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The 16 Coolest Single-Shot Sequences In Cinema

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Cinema inspires, astounds and mesmerizes us, transporting us to situations and locations totally alien to our daily lives or so similar to our own experiences and feelings we can hardly believe someone had managed to capture them. Cinema allows us to live in other worlds and other times, to jump inside the skin of others and experience the unknown. And, in all its style and gloss and bravado, cinema is the definition of cool.

All of the above is true tenfold for a particular filmmaking device: extended single-shot sequences. The long takes and tracking shots of extended single-shot sequences are a technical marvel, requiring a deft hand and extremely skillful manipulation of light and shadow, timing, and movement. But the function of these sequences goes beyond technical prowess—their role is to immerse the audience inside the scene so completely that the film becomes for the audience a temporary reality. And when done right, with style and confidence, certain extended single shots in cinema practically glisten with cool.

Here are 16 of the coolest single-shot sequences in cinema.

 

16. Hard Eight (1996), directed by Paul Thomas Anderson, D.P.: Robert Elswit

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The debut feature of director Paul Thomas Anderson is also his most overlooked. Hard Eight is as slick as the rest of Anderson’s catalog, but the off-beat casino drama is bequeathed with an extra smattering of glitz: the film oozes cool. Although Philip Baker Hall’s mesmerizing performance as smooth-as-silk gambler-conman Sydney is responsible for much of these vibes, it’s the film’s setting of the glossy Reno casinos that provides the bulk of them.

No scene in the film shows this more vividly than the 1-minute-20-seconds tracking shot that follows Sydney through the casino. With the screen awash in glowing neon, blinking machines, and frenetic gambling energy, few scenes in cinema immerse the viewer inside a casino quite like this one.

 

15. The Protector (2005), directed by Prachya Pinkaew, D.P.: Nattawut Kittikhun

The Protector

Thai actor Tony Jaa exploded onto the international martial arts scene with his lead role in Prachya Pinkaew’s Ong-Bak: Muay Thai Warrior in 2003, which featured some of the most incredible fighting scenes ever filmed, including many in excellently rendered long takes. Then, two years later, Jaa and Pinkaew teamed up again for The Protector and somehow stunned martial arts fans the world over once again with a film that was bigger, bolder, and more accomplished in every way than its predecessor.

The film concerns a peaceful young man (who happens to be an insanely talented Muay Thai fighter) who lives in rural Thailand where he tends to the elephants that he absolutely adores until one day a baby elephant is stolen and transported to Australia where this man must go to retrieve the elephant at all costs. While plot is obviously not the focus of martial arts films, The Protector is surprisingly touching all the same in between all the expertly choreographed fight scenes, the most impressive of which is the single-shot sequence that follows Jaa up through a building as he battles a seemingly never-ending supply of goons. It’s still one of the longest single-shot hand-to-hand combat scenes ever filmed, and one of the most accomplished.

 

14. Boogie Nights (1997), directed by Paul Thomas Anderson, D.P.: Robert Elswit

The second Paul Thomas Anderson film on this list opens with a tracking shot so gloriously joyous and vibrant it’s impossible not to become infatuated with the movie immediately upon seeing it. Influenced in no small part by the famous long take from a certain Martin Scorsese film also included on this list, Anderson’s opening shot instantly transports viewers to a nightclub in 1970s San Fernando Valley (AKA Porn Valley) and into a tale chronicling the rapid rise to stardom and eventual decline of a young male porn star in California’s booming porn industry of the era—a trajectory which mirrors that of the industry itself as the epoch peaks and ends.

With a knockout cast, complex characters, and subtle script, Boogie Nights is a classic Hollywood film about Los Angeles and, through its pornography-industry analogy, about Hollywood itself. This opening shot establishes that perfectly.

 

13. Jackie Brown (1997), directed by Quentin Tarantino, D.P.: Guillermo Navarro

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Few directors, if any, epitomize cool in their films like Quentin Tarantino. Although Pulp Fiction is Tarantino’s most obviously cool movie, the filmmaker’s underrated gem of Jackie Brown positively oozes cool as well—it just does so in a more restrained, less flashy fashion. Adapted from the novel Rum Punch by crime fiction legend Elmore Leonard—who is perhaps Tarantino’s biggest influence outside of cinema—Jackie Brown’s eponymous character is a middle-aged black woman and the setting is Los Angeles, both of which differ from the book’s white-skinned Jackie Burke and setting of Miami.

In making these changes, Tarantino lifted the story from entertaining crime caper with a middle-aged woman lead—which was somewhat radical—to a retro blaxploitation featuring a middle-aged person of color in the lead role (played by Pam Grier, no less) and a soundtrack and style evoking the blaxploitation films of the early 1970s while avoiding the harmful stereotypical portrayals of black Americans prevalent in those films—all of which added up to being very radical.

In true Tarantino fashion, the film’s entire intentions are introduced vividly and stylishly in the film’s opening sequence in which the camera follows Brown for the entire length of Bobby Womack’s “Across 110th Street” (itself the theme tune to the 1972 film of the same name about violence between blacks and whites in New York City). Even the font of the text as the movie’s title appears on the screen during this sequence evokes this era: it’s the same font as 1974’s Foxy Brown, also starring Grier. By the time this opening sequence ends, the tone of Jackie Brown is firmly established, and the audience has been sucked deep into Tarantino’s world.

It’s worth noting that Tarantino lifted this opening straight out of the opening sequence of Mike Nichols’ The Graduate (1967) starring Dustin Hoffman. But Tarantino’s rendition adds subtle layers of meaning to its use of the shots, and is more memorable and visceral.

 

12. The Shining (1980), directed by Stanley Kubrick, D.P.: John Alcott

Because of how important the setting of the Overlook Hotel is in Stanley Kubrick’s adaptation of Stephen King’s horror novel, it was crucial that the film bring the hotel vividly to life as a character in its own right. The unsettling silence of the huge, empty Overlook is the source of the film’s (ironically) claustrophobic atmosphere, so bringing the audience into the hotel was key. Kubrick achieved this vividly in his use of a long tracking shot that glides behind little Danny Torrance as he cycles his tricycle around various sections of the hotel.

The eerie smoothness of the camera’s movement combined with the quick pace evokes a sensation of something in pursuit of Torrance rather than merely following him. Which is to say, the tracking shot feels less like the audience along for the ride and more like the audience privy to a sinister presence observing the child intently. The vast emptiness of the hotel, its creepy color scheme, and the cold silence masked only by the tricycle’s spinning wheels are the finishing touches that preserve this sequence in cinema history.

 

11. Hard Boiled (1992), directed by John Woo, D.P.: Wing-Hang Wong

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Looking a little like most of Die Hard and the prison shootout in Terminator, the famous hospital shootout sequence in John Woo’s Hard Boiled delivers so much energy and fast-paced thrills that even by modern standards it feels fresh. With the camera largely showing the POV of the protagonist as he blasts dozens of enemies into oblivion, the effect is similar to that of shoot-’em-up video games such as Doom.

The stylized, intimate violence and creative spin on action movie tropes in John Woo’s films provided great inspiration for a generation of filmmakers, and Hard Boiled is Woo’s masterpiece, as well as one of the greatest action movies of all time.

 

10. Oldboy (2003), directed by Chan-wook Park, D.P.: Chung-hoon Chung

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At a screening of Oldboy in Toronto earlier this year, the host introduced the film with background information on South Korean culture, claiming that rage bubbles beneath the surface of that country’s society, waiting to erupt. If this statement is true, almost no South Korean film expresses that rage so ferociously as Oldboy (the only film that outdoes Oldboy in this regard is Jee-woon Kim’s I Saw the Devil from 2010).

The story of a seemingly innocent man imprisoned in a tiny room without explanation for fifteen years until suddenly released and craving revenge, the man’s rage-induced desperation is most vividly displayed in a virtuoso single shot in which the man, played brilliantly by modern legend of South Korean cinema Min-sik Choi, fights an army of goons (easily more than thirty) in a narrow hallway with nothing but a hammer and his bare hands to the subtle soundtrack of a Western-electronic fusion theme and the bone-crunching and deep-breathing sounds of hand-to-hand combat loaded with realism.

 

9. True Detective, Season 1, Episode 4 “Who Goes There” (2014), directed by Cary Joji Fukunaga, D.P.: Adam Arkapaw

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Since the debut of The Sopranos in 1999, television drama series have become increasingly cinematic, and, adding the rise of streaming services into the mix, the distinction between film and TV has blurred considerably. Season one of Nic Pizzolatto’s True Detective is arguably the greatest example of just how cinematic TV can be—and no sequence in the entire show displays this better than the mind-blowing tracking shot that occurs during a faux police raid while Matthew McConaughey’s Detective Rust Cohle is undercover.

The sequence is a whopping five and a half minutes of high tension and explosive action with intricately timed choreography, and showcases the recognizable visuals that season one of True Detective is known for. There is a moment occurring around the 2 minutes, 50 seconds mark when a cleverly disguised cut might be hidden, but the effect is seamless, and the two shots either side of the cut are masterful examples of how visceral single-shot sequences can be.

10 Great 2019 Movie Performances No One Talks About

2019 has been a truly excellent year for cinema, and even those disillusioned with Hollywood’s corporate culture have an excellent array of incredible films to choose from this year. As the end of the decade nears, it’s clear that there are more great and impassioned artists working than ever before in the history of filmmaking, and it’s exciting to see the great performances that have appeared in 2019’s films.

There are many reasons why performances get under looked. Sometimes a film is just underseen and hasn’t received enough attention, and sometimes a performance is misinterpreted or judged on the merit of the film itself, and not the actor’s work. There’s also films that feature so many great performances that some get under looked, or brief roles that have a small, yet potent impact on the film’s story.

Here are ten great performances from 2019 films that no one is talking about.

 

10. Riley Keough – Under the Silver Lake

Under the Silver Lake may be the most divisive film of 2019, with some claiming that it’s a bold masterpiece that dives head first into Old Hollywood corruption and the seductive nature of conspiracy theories, and others describing it as a sexist, self-indulgent, and frustrating mystery with an unsatisfying conclusion.

Since the film debuted last year at the Cannes Film Festival, Andrew Garfield has been praised for his role as the creepy rascal Sam, but the reviews haven’t given enough credit to Riley Keough’s performance as Sarah, the girl who Sam becomes obsessed with. While it’s a brief role that bookends the film’s beginning and end, it’s instrumental in starting the narrative and giving Sam a reason to embark on his crazy quest.

When Keough first appears on screen she appears as a dreamlike figure to Sam, imitating the mannerisms of Old Hollywood movie stars and convincingly enchanting Sam with her presence. While her performance primarily exists as the epitome of all that Sam desires, Keough is able to bring agency to the character, particularly in the film’s closing scenes in which the two share a tender moment and reflect on how little they actually know about each other. Not quite the typical femme fatale and more than a damsel in distress, Keough is the heart of Under the Silver Lake and finds a sincerity within the distress and chaos of the film’s crazy plot.

 

9. Zac Efron – Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile

Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile isn’t a great film, but the casting of Zac Efron as Ted Bundy is unexpectedly perfect. The film primarily chronicles Bundy’s crimes from the perspective of his longtime girlfriend Liz Kendall (Lily Collins) who is convinced that he isn’t guilty, so the actual murders themselves are rarely shown on screen. Instead, the film focuses on the con that Bundy pulls on those that trust him and how he utilizes the media circus to paint himself as a charismatic teen idol. This perspective allows Efron to weaponize his own status as a celebrity and sex symbol, and in turn give a chilling performance.

The ease with which Bundy is able to gain people’s trust is well-handled, as he shows up at just the right moment for Liz to unload her problems upon him and seems to be understanding and sympathetic to her issues. Efron is able to put on the persona of an innocent man, but his infatuation with attention and questionable emotional responses foreshadow the truth behind the perfect man he’s pretending to be.

While there isn’t quite enough time dedicated to showing Bundy before he’s accused of any crimes, this is an issue with the script and Efron does his best with what he’s given. It’s a transformative performance that marks a new stage in Efron’s career, and shows a great deal of self-awareness and riskiness from the former Disney star.

 

8. Ray Liotta – Marriage Story

Adam Driver, Scarlett Johansson, Laura Dern, and even Alan Alda all have received heavy awards buzz for their performances in Noah Baumbach’s excellent divorce drama Marriage Story, but one person that hasn’t received his just praise is Ray Liotta, who has a pivotal role as Jay, the ruthless attorney for Driver’s character Charlie.

Jay’s appearance in the film marks a major turning point for the story, as a desperate Charlie realizes he must use more drastic measures to win the custody case when his wife Nicole (Johansson) employs an equally ruthless divorce attorney (Dern). Jay convinces Charlie that if wants to win the case, he must paint Nicole as incompetent and neglectful.

Liotta broke out in 1990 with his iconic performance in Goodfellas, but since then he hasn’t received the caliber of roles that reflect his talent. With Marriage Story Liotta is able to once again play a morally dubious character who takes advantage of the vulnerable people around him; in his introductory scene, Jay preps Charlie for the upcoming legal battle with the gravity of someone preparing for war, and seeks to further escalate the fragile divorce hearings into a dirty and psychologically damaging debate that shatters the lives of Charlie and Nicole. While the rest of the cast is rightfully praised for their extraordinary work, Liotta’s contribution to the film shouldn’t be overlooked.

 

7. Himesh Patel – Yesterday

The collaboration between director Danny Boyle and writer Richard Curtis proved to be successful one with Yesterday; Boyle is always able to find intimacy within his characters, and Curtis is renowned for his witty, heartfelt dialogue. At the center of this odd fantasy where The Beatles never existed is Jack Malik (Himesh Patel), a down on his luck singer-songwriter who takes advantage of this situation and introduces the world to the iconic songs. Jack receives significant fame, but in his heart he just wants to share music with the world, and it’s this sincerity that makes him such an endearing character.

In the role of Jack, Himesh Patel gives a breakout performance. While Jack is humble and is victim to a series of misfortunes, he also has to be a dynamic and engaging stage performer, and Patel delivers beautiful covers of many of The Beatles’s best songs. Even if Jack loses sight of the most important things in his life, he doesn’t use fame to fuel his own narcissism, and Patel is able to make Jack flawed, yet not fall into the stereotypical category of characters swept up by their own success. Even in the film’s cornier moments, Patel’s hapless nature is endearing. Clearly, it’s a performance that resonated with people, as Yesterday was a surprise box office hit, and Patel will next be seen in the new Christopher Nolan film Tenet.

 

6. Asier Etxeandia – Pain & Glory

Antonio Banderas won the Best Actor trophy at the Cannes Film Festival for his performance in Pedro Almodovar’s latest masterpiece, and while Banderas is phenomenal as the fictitious film director Salvador Mallo, Asier Etxeandia is also great as Mallo’s former collaborator Alberto Crespo.

With obvious allusions to Almodovar’s own life, Pain & Glory follows the reunion between these two men as they embark on a special screening of a film they made thirty years prior. Salvador and Alberto are still at odds with each other over creative decisions made on the film, and it’s humorous to see how their bitterness still exists after all this time.

Seeing these two come to terms with their initial quarrel and spend more time getting to know each other is interesting, and in one of the best scenes in the film they once again start fighting after Salvador insults Alberto when introducing the film. While the film is told from Salvador’s perspective, it’s Alberto who once again fuels his creative process, inspiring Salvador to confront his childhood memories and turn them into a new story.

It’s a film about a great artist looking for meaning in their work, and Salvador would not be able to find solace in his new stories if it weren’t for Alberto’s support. Etxeandia is much more than a comic sidekick, but an integral part of Almodovar’s vision of how the creative process works.

10 Great TV Shows That Should Be Made Into Movies

TV shows and movies, as entertainment mediums, are often compared but have some innate differences. By nature of the format, television are episodic, telling a new story every week. While the characters and overarching plot arc are consistent across the series, each episode has its own conflict and resolution. This not only allows for very complex plots but also fleshed out character progression and a stronger connection with the audience.

Based on these characteristics it may seem like almost all stories would be better off as shows than movies but there are several other factors to consider. The simplest reason is that not all stories need to be that long. More doesn’t always mean better, especially in storytelling. Some shows have great concepts but overstay their welcome and eventually grow dull.

Another issue is that, as the series goes on, it can become overly complex and won’t satisfyingly wrap up all the loose ends (*cough cough* Game of Thrones). The biggest drawback to the format, unfortunately, is the financial and organizational structure where the showrunner has to contend with the TV station input and can ultimately be cancelled before the story is over.

Shows have been getting the movie treatment for decades with huge variation in quality. Many of them are simply cash grabs by studios to tap into nostalgia and the existing fanbases. There are numerous of these, Bewitched, CHiPs, Charlie’s Angels, to name a few, that have taken successful series and delivered empty rehashes of the concept. Plenty of them, however, have offered fresh takes on solid concepts, and in some cases have exceeded the reputation of the source show entirely, like the Mission Impossible series.

The following ten shows are some that, for various reasons, would thrive if given the chance at a film incarnation.

 

10. The Six Million Dollar Man (1974 – 1978)

The 1970s had more fun television shows than any other era. Sure, they weren’t always the highest quality but the concepts were intriguing and were full of zany camp and thrilling action. The Six Million Dollar Man is maybe the definitive example of this style of show. Lee Majors stars as Col. Steve Austin, a test pilot who gets in a horrible crash, turned into a cyborg and put to work as a secret agent. Plots often surround kooky technology, political intrigue with Russian baddies and teaming up with the similarly gifted Bionic Woman.

Why it would make a good movie: It’s got all the makings of a modern action success: a great origin story, interesting premise and unlimited possibilities for story. This open slate, similar to the MIssion Impossible franchise, is more appealing to talented directors and writers who can come in and make it their own. The thematic material also allows for deeper exploration into the connection between man and technology a la Robocop or more recently Upgrade. Just maybe the filmmakers should stay a little on the serious side and avoid straying too far into camp, like the Wild Wild West remake.

Dream Directors: Christopher McQuarrie or Alex Garland, depending on if the focus is more on sci-fi or espionage.

 

9. Frisky Dingo (2006 – 2007)

Adam Reed and Matt Thompson, creators of the hit animated series Archer, started their television career on Adult Swim at its inception in 2000 with the hilarious show Sealab 2021.

Sealab was a clever parody of children’s adventure cartoons and after it ran its course they came out with Frisky Dingo, a parody of superheroes. The show revolves around a supervillain, named Killface, a giant bony monster, and his arch-nemesis/sometimes friend AwesomeX, a Batman parody. Like their other shows, Frisky Dingo’s best asset is its clever writing and colorful characters, but also has potential for action and social relevance.

Why it would make a good movie: Superheroes are much more relevant now than when the show aired, giving them much more content to work with. Parodies also tend to work better in shorter stints where the jokes can be boiled down to the best of the bunch. While a similar movie to this has been made already (Megamind), this take would be a more biting satire, similar to the comedy found in Deadpool. Frisky Dingo could fill a cult niche at a very relevant time for it’s subject matter, and with the Reed and Thompson currently writing better than ever, could be a hit

Dream Directors: Adam Reed and Matt Thompson would need to be involved in the writing. Maybe veteran directors of fun superhero films like Matthew Vaughn or James Gunn would be a good fit.

 

8. Nip/Tuck (2003 – 2010)

Medical drama mixed with crime show, Nip/Tuck combines the two most popular TV formats into a unique program. It follows the practice of two hotshot plastic surgeons: Sean McNamara and Christian Troy. McNamara is a family man trying to keep his tumultuous career from shaking up his marriage, while Troy is a brilliant doctor but unpredictable womanizer. Together they not only conduct lots of controversial procedures, but soon get too involved in LA’s seedy underbelly.

Why it would make a good movie: The concept is unique with lots of intriguing paths for the plot to go. The two main characters, while not tremendously original in design, offer decent enough chemistry and, if written correctly, have potential to be interesting studies. The show itself is not incredible, especially when compared to some of its contemporary dark dramas. One of it’s main problems is that it overstays the longevity of such a plot, an issue that wouldn’t be present in a film.

Dream Director: Brian DePalma or Paul Schrader, especially if this was made in the 80s. Although both directors have gone down different paths since then, both are capable of handling thrillers with a modicum of sleeze.

 

7. Fantasy Island (1977 – 1984)

One of the most iconic shows of the era, Fantasy Island is a highly conceptual show, perfect for film adaptation. Ricardo Montalban plays the mysterious Mr. Roarke, proprietor of Fantasy Island. The only other main character across the series is Roarke’s diminutive sidekick Tattoo. For the shows seven season run, there isn’t much in the way of continuity or overarching plot from episode to episode, just a new story each week. The plots are all of the same basic make-up: people come to the island to live out their wildest fantasies. Often, they don’t turn out quite how their dreamers expect.

Why it would make a good movie: Each episode is essentially its own separate story anyway so a film would just be a stretched, more complex, iteration of one, maybe with a brief introductory segment. Finding a suitable Mr. Rourke might be a challenge, but outside of that the writer/director would have free reign to create their own collection of moral tales, perhaps tinged with the supernatural or an O.Henry-esque twist.

Dream Director: It’s such an open ended concept that any strong director could take it and run with it. Steven Spielberg would give a balanced approach. Tim Burton would make it his own dark world. Yorgos Lanthimos might give us something a little deeper/weirder.

 

6. Gargoyles (1994 – 1997)

The 1990s were a golden age for children’s cartoons, with many animators catering as much to kids as they did adults. The high watermark for these was the operatic, noir laced Batman: The Animated Series, but right below it ranks Gargoyles. The show is about a group of gargoyles, mythical beasts from ancient Scotland who find a home on the NYC skyline. When the sun is out they become trapped in stone but at night, mobilize and protect the citizens from crime and evil. Similar in concept to Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, but less goofy jokes and more Shakespeare.

Why it would make a good movie: There are many aspects of the show that make it more appealing today than when it came out. For one, the market for big budget creature features is bigger than ever, and can even gain critical acclaim. WIth this film’s dramatic literary influences, as well as possibility for big action, not to mention interesting lore, it seems like a home run if put into the right hands.

Dream Directors: The obvious choice is Guillermo Del Toro, whose had more success than anyone in this genre. James Wan would also be good to mix action and horror into a blockbuster.

10 Great Movie Endings That Are Endlessly Rewatchable

When you walk out of the movie theater or finish watching a film, the ending is obviously the most recent portion you’ve seen. Therefore, it is important not to waste those final frames and emotions left within the experience, or allow for the film to make a lasting impression.

Some films are quite magical when it comes to an end because it transcends the narrative, features a stunning scene, or closes out the film so perfectly it can’t be messed with. As a result, here are 10 film endings that are endlessly re-watchable for so many reasons. (And spoiler alert – this is a list about the ends of movies!)

 

1. Cinema Paradiso (1988) – The Cut Kissing Scenes

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After Alfredo has passed away and left the now-successful yet wandering adult Salvatore a final message, we arrive at this scene. After learning so much about the backstory between these two and discussions on whatever you choose, make sure to love it. And getting away from the closed-minded town, Salvatore begins to watch some footage.

As the film is projected onto the screen, we quickly realize it is all the cutscenes the local priest made Alfredo take out over the years. Overwhelmed with emotion, Salvatore begins to cry with tears of joy and it’s hard for us not to as well. With Ennio Morricone’s score sweeping over the imageries of lust, sexiness, passion, and desire projected onto the screen, we might not feel the cathartic emotions of Salvatore but we feel the immense love for cinema.

If asked about Guiseppe Tornatore’s film, most people would mention the ending first. And with an ending that involves the love of cinema, the arcs of the problem that the main character is facing, and somehow magically combines the two, it stays with us after the credits have rolled.

 

2. All That Jazz (1979) – Bye Bye Love

All That Jazz

As Joe Gideon is literally on his deathbed, and the clichéd saying that your whole life flashes before your eyes is proven true, is true Bob Fosse fashion. Instead of a melancholic departure or abrupt ending in a hospital, the death scene set and sung to “Bye Bye Love” turns Gideon’s departure into a smashing musical number.

Drawing upon influences of artists, and in particular the filmmaker’s struggles with personal and professional situations, Fosse more or less adapted his own life for the film. Whether it be editing a film on a stand-up comedian, his recent ex-lover, or the rehearsal scenes with his women, it all ends beautifully in the finale. As the camera swoons and zooms with sounds zapping and clicking, we witness all the people in Gideon’s life, from the past, present, and future.

So how can a death scene be so joyous? Well, that’s part of Fosse’s magic and success as a stage and film director. It is a lengthy 10-minute scene but worth every second, and once it’s over, you immediately want to watch the finale again.

 

3. La La Land (2016) – Epilogue at Seb’s

After a time jump of five years, we see the two leads of Sebastian and Mia finally achieving their dreams but at the loss of each other. It’s hard not to contain some melancholy (which holds true to the film’s tone, no matter how high a jazz or musical scene could be) despite the success of their dreams.

As coincidence or perhaps fate plays apart, Emma Stone’s Mia walks into Ryan Gosling’s Seb’s and all of the emotions of that relationship come back into play. As Sebastian begins to play their tune, Damien Chazelle creates a flashback of what-could-have-been fantasy montage grounded in magical realism for our hearts to ache, dance, love, and mourn. Allowing Justin Horowitz’s score to soar above the imagery and pay homage to 1950’s Hollywood musicals ties the whole film together.

The scene can simply be watched over and over again due to pure craftsmanship involved and the powerful performances, as it closes out this amazing film. Chazelle leaves no emotion, narrative arc, or tune out of this montage, and it’s an ending to end the film perfectly.

 

4. 2001: A Space Odyssey – The Room

2001 A Space Odyssey

How do you follow the Star Gate sequence in Stanley Kubrick’s film? Well, after nearly 15 minutes of jump cuts, neon pre-computer saturated imagery, and haunting score, we arrive in a perfectly quiet and still room. We don’t know why the film is there and even after 51 years, we still haven’t figured it all out yet.

Set in a highly bright and meticulously detailed baroque room, we see Keir Dullea’s Doctor Bowman roam around the room with gazing curiosity. As the film unfolds and cuts, we go from Bowman as an adult to middle age to his death bed. Clearly time and space are unfolding in an unpredictable narrative before the giant black Monolith appears and the Star Child is born.

The scene sums up many of the film’s themes of space travel, exploration, and mystery in Kubrick’s style and tone. He even explained the film’s endings in a rare 1980 interview about what occurs (but won’t state here). Why? Because no matter how many times one watches the end scene, we are still as perplexed yet in awe at what is occurring from the opening scenes, or for the first time we experienced this film.

Kubrick was no stranger to nonconformist endings and he definitely delivered one of his greatest here.

 

5. The Third Man (1949) – Sewer Chase

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Where is Harry Lime? With the Dutch angles with expressionistic noir elements and Anton Karas’s zither score, the sewer chase is as great of an ending as it can be. After Welles’ Lime finally appears and dominates the screen in his starring role, the mystery is still alive. So the audience is taken for a journey, as if they had not already been on one, through the sewage drains of Vienna post-World War II.

Every frame is perfectly composed and edited to perfection, but it’s the story of what will happen next is the true drive. Even on a second, third or tenth viewing, we simply go on this rollercoaster again. And it would be rude to not include the final still frame of Valli’s Anna walking coldly to and then away from Cotten’s Martins at the end. A final moment that is a different sort of chase completely atypical of the chase we just witnessed from the Viennese streets down to the sewer.

Carol Reed certainly built off of his previous noir and man-on-the-run outings, but he truly perfected it here to close out the decade with possibly the greatest final chase.