All phases of a film are important to the staff at Box Office Prophets. What we’ve decided over the years is that we remember the best are individual moments, those small sequences that resonate over time. As wonderful as Children of Men is, The Uprising is the series of events that ties it all together. In United 93, those powerful final few moments when the passengers overtake the would-be terrorists are what linger in our memory. And everyone who thinks of The Avengers inevitably smiles when they hear the words, “PUNY GOD!!!” A candidate for Best Scene can take only a few seconds or 10+ minutes. All it needs to do is entertain us enough that we remember it long after the fact.
2017 Calvin Awards: Best Scene
By David Mumpower
February 21, 2017
Over the past two years, we’ve lauded the world’s longest drum solo (ignoring Rush concerts) and a prize fight involving a second generation boxing champion. This year, we celebrate something less finite. The epilogue from La La Land is easily our choice for Best Scene, winning the category by more than 50 percent over the second place finisher.
Describing this year’s winner isn’t easy since it’s still in theaters. That means I have to avoid spoilers as much as possible. All I can say to describe our champion is that a complex, nuanced relationship between characters played by Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone employs a fast forward to a few years later. Both parties take the opportunity to contemplate their relationship and what the other person has meant to them in attaining their life’s ambitions.
La La Land is a fearless film in the way that it’s stubbornly optimistic, sometimes even beyond the point of fault. In this sequence, director Damien Chazelle shows that it’s also based in reality, one in which a happy ending is sometimes what we make of it rather than something overt. For this reason, BOP happily rewards him as the winner of Best Scene for the second time in three years.
BOP loves a good comic book rumble, so the only surprise about our second selection is that it didn’t finish first. The airport showdown in Captain America: Civil War is THE titular civil war described in the title. During this moment, everyone finally picks a side and throws down as friends become enemies. Sure, not everyone’s heart is in the battle, but Marvel Studios has done an exemplary job in building a deep, robust roster of superheroes. The majority of them are on display during the airport rumble, and the Russo Brothers deftly manage all of them, somehow giving everyone in the scene their opportunity to crack a joke AND administer a beatdown. This scene is comic book cinema at its finest, and I’m surprised it didn’t win the category. We love La La Land’s epilogue that much.
Since 1977, every movie lover on the planet has shared the same dream. We’ve always wanted to see what would happen if Darth Vader flipped out and tried to kill everybody in sight. Thanks to Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, we now know what that would look like. The only surprise is that it looks like failure since Vader has one job in the scene, the prevention of intel from leaving the ship. Ah well, as long as we don’t judge him on slaughtering all the wrong people rather than the one with whatever the Star Wars equivalent of a flash drive is, the scene is phenomenal. So many rebels die screaming, and after the atrocity that was the prequels, it’s nice that the only people suffering during a Star Wars movie are onscreen. We happily laud Darth Vader’s murder spree as the third best scene of the year.
The other two sequences earning top five placement come from Arrival and Zootopia. The Arrival scene is the seminal moment when linguist Louise Banks finally discovers her unlikely Rosetta Stone, the method that enables her to communicate with the aliens. And the way it happens left our collective mouths on the floor as we pieced together this brilliant science-fiction concept.
Zootopia’s scene is the polar opposite, a silly moment involving a sloth whose glacial pace infuriates an excitable rookie cop who can’t slow down her velocity to accommodate her counterpart. Alternately, it’s one of the funniest ways anyone has ever poked fun at the DMV. The Zootopia trailer marketed the entire film with this gag, and it was a clever play for a box office juggernaut. Everything about the sloth as DMV employee works.
More comedy and a tugging of heart strings drive the selection of the sixth and seventh selections this year. Hail, Caesar! is quirky even by Coen Brothers standards, and no scene exemplifies its oddity more than the one between Alden Ehrenreich and Ralph Fiennes. Any scene featuring the future Han Solo and Voldemort has high expectations, yet this sequence still satisfies as the patrician Brit unsuccessfully attempts to teach the humble western actor how to deliver a single line of dialogue, “Would that it were so simple!”
Seventh goes to the resolution of Kubo and the Two Strings. Spoilers again prevent specifics here, but among the many strengths of Kubo and the Two Strings is the way that the hero handles a showdown with the person who put his town in danger, a man who happens to be his grandfather. It’s one of the most mature, profound denouements in the history of cinema.
Comic book characters and people larger than life complete this year’s top ten in Best Scene. Eighth place goes to Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson for his adorable singalong, "You’re Welcome." Fittingly, The Rock portrays Maui, a demigod with an artificially inflated opinion of his own heroism. The entire enterprise is casting kismet. Ninth place goes to “I’ve come to bargain,” another conclusive scene, this time from Doctor Strange. Suffice to say that this one takes a few times to get right, and our staff adored the irregular depiction of selfless valor, and it too came from an otherwise egotistical character. Finally, tenth place goes to the contentious showdown in Deadpool when our titular (and again narcissistic) champion battles a do-gooder under the mistaken impression that the Merc with a Mouth might want to be a hero, too. We as a group clearly embraced forced humility this year.
Narrowly missing nomination this year are several other amazing scenes. Deadpool almost earned a second selection with the 12 bullets sequence, our staff had divisive but generally positive opinions of the food orgy in Sausage Party (you’re right to judge the pervs who voted for it), and we loved the shootout in Hell Or High Water. It was a particularly great year in the Best Scene category.
Best Overlooked Film
Best Supporting Actor
Best Supporting Actress
Best TV Show
Best Use of Music