Invisible”, a riveting documentary chronicling the gulf oil spill. “The stuff” to which she refers is his Transocean and BP accouterments, kept in a box out in the garage that he has held onto since the 2010 disaster, even in the face of worker’s comp claims, post-traumatic stress and a suicide attempt. It’s revealed, in fact, terribly, that it was among these personal effects where he had planned on taking his own life. That which gives us life, threatens to snuff it out, an apt metaphor for the oil industry, and for this whole fucked up world.


It’s pretty much what you’d expect a foot chase in Wes Anderson Land to be – a gruff, affectation-afflicted Willem Dafoe ominously following a goateed Jeff Goldblum on a train through marvelous European locale that winds up at the Zwinger Museum in Dresden where the clip-clop of the each man’s respective shoes echoes across the screen. But then, when the chase concludes, a door closes on Goldblum’s hand, slicing off his fingers and staining the blood with snow. Those saying “The Grand Budapest Hotel” garnering so much Oscar nomination love when previous Anderson works had failed to move the Academy's needle are apparently missing the encroachment of reality - actual reality, however small the doses - on the auteur’s fussy, fantastical aesthetic, whether in the form of a Wes-ed version of WWII or, as in this blurb's example, legit violence. Those missing fingers might be remembered as the moment Wes Anderson stopped being twee and started getting real.


Tomas (Johannes Kuhnke) and Mats (Kristofer Hivju) have spent a day on the slopes at a pristine Swedish ski resort. They relax in the sun with chalices of malted beverage. A lithe lady, several years their junior, approaches them and explains to Mats that her friend thinks Tomas is, like, the most handsome dude in the resort. Tomas struts his metaphorical feathers, never mind that he’s married with a couple kids. He’s a MAN. Then the lady re-approaches. She explains it was a mistake. She explains her friend meant some other guy was handsome. Mats, for reasons known only to the mind of dudes, takes offense and rises. An argument ensues. A guy approaches to calm things down. A shoving match breaks out. And all the while Tomas sits there, confused, defeated, emasculated. In that moment “Force Majeure” shatters the male ego so abruptly and enormously it makes five Goldman Sachs bros faint every time it screens.


Since the boy at the center of “Boyhood” was always going to have to reach the precipice of Manhood by the end we have known full well for the preceding two-and-a-half hours that this moment would arrive. By “this moment” I mean the moment when the boy, or Mason Jr.’s, mother, played by Patricia Arquette, would have to come to terms with her son standing at the precipice of Manhood, ready to go off on his own, represented by his departing for college. She sits at the table. She listens to him talk as teenagers boy do. She’s barely registering what he’s saying. We’re barely registering what he’s saying. LOOK AT HER! She breaks down crying. How can she not?! Her life is flashing before her eyes! Right here! At this table! All of it! And then she says the most terrifying thing, the thing that would have made Jack Torrance put down his axe and get misty-eyed, the thing that would have made a depressed Alien curl up for a long winter’s nap. She says: “I just thought there would be more.” If the film is a “gimmick”, as so many have claimed, then let them wait 'til the passage of time renders final judgement, as it surely will....then they'll see how gimmicky it is.

1 comment:

Alex Withrow said...

That scene in Force Majeure was straight up one of the best movie scenes I've ever watched. There was such a palpable tension. You had no idea where it was going to go, and ultimately, the result was so damn real. Great job highlighting it.