Friday, October 14, 2005


Via LGM, a couple of posts from Shakespeare's Sister ask "which movie scenes always make you laugh, which always make you cry?"

Now, I've been known to cry at movies. I've never had a problem suspending disbelief (I'd probably be better off in general if this were harder for me), taking a film on its own terms and getting swept up. Been this way my whole life, except perhaps for a few pretentious years between 15-18. (There's a story of me at 8 years old watching Snoopy Come Home and just wailing over it, and my dad reminding me that I'd watched this show last year, and so I knew that Snoopy in fact did come home.) As Jack Handey said, it takes a big man to cry, and it takes an even bigger man to laugh at that man. At 6' 5", I've rarely ever been laughed at for crying. But it has happened. Anyway, the scenes that always get me:

The Sound of Music, when Christopher Plummer's voice breaks as he sings Edelweiss at the end. There's something very beautiful and moving in the way he breaks down at the thought of his beloved country coming under the Nazi shadow, a patriotism that is neither belligerent nor haughty. (Of course, Edelweiss isn't actually an Austrian folk song, but was written by Rodgers and Hammerstein for the musical. It was the last song the two ever wrote together, in fact.)

The Truman Show, when Truman pulls himself together and raises his sail again after Kristof has capsized his boat. Indomitability of the human spirit and all that, plus some of Philip Glass's most sublime music ever.

E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial, pretty much throughout, though the scene near the beginning where Elliot is explaining his stuff to the alien, the scene where Michael curls up amongst the toys as E.T. is dying, and of course the ending are all especially powerful. It's also got John Williams' best score, from way back when he actually wrote new music for each film instead of shamelessly cannibalizing his earlier work. I will spare you (for now!) my longer exegesis on E.T. as a commentary on the absence of God.

Field of Dreams, when Burt Lancaster is congratulated by the ballplayers for having saved the young girl's life. He had wanted so badly to be a ballplayer when he was young, it wasn't to be, and now he is praised by his own heroes for his life's work as a doctor.

As for scenes that always make me laugh, oh there are so many. I think the better question is: What scenes are so funny that they make you laugh as you're walking down the street and just happen to think of them?

Harold and Maude, Harold's sly look into the camera after he has faked his self-immolation and caused his would-be girlfriend to run screaming from the house. The Cat Stevens tune makes it even funnier.

Trading Places, Eddie Murphy's "Do you believe this shit?" look into the camera as the Dukes are explaining the buying and selling of pork futures to Billy Ray: "Bacon, like you might find in a bacon, lettuce, and tomato sandwich." Priceless. (The breaking of the fourth wall is one of my favorite gags, especially when it's done only once in a film.)

Crimes and Misdemeanors, when Woody and his niece are trying to find a taxi, and Woody goes "I think I see a cab. If we run quickly, we can kick the crutch from that old lady and get it."

Blazing Saddles, "Hey, where the white women at?" The insouciant look on Cleavon Little's face.

Young Frankenstein, "SEDAGIVE???!!!" Freaking Gene Wilder, man.

Animal House, the sound and frozen shot of the horse having a heart attack in Dean Wormer's office. I'm even cracking up as I write it.

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