ABF Friday: Little Things
When you wake up in the morning and find that someone has left the basement refrigerator door wide open, and that there is no milk in the house, and that the dog has dug a huge hole under the front steps in search of chipmunks, even though her crazed chipmunk hunt is what gave her an eye infection in the first place, thus necessitating those four-times-a-day eyedrops . . .
that’s a good time to remember all the little things that make life worth living. Like, for example, in the world of percussion,
Joel Vincent’s Vinnie Parello’s poppin’ fresh work on the bass drum in Spiral Starecase’s 1969 hit, “(I Love You) More Today than Yesterday.” Otherwise unremarkable AM fare with nice full-out (though, as Janet notes, characterless) vocals on the choruses, but my goodness, that bass drum kicks it. Or, for another example, Brian Doherty’s pair of stutter-steps on the snare in the middle of Freedy Johnston’s “Responsible.” Or the cowbell in Barry White’s “Can’t Get Enough of Your Love, Babe.” Yes, the dang cowbell! I’m not kidding. I wouldn’t kid about a thing like that. Listen for the quarter note, quarter, quarter, pair of sixteenths. You’ll thank me.
Or from another medium: Bill Murray replying, “Sure,” when, in Ed Wood, Baptist minister G. D. Spradlin asks him if he renounces Satan and all his works. (Another movie with the best supporting cast ever! Even better than True Romance!) Alan Rickman’s excruciating delivery of “By Grabthar’s hammer . . . what a savings” in Galaxy Quest. (Yet another movie with the best supporting cast ever!) Kevin Kline trying to read his lines off the teleprompter in the final scene of Soap Dish (I think this film may just have the best supporting cast ever!) And, queen of them all, Lisa Kudrow explaining how she invented Post-It glue in the extended dream sequence of Romy and Michelle’s High School Reunion, a half-minute of thespian excellence so excellently excellent that it has been immortalized on YouTube. Check out Kudrow’s subtle eye-flash and quarter-smile at “thermoset your resin,” as she begins to realize to her delight that she actually knows what she’s talking about—and that, consequently, she is about to blow the A Group away.
So, as I head off to repair the huge hole under the front steps, here’s this Friday’s Arbitrary but Fun exercise: what little things, in the long history of human expressive culture, make life worth living? The catch is that they have to be little. You can’t cheat and say, “Der Ring des Nibelungen always does it for me, personally” or “I find myself turning once again to the Chorus’s ‘Wonders are many, and none is more wonderful than man’ speech in Antigone” or “You know, I’ve always been fond of Joe Morello’s solo in ‘Castilian Drums.’” It has to be really, really minor, a mere grace note, like Philip Seymour Hoffman continually pushing his glasses up his nose in Owning Mahoney, which is widely recognized as the most minor film ever made.
Have a great weekend, folks. Me, I’ve got some work to do and some milk to buy.
Charlie Watts tapping the top of the cymbal at the end of Dead Flowers…
Johnny Ramone ripping into the opening chords of Cretin Hop at just the right instant after Surfin’ Bird...thekeezPosted by Jeff Keezel on 06/16 at 11:15 AM
This is stupid—but I always get a jolt any time a reference is made to a Manson family member in Gilmore Girls.Posted by on 06/16 at 11:27 AM
the first two that pop into my head are, alas, nerdily professorial, but as a nerdy professorial type i guess i have to own them: 1) the first note of the trombone solo in the first movement of mahler’s third symphony (it’s like the chill up your spine as you walk through the graveyard in the dark and just know you’re gonna die, maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but forever); and 2) the phrase “fighting fundies from spiritus mundi” in rick powers’s amazing _gold bug variations_ (tied, for me, with the phrase “rhesus pieces” dropped so insouciantly into a moment of dialogue in _galatea 2.2_).
ok. the tasty “la la la la"s in the jam’s “going underground.” oh, and jamie h’s trombone solo at the end of the godots’ cover of “levi stubbs’ tears” (remember that, michael, at chin’s?).Posted by on 06/16 at 11:39 AM
Meryl Streep’s sweep of a hand to smooth the back of her dress on her rump as she glides indoors, punctuated with a glance back over her shoulder at Clint Eastwood in The Bridges of Madison County.
It’s a moment of half-self-conscious, sexually anxious, and girlishly endearing brillance.Posted by Tyler Curtain on 06/16 at 11:39 AM
the first post-gabriel genesis tour...a long night full mostly of “trick of the tail” with a few “lamb” and “selling england numbers”....and halfway through the encore, that 6/4 rhythm emerges, and THOSE EYES light up on the overhead screens.Posted by on 06/16 at 11:41 AM
Some more cinematic entries (though some of these are perhaps not minor enough)…
The close-up of Charlie Max (Jack Elam) after Mike Hammer (Ralph Meeker) has “flipped” Sugar Smallhouse (Jack Lambert) in Kiss Me Deadly.
The first shot of Rita Hayworth in Gilda.
Burt Lancaster’s glasses (if we’re talkin’ movie glasses) in Sweet Smell of Success.
Crispin Glover’s cameo in the otherwise forgettable Wild at Heart ("I’M MAKING MY LUNCH!!")
The business card sequence in American Psycho.Posted by on 06/16 at 11:52 AM
Ben, the first shot of Rita Hayworth in Gilda is definitely not minor enough. Good lord, an entire branch of academe was devoted to it in the ‘80s. Something about the “mail gaze,” if I recall correctly. I think Tyler has the right idea here. Minor gestures, minor details. Like Charlie Watts ringing the ride-cymbal bell at the end of “Dead Flow. . .” hey! Jeff Keezel beat me to it!
MTT, I most certainly do remember that lovely trombone solo. And I remember that we were foolish or audacious enough to cover “Levi Stubbs’ Tears.” I just don’t remember us being called “The Godots.” I remember us as The Band That Was So Large That We Had To Practice In Two Separate Rooms. And I also remember you taking the drums while I sang “Pablo Picasso.” Good times, those.Posted by Michael on 06/16 at 12:03 PM
Producer Robert Fripp’s guitar embellishments--can’t really call them solos--on the Roches’ “Hammond Song.”
The guitar outro to the Stones’ “Sway.” (Maybe not minor enough.)Posted by on 06/16 at 12:03 PM
Clean wool socks on a chilly morning.Posted by on 06/16 at 12:08 PM
The last bit of Broken Social Scene’s Our Faces Split the Coast in Half, especially the last 35 seconds, but especially the last 15 seconds. Go listen (mp3 download - you might have to copy the URL out of the link).Posted by on 06/16 at 12:22 PM
Elis Regina almost but not quite cracking up as she and Jobim sing nonsense syllables toward the end of “Águas de Março.”
The awful, awful puns as Tom and Ray rattle through the fake credits on “Car Talk.” (Some of which, after yesterday’s post, seem right up Jamie’s alley.)
Cheese fries.Posted by on 06/16 at 12:22 PM
In Raising Arizona, there’s a scene where John Goodman and William Forsythe are having breakfast with Holly Hunter, and Forsythe’s character (with some milk dripping out of his mouth into the bowl) says “These are mighty fine breakfast flakes Mrs. Hi.” God, I just love that line...that little gem of “Breakfast Flakes” in there just kills me. Where does something like that come from?Posted by on 06/16 at 12:29 PM
OK, I’m taking my life in my hands, here…
The very Celtic, very elegeic instrumental intro to “My Heart Will Go On.” The first time I heard it, I was entranced and eager to hear what was surely the latest from Enya or Clannad. Hearing, instead, Celine Dion start singing about near and far and wherever you are, was an emormous shock.
But I still adore that intro.Posted by on 06/16 at 12:32 PM
In “The Snapper”, when the dad (Colm Meany) calls to report the birth of Sharon’s baby, and the entire family does a midnight conga line in the front yard, chanting “Seven pounds twelve ouces, seven pounds twelve ounces...”
On Lucinda Wiliams “Changed the Locks”, the not-that-sensible but still perfectly meaningful line: “I changed the tracks underneath the train so you can’t find me again”. (The live version is particularly good.)Posted by on 06/16 at 12:45 PM
Neko Case’s octave- and heart-shattering “all hail” on “The Laws Have Changed” by The New Pornographers.Posted by on 06/16 at 12:46 PM
Two film moments:
John Goodman in Raising Arizona trying to convince Nic Cage to go on a crime spree, eating KFC, and at the end of his plea pointing his half-chewed drumstick to his head while saying, “Think about it.”
Marlon Brando getting up from the floor via some sort of back flip in Last Tango.
Four music moments:
The (here we go again--must be something particularly pleasing about sneaky bovines) the two hits of cowbell in Big Star’s “Kanga Roo.” Can never remember when they happen, but they please every time.
Amidst the cracked choir only the Mekons can create, someone shout-singing “suck, suck” on “Take His Name in Vain.”
The ugly/beautiful break in Kim Deal’s voice--surely a mistake, but let those tapes roll--on “Oh!” from the first Breeders album no one owns (as opposed to Last Splash, which everyone sold back).
The beautiful/ugly break at the very very end of “Maybe Sparrow” on Neko Case’s new one. Makes me tear up, automatically, every single time I hear it. It’s the essential lachrymal note.Posted by George on 06/16 at 12:46 PM
Tommy Lee Jones to Robert Duvall in “Lonesome Dove” when the Duvall character is talking about how lonely he is: “You got your whores.”
John Goodman, as Speaker of the House temporarily taking over for President Bartlett in the “West Wing”, gives an accurate rendition of what ignited WWI in about 30 seconds.Posted by on 06/16 at 12:47 PM
Here’s a few:
- That small “hey” you can hear in one speaker from one of Rod Stewart’s bandmates in “Every Picture Tells a Story.” As I recall it’s during the part about Shanghai Lil. (Greil Marcus mentions this one in his Stewart profile in the Rolling Stone Illustrated History of Rock & Roll.)
- The single piano note at the end of Tomasz Stanko’s “Morning Heavy Song” (on Leosia).
- The little piano figure that sticks out at the end of Otis Redding’s “Thousand Miles Away.”
- Marlon Brando in The Freshman: when visiting Matthew Broderick’s dorm room, the way he adjust his hat when resting it on his knee.
- Vincent Gardenia in Moonstruck: the eloquent gesture he makes when his wife (Olympia Dukakis) tells him he has to end his extramarital affair.
I’d add the Greatest Vocal Ever Recorded - Merry Clayton’s performance in the Stones’ “Gimme Shelter” - but that’s not really minor.Posted by on 06/16 at 12:49 PM
Being a rock ‘n’ roller at heart, I could think up any number of beautiful moments in that genre if I put my mind to it. But I’ve also become quite the choir geek in my middle age, and the first thing that springs to mind is a sliver of Mozart’s Requiem. With apologies for any clumsy terminology--I never did study classical music in any substantive way, so I’m winging it here:
In the “Benedictus” (yes, I know, it’s really Sussmayr’s “Benedictus,” not Mozart’s) the four soloists repeatedly sing the final line of the prayer, “In nomine domini,” with a melody that rises up to a peak at the “mi” of “nomine,” then falls. In one of the later repetitions of this line, the tenor sings a B-flat on said climactic “mi,” rather than the A that would be expected based on the earlier iterations. It’s the tiniest, subtlest of grace notes...but everytime I hear or sing the Requiem I wait for that moment. Simply sublime.
Runner-up: the 3rd movement of Brahms’ “Ein Deutsches Requiem.” The latter part of the movement is a glorious, majestic fugue built around the line “Der Gerechten Seelen sind in Gottes Hand und keine Qual rühret sie an.” At one point the sopranos sing an “ah” that climbs and climbs into the heavens--and this is then repeated at the end of the movement by the tenors. Shivers down the spine, every single time.
In pop/rock? To name one of a thousand potential candidates, the way “Stars of Track & Field,” the first track of Belle & Sebastian’s “If You’re Feeling Sinister” begins at a barely audible whisper. This was, for all intents and purposes, their first album (only a privileged few had heard their “real” debut at that point), and it so perfectly encapsulates the way B&S crept up on me and staked out a permanent place in my heart.Posted by on 06/16 at 12:52 PM
Those two utterly authoritative drumstrokes when “Gloria” walks up to Van Morrison’s room and knocks upon his door make for the greatest shortest drum solo ever. Plainly, we gather, she wants in.Posted by on 06/16 at 12:53 PM
In “The Snapper”, when the dad (Colm Meany) calls to report the birth of Sharon’s baby, and the entire family does a midnight conga line in the front yard, chanting “Seven pounds twelve ouces, seven pounds twelve ounces...”
Yes indeed. I remember walking out of that movie feeling so nice & warm & fuzzy inside.Posted by on 06/16 at 01:02 PM
I’m assuming “I’ve got blisters on my fingers” at the end of “Helter Skelter” is too big.
How about the little noise Professor Frink makes at the ends of sentences on The Simpsons?
The odd screaming at the beginning and end of Elvis Costello’s “Man Out of Time.”
OutKast saying “Stank you very much.”Posted by Crazy Little Thing on 06/16 at 01:03 PM
in the song Complete Control by the Clash when he yells “you’re my guitar hero”Posted by on 06/16 at 01:13 PM
It was always the little bits of clever dialog, rather than the longish story arcs, that made me a fan of St. Elsewhere. An example of a punning song quotation, from a show that I saw once 20 years ago: Howie Mandel, while talking up a young woman and hoping to get a threesome going with her and her sister, says “You Crane girls really knock me out.”Posted by DrDrang on 06/16 at 01:17 PM
Plainly, we gather, she wants in.
There should be a word for that kind of musical onomatopoeia. Seems like drummers usually get burdened with it; there’s lots of songs with door-knockin and gun-shootin. Or wind whispering through the kit-mounted chimes. But then there are all the train songs, too, which harmonica players and fiddlers are all over.
Anyway, little things: Quine’s speculation that the word “gavagai,” when accompanied by the appearance of a rabbit, might mean “undetached rabbit part.” Dude, I cracked up when I read that. The story about Jamie’s “Leg” yesterday reminded me of it, for some reason, and I was grateful for the reminiscent chuckle.
Almost everything in Spinal Tap, but lately my favorite is a comment that’s not much cited: David St. Hubbins’s proclamation that “I believe everything I read, and I think that makes me more of a selective human than someone who doesn’t believe anything.”Posted by on 06/16 at 01:27 PM
I second the mention of Lucinda Williams’ “Changed the Locks”. There are so many little things in her lyrics and in the delivery of the lyrics that make me happy. One that comes to mind is the way she sings “the smell of cawffee, ayggs and baycon” on “Car Wheels on a Gravel Road.”
Also, I’m really taken with the dismissive “please” in Rufus Wainwright’s “California”.
Another one is the little “tink” sound after the phrase “it’s industrial” on Ben Folds Five’s “Underground”. How’s that for minor?Posted by on 06/16 at 01:28 PM
West Wing --
CJ: I need you to pardon a turkey.
Prez: Didn’t I pardon a turkey yesterday?
CJ: This is a different turkey.
Prez: I’m not going to get a reputation for being soft on tukeys?
The piano bits in “Just Like Heaven” by the Cure.
That little pause toward the end of “Buddy Holly” by Weezer, esp. when I’m running.
Dr. Strangelove: “Well, I’ll tell you what he did. He ordered his planes… to attack your country… Ah… Well, let me finish, Dmitri… Let me finish, Dmitri...”Posted by Chris in NF on 06/16 at 01:31 PM
In “Walk on the Wild Side” Lou Reed’s one-time interjection “huh”.
I think Marky Mark did a quasi-cover of the song and he used “huh” a bunch of times, and it didn’t work.Posted by on 06/16 at 01:43 PM
Dude, if I may call you dude, it’s in “Gimmie Shelter” when the Altamont audience is rioting durring “Sympathy for the Devil”, how Kieth Richards keeps time through the fracas, then rips back into the song after.Posted by on 06/16 at 01:45 PM
Alek Hidell beat me to it; I was going to mention the break in Merry Clayton’s solo on Gimme Shelter.
Also, Glen Close’s little stagger as she exits the theater box to a growing chorus of hisses at the end of Dangerous Liasons.
Uh, what was the middle thing again?Posted by on 06/16 at 01:48 PM
In the film Election, a disaffected teen whose brother is running for student body president also runs for that position solely to irritate him. Forced to give a campaign speech at a school assembly, she blurts out in frustration:
“… The same pathetic charade happens every year, and everyone makes the same pathetic promises just so they can put it on their transcripts to get into college. So vote for me, because I don’t even want to go to college, and I don’t care, and as president I won’t do anything. The only promise I will make is that if elected I will immediately dismantle the student government, so that none of us will ever have to sit through one of these stupid assemblies again!”
To her astonishment, the assembly erupts in cheers. She leans in to the microphone, and finishes as the cheering continues:
“Or don’t vote for me… who cares? Don’t vote at all!”
I like the lean.Posted by alkali on 06/16 at 01:51 PM
1. The first strokes of the violin-bowed guitar in The Creation’s “Making Time”
2. Jimmie Carl Black of The Mothers stating, “I’m Jimmie Carl Black and I’m the Indian of the group” on *We’re Only in It for The Money*
3. Iggy Pop singing, “Look out honey cuz I’m using technology” on “Search & Destroy”
4. Plug One from De La Soul: “My name is Plug-One and um… um… let me tell you a little bit about myself. Um… I like Twizzlers an um… I like the Alligator Bob and my favorite drama movie is “Blood Sucking Freaks” and just like your momma...”
5. Ian Svenonius’ “When I say I’m in love you better believe I’m in love, L-U-V” on “Today I Met the Girl I’m Gonna Marry” by Nation of Ulysses
6. The intro snare hit of The Beach Boys’ “Wouldn’t It Be Nice?”
7. The sixteenth note triplets on the cello in “Good Vibrations”
8. The little melismatic thing Jollie Holland does with her voice at the end of many of her lines
9. The “uh” Mark E. Smith of The Fall attaches to many of his words
10. Joanna Newsome pronouncing “telephone” as “teller-phone” on “Sadie”
11. The keyboard sound on Althea and Donna’s “Uptown Top Ranking”
12. The shift into full-scale disco beat on PIL’s “Memories”Posted by on 06/16 at 01:52 PM
A question: Is the drum opening on Like a Rolling Stone a big thing, or a little thing? If the latter, I would like to add it to the list.Posted by on 06/16 at 01:55 PM
In my favorite movie, Whit Stillman’s Metropolitan: Charlie, illustrating his point that 19th century agrarian socialism was a failed model, says “What about Brook Farm? [pause] It failed.”
The extra little emphasis he puts on it. That’s what I’m nominating.Posted by on 06/16 at 02:08 PM
Continuing with The Stones. The girl requesting/demanding “Paint It Black” in the flat voice between (I think) “Midnight Rambler” and “Sympathy for the Devil” on Get Your Ya Yas Out
Bill Murray to the cop in Groundhog Day “Too late for flapjacks?”
and same film later - Chris Elliot “No, not now.” when the pickup explodes.Posted by on 06/16 at 02:19 PM
1. Bill Bruford’s drum work in the opening sequences of “Heart of the Sunrise” ("Fragile" album, 1972);
2. “No matter where you go, there you are."--Buckaroo Banzai, 1984.
3. “There’s out--and there’s out.” Peter O’Toole as Alan Swan, “My Favorite Year”, also 1984, I think…Posted by mitchell freedman on 06/16 at 02:30 PM
The scene on The West Wing where Toby chides White House employees for premature celebration, explaining that it might bring down “the wrath of the whatever from on high atop the thing.”Posted by on 06/16 at 02:31 PM
1. Bill Murray’s facial expression when Max introduces his father in Rushmore.
2. The opening bars of the Breeders’ “Cannonball.”
3. The French horn in the Stones’ “You Can’t Always Get What You Want.”
4. R. Lee Ermey’s “Ho-leee Jayzus” when he finds a jelly donut in Vincent D’Onofrio’s footlocker.
5. Like Charles above, I’d like a ruling on the opening snare to “Like A Rolling Stone.” And if the ruling is that the snare is too big, then I nominate Dylan’s order to “Play fuckin’ loud!” during its intro on Bod Dylan Live, 1966.Posted by Trout on 06/16 at 02:34 PM
Michael Keaton in Night Shift:
“How hard can it be to hand out towels in a men’s locker room?”
“It’s a skill, like anything else.”Posted by on 06/16 at 02:51 PM
It’s nice when the central heat kicks on just as you notice a chill. Also nice, less likely to register consciously, when the thermostat feedback loop later turns the heat off. Automatic comfort.
Indoor plumbing is wonderful for things that rarely rate a mention in the Western Civ canon. The lowly waste line p-trap allows evacuation of waste-worthy material while keeping its gaseous consequences at bay.
More Mothers of Invention: the Central Scrutinizer on Joe’s Garage cracking himself up saying “plook” as he introduces Dong Work For Yoda.
Captcha: death. Not little enough.Posted by b on 06/16 at 02:51 PM
The pimples on the behind of Joe Delasandro in Paul Morrissey’s Trash during the opening oral scene lent a certain je ne sais quoi to the film’s message of despairate human appitite.
Billy Crystal as Frenando reacting to the Transvestite sitting next to him in a SNL skit of the Phil Donahue green room as he hesitates but then affirms tha he/she looks marvelous.
Everything Popeye says out of the side of his mouth.
The squirrel crawling onto the stump of the tree that Death cuts down as he takes Skat, the actor. Skat had faked his suicide to escape the fatel intentions of a jealous husband. Death is nothing if not ironic and so takes him anyway. I understand the brief appearance of the squirrel to be a forboding of the ultimate affirmation of life embodied by the saving of Jos and Mia by the knight, later in the film.Posted by on 06/16 at 02:52 PM
1. Emma Thompson’s face when told to prepare for her sister’s death in “Sense and Sensibility.”
2. The soprano’s “Requiem Aeternum” entrance, floating over the choir, near the end of Verdi’s Requiem.
3. Three words: “No wire hangers!”Posted by on 06/16 at 02:54 PM
in ferris bueller’s day off, when ben stein is calling roll, and there are shots of teens zonking out. there is a girl with her head asleep on the desk, drooling. classic. a perfect encapsulation of my salad days.Posted by on 06/16 at 02:55 PM
The mention of “Doctor Strangelove” reminded me of George C. Scott’s wonderfully minimal fall, roll and recovery, mid-rant, in the War Room.Posted by chris on 06/16 at 03:00 PM
The fact that no matter how bad things are, they can always be worse and this bit from Danger Mouse:
DM: “You wanted to speak to me Colonel?
Colonel K: “Now that is a coincidence. I wanted to speak to you as well.”Posted by on 06/16 at 03:15 PM
Plain Willow dressed up as Vamp Willow waves to Oz upon entering the Bronze in “Doppelgangland.”
Buffy’s “get out!” when Dracula reveals his identity ("I am Dracula") in “Buffy vs. Dracula.”
Scottie Pippen helping Michael Jordan to the bench in Game 5 of the 1997 NBA finals, after Jordan, exhausted from playing despite the flu, has put in 38 points including the game-winning three-pointer.
The way Steve Nash prepares to shoot free throws.Posted by John Protevi on 06/16 at 03:15 PM
This makes me resolve to pay more attention to details in movies and music. I can’t think of anything good, though I have lots from books. Here is a little thing from a book that makes me smile whenever I think of it. The speaker is complaining about Europeans coming to Egypt and trying to convert Muslims to Christianity. And he says Islam is “as good as any other religion. Which is to say, not very good, but . . . “
I just love that “which is to say, not very good, but . . .”
Captcha “money”Posted by on 06/16 at 03:20 PM
Jed Bartlett saying “What’s next?” after his most recent effort to save the world in The West Wing (the early years).Posted by on 06/16 at 03:21 PM
1) Elvis’s lyrically inappropriate, but oddly perfect, “oh yeahs” in “Long Black Limousine” from The Memphis Record.
2) The use of a ping-pong game as percussion throughout the Beastie Boys’ “Three Minute Rule,” which also includes the line “I’m so rope they call me Mr. Roper” from Paul’s Boutique (which is actually about fifty minutes of wonderful lyrical and sample moments).
3) Jonathan Richman spelling girlfriend G-I-R-L-F-R-E-N in the Modern Lovers’ “Girlfriend.”
4) The marching jackboots that open the Sex Pistols’ “Holidays in the Sun” and Never Mind the Bollocks... (perhaps this is not so minor).
5) The contrast between incredibly upbeat music and incredibly grim lyrical content in Heavenly’s “Hearts & Crosses,” which uses twee indie pop to critical ends (though I suppose as wonderful as this is, it’s not exactly life affirming).
6) The mandolin-dominated final minute of the Meat Puppets’ “Climbing.”Posted by on 06/16 at 03:23 PM
To clarify my #39, above, I meant to refer to the look on Keaton’s face—the combination of defiance and genuine puzzlement.Posted by on 06/16 at 03:25 PM
In “The Princess Bride”, when Inigo says, “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”
Daryl Hall letting it rip on the final chorus of “She’s Gone”.
Cracking the caramel glaze on creme brulee.Posted by Bill Altreuter on 06/16 at 03:31 PM
The end sequence of Smoke is very much a big thing, but, if I may, I’d like to submit the moment when, after Harvey Keitel has finished telling his christmas story, Tom Waits kicks in with Innocent when you dream, egads I love that song.
And the short intro to Waits’ Filipino Box Spring Hog - I could make a whole list, just of moments with Tom Waits, btw.
In Blues Brothers, when Jake removes his sunglasses to charm Carrie Fisher.
Kid Koala, Like irregular chickens, there’s a break about 1:20 or so into the track which is punctured by a loud and highly irregular BWUAARK!. Gets me every time.
The sky in Kurosawas Ran, near the end.
The absence of a label on a Westvletern 12.Posted by Bistroist on 06/16 at 03:31 PM
Surprisingly enough, movies based on Agatha Christie novels have a number of “perfect minor” movements in them:
--The gesture of contempt John Gielguld makes after leaving Richard Widwark’s cabin in “Murder on the Orient Express.”
--The tone in Peter Ustinov’s voice when he says “Precisely” as David Niven comes close to appreciating a crucial point in “Death on the Nile.”
--The affectionate slap on the butt the murderer gives in “Evil Under the Sun,” which is striking as perhaps the best example in Christie of ingenious solution overcoming psychological credibilty (what is the motive again?) but is actually a genuinely affectionate gesture.
Looking for other classic minor perfect matters. I suppose the flashback to December 7, 1941 that closes Godfatther Part II isn’t minor enough. Then there’s Ralph Fiennes saying “I can still taste you,” to Kristin Scott-Thomas in “The English Patient,” a scene alone which makes it better than “Fargo,” even though the novel is fatuous and pretentious. But for the best picture of 1996 there is Mara Wilson putting a ribbon in hair at the beginning of “Matilda” and the little dance she does once she discovers her telekinetic powers.
What about music. One might say there are all of Kate Bush’s “Watching you, Without Me,” my favorite Kate Bush song. There are the final bars of “The Happiest Days of Our Lives” on the Wall.Posted by on 06/16 at 03:36 PM
John Rutter’s Requiem, final movement ("Lux Aeterna"), 30th measure. The chord is so, so simple in its construction, but it hits just so, and the hair on the back of my neck always stands up for it.
When the henchman turns to Henry Gibson as the Pinto falls from the sky in The Blues Brothers and says, “I’ve always loved you.”
The constantly repeated rhythm in “Mars” from Gustav Holst’s The Planets. (Yes, it’s not that small. Still, it’s not a complex thing.)
“Say what you will about the tenets of National Socialism, Dude, at least it’s an ethos.”
WFPosted by Wes F. in North Adams on 06/16 at 03:44 PM
The name of the fast-food joint dropped into a conversation between the bellboy (Cinque Lee) and the night clerk (Screamin’ Jay Hawkins) in Jim Jarmusch’s Mystery Train: “Jiffysquid”
The twisted, rising inflection Adam Durtitz gives to the final word in the “Round Here” line, “she knows she’s more than just a little misunderstood, she has trouble acting normal when she’s nervous,” signals psychopathology so perfectly it almost redeems the song and the cd.
And, of course, “Plastics.”
Plus two bonus tags that, when repeated as they are in the following, never fail to jack up the attention quotient:
Winston Rodney’s bird calls peppered throughout Burning Spear’s “Man in the Hills.”
And, the (faux) drunken “heh, heh, hehs” that Tom Waits inserts into most of the song intros on “Nighthawks At the Diner.”Posted by on 06/16 at 03:48 PM
About a million years ago, I saw Dinah Shore interviewing Burt Reynolds on her talk show. Her first question was, “So, what are your hobbies...now?”
The pause was so perfectly timed that Burt was about to answer seriously, then became totally sheepish when he realized that “now” implied “Now that you’re no longer f___ing me”. This was at a time when you couldn’t generally get that sort of thing on national TV. It was implied so well that her live audience lost it for over a minute.
Things don’t get much littler than a short pause, but that one little pause was just hilarious.
Oh, I also like Dustin Hoffman’s sighs as he’s being seduced by Anne Bancrofte in “The Graduate”. They are very good, but I get the sense that they are intentionally a little thing meant to have a big effect.Posted by on 06/16 at 03:48 PM
Bob’s final rule of gambling in The Good Thief--"if you’re gonna win big, do it with a girl called Anne. ‘Kay? Mm."--with Nolte’s facial expression and delivery.Posted by on 06/16 at 03:50 PM
In Out of Sight, the endearingly blank look that Michael Keaton as Ray Nicolet (wearing a T-shirt that says FBI) has when Dennis Farina (as Karen Sisco’s dad) asks, “Hey Ray, do you ever wear one that says ‘undercover’?”Posted by Dr. Free-Ride on 06/16 at 03:52 PM
During the third verse of “Why Don’t We Do It In The Road” (meaning the third time through of those repeated lyrics...you know where he starts it off with a really high voice?) In the middle of that verse--Yeah, right there!--Paul gets just a tad funky on the bass! Easy to miss, but way cool.Posted by on 06/16 at 03:53 PM
The subtle country edge to Wilco’s “Far, Far Away.” I know of no better use of the slide guitar. That song is damn near perfect.Posted by on 06/16 at 03:56 PM
For the four years I was in high school, my locker was directly below a painting - “The Fall of Icarus”. I knew the myth, but never saw what it had to do with the painting, which seemed like a perfectly ordinary Renaissance era harbor scene. Halfway into my senior year, I noticed a tiny splash occupying about 0.1% of the canvas. It turned out to be a guy with wings falling in the ocean.Posted by on 06/16 at 04:04 PM
[Bill Murray turns his head to look silently at Dan Aykroyd.]
Aykroyd: [weary acknowledgment] It’s the Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man.
[Orchestral burst as smiling hundred-foot tall Mr. Stay-Puft rounds the corner, roaring.]
Josh is trying to avoid C.J., only to give a shocked squeaky cry to find her in his office, as she drops her paper and says, “Boy, are you stupid!” Cue West Wing credits.
Near the end of Roxette’s “The Look,” there’s this lovely three-quarter* rest pause. I can never resist counting off from the final “la”.
*Okay, for all I know, the song is in 9/8 time. But at that point, it sure sounds like 4/4. And in the end, isn’t that the real truth? (The answer is no.)Posted by on 06/16 at 04:07 PM
Vin Scully’s referral to a baseball player’s admirers as his “Marching and Chowder Society.”
The other day he amended it to make allowances for the player’s Korean nationality and called it “a Kim-Chee Society.”Posted by Linkmeister on 06/16 at 04:09 PM
The fake/polite laugh Albert Brooks and Rip Torn share over a lame joke ("Actually, there is no hell; but I hear L.A.’s getting pretty close.") in Defending Your Life. Sublime moment.Posted by on 06/16 at 04:13 PM
Music: “I think we’re alone now....”
Film: The 13th Warrior—as the rain falls and the mounted neanderthals are moving in for the kill, Antonio Banderas removes his shoes and armor, kneels to profess remorse at his many sins of commission and omission, and asks Allah for one favor, to “live the next few minutes well.”Posted by on 06/16 at 04:16 PM
I used to run a movie-review site where I compiled a series of these little things (I called them “Small Moments I Love"). Here are some of the better ones:
- In Three Colors: Red, the cut from a shot of Irene Jacob during ballet class, where she sweats as she leans back and extends her body to its fullest length, to a shot of her outside, after class, in a similar stretch, as she gulps water from a bottle.
- In Barcelona, a razor commercial leads Fred Boynton (Chris Eigeman) to wonder whether he’s been shaving the wrong way his whole life. He worries that, in the future, he could teach his son to shave the wrong way, too. Near the end of the movie, just as one character finally begins to reveal the correct way to shave, the characters turn a corner, and the sound fades out, leaving the audience hanging.
- The shot of David Byrne swiveling his arms and legs like a wacked-out Egyptian hypnotist in Stop Making Sense.
- Jimmy Stewart’s stuttering accusation, addressed to Kim Novak in the final scene of Hitchcock’s Vertigo: “You shouldn’t have been . . . . You shouldn’t have been that sentimental.”
- When Robert Walker wiggles his eyebrows at Miriam after winning the carnival’s strength test in Strangers on a Train.
- The tone of Robert Mitchum’s voice in Out of the Past when he thanks his girlfriend after she lights his cigarette.Posted by Matt on 06/16 at 04:21 PM
Obviously Michael Keaton rules the small stuff. In
Night Shift, when Fonzi is appalled that Keaton is making money pimping women in the morgue, MK answers: “Is this a great country or what?”
Okay, basketball. Well, this might be a too-big moment. Maybe one of the biggest ever. But it makes me hapy every time I see those spots of Reggie Miller jumping up and down and around and around like a maniac after yet another clutch shooting that won a playoff game-- and he was jumping on an injured ankle! It’s the celebrating that is so great.Posted by on 06/16 at 04:35 PM
The Bogaard movie of The Big Sleep is, taken as a whole, probably too big a thing, but my favourite part is the two-scene bookshop sequence: Bogie goes to a rare-bookshop he suspects (correctly) is a front for a blackmail ring, and, adjusting his hat brim and donning a pair of sunglasses, enters in the persona of a wry, slightly fey customer. He Lt-Columboes the bitchy clerk, establishing that she knows nothing about first editions by asking for ones that don’t exist. Tossed out of the shop, he enters the rival bookshop across the street, managed and possibly owned by a bespectacled young woman who may be the original sexy-librarian figure. She passes his test with flying colours and he enlists her aid in staking out the fake bookshop. Asked to describe the owner, she gives Bogaard a razor-sharp description while slyly looking him up and down - when she gets to the suspect’s height and weight, she hesitates slightly, evidently estimating with him as a yardstick, and he reflexively unslouches himself and pulls in his barely-noticeable gut. “You’d make a good cop,” he declares, impressed enough to forget Laren Bacall for a moment. They draw the blinds to stake out the place across the street, but it’s statered to rain, and the suspect isn’t likely to leave for a while, and Bogaard has a half-bottle of scotch somewhere, and the bookstore owner removes her glasses and lets her hair down. A tasteful fadeout suggests they go to the back of the shop and cheerfully shag like bunnies until they spot the suspect leaving his shop and Bogaard (reluctantly) returns to the case.Posted by on 06/16 at 04:42 PM
In “The Dark Knight Returns,” when a catatonic Joker, locked away in Arkham, sees on TV that Batman has come out of retirement. Joker mutters, “B-B-B .... Batman!” followed by that iconic, insane evil grin.
It’s three panels long, and it’s just really fantastic. Frank Miller was a mad genius back in those days.Posted by on 06/16 at 04:47 PM
Too big, Sarah-- that’s one of the best parts of the book and the movie-- but one bit of the scene will qualify, I’d say: Bogey asks the clerk in in the fake bookstore for a “Ben Hur 1850”. The audience then would have known that “Ben Hur” was a contemporary best seller-- but the bitchy clerk didn’t.
I always thought that the part of the cool bookstore woman should have been the Bacall part. Sure it would have just been a cameo, but what’s wrong with that?Posted by Bill Altreuter on 06/16 at 04:53 PM
Near the end of Seinfeld’s “The Marine Biologist,” George is telling the story of how he saved the beached whale. At the climax of the story, he pulls one of Kramer’s golf balls out of his pocket with a flourish. It’s the look on his face as he produces the ball that I nominate. In fact, it’s the look on his face at that moment that has me convinced that he was robbed lo those many Emmyless years.Posted by on 06/16 at 04:57 PM
Being and N-F-L fan (on a blog dominated by hockey enthusiasts) both Brett Favre’s and Joh nElway’s toothy grins during games-damn they looked like they were having fun.Posted by on 06/16 at 04:58 PM
1) The line from the “Food” section of Tender Buttons: “A change, a final change, includes potatoes. This is no authority for the abuse of cheese.”
2) The line in Berryman’s Dream Song 96: “Man, I been thirsty.”
3) There’s an episode of The X-Files in which Mulder & Scully investigate some schmuck who found a bottle that contained a rather belligerent genie. 2 minor moments from this episode just kill me
a) the guy wishes for invisibility and gets hit by a bus. His invisible corpse is discovered by a bicyclist as he flips over his handlebar for no apparent reason whatever.
b) Scully gets to autopsy the invisible corpse and is so tickled that when she stores it in the morgue to file a report, she says goodbye to it like a schoolgirl with a crush.
4) The fact that my captcha is “major.”Posted by on 06/16 at 05:03 PM
Oh, I also like Dustin Hoffman’s sighs as he’s being seduced by Anne Bancrofte in “The Graduate”. They are very good, but I get the sense that they are intentionally a little thing meant to have a big effect.
Speaking of sighs: reminds me of the scene in Dead Men Don’t wear Plaid where Steve Martin is standing in the kitchen pouring (as-yet-unbrewed) coffee. He pours ... and pours ... and keeps pouring. It’s funny enough by itself, but at just the right moment he heaves a sigh. Hilarious.
One other, unrelated: the look on Spock’s face when, in Star Trek IV, the woman tells him and Kirk that she has a tire iron where she can get at it.Posted by on 06/16 at 05:09 PM
How did I forget the completely unhinged way Glenn Anders as George Grisby says the line, “Just tell them you’re doing a little taaarrget practice” in The Lady from Shanghai?
Or the way Evelyn Varden as Icey Spoon (sure, the character name is one of the cherished little things, too) in Night of the Hunter tells Robert Mitchum, “It’s for the picccnicc,” when she discusses her fudge.
In many ways the deliveries are just the same, in two completely different places.Posted by George on 06/16 at 05:13 PM
In no particular order:
--Poly Styrene’s voice cracking slightly in the middle of Germ Free Adolescents (it gives the song a sweetness and poignancy that neatly balance the caustic lyrics)
--The self-referential sight gags in Repo Man, like the sign advertising ‘Plate of Shrimp’ at the diner where the Rodriguez Brothers stop to make a phone call.
--Jonathan Richman saying “I’m certainly not stoned!” (in I’m Straight) and sounding like he’s baked out of his gourd (from what I’ve heard, he really wasn’t; apparently, he gets fucked up on life).
--The exchange in The Long Goodbye where Marlowe jokingly tells Bernie Ohls he’s “talking like a Red”, and Bernie replies “I wouldn’t know, I ain’t been investigated yet.”
--Don’t you miss it...don’t you miss it...some of you people just about missed it.
--The trumpet solo in Chan Chan.
--The fly in the opening sequence of Once Upon a Time in the West.Posted by Tom Hilton on 06/16 at 05:15 PM
In the thirty nine steps Robert Donat puts on a hat a jaunty air as he marches to escape one of his many pursuers. Also in the The Man Who Knew Too Much, he weird joyful defeated look Peter Loire gives when he fires one of his last shots.
In The Man Who Knew Too Little, Bill Murray face during the dance scene (to pick one from many)
In The Dirty Dozen whatshisname spewing “you slobs you slobs.”
Not small, but Gus Viseur.Posted by on 06/16 at 05:17 PM
Ernie Watts’s sax solo on Zappa’s “Cleetus Awreetus-Awrightus”.Posted by on 06/16 at 05:21 PM
"In the key of G major. You got it? Crazy. On the count of four.”
“Crazy. Here we go.”
Frank Rosolino and an unidentified bandmate (Joe Levey?), captured off-mike on a live recording with the Jack Sheldon sextet, circa 1965, by way of introducing “Pennies from Heaven.” Something about the matter-of-fact way he says “crazy” makes one realize what poseurs Maynard G. Krebs and the rest of those Hollywood make-believe hipsters were.
(The album is “Jack Sheldon Presents the Entertainers,” which I just heard for the first time Wednesday, and which has already achieved a place on my “all-time favorites” short list.)Posted by on 06/16 at 05:23 PM
Thought of two others, from M*A*S*H:
“Colonel, fair’s fair… if I nail Hot Lips and punch Hawkeye, can I go home too?”
WFPosted by Wes F. in North Adams on 06/16 at 05:29 PM
Maybe too big, but I’ve always loved John Cleese’s apology to Kevin Kline in FISH CALLED WANDA as he is hanging upside down 5 stories up in the air:
“I offer a complete and utter retraction. The imputation was totally without basis in fact, and was in no way fair comment, and was motivated purely by malice, and I deeply regret any distress that my comments may have caused you, or your family, and I hereby undertake not to repeat any such slander at any time in the future.”
The second time Van Morrison sings, “you know I will be coming home” in “Into the Mystic.” He drops down and holds the mmmm sound out and it sends shivers down my spine.
Or John Wetton’s “Woah!” toward the end of the King Crimson song “Fracture” as if he can’t believe the stuff their playing either.Posted by on 06/16 at 05:31 PM
I meant “"they’re playing either.”
Damn. Preview is your friend.Posted by on 06/16 at 05:32 PM
Election: Matthew Broderick saying “I’m here for you” from behind the wheel of his pathetic Ford Fiesta.
Brazil: Sam bumps Shirley as he gets up from the sofa. She unloads a dozen different expressions in 1.5 seconds. (Sorry if I’ve posted this here before. I never get tired of proselytizing this moment, and Brazil in general.)
Chronicle of a Death Foretold: She recalls seeing him run upstairs carrying a bouquet of roses.
Your Racist Friend by They Might Be Giants. The danged-near-mariachi break.
All Shall Be Well from Pete Townshend’s The Iron Giant, the greatest disco gospel anthem ever: Pete blows out his vocal chords on the third chorus of “Take me, I’m yours!”
Galaxy Quest: The garden hose in Tim Allen’s pool (widescreen version only?).
Stuck with me this far? Lemme second Galaxy Quest as a perfect little movie. Countless pleasures, rewards repeated viewing. The supporting cast just got better. Justin Long, the teen fan who obssesses over the “quantum flux conundrum,” stars in the keen new iMac ads with John Hodgman.Posted by David J Swift on 06/16 at 05:35 PM
Oh, and Fingertips Pt 2: “What key? What key?”Posted by David J Swift on 06/16 at 05:38 PM
Mine is a brief moment in the violin section in Rameau’s opera Hippolyte et Aricie. Queen Phaedra mourns the fact that her false witness against Hippolyte, the young man she unrequitedly loves, has brought on a storm that appears to have killed him ("Hippolyte n’est plus"). In the 1995 recording with Bernarda Fink singing Phaedra, the baroque violins sneak out from under her voice and then crescendo-- and they sound like the devil let loose (or at least a few French horns). How an instrument so polite, well-mannered, and unassuming (these are period instruments, not the ones built to fill a modern concert hall) can produce this sound is beyond me. Every time I hear it, I’m astonished, choked up, and chilled.Posted by on 06/16 at 05:44 PM
Fred Rogers appeared on The Tonight Show during that period when the awful Joan Rivers was guest-hosting for Johnny all the time. And she’s being all condescending—“children’s TV host, blah, blah, can you say? blah”—and Mr. Rogers asks to sing a song.
He goes into “It’s You I Like,” complete with Tommy Newsome leading the NBC band. There’s a line in the song “not your toys—they’re just beside you.” But Mr. Rogers looks right into Joan Rivers’s eyes and sings:
“The way you are right now,
The way down deep inside you,
Not the things that hide you,
Not your jokes --
They’re just beside you.”
And he hits the word “jokes” like a Flaming Sword of Truth that goes straight into Joan Rivers’s heart, and she bursts into tears, and they have to cut to a commercial at the end of the song.Posted by on 06/16 at 05:57 PM
Just a month ago this would have been easy. I would have cited a tiny scene from the movie, “Vanishing Point” (the 1971 original with Barry Newman, not the execrable 1997 remake) that takes place when the protagonist Kowalski is tearing around in the Dodge Challenger, lost in the desert.
Now, I saw this movie right when it first came out (yes, I am *that* old), and loved it so much I went back and saw it another 2 or 3 times, dragging various friends along—“You have GOT to see this far out movie!” (Admittedly, at least part of my enthusiasm for that particular cinematic experience had to do with the sensory enhancement provided by the ingestment of certain mind-altering substances prior to arrival at the theatre—a routine activity in those days.)
In any case, I always remembered a small bit during the lost in the desert segment where the scene cuts away to the blind D.J. “Supersoul” picking up his sunglasses and putting them on, whereupon it cuts back to Kowalski putting on *his* sunglasses.
Through the course of the movie up to that point the implication has been building that there’s some sort of telepathic/psychic connection going on between the two characters, but that tiny bit of business with the sunglasses—to my mind—was the perfect encapsulation of that bond, and it always stuck in my memory.
One big problem, though; that scene apparently never happened. I saw “Vanishing Point” again about a decade later on TV and eagerly watched for that specific scene. It wasn’t there!
“Oh hell, they CUT it!” thought I, outraged at the desecration, but never for a moment doubting my memory. That is, until this past May when, in a fit of nostalgia, I gave in to the urge to order the DVD from Amazon.
Upon delivery I eagerly inserted the disc into the player and prepared for the exoneration of my 35-year-old memory. The scene ISN’T THERE! Kowalski indeed puts on his sunglasses in the desert just as I remembered, but there is no preceding cut to a scene of Supersoul putting on *his*.
If this scene had in fact existed, it would most certainly have met the criteria of being one of those “little things, in the long history of human expressive culture, that makes life worth living”. Alas, its apparent non-existence has been a life-shattering experience for me, throwing into profound doubt my entire sense of self/memory/consciousness. I may never recover…
(capcha word: “real”—as in, I have no idea what IS anymore...)Posted by on 06/16 at 06:15 PM
My favorite Robert Duvall moment is in A Family Thing (wonderful movie in which he learns he’s James Earl Jones’ half-brother)—the yodel.
Someone else cited Glenn Close. I nominate her goofy grin in The Big Chill in the kitchen the morning after she’s lent her husband (and his sperm) to their friend.
In the new Pixar flick, Cars, the green race cars is blanketed with corporate sponsors’ logos. The best one: htB, “Hostile Takeover Bank.”Posted by Orange on 06/16 at 06:30 PM
Barney and Nora on the train platform in Pope of Greenwich Village when he has to skedaddle to stay a few steps ahead of the mobsters whose safe he has cracked. She says: “Why does it never work out for us?”Posted by Kristina on 06/16 at 06:34 PM
Ok - didn’t read all of the comments, so apologies for repeating… Mine are pretty pedestrian, actually - not the greatest of all time, but just in recent memory:
The Two Towers movie version, Gandalf: “AT LAST I THREW DOWN MY ENEMY AND SMOTE HIS RUIN UPON THE MOUNTAINSIDE!” Makes me want to stand up on the couch and proclaim along - while wearing my spear and magic helmet!
The Incredibles: when the family each strike their “kick-butt action hero” pose.
And ok, speaking of A Fish Called Wanda: Kline, “we didn’t lose Vietnam, it was a tie!”Posted by on 06/16 at 06:38 PM
The penguin in Gregory’s Girl.
Stan Ridgway’s spoken “You were the plate last time” after the third (?) chorus of “Knife and Fork.”
The length of the pause between the two last words when Richard Thompson sings, “You deserve everything you’ve got . . coming.” in “Put It There.”
Alvy’s expression after Annie orders white bread, pastrami, and mayonnaise at the deli in Annie Hall. Subtler, and less oft-cited, than his expression in the Walken-driving-in-the-rain bit.Posted by on 06/16 at 06:48 PM
Still more, minor perfect moments:
* Jeremy Irons’ last line in “Reversal of Fortune.” Also the scene where he says to Glenn Close “I’m your lord and master,” and immediately says he’s kidding.
* Morgan Freeman’s last line in “Se7en.”
* Near the end of “The Usual Suspects” where Chezz Palminteri tells Kevin Spacey that he thinks Keaton was good and Spacey replies “I know he was good,” as we see him shooting Keaton. Also the whole flashback sequence is excellent.
* Are the last two minutes of “Manhattan” too famous to be included here? If not, let’s do it.
* If “Top Hat” is too obvious, how about the scene in “The Band Wagon,” where Fred Astaire finally gets the vending machine to work. And from the same movie, one word: “Triplets.”
* In great WTF moments: man’s first flight in the last place you’d look for it, in “Andrei Rublev.”
* Kevin Kline holding John Cleese upside down is one thing, but then there’s the later moment where Kline, after humiliating Cleese, sneers that the British don’t like winners, and Cleese says “Winners--like North Vietnam?”
* Brazil: “Care for a little necrophilia?”
* Myrna Loy to William Powell in either “The Thin Man” or the first sequel, when after asking whether she’s having a good time: “Yes, it’s the best dinner I’ve ever listened too.”
* Of the many moments in the Ian McKellan “Richard III,” there’s the line: “I thank God for my humility.” (Now that’s a slogan for National Review.)
* If the Beatles are too big to mention the opening of “A Hard Day’s Night,” (in my opinion the best James Bond sequence EVER) and the climax of Beethoven’s ninth symphony is even bigger, how about the scene in “Help!” where a whole stadium full of people rescue Ringo by singing it?
* Tess: “I’ve killed him.”
* Red Dwarf, Season Six, Episode Six, when Rimmer realizes that his colleagues are dead.
* Doctor Who: Warriors of the Deep: “There should have been another way.”
* Doctor Who: The Curse of Fenric: “Do you know what a traitor is? A traitor is someone who doesn’t know who the enemy is.”
* Monty Python: There are so many moments, but nothing makes me smile like Cardinal Richelieu imitating Petulia Clark, belting out “Don’t Sleep in the Subway.”
* Kenneth Branagh “Henry V”: “May I with right and power make this claim?”Posted by on 06/16 at 07:02 PM
Two moments from the movie <i>Go<i>:
When Sarah Polley lands on Jay Mohr’s windshield, he turns on the windshield wipers.
When Jay Mohr realizes the cop is trying to work an Amway knockoff on him, he says, “So this is Amway?”
The look on the cop’s face says perfectly, “Why do they always say that?”Posted by Crazy Little Thing on 06/16 at 07:10 PM
The little chipmunk that pops out in one of the episodes of “Tommy Goes to College” to taunt Tommy’s mediocre showing in a class, and chirps “Tommy got a Ceeeeee eeeeee!”Posted by A. G. on 06/16 at 07:12 PM
Speaking of Reversal of Fortune, this exchange is priceless:
Alan Dershowitz: You are a very strange man.
Claus von Bülow: You have no idea.
Also, the lavatory scene in Tommy Boy slays me every time.Posted by Orange on 06/16 at 07:13 PM
Stan Ridgway’s spoken “You were the plate last time” after the third (?) chorus of “Knife and Fork.”
Ah, yes...Ridgway is a genius of the throwaway line. I love the fadeout of Call of the West, with the guy screaming “I used to be somebody! Don’t walk away from me! I used to be somebody!”Posted by Tom Hilton on 06/16 at 07:16 PM
Or John Wetton’s “Woah!” toward the end of the King Crimson song “Fracture” as if he can’t believe the stuff their playing either.
There are similar equally thrilling, apparently spontaneous whoops in The Shins’ “So Says I” and New Order’s “Everything’s Gone Green.”Posted by on 06/16 at 07:31 PM
The scene early in Fritz Lang’s The Big Heat in which Detective Bannion (Glenn Ford) and his wife Katie (Jocelyn Brando...Marlon’s big sister) have dinner together. Something about the way they share a beer provides the most sympathetic possible portrait of 1950s middle-class domesticity (though one senses that Lang is well aware of its limits, too).
The use of the Aimee Mann’s “Save Me” in Magnolia.
Everett Sloane’s delivery of the following line in Citizen Kane: “It’s no trick to make a lot of money...if all you want to do is make a lot of money.”
The opening shot of Sam Fuller’s The Naked Kiss in which Kelly (Constance Towers) beats up her pimp. In the middle of which, he reaches up and pulls off her hair (which turns out to be a wig); she’s entirely bald. The whole thing is shot from the pimp’s POV.
I just saw Nic Roeg’s Don’t Look Now for the first time last night. It’s a wonderful movie with many wonderful tiny details, but I’m still digesting it. I’m sure, however, that something in it qualifies (though as with my “Hearts & Crosses” suggestion above, it ain’t a bit life affirming).Posted by on 06/16 at 07:38 PM
Don’t Look Now? Aaaaah! My mom took me to see that in an art theater when I was about 12. The “little thing” I remember most from that movie was Donald Sutherland’s penis—which I was a tad young to be seeing.Posted by Orange on 06/16 at 07:44 PM
Five small pleasures, two musical, one cinematic, two literary (of which one is very, very obscure and both are Middle English):
1) The very first bass (guitar?) stroke of “Our House” by Madness. Does it for me every time. I’m getting chills just thinking about it.
2) The banter on Wilco’s Kicking Television after a fan screams “Kansas City!”—Tweedy responds, “Thanks for coming here all the way from Kansas City. Now shut the fuck up.” (OK, that one has as much to do with the fact that I’m from KC as anything. But still, a minor pleasure.)
3) Another Whit Stillman moment (others mentioned above): in Barcelona, Chris Eigemann’s character and the other dude are talking and Chris asks, “Why is everyone always talking about the subtext? What’s the thing that’s above the subtext?” His buddy gives him a look and responds: “The text.” That line—that’s my favorite moment in a movie full of bigger pleasures.
4) This line in the description of the Monk in the General Prologue to the Canterbury Tales (major work, minor moment): “He was a manly man, to been an abbot able.”
5) And the silliest line of Middle English poetry ever, which makes me giggle every time, from decidely non-major Havelok the Dane: “Ubbe dubbede him to kniht.”Posted by Dr. Virago on 06/16 at 07:50 PM
Every time the characters in Strictly Ballroom say “Pan-Pacific Grand Prix Amateur Championships” the same way a person might say “the meeting with the Pope, Dalai Lama, Nelson Mandela, and Mario Lemieux” I crack up.
And the way Celia Cruz yelled ¡Azúcar!Posted by Caro on 06/16 at 07:51 PM
The way Cumbia musicians often holla “Koooom-byahhhh” during a song.
Black tea flavored with cardamom.
The drop of sweat that hit me in the eye after flying all the way across the Wolfgang’s mosh pit from Exene’s hair in August 1986.
Eric Alterman.Posted by Chris Clarke on 06/16 at 07:55 PM
Larry Bird’s retirement party. Boston Garden. February 4, 1993. Magic Johnson announces “There will never, ever be another Larry Bird.” before he reveals a #33 Celtics jersey hiding beneath his Laker garb.Posted by on 06/16 at 08:00 PM
And Caro - the intense moment of decision culminating in the mock-heroic leaping off the ramp to go find his other dance partner… I love that.
And music wise: the cadence of Sara Vaughan’s voice in “They Can’t Take That Away From Me”
“The way you hold your hat...”Posted by on 06/16 at 08:28 PM
And anything where Graham Chapman puts on his serious stiff-upper-lip-British-stoic face…Posted by on 06/16 at 08:31 PM
Steely Dan - Peg - at the end of the first verse, Donald Fagen says ‘Peg’, right after singing “I know they’re gonna love it.” Not duplicated in the other choruses, I listen for it every time I hear the song.Posted by on 06/16 at 08:54 PM
"Fast Times at Ridgemont High”: Sean Penn is fantasizing about being on TV, and in his fantasy he starts hyperfocusing on the reporter’s jacket and asking where he got it from.
My first package of stale Peeps during Easter season.
Marlene Dietrich’s nickname being “Frenchy” in “Destry Rides Again.”Posted by emily on 06/16 at 08:56 PM
Looks like there are still a few reasons to keep on living. OK, as for
In the middle of that verse—Yeah, right there!—Paul gets just a tad funky on the bass!
That’s a nice little run, isn’t it? And his work on “Something” is almost the entire song, capped off by a slower but equally adept run in the third verse. I’ve always been fond of the bass line on “Nowhere Man,” myself, because (a) it’s almost another song entirely and (b) it’s so subtle, and so buried, that you practically have to remix the damn song to hear just how inventive it is, especially on the “nowhere man, please listen” verses.
<i>The scene in Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid where Steve Martin is standing in the kitchen pouring (as-yet-unbrewed) coffee. He pours ... and pours ... and keeps pouring. It’s funny enough by itself, but at just the right moment he heaves a sigh. Hilarious.
Alek, I picked my three film examples the simple way: little snippets I’ve played over and over, stunned by their brilliance the first time around. The simply stoned coffee scene (and who is that on the bed, looking at Martin so querulously as the coffee pours and pours?) was one of those. I mean, it’s right up there with “breakfast flakes” for sheer WTF gratuitous funny, which is some of the best funny in the world (see “brain fever” and the long nonsense German word in that final scene of Soap Dish, too. Utterly inspired stuff).
And speaking of well-timed sighs:
The second time Van Morrison sings, “you know I will be coming home” in “Into the Mystic.” He drops down and holds the mmmm sound out and it sends shivers down my spine.
And then sighs slightly! That whole song sends shivers down my spine. How cool it was to play it at my friend Larry’s wedding last fall.
Stuck with me this far? Lemme second Galaxy Quest as a perfect little movie. Countless pleasures, rewards repeated viewing. The supporting cast just got better. Justin Long, the teen fan who obssesses over the “quantum flux conundrum,” stars in the keen new iMac ads with John Hodgman.
And let’s not forget his fine, fine work in Dodgeball!
The drop of sweat that hit me in the eye after flying all the way across the Wolfgang’s mosh pit from Exene’s hair in August 1986.
Ah! To die for, the sweat of Exene. I will imagine it flew from her hair after she sang, “good morning midnight” from “Under the Big Black Sun.” That’s a good thought to think.Posted by Michael on 06/16 at 09:11 PM
The way Ray Davies sings “lucky me” in the line “I was born, lucky me...” from Victoria. He hits the perfect note of understated sarcasm. Makes me chuckle every time.Posted by on 06/16 at 09:23 PM
I’ve always loved the scene in Mystery Men where they are trying to rescue Captain Amazing and there’s a mishap that ends in him getting fried. William Macy’s character says, “what do you mean we killed him?”
Sarah Polley in No Such Thing.
Hedwig’s wigs.Posted by iamcoyote on 06/16 at 09:28 PM
Pamela Brown’s entrance—with hounds—in Powell and Pressburger’s “I Know Where I’m Going!”.Posted by on 06/16 at 10:29 PM
In the Beatles’ “Sun King,” the little guitar filigree right before the song’s first words. Also, that little breath: “Here comes” breath “the Sun King.”
Minor parts of a minor song, but when I’m walking through the supermarket, listening to it on the iPod, I have to stop momentarily in the middle of the aisle.Posted by on 06/16 at 10:45 PM
Oh! The “sculpture” outside the front entrance of the Initech building in Office Space.Posted by Chris Clarke on 06/16 at 10:48 PM
Hmmm… in the Louis Armstrong/Louis Jordan (?) duet of Life is So Peculiar, the exchange:
I love birds!
(I do too!)
Dunno why. Admittedly it’s a little random.
Also, in Strangers on a Train when Robert Walker pops the kid’s balloon with his cigarette. But that one probably makes me a horrible person.Posted by Marita on 06/16 at 10:51 PM
When I first started working for the post office in San Francisco way back in 1979, one of the guys hired with me was the drummer from Spiral Starecase (Danny Glover’s younger brother too). We were all put on the night shift and were supposed to sort bundles of mail by city, but there never was enough mail, so after it came down the belt and we’d sorted it, we’d gather up the mail and put it back in a hamper and sort it again. Vincent used to come over the Bay Bridge from somewhere in the East Bay on his motorcycle. The only thing that kept us awake were his stories about being in a band, groupies, etc. Don’t know if any of it was true, but it kept us awake. Nice guy.Posted by Bob in Pacifica on 06/16 at 11:05 PM
The last 13 notes of Tommy Keene’s studio cover of Lou Reed’s “Kill Your Sons”. I don’t have to count them to know which one is last; there’s something about the way they’re played that makes it inevitable.
Damn, I just remembered something even better from Tommy Keene. The intro to “Places That Are Gone” on the original EP (not Songs from the Film) has a wonderful sound montage ending with Russ Hodge’s immortal “THE GIANTS WIN THE PENNANT! THE GIANTS WIN THE PENNANT!” faded back as the guitar comes in to start the song. It’s criminal that they left it off the album.
The rhythm, bass, and drum entry on Television’s “Marquee Moon”, before the lead jangles in.Posted by on 06/16 at 11:05 PM
One from the books:
The incomparable Ignatius Reilly in Toole’s A Confederacy of Dunces
My respiratory system, unfortunately, is below par. I suspect that I am the product of particularly weak conception on the part of my father. His sperm was probably emitted in a rather offhand manner.Posted by on 06/16 at 11:21 PM
Somewhere in the midst of Jeremy Irons’ confession of his betrayal of Ben Kingsley in Betrayal, Kingsley says with brilliant understatement, “I think I WILL sit down.”
In Blues Brothers, when Aykroyd picks up Belushi in a recycled cop car, Belushi lights a smoke and throws the lighter out the window. After Aykroyd overcomes Belushi’s resentment by extolling the car’s virtues and punctuating his point by driving it over an open drawbridge, he asks, “So whaddya say? Is this the new Bluesmobile?” Belushi’s reply: “Fix the lighter.”
Other Blues Brothers gems: Aykroyd explaining, “This is glue. Strong stuff.” John Candy asking, “Who wants an Orange Whip? Orange Whip? Orange Whip?”
On Live Rhymin’, someone in the crowd shouts, “Say a few words!” Paul Simon starts his reply, “Say a few words? Well, let’s hope we continue to live...” and hesitates; the hesitation stretches out until the incomplete thought becomes complete via attrition, as it were. Everyone cheers, sealing the inadvertent brilliance of the remark.Posted by on 06/17 at 12:08 AM
John Astin’s performance as the schoolteacher in the gym dance scene in West Side Story.
And the way Jerry Lee Lewis yells, “It’s a hit!” at the end of “Big-Legged Woman.”Posted by Brooklynite on 06/17 at 12:12 AM
The character in David Lodge’s Small World—I don’t have the book with me and can’t recall his name—who agrees to make a presentation at a conference a full year out but then manages to procrastinate at every opportunity. He convinces himself that he will write it over spring break, the week before the conference, the night before leaving, on the airplane, in his hotel room, etc. But he never gets it done. But he is spared when the speaker in front of him on the panel stands to speak and keels over with a heart attack, all hell breaking loose. Some fantasies are just too good to be true.Posted by on 06/17 at 12:14 AM
From John, comment #46 above: “Scottie Pippen helping Michael Jordan to the bench in Game 5 of the 1997 NBA finals, after Jordan, exhausted from playing despite the flu, has put in 38 points including the game-winning three-pointer.”
I got a little tingle of recognition when I read that one. That walk to the sideline is perhaps my all-time favorite sports moment. Thanks for reminding me of it.Posted by Steve Lawson on 06/17 at 12:15 AM
Two classical-music examples that always make me laugh with pleasure, because the piece gets out of the starting gate so fast: Mendelssohn, “Italian” symphony, the bar of intro before the tune begins; and Schumann, piano concerto, first three notes. (I suppose they only really acquire this quality once you’ve listened to the whole pieces often enough.)
Also, one favorite among a million silly details in movies. When Mia Farrow finally reaches the room where the Satanists are worshipping “Rosemary’s Baby”, she drops her giant horror-movie kitchen knife and keeps walking toward the crib. Someone (Ruth Gordon) rushes up behind her to pluck the knife out of the floorboards, and rubs at the scratch it left. (And I suppose that, like scarletwoman, I might find on watching again that this detail isn’t even there.)Posted by on 06/17 at 01:43 AM
In Fleetwood Mac’s ‘You Make Lovin’Fun’, there’s a short guitar lick near the end that thrills me every time I hear it.Posted by on 06/17 at 02:16 AM
Yanick Etienne’s almost orgasmic wailing at the end of Roxy Mucic’s “Avalon.”
It’s one of the most perfect moments in rock music. Twenty-four years after first hearing it, I still get goosebumps.Posted by Alex van Waldenberg III on 06/17 at 02:38 AM
In Tootsie, the absolutely perfect moment is the exchange between Bill Murray and Dustin Hoffman: “Good shower?” “Good shower.”
My musical moment is the pause in the middle of “Tatooed Love Boys” by the Pretenders that gets me everytime - I rewind the song to hear a pause!Posted by on 06/17 at 08:19 AM
Somewhere in the midst of Jeremy Irons’ confession of his betrayal of Ben Kingsley in Betrayal, Kingsley says with brilliant understatement, “I think I WILL sit down.”
Ooooh! And his delivery of the line “it gives you both a thrill” in that scene was so jawdroppingly good I sat through the film twice just to see it. Back before VCRs and “rewind” buttons, that was what you had to do.Posted by Michael on 06/17 at 09:53 AM
So many things. Just staying on a drum thing, lots of little tom tom bits make songs for me, from Ringo, to the Stone Roses. This morning I’m listening to the Everly Brothers “Its Everly Time”.
Lots of classics on this album, but a filler track 2 called “Just In Case” has an absolutely rocking tom pattern that, combined with James Burton’s shimmering tele not-power-chords-but-are, together make a pre-rock thing that still demands to be turned up. Then the brother’s voices start below the notes and pull up to hit it just in time.
I think I could fill a post on the little things on these records, from James Burton’s shimmering tremelo on “Sleepless nights” (which demands a film scene cut to it), to his perfect twang master elsewhere. The interesting chord melody sense of Boudreaux Bryant, seen in the same track and Love Hurts, the brother harmony moments that drift from sweet 6ths and 9ths to bluesy blue notes.
When you play something for a while, you can pull apart your favorite records for all these little things that you insist are pure genius. I wonder how many of them are accidents banged into during rushed 3-song a day sessions.Posted by on 06/17 at 11:07 AM
Or “It’s Raining” by Irma Thomas, an Allen Toussaint production.
The whole note snare, and triplet closed high-hat and triplet schoolkid simple piano plonks combined with the gospel falsetto backing girls singing clipped “drip, drop” before the “aaaaahhhhs” actually evoke rain as she sings her meloncholic resignation.
Add a major-to-minor chord change, and voila, perfect single.Posted by on 06/17 at 11:47 AM
"Forget it, Jake. It’s Chinatown.”Posted by Bob in Pacifica on 06/17 at 12:05 PM
Michael, this one is too easy:
Tommy Stinson’s baseline holding “Left of the Dial” together for a few seconds longer than it should. The song’s stumbling, then out of the chaos you hear the bouncy, impassioned notes coming from Tommy, and all is right in the world. (You, over there in the corner, you mean to tell me you don’t already own Tim? For shame, dude, for shame. There are little lyrical moments almost as brilliant on that song: Paul’s flub of “playing makeup, wearing guitar” on “Left of the Dial”; the image of “a picture on a fridge, never stocked with food.")
Improperly unminor, but still small alternatives:
Bill Murray’s haunting karaoke of “More Than This” in Lost in Translation. He breaks Ferry’s ballad so beautifully there.
The closing credits of Paul Auster’s Smoke, in which Augie returns the camera and eats with the old blind lady while Tom Waits reassures us that we’re innocent, when, we dream, when, we dream…Posted by Scott Eric Kaufman on 06/17 at 12:39 PM
There are a lot of moments like this in SCTV. Two come to mind from an episode where Catherine O’Hara as Lola Heatherton is interviewing Andrea Martin as Mother Theresa. Mother Theresa has just talked about her mission. Lola says “Mother Theresa, you’re so special, it’s scary!”
The other moment is that when Lola is sitting face to face interviewing Mother Theresa, Lola is wearing a white nun’s habit with the distinctive blue stripes that Mother Theresa wore… except Lola’s is made out of sequins.Posted by on 06/17 at 01:06 PM
It would be banal to mention the Napoleon Dynamite dance, wouldn’t it? My favorite part, on repeated viewings, is the putting the tape in at the beginning and where his body goes back to being awkward at the end.
Musically, it changes from week to week though the first few seconds of Shiner’s “Cake” pretty much always fucking rock.Posted by Jonathan on 06/17 at 01:19 PM
Forgetting to buy coffee the night before, but finding the exact amount necessary for the needed dose of caffein left in the tupperware, and THEN cracking two egges into skillet and finding that both of them are double yolks.Posted by on 06/17 at 01:20 PM
Sorry, Bob in Pacifica (#129). If Gilda ain’t minor, neither is “Forget it, Jake. It’s Chinatown” (though it’s unquestionably great).Posted by on 06/17 at 01:27 PM
This should be a regular feature (give us a chance to think ‘em up!). Kudos to all for excellent suggestions (but some are indeed “too big").
Some good West Wing moments have been mentioned (I love Toby’s gestures when warning of the “wrath of the whatever"), but let’s not forget Sports Night (not the breakup scene, which is too classic, but perhaps Natalie’s subsequent insistence that “it didn’t take").
Starship captains’ reading glasses.
In film, I will limit myself to one: Dominique Pinon deftly but discreetly keeping his myopic date from spilling the tea in Delicatessen.
Musically, I love new wave guitar breaks consisting of a single irritated “chk!” (Television’s “Friction,” Gang of Four’s “Paralysed") ...
... and another appreciative “yeah!”, this one at the end of Roxy Music’s “All I Want is You”.
Pure sugar rush: Barbara Gaskin’s harmony vocals on Stewart & Gaskin’s cover of “I’m in a Different World” (e.g. “and that’s where I wanna be").
Strauss’s Herod sweet-talking Salome in pure Viennese fashion: “Tauche deine kleinen roten Lippen hinein ... “
The black comedy of the three ministers mocking the Unknown Prince’s devotion in Turandot: “O ragazzo demente! Turandot non esiste! Non esiste che il Tao!”
The tendency of Pogo‘s Deacon Mushrat to speak in Old English type. (And P. T. Bridgeport’s circus banners. And his inability to remember his rabbit colleague’s name, combined with his inventive guesses.)Posted by Duck on 06/17 at 01:52 PM
Too fun. Lurkers must join in:
1. The way Kirby Puckett would stamp his foot. It was a stamp, not a stomp.
2. Absolutely everything in Breaker Morant, but especially the clasp of hands as they walk to their execution.
3. The theme music to the TV cartoon show “Hey, Arnold.” It just makes me happy that there’s this jazzy little not-so-loud & obnoxious theme for a kids’ show.
4. That the hyenas are goose-stepping in the song “Be Prepared” in the movie The Lion King.
5. The way Stevie Ray Vaughn says “express yourself”—“spress yuhself”—before he tears into it in “Mary Had A Little Lamb” on the “Live Alive” CD.Posted by on 06/17 at 02:35 PM
re: #91—the penguin in ‘gregory’s girl’: yes! how could i have forgotten that one?! and bill forsythe’s whole career is made up of just this kind of moment. the way dicky bird sez “but i was reading the book” to his wife as she’s suddenly packing up and leaving him to resolve the glasgow ice cream wars (in ‘comfort and joy’, the way gregory’s second word of italian is also ‘bela’ (in ‘gregory’s girl’. this list alone could go on and on.
two more: neil patrick harris in ‘harold and kumar go to white castle’ (i’d also nominate the little onion bits ON white castle burgers), and the name ernst hackaloogy (sp?) from the old cheech and chong invisible man wrestling routine.
oh, michael, how can you not remember ‘godots’ (the flyer had a picture of samuel beckett bound and gagged,from an amnesty international ad)? of course, other flyers for the same show advertised throat growth, blame not my lute, and opie goes bad as that night’s attraction.Posted by on 06/17 at 02:49 PM
I haven’t seen a film in decades, but I clearly remember :
Lauren Bacall : Got a light, Steve?
The rabbit called Trudy in Local Hero
Austin Pendleton in What’s Up Doc? and since then in a number of films. An underappreciated actor.
The Everly Bros : Poor JennyPosted by on 06/17 at 04:14 PM
a smile and a laugh:
1. elvis presley’s last concert when he is singing unchained melody playing piano all alone and a roadie is holding the mic up for him. you can’t even recognize elvis because he is so fat. but the performance is a glorious moment in an otherwise horrible concert. and at the end he flashes a smile at the camera and he looks like elvis again. what a moment.
2. john lennon cracking up at the beginning of hard days night when he looks back and sees that george harrison has wiped out on the sidewalk. beatles ruled the world at that time.Posted by a-train on 06/17 at 05:37 PM
In Allegro Non Tropo, in one of the live action connecting bits between the animations, the Conductor is in the midst of a long tirade urging the Animator to work faster.
A blizzard begins on stage.
The Narrator, in a resigned tone, remarks, “Snow in the theatre, a very bad sign!”
For me, the metaphor for everyday life.Posted by handdrummer on 06/17 at 05:43 PM
Still more perfect minor moments:
* The first page of Uncanny X-Men #138; a haunting combination of black and purple, easily the best thing John Byrne ever did.
* The identity of the elevator killer in “The Man with Two Brains.” Close runner up: the German drunk driving test that follows shortly thereafter.
* The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie: “You’ve heard of worker priests? Now there are worker bishops.”
* In children’s movies, “Consider Yourself” in “Oliver!,” and the Genie’s first musical number in “Aladdin.” But Disney’s “Alice in Wonderland,” is arguably his best movie, since it doesn’t have his vices (sentimentality, didactic lessons, and bland female characters. And instead of ignoring the original material, it actually works as fusion of Carroll’s strangeness and Disney’s energy. So check out the Mad Tea party.
* Phoebe Buffay: “And you may get everything you ever wanted since you were fifteen.” Runner up: Chandler Bing: “Joseph Stalin IS the Fiddler on the Roof.”
* The Prisoner: The final two minutes of “Once Upon a Time;” the scene where Number Six sees himself in “Fall Out” just before he meets “Number One,” and the sad mournful music that plays once he’s escaped back to London, as well as the jaunty music that plays over the credits.
* Newhart: “You ask for Apollo, the god of the Sun?” (He’s interviewing an old woman who had produced a silly but effective scheme for avoiding long distance charges.)
* The Simpsons are probably too major to be considered perfectly minor, but perhaps people have forgotten the scene in 1994 where Apu tells Seymour Skinner why it would be a very bad idea to write a novel surprisingly similar to “Jurassic Park.” And then there is the scene in 2002 where Homer mentions the several dozen occupations he’s had aside from being a nuclear plant safety inspector.
* Cary Grant in “His Girl Friday,”: “The last man who said that to me ["You’re through"] was Archie Leach before he cut his throat.”Posted by on 06/17 at 07:36 PM
* And one more, the scene in “Absolutely Fabulous” where Edina decks the creep who has been harrassing Saffron.
* Any great “Newsradio” moments: One is the scene where Maura Tierney berates herself for failing to recognize an allusion to “Flowers for Algernon,” and Dave Foley tells her no reason she should have.Posted by on 06/17 at 07:44 PM
A couple of mine have been mentioned, I have a couple in reaction to reading this thread:
#95 mentioned Jeremy Irons’ von Bulow: “You have no idea.”
Irons re-used that line as Scar in The Lion King, and it was the only thing that let me endure the thousand playings my kids gave that tape.
William Powell in The Thin Man, carefully shooting out the Christmas tree ornaments with an air rifle.
Maggie Bell’s false start on “Every Picture Tells a Story”. Which should have been edited out, except that it’s somehow perfect.
And in The Annals of Great Pauses: on the recent Cream reunion concert at Royal Albert Hall, the trio is playing “Badge”, and hits the pause when George Harrison’s solo is supposed to come in… and they wait an extra measure, until all 20,000 people in the hall fully realize that George won’t be coming in this time.
Clapton finally has to take George’s part.
Pretty electrifying, for old guys playing a 40-year old song.Posted by on 06/17 at 08:09 PM
oh, and steve earle calling out, just before ‘galway girl’ (on transcendental blues) “let’s magnetize this motherfucker.”Posted by on 06/17 at 09:00 PM
The live version of “Break Down” where Tom Petty lets the audience do all the singing for him, and then just says “You’re gonna put me out of a job!”
The scene in “The Sting” that’s a perfect recreation of Edward Hopper’s “Nighthawks”.
The big swordfight at the end of “The Princess Bride” - I never pay attention to the actual fighting (You killed my father! Prepare to die!) Instead, I’m usually marveling at how perfectly Mark Knopfler’s sound track fits, and advances, the action on screen.
The Animal House sight gag I missed the first five times: “Knowledge is Good”
“The In Laws” (1979, not the 2003 abomination), when Alan Arkin sees the General’s scar that he’s not supposed to notice. In fact, half of that movie is made up of brilliant, tossed-off, incidental grace notes.
And my West Wing moment is the season 2 finale “Two Cathedrals” where they’re flashing back and forth between President Bartlett and young student Jed. At one point, the flashback is done by quick switching between Martin Sheen starting to flip his jacket over his head in that unique way of his, to the teenager completing the action 30 years earlier. Totally cool.Posted by on 06/18 at 12:16 AM
Sure, it’s Handel’s Messiah, a prominent work, but towards the end of the chorus “His yolk is easy, his burthen is light” Handel collects his forces for an crying utterance of the phrase that seems completely paradoxical, not sure if it is communicating joy of salvation or woe of crucifixion. It’s just a few bars, the crux of the piece if you will - the end of the Christmas-y natal section and the beginning of the postpartum depression of the crucifixion-oriented middle section of the work.
The entrance of the transverse flutes and later, the boy’s choir in the “Kommt, ihr Tochter, helft mir klagen” chorus at the beginning of Bach’s St. Matthew Passion. That’s complete mastery right there.Posted by on 06/18 at 02:35 AM
Since there have been at least a couple of references to “Raising Arizona”, I’ve got a mention or two from that film.
How about the fight sequence in the single-wide trailer home? It’s an excellent parody of fight scenes in general. Within that scene, there is a moment where Nic Cage’s character swings his arms above his head in preparation to hit or club the Goodman character, and he scraps his knuckles on the white textured ceiling. PURE FILM-MAKING GOLD. Makes me laugh just thinking about it… a parody of slapstick that’s funnier than slapstick.
Also from that film, the phrase “OK then!”. I use it all the time unconsciously.
There’s more from that film, but I must sleep now.Posted by on 06/18 at 03:55 AM
This is a fun thread. There are so many of these great little moments, though. How to pick?
The Tiny Dancer scene on the bus in Almost Famous. Men with Brooms, when The Tragically Hip is introduced as the opposing team. Cordelia to Angel in the first season of Angel, “Are you still all Grrr?” The first time I saw Springsteen live and he did one of his famous soliloquays, leading into I don’t know what song but it doesn’t matter. The sax solo from Turn the Page, live, sitting on a grassy hill in Toronto (me, not the solo). As a performer, getting to play the trombone part in the theme from The Simpsons and nailing it at the right moment. During a performance of Jesus Christ Superstar, looking up at my conductor during John Nineteen Forty-One and seeing him with tears streaming down his face as he conducted.Posted by on 06/18 at 08:42 AM
how about something unmediated?
the deck is hot and the water is cool and I am floating on my back in a lake with my ears submerged. I am the only person there. I can’t hear anything outside of the water in my head, and all I can see is a blue sky and big white clouds.
my harmonica friend is playing me.
now those two mediated.Posted by on 06/18 at 10:31 AM
Percussion: The crack in the drum solo of Steely Dan’s “Aja,” a flaw in the midst of perfection.
from “The Big Lebowski”:
The Dude: Yeah, well. The Dude abides.
The Stranger: The Dude abides. I don’t know about you but I take comfort in that. It’s good knowin’ he’s out there. The Dude. Takin’ ‘er easy for all us sinners.
Not small enough: John Huston in “Chinatown” to Jake Gittes. At the right place and right time a man is capable of “almost anything.”Posted by on 06/18 at 10:57 AM
John Coltrane’s 16-bar solo on “Blue in Green,” on the Miles Davis Kind of Blue album.Posted by on 06/18 at 12:21 PM
movies: pretty much every line uttered by gene hackman in <the royal tennenbaums> qualifies as its own little thing. but especially: “but i’m gonna live.”
also from that film : “can the boy tell time?” bill murray: (pause) “of course not.”
from books: there’s this part in the <Passagenwerk> where Walter Benjamin makes fun of Walt Whitman. of course, i can’t find it again.
music: when all those 1980s british pop-stars first begin the chorus of “feed the world” in <do they know it’s christmas?> ahhh, childhood.
from life: the smooth surface of a brand new jar of peanut butter.Posted by sarah on 06/18 at 02:39 PM
Great Thread. I have several of them, two from the four Wise men of Liverpool. Happy 64th birthday, sir Paul. The tympany parts on Every Little Thing and the reverse guitar solo on I’m only Sleeping. From Film, the Madison dance number from Godard’s Band of Outsiders and Ginger Roger’s reaction close up to Astaire’s dancing in the Pick Yourself Up number from Swing Time and The slow motion intro of DeNiro as Johnny Boy walking along the bar to Jumping Jack Flash in Scorsese’s Mean Streets.
It’s a gas, gas, gas.Posted by on 06/18 at 03:21 PM
1)Drum bit: Towards the end of “Forest Flower” on the Live at Monterey album, Charles LLoyd jumps on octave on a simple melody and can’t get the final two notes while drummer Jack DeJohnette substitutes two rim shots - perfect!
2) The crowd’s reaction when the same Charles Lloyd Quartet (with Keith Jarrett on piano) starts to play a cover of the Beatles’ “Here, There & Everywhere” on their Live at the Filmore album cica 1967.
3)The late, great Early-Music-meets-Rock-and- Jazz-and-Folk-band Gryphon’s live version of “Estampie” on the eponomously named double CD where the improvising crumhorn soloist quotes “Over the Rainbow” - just beautiful!Posted by on 06/18 at 05:20 PM
Here’s another one:
In “The Wild Bunch”, at the General’s banquet when things get tense, one of the Gorch brothers slowly moves his drink from his right hand to his left, getting ready to shoot.Posted by on 06/18 at 05:59 PM
Richard Thompson’s various ways of singing ..."to carry me home,” in his various performances of “52 Vincent Black Lighting.” Usually similar but never identical, always hair-raising.Posted by Ron Sullivan on 06/18 at 06:36 PM
In Dr. Strangelove’s monolog about post-nuclear-war survival underground-- the phrase “animals could be bred… and SLAUGHTERED...”Posted by on 06/18 at 06:40 PM
i have a weakness for obscene sentimentality, and this may fall into the category, but i love the cinema paradiso scene where the full grown salvatore gets back to rome after alfredo’s funeral and he plays the reel that alfredo saved of all the kissing scenes that were cut.Posted by a-train on 06/18 at 11:02 PM
Coming in a little late here, but what the hell:
1. The little quaver in Patti Smith’s voice on the line “Love is an angel disguised as lust” in “Because the Night.”
2. The long shot of actor Carlo Battisti running with Flike through the park at the very end of de Sica’s Umberto D.
3. The first shot of the scissors cutting the hair of Maria Falconetti (as Joan) down to the scalp in Dreyer’s The Passion of Joan of Arc. (because it conveys so much sadness in just a few frames...)
4. The tiny pause that precedes the chords Carla Bley plays (and that alters the tempo ever so slightly) at the end of “Silence” on the album “The Ballad of the Fallen.”Posted by on 06/19 at 01:34 AM
Ooops, forgot to add an important one.
On the lyrical version of Mingus’ “Fables of Faubus” (you can hear it on “Charles Mingus Presents Charles Mingus"), the call and response betweeen Mingus and drummer Dannie Richmond that ends in Richmond’s stretched out delivery of the line “Governor Faubus.”Posted by on 06/19 at 01:53 AM
* Love and Death: “Wheat! Wheat with Feathers!”
* The climax of “Russian Ark.”Posted by on 06/19 at 02:12 AM
Okay, this time for real-
The vibes player/ing in the club after hours in Bob Le FlambeurPosted by on 06/19 at 02:50 AM
During the subway fight scene in The Matrix, there’s a half-second moment, where Neo throws a punch and Mr. Smith blocks it—but then Neo opens his fist and is so strong that the mere push of his fingertips against Mr. Smith’s throat is enough to make him cough and recoil.
I wait for that moment every time I watch that movie.
Also, the opening line or two of “Wake Me Up” by Evanescence, which doesn’t suck.Posted by on 06/19 at 07:27 AM
In Nitemare Before Christmas, the Doctor warns Jack “Curiosity killed the cat you know,” and Jack responds so gleefully: “I know!” It’s the glee in his voice that I like. My brother likes the moment in that movie near the end when it starts snowing and the werewolf gets all freaked out and shakes the snow off his shoulders.Posted by on 06/19 at 01:43 PM
Thanks to mp3s and the Internet, I’ve been getting into classic radio dramas. Two standout “minor moments”:
Agnes Moorhead in “The Yellow Wallpaper” on Suspense. There’s a scene where she’s supposed to break down and sob hysterically. This being the whole post-War era of enforced domesticity, you’d expect her to play it as “helpless woman.” But she hits this tone in her voice just as it cracks, where you can hear mature anger and frustration rather than stereotypically feminine weakness. It’s all done with vocal inflection, and it’s brilliant and horrific.
Quiet Please, “The Thing on the Fourble Board,” where the narrator interrupts his story of strange events in the oil field 20 years ago, and addresses the listener directly: “Don’t get up, or I’ll have to shoot you.” And you believe it, too.
A more mainstream movie moment: In The Godfather, Part II, when Bruno Kirby, dressed in a duster and bowler hat, stands by the sidelight, pulls out a huge Colt revolver right out of a Western, aims it directly at the cop’s head, and waits.Posted by on 06/19 at 01:49 PM
At the end of the intro to Gimmie Shelter, just before the vocal begins, Keith hits the last note in the guitar part just a little bit harder than the other notes in the riff and just a tiny instant late; the only note in the whole song that steps outside of Charlie’s cool smooth loping beat.
In Within Your Reach:
I can live without so much
I can die without a clue
Sun keeps rising in the West
where I always anticipate the obvious rhyme
I keep on waking fully dressed
but Westerberg sings
I keep on waking fully confusedPosted by on 06/19 at 03:44 PM
A flicker of a moment in a film everybody’s seen: When Jimmy Stewart’s brother comes home, and Stewart expects him to take over the Building & Loan so he can get out town, and the brother announces he’s getting married & has taken a good job with the company of his in-laws-to-be, there’s a brief close-up on Stewart as he registers the announcement. A moment of brutal disappointment where he swallows the lump in his throat, then transfigures himself into the loving big brother and wishes everybody a hearty congratulations. Makes me cry.Posted by john on 06/19 at 03:59 PM
I think Westerberg’s the only person on the list likely to appear twice for flubbing lyrics so beautifully. (I haven’t seen anyone, but maybe I’m blind?)
captcha: indeed!Posted by Scott Eric Kaufman on 06/19 at 04:43 PM
Am I alone in thinking that the line about “playing makeup, wearing guitar” in “Left of the Dial” was not a flub but intentional? I always thought it was one of his best lines.Posted by on 06/19 at 04:54 PM
I would like to nominate two things in the song “Good Times,” by Nobody’s Children. First, the singer’s laugh right after he first says the title phrase after the first verse; and second, his request “Axe it, Ray” - or at least that’s what I’ve always understood him to be saying - right before the freakout guitar solo.Posted by on 06/19 at 05:50 PM
Also there’s that weird timing on the first verse in I’m Free. The guitar sets up the rhythm, then piano and hi-hat come in landing square on the back beat. But then at the first drum-roll, right before “And freedom tastes...” piano and drums abruptly go weightless, stumble, tumble and bang right down on the front beat. Gives me the vertigo every time. Try to play that intro piano part while singing the vocal yourself!Posted by on 06/19 at 06:02 PM
Not surprised to see some Roxy Music mentions here; they have a wealth of perfect moments. Like in A Song for Europe, the way the intro peters out just before Bryan Ferry starts singing. And in If There Is Something (live version), the desperation in Ferry’s voice as he sings “I would put roses round our door, sit in the garden, growing potatoes by the score”.Posted by Tom Hilton on 06/19 at 07:06 PM
* Darlene Edwards singing “The la… The last time I saw Paris...”
* Cox in “Everything You Know Is Wrong,” having witnessed something transcendently amazing that bolsters what he’s been trying to tell us all along, saying “Well,” and being unable to do anything more than say “Well” again before finally finding words.
* The tuba solo in the Bonzo Dog Band’s “Laughing Blues,” with the very tasteful and restrained octave jump.
* Another Firesign moment when overexcited 1920s radio reporter Joe Beets describes “that glowing gasbag that plunged, zizzing, into Lake Acme barely ten minutes ago while we were setting up our equipment.”
* Sidney Bechet’s solo in “Summertime” where he plays three lines of “Miserere” from Verdi’s “Il Trovatore.”
* Chevy Chase on SNL, standing in for the Muppets by acting out a short play, “Paying The Milkman,” with his hands. The “housewife” hand, wearing a negligee, says, “However will I pay you?” and the “milkman” hand turns straight out to the audience and /flexes its fingers/ /raises its eyebrows/ makes a supremely lascivious expression at us.
* Eugene Levy as Floyd the Barber in SCTV’s “Godfather” sketch, complaining that Opie has dishonored him.Posted by on 06/20 at 11:23 AM
* Eugene Levy as Floyd the Barber in SCTV’s “Godfather” sketch, complaining that Opie has dishonored him.
Eugene Levy could do Floyd (Howard McNear) both before and after McNear’s minor stroke. He reprised the post-stroke McNear in the sketch “The Merv Griffith Show,” in which Joe Flaherty’s Don Knotts impression was so bad that they rewrote the script to have Flaherty playing Merv’s special guest Kip Adotta doing an impression of Don Knotts.Posted by on 06/21 at 04:39 PM
Oh, one more. Meant to put this in. On one of my Mickey Mouse Club records, Buddy Ebsen and Darlene Gillespie do a duet of “Buckwheat Cakes,” and there’s this moment where Buddy says, “No, it ain’t your friendly smile...” and he really does a crescendo on the “No”—“nnNNNO!” and makes a delightful little moment of it, showing how a professional gets the most out of his text. Buddy and Darlene were both real pros, and there seems to be a delightful chemistry between them. And I’ll bet they had about fifteen minutes with the song, the way they used to do stuff for that show.
Gives me a thrill of delight whenever I hear it.
(And HP, having it be “Kip Adotta” sounds like an ideal way to cover for a bad impression of somebody. I’ll check my SCTVs for that show.)Posted by on 06/21 at 10:07 PM
Pilar: “Larry, sweetie, that man is here!”Posted by on 06/23 at 12:51 AM
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Banner PrintsPosted by on 09/14 at 01:02 PM