Yup, it’s indeed that time of year – again (I still think it’s February). It’s the time of year where I gather up the morsels of cinema, the moments that brought pure joy, excitement, tears and maybe all three, and rank them, because this is the internet and nothing matters unless it’s ranked out of 10.
For the uninitiated, a cinematic happy place is basically the feeling you get when you see something particularly awesome or emotionally resonate in a film. These aren’t limited to good movies. Even trash has its treasures. It’s whatever hits you the hardest, whatever makes you sit up in your chair and pay attention. Some are obvious, others aren’t. But all of them made me feel like a child on Christmas morning, if only for a second.
Oh, and there be spoilers. You’ve been warned.
10. A galaxy united – VALERIAN AND THE CITY OF A THOUSAND PLANETS
The opening sequence of Luc Besson’s sci-fi epic, Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets is probably one of the most bittersweet moments of 2017 cinema. Sweet in that it depicts a reality not dissimilar to our own where Earth’s inhabitants have managed to overcome their own squabbles and are working together aboard the ever expanding space station, Alpha. It’s not long before there’s a galaxy wide unification, with multiple species of alien coming aboard to share their own knowledge and culture, making Alpha (or the City of a Thousand Planets) a multi-species hub of technology, all set to the tune of David Bowie.
Bitter in that once you’ve come out of the cinema, you’re reminded that we have a long, long way to go before such a reality is no longer science fiction.
9. No Man’s Land – WONDER WOMAN
For a sequence that Patty Jenkins had to fight for to be in the film, No Man’s Land feels almost specifically designed to be a Cinematic Happy Place. The subject of countless internet memes and a huge moment of empowerment, Diana’s act of heroism, the main centrepiece for Jenkins’ Wonder Woman seared itself into the membrane of 2017 popular culture. Finally seeing this “Great War” with her own two eyes, the former princess of Themyscira, while horrified, is undeterred in her mission to rid the world of evil, climbing up into the desolation of No Man’s Land. There she takes all fire, swatting away bullets and mortar rounds like bugs on a summer’s eve. I can almost guarantee that countless young girls who saw that scene walked out of the cinema with the strength to become Wonder Women themselves.
8. John vs. Everyone – JOHN WICK: CHAPTER 2
There’s something deeply satisfying about the way John Wick dispatches his enemies. Maybe it’s the cleanliness of his headshots, or the fact that in close quarters he has to really work for the kill, but when it comes to watching masters at work, there’s nothing more rewarding than seeing Baba Yega do what he does best, none more so than this brutal, yet borderline-comedic sequence in Chapter 2. Having been double crossed by a former work colleague, Wick is forced to contend with a city full of killers coming after him. As a cavalcade of assassins emerge from the shadows of New York, from suited sumos, berret bearing buskers and average Joe commuters, Wick dispatches them with the dogged brutality that has made him a legend, and others within his fraternity think twice about a John Wick payday. The sequence ends in fairly macabre fashion, as Captain Headshot drives a pencil into the ear of one would be killer and through the base of the brain of another. Anyone for Chapter 3?
7. Stairwell Endurance – ATOMIC BLONDE
I’ve never been punched in the face before, but after watching this scene, I felt punch drunk. Atomic Blonde wasn’t exactly what I was expecting, opting to be a neon-soaked John Le Carre-esque spy film than an all out Jane Wick actioner that I tricked myself into believing it was, but, it didn’t pull its punches when it came time for it. Throwing herself into the fray with an enthusiasm that would make any stunt person a little squeamish, and most producers double checking their public liability policy, Charlize Theron managed to bring the same level of violent energy we saw in Fury Road and then some. But, as British agent, Lorraine Broughton, she really…..brought it……in this sequence, which might not only be one of the best action sequences of 2017, but is up there in the “All time” category. What’s remarkable about this sequence, with Broughton facing down a couple of KGB operatives in a one-cut stairwell brawl, isn’t the bone crunching choreography, or the dizzying camera work. It’s the way Theron sells the pain. At a time in cinema where most of our heroes are nigh-indestructible, it’s nice to know some action sequences can still make you wince and question your level of enjoyment when it comes to on-screen violence.
6. Hyperdrive Missile – STAR WARS: THE LAST JEDI
This feels like one of those “Wouldn’t it be cool if…” kind of moments, and something we haven’t seen (among the many things we haven’t seen) in a Star Wars film. It also leads to one of the most visually gorgeous and breathtaking moments of 2017 cinema. As the last of the Resistance abandon ship and attempt an escape to the salt planet outpost, Vice Admiral Holdo (Laura Dern) stays behind to pilot the craft, at least that’s what she tells Leia. In a final act of defiance, and the biggest middle finger to the First Order yet, Holdo uses what last remaining fuel the ship has to ram Snoke’s mega craft – at light speed. It was a moment in which I let out a giggle of disbelief, much to the chagrin of audience members around me. But, to be fair, it’s really the only way to react to such unexpected brilliance.
5. Afterschool special – SPIDER-MAN: HOMECOMING
We’ve all been that kid who’s desperate to get home from school. And I bet a decent chunk of people reading this have fantasized about being a superhero at one point in their lives. The beauty of this scene is not only meshing the two shared experiences together, but also re-introducing us to a Spidey who kind of doesn’t know what he’s doing. In a city where, statistically, crime is actually dropping, and the need for a superhero is reserved for your average world-ending event, it’s fun to watch a young newbie attempt to find his footing and make some kind of name for himself. Also, the soundtrack definitely helps things along.
4. Mr. Blue Sky – GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY VOL. 2
Look, if I’m being honest, this one’s pretty straight forward. How do you reintroduce everyone’s favourite band of a-holes?
Baby Groot one take dance sequence.
3. Kill The Clown – IT
A late entry on the list, this one is almost too perfect. For over two hours of IT‘s runtime, we watch these kids being terrorized, not only by a demonic being that manifests itself into each of their worst fears, but by Derry’s merry band of young douche bags lead by one Henry Bowers (Nicholas Hamilton). From visions of burning parents, the endless torment of not being able to save siblings and, of course, physically being attacked by Pennywise itself, each of these kids go through hell and back, and all you can hope for is some kind of catharsis for them. All of it comes to a head in the demon’s lair, when, faced with the possibility of losing his friend, Richie (Finn Wolfhard) has had enough of Pennywise’s crap, pulls a baseball bat from the giant pile discarded items, saying “and now, I’m going to have to kill this f-ing clown”. What follows is an epic beatdown, the tormentor becoming the victim, and the kids not only ready to face their fears, but kick them squarely in the nuts.
2. Tequila – BABY DRIVER
This one was a literal coin flip. In a film with so many outstanding moments, it was truly a task and a half to decide on the one that hit me the most. But, what edged this particular scene from Edgar Wright’s Baby Driver was the simple yet effective element of surprise. I simply didn’t see it coming. Sure, I should have expected that Wright would pull such a percussive and explosive rabbit out of his filmmaking hat, and serves me right for underestimating him. It’s a simple “deal gone bad” scene, but where it takes a sharp turn and decides to punch you in the face with a bit of ‘wow’ is when the gun fight turns a little more musical, with each gun shot set to the beat of The Button Down Brass’ rendition of Tequila. I couldn’t hide my genuine sense of surprise, exclaiming, “Oh, you bastard” midway through the sequence when I realized what was happening. I’ll never doubt you again, Edgar.
1. ‘He’s got water’ – LOGAN
Logan turned out to be everything I wanted and more. James Mangold told a rust-stained, bittersweet tale of a hero on his last legs with Hugh Jackman carrying the emotional weight of the film on them protein stuffed shoulders of his. But this scene, this goddamn scene made me a complete mess in the dark. I don’t know whether it was because, as someone who grew up on the X-Men films 18 years ago, long time fans were basically saying goodbye to Charles Xavier, or perhaps it was the sheer hopelessness of the situation that got to me most, but Professor X’s burial was an emotional gut punch that I wasn’t ready for. What makes the scene so much more potent is Hugh Jackman’s performance. In this short moment, in the quiet of a forest, with a daughter he doesn’t even know, and his long time mentor dead in the ground because of him, there is nothing Logan can do. As he struggles to get the words out, you see it dawn on him: all of the heroics, the adamantium, the indestructibility, the healing factor. It’s all been for naught. Death is coming for you, one way or another.
Got a scene or a moment that hit you square in your happy places? Let us know below!