Another week, another scene to add to our Scene of the Week segment. This Sunday, I have chosen a moment in cinema which captures one of the greatest fictional characters of all time, in his simplest form, the ending of Batman Begins. Batman Begins suffered, somewhat, from the Batman films prior, due to George Clooney officially ruining the Dark Knight, but as time went on this film matured like a fine wine; more and more people saw it, and more and more people loved it, as it is a true masterpiece.
Starting from the very beginning, as the title refers to, Batman Begins takes us on the journey of Bruce Wayne, and how certain circumstances and choices in his life led him to becoming Batman, Gotham City’s talisman and saviour. Trained by a deadly assassin organization named The League Of Shadows, Bruce gains phenomenal abilities which he has to then use to stop this organisation from destroying his home city. With many speed bumps, Bruce manages to defeat The League Of Shadows, and introduces the world to Gotham’s protector The Batman, leading me to the scene I have chosen this week.
With the big bad threat vanquished by Batman, the film comes to a close with Batman discussing the future of Gotham with Captain Jim Gordon, and how Batman will have not only inspired good, but also inspired bad. “What about escalation?” asks Jim, “We start carrying semi-automatics, they buy automatics. We start wearing Kevlar, they buy armor piercing rounds. And, you're wearing a mask. Jumping off rooftops. Now, take this guy.” Jim proceeds to hand Batman a Joker playing card which has been left behind by Gotham’s latest criminal, to confirm his theory. This is a brilliant little nod to Batman’s greatest nemesis, The Joker. But not only is it a brilliant nod to a iconic character, it works really well at building this realistic universe this incarnation of Batman lives in, giving people, like The Joker, a perfectly realistic reason to exist, not just because it is in a comic book themed film.
As the conversation between Gordon and Batman closes, our hero walks to the edge of the rooftop they are on, and is about to jump and glide off, until Gordon delays him - “I never said thank you”, referring to Batman’s prior work on saving Gotham from The League Of Shadows. Batman turns to Gordon, and says five words that captures the Caped Crusader perfectly; “And you’ll never have to”. Whenever I watch this scene, Batman’s reply gives me goosebumps. It epitomizes our hero, that he is not doing what he does to be a hero, to get a pat on the back. He is doing it because there is no one else out there able to do what he can, it is his responsibility to help Gotham.
The Dark Knight trilogy would not have been as good as it is without Hans Zimmer’s iconic score, with this scene highlighting the genius’ work. The Batman Begins score is dark, it’s gritty, it’s emotional but it is a revolution in modern film scoring. The track played during this incredible scene is called “Corynorhinus”. The way this piece of music hits it's climax as Batman jumps off the roof and glides past the camera, bringing the film to a close, is indescribable.
Batman Begins was truly the start of something extraordinary, which has changed the face of cinema forever. The director, Christopher Nolan, has made his mark on Hollywood with his Batman films, and I believe this scene is the perfect embodiment of that achievement.
Our Scene of the Weekfeature is in full swing now, and it’s been a real pleasure thus far. There are so many iconic scenes to choose from, making the feature a joy to work with. This week, I’ve chosen The Wake Up scene from The Hangover. Now, I feel this scene, and film for that matter, are classic, but not for the typical emotive reasons you’d sometimes associate with Hollywood. The Hangover was a tremendous concept, very fresh and perfectly executed, following three guys trying to piece together what they did on the stag do the night before. Every guy could relate to it, every girl could roll their eyes at it, but all could enjoy it. You’d think the sheer amount of comedy would wear thin quickly, but it’s done in such an impeccable manner that it just flows, coupled with the elements of realism making it relatable, even if some of it is blown way out of proportion - I, personally, have never woke up to find a tiger in my bathroom, for example!
The first thing that strikes me about this particular scene is how well it sums up that horrendous feeling after a particularly heavy night. Everything is done in a slow, laboured manner, and nothing really makes any sense. Some are susceptible to being wobbly on their feet, another thing we see here! Firstly, we see the camera pan around some of the hotel room, picking up glimpses of random pick-ups from the night before - inflatables, a sword, a chicken, the usual stuff! Some of the camera work is phenomenal, as we see the shot follow a random woman’s feet tiptoeing towards the exit, at which point we pick up Ed Helms’ Stu, who is crashed out of the floor, and only stirs when the woman leaves. He slowly wakes up and has a look around, moving nothing but his eyes to do so at first. He then manages to rise and put on his misshapen glasses, which is where the next bit of brilliant camera work comes in. We are treated to a Go-Pro style, inverse point of view, where we see Stu’s face picking up on everything he sees in the room, the camera rotating as he himself does so to take it all in.
We then get the treat of Alan awaking, and immediately stumbling and falling backwards, taking a myriad of champagne buckets and plastic cups with him, making a hell of a noise in the process. This is where it gets Hollywood, with the tiger I mentioned earlier! Alan nips into the bathroom, still drunk and half asleep, and glances over to the tiger, thinking nothing of it at first, mid-pee. Then, the reality hits him and he flees, screaming, tripping over former AotWBradley Cooper’s Phil on the floor outside the door! Yes, it’s the shock of a tiger that wakes him up, but we can all relate to a feeling of realism smacking us in the face when we realise what’s gone/going on the morning after the night before!
As you’ll know, we feel the musical element to a scene/film is supremely important, and this scene is no exception. The first half of it is played out to an excellent cover version of Fever, with this particular version by The Cramps. It comes with a more sombre, slightly dark feeling than the one many of us are more familiar with, and it works in perfect tandem with the scene of random imagery and realisation that is unfolding.
As I said at the top of this piece, The Hangover was a fantastic concept and is a film my friends and I have seen a number of times and take plenty of dialogue from. It nails different personalities perfectly, and captures every feeling that comes with a special occasion, good, bad and ugly! This scene is right up there for me in terms of execution and freshness. Classic comedy! Enjoy it below.
Another Sunday, another Scene of the Week! This week, I’m going to look at one of the many iconic moments from Jurassic Park; the T-Rex breakout. Of all the massive moments Jurassic Park has brought us, this one, for me, is at the forefront of my mind whenever the franchise is mentioned, and this moment is typified by a single superb image - the ripples in the water cups.
The cups are where the chaos begins. From the moment we hear/see the earthquake-like thumps causing the water to vibrate and ripple in the cups, the mood completely changes. It goes from uncertainty, with the characters split between two stationary cars due to the power outage, to fear and dread, as they are more than aware that they are broken down right outside the T-Rex pen. In the first car, we see Tim don his night vision goggles in search of the goat, only for a leg of the goat to land on the glass roof of the car, right above his sister Lex’s head. The car behind is carrying Dr Grant and the hilariously sarcastic Dr Malcolm, played by Jeff Goldblum, and they watch on as the drama unfolds. After the goats remaining leg lands on the car, we see the giant head of the T-Rex pop out from in the trees and above the bushes, devouring the rest of the goat, and we get our first glimpse of the huge beast. The adult accompanying the children in the first car, Gennaro, has then seen enough and he abandons the children and runs to take refuge in the toilet stalls, prompting Dr Malcolm to exclaim ‘when you gotta go, you gotta go’, adding the final bit of light relief before the terror that is about to unfold.
We then see the wires from the fencing ping and snap, and it is at this stage the T-Rex fully shows himself. The monster steps over the threshold and lets out what has become its signature roar, showing off his almighty set of teeth and power in the process. The way this scene is shot is fantastic, because you get various points of view throughout. There are times you are put in the car with the characters, and there are times you are dotted at different points within the scene, and it really gives you the full feel of the environment and how the mood dramatically changes.
There is no score to speak of in this particular scene, but in Jurassic Park as a whole film, there is plenty of John Williams’ handy work to enjoy, as we are treated to the great man delivering yet another score that is utterly synonymous with the visuals, instantly transporting you back there whenever you hear it.
This scene is really about signature imagery. Imagery that, as I said at the top, you instantly think about when you hear Jurassic Park mentioned. Sometimes, it’s the most simple of things that really hammer a point home, and for me this is the the king of that sentiment. Spielberg has delivered plenty of classics in his long, illustrious career, and this is right up there at the top of his pile.
Our Scene of the Week feature is now in full swing, and in it, somewhat obviously, we talk about a scene a week. They aren’t necessarily ‘Best Ever’ poll regulars, but more scenes that we have a particular love for or have meant a lot to us. This week, I’m looking at a rather short but very sweet scene; the end of Casino Royale.
For me, there are two key elements to this scene. Firstly, the sheer suave that Daniel Craig oozes. The minute he was cast as Bond, die-hard fans were instantly critical of his look and feel as Bond, seemingly discounting his acting ability in an instant. The general consensus seemed to be that his fairer-haired appearance just didn’t fit in with the Bond look, which is a fair point at face value, even if rather shallow (the response to Idris Elba’s rumoured casting as Craig’s successor has somewhat outdone this criticism!). It was clear early on in Casino Royale that Craig fit the bill perfectly, capturing that rawness that his fledgling Bond was supposed to have. In this closing scene, however, it was almost a goodbye to that grit, seeing Craig finally make that transition from pre-Double O to sleek, finished-article Bond, further establishing that he was, in fact, a perfect choice. In this scene, we see Mr White, the high-level Spectre member and secondary villain of Casino Royale, get out of his car at his mansion, and take the view in. He then receives a call, and we hear Craig’s Bond tell him “Mr White… we need to talk”. White then takes a bullet to the leg, which has him scrambling on the floor for his front door, where he reaches the first step. Enter Bond. The shot is impeccable, as we first see his feet, then the camera scales up his entire body, capturing first his immaculate dress before reaching Craig’s face, where he stops for a second and then delivers the classic line that we all know and love - “The name’s Bond… James Bond”, and he does so with ridiculously effortless levels of smooth, undoubtedly winning over many a doubter as a result.
The second standout element in this scene is, naturally, the Bond score/theme. It is used to sheer perfection here, from the moment White takes the bullet, to the moment Craig delivers Bond’s signature line. The first notes are played as Bond’s shot takes White’s leg out, and from there it’s almost a tease, with the classic theme being played at a snail’s pace in the background as Bond skulks on his approach, building the anticipation perfectly. As we see Bond climb the few steps, we hear rumblings of brass hitting the familiar notes. Then comes the pièce de résistance, where, after Craig’s delivery, the full-blown Bond theme is unleashed, and along with it, the goosebumps.
This has long been a favourite of ours at Life of Films, and, as stated previously, for a scene that is so short but sweet, a hell of a lot of enjoyment is packed into its mere one and a half minutes. Enjoy it below.
With our newest segment, Scene of the Week, well underway, it is a joy to pick from a wealth of incredible movie scenes which have touched us in some way or another. This week I have picked a scene which captures a character we all know and love, Charles Xavier. The scene I have selected, specifically, is from the X-Men movie, Days of Future Past, where a young Charles Xavier, played by James McAvoy, meets old and experience Professor X, played by Patrick Stewart.
In X-Men: Days of Future Past, Wolverine’s current mind is sent to his younger self in the 70’s, with the task to find a young Xavier and help him find his way again, due to suppressing his powers so that his energy allows him to walk. Charles made this decision due to losing his friends and feeling responsible for doing so, especially Raven aka Mystique. If Wolverine can help a young Charles find his way, he could then help Raven take a different path which will, in turn, prevent the apocalyptic future they see themselves in now.
With Charles’ state of depression being so severe and Logan’s approach to life being rather brash, Logan struggles to get Charles back on track. With time being vital, Logan resorts to another way of getting through to Charles, and that is using his mind as the link between time zones. With future Charles constantly in future Logan’s head, when the young Charles enters it as well, it creates this physic meeting room where both versions of Charles meet, leading us into an incredibly beautiful and unique scene.
As we see young Charles enter this future which Professor X is living in, he automatically believes that his state of depression, this hopelessness, has meaning, that the future he has feared does come true. This is shown as young Charles says to Prof. X “Is this what becomes of us? Erik was right. Humanity does this to us.”, only for Professor X to instantly disagree with him, telling Charles that there is a better path, that “Just because someone stumbles and loses their path, doesn't mean they're lost forever. Sometimes, we all need a little help.”. This opens the doors for Charles to open up to Professor X, explaining to him why he is unable to open his mind, as when he does he is overwhelmed with voices and pain that other people are suffering. McAvoy delivers this incredibly, as you hear his voice tremble with emotions. It instantly makes my hairs stand-up and give me a lump in my throat, as we can clearly see this man who lives to do good, and who is unbelievably powerful, is struggling, which is exactly where Professor X comes in, and what makes him so special. Not his powers of reading people's mind, but aiding people in their journey. To be able to help them in their darkest times and show them the light. Giving people hope. “It's not their pain you're afraid of. It's yours, Charles.” he says to Charles, “And as frightening as it can be, that pain will make you stronger. If you allow yourself to feel it, embrace it. It will make you more powerful than you ever imagined. It's the greatest gift we have: to bear their pain without breaking. And it comes from the most human part of us: hope. Charles, we need you to hope again.” The scene ends here with it being very clear that Professor X got through to Charles.
A scene wouldn’t be a favourite of mine if it didn’t have a great score, with this one having the craftsmanship of John Ottman behind it and the name of the track being Hope (Xavier's Theme). The piece of music captures this scene perfectly. The emotional weight behind the conversation between both Charles’ requires something soft but powerful, exactly like the two of them are. I cannot recommend a track from a a score enough, than I can with this. Enjoy.
This moment sums up everything you need to know about Charles. He’s not perfect, he has tough times, but it’s what drives his power, to be an example for those that need him, especially mutant children. His abilities are just a secondary to what makes him special. I have watched this scene 100 times, and I could watch it 100 times more and still learn something new about Charles due to the incredible amount of depth there is in those 3 minutes. I am not a huge fan of Bryan Singer, but he does come up with some incredible moments, with this one being right a the top of his list.
In the second instalment of our new weekly feature, I’m going to look at the confrontation between Luke and The Emperor in Return of the Jedi. RotJ is the final instalment of the original Star Wars trilogy, and is full of classic moments, but the scene in the throne room of the second Death Star is right up there with the best moments in the entire Star Wars universe.
RotJ stars, as I’m sure we all know, the fantastic former Actor of the Week winner Mark Hamill as Luke Skywalker, alongside the high-end talent of Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher and many others. However, in this scene, it is Ian McDiarmid who steals the show. McDiarmid plays The Emperor, the evil Sith Lord, Vader’s boss, and ruler of the galaxy. Luke’s conflict with The Emperor comes after he has dipped into, and overcome, emotions a Jedi should not to defeat his father, Darth Vader aka Anakin Skywalker. The Emperor orchestrates the whole thing from start to finish. He has sensed how powerful Luke can become and plans to have him defeat Vader and take his place. He does this by goading him, explaining that he knows all about his friends, and sister, on Endor and that he allowed them to know the Death Star’s location in order to both trap them and get hold of Luke. This riles up the previously mentioned forbidden emotions in Luke; fear, anger, hate, and this causes him to lash out at The Emperor, only for Vader to intervene, and their fight begins.
Having tapped into these emotions briefly, Luke beats his father and instantly realises the price of that victory, and throws down his lightsaber, exclaiming to The Emperor that he has lost. The acting from both Hamill and McDiarmid here is excellent, as they perfectly convey two polar opposite outlooks and philosophies, Light and Dark. Luke is calm and content with his choice, and The Emperor is angry and vengeful, causing him to unleash forks of blue Force lightning, a key power of a Sith Lord.
It is here that the score is vital to the scene. Behind the dialogue and the later crackles of Force lightning bolts, you can hear the music building, playing its own part in the telling of the story. It is, yet again, impeccable work from the legendary composer John Williams, as he manages to come up yet another iconic piece that is synonymous with a particular character. The score builds and builds in drama and intensity, bringing in haunted vocals, really hammering home the ghastly nature of The Emperor. There is a fantastic part when The Emperor has hit Luke with a number of jolts, and he stops at the exact moment there is a break in the score, and during this break, McDiarmid perfectly delivers the chilling line “Now, young Skywalker, you will die”, only for the music to kick back in as he’s finished. Everything from the score, to the acting, to the editing is absolutely on point here and it is an absolute treat to behold. This is where the second vital part of the score follows, as, in the background, Vader has been grappling his inner conflict of hatred and anger vs. love and saving his son, and it’s is the latter that wins the day. As Vader decides to finally redeem himself and come back to the light, the score changes drastically, and we see Vader sacrifice himself and lift up the lightning-charged Emperor and throw him over the rails, plummeting to his death in a reactor. From start to finish, the scene flows impeccably and brings Anakin/Vader’s story full circle, as well as toppling the Galactic Empire in the process.
I cannot praise this scene enough, and it is one I have seen a countless number of times, as it really encapsulates every emotion and trait of Star Wars, backed up by a fantastic piece of music. That piece of music is simply titled ‘The Emperor’, and I strongly recommend it to any film score lover. Star Wars, these days, is subject to many a debate, but one thing that is for sure is that this scene, along with the original trilogy as a whole, is cemented in history as iconic.
This week’s Actor of the Week winner is more than worthy. He is a three-time Oscar nominee and has starred is plenty of top-notch films - the Hollywood ever-present Joaquin Phoenix! Somewhat sadly, he is also our final Actor of the Week winner, as we are moving on to an exciting new feature, so keep ‘em peeled!
Early days, Joaquin starred in a lot of television projects, often under the name ‘Leaf’ Phoenix, a name he used to fit in with his siblings’ names of Rain, and the late River. Some of these projects were TV movie Six Pack, and the series Mr Smith, as well River’s own series Seven Brides for Seven Brothers. His big screen bow would come in the form of 1986’s SpaceCamp.
I was personally something of a late-comer to Phoenix’s turns, and can only consciously recall Signs as being the first film I remember seeing him in, but what a film it is. Also starring Mel Gibson, Signs is one of M. Night Shyamalan’s better projects and tells the story of a family who live on a farm and come across the classic crop circles, which leads to encounters with an alien race with sinister intentions. Phoenix is excellent in Signs, going from utterly sceptical at the thought of an alien invasion, to being absolutely horrified at the truth of the predicament. There’s one particularly fascinating scene in which Phoenix’s Merrill Hess is watching a home-shot video on the news, showing the first real sighting of an alien, and the mere thought of the scene still gives me goosebumps now, and you can see this scene below. Phoenix’s reaction to the alien only adds to the gravitas of the scene, really providing the weight to make it feel real.
One of Phoenix’s classic roles, a role that also earned him one of three Oscar nominations to date, is that of Commodus in Gladiator. Here, he also starred alongside a former AotW winner in Russell Crowe. Gladiator tells the story of a betrayed Roman General who is out for revenge, after his family are murdered by the aging Emperor’s son, after he chooses Crowe’s General, Maximus, as his successor, as opposed to his own son, Phoenix’s Commodus. This film is iconic, from plot to actors to score, it really has it all. Phoenix and Crowe’s utter contempt for one another is a massive factor in its success, and Gladiator should really be a priority if you somehow haven’t seen it yet.
Phoenix’s other two Oscar nominations came for turns in The Master, and Walk the Line, where he portrayed the legendary country musician Johnny Cash, from early days in Arkansas to becoming the household name and icon he will forever be.
Other projects of Phoenix’s that are definitely worth checking out are Her, You Were Never Really Here, and Two Lovers.
For me, it’s a real pleasure to write about Phoenix, as he has quite the back catalogue and really seems to churn out top quality performances on a consistent basis. He is, in many ways, the only reason I’m remotely interested in DC’s upcoming Joker standalone origin film, which should be interesting to say the very least. For me, it’s a thumbs up for Joaquin, never a thumbs down!