Thursday, September 29, 2005

A Few of My Favorite Scenes

After watching the ending of The Last of the Mohicans for the 197th time the other day, I realized that there are countless individual scenes that I could devote whole (or in this case, 1/4) posts to. I'm going to try and make this a fairly regular thing, because I have a lot of scenes to get through, but here are three of them:

The last 20 mins of 'The Last of the Mohicans'

For all the hype that some Director's Cuts of movies get, the DC edition DVD of 'Mohicans' gets very little attention. But because of a couple of added lines of dialogue added to the very last scene, 'Mohicans' goes from being a fantastic movie to a truly great one.

Since I don't want to explain the whole twisting tale of deception and discovery set against the backdrop of the French and Indian War (just see it punk), I'll merely set the scene for one of my all-time favorite endings: Our adventurous semi-family unit of Hawkeye (Yankee raised as an Indian), Chingachgook and Uncas (the last of the Mohicans) go to rescue the two fair English sisters and accompanying officer who joined the three on their adventures before being captured by the Huron after an ambush. Hawkeye pleads with the Chief Huron to spare the lives of the women in exchange for his own, but Maj. Duncan (acting as French translator to the Chief) changes Hawkeye's words so that they will take HIS life (what a guy), leading to a thrilling mountain chase to retrieve the younger sister from the rogue Huron who kidnapped her in defiance of the chief.

Get all that? This is when Michael Mann's epic kicks into high gear, kickstarted by a driving Native American-style score composed by the director himself. The immature Uncas cuts the Huron warriors off at the mountain and has his way with them before their leader Magua (finally a good role for Mann mainstay Wes Studi), whose dagger and hatchet are more than up for the job. Mann's movies always have elite sound effects, but the jarring clash of their hatchets may be my favorite (especially with the DTS mix on the disc). Magua is a brutal fighter and makes short work of the tenacious Uncas before pushing him off a cliff. His mistake? Papa Chingachgook got to see his son's death, and whips out his crude, iron weapon (what the hell was that thing?), rips through Magua's warriors before breaking their leader's arms, destroying his shoulder and launching his blade through him. Even after all the masterful violence, the biggest thrill comes via Mann's added dialogue.

In the theatrical version, the movie ends when Chingachgook says he is 'the last of the Mohicans,' but in the director's cut, Mann drops this bomb:

Chingachgook: 'The frontier moves with the sun and pushes the Red Man of these wilderness forests in front of it until one day there will be nowhere left. Then our race will be no more, or be not us.'
Hawkeye: 'That is my father's sadness talking.'
Chingachgook: 'No, it is true. The frontier place is for people like my white son and his woman and their children. And one day there will be no more frontier. And men like you will go too, like the Mohicans. And new people will come, work, struggle. Some will make their life. But once, we were here.'

It's those last three words that just kill me every time. There's a perfect hesitation before he utters them too. 'We were here' just exemplifies the life of someone whose culture is dying, they won't be around much longer, but their legacy will.

'He's not nuts, he crazy!'

My favorite scene from one of my favorite movies. Yeah, that's right, I can say it: I love Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. It was actually one of the first 'real' movies I had ever seen. before that fateful night in 1986 when my parents rented a VCR along with 'Temple of Doom,' I had a steady diet of Disney movies and wannabe Disney movies. I hadn't seen anything that prepared me for hearts being ripped out, people parachuting out of an airplane on an inflatable raft and definitely not the sight of Harrison Ford cutting down the bridge.

What makes this scene is the unbelievable setpiece of the rope bridge. In the bonus disc on the Indiana Jones Trilogy DVD set, George Lucas explains that a construction crew making a dam up the river had put up the bridge for them and of course they could only destroy it once, so they had just one shot at the famous scene.

With Indy trapped in the middle of the bridge, he has nowhere to go but down. I love the line when Indy tells Short Round what to do in Chinese, I've seen it so many times I can recite it ('Chau chi, latsu satsa!' Imagine dropping that a Chinese restaurant sometime, 'yeah that's right, I'm about to cut the bridge!'). Only Steven Spielberg and George Lucas could use dialogue, music and visuals to convey such a sense of panic (the best example is when Willie's 'Oh my God!' is in synch with Indy raising his sword). And of course he does cut the bridge, but not before these red hot coals of dialogue:

'Stones will be found Dr. Jones! You won't!'

'Prepare to meet Kali ... in hell!'

The bar fight in 'Junior Bonner'

Just saw this recently, but I watched this scene about three times. After the year's biggest rodeo, its particpants and fans gather in a cowboy bar and Steve McQueen's title character dances with his nemesis' girl just a little too long, leading to an extroardinary bar fight. There have been hundreds of bar fights filmed, but none like this.

Legendary director Sam Peckinpah was able to convey through punches and thrown chairs the visceral emotions of the fight: it starts off angry, progresses to good-natured and ends exuding an air of sexual glee. These cowboys are so badass that in the right circumstances, a punch to the face from a stranger isn't that bad, hell it's actually a lot of fun. By the end of the brawl, McQueen had slithered away into a phone book with the girl, leaving everyone else to punch and clothes-line each other with smiles on their faces before the house band successfully breaks it up by starting into a country version of the Star Spangled Banner. Peckinpah's best action scenes were shot in his trademark not-so-slo-mo, but he wisely left the bar fight in real time.

1 comment:

What about ARod? said...

Hey Frank, why don't you ever review movies any of us have heard of?
Other than, solid site and pretty interesting. Though I am still waiting for a review of Real Men.