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The 10 Best Movie Micro-Moments in 2013

December 23, 2013  |  6:39pm

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As the remaining days of 2013 tick away and “Best of” lists propagate like proverbial bunnies—we have a few such lists of our own—Paste would like to step away from the widespread examination of forests and their trees to salute a few pieces of bark. The looming awards season will feature plenty of deserved hat-tipping and trophy-giving to the makers of movie magic, but hey, let’s not forget the little people—or rather, the little moments. Below are a collection of such “micro-moments” as short as a second (and seldom longer than a half-minute) that stuck in the memory of the viewer with far more tenacity than one would expect so fleeting an instance to manage.

10. Most Hilarious and Horrifying Use of Shadow Puppetry: This Is the End

The apocalyptic comedy starring Seth Rogen, James Franco and a host of other actors as “themselves” has plenty of hilarious, bro-flavored moments in it. A possessed Jonah Hill provides a few of them, but it’s how he gets the demon inside him that’s both crude, funny and a clever way to avoid an NC-17 rating. —M.B.

9. Best Glare (It’s a tie!): American Hustle

Not surprisingly, there are about as many strong performances in David O.p< Russell’s 1970s cosplay convention, American Hustle, as there are Oscar-nominated actors. Still, there’s just something about the first time the mistress (Amy Adams) and the wife (Jennifer Lawrence) of con man Irving Rosenfeld (Christian Bale) lock eyes on each other. The glare-down that follows is an evil eye tour-de-force—a visual feast of hate, disdain and murderous intent. —M.B.

8. Best Horror Homage: The Conjuring

The Conjuring was one of the best overall horror flicks in wide release this year, an unrelenting series of ghostly attacks that embraced the best of genre conventions while riveting up the intensity level. The best moment, though, occurs in the scene where the family’s mother, Carolyn, gets locked in the cellar by the dark forces of the house. Terrified, she scans the room, trying to determine what she’s been hearing, when suddenly a small rubber ball bounces out of the darkness, landing at her feet. It’s a great visual but an even greater homage to a very similar scary moment in the under-appreciated 1980 horror film The Changeling. In the film, George C. Scott’s character encounters the same rubber ball, a token of the ghost of a murdered child. Even after throwing the ball from a bridge, it still returns to haunt him. —J.V.

7. Best Use of a Cat Since The Long Goodbye: Inside Llewyn Davis

Amid all the rotten things the acerbic folk singer says and does to his friends, it was when he abandoned an orange tabby on the side of the road that he became dead to me. —A.E.

6. Best Use of Slow-Motion: Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues

Forget bullet-time. It’s bowling-ball-time. It’s scorpion-time. It’s scalding-grease-to-the-face time. Even though much of the epic RV roll-over scene is shown in the trailer, the end result of Ron Burgundy’s failure to understand exactly how cruise control works—and his decision to transport a bag of bowling balls and live scorpions—still induces tears when seen on-screen. Forget comedy gold—this is pure platinum. —M.B.

As the remaining days of 2013 tick away and “Best of” lists propagate like proverbial bunnies—we have a few such lists of our own—Paste would like to step away from the widespread examination of forests and their trees to salute a few pieces of bark. The looming awards season will feature plenty of deserved hat-tipping and trophy-giving to the makers of movie magic, but hey, let’s not forget the little people—or rather, the little moments. Below are a collection of such “micro-moments” as short as a second (and seldom longer than a half-minute) that stuck in the memory of the viewer with far more tenacity than one would expect so fleeting an instance to manage.

5. Best Capturing of the Exact Moment the Crazy Shows Through:
Room 237

At first, the people in Room 237 seem almost sensible, if eccentric. Sure, they’ve spent years of their lives meticulously going over every frame of Stanley Kubrick’s 1980 horror masterpiece The Shining, but a few could actually be onto something with their conspiracy theories regarding the famously mysterious director’s intentions. The guy who claims the film is actually about the Holocaust raises some interesting points and coincidences. The guy who thinks it’s an admission that Kubrick filmed the “fake Apollo 11 moon landing” in 1969 even has his moments. But when one of the viewers proudly announces that the secret to The Shining lies in a “poster of a Minotaur” in the background of one scene, that’s the official “Say again…?” moment of the documentary. She goes on to explain that the entire hotel is Jack “the Minotaur’s” labyrinth, even though there’s already a genuine hedge maze outside. The only problem? The poster she’s referring to is clearly an image of a downhill skier. That’s it. There’s nothing even vaguely Minotaur-like in the whole film. And that’s when you realize this woman has devoted herself to rationalizing symbolism that doesn’t even exist. —J.V.

4. Best Video Game Breakthrough: Her

Not only does Joaquin Phoenix’s Theodore Twombly get the sexiest operating system ever, he also gets to therapeutically hurl insults back and forth with a potty-mouthed little punk of a video game character director Spike Jonze refers to only as “the alien child.” It’s a wonderfully unexpected puerile laugh when Phoenix finally cracks the puzzle of how to get the little bastard to cooperate—by standing up for himself and swearing back at it. —S.W.

3. Most Deserved Adoption of the Fetal Position: Gravity
When much spun-about and dire-straited astronaut Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock) makes it onto a space station, she strips off her suit before curling up into a fetal position and just spinning in place for a few moments. After all she and the audience have been through, it’s among the most deserved and visually appropriate rests taken by any protagonist in film history. —M.B.

2. Most Basic Misunderstanding of a Mythic Character: Man of Steel

Oh. Snap. Sadly, not all moments are memorable for a good reason. After ignoring the safety of thousands of civilians in pretty much every fight sequence preceding it—and doing his part to endanger many of them in the first place—Superman gives in to the dictates of a horribly contrived scene (and remarkably stationary family) and does this little thing Superman doesn’t do: kills. At the screening I attended, someone actually shouted “Fuck, no!” at the screen when it happened. It’s a little easier to swallow if one just interprets the look of anguish on Henry Cavill’s face as the actor’s horror and disgust that Snyder (along with writer Goyer) could so misunderstand and mangle the character (and that DC Comics would let them). —M.B.

1. The Most Realistic, Parental Pang-Inducing Portrayal of a Child’s Terror: Pacific Rim

Guillermo del Toro’s Kaiju wet dream is filled with giant robots fighting giant monsters. And Ron Perlman. There shouldn’t be—and for the most part isn’t—room for things like subtle character building and emotional honesty. Yet the flashback sequence in which a young Mako Mori (Mana Ashida), bereft of her parents, lost amidst a destroyed cityscape, and noticed by the Kaiju responsible, is harrowing not so much due to the situation as for the sheer, fourth wall-shredding emotion she projects. (Surely they were slowly killing the girl’s pet puppy off-screen?) In a film about the possible end of the world at the hands of terrifying monsters, no skyscraper-sized behemoth came close to projecting the fear and despair embodied in Ashida’s performance. —M.B.

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