A picture is worth a thousand words. I think we can all agree that this isn’t just a saying. Unlike radio entertainment in the 20’s and 30’s, we know that a visual story can’t depend on only dialog, sound effects or even music alone. In the age of silent film, pretty much all they had to depend on was music that was played by an in-house pianist to depict the mood of what was happening on screen and of course, the “moving picture” on the screen, which was very important in its own right.
I’m sure that’s why Hollywood coined the phrase “Money Shot.” Which is that magic shot (or sequence of shots) that will enamor, shock, or excite moviegoers. Usually, it is the climatic moment in the film, but it can also be a dynamic shot that ends up on the movie poster. (Like on ET. The moment we see Elliot riding over the moon on his bike with ET, or Marilyn Monroe’s iconic flying skirt shot.) Here are some of my favorite shots.
“…Which is that magic shot (or sequence of shots) that will enamor, shock, or excite moviegoers. Usually, it is the climatic moment in the film, but it can also be a dynamic shot that ends up on the movie poster.”
I can honestly say that the beginning of the Lion King, is iconic in itself in so many ways. It is one of the best build-ups to introduce a protagonist. That includes a series of shots, and a zoom in through the Pride Lands and we can see the many animals making their pilgrimage to Pride Rock to pay their respects to their future king, the shot lands on Zazu’s back and we fly with him to the rock where the lions live where he bows to a proud father king Mufasa.
I am obsessed with that shot. Even though the money shot may very well have been when Rafiki the baboon presents the new baby cub Simba to large mass of different animals, and they all prance in jubilation and even bow to the young prince. I think we all were amazed at seeing that. The aerial shot with Zazu was still one of my all-time favorite shots. Just being in a bird’s perspective, feeling like we can fly over this breathtaking event.
2. Kill Bill
In a world where the average action hero is full of testosterone and tons of almost unnecessary explosions going off behind him, Quentin Tarantino always pushes the envelope with a diverse array of heroes and artistic and imaginative cinematic sequences. One of my faves was a little flick, called Kill Bill Vol. 1. Which is the biggest understatement, because there is nothing little about this movie.
Let me set up the scene. Lucy Lu’s character(O-Ren Ishii) is the first on a kill list of Uma Thurman’s character (Beatrice Kiddo). O-Ren basically runs China, she and her group of thugs. So our kick-ass heroine tracks O-Ren at her favorite nightclub and doesn’t hesitate to call her out. “You didn’t think it was going to be that easy.” We all kind of did, for a minute. “Silly rabbit, tricks are for kids,” she says after the room is filled by a large group of masked goons, called the crazy 88. The scene becomes a blood bath as she uses her trusty sword to literally cut through the 88 one by one. (I think we all have never understood why a group of people on one person in any action movie, can’t just all jump the person at once.)
Anyway, what this sequence leads to is a scene where the lights cut off and our heroine is left to fight in “the dark” which is a room of black silhouettes in front of a tiled blue screen. Just seeing her lay some of these guys out in silhouette, it just adds to the visual awesomeness that is Kill Bill.
Which leads me to the Honorable mention of the movie Moonwalker, where Michael Jackson turns from man to car, and from car to man again all on a shadow on the wall.
Leading me to my closing thoughts on this: Shadows are fun!
Speaking of shapeshifting, (see how I lead you into that one?) I know my fandom groups may stone me for this admission. I really wasn’t impressed by the first Twilight movie.
Normally, I would come into a movie like this having read the books already. (Yes! I’m one of those!) I didn’t read the Twilight books so what was probably translated from a lot of great inner dialog, translated on the screen as a lot of awkward staring, and a slow moving plot. (At least the first go-round. Now someone says Twilight marathon I’m grabbing my wolf pack shirt, popcorn, and soda.) (Yes! I’m one of those!!)
Bella addresses Jacobs new “friends” and in her anger she punches Paul in the face (which surprisingly didn’t break her arm. Hmmm.). It leads to Paul shifting into wolf form right before her eyes, and Bella runs. Then we see Jacob. (fangirling!) The shot where he jumps over Bella, and seamlessly changes from teenage boy to wolf to defend Bella. That was the moment I became Team Jacob and I gave the later Twilight movies a chance.
That transition in that scene was in a word “wicked.” I was so used to see “werewolf” films where they would use real wolves, make up effects, and odd CGI effects that pulled you out of the movie so quick. This was the first time it actually looked like Taylor Lautner shifted into wolf form. It was perfect.
“…How does one fit a ton of exposition in a single shot without boring the pants off of their audience? Answer: Have it fly off into space. George Lucas is behind this iconic shot.”
This excited me because there are a lot of other wolf shifter books that I’m hoping are made into movies and it’s so awesome to learn that movie magic has made such an awesome seamless transition sequence possible…now let’s make the Mercy Thompson series movie people.
Baz Luhrmann in the 90’s made us all understand and grow to appreciate the work of Shakespeare. This was with the help of two up-and-coming actors that were talented in their own right, Clare Danes and Leonardo DiCaprio.
No one really thought about how creepy and odd it was for the Capulets to have a see through fish tank looking directly into the men’s bathroom, we even ignored the fact that that this scene took place after a bad drug trip on Romeo’s part from what I can only guess was ecstasy. But Romeo recovered quickly, deciding that this fish tank is not creepy at all, it’s actually kind of cool, he soon realizes he’s not the only one enjoying the view of the colorful fish. He spots Juliet dressed as a lovely heavenly angel.
Despite the events leading up, the shot beautifully captured the innocence of young love at first sight. If I had to pick a moment when I fell in love with Leonardo DiCaprio it was that shot, it was thoughtfully done, I think we all shared Claire Danes’ character’s sentiments when she said: “Why are all the cute one’s arch enemies?” But “Thou art thy self, though not a Montague, Leo.” And we love you anyway.
5. Star Wars
So you see a picture is worth a thousand words, but how does one fit a ton of exposition in a single shot without boring the pants off of their audience? Answer: Have it fly off into space. George Lucas is behind this iconic shot. It has been spoofed and done time and time again for every movie in the epic series and still has stood the test of time, and whether you read it or not, it still looks visually stunning watching the words drift off into the abyss that is space.
So, there you have it. Those are five of my all-time favorite shots. Now, I want to know yours. What single shots, sequence of shots, or scenes, had you glued to your seat? What caused you to keep rewinding a part? What jumped out to you, leaving you with wonder, chills, or just made you laugh uncontrollably? Were some of these your favorite, too? I want to know your thoughts.
My love movies mostly comes from my dad. When my family lived in California, he used to work for MGM and Blockbuster Video and has always been a huge movie buff. My dad was the international movie database before it existed. He was the guy that you called when you couldn’t think of that one guy in that one movie, but was also in that other one, but you couldn’t think of his name. Somehow, I ended up being IMDB, Jr. And to this day, I think we are the only two people that play ‘the degrees of Kevin Bacon.’
When our family moved from California to Georgia, I was unsure about it, but I continued my love of movies and even started writing movie scripts in 4th grade. I always asked Santa for a camcorder for Christmas. I never got it, but it never stopped me from gathering my closest friends for readings of scripts. I always thought living in Georgia gave me a southern charm with my Hollywood imagination.
Though I haven’t become a movie director or screen writer, but I still continue to enjoy writing. When I’m not writing stories, fanfics, or being a mom to my beautiful 4 children, or a wife to my high school sweetheart and husband of 7 years, I’m enjoying movies, reading books, or talking to my dad about up and coming movies and playing the degrees of Kevin Bacon, of course.
Though, I haven’t abandoned the thought of making my own movies one day. Now, I love being a mother and sharing my passion for movies with others. I’ve always loved how a movie has the ability to transcend our differences and bring to light the things that connect us as a human race. We can grieve for the same fictional character’s death, believe in the same hero’s plight, and think that we have nothing in common. We can connect through movies, and stories in general, we are able to relate, and empathize and experience a journey together and that is a gift.