Way Too Indie’s Favorite Movie Scenes From 2013

By @cj_prin
Way Too Indie’s Favorite Movie Scenes From 2013

2013 was filled with plenty of tremendous films, and just as many memorable moments. As a companion to our Best Films of 2013 list, we asked our staff to come up with some of their favorite moments in movies this year. Covering all our favorites would just take too much time, so below we have singled out a few moments (15 to be exact) that stuck in our heads the most throughout the year.

Way Too Indie’s Favorite Movie Scenes From 2013

Sex scene Her

Sex scene in Her movie

The story of a man falling in love with his computer is an absurd sitcom-ready premise, but through Spike Jonze’s vision it’s looked at in a disarming and surprisingly sincere light. When Theodore (Joaquin Phoenix) installs his new OS Samantha (voiced by Scarlett Johansson), their relationship feels naturally developed aside from the fact that Samantha doesn’t have a physical form. When Theodore, after going on a bad date, comes home and tells Samantha about it they finally act out on their feelings. Jonze avoids showing the sex scene, instead fading to black and letting the audience hear Theodore and Samantha make love. It’s a graceful move by Jonze, and a ballsy one to let the audience be left in the dark with only the sounds of the two leads moaning. But Phoenix and Johansson put in excellent performances, and the scene shows how, when you take everything else away, there’s an undeniably pure love between these characters. [CJ]

Oscar Grant Shooting Re-enactment Fruitvale Station

Oscar Grant shooting Fruitvale Station

One of the main reasons Fruitvale Station has touched a nerve with audiences across the world is the pervading air of authenticity: Like Oscar Grant, the film’s slain inspiration, director Ryan Coogler is a Bay Area native, and it was imperative to him that he shoot the film exclusively in the neighborhoods where Oscar lived his life. The tragic final moments of Oscar’s life (which were captured in real life by onlookers via camera phone) were spent face down on a BART platform until one of the police officers detaining him shot and killed him. Coogler and his crew filmed their reenactment in the exact spot it took place, with Michael B. Jordan, playing Oscar, laying his torso directly onto the bullet hole left from Oscar’s murder. His performance and Coogler’s direction make for a stunning, powerful cinematic moment. [Bernard]

The Hanging 12 Years a Slave

The hanging in 12 Years a Slave

Many parts of 12 Years a Slave are particularly hard to watch, but none was so impacting to me as when Solomon Northrup is strung up to a tree to hang after defending himself against an overseer who wrongfully attacked him. He escapes hanging but is left on his tippy toes gargling for breath for what seems like hours. Rather than show time passing by cutting away or letting the audience imagine how horrifying such a situation would be, director Steve McQueen forces us to watch as other slaves go about their business and the mistress of the plantation looks on, always hearing the low gurgle of a man literally barely holding on for life. Never as an audience member have I felt so helpless. This scene will likely hold its place in film school classes teaching the awful power of the camera’s gaze. [Ananda]

“Everytime” montage Spring Breakers

Everytime montage in Spring Breakers

Harmony Korine’s Spring Breakers is a visual delight. The 95 minute film feels like one giant montage that never ends. Korine uses all the tricks he can muster to attack your senses. Every scene is filled with bright colors and flashy editing set to the hypnotic score by electro whizzes Skrillex and Cliff Martinez. At times its sensory overload and can be hard to comprehend what we’re looking at. In the middle of all the debauchery Korine does manage to slow the film down for a treat for the ages. Alien (played by James Franco) sits poolside of his Floridian mansion, playing a white grand piano. His three new friends that he’s rescued from jail emerge with pink ski masks toting guns. They ask him to play a song and he indulges with a rendition of Britney Spears’ “Everytime”.

Just as we’re about to laugh at the scene because of how completely odd it is, the actual song by Spears fades in as we’re treated to a montage entirely in slow motion of Alien and the pink ski masked girls beating and robbing people violently. The scene must be seen to be believed. I’ll never forget sitting in the theater with a gigantic smile on my face as I watched Alien jumping on a bed with maniacal grin while the girls were giving a bunch of bros bloody lips. The scene comes at the perfect time in the film. For 60 minutes you are bombarded with eccentric images and just when you think you can’t take any more of it, Korine slows it all down for you. Just in time of course for the climax to explode all over the screen. [Blake]

Shower scene Stoker

Shower scene in Stoker

The scene that was most prominent to me this year was Chan-wook Park’s particular spark of controversial genius in Stoker. India (Mia Wasikowska), the 18 year old girl who is the focus of the film, struggles with the loss of her father (Dermot Mulroney) and becomes overly and inappropriately intrigued by her estranged uncle Charlie (Matthew Goode) who visits after his brother dies. The shower scene in which India masturbates in the midst of washing away the dirt and trauma of what she has just experienced, was not only initially confusing to myself, but was also totally shocking. Despite the scene being awkward at first, it juxtaposed the scenes that made up the disturbed realisation of the weakness and confusion India feels. [Amy]

Opening shot The Place Beyond the Pines

opening of The Place Beyond the Pines

The technical achievement of pulling off the elaborately choreographed three minute long continuous shot at the beginning of The Place Beyond the Pines is simply speculator. A muscular man paces back and forth while flipping his butterfly knife before a knock on his trailer door indicates that it is show time. The uninterrupted scene continues as the man grabs his jacket and begins to weave around games and tents that produce loud noises and bright lights at a carnival. Walking with clear determination, the man travels across the heavily populated fairground to a tent where a large crowd of people is gathered to cheer for him. The announcer introduces the heartthrob over the loudspeaker as he proceeds to get on his motorcycle. Just before he puts on his helmet we see his face for the first time. After a few thrusts of his engine he joins two other stuntmen in a metal cage where they ride upside-down, narrowly missing one another. This tracking sequence establishes the confident personality of Ryan Gosling’s character, as well as getting a taste of what his character is capable of on a motorcycle—both of which are relevant during the course of the film. [Dustin]

The Birds Leviathan

The Birds in Leviathan

The beauty and terror of Leviathan could be easily summed up in the astounding shot that closes the film. At night the camera, presumably tied to the back of a ship, is bobbing up and down in the ocean as dozens of birds are flying around. The footage is flipped 180 degrees, making everything upside down. Pitch-black ocean, only identified by the brief glimpses of crashing waves, is now sky as we view multitudes of small, moving white lines float underneath it. It’s a disorienting image, one that turns the familiar into something otherworldly, and is a good showcase for why Leviathan has bowled over so many people. [CJ]

Opening scene Post Tenebras Lux

Opening scene Post Tenebras Lux

Admittedly there are many scenes in this Carlos Reygadas directed film that are likely to stay with a person. A glowing red devil walking in a house at night, a man punching a dog severely, and a crazy French orgy all come to mind, and are also reasons I wouldn’t actually recommend this film. But if you watch any of it, watch the first ten minutes where a small child wanders alone in a cow pasture. She shuffles in the mud giggling with delight as giant cows graze around her and herding dogs do their best to keep her from danger. The scene switches between the view of seeing the child, a huge and sun-streaked sky behind her, and the narrowly focused and low perspective of the child running among the animals. It’s impossible not to feel fear for the child’s well-being while simultaneously be in awe of such a spectacle. [Ananda]

Safe Haven V/H/S/2

Safe Haven VHS2

Technically this is not a scene as much as it is a short film, but we are counting it because of the way V/H/S/2 is comprised of several of these sequences. Also because Safe Haven happens to be one of the most enjoyable horror segments of the entire year. The basic premise of Safe Haven involves a documentary crew interviewing a local man who runs a cult. After questioning the man’s beliefs (at one point they almost laugh at him), they ask him to take them to his compound so they can get an account of daily life.

The final 15 minutes of Safe Haven is an orgasmic release of unapologetic, ritualistic, and unbelievably bloody violence. Director Gareth Evans holds nothing back. Kids swallow suicide pills, a room full of men blow their brains out with pistols, men chasing each other with shotguns, and dead people come back to life as zombies. In one scene a man wills his body to explode sending his innards all over the walls of a hallway. All of this leads up to a magnificent scene of an 8 foot demon sticking its horn through an innocent woman’s stomach as she gives “birth” to Hell on Earth. And as the last survivor desperately tries to find his way out of the compound, you’ll shiver as the growls of the demon echo throughout your sound system as if Satan himself was ringing the dinner bell notifying his vermin that it’s time to eat. Safe Haven isn’t the best horror film that 2013 has to offer, but for a quick 30 minutes you’ll be struggling to pick your mouth up from the floor. [Blake]

Eva and Chloe Enough Said

Eva and Chloe in Enough Said

In Nicole Holofcener’s terrific Enough Said (if you haven’t seen it yet, what’s stopping you?), a lot of attention (and flack) has been given to a subplot involving Eva’s (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) friend Sarah (Toni Collette) fretting over replacing her maid. Sadly not as much attention is being paid to another subplot within the film, one that seemingly comes out of nowhere. As Eva’s daughter prepares to move away for college, her best friend Chloe (fashion blogger Tavi Gevinson, making her acting debut) starts to replace Eva’s daughter. It’s an unexpected and hilarious storyline, serving as a perfect complement to Eva’s fears of separation throughout the film. The subplot is one of the more original and bizarrely funny things to come out of 2013, and it shows why Holofcener is one of the more consistent and undervalued directors working today. [CJ]

The Big Twist Stories We Tell

Stories We Tell scene

In Canadian director Sarah Polley’s experimental, poetic documentary about the relationship between people (her family, specifically), stories, and identity, she investigates the validity of the lingering family joke that her dad, Michael Polley, isn’t her biological father. After a 108 minute-long roller coaster ride of twists, turns, and revelations, the credits roll, and we’re left with a pretty clear idea of who Polley’s biological father truly is. That is, until a couple minutes into the credits, when a snippet of footage turns everything we thought we knew about the story on its head. The beauty of this final twist is that it strongly emphasizes Polley’s primary observation, that memories are abstract, malleable, and elusive. [Bernard]

Butterfly Metaphor Dallas Buyers Club

Butterfly scene in Dallas Buyers Club

Towards the end of Dallas Buyers Club, Ron Woodroof (Matthew McConaughey) returns to the Mexican hospital where he first received medications to effectively help him battle his HIV. Shortly after Ron and the doctor discuss a new possible treatment evolving from caterpillars Ron wanders into a back room full of monarch butterflies. Simultaneously back in Texas, his business partner, fellow HIV sufferer, and possibly the best friend Ron has ever had is succumbing to the aggressive disease. Rayon (played with perfection by Jared Leto) is a transgendered woman who never did get the sex change she wanted. Watching Ron among those possibly life-saving butterflies, as his best friend undergoes the ultimate cocoon transformation leaving her poor frail body behind, is the best kind of cinematic metaphor. [Ananda]

Under The Bed The Selfish Giant

Under the bed in Selfish Giant

It’s impossible to go over the specifics of this sequence without delving into spoilers, so I’ll try to speak as generally as possible. In The Selfish Giant, best friends Arbor and Swifty spend their days collecting scrap metal and copper wire for a local junkyard owner. Right from the opening we see how Arbor and Swifty’s relationship operates. Arbor, a hot-tempered adolescent with some sort of behavioral issue (never specifically mentioned but hinted at by his refusal to take medication), is first seen lying underneath his bed having a fit. He screams and pounds at his bed until Swifty takes his hand, finally calming Arbor down. Writer/director Clio Barnard eventually revisits this moment in the final act with devastating results. In one quiet, simple shot Barnard breaks viewers’ hearts while putting them directly in Arbor’s state of mind. In this moment, and the one immediately after involving Siobhan Finneran, it’d be near-impossible to find anyone with a dry eye. [CJ]

Opening shot Gravity

Opening scene of Gravity

I certainly did not expect to see a better opening sequence this year after The Place Beyond the Pines’ three minute long tracking shot, but Gravity ups the ante with a fifteen minute continuous shot which masterfully introduces us to each character, as well as the weightless environment of space. The first couple of minutes of the film we only hear the radio communication between the astronauts and mission control as Earth slowly fills the screen. In the distance a white dot very slowly starts to enter the foreground and before long the space orbiter shape is recognizable. The camera floats around this orbiter in all directions, visually establishing the weightlessness of space. When Sandra Bullock’s character accidentally lets go of a screw and it flies right into the camera instead of straight down, the audience also feels no gravity for the next hour and a half. At this point the film is leisurely introducing the environment and the characters, however, this suddenly interrupted when news comes in that space debris is heading their way. The film is one long thrill ride after that. There is no doubt that what makes Gravity such an impressive work of art are the visual effects and cinematography, both are on full display in the film’s opening moments. [Dustin]

Car scene Before Midnight

Car scene in Before Midnight

While Alfonso Cuaron’s space ballet opening scene in Gravity is arguably the pinnacle of cinematic spectacle for 2013, an early scene in Richard Linklater’s Before Midnight–the Rohmer-ish, talky third film in his beloved Before series–creates spectacle in a stealthier fashion, via a boldly extended single shot and sublime verbiage. As we watch gabby lovers Jesse (Ethan Hawke) and Celine (Julie Delpy) chit chat about their career plans, twin daughters, and the beautiful Greek surroundings, the camera (planted firmly on the dashboard) keeps rolling…and rolling…and rolling, until it dawns on us that we’re watching a master-stroke of a shot. The unparalleled naturalistic dialog, the gorgeous Greek landscapes rolling out behind them, and the monumental length of the thing, make for a sequence every bit as elegant and awe-inspiring as Cuaron’s anti-gravity mini-opus. [Bernard]

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