2008 Calvin Awards: Best Scene

February 19, 2008

Food poisoning will do that to you.

Best Scene is one of the defining categories of The Calvins. This is our way to celebrate a few minutes of cinema that our staff believes are memorable enough to stand the test of time. Even though the vote was a nail-biter, we are confident that our selection for Best Scene will do just this. Our selection is the denouement of Ratatouille. Anton Ego, the "Grim Eater", is one of the most memorable movie villains in recent movie history. A food critic who appears to despise any and all foods, he is seemingly impossible to please. That makes his face turn all the more unexpected. Remy the rat's ability to produce a dish so good that Ego flashes back to a happier time in his life strikes a chord of emotional resonance that hearkens back to another timeless Brad Bird moment, the "You are who you choose to be" sequence in The Iron Giant. Rare is the movie moment that is simultaneously funny and sentimental. The Grim Eater's epiphany that what he is eating is three steps beyond delicious warms our hearts while sending us into a giggle loop. In a closely contested race, it is the narrow winner as Best Scene in the 2008 Calvins.

Missing victory by a single point is Once. Those of you who have seen the movie need no further information about what the second best scene of the year is in our estimation. A struggling musician and part time vacuum cleaner repairman sits beside a woman he hardly knows. For some reason, he is drawn to the melodious nature of her voice. This makes him want to teach her the lyrics and notes to one of his creations. In the middle of a music store, the two of them sit at a piano as his words slowly define their relationship. "I don't know you, but I want you all the more for that. Words fall through me and always fool me and I can't react. And games that never amount to more than they're meant will play themselves out. Take this sinking ship and point it home. We've still got time. Raise your hopeful voice; you have a choice. You've made it now. Falling slowly, eyes that know me, and I can't go back." If you have not seen the movie, the above means little to you. If you have been fortunate enough to watch Once, I have just given you the most pleasurable earworm for the rest of the day. Falling Slowly is an ethereal song that lingers for days, haunting the listener with its bittersweet beauty. Once, the movie, manages to encapsulate everything that will play out between the two relative strangers in this one scene that lasts for only a few minutes but resonates indefinitely afterward. It just misses being our selection as Best Scene, settling for a strong second place showing.

Superbad is a stubbornly sophomoric movie that reminds us of the early days of Kevin Smith. Like his messy semi-masterpiece, Mallrats, there are moments in Superbad so awkward that the viewer is forced to look away uncomfortably. And given how much this site loves Kevin Smith, there is no higher compliment we can give a teen sex comedy. Sprinkled throughout the movie are comedy bits so outrageous that we are equally horrified and hilarified (it's a perfectly cromulent word) by their brazen pubescence. No moment in Superbad better defines this incongruity than the penis montage. Jonah Hill's character, Seth, has an obsession to a degree that would make Sigmund Freud blush. He loves to draw him some purple-male majesty. It's this love of the cock that provides a prolonged demonstration of many, many years of phallic artistry. There are more penis pictures in this rapid-fire flashback than there are in the unabridged Kama Sutra. And they are all funny. Very, very funny. It seems like the unending litany of dick should end at some point, but it doesn't. It just keeps going and going and the longer it goes on, the funnier the whole thing gets. We are an erudite bunch at BOP, but we always knew Kevin Smith's grandmother was right that the real money is in dick and fart jokes. Superbad is Exhibit A in this regard. Its pageantry of penis(penii?) is our choice for third place in the Best Scene category.


Our fourth and fifth place selections for Best Scene are from the same movie. Perhaps they even split the vote a bit, thereby precluding either one from making a strong run at winning. The slightly higher finisher is the hotel rumble between Llewelyn Moss and Anton Chigurh. It starts with Moss having an epiphany about the unlikelihood of Chigurh randomly finding him sans some tracking device and finishes with the two of them trading shotgun blasts out in the street. This sequence is a gripping encounter between a survivalist and the merciless monster hunting him. Chigurh's memorable weapon, the captive bolt pistol, is rendered useless once Moss reaches the ground floor, and our hero almost gets in a killing blow before the assassin makes his escape. Action scenes usually do not evoke the level of drama the Coen Brothers manage here. But they almost match themselves in the drama category with our fifth place selection, the gas station coin flip. In this sequence, a humble attendant unexpectedly finds his life being determined by a heads-or-tails call. He has rankled Chigurh by having the audacity to be friendly and ask personal questions of this shadowy slayer. The result is that his day goes from a sleepy, uneventful one to a moment fraught with peril and fear. Perhaps no moment in the movie better defines the character of Chigurh, and it also nicely ties into the film's climactic events.

Charlie Wilson's War and The Simpsons Movie contain the scenes we have voted to be the sixth and seventh best of the year. The Tom Hanks/Julia Roberts movie's best sequence involves neither of them. Instead, it introduces the character of Gust Avrakotos as portrayed by Philip Seymour Hoffman. Gust is apologizing to his government superior for a prior encounter that ended with one calling the other a bad name then hurling a projectile in frustration. Symmetrically, this conversation of apology also ends with one calling the other a bad name then hurling a projectile in frustration. It's comedy gold. And whenever BOP mentions comedy gold, site standards dictate that we must mention the Simpsons in some way. In this instance, it's easy to do so. All I have to say is that we have chosen a scene from The Simpsons Movie as one of the best of the year. Then, I say, "Spider-Pig. Spider-Pig. Does whatever a Spider-Pig does. Can he swing from a web? No, he can't. He's a pig. Look out! He's a Spider-Pig." Finally, we all giggle uncontrollably. The Simpson Movie was tracking for an opening in the mid-$40 million range when the Spider-Pig trailer was unveiled. It opened to $74 million. You do the math on how beloved this scene is.

The rest of our top ten includes an over-the-top gun fight, too many Jack Sparrows, and a stunt so dangerous any person attempting it should be institutionalized immediately. The gun fight comes from Hot Fuzz, and it takes place at the end as the movie evolves from satirizing Bad Boys II to becoming Bad Boys II. The Jack Sparrows, rather obviously, come from Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End. Our fey hero doesn't show up for the early part of the movie but when he does, he gets more face time than is possible sans special effects technology. Jack's Purgatory is apparently all Jack all the time, which is strange because we would have thought that would be his idea of Heaven. The tenth place selection is the insane stunt sequence from Grindhouse. The culmination of the Death Proof story, it has the actress (a real life stuntwoman essentially playing herself) crawl out on the hood of a speeding car, holding onto two straps tied inside the car. Picture the lady on the front of a ship, except at 100 mph. It's dangerous enough, until Kurt Russell's serial killer comes along and starts ramming the car that the stuntwoman is riding on. For most of the scene, we get a front-on view of her scrambling not to fall off the car as they try to get away. It's just an insane piece of stuntwork.

Just missing entry on our list are the basement scene from Zodiac, nekkid Viggo's fighting in Eastern Promises, our heroine and the future mother of her child feeling the baby kick in Juno as well as her telling her parents for the first time, and Petey Greene showing up to get his job in Talk to Me. (David Mumpower/BOP)

Best Album
Breakthrough Performance
Best Cast
Best DVD
Best Overlooked Film
Best Scene
Best TV Show
Best Use of Music
Best Video Game
Worst Performance
Worst Picture
Top 10
Position Scene Film Total Points
1 Anton Ego eats his meal of ratatouille Ratatouille 47
2 'Falling Slowly' duet in the piano store. Once 46
3 Penis flashback Superbad 31
4 Hotel duel No Country For Old Men 30
5 Gas station coin flip No Country For Old Men 27
6(tie) Gust yells at his boss Charlie Wilson's War 24
6(tie) Spiderpig Simpsons Movie 24
8 Final gunfight in the middle of Sandford Hot Fuzz 22
9 Jack's Purgatory Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End 21
10(tie) Ship's Mast Grindhouse 17
10(tie) Remy's frantic escape through the sewers Ratatouille 17



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