You know the scene. Other times, that keystone scene isn’t so universal, and that makes it almost more special. There’s a scene in You’ve Got Mail (Yes, You’ve Got Mail!!!) where Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan finally decide to meet in-person, and when he learns that his cyberpal is actually his sworn enemy, he pretends to just bump into her and then razzes her for being stood-up. Ryan’s character ends up snapping back at him, and his body absorbs every cruel verbal dart. (“That’s my cue.”) It always breaks my heart a little bit. When I choose to think of that movie, I think of that scene.When I eventually look back at 2010, I’ll reflect upon the films that mattered, the films that dared to be different, and the films that made an impact on my heart and mind. But as time goes on, my impressions of many of my favorite films will inevitably be boiled down to a series of spectacular moments. For example, I revere The Silence of the Lambs, and I’ve seen it enough times to know it by heart. But there’s one scene that encapsulates my experience with those characters.
This year, like any other, had its share of classic scenes, but there are three in particular that stood out to me:
3. Natalie Portman’s transformation into the Black Swan.
I don’t know anything about ballet; it was the psychological puzzle that initially drew me to Darren Aronofsky’s movie. But when Portman’s Nina Sayers finally flips the switch and becomes the dark and sultry Black Swan, I did a mental pirouette. After nailing her routine, she stalks backstage like a dragon in heat, looking for prey. It was unnerving. It was erotic. And it was totally genius.
2. The opening scene of The Social Network reminded me how much I missed The West Wing. Jesse Eisenberg’s callous Mark Zuckerberg and his soon-to-be ex-girlfriend (Rooney Mara) talk at, over, and past each other with hyper-articulate precision. His barbs are baseball bats; her retorts are daggers. In an instant, you know exactly who these characters are and where they’re heading. He’s going to be a billionaire. She’s going to be a movie star.
1. Andy’s last ride with Woody and Buzz. Congratulations, Pixar. You finally broke us. The romantic montage from Up was just a primer for the last scene in Toy Story 3. When college-bound Andy gets down on his knees to show a shy little girl that there’s still plenty of magic in his old toys, something snapped inside every grown-up who once loved a G.I. Joe or Barbie.
Honorable mention: The Fenway Park heist in The Town; Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s wall-climbing dream fight in Inception; Mark Wahlberg meeting Eva Mendes for the first time in The Other Guys; the last conversation between Leonardo DiCaprio and Mark Ruffalo in Shutter Island.
What were your favorite movie moments of 2010?