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Richard T. Jameson and Kathleen Murphy

Moments out of Time 1992

[originally published in Film Comment Volume 29 Number 1, January-February 1993, reprinted by permission]


• The wait by the tree, and how Will Munny drinks after getting the news, Unforgiven: as director and actor, Clint Eastwood in excelsis…

• “The pleasure was all ‘mine”—The Crying Game….

The Player: The fax curling out of the dashboard unit, directing the camera to the floor of Griffin Mill’s car, and formally anticipating what will be found there…

• The skirts of Mrs. Wilcox (Vanessa Redgrave) trailing in the long grass of summer evening as she strolls around Howards End; the reliable serenity of picture-perfect home and window-framed family tableaux; the lone witness to the penultimate moments of a paradise being lost….

• Ana Galiena leaning at her counter and reading a magazineThe Hairdresser’s Husband

• To the beat of “Stuck in the Middle with You,” big-boned Michael Madsen slips and slides across a warehouse floor, his sweet rhythm segueing into sudden atrocity—Reservoir Dogs….

• “I can’t go too fast; metabolically, it’s not my rhythm”—Judy Davis, Husbands and Wives….

• Jeremy Irons and Juliette Binoche setting eyes on each other for the first time, Damage: Like some creature out of vampire lore, her black-and-white clarity racks a dead man’s focus to make him a figure of passion in her own movie….

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Moments out of Time 1996

[originally published in Film Comment Volume 33 Number 1, January/February 1997, reprinted by permission]

• The car materializing out of the whited-out mystery of snow/land/sky—the opening of Fargo

The English Patient: closeup, the look of pearls against Kristin Scott Thomas’s sweat-dampened throat … rediscovering the sensuality of the camera eye…

• Nobody (Gary Farmer) among the white birches, Dead Man

Mars Attacks!: a herd of cattle—in flames—stampeding down a country road…

Breaking the Waves: Touching her husband’s penis for the first time, Emily Watson blows a strand of hair away from her face in delight and amaze…

Lone Star: During a seamless elision into a dim, long-gone taqueria, deputy Buddy Deeds (Matthew McConaughey) gravels out “No” when his corrupt boss (Kris Kristofferson) orders him to collect mordita … and suddenly, shades of a Peckinpah Western rise….

• Nine minutes at a café table, Secrets & Lies

• Dawn (Heather Mattarazzo) taking a cleaver to her sister’s pink-maned Barbie doll—Welcome to the Dollhouse

• Rod Tidwell (Cuba Gooding Jr.)’s almost subliminal moue as Jerry Maguire (Tom Cruise) tells him, “You are wildly charismatic”…

• Edward Norton in Everyone Says I Love You, his appearance and bearing suggesting that F. Scott Fitzgerald is still around, writing characters for the Nineties….

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Moments out of Time 1998

[originally published in Film Comment Volume 35 Number 1, January/February 1999, reprinted by permission]

• Shrapnel hanging in the air, every shard in razor-sharp focus, as if molecules of the film itself had been startled out of the emulsion by the battle: Saving Private Ryan

• A bird born dying in battle: The Thin Red Line

• A tumbleweed in L.A.: The Big Lebowski

• Sopping-wet black thing drags out of swamp water and mist… the swinish sound of lungs laboring to relearn breathing: Beloved..

• The most genuinely felicitous meet-cute in living memory, Out of Sight: In the trunk of a getaway car, Federal marshal Karen Sisco (Jennifer Lopez) and prison escapee Jack Foley (George Clooney) talk movies—e.g., Three Days of the Condor, with Faye Dunaway “and Robert Redford when he was young”…

• A dying woman (Meryl Streep) opens her arms to her lost husband (William Hurt) and spoons him—fully dressed—in their bed: One True Thing

• Burning Dad, the brute (James Coburn) who, having let his wife die of cold, wraps himself in fake grief: “I should a froze.”—Affliction

• In an elevator, at war with her asshole husband (Martin Donovan), Living Out Loud‘s Judith (Holly Hunter) aims a sudden-death glare at the hapless nerd caught in close-quarters crossfire—without missing a beat in her rant….

• Four bare legs wavering in the air: Steve Prefontaine (Billy Crudup) and friend trying to fuck standing on their heads in Without Limits

• A token of love, Rushmore: Miss Cross (Olivia Williams) asks the affectless suitor at her door (Bill Murray) if he would like a carrot: “Sure,” he answers with passionate diffidence….

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Moments out of Time 1997

[originally published in Film Comment Volume 34 Number 1, January/February 1998, reprinted by permission]


• The death of Jack Vincennes (Kevin Spacey), L.A. Confidential: The gunshot comes as a cinematically rare and genuine shock, but this is crowned by a supreme actor’s-moment: Jack’s multivalenced chuckle—shoulda known better—as he plants the clue with which his killer will betray himself. “Rollo … Tommasi”…

• A blue, figured rug drifting over a rocky streambed: the beginning of Gabbeh‘s motion picture magic ..

Kundun: the crane up from the Dalai Lama amidst a virtual sea of slain monks…

• The happy promiscuousness of the camera in Boogie Nights: tracking the trajectory of various characters through the first party scene at Jack Horner’s house, it notices an anonymous girl and follows her … into the pool … and under the water … and surfaces to frame Reed Rothchild (John C. Reilly) … and goes under again to meet Eddie Adams (Mark Wahlberg)….

• The tour-boat scene in My Best Friend’s Wedding, the last time that former lovers Julia Roberts and Dermot Mulroney will ever be alone together: “…If you love someone, you say it out loud, otherwise the moment just—” “—passes you by,” she finishes, as, passing under a bridge, the boat draws out of privileged shadow into the sun….

• Overarching tree limbs—the curve of a mother’s loving embrace—in Mother and Son and Ponette

• “Never ignore a man’s courtesy”—good advice from Sydney (Philip Baker Hall), Hard Eight

• In The Apostle, the way Sonny (Robert Duvall) kicks out at the cop who tries to interrupt his seduction of a soul for Jesus … a dying accident victim he touches through the window of his wrecked car…

• “Told ya it was here”—where Louis (Robert De Niro) parked the car, that is. Melanie (Bridget Fonda) is no longer interested. Jackie Brown

• Stalin (F. Murray Abraham) and Australian fan Joan Fraser (Judy Davis) getting up close and personal on a settee in Children of the Revolution

Alien Resurrection: Ellen Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) unfolding her long limbs as she emerges from a cocoon of gauze: elegant as a praying mantis…

Absolute Power: Ed Harris’s cop and Clint Eastwood’s master thief “flirting” over lunch at the museum: two good men, two good actors in perfect rapport…

• Out of the reeds on the other side of a river, Russian soldiers rise—as though from hidden graves—to renew the hostilities Capitaine Conan lives for….

• Wounded men: the compulsive, politicking charisma of D.A. Ron Leibman, and the smiling, embarrassed guiltiness of cop James Gandolfini as honest man Ian Holm’s partner; Night Falls on Manhattan

• Barely visible in Amistad‘s opening dark, a bloodied black finger scrabbles desperately to tease a nail out of wood….

• A dark, hushed kitchen crowded with ursine menace, rehearsal for the real thing in The Edge

• Don’t go there: the unclean atmosphere of the house where Bill Pullman and Patricia Arquette live in Lost Highway

L.A. Confidential: Seconds after two men have been machine-gunned through it, a picture window crashes in sheets ….

• Most startling intertitle of the year: RENO, NEVADA – TWO YEARS LATER, after the mesmerizing first reel of Hard Eight

• The almost unbearable sweetness of the duet between Catherine Sloper (Jennifer Jason Leigh) and Morris Townsend (Ben Chaplin), as close to perfect union as they ever come in Washington Square

• The hopeless, utterly endearing croaking of the bride-to-be (Cameron Diaz) in the karaoke bar: disaster become triumph in My Best Friend’s Wedding

• The polite raptness of The Colonel (the late, great Robert Ridgely) checking Eddie’s goods—Boogie Nights

• The preternatural self-possession and serene preposterousness of Ken Sherry (George Shevtzov), Love Serenade

• Castor Troy (Nicolas Cage) vamping in his opera cape with satanic red lining, Face/Off

• “I love Chow Yun Fat but I don’t see him as Batman”—overheard at a comic-book con in Chasing Amy

• The falls—a Herzogian coup in Happy Together

• Dead faces reflected in a muddy pool of leftover rainwater … epitaph for Deep Crimson‘s grotesque Bonnie and Clyde wannabes…

Smilla’s Sense of Snow: Below the frozen tundra, a seal rolls over in a grotto of blue ice, lit like a stained-glass window from another dimension…

• A teacher reaches into a landscape to pluck out a bouquet and “blue,” the color of the sky: directorial sorcery in Gabbeh….

• The hard, fast exchange of blows in a duel of will and wit between damaged boy and shrink (Matt Damon and Robin Williams) in Good Will Hunting

• Kurt (Ricky Jay) engaging Little Bill (William H. Macy) in a discussion of “minimal” while, just beyond, a rapt audience watches Little Bill’s wife getting dicked on the driveway—Boogie Nights

• Just before the end of Donnie Brasco, Lefty (AI Pacino) leaving open a drawer containing his jewelry and cash so that his wife will find them…

Washington Square’s Aunt Lavinia (Maggie Smith) spews overripe platitudes about love as she flirts with her niece’s fortune-hunting fiancé (Ben Chaplin). Behind her, glimpsed through a scrim, a whore’s legs pump up and down….

• A father’s lullaby, the grave face of a sick child, and a small knife: The Sweet Hereafter

• In the middle of a stormy night, a tiny black foal nests in the snow outside a grandmother’s yurt … a magical gift in A Mongolian Tale….

• The muffled thump of great combs trimming and shaping heavy hanks of wool: the beating heart of Gabbeh

• The first appearance of Sam Neill’s many-times-turned spy in Children of the Revolution: in ironically menacing silhouette, with a smoking cigarette cocked in his leather-gloved hand…

• Philip Baker Hall in excelsis: in Hard Eight, the matter-of-fact awe of just tracking around the casino in Sydney’s wake; and in Boogie Nights, the entrance of Floyd Gondolli…

• The brute, sudden horror of death in the dark: Harold Perrineau Jr.’s savaging by the bear in The Edge

• Behind the Victory Motel, headlights in the trees: classic air of menace at the climax of L.A. Confidential

• A father’s hand, raised from the steering wheel to wave at his kids, suddenly spasms impotently … signaling the loss of all bearings in The Sweet Hereafter….

• The way Billy Bob Thornton’s kneeling sinner turns his face away during his conversion at the tender hands of The Apostle

L.A. Confidential: Jack Vincennes’s glance at the one-way mirror in the chief’s office—behind which Ed Exley (Guy Pearce) stands—after he has copped to the grand jury…

• “This isn’t E.M. Forster!” … Upper-class British novelist Giles DeAth (John Hurt) realizing he’s in the wrong movie auditorium in Love and Death on Long Island

• Sensual short-circuiting in Female Perversions: utterly self-absorbed Eve (Tilda Swinton) making out in a hammock with her latest, lovely conquest (Karen Sillas)…

The Ice Storm: Seconds after a passionless quickie in his car’s front seat, a suburban spouse (Jamey Sheridan) draws back in horror—”Awful … that was awful”—from his neighbor’s wife (Joan Allen)….

A Thousand Acres: A woman scorned (Jessica Lange) disappears—as though she never existed—into a field of corn….

• The story about the girl that got away as told by Silent Bob, aka writer-director Kevin Smith, in Chasing Amy

• Hotshot lawyer Jon Voight, momentarily tripped up by tyro attorney Matt Damon in The Rainmaker: “You little pissant!”…

• “Jan-et!”—Judy Davis’s outraged shriek when Woody Allen accidentally calls her Jane, after her thinly disguised character in his latest novel; misogynistic metacinema in Deconstructing Harry

• A reforming junkie (Malcolm McDowell) injects his hand-puppet self with an overdose of the old “rang dang do,” in Hugo Pool

• “Earl Grey rules!”—Sudden Manhattan

• In Anastasia, ghosts from a lost age of Romanov splendor drift down from floor-to-ceiling portraits in a great, decaying ballroom….

• An image cinema waited a hundred years to frame: in Amistad, a low-angle shot up past the helm of the ship as a strong man looks skyward and steers by the stars…

• In Chasing Amy, Alyssa (Joey Lauren Adams)’s sweet, wise “sermon” about all the ways her lover’s proposed three-way could go wrong…

The Apostle: The joy and regret that illuminates an old minister’s (John Beasley) face as he explains why a weak heart keeps him from preaching: “When I get up to the pulpit and the spirit moves me … I can’t hold back.”…

• Early in The Devil’s Advocate, the virtually nuclear toilet-flush sound effect as lawyer Keanu Reeves scrubs his hands in the courthouse restroom…

• In Boogie Nights, the cap-gun verisimilitude of Brock Landers and Chest Rockwell’s shooting…

• Gary Oldman as Zorg, The Fifth Element‘s best special effect: a weirdly skewed stick-figure who seems to have been dismantled and reassembled on several occasions by repair teams with radically conflicting theories of prosthetics…

• “What the fuck happened to you, man? Your ass used to be beautiful.” Ordell (Samuel 1. Jackson) to Louis, no longer listening. Jackie Brown

Boogie Nights: During the unaccustomed near-silence while his musical tapes change over, Rahad Jackson (Alfred Molina) suddenly feels impelled to account for the thirty-seventh firecracker since the sequence began: “Cosmo … he’s Chinese”….

The Saint (Val Kilmer), having immersed himself in a near-frozen Moscow river, watches up through the water as an enemy stands above looking for him…

• After the woman he’s hot for tells him “next time,” The Apostle spins around on her front steps to aim a stiff finger at her door, shooting off steam and punching out a promise of future good times….

• In Deep Crimson, a reluctantly murderous “mother” prepares a little girl for her bath—both knowing it will be her last….

• The miraculous presence that appears behind Ponette as she grieves by her mother’s grave…

Mother and Son amid white birches on a hill that tilts inexorably down-frame…

Alien Resurrection: The horrific yet ennobled visage of Ellen Ripley’s unholy child at the moment it registers its Virgin Mother’s betrayal…

• Mother and child reunion: Amber Waves (Julianne Moore) tenderly bringing Dirk Diggler (Mark Wahlberg) home in his first big sex scene in Boogie Nights

• .Slowly closing in on the target of choice—a lost son—at the beginning of Hard Eight

• Julie Christie all aglow in anticipation of love in Afterglow

• The hair-raising shooosh of a boy’s suddenly dead body sliding along a frozen road … The Ice Storm

• A romantic melody on the radio, a slow dance on a nighttime pier … the sweet, doomed passion of an IRA soldier (Brad Pitt) and his girl (Natascha McElhone) in The Devil’s Own

Jackie Brown: Max Cherry (Robert Forster) listening to the Delfonics on his car tapedeck, and just not quite singing along…

• A sweetly demented “stalker” (Mel Gibson) sits in his car gazing up at the apartment window of the woman he loves (Julia Roberts), Conspiracy Theory. After a moment, he begins to hum, “scoring” her workout on the treadmill….

• Unable to maintain proper manly restraint under the influence of “I Will Survive,” Kevin Kline breaks out in exuberant dance—In & Out….

• An unexpected, deadpan rendition of “Wichita Lineman” by a middle-aged Asian restaurateur in Australia’s Love Serenade

My Best Friend’s Wedding: George (Rupert Everett), “radiant with charisma,” let loose on the wedding-rehearsal luncheon and drawing the entire assembly into an ecstatic rendition of “Say a Little Prayer for Me”…

Love and Death on Long Island: the delicate obtrusiveness of the proprietor of Chez d’Irv (Maury Chaykin), especially when he asks Giles DeAth whether he’s ever bumped into a guy named Stan Brickhouse—”an attractive man … average-size hands, breasts like a woman”…

• Observed from a god’s-eye view in Smilla’s Sense of Snow: a man and his dog team trying to outrace a frame-filling, moving wall of snow…

• A red car drives down a turnpike curving gently through misty green countryside: Good Will Hunting heading for his own private Idaho….

• Any of Judy Davis’s orgasmic rants in Children of the Revolution, but especially the one that ends by radically changing tune, as she sighs a mild “Ta, love” to the patient husband (Geoffrey Rush) who hands her a cuppa…

In & Out: Seen from overhead, the incidental passage of a car, driver unknown and irrelevant, that somehow validates, even blesses, the tender reunion of former student (Matt Dillon) and very rattled teacher (Joan Cusack) in the Midwest evening…

Boogie Nights: a New Year’s Eve flashbulb goes off in Little Bill’s face as he heads outside to his car to get his gun….

• Apotheosis in Gattaca: onetime übermensch Jerome (Jude Law) immolating himself in a purification chamber while “blood brother” Vincent (Ethan Hawke) rockets to heaven…

• The face of a man buried alive at the end of Taste of Cherry

• Max Cherry watching Jackie Brown (Pam Grier) depart, then turning to walk out of the focus she gave his life…

• In Washington Square, an orange parasol makes a sunflower of Catherine as she warms to her handsome suitor…

My Best Friend’s Wedding: George, improvising, making a well-meaning grab for his “fiancée’s” breast in the taxicab…

• The argument we never learn about at a neighboring table while Sydney buys Clementine (Gwyneth Paltrow) a late-night cup of coffee—Hard Eight

• “I’ll never let go,” Rose (Kate Winslet) promises Jack (Leonardo DiCaprio) in Titanic, and proves it … by letting go….

The Sweet Hereafter: the camera seeming to crane up around the very curve of the earth as it finds and follows Billy Ansell (Bruce Greenwood)’s truck following the school us…

• At the climax of L.A. Confidential, a flotilla of cherry-topped cop cars cresting the hill and approaching past the pumping oil well, as a man walks toward them with hands raised …

• Long way down, Boogie Nights, in the midst of the Quentin-Tarantino-eat-your-heart-out set-piece of the year, Eddie Adams/Dirk Diggler seems to know that he’s going to die right here, right now, inevitably and with abject pointlessness. But only “Marky Mark” dies; Mark Wahlberg gets out of there a winner….


Moments out of Time 2005

[originally published in Steadycam No. 49, February 2006]

Broken Flowers: Bill Murray fitting himself around a forkful of perfectly formed carrot slices…

Maria Bello, Viggo Mortenson and family: "A History of Violence"
Maria Bello, Viggo Mortenson and family: “A History of Violence”

The Squid and the Whale: The father (Jeff Daniels), coming by what is no longer his own home to pick up one of his sons, points at a TV set and says, “That’s my television! I paid for that television!”…

A History of Violence: The wife (Maria Bello), a couple of minutes after the angry fuck on the stairs, walks out of the bathroom with a towel on her head and her robe hanging open, her casual nakedness (not “nudity”) an acknowledgment that (1) she doesn’t give a shit how she looks to her husband (Viggo Mortensen), and (2) they’ve been married for years—what’s the big deal anyway?…

The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada: After having invaded their trailer home, knocked her husband senseless, and bound the young wife (January Jones) in a chair and gagged her, Pete Perkins (Tommy Lee Jones) makes sure she has some television to watch and gives her a pat on the hair….

Jarhead: Leaving white foot tracks in the black sand of Kuwait…

Good Night, and Good Luck.: The forlorn, embattled decency of Don Hollenbeck (Ray Wise)…

Capote: After the Pullman porter departs, having made his little speech about how Mr. Capote’s books just keep getting better and better, Nelle Harper Lee (Catherine Keener) favors her cousin (Philip Seymour Hoffman) with a jaundiced smile and says, “You’re pathetic — you paid him to say that”….

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Moments out of Time 1994

[originally published in Film Comment Volume 31 Number 1, January-February 1995, reprinted by permission]

• At the beginning of Pulp Fiction, Amanda Plummer laying her head on the coffeeshop table and smiling: “I’m not gonna kill anybody”….

• Just-right treatment of place, climate, community in the main-title sequence of Nobody’s Fool

• Bunny (Bill Murray) dipping a toe in the pool before stepping in to be baptized—Ed Wood

• Orson Welles’s photograph banished upon the waters, Heavenly Creatures

• Panhandling with comb kazoo (and fly open), Three Colors: White

• In Being Human‘s medieval chapter, Robin Williams crests a hill to espy a little clot of battle at a bridge in the middle of nowhere. When a wounded man staggers up from the bloody fray, gasping “Help me!”, our hero retreats, declining an invitation to that particular story….

The Hudsucker Proxy: Shadow of clock hand pointing Expressionistically at Norville (Tim Robbins) as he enters the executive. suite….

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Moments out of Time 1991

[Originally published in Film Comment Volume 28 Number 1, January/February 1992, reprinted by permission]

• Best shot of the year: A motorcycle tops a rise on a lonely road in sagebrush country, followed (though not, strictly, pursued) a beat later by a police car. The timing of the vehicles’ apparition; the casual left-to-right pan that observes them till the cyclist realizes he should pull over; the way the shot-movement incidentally sums up the roll of the land, its distances and layers and colors … My Own Private Idaho

"La belle noiseuse"
‘La belle noiseuse’

• Most triumphant moment: in the doctor’s office in Rambling Rose, Daddy (Robert Duvall) admitting “I was wrong”; his tears of love and fervent pride for the wife (Diane Ladd) who has set him right…

• World and time shrink down to the limits of a sketch pad, while an artist’s hand consumes sheet after sheet with inked images of an unseen nude; the relentless scratch of his pen like death’s feather on the nerve—La Belle Noiseuse

• Véronique (Irène Jacob), lying on her back on a bed in a hotel room she has just rented impetuously, watches an offscreen something sail down past the window, its shadow brushing her face—The Double Life of Véronique….

Barton Fink: The bellhop—CHET! (Steve Buscemi)—rising through a trap-door behind the Hotel Earle reception desk to ask Fink (John Turturro) whether he’s to be “trans or res”…

• That last, endless shot of The Silence of the Lambs: an emptying street, dimming at the onset of evening, down which Hannibal Lecter (Anthony Hopkins) has long since disappeared on the scent of “an old friend”…

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Moments out of Time 1993

[Originally published in Film Comment Volume 30 Number 1, January/February 1994, reprinted by permission]

The Age of Innocence

• Willing his warmest fantasy—Ellen Olenska’s embrace—into motion behind him, Newland Archer (Daniel Day-Lewis) gazes out at a window-framed winter’s cape along the Hudson: the aesthetics of desire in The Age of Innocence

• The one that got away in Short Cuts: a woman’s body in the water, neither lady of the lake nor rainbow trout, just dead meat for Kodak consumption…

• Anyone of Johnny’s (David Thewlis) psychiatrically Socratic inquiries of a night’s worth of Naked pilgrims: to an affectless Elvira-punk in obligatory black lace, leather, and chains—”Would you describe yourself as a happy little person?”; to the thick Scottish lout whose head jerks in massive tics as he periodically bellows a lost girlfriend’s name into empty London streets—”What’s it like being you?”…

• Opening of Fearless: A blank-faced man (Jeff Bridges) clutching a child leads a gaggle of grimy refugees through rows of green cornstalks; disaster’s raw shock unanchored from time or place…

• The wired quiet and summer evening dark that presses up around a prairie farmhouse, death heavy in the air; the opening of Flesh and Bone

• Loveliest main-title sequence: The streets of Philadelphia, according to Bruce Springsteen and Jonathan Demme; promise of an epic of contemporary America—unfulfilled…

• Lizard climbing out of vase, The Scent of Green Papaya

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Moments out of Time 1990

[Originally published in Film Comment Volume 27 Number 1, January/February 1991, reprinted by permission]

• The hat in the forest, Miller’s Crossing

GoodFellas: The sheer, abstract, utterly genuine terror of the warehouse at the end of the block, where Jimmy Conway (Robert De Niro) wants Karen (Lorraine Bracco) to stop in and pick out a dress…

Landscape in the Mist: A snowfall magicks a whole town, every inhabitant transfixed, eyes turned skyward….

• Fourth of July fireworks in a puddle: the auspicious opening of Avalon

• Shorn by the German plane shot down by the Memphis Belle, the front half of the bomber full of new kids just breaks off and falls….

• More horrifying than the brute violence that precedes it, the victim-executioner bonhomie between Lilly (Anjelica Huston) and her mobster boss (Pat Hingle) in The Grifters: “That suit makes you look taller, Bobo.”…

• Stella Wynkowski (Elizabeth Perkins) slapping Harry Dobbs (Tom Berenger) in Love at Large, then turning face-front toward the bar: Harry rubs his cheek and registers dryly, “That’s the first time we’ve touched”…

• “Let go. Let go. LET GO. Let go.” Longtime Companion

• Was it we-hit-the-Italians-if-Frankie-doesn’t-call, or if-he-does? A crisis of professionalism for Gary Oldman and fellow Westies, in State of Grace

• Altman’s camera, in Vincent & Theo, careening deliriously about a vast field of sunflowers—an artist’s eye trying to find a way to catch and compose the sprawling largesse of reality…

• Gremlin become gargoyle—Gremlins 2

Postcards from the Edge: As Dennis Quaid concludes his romantic pitch to Meryl Streep, the “little white house with rose-covered trellis” that has subliminally backed his wooing is trucked away to another part of the studio lot….

• Christopher Walken registering the presence of the camera as he stands in the shower, King of New York

The Krays: Billie Whitelaw serving biscuits and tea to her monstrous sons and their bully boys-just another batch of male children to put up with and coddle…

• New cop Jamie Lee Curtis hitching up her trousers before sitting down—Blue Steel

• Dan Hedaya finding 37 ways to read the line “I’m not arguing that with you!”—Joe vs. the Volcano

• David Watkin’s masterly lighting of the Ghost (Paul Scofield) in Hamlet, so that the figure seems to wrap the world in the grayness of the grave, without recourse to SPFX…

Reversal of Fortune: The practiced way Claus von Bülow (Jeremy Irons) maneuvers Alan Dershowitz (Ron Silver) out of his Upper East Side apartment once his conviction has been overturned: when the spotlight of von Bülow’s focused charm switches off, Dershowitz ceases to exist….

Presumed Innocent: Greta Scacchi kisses off Harrison Ford in mid-conversation when he can’t measure up to her ruthless expectations; like a man who remains standing moments after he’s been shot, he doesn’t even know he’s dead .. ”

• The bemused gallantry of Hector Elizondo’s hotel manager in Pretty Woman

• What you might see if someone shoved you up through a manhole cover on a busy street: Darkman

Mo’ Better Blues: the band ragging Giancarlo Esposito about his Frenchwoman…

• Projector beam from terra-cotta lion’s mouth, Cinema Paradiso

• Anaïs (Maria de Medeiros) discovers Henry (Fred Ward) in a movie theater watching Ecstasy, and touches his shoulder. He turns, his face wet with tears, blank with passion—Henry & June….

• Waiting for John Wilson (Clint Eastwood) to call “Action!”—White Hunter, Black Heart

Dances with Wolves: John Dunbar (Kevin Costner) wakes out of a sound sleep to find everything in his sod house shaking, as a great buffalo herd moves through the night like thunder, like ghosts…

Awakenings: De Niro ambushed by waves of uncontrollable tics and twitches as he tries to talk with the girl he has a crush on; a 40-year-old man caught in an adolescent’s worst nightmare…

• The father (Hugues Quester), making seduction chat with his daughter’s friend (Anne Teyssèdre), finds he can’t snap the piece of kindling as casually as he’d like, and stuffs it into the fireplace—A Tale of Springtime….

• A permanently suspended ellipsis, I Love You to Death: Keanu Reeves’s “You know, having sex with a kangaroo… ”

• Middle-of-the-night supper with Mom (Catherine Scorsese) as, in the driveway outside, someone/-thing thumps in the car trunk—GoodFellas

• The sound from the bathtub as Henry (Michael Rooker) renders Otis (Tom Towles) for disposal—Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer

• Having put a bullet into his quarry at point-blank range, Nick Nolte climbs up the steps from the cellar entrance of the social club and, swinging his back to the low-slung camera, lifts his police badge to quell the floodtide of revelers pouring forth from every door—Q&A….

• The way Alec Baldwin lets Junior’s mouth fall open, during moments of repose, in Miami Blues—like that of an animal panting in the shade, or Marilyn Monroe thinking…

• The way Samantha Mathis smiles at Christian Slater in the library, Pump Up the Volume: she can’t believe the delicious inappropriateness of this nerd as the rebel voice of her nighttime dreams….

• The momentary reflection of light in a predator’s eye, as Myra (Annette Bening) waits in the dark outside Lilly’s motel—The Grifters

• The roadside accident, Wild at Heart

Miller’s Crossing: The Dane (J.E. Freeman), advancing across the room to menace Verna (Marcia Gay Harden), leans sideways to avoid bumping an overhead light….

• Harvey Keitel’s last moments in The Two Jakes

• Debra Winger, her flesh glowing beneath her half-opened blue robe, queries her husband cryptically: “Isn’t it time for you to rub my tummy?”—The Sheltering Sky

• Magician-pickpocket transmutes purloined wallet into white dove—Henry & June

• The zoned-out glamour of Anne Archer in Love at Large

• The white, shocked face of Tom Reagan (Gabriel Byrne) as The Dane drives him deeper into the woods; a cold wind creaking the trees—the precise sound of death to an Irishman: Miller’s Crossing

• The cat licking the salt of the dead mother’s tears, May Fools

• Frankie (Ed Harris), in mid-conference with the capo, shamefacedly brushing away the crumbs from his roll—State of Grace

• The teen daughter watching as, in the shattered mirror, her mother and father lock in terminal conjugal combat—C’est la vie

Alice (Mia Farrow), under the influence of a mystic-East potion, flirting with the attractive father (Joe Mantegna) in the hall of her kids’ school…

• Family portrait through a window, Blue Steel: father’s arm around wife as they regard their daughter and her new beau. What’s really framed are permutations of power and impotence, threat and appeasement, men and women merging and at war….

Monsieur Hire (Michel Blanc) freeing his white mice along the railroad tracks…

Mountains of the Moon—Fiona Lewis and lain Glen meeting for the first time outside the chambers where the man they both love is being discredited as an explorer: the robustly beautiful New Woman takes in and dismisses her rival, a dying breed of brave, tainted British manhood….

• A new William Buckley for the talkshow circuit, Gremlins 2

• Steve Martin and Rick Moranis’s dance in My Blue Heaven

Vincent & Theo: Van Gogh (Tim Roth) has been mechanically sketching the Dutch prostitute; his interest quickens only when she takes a break from posing, and absentmindedly squats atop a chamber pot to pee….

• A little girl growing old in a painting, The Witches

• The grave, delicate sensuousness of Kate Capshaw as a rancher’s wife, Love at Large

• The tunnel through the hill, Akira Kurosawa’s Dreams

The Grifters: Lilly’s animal, half-sexual grief as she howls and humps over the corpse she loved…

The Sheltering Sky: Debra Winger’s terrible, toneless cry after she and John Malkovich have fruitlessly tried to anchor in each other on “the sharp edge of the world”…

• The documentary footage in Awakenings: patient (Robert De Niro) pulling doctor (Robin Williams) into the frame with him, to shake his hand and press human connection upon him…

• Henry Miller, a voyeur on a snowy Brooklyn fire escape, gets a window slammed on his necktie by his wife’s lesbian lover—Henry & June (no wonder he later loves Un Chien andalou!)…

Landscape in the Mist: A girl and a boy in futile embrace in the middle of an empty highway that spans a sea of darkness…

• “Excuse me, you think I’m funny?” Joe Pesci as Tommy De Vito in GoodFellas

Miller’s Crossing: the camera traveling along the throat of the gramophone, pulling back to frame the golden bell of the speaker as the eloquence of Frank Patterson’s “Danny Boy” and the Coen brothers’ cinematic ecstasy simultaneously crest…


[reprinted by permission of Film Comment]

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