Great Scene: “The Full Monty”

January 17th, 2015 by

While the instinct might be to put the spotlight on this scene from the 1997 comedy The Full Monty:

I going to feature another scene.

IMDb plot summary:

Six unemployed steel workers form a male striptease act. The women cheer them on to go for “the full monty” – total nudity.

After an altercation with police, the guys, who have been training for their performance, decide to give up their plan. By coincidence, they all meet at the unemployment line when a certain song comes over the loudspeakers:

No dialogue, just visuals, but what does it tell us? Logic may have dictated them to forgo their performance, but in the process of rehearsing, something has connected with them. Their minds may be saying no, but their bodies are still saying yes.

To read all of the entries in the Great Scene archive, go here.

Great Scene: “Close Encounters of the Third Kind”

January 3rd, 2015 by

There are so many great scenes in the 1977 movie Close Encounters of the Third Kind. This one has always stuck with me. Every shot, every cut builds pace and tension, all of it based on a simple question: Where did the sounds come from? Check out the way Spielberg handles the reveal of that information:

That jump — cutting from on top of the hill, then down to the throng, their hands in the foreground reaching into the sky as one — such great cinema.

By the way, Spielberg didn’t just direct the movie. He wrote the screenplay.

What are your favorite scenes from Close Encounters of the Third Kind?

Great Scene: “Sophie’s Choice”

December 27th, 2014 by

A gut-wrenching scene from the 1982 movie Sophie’s Choice, screenplay by Alan J. Pakula, based on the novel by William Styron.

IMDb plot summary: Sophie is the survivor of Nazi concentration camps, who has found a reason to live in Nathan, a sparkling if unsteady American Jew obsessed with the Holocaust. They befriend Stingo, the movie’s narrator, a young American writer new to New York City. But the happiness of Sophie and Nathan is endangered by her ghosts and his obsessions.

The scene plays out as a flashback late in the story, a crucial revelation which explains much of Sophie’s self-destructive personality, haunted by this very moment: A mother has to choose between her son and her daughter — one shall live, one shall die.

Great Scene: “A Christmas Story”

December 20th, 2014 by

For four long years, I lived in North Dakota, so I know first-hand about really cold winters and things like what transpire in this memorable scene from the wonderful 1983 movie A Christmas Story, screenplay by Jean Shepherd & Leigh Brown & Bob Clark, based on Shepherd’s novel.

Don’t believe getting your tongue stuck on frozen metal is possible? As part of the winter survival guide our family received when we moved to Minot Air Force Base was the specific advice about never taking out a trash can with our bare hands because the skin would stick. And don’t even dare pulling your hand away as that would rip off skin. Instead we were advised to pour warm water over our hands or in an emergency… pee on them. I’m serious! Fortunately the young lad in A Christmas Story didn’t have to do that!

Who else loves this movie? Favorite scenes?

Great Scene: “The Great Escape”

December 6th, 2014 by

When I was a kid, I loved this movie. For my money, there was no actor more bad-ass than Steve McQueen. Here is a great scene from The Great Escape (1963), screenplay by James Clavell and W.R. Burnett, book by Paul Brickhill.

Hilts “The Cooler King,” played by McQueen, doesn’t escape, but even as he’s returned to captivity, he is unbowed. At least he tried. And he’ll keep trying.

Great Scene: “Tampopo”

November 29th, 2014 by

If you haven’t seen the 1985 Tampopo, written and directed by Jûzô Itami, do yourself a favor and check it out. Starring the great Ken Watanabe, it’s a delightful comedy.

IMDb plot summary: A truck driver stops at a small family-run noodle shop and decides to help its fledgling business. The story is intertwined with various vignettes about the relationship of love and food.

Here a character known as Gun reminisces about an experience from his youth, learning some secrets of ramen:

Jûzô Itami was a wonderful talent who sadly took his own life. He left behind a memorable collection of movies he wrote and directed including The Funeral, A Taxing Woman, A Taxing Woman Returns, and Tampopo.

Great Scene: “Metropolitan”

November 22nd, 2014 by

In a movie dominated by dialogue — great dialogue, it should be noted — this pretty much constitutes one of the film’s two ‘action’ scenes. It’s Nick vs. the despicable Rick Von Sloneker, one of the more memorable moments in this wonderful 1990 movie written and directed by Whit Stillman.

I had the great pleasure of moderating a one-on-one conversation with Whit Stillman at the 2014 Austin Film Festival. We had an excellent session. It was recorded and hopefully will surface as part of the PBS On Story TV series.

Great Scene: “Caddyshack”

November 15th, 2014 by

Carl Spackler: So I jump ship in Hong Kong and I make my way over to Tibet, and I get on as a looper at a course over in the Himalayas.
Angie D’Annunzio: A looper?
Carl Spackler: A looper, you know, a caddy, a looper, a jock. So, I tell them I’m a pro jock, and who do you think they give me? The Dalai Lama, himself. Twelfth son of the Lama. The flowing robes, the grace, bald… striking. So, I’m on the first tee with him. I give him the driver. He hauls off and whacks one – big hitter, the Lama – long, into a ten-thousand foot crevasse, right at the base of this glacier. Do you know what the Lama says? Gunga galunga… gunga, gunga-lagunga. So we finish the eighteenth and he’s gonna stiff me. And I say, “Hey, Lama, hey, how about a little something, you know, for the effort, you know.” And he says, “Oh, uh, there won’t be any money, but when you die, on your deathbed, you will receive total consciousness.” So I got that goin’ for me, which is nice.

As legend has it, this was totally improvised by Bill Murray.

Great Scene: “Moonrise Kingdom”

November 8th, 2014 by

My favorite movie scene of 2012 is this one from Moonrise Kingdom, written by Wes Anderson and Roman Coppola. IMDb plot summary: A pair of young lovers flee their New England town, which causes a local search party to fan out to find them.

The scene is full of innocence, wonder, honesty, and fun. And, of course, it’s visual. Such a wonderful movie, perhaps my favorite by Anderson.

If you have a great scene you’d like to suggest, please do in comments.

Great Scene: “Almost Famous”

October 31st, 2014 by

October is Great Scene month at Go Into The Story whereby we put a spotlight on notable movie scenes, then analyze and discuss them. Their structure, themes, character dynamics. Why do they work? What are their narrative elements that elevate them to greatness? Let’s face it: In a fundamental way, screenwriting is scene-writing, so the more we learn about this aspect of the craft, the better.

Today’s suggestion is by James Douglas: The 2000 movie Almost Famous, written by Cameron Crowe. IMDB plot summary:

A high-school boy is given the chance to write a story for Rolling Stone Magazine about an up-and-coming rock band as he accompanies it on their concert tour.

After a fight between band members and a raucous night partying, Russell (Billy Crudup) returns to the band’s bus and off they go, the mood somber…

James made this point about the scene: “The way that the group ‘heals’ without saying a single word is astounding, and Penny’s revelation to William is all the more potent because of it.” James is referring to this exchange between young William (Patrick Fugit) and Penny Lane (Kate Hudson):

William Miller: I have to go home.
Penny Lane: You are home.

The scene speaks to the power of music. Wonderful scene, awesome movie, and a great way to round out this month’s Great Scene series. Thanks for all of your suggestions!

To read all of the entries in the Great Scene archive, go here.