From: Subject: Date: April 21, 2005 3:53:51 PM CDT Hankblog: Diamonds in the rough and blemishes on the Mona Lisa

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Diamonds in the rough and blemishes on the Mona Lisa

So work has settled a bit, but not enough to get back to regular blogging. I had a break between poker tournaments though, so I'm at the coffee shop getting some writing done.

One of the things I wanted to talk about was this feature The Onion's AV Club had up this week. In it, they highlight what they find to be 15 of the singularly worst scenes in otherwise great films, and the sole exceptional scenes in some truly awful films. I thought it was an interesting topic to tackle, and wanted to offer some thoughts on what they had to say. Give their take a read, and then here are my offerings. Great movies, awful scenes:
1. Psycho - The exposition by the psychiatrist at the end of this film is pretty abominable, especially when held in comparison to the movie around it. I really wonder what Hitchcock was thinking with this one. He couldn't have held his audience to be that stupid, otherwise why write such complex movies as he had throughout his career. An excellent choice to head the list, I think.

2. The Great Escape - Haven't seen it, amazingly enough, though it is in the old Netflix queue.
3. Lost in Translation - I personally thought this scene was supposed to emphasize the culture clash on a more visceral level, as if the movie were taking place in America, the call girl would have been a good deal more upfront about what she was supposed to be there for. Not a great scene but not an awful one in my mind. I could take it or leave it.

4. An American in Paris - I've only seen bits and pieces. However, if the scene does play as they've written it out here, it's a pretty lousy way to bring the movie to a close.

5. Million Dollar Baby - In a movie I had all sorts of problems with, this wasn't one of the most egregious offenders, but it was close. It's absurd how over the top white trash Swank's family is portrayed, and that's part of why I have issues with my friend Robert's description of the film as a very quiet subdued film. I swear to god, I think the only reason they had the family go to Disneyland and not a NASCAR in the script was because they couldn't secure the licensing rights. It would have been the cherry on the top of a super stereotype sundae.

6. Network - Ok, this time I have a serious issue with their selection. I absolutely love the scene they mention because it is so farcical as to be enjoyable. If you've watched the movie up to this point, you know that saying Dunaway's character has no heart or humanity ranks among surprising revalations somewhere between "The sky is blue" and "Grass is green". But in any movie where you have characters you care about, you're inclined to wonder if the "bad guy" has maybe a sliver of humanity in them on some hidden level that might make them redeemable given a chance. The scene in question doesn't just dash that hope, it crushes it out with a sledgehammer. I love it for that very lack of subtlety.

7. Malcolm X - I have to agree with this choice as well. Davis' recitation of X's eulogy is some powerfully compelling stuff juxtaposed with the images Lee selected for the closing montage. To then have it go to the children yelling that they are Malcolm X comes off as trite. They could just have easily been extras in those "I am Tiger Woods" commercials Nike ran a few years back.

8. Bull Durham - Again, I call bullshit. The fact that Kevin Costner can't say the word "fuck" believably rings more hollow that this scene as The Onion's folks claim. I've always thought his little rant was a nice counterpoint to Susan Sarandon's "I believe in the church of baseball." speech to open the film. Crash's little details versus Annie's big picture philosophizing. But I can't claim to be unbiased where this movie is concerned. It ranks among my all time favorites.

9. A Night at the Opera - I confess my Marx Brothers canon is lacking. Haven't seen it.

10. Elephant - Again, I have nothing to offer.

11. Casualties of War - Never had an interest in it. Hard to suspend disbelief enough to accept Spicoli and Alex P. Keaton in the middle of the Vietnam War.

12. Short Cuts - I remember seeing this a long time ago, but don't remember the first thing about the movie. The scene as described does sound painful, and I actually like Andie MacDowell somewhat.

13. Schindler's List - I do have to agree on it's own the scene in question does smack of Oscar pandering. As it stands it was good enough to get Liam the nomination but not the award.

14. Last Tango in Paris - I've only seen the scene in question out of this movie. Absolutely deserving of this list, and maybe should rank higher. There are many actors who I'd have no issue with them talking dirty during a scene in a movie that called for it. Brando isn't one of them. I'd sooner hear it from Ron Jeremy.
15. Showgirls - I just can't figure out what this movie is doing on this list. I mean the movie itself is so awful as to be campy fun for the most part, but even then, it's not deserving of being on the "Good movie, bad scene" list on any level. What the hell?

I've been trying to think of movies that have singularly bad scenes within them to add to the list, but I'm drawing a blank right now. While I recover my brain function, offer your own suggestions in the comments. I'll break out the good scenes, bad movie break down in a separate post.