This post was written by Lawren Desai, Executive Director and Curator of a/perture cinema.
There are a lot of “Best of the Year” or “Top 10 Films of the Year” when one year ends and the new year begins. I’ve done them before and I always find it a bit stressful to just narrow down to ten or so films when I’ve probably seen more than 200 in any given year. Honestly, sometimes come year end, all the films have started to run together a little bit in my head and what I end up remembering most are scenes within films. Scenes that stand out and don’t get jumbled into the longest running film of all time in my head.
So this year, I have decided to do something a little different and present the scenes I remember most from 2023. These are in no particular order, there is no ranking here, and it’s not a perfect list of ten either. Click on the photo to watch the scene.
“I’m Just Ken” scene from Barbie (Dir. Greta Gerwig). Not going to lie here, I want this one to take home the Oscar for Best Song so bad.
Also, the video above is from the film, but you should also watch the behind the scene version here. And also there is a holiday version as well, just in case you can’t get enough.
The prologue/opening scene from Past Lives (Dir. Celine Song). It’s just brilliant. Three people sit at a bar and you watch their conversation, but you don’t hear their conversation, instead you hear another conversation in which the other bar patrons speculate about what’s happening between the three. Watch it and if you haven’t seen the film in its entirety, I promise it will make you want to.
I’m a sucker for any films that have scenes set in a cinema, so I just loved many of the scenes in Shortcomings (Dir. Randall Park), particularly the one in which the two box office staff members are asking a new staff person what she is into “movie-wise” and then before she can answer they start talking about what they are into – one genre-auteurs and the other world cinema.
Ayo Edebiri is probably one of my new favorite actors, they just have this knack for making the awkward both endearing and hilarious while still totally believable. Bottoms (Dir. Emma Seligman) is straight up laughs from beginning to end, but Ayo’s extended monologue (only one minute is featured below) is just the best. I can’t remember remember all the hypothetical lives I thought up for myself in high school, but I’m pretty sure they were just as ridiculous as this one, but boy did I believe they might come true. (Warning: the clip may have some language inappropriate for young ears, so view with discretion).
Fremont (Dir. Babak Jalali) is definitely an under the radar film, but one I hope more people will discover over time. The premise alone had me hooked (Donya works for a Chinese fortune cookie factory. Formerly a translator for the U.S. military, she struggles to put her life back in order. In a moment of sudden revelation, she decides to send out a special message in a cookie) and all the potential humor the premise hints at really comes through in the film. The job interview scene (which features Gregg Turkington) is just so reminiscent of a not-so-great-but-memorable interview experience, something that we can all relate to.
The Eight Mountains (Dir. Felix van Groeningen and Charlotte Vandermeersch) won the Jury Prize at Cannes 2022. Like its title suggests, it’s a film set in the mountains, as in the glorious and very high Italian alps. Thus, there are a lot of picturesque scenes. There are also a lot of scenes which show how snowy and brutal the winters can be. The juxtaposition between beauty and reality made me really appreciated a scene later in the film where the characters demonstrate how different the perception nature can be from someone who actually resides in nature full-time from most of the rest of us, who occasionally dabble in it. (Note: I could only find the clip in Italian so make sure to turn on the English subtitles, which aren’t perfect.
This is what Bruno actually says in response to what nature is, ““Here we say forest, meadow, river, rock, path. Things you can point at.”)
I’m a sucker for a good dance scene in film and so the dance floor scene in Poor Things (Dir. Yorgos Lanthimos) had me from the moment Bella makes her first jerky and contorted dance move. In the scene, Bella reminds us what we all might dance like if we were still children, letting our bodies bend to the beat of the music in whichever way they naturally respond, unrestricted, uninfluenced and definitely unrefined.
I told you I love films set in the cinema so to round out my list is a scene from Fallen Leaves (Dir. Aki Kaurismäki). The two lead characters have just seen a film in what I can only imagine is an art house cinema in Helsinki. They stand in front of an exterior wall of old school film posters and have a brief, but terribly romantic conversation, like old school Hollywood romantic. I can watch this scene over and over again, maybe because it gives me hope that scenes like this have played out around the corner from a/perture, in front of our marquee on Cherry Street.