Along with Best Album, Best Scene is ordinarily the most diversified category in Calvins voting. With hundreds of movies released every year and with those being comprised of dozens of scenes each, the potential options for selection are in the thousands. As such, we as a staff are rarely of an accord on the best of the best. This trend started in the 2002 Calvins when the 23 ballots were comprised of 17 different first place votes. No scene earned more than three first place selections. On multiple occasions, a single ballot selection would have altered the winner of this category. And even on those rare occasions when there is consensus about which film has the best scene as was the case in 2003 and 2009 with The Lords of the Rings: The Two Towers and The Dark Knight, there can still be a debate about which scene that is. Both of those films finished first and second in the category. Prior to last year, there had never been a consensus choice for Best Scene.
2011 Calvin Awards: Best Scene
February 15, 2011
Up changed all of that with its flashback sequence. As it revealed the poignantly romantic but occasional heartbreaking history of Ellie and Carl, everyone at BOP fell in love with both of them. That’s the power of Pixar. And history repeats itself this year as the animation studio in the world once again reduces us to collective tears in Toy Story 3. I don’t even have to describe the scene if you’ve seen the movie as you already know what the selection is. Andy’s gift to Bonnie of the best toys in the world is a heartfelt but fitting sacrifice by a boy maturing into adulthood to a girl who still has a lot of imaginary playtime left to go. The selfless action has an added layer of beauty due to the franchise’s conceit that the toys are just as desperate for the play time as the children are. Their fear that they will be stuffed in a box in the attic is overcome as a new fate is revealed that involves countless hours of rapturous playtime. Toy Story as a franchise has always revered all of its characters and we at BOP admire them for their ability to give the proper send-off to Woody and Buzz and the rest of the gang. On this point, our staff has clear consent. The passing of the torch in Toy Story 3 is the clear choice as Best Scene of the year.
Inception is a landmark cinematic accomplishment wherein action sequels are given a new dimension of interaction. As filmmakers across the world run to the emerging 3D technology, director Christopher Nolan instead goes a different way with it, making a 2D film that thinks in 3D instead. The culmination of his sublime premise is a hallway battle wherein actor Joseph Gordon-Levitt is forced to perform a wire-fight in a manner never witnessed before on camera. Gravity is his enemy as changing circumstances in other levels of the dream fundamentally shift the gravitational pull and him along with it. In 1999, The Matrix fundamentally altered the way people perceive the action sequence. Eleven years later, Inception follows suit with an equally spectacular series of events in the claustrophobic areas of a hallway and an elevator that defy the known laws of physics…but in a perfectly reasonable way. Multiple scenes from Inception were nominated by at least one voter, but the Hallway Rumble is our staff’s definitive choice as the best of Inception as well as the second best overall this year.
Perhaps the most amazing feat of the introductory scene of The Social Network is that it cleverly defines the behavior of the character (?) of Mark Zuckerberg for the rest of the movie. Simply by demonstrating his social awkwardness in a conversation with his girlfriend, writer Aaron Sorkin and director David Fincher establish everything that he is as a human being. The sequence starts by revealing his insecurity. This is demonstrated in terms of how he is perceived by his date as well as how cloistered he feels by the private clubs that drive Harvard’s socialization. From there, actor Jesse Eisenberg imbues the character with an arrogant nonchalance as he casually diminishes the intelligence and the academic achievements of his female companion who is not an Ivy League student. His casual regard for the accomplishments of anyone other than himself is a precursor to his business practices throughout the film. Also, his insecurity about social encounters drive him toward any goal that offers the promise of acceptance, maybe even popularity. As established in the opening scene of The Social Network, Zuckerberg is a would-be social climber who has been trapped behind the velvet rope his entire life. He will do anything to earn a seat at the cool kids’ table and the rest of the movie demonstrates him doing just this. It’s an exemplary opening that our staff treasures as the one of the three Best Scenes of the year.
Black Swan and The Town comprise the rest of our top five. As you would expect, our favorite scene from Black Swan is the finale that has already become a popular meme. This is the moment when Natalie Portman overcomes all that is sweet and innocent about…Natalie Portman, allowing the Black Swan to strike against the virtuous White Swan. Kobe Bryant has already made headlines for requesting that a team get his Black Swan on and it’s clear that this phrase will be a part of the collective consciousness from now on. Meanwhile, The Town has a Best Scene selection that will never become part of the zeitgeist, but it is white hot. Several members of the staff at BOP, myself included, are huge fans of heist flicks. The Town has one of the best in recent memory as the film leads with a meticulously planned and executed one then follows with another that demonstrates the perils of improvisation. The end result is a car chase throughout the suburbs of Boston that leaves the viewer breathless.
Dismemberment is the theme of our sixth and seventh selections for Best Scene. In fact, the two scenes almost reflect a before and after situation. 127 Hours requires its protagonist to slice and dice his own arm in order to liberate himself from his circumstance. Director Danny Boyle does not make the grim sequence easy for the viewer, either, focusing on the icky horror of a dull knife slicing attempting to slice through skin and bone. Winter’s Bone is the after in this scenario as a teen female is asked to retrieve certain…parts from a swamp in order to avoid repossession of her home. How this chain of events is set in motion is harrowing enough, but nothing could prepare the viewer for one of the most haunting scenes of the 2000s. You will never look at your loved ones and their various appendages the same way again after watching either of these two films, especially these particular scenes.
Our selections for the rest of the top ten are sequences from Easy A, How to Train Your Dragon and The King’s Speech. Our favorite scene from Easy A is Olive’s faux-deflowering of Brandon, who is gay and wants to be deflowered in an entirely different way. Desperate to avoid the gossip of his sexuality, Brandon makes an odd request of Olive, that she have loud, fake sex with him at a party. This would convince people that he likes the ladies long enough to let him graduate in peace. The results are truly hilarious. How to Train Your Dragon’s best scene is much more poignant. It occurs moments after the climactic battle between the Vikings and the massive dragon that controls his species. The viewer believes that the danger is over and that everyone has come out no worse for wear, but then a heartbreaking reveal shows that Hiccup will always bear a scar from the battle. The beauty of this is that in losing a part of himself, Hiccup’s symbiotic relationship with his pet dragon, Toothless, is now given a physical connection. From that moment forward, when they fly, they will be joined together. And our selection for Best Scene in The King’s Speech is…The King’s Speech. Go figure.
Other scenes from 2010 cinema that we loved that didn’t earn a selection on the list are the cornbread shooting scene and Mattie’s pony negotiations from True Grit, mayhem at spring break from Piranha, the amusement park scene from Despicable Me, Vanko’s Indycar racing debut in Iron Man 2, and Mila Kunis’ theoretical seduction of Natalie Portman in Black Swan. We never said we weren’t perverts.
The Calvins Introduction
Best Overlooked Film
Best Supporting Actor
Best Supporting Actress
Best TV Show
Best Use of Music