2011 Calvin Awards: Best Scene

February 15, 2011

But I don't want to be a bacon casserole!

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.

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.

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