Moments Out of Time 2010

Images, lines, gestures, moods from the year’s films

• The wall that is, and isn’t, there: The Ghost Writer

• In the hills at night, car lights on a distant curve of road—The American and Let Me In

• Gold-brown chicks cupped in Teardrop’s (John Hawkes) palms; memento mori in Winter’s Bone

• The nub of a dark quill growing out of Nina’s (Natalie Portman) shoulder blade: Black Swan

• “You’d do that for me?”—a line spoken to, and later by, Mark Zuckerberg (Jesse Eisenberg) in The Social Network; the addressee not getting it in either case…

• Nic (Annette Bening) getting lost in singing Joni Mitchell’s “All I Want” during a dinner party—The Kids Are All Right

• Catherine Keener’s cheekbones, Please Give

Hereafter: Three blocks away, down the street, trees are falling: Marie’s (Cécile De France) first awareness of the tsunami….

• Mattie’s (Hailee Steinfeld) bucket floating away downstream after she sees Tom Chaney (Josh Brolin), True Grit

• Stretching away from his dead arm to dabble his toes in a spill of sunlight … Aron Ralston (James Franco), sometime during 127 Hours

• At the beginning of Sweetgrass, a sheep viewed in profile for a long time suddenly turns, stops chewing its cud, and looks directly and intensely into our eyes….

• Jews in the Warsaw street apprehensively eying the camera, A Film Unfinished

• The Escher-like folding over of Parisian skyline, Inception

• A man the height of a lighthouse, Ondine

Monsters: Lovemaking all over the sky…

Winter’s Bone: The ghastly blue twilight in which Ree (Jennifer Lawrence) and the weird sisters search for Jessup Dolly…

• Pink glow on a ferry dock empty of cars and everyone except The Ghost Writer

• During an assassins’ picnic, a butterfly trembles for a moment on the woman’s sweater—harbinger of hope and death in The American

• The Saudi oil minister, terror-struck yet self-possessed, while Carlos the Jackal (Edgar Ramirez) explains the agenda: “I’m going to kill you. Not yet.”—Carlos

• In The Fighter, Dicky (Christian Bale) enticing Mom (Melissa Leo) into a duet of “I started the joke / That started the whole world / Crying”…

• Street scene in Blue Valentine: Backed by shop-window light and a heart-shaped wreath, the girl (Michelle Williams) in a bright-red sweater soft-shoes while her lover (Ryan Gosling) warbles, “You always break the heart of the one you love”…

Black Swan: Nina, in a moment of especial distraction, freezes backstage as her monstrous dreamtime tormentor appears; he says “Hey…,” and walks on by….

• Bus interior, Let Me In: happy schoolkids on an outing, their bus moving into the countryside, reflections from the snow streaming overhead…

• Dad (Adrien Brody) teaching bird-legged Dren (Delphine Chanéac) to dance, Splice

• Algorithm upon a windowpane, The Social Network

• Shades of The 39 Steps in The Ghost Writer: Ewan McGregor and Tom Wilkinson as avatars of Richard Hannay and Professor Jordan in the study…

• In The King’s Speech, Lionel Logue (Geoffrey Rush) beginning his audition for the role of Richard III, and cheerfully making a sound like “aardvark”…

• “Goodbye, sweet hat”—the Cheshire Cat as read by Stephen Fry, Alice in Wonderland

• In unobtrusive reprise of contact between Black Stallion castaways, Hiccup (Jay Baruchel) averts his eyes and extends a hand to be nosed by an ebony dragon—How to Train Your Dragon“…

• Joni (Mia Wasikowska) says goodbye to her feckless father (Mark Ruffalo) in The Kids Are All Right: “I just wish you had been … better.”…

• Beating a woman (Jessica Alba) in close quarters, for what seems forever and to the death—The Killer Inside Me

• On a makeshift stage, Felix Bush (Robert Duvall) unravels his tale of original sin and lifelong penance, painting the one truly cinematic picture in Get Low; the manic fluttering of fingers and sibilant whispers shooting up like flames….

• A bear rides out of the brush in True Grit: “Do either of you need medical attention?”…

• A ghostly white hart—star of Arthurian myth and Miyazaki’s sublime Princess Mononoke—drifting through a frozen forest, leading Harry (Daniel Radcliffe) to the Sword of Gryffindor; arguably the lone moment of magic in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part I
• That improbable white American Colonial box set down like a child’s playhouse in a green, dripping forest; just another trick-the-eye-and-mind stage set haunted by The Ghost Writer

• “You have part of my attention. You have the minimal amount.” Mark Zuckerberg to the chairman (David Selby) at his hearing, The Social Network

• An act of extreme faith in 127 Hours: free-falling down a narrow cleft between walls of rock, to plunge into an enchanted pool…

Sweetgrass: Grainy, dying-light photography of rider, who turns silhouette head to camera as he passes: “Watch your step”…

• Smudged colors and texture of Irish nightfall, rendered as never before, in Ondine, by Christopher Doyle…

• The road to the beach in unrelenting rain, The Ghost Writer

• The tenderness of casting Nathalie Richard as Madame, Never Let Me Go

• Flat-out decency of the Army recruiting officer (nonprofessional actor Russell Schalk) whom Ree (Jennifer Lawrence) visits in Winter’s Bone: “Buckle up … stay home.”…

• In passing, the grace of Richard Jenkins … Let Me In: the aging vampire-lover tries to postpone his replacement—”Please don’t see that boy again”; his death off-screen in Dear John, while his son monologues; another broken father looking for absolution, the only genuine quester in Eat Pray Love

I Love You, Phillip Morris: Oblivious to mayhem around them, two lovers (Jim Carrey and Ewan McGregor) slow dance in a prison cell, blissed out by Johnny Mathis’s “Chances Are” (thank you, Cleavon!)…

The Kids Are All Right: Jules (Julianne Moore), having unzipped Paul’s (Mark Ruffalo) trou, sizes up the situation and says, “Oh — well — hell-o!”…

• The uncanny resemblance between Christian Bale’s Dicky Eklund in The Fighter and John Sayles in dumb mode….

A Prophet: the moment when godfather César Luciani (Niels Arestrup) becomes just another schmuck…

• Sign of our times: huge decal of wannabe street artist Thierry Guetta’s face plastered over the side of a building in the City of Angels, a nobody’s “I exist!” writ large, signifying nothing. Exit Through the Gift Shop

A Film Unfinished: Grief and joy of an elderly survivor as she watches footage of the Warsaw Ghetto’s walking dead, indifferent to emaciated bodies lying in the street: “I am happy to be human again!”…

• Early in The Ghost Writer, the contained 3D infinity of airport lights behind the Ghost (Ewan McGregor) as he expresses his first doubts about the job he’s accepted…

• Courtship by blind taste test: Matt Damon and Bryce Dallas Howard, Hereafter

• “I don’t think of them as breasts—just tubes of potential danger”; Rebecca (Rebecca Hall), provider of mammograms in Please Give

• The slow relaxation of Karen’s (Annette Bening) pinched, angry features into maternal love as she gazes at her housekeeper’s sleeping daughter, in Mother and Child; the shock that flash-freezes Nic’s (Bening) face after she finds her wife’s hair where it ought not to be, The Kids Are All Right

• The way Melissa Leo’s devouring mom lips a cigarette in The Fighter

• The tender concavity between Nina’s (Natalie Portman) hips, as one of her projected selves (Mila Kunis) makes love to her racked flesh—Black Swan

• Island hottie or zombie girl, she still rides her horse—George A. Romero’s Survival of the Dead

• Lionel Logue in The King’s Speech, his face a-droop with houndlike hurt, stands transfixed in the park, watching his friend and king walk away….

• “Oo, hermit money. That’s good.” Bill Murray, Get Low

• “Machete don’t text!” Well of course not. Danny Trejo, Machete

• In 44 Inch Chest, the entrance of Ian McShane, resplendent though not at the moment rampant: “What’s clickin’, kittens?”…

Exit Through the Gift Shop: The assessment of a passerby after she’s seen Banksy’s phonebooth installation: “Someone is annoyed with BT Telephone.”…

• The reflection of a Nazi cinematographer in a Warsaw shop window: death’s scavenger, devouring images and stealing souls in A Film Unfinished

• The metallic whine of a windmill turning: the sound life makes in Winter’s Bone

• “I know you,” insists the transplanted Frenchwoman (Isabelle Huppert) in Africa, menaced by gun-brandishing black villagers turned rebels, their gazes as empty as lions surveying prey: the ethnic abyss in White Material

A Prophet: Malik’s (Tahar Rahim) brief conversation with a civilized man—”You must learn to read and write”—cut short by razor blade…

True Grit: The death of Little Blackie on a moonlit plain, under a frame-filling sky full of stars…

Never Let Me Go: The dreadful understanding that suffuses Carey Mulligan’s face, long before the boy she loves (Andrew Garfield) catches on: “There are no deferrals.”…

• The mutual, horrific homicide of Fred and Ginger, the lab-created heaps of gray, eyeless flesh whose extended pink-petal “tongues” once intertwined in lovely and loving dance—Splice

• A woman who may be dead, eyed underwater by a teddybear—Hereafter

Let Me In: Car sitting on country road after train has passed; the red lights stop flashing, the barrier arms rise; the distant mountains abiding…

• In Sweetgrass, an endlessly receding zoom downslope at the herd, till cloud shadows sweep the whole valley; the sound level holding meanwhile as, phoning home from the high country, a sheep wrangler (Pat Connolly) at the end of his tether vents: “I don’t want to learn to hate these mountains.”…

• In A Film Unfinished, a survivor of the Warsaw Ghetto bemused at the sixty-year-old faked scene she is watching projected: “Who ever had a flower in their apartment? We would have eaten the flower!”…

• As wife (Michelle Williams) and child disappear from the frame, a man (Ryan Gosling) walks slowly out of focus, toward the color and pop of fireworks at the end of the street: Independence Day in Blue Valentine

• In The Kids Are All Right Jules (Julianne Moore), penitent, nails it: “Bottom line, marriage is hard … f**kin’ hard … just two people slogging through the s**t year after year … getting older … changing … it’s a f**kin’ marathon.”…

Winter’s Bone: Framed in his truck’s rearview mirror, gun barrel showing, Teardrop (John Hawkes) stares dead-eyed at the cop (Garret Dillahunt) who’s just pulled him over: “Is this gonna be our time?”…

• “I fired mounted and I fired wide.” LaBoeuf (Matt Damon) wistful about the closest he ever got to Chaney, in True Grit

Please Give: Kate (Catherine Keener) offering boxed leftovers—”Are you hungry?”—to an elderly black man … who’s just waiting in line for a table at his favorite restaurant…

• Dicky, in The Fighter, walking away from the crack house; noticing cake icing on his fingers, he absentmindedly licks it….

Ondine: As the lad (Colin Farrell) who may have fallen for a silkie exits the confessional, his wry priest (Stephen Rea) calls after him: “Keep me informed of developments.”…

Let Me In: The man looking pleadingly as he’s drained, his beseeching hand seemingly to be answered by that of Owen (Kodi Smit-McPhee) … which takes the handle of the door and pulls it closed…

• The servant sweeping sand from the patio, surrounded by beach and dunes—The Ghost Writer

Previous Moments Out of Time are collected on Parallax View here.


Leave a Reply