When Jodie Foster or Pete Davidson, probably, reads off the list of Best Picture winners at February’s Oscars ceremony, a screen behind them will project a short clip from one of the nominated films.
The clip will be a standout moment from the nominated film, a synecdoche of its stirring, awards-worthy narrative packaged into a palatable cinematic soundbite. These are maybe not the best parts of any of these films, or maybe not even the most noteworthy, but we have been thinking about them endlessly since witnessing them. (Note: This list is full of spoilers.)
Scene: Lucas Hedges’ Luke mistaking Animal Collective for Blood Orange.
“Is this Blood Orange?” Lucas Hedges’ character asks when Animal Collective’s “Bluish” comes on in the car during a Florida road trip. The remark is disrespectful to both Animal Collective and Blood Orange, who make very different music. But that is the joke, and it’s kind of charming because you can imagine Hedges saying that in real life. Or anyone, really. It’s something we’ve all done before, at some point.
Scene: Robert Pattinson’s stilted, hilarious take on le Français.
Robert Pattinson’s French accent. Excoozy moi misseur, leetle boy je ne say paw eef you are rrready for fool-scale warrrr. R‑Patz, you’re what the French call les incompétents.
Scene: Adam Driver’s rousing performance of Being Alive in a steak restaurant.
Marriage Story, Noah Baumbach’s semi-autobiographical film about his and Jennifer Jason Leigh’s divorce, has a few hammy moments to defibrillate the buried theatre kid in all of us. But more than Scarlett Johansson’s melodramatic heel stomp at an industry pool party, or Laura Dern tossing off her stilettos and side-saddling her office couch to listen to ScarJo’s marriage woes, there is Adam Driver singing. Driver’s heart-rending karaoke of Being Alive from the musical Company, performed to his theatre crew and Wallace Shawn, is a clean musical number that cleaves through an otherwise emotional kettle whistle of a film.
Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood
Scene: Brad Pitt’s big six-pack reveal while fixing Rick Dalton’s roof antenna.
On a brief but refreshing pit stop in Quentin Tarantino’s Old Hollywood nostalgia trip Once Upon a Time…, Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt, svelte, 55) fixes an antenna on his boss’ roof. In preparation for this “Woo! Ahhh” moment – which adds absolutely nothing to the narrative – Pitt underwent a transformation. He “really takes his workouts seriously,” a source told People this past August about his dedication to the big abs reveal. Another person observed: “saw Once upon a time in Hollywood and the entire theatre inhaled sharply as it was revealed that Brad Pitt still got it.”
Scene: When Amy hurls in the bathroom.
Reprising the indelible coital-puke scene from Superbad, Booksmart’s most obvious touchstone occurs towards the film’s end. We watch Kaitlyn Dever’s character navigate from soul-crushing heartbreak and the implosion of her closest friendship to an abrupt, cathartic redemption – making out in the bathroom with her stand-offish, too-cool-to-care classmate – only to come crashing back when the plastic-bottle vodka she’s been drinking catches up with her nerves.
Scene: The Scandi group breeding climax in the side shed.
For a film with the consistent look and feel of a psychotic Björk video, Midsommar was adept at upping its own ante – each deranged set piece felt more unexpected and horrifying than the next. That said, this scene takes the cake: Chris, the callous, emotionally unavailable partner to Dani, Florence Pugh’s visceral lead, is led into a barn by a group of cult members, where he impregnates the young, virginal Maja. A bevy of naked cult ladies encourage him with synchronised huffing and theatrical gestures that would make Marina Abramović cringe.
Scene: Imposter family hides under giant coffee table noiselessly as homeowners boink.
The Parks go on a camping trip. Their imposter replacements, the Kim family, let themselves into the Parks’ swanky house. They raid the liquor cabinet and eat all the food, belching and swapping stories in a dog pile on the massive couch. Until they discover inclement weather has neutralised the Parks’ trip and they are 10 minutes away from arriving back home. Which is a disaster. In Bong-Joon Ho’s best film, they rush to clean up their mess. Then they hide in plain sight, under a gigantic coffee table in the centre of the most-trafficked room. “They measured up the table so four adults can fit under it,” actor Choi Woo-shik told Vulture. “I thought it was a designer table, but they actually made it for the movie.” To heighten the nail-biting drama, Mr. and Mrs. Park have sex on the living room couch, unaware a family of four is holding their rum-soaked breath feet away.
Scene: The sauna phone call. Buzz, your girlfriend… woof!
The sheer number of women out on a girls night whooping and sneaking swigs from a flask at screenings of Hustlers, for which Jennifer Lopez reportedly took no salary, was enough to make this movie a nut-busting triumph. But then there was that scene with Devin Ratray, aka Buzz from Home Alone, who would rather you didn’t say “woof” to his face anymore. His character Steven gets involved with Dorothy (Constance Wu) at the strip club. He buys her a laptop. But he’s a married man. When she calls him at his house, he sneaks out the back door for privacy, out of earshot of his wife. Not even that’s enough, so he shuts himself into his outdoor sauna. Oh, the lengths men will go. It’s brief, yet hysterical.
Scene: Arthur Fleck murders his coworker, then lets his other coworker out of the apartment. Huh?
It has been memed to the fifth circle of hell and back, but this vehicle for Joaquin Phoenix features more than just sadboy clowning and astral projecting oneself into a loving relationship with an apartment neighbour or absentee father. The most inexplicable scene, logically speaking, is a joke at the expense of Arthur Fleck’s little coworker. When two of his clown colleagues visit Fleck’s derelict apartment out of concern for his rapidly deteriorating mental health, Fleck murders Randall, the bigger dude. Then Gary, a little person, tries to escape the apartment. In a possibly problematic slapstick twist, Gary can’t reach the lock to let himself out. So he resorts to begging Fleck to oblige him. It’s strange and uncomfortable and impossible not to contemplate as a weird comment on ableism or just a particularly unfunny quasi-plot hole. You let him witness your murder and then let him out? Stupid.