Courtesy of Universal Pictures

Courtesy of Universal Pictures

March 4, 2018

GUEST ROOM | Which 2017 Movie Would Win A Hypothetical Oscar For Best Scene?

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When you consider what the Oscars are about — ranking our favorite movies of the year — they should really be a lot more fun. So let’s drop some boring categories (I’m sure everyone would be absolutely devastated if we got rid of Best Song and Best Makeup and Hairstyling) and add some fun ones, like Best Practical Effects, Best Ensemble Cast and Is Your Picture A Wildly Entertaining Horror/Thriller/Comedy That Doubles As A Nuanced, Thought-Provoking Metaphor For The Hardships Faced By Minorities In America?

Another such fun award would be Best Scene. It’s the perfect way to both reflect on the standout sequences from some of the Best Picture front-runners as well as reward moments of brilliance in flawed films that would otherwise go unacknowledged at the Oscars. For reference, here are the scenes I would have picked each year for the past decade:

2016 – Moonlight – “What’s a Faggot?”
2015 – Furious 7 – Double Skyscraper Jump
2014 – Whiplash – Final Concert
2013 – Gravity – Opening Debris Sequence
2012 – Django Unchained – Dinner Monologue
2011 – Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol – Tom Cruise Scales the Burj Khalifa
2010 – Inception – Rotating Hallway Fight
2009 – Up – Married Life Montage
2008 – The Dark Knight – Literally Any Scene
2007 – No Country For Old Men – Coin Toss

We’re looking for instantly memorable scenes that are essential to their film’s success and have the chance to become iconic years down the road. With apologies to Lady Bird’s opening car ride, Holly Hunter exploding at a comedy show in The Big Sick, the gut-wrenching penultimate scene of The Florida Project and fight scenes from John Wick: Chapter 2 and Atomic Blonde, here are this years’ nominees (Spoilers for Spiderman: Homecoming and Get Out):

Star Wars: The Last Jedi – Hyperjump
There were several noteworthy scenes from the impressively well-made The Last Jedi, including the final action set-piece and Yoda’s coming back from the dead to diss literature. Ask anyone for their thoughts on the movie, though, and chances are that the first words out of their mouth are, “That hyperjump scene was so cool!” In terms of the awe and wonder of Star Wars, those 10 seconds during which everything goes silent after Admiral Holdo sacrifices herself is perhaps a peak for the entire franchise.

Thor: Ragnarok – Korg’s Introduction
Korg is basically my favorite character in any movie ever. He joins the Iron Giant, Wall-E and Rafiki on the Mount Rushmore of movie characters I’m sad aren’t real. He’s what happens when Marvel Studios throws nearly $200 million at director Taika Waititi to let his zany mind run wild.

Coco – Miguel Sings To Grandma Coco
It would honestly pretty hard for me to write a paragraph about this scene without crying, so you can imagine the puddle of tears I was sitting in when I saw it in theaters. Screw you, Pixar. Can’t you just give us a break every once in a while?

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri – Mildred Burns Police Station
Watch this movie and prepare hear the word “billboards” more times than you will for the entire rest of your life. Martin McDonagh’s script tries to touch on nearly every hot topic affecting modern America, and has very little to say about any of them, but does manage an entertaining blend of dark comedy and drama. A prime example: Dixon reading the dead Chief Willoughby’s letter in the police station while oblivious to the fact that Mildred is burning it down. The look that Frances McDormand gives when her character realizes what she’s done is Oscar worthy.

Courtesy of Warner Bros Pictures


Wonder Woman
– No Man’s Land
I almost chose the beach fight displaying the Amazonians at full strength, but Wonder Woman’s first heroic moment carried more weight. When Steve tells her, “It’s no man’s land. No man can cross it,” a less mature film might have had Diana respond, “But I’m a woman” — Wonder Woman trusts its audience and doesn’t interrupt the emotional swell of the sequence. Director Patty Jenkins crafts epic and soon-to-be-iconic images, like Diana deflecting bullets with her wrist-guard thingies in slo-mo. Seeing a woman leading a group of men into battle (along with Rupert Gregson-Williams’s score) was so genuinely inspiring that I was nearly moved to tears in the theater.

The Disaster Artist – “Oh Hi Mark”
Not surprisingly, a movie scene detailing the creation of the funniest movie scene ever is also one of the funniest movie scenes ever.

Dunkirk – Ending
It wouldn’t be a Christopher Nolan film if it didn’t end with a monologue delivered by the main character over a montage wrapping up all the different storylines, ending with a beautiful shot as the Hans Zimmer score swells.

Spiderman: Homecoming – Car Ride to Homecoming
What a twist! Super simple, and yet nobody sees it coming. Every teenage boy’s worst nightmare is meeting their crush’s parents, even if their crush’s dad isn’t a murderous villain. The entire scene from the second Adrian Toomes opens his front door to when Peter gets out of his car is tense, and a little funny. Michael Keaton kills it as Toomes, realistically putting it together that the nervous boy in his car is actually Spiderman.

Baby Driver – Opening Chase
This is an elite car chase scene, filled with stunts that you can’t even believe are practical, but it also displays great visual storytelling. The first two shots of the movie, the wheel of a car and an iPod, respectively, clue us in to the two most important elements of the film. In the ensuing six minutes, the audience learns so much about Baby despite getting zero lines of dialogue. This scene is so meticulously shot and edited that it made fans completely ignore the somewhat weak character development over the following hour and 47 minutes.

The Winner:

Get Out – Ending

When Lil Rel Howery’s Rod Williams stepped out of that police car, I literally cheered in the movie theater, and that’s not something I ever do. In fact, I haven’t viscerally reacted that strongly to something I was seeing on a screen since Plaxico Burress’s Super Bowl 42 touchdown. There’s a depressing alternate ending to the film in which the same police car approaches the scene, but it’s not Rod — it’s an actual cop — and Chris, an innocent, young black man, is taken away and put in prison. The genius of the ending that Jordan Peele thankfully decided on is that it implies the harrowing alternate ending while still giving us the immensely satisfying conclusion that the audience, and Chris, deserves.

Lev Akabas is a junior in the College of Arts and Sciences. He can be reached at lakabas@cornellsun.com.