20 Best Movie Moments of 2011


Here’s a list that was almost as difficult to make as my best movies of the year. I wanted to focus on the individual scenes that stuck in my mind all year long and were worth mentioning whether or not the movie was amazing or sub-par but included a moment of amazing filmmaking and had a scene that combined amazing technical skill from behind-the-camera, fantastic acting in front of it and combined to create something beautifully memorable. 2011 had many scenes to chose from and I wish I could have included all of them but at the risk of going insane I tried to limit myself to only twenty when I could have easily made it to 30.

(In Alphabetical order)


Adjustment Bureau – The Bathroom Meeting

The Adjustment Bureau was a good sci-fi/romance diversion released early in the year and quickly forgotten about. The best thing the movie had going for it was the dynamite sexual chemistry between Matt Damon and Emily Blunt which made a lot of the ridiculousness easier to swallow (Magic Hats). In this scene early on in the film, Matt Damon loses his campaign and runs into Emily Blunt’s character hiding in the men’s room where they have a verbal tennis match with sexual tension bursting off the screen. The scene inspires Matt Damon’s character to give a dynamic speech and gives the audience a reason to care about these characters.

Another Earth –  The story of the Russian Cosmonaut

Brit Marling really got to showcase her acting ability in Another Earth with the juicy role of a MIT student who kills a family in a drunk driving accident. In probably the best scene to show her wonderful acting and great independent filmmaking is a scene where her character is still pretending to be a cleaning lady for the man whose family she killed and transfixes the audience with a short monologue about a russian cosmonaut who starts to go insane from hearing a sound in the loneliness in space. Metaphorical and beautifully told, this is probably Marling’s best example of her as the next best thing.

The Artist – Uggie rescues George

For being a seemingly lighthearted silent, black and white film about Hollywood, The Artist delves into some dark themes of depression, pride, and loneliness. When our main character George Valentin (Jean Dujardin) looks over his old films while drinking, he gets fed up and decides to destroy all his copies of his films, finally feeling washed up and unwittingly starts a fire in his old home. Luckily, his loyal companion Uggie the dog runs out into the street, tracks down a policeman and frantically warns  him about George stuck in the fire in true Lassie fashion. A scene that is a hilarious contrast to the dark subject matter but is also a great scene for the wonderfully trained Jack Russell Terrier who is just as charming and charismatic as our lead protagonist.

Attack the Block – Moses vs. the Aliens

A highly enjoyable genre hybrid of sci-fi/comedy/horror is the British film about a group of teen thugs who try to protect their apartment block from a group of big, black, alien monsters with sharp glowing teeth. The movie is full of many badass, well-crafted scenes culminating in it’s best scene when the group leader, Moses finally owns up to his responsibilities of his friends’ deaths and initiating the attack of the aliens by going on a kamikaze mission to blow them up in his apartment. He runs in a beautifully shot, slo-mo sequence backed by a pulse-pounding soundtrack to a nail-biting climax of blowing up the apartment. Once this scene happened, I discovered what all the hype was about.

Dialogue in clip is in German:

Bellflower – The Beard Tattoo

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” featured a disturbing scene of it’s main character Lisbeth (Rooney Mara) tattooing her guardian on his chest after he rapes her  as a constant reminder of him being a “Rapist Pig.” While disturbing as that scene, the scene in Bellflower that really got under my skin was when it’s main character Woodrow (Evan Glodell) is knocked out by his ex-girlfriend Milly, after she finds out about his relationship with her best friend and unwillingly gives him a facial tattoo of a full beard. The disturbing idea of being forever disfigured by someone results is a clusterfuck ending that features the memorable moments of The Medusa car gliding down the street in slow-motion and Woodrow walking down the street with a beard tattoo and fresh, bloody handprints on his shirt after his retaliation. Whether it was real or imagined it is correlated to Evan Glodell‘s solid acting and direction.

Bridesmaids – Shit on the street

The scene that was probably the best memorable and talked-about for most people this year is the scene that launched Kristen Wiig as a comedic force to be reckoned with and Melissa McCarthy as one of the funniest people of the year is the ultimate dress fitting gone wrong at a fancy bridal store after Kristen Wiig‘s Bridal party lunch at a Mexican restaurant that gives all its characters food poisoning and bad cases of diarrhea and has McCarthy shitting herself in a sink and Maya Rudolph planting herself in the middle of the street and shitting in an expensive wedding dress. Tasteless and raunchy? Definitely. But, probably the funniest scene of the year.

Carnage – Kate Winslet pukes

Carnage is noticeably a theater piece that gets great mileage out of it’s one location in a New York condo and out of it’s four seasoned main actors. The movie is full of awkward moments, tension, and intense arguments but the most unexpectedly hilarious and awkward is when Kate Winslet projectile vomits all over the living room of Jodie Foster and John C. Reilly to an almost absurd extent. The sequence has great buildup of the character’s dialogue with Winslet’s character complaining of nausea and it’s not often you see such a disgusting and raunchy sight gag in a dramatic theater piece. When such a skilled actress like Kate Winslet uncontrollably vomits in a film, it’s hard to forget.

Drive – The Elevator

A scene of cinematic beauty. Drive is full of memorable scenes but it’s most unforgettable sequence is where Ryan Gosling‘s Driver is in an elevator with Carey Mulligan‘s Irene and an assailant sent to kill the Driver. The scene represents everything great about the movie and it’s mix of dream-like fantasy and brutal violence. Once Driver realizes that he is in crosshairs to be killed, he grabs Irene, the lights dim and he gives her a passionate kiss that almosts transports them into their own element/world of their own that ends with The Driver subduing and crushing the face of the hit man until he is nothing but a bloody mess and Irene watches in horror of what he is capable of. A scene that people will study and try to replicate for many years.

Fast Five – Train Heist

Fast Five was big, goofy, fun and I loved every minute of it. Many people might remember the insanely implausible and fantastic ending chase scene featuring two cars attached to a bank vault plowing through the streets of Rio. As good as that scene is, nothing was as fun and exhilarating as the train heist sequence that for whatever reason had Paul Walker, Vin Diesel, and Jordanna Brewster heisting cars off of a speeding train onto a speeding truck. The scene quickly turns into a double-cross and ends up with Walker and Diesel defying psychics and jumping off of a bridge into a river below. Completely absurd and utterly insane was what made Fast Five so good. All the rules of logic and common sense were thrown out the window in favor of pure entertainment.

Not the full scene:

Hanna – One-Take Subway fight

People who have seen “Munich” know the badassery Eric Bana is capable of. Hanna was a well-made throwback to old school action/spy thrillers with an 70’s/80’s aesthetic that took us to different exotic locales. Director Joe Wright definitely went wild with experimental shots and camera angles and one of the best moments is a single, unbroken, one-take shot that follows Eric Bana through the streets and down the stairs of a subway station where he is confronted by multiple CIA agents and proceeds to kick all their asses in the same one-take. A seamless merger of art-house cinematography and badass action.

Not the complete scene:

The Help – Abilene gets fired

The Help was a very good film although a bit overly-dramatic and after-school specialish with it’s view but a movie with fantastic performances especially by Viola Davis as Abilene. At the end of the film when the book “The Help” is published to critical success, some of the Jackson Mississippi women make the connections to the writers of the book especially Hilly Holbrook played with perfect cold-heartedness by Bryce Dallas Howard. With a ridiculous scheme about stolen silver, Hilly’s last attempt at revenge is to get Abilene fired and arrested. When the two confront each other it’s a rewarding scene of two great actresses facing off and easily Davis‘ standout moment. When she quits, leaves and her last child she helped raise screams and cries for her as she walks away is a easy ploy for melodrama but damn if it didn’t leave a lump in my throat.

Martha Marcy May Marlene – Final Frames

Martha Marcy May Marlene is a complex thriller and a authentic deception of how it truly is to be in a cult and return to normal life afterwards. If it’s even possible to have a normal life afterwards. Elizabeth Olsen gives a fearless performance and the film features numerous memorable scenes and images including John Hawkes as the creepy leader Patrick playing a song to Martha. What stuck with me the most was the ending. The whole film grapples with Martha’s psyche which is constantly paranoid of being found by Patrick or any of his followers and leads to someone suspenseful scenes that have the viewer question what is real or in her head. Before her sister takes her away to get real psychiatric help she sees a young man watching her across her sister’s lake house and later on driving down the road, a man gets into a car and begins to follow Martha who sits in the backseat of her sister’s car with a terrified look on her face. Is she reading too much into the situation or should she be paranoid? We may never know, but the look on Martha’s face shows she’ll never truly be the same.

Melancholia – Opening

I wasn’t blown away by Melancholia like most people were but it did grab my attention immediately with it’s long 10 minute opening that features slowed down footage of Kirsten Dunst and Charlotte Gainsbourg on a golf course in beautiful shots that look like stills that are moving in a 3d environment or almost like an oil painting brought to life. It is undeniably beautiful and absorbing especially with the Tristan and Isolde score blaring in the background. It would work on it’s own as it’s own short film that ends in a beautiful effects shot of a planet slowly colliding with Earth. Fade to Black, roll credits.

Mission:Impossible – Ghost Protocol – Climbing the tower in Dubai

As thrilling as the Train Heist in “Fast Five” was, it couldn’t touch the nerve-wrecking levels of suspense from the Dubai scene in Mission:Impossible that has Tom Cruise scaling the world’s tallest building and nearly falling off multiple times and ends with running across the building jumping and nearly missing an open window. (He hits his head and I’m surprised he doesn’t get amnesia from the number of times he bangs his head in the film.) It is already a thrilling scene made even more intense knowing that Tom Cruise did a majority of the stunt himself. It is an exhilarating, nail-biting scene made even more intense seen in IMAX and known that Tom Cruise himself could have fallen to his death at any moment. A pinnacle of the Mission:Impossible series and of action movies in general. Although I did wonder how no one happened to see Tom Cruise scaling a building full of all open windows.

Moneyball – Hatteberg’s homerun

It’s amazing when a film takes a true story and the audience already knows the outcome but still manages to keep you on the edge of your seat. With the Oakland A’s on a winning streak about to win their 20th game in a row, they are up 11 to 0 and Billy Beane (Brad Pitt) decides to watch the game and break his superstition until an amazing comeback happens and the score is nearly tied at 11 and Billy Beane feels the walls closing in on him, sinking in quicksand, until Hatteberg (Chris Pratt), a recruited player at first base with no first base experience steps up the home plate and blasts a home run out of the park. It’s a stand up and cheer moment that pulls tension until your stomach is in knots that makes the home run that more rewarding, it wasn’t just a home run for Hatteberg, Billy Beane, or Oakland A’s, it was a home run for everyone who was ever an underdog.

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy – Opening Scene

From the trailer you might think that Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is a fast paced espionage thriller, when in reality it’s a slow burn drama that is given one intense opening sequence. Jim Prideaux (Mark Strong) is assigned by Control to go to Hungary to meet a General that will give him information about a mole inside British Intelligence. From the very start, something feels amiss and from Prideaux’s point-of-view we can feel in our gut that it is a set-up. Using Tomas Alfredson‘s stellar direction and use of editing and sound, it is a nail-biting scene where everyone might be a suspected killer out to get him. When the operation is blown and Prideaux is shot, it is a shocking sigh of relief but a scene that is a catalyst for the story and sticks in your mind for the rest of the film.

Tree of Life – Creation of the Universe

Tree of Life is a love or hate it movie and when I saw it, I knew it would touch on themes of the origins of mankind but what I didn’t expect was a near 20-minute abstract scene of some of the most beautiful imagery ever seen in a fictional feature length film. Director Terrence Malick and cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki deserve high praise for delivering such a wonderous, awe-inspring montage of beauty of The universe and Earth. The sequence is a modern day companion piece to the opening of 2001: A Space Odyssey and ironically used the same special effects expert. The scene itself could be a stand-alone short film that could almost be a discovery channel or IMAX documentary. an unexpected surprise that whether you like the film or not, or whether you didn’t “get” the film or not, there is an undeniable beauty unlike you’ve seen all year or you’ve seen in your lifetime.

Not the full scene but a good HD version of part of it.

The Trip – Michael Caine Speaks

The Trip was a BBC miniseries that was condensed to a two hour drama that works primarily because of the chemistry of it’s stars Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon. A sequence that I saw early on in the year and still made me laugh out loud when I watched the film was the “This is How Michael Caine Speaks…” scene. While eating Rob Brydon talks about his impressions of celebrities being described as stunningly accurate. What results is a oneupmanship match of two outstanding comedians going from early days Michael Caine to old age Michael Caine that at first seems like a competition until you realize that it’s just probably the way they communicate their friendship. A hilarious minute and a half scene that is a highlight of a great movie and I still haven’t decided which impression is the clear winner.

Warrior – Final Fight

Warrior was a surprising sports drama that was cliche/predictable and still managed to be engrossing and entertaining even if it lead up to a climax that was known from the start and even spoiled in the theatrical trailers for the film. If you were like me, it didn’t matter and Warrior was still a satisfying, entertaining motion picture where the final fight was shot with equal brutality and compassion. Joel Edgerton and Tom Hardy deliver emotionally sound performances that lead to the ultimate form of masculine problem solving in the old tradition of fighting them out. Being a man with an older brother its impossible not to relate to the sibling fight that ends with neither a winner or loser but two brothers who finally settle their differences. When the song “About Today” by the National swells up it’s impossible for even the manliest man not to get a little bit teary-eyed.

Young Adult – Front Lawn Meltdown

Young Adult had some great overlooked performances this year especially in the likes of Charlize Theron and Patton Oswalt. Theron especially was both icy, honest, and pathetic. Theron is a character who writes those cliche young adult novels about girls in High School and after returning to her hometown to ridicule and make fun the people she grew up with, we realize she is just as clueless, selfish, and childish as a high school girl which results in one scene where all her plans for snatching her high school sweetheart away results in a hard-to-watch monologue where she explains to a bunch of partygoers, including her own parents, why she is such an intolerable bitch that becomes more or less an intervention than a tearful reconciliation. Theron’s stellar performance adds pathos to a character that is like a car accident happening in slow motion.

What scene did I miss? What was Your favorite scene? Comment Below. 


Summer Movie Wrap-Up: May

Where did this summer go? I know this blog has been drier than a retired hooker but fear not, I have been to many movies of the cinema this summer, and instead of trying to write countless reviews and spend many man-hours of blogging, I’ve decided to just do many mini-reviews of all my summer movies in one nice, little, tidy bundle. So let’s start from May and go till the tail end of August.


May was probably the best month out of the summer, starting with the slam-bang action movie of the summer , a hilarious comedy and then giving us two independent film contenders for best film of the year.


Directed by: Justin Lin
Starring: Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, Jordanna Brewster, The Rock
Rated: PG-13

Yea, Yea. I know this film came out in April, but it was really the first big summer film that came out. The film brings back all the major players from the first four films and sends them to Rio for a mix of “Bad Boys 2” and “Ocean’s Eleven.” As ridiculous and over-the-top the movie looked and sounded, it turned out to be one of the best films of the summer and one of the best action films of the year. Diesel and Walker have always been mediocre action stars but paired together they have undeniable chemistry together, and paired with the additions of Ludacris, Tyrese, and The Rock, the film becomes a shit-ton of fun, featuring multiple shootouts, car chases, foot chases, and brawls. A theoretically ridiculous train heist sequence because one of the most insane, jaw-dropping action sequences Ive seen in awhile featuring realistic stunts and effects and little CGI. An ending action sequence featuring two cars, a bank vault, and a police chase through the streets of Rio isn’t only of the best car chases of the franchise but one of the best of the past few years in cinema. However, at almost 2 and 1/2 hours the movie does drag when it tries to balance all its characters, the movie still has a breakneck pace, with a kitchen sink attitude of film-making that manages to work. A movie that shows no matter how crazy and ridiculous it is, it can still be insanely fun.

Rating: 8/10


Directed by: Paul Feig
Starring: Kristen Wiig, Maya Rudolph, Rose Byrne
Rated: R

The movie was called “The Hangover” for girls but I think that’s being generous to “the Hangover.” “The Hangover” was four guys who try to figure out what happened the night before after alot of heavy drinking, while the “Bridesmaids” is the story of Kristen Wiig and a 30 something modern female with no career, husband, or prospects in life, and dealing with the people you care about moving forward without you. Some pretty adult ideas for a romantic comedy with juvenile humor. Wiig pulls off the lead role flawlessly and is finally given a role that balances her dramatic/comedic chops with a chance to be in the limelight. However as good as Wiig is, the movie wouldn’t be as good without the phenomenal supporting cast. The always reliable Maya Rudolph, a perfectly matched foil to Wiig in the form of Rose Byrne, a hilarious Jon Hamm, an adorably sweet Chris O’ Dowd, and the breakout success of Melissa McCarthy, who I imagine will see the same success as Galifianakis did from the “The Hangover.” The movie does have the Judd Apatow syndrome of making a comedy over two hours and scenes could have easily been cut, especially in the third act, but these are minor quibbles. The movie was highlighted by the fact that it was a raunchy comedy with mostly all females. What people don’t realize is that females have always been gross, we just needed to find the right ones to make it into a good movie.

Rating: 8/10

Midnight in Paris:

Directed by: Woody Allen
Starring: Owen Wilson, Rachel McAdams, Michael Sheen, Marion Cotillard
Rated: PG-13

Even though I was a longtime Woody Allen fan, I didn’t dig deep into his filmography until this year. Say what you want about him, he is one of the most talented, consistent American filmmakers today. Allen churns out an insane number of films, and sometimes has dry-spells but still delivers an overall entertaining product. “Midnight in Paris” is a welcome return to classic Woody Allen. Many of Allen‘s films from the 2000’s have been hit or miss, and sometimes experimental, but “Midnight in Paris” reminds us why he is one of our most beloved filmmakers. The film stars Owen Wilson as Gil (playing the Woody Allen surrogate) as a California screenwriter on a trip with his fiance, struggling with a first novel, in love with the city of Paris, and during his midnight walks he is magically transported to 1920’s Paris where he runs into many famous people from the literary and art world, and finally feels right where he should be. The movie has the beautiful shots of the city and is obviously Allen‘s love letter to Paris, along with his traditional jazz score, witty dialogue, and eclectic cast of characters, Allen crafted a charming, lovable film that takes full advantage of the oddball concept and makes great use of character actors playing roles of Hemingway, Dali, and Gertrude Stein among other famous artists and including a hilariously pretentious performance from Michael Sheen. The movie is almost a great study of Art history as much as a travelogue to Paris. People questioned Owen Wilson as the lead,but he actually helps propel this movie above and beyond. His charming and neurotic personality fits the surrogate Woody Allen role like a glove and is one of the best actors besides Woody Allen himself to play the role. His chemistry with Marion Cotillard is also one of the better on-screen romances to appear in 2011. A likable, fun, diversion. A love letter to Paris, as much as it is a love letter to a golden age, while being a study of our modern relationship with nostalgia. Bravo.

Rating: 9/10

Tree of Life:

Directed by: Terrence Malick
Starring: Brad Pitt, Jessica Chastain, Sean Penn.
Rated: R

This may be one of the best movies ever made or one of the most pretentious. This is one of the best films I’ve ever seen that I’d have trouble recommending to anyone. Malick‘s near masterpiece is a grandeur cinematic near-masterpiece about life, death, heaven, earth, and everything in between. This is a highly ambitious, one-of-a-kind film that is hard to categorize, at times confusing and frustrating, but full of moments of extreme beauty and poignancy. A difficult film to describe, a majority of the story is about the summer of a small-time Texas family in the 1950’s who raise three young sons under the aggressive and emotional abusive of Brad Pitt, as Mr. O’ Brian, and Jessica Chastain as Mrs. O’ Brain, the angelic, caring mother. The film alternates between images of the universe’s creation and Sean Penn as the grown up version of the young son Jack. Granted, some of the parts of the film, such as the moments with Sean Penn, feel drawn out and almost at times pointless, but mark my words, the Academy Awards will be a travesty if this film does not win Best Cinematography. The film ranks of one of the most beautifully photographic films of all time. Seeing this film on a large screen, is almost heart wrenching in its astounding beauty. The movie although is highly experimental, and is a commitment to sit through and absorb, this is not the kind of film you can tune in and watch on autopilot, it is a masterclass in filmmaking and full of metaphorical imagery and layers of complexity whether it be the value of life, family, science, religion, and our place in the world. The kind of film that deserves to be seen by everyone, but will have a difficult time finding an audience. Many people will claim that it is long, has no story, is boring, and makes no sense, and for many people this will be the truth, but for some people who are willing to sit back and be engrossed in a rare motion picture, the experience will be extremely rewarding. For me, it was.

Rating: 9.5/10

I also saw the film “Thor” theatrically in the month of May but have a separate review already posted that can be found here: https://prodigalfilmstudent.wordpress.com/2011/05/14/thor-2011-review/