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Five Jarring Moments in Major Motion Picture History
Don't Spill that Popcorn!
Don't Be Misled By a Title
When I was eighteen, a cute guy asked me out on a first date. I'd just arrived in Missoula, and a Goldie Hawn-style comedy at the Wilma Theater in Missoula sounded like a great break from demanding studies. The movie was called One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. A light, chirpy movie, great for a first date, right?
Instead of driving me back to my dorm room, my frazzled date could have booted me out of his VW van at the curb of the psych ward at St. Pat's. I was a wreck. I was so emotionally vested in Jack NIcholson's portrayal of an abused mental patient that I huddled on my extra-long twin bed, wrapped in a stadium blanket for a full day after I saw the film.
Why isn't One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest on my list? As a recently displaced college freshman, expecting a "la-de-da" distraction, I wasn't the least bit prepared to see this movie. I'm not sure other people needed to be peeled off the wall like me.
Number Five: The Crying Game
It's one thing to go to a gangster film and see someone turned into Swiss cheese (sorry, Sonny, but The Godfather doesn't make the cut). You don't pay for a ticket to the Texas Chainsaw Massacre thinking that Busby Berkeley did the choreograpy. But when you get a seat to see The Crying Game, unless someone (like me) spoils it for you, do you really expect THIS?
Number Four: Deliverance
James Dickey, the author of the novel upon which the movie Deliverance is based, is well known in erudite circles for his poetry. Back in 1972, his novel about naive city guys in the (ahem!) back country rekindled an interest in folk music: the theme from Deliverance, 'Dueling Banjos' was actually a guitar and a banjo...The jarring scene from the movie is definitely two banjos.
If you don't know the theme song to the movie, listen to this link.
- Dueling Banjos Deliverance - YouTube
The best scene in one of the greatest movies of all time.
Number Three: Pulp Fiction
This movie is the Mason canning factory of jarring moments. It processes viewers like a farm wife puts up tomatoes: it blanches 'em, skins 'em, packs 'em tight and boils 'em. Weeks after seeing Pulp Fiction, people's lids were still pinging from the pressure.
There's nothing as primal to the inoculation generation as a hypodermic needle. It's bad enough to take one in the arm or backside, hoping it saves you from some cold-war-era disease; seeing Uma Thurman getting shot in the chest to save her from her own vainglorious stupidity is, well...just another day in the life for QT.
TIED: Number Two: Misery/The Godfather
Just when you thought you'd seen it all.
There is something so abjectly cruel here--and Kathy Bates' character is so unstable--that, until you hear James Caan's scream, you really aren't sure that she's going to go through with it.
If this scene is described, it sounds bad, but what makes it so powerful is Kathy Bates' misguided 'cruel kindness.' Worse things happen in the movies, but they are never done any better than this.
Sometimes, we're relieved to see karmic justice onscreen. Sometimes, we feel empathy for the character. When cruelty involves an animal, it's just plain repulsive.
What makes this scene even more powerful is the reaction of the character that inflicted this horror. Sonny flicks away the incident like it was a dust bunny on a lapel, instead of a prize stallion on this poor sucker's silk sheets.
- The Godfather Horse's Head In The Bed Scene - YouTube
A great seen from one of the greatest movies ever made The Godfather
Number One: Alien
Forgive me for the disclaimer, but I'm over fifty. Surely there are more shocking moments in movie history...but I will stand my ground: there is something seminal about this moment--even when you know it's coming.
The casting and acting in Alien are superb, but this is a scene where special effects win the day. This phallic creature has within it all the DNA for a dozen generations of unfriendly movie aliens.
It's been 36 years, and every time anyone near me gets indigestion, I step back, just in case.