Summer means several things: Wimbledon, being cooked alive on the tube, and checking to see whether it’s come home yet (it hasn’t). It also means the release of our annual list charting the best movie moments of the year. We’re not fussed about whether you prefer Phantom Thread, Black Panther or Isle of Dogs – this list was built to champion the little moments on or off screen that make us love cinema.
**SPOILER ALERTS ALL THE WAY HOME**
Lady Bird – “Did You Feel Emotional The First time You Drove in Sacramento?” – Calum
It seems so blasé, so dumb, to simply call the great end to a great film a great moment, but with the words “Did you feel emotional the first time you drove in Sacramento?” Greta Gerwig – finally given full rein – concludes Lady Bird’s journey so potently it should be taught in filmmaking classes for decades to come. The closing monologue, on the page (and through Saoirse Ronan’s wonderful, perhaps career-defining, performance), is crisp and poised; with Gerwig’s careful direction and Jon Brion’s marvellous, wistful scoring, it becomes the new benchmark in closing-credit ugly cries. Even writing this has me shivering.
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri – Mildred’s Domestic – Tom Gilkes
Everyone that’s seen it agrees that Three Billboards contains powerful moments affording its actors many chances to shine, but one that’s stayed with me is the moment where Mildred is grabbed by the throat by her ex-husband and pinned against a wall, her son leaping to her defense holding a knife to his father’s neck, and then… nothing. The family stop and silently, calmly, reset the upturned breakfast table and continue their conversation, signalling to us that this is such a familiar sight that they have a routine in place for when it happens. Yet more proof that it’s the smaller moments in cinema that can have the greatest effect.
“Look around, everybody” – Frances McDormand’s Oscar Speech – James
21 years after her first, Frances McDormand deservedly added a second Best Actress Oscar for her formidable, take-no-crap grieving mum Mildred in Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. But it was when she brought that same attitude to her acceptance speech that McDormand helped the #MeToo movement strike another powerful blow against sexism in Hollywood. Her moving call for all female nominees in every category to stand with her rang with pure, heartfelt emotion. Then as a parting gift, she dropped a two-word bombshell: “inclusion rider”, highlighting a little-known clause allowing a demand for greater diversity on film sets. Mic drop.
You Were Never Really Here – The Hitman Handhold – Rhys
“Taxi Driver for a new century,” said the Times on Lynne Ramsay’s superlative return to screens. Maybe so. But Taxi Driver arguably interrogated masculinity and its relationship with violence while glorifying it simultaneously. Ramsay takes a different approach.
Hitman Joe (Joaquin Phoenix) comes home to find his mother murdered by two mercenaries. He shoots them down. One bleeds out on the kitchen floor. Joe crawls to his side. Ramsey cuts in – Joe quietly takes the hand of his mother’s killer, comforting him in his final breath. Masculine pretense falls away in a moment of pure vulnerability between two men. Stunning.
120BPM – The Beach – David
Robin Campillo’s 120 BPM bursts with moments of passion, pain, and visceral anger, but its most memorable moment comes from a quiet visit to the beach. Sean, wholly afflicted by the AIDS virus, and his partner Nathan, silently stand upon the greyed sand, with little but the breeze for audible intrusion. Sean’s death is imminent as his emaciated frame shows all too clearly, but Nathan’s love still emanates in the hope of a miraculous rejuvenation of his beloved. Loving looks, an acknowledged-but-unspoken conclusion, and one last happy memory together: a scene crafted to perfection, creating an unforgettable movie moment.
Incredibles 2 – Elastigirl’s Bike – Kambole
After a 14 year wait, Incredibles 2 is finally out in cinemas. This time, the film is centred around a role reversal, with Elastigirl as the breadwinner. A highlight of the film comes with her first mission, as Elastigirl pursues a runaway train (a staple of superhero movies), on her modified motorbike that breaks in half to accommodate her stretching powers, showing off every impossible feat you could imagine with this combination of super-powered human and machine. It’s in this sequence that we see the full extent of how advancements in animation and an expanded budget accommodate Brad Bird’s boundless imagination, and it’s just the first of many.
Black Panther – Kendrick Lamar’s Soundtrack – Joni
Pundits are already firing up hot takes all over the place, debating whether Black Panther will make any headway in the 2019 Oscars. Regardless of whether Coogler and co. walk home with any golden gongs, its safe to say they have the Grammys locked down. It isn’t just that Kendrick Lamar’s curated album is a great film soundtrack, or even a great hip-hop record – it’s that it manages to be both. We’ve come a long way from Method Man rapping about the Riddler.
Phantom Thread – The Omelette – Carmen
Paul Thomas Anderson’s latest (and Daniel Day-Lewis’ supposed last) features excellent dining scenes, from Reynolds Woodcock’s memorable breakfast (“Jam, not strawberry”) to his asparagus critiques. Nothing, however, matches the climactic omelette stuffed with toxic mushrooms, prepared for the intractable and irascible designer by his wife Alma (Vicky Krieps). The leisurely, oh-so-normal omelette preparation skyrockets tension to unbearable levels by the time he’s tucking in: maybe this second poisoning means murder. And then, “Kiss me, my girl, before I’m sick” – this is a match made in a gloriously twisted heaven. The ambiguity of Woodcock’s prior knowledge, Johnny Greenwood’s soaring score, and expertly judged performances is a foolproof recipe for a memorable, satisfying (quasi-)romance.
Annihilation – The Bear – Tom B
Few film moments in recent history have had such an ability to chill the blood as the demonic bear from Annihilation. Deep in the chaos of the illogical Southern Reach, everything is mutating. Plants, people, animals – nothing is safe from the effects of the meteor that transformed their world. At first, Shepherd (Tuva Novotny) is the victim of a far more mundane threat as she’s mauled and dragged off by a wild bear. Several scenes later the pair make an unexpected return, with Shepherd’s dying screams and the bear’s skeletal maw morphing and twisting into an unholy marriage of body and soul. Good luck sleeping for the rest of 2018.
Avengers: Infinity War – Iron Man vs. Thanos (Matt) and Thanos Wins (Phil)
There are a lot of great moments in Avengers: Infinity War but the beat that got to me the most was seeing Iron Man land in front of Thanos on Titan. There’s something surreal and awesome about seeing Thanos meet all our friendly neighbourhood superheroes, but Iron Man was something else. Watching the one that started it all back in 2008 finally exchange words with the Mad Titan and face him as the last man standing felt like the culmination of 19 movies I’d been waiting for since I was 12. I don’t think I’ll ever stop getting stupidly giddy seeing that happen!
After 19 films spanning an entire decade, Earth’s Mightiest Heroes team up to take on their most dangerous enemy yet: a genocidal maniac whose goal is to end half of all life in the universe. And they fail. Thanos wins.
I will never forget the deathly silence that fell over the audience as Thanos snapped his fingers, or the dread that coiled in my stomach as the extent of his victory became apparent. It’s the biggest gut-punch ending of any blockbuster since The Empire Strikes Back, and the wait to see what happens next will be unbearable.