Friday Fun Thread

by Ted on April 15, 2005

The Onion had a fun pair of articles recently, singling out bad scenes in great movies and great scenes in bad movies. We can play, too. My picks:

Great Scene, Bad Movie:

A Guy Thing

It’s a deeply mediocre romantic comedy with an extremely dodgy premise: Jason Lee takes home a dancer from his bachelor party (Julia Stiles) who turns out to be the cousin of his fiancee (Selma Blair). Hijinks ensue. When a movie begins with the hero attempting to cheat on his fiancee, and ends (SPOILER ALERT, LIKE YOU COULDN’T GUESS) with the hero leaving her at the altar, I didn’t find it nearly charming enough to overcome the ill-will it generated.

However, it does have a very funny scene in the middle. Through the magic of the internet, I don’t have to describe it; you can watch almost the whole scene here, by watching both clips 4 and 5.

Bad Scene, Great Movie:

It’s A Wonderful Life

I love It’s A Wonderful Life. But what’s up with the scene in which we learn that, if George Bailey had never been born, his wife would have been a spinster! With glasses! Who works at the library! Oh, the humanity!

Your picks?

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John 04.15.05 at 1:49 pm

Yes, the horror with which Clarence shrieks “the Library” has always struck me as way over the top. Maybe Capra was stood up by a librarian or something.


JoeO 04.15.05 at 2:05 pm

Mikey Rooney’s scenes as the Chinese landlord in “Breakfast at Tiffanny’s”.


foo 04.15.05 at 2:20 pm

Great Scene, Bad Movie: Karaoke Salesman in Keeping the Faith.


george 04.15.05 at 2:51 pm

The Onion is right on about the shower scene in Elephant. It’s usually a mistake to inject a homosexuality theme into a movie with a different subject; the potential is great for it to be either ham-handed or offensive (as in the end of American Beauty). Even more surprising from the guy who made My Own Private Idaho.


Doctor Slack 04.15.05 at 4:28 pm

I just have to ask: since when was SHOWGIRLS a “great movie”? Did that hideous celluloid atrocity suddenly become a camp classic when I wasn’t looking? And if it did: crikey.


Uncle Kvetch 04.15.05 at 4:34 pm

What happens in the scene in “Fargo” where Frances McDormand’s character meets an old high-school friend for dinner…he hits on her? or he has some really weird/disturbing story to tell about his life since high school? All I remember is that it stuck out like a sore thumb in an otherwise excellent movie…it was like the entire film just stalled for about 10-15 minutes.


Ted 04.15.05 at 4:58 pm

Two more Great Scenes/ Bad Movies: In Dick Tracy, there’s a scene in which Madonna and backup dancers are practicing a song. Al Pacino (the nightclub owner and Madonna’s boyfriend) is following them around the stage, screaming instructions, getting in the way but insisting that it’s everyone’s fault but his own. It’s both comic and menacing, and the only part that I remember fondly.

Back to the Beach isn’t really a bad movie, but when Fishbone and Pee Wee Herman come onscreen to sing “Jamaica Ska” and “Surfin’ Bird”, it’s a fabulous movie.


rilkefan 04.15.05 at 7:33 pm

I’d say almost every scene in David Lynch’s Mulholland Drive is a great scene in a bad movie, but that would sound dumb.


mw 04.15.05 at 8:07 pm

I’m not sure I’d call ‘Ray’ a great movie, but at least it’s the most recent good movie I rented. The scene where Ray and the woman he’s about to dump suddenly switch from spatting to collaborating on ‘Hit the Road Jack’ is totally ridiculous and cheesy.

Oh, and here’s a random one–one of the last movies Cary Grant made was ‘Father Goose’, which is certainly not a great movie (nor a bad one) but it’s got…this scene…an oral sex scene right in the middle of an early 60’s family movie.

There’s an extended sequence where Cary Grant gets Leslie Caron drunk (as a painkiller) and then slices around a snakebite on her leg and sucks the venim out. When she’s drunk, Caron blurts out these odd erotic lines — “I play the cello very well (pantomime of bowing an imaginary cello between her legs), I’m double jointed, and I know how to ride a camel!” And she asks him how it tasted and whether “it was too salty”?

The screenwriters must’ve had a great fun sneaking that into the movie, and the result is still sneaky fun 40 years later.

Which leads me to sex in Alfred Hitchcock movies–is there anything cheesier now than the train-in-the-tunnel ending of “North-by-Northwest” or the fireworks as orgasm in “To Catch A Thief”?

On the other hand, to Alfred’s credit, putting Jimmy Steward in a full-body cast and then tormenting him with half-dressed neighbors, and Grace Kelly is fabulous. But now I’m talking about great scenes in great movies and have wandered completely off track.


JRoth 04.15.05 at 9:08 pm

Apparently, 35 years later, Capra apologized to Donna Reed for the spinster scene – told her that the only thing he would’ve changed about the movie was that he would have made her George-less self stronger. Good for him. I love the movie, and my wife grudgingly likes it, but she always brings up that scene.

That said, it does have a certain symmetry with the scene where George tells Violet, “oh, I’ll probably end up down at the library,” and she asks George, “don’t you ever get tired of just reading about things?” I marvel at the loving craft lavished on that film. My old girlfriend complained about that scene – why was he pitching woo at Violet, the wrong girl?


David Fiore 04.15.05 at 10:13 pm

but the It’s A Wonderful Life scene works because it illustrates George’s worst fears, not what would have really happened to Mary…

my vote for great scene in a bad movie–Montgomery & Lombard’s encounter with the dishevelled cat sitting on their table outside of their favourite Italian restaurant, now fallen upon hard times, in Mr and Mrs. Smith… (“why won’t the cat take some soup?”)


Randy Paul 04.15.05 at 10:32 pm

Many years ago I asked Paul Schrader (who wrote the screenplay) about the scene in Taxi Driver when the Travis character first approaches the Cybill Shepherd character with a smooth line of patter that seemed to be so out of character for someone who was so inarticulate otherwise.

Schrader told me that was one of the scenes that they worried about the most. According to him, De Niro said “Leave it to me. I’ll pull it off.” I found it to be utterly unconvincing.

However, Schrader said that De Niro also improvised what is arguably the most famous scene in the film: the “You talking to me?” scene. Shcrader said that as written in the screenplay, the scene was simply “Travis talks to himself in the mirror.”

On a somewhat related note, I wrote about “Truly Bad Movies that Were Well-Received”. The first is Titanic:

First up is Titanic, arguably the worst written film to ever win the Oscarâ„¢ for best picture. The writers’ wing of the Academy couldn’t even stomach the idea of nominating the screenplay. A truly trite story, tarted up as a moving commentary of what? Social stratification in early 20th Century Anglo-America? Love bridging the social classes? All rich guys are bad, all devil-may-care bohemian artists are good? Every cliche that could possibly be trotted out was dragged out of the attic. The only critics I remember with enough courage to see through this tripe were Kenneth Turan of the Los Angeles Times and Barbara Shulgasser of the Sam Francisco Examiner. Here’s a sample of some of the wretched writing:

Rose (the Kate Winslett character) is pulling paintings out of a case to put up in her suite. Cal (the Billy Zane character) asks her about one:

Cal: “Who painted that?”

Rose: “I don’t remember. Something or other Picasso.”

Then the awful, Coming Home:

Consider this: when Bruce Dern is making love with Jane Fonda, the song on the soundtrack is Hey Jude; when she and Jon Voight are making love the song on the soundtrack is Strawberry Fields Forever. Get it?

Finally, even twenty five years after seeing this film I remember the scene when Bruce Dern confronts Jane Fonda and Jon Voight about their affair armed with his M-16. Voight says to Dern, in trying to pacify him, “I’m a brother.” I rolled my eyes and whispered to my girlfriend at the time, “Bruce give me the gun. These two are on me.”

The tough thing, Ted, is to come up with a good scene from a bad film. I’ll have to give that some thought.


Dan Simon 04.15.05 at 11:12 pm

In the otherwise appallingly bad 1987 film Burglar, starring Whoopie Goldberg, there’s a scene in which Bobcat Goldthwait goes on a drinking binge and passes out on his couch. The next morning, he’s woken up by a knock at the door, and answers it to find two police officers who want to ask him some questions. Goldthwait deals with them in his trademark hilariously incoherent fashion, with an added element of hung-overness–but the kicker is that he spends this entire scene with a nickel stuck to his cheek.

Well, it seemed really funny at the time….


Brian Zimmerman 04.15.05 at 11:49 pm

In 976-EVIL 2 (not the original, mind you, but the sequel) there is one scene that stands out so far from the rest of the movie that I can hardly believe there was only one director involved.

In the middle of this cheesy horror movie that I saw on cable late one night, the heroine and her best friend are sitting on the couch watching TV. The heroine wants to watch It’s a Wonderful Life; the best friend, who’s a little bit more naughty, wants to watch Night of the Living Dead. The two of them have a friendly tug-of-war over the remote control, zapping back and forth between the two black and white classics. Finally, the best friend gives in, and the heroine goes off to the kitchen for more popcorn when the Capra movie cuts to a commercial.

The commerical, it turns out, features the demonically-posessed college dean (don’t ask). He says he’s selling a special remote control that “puts YOU in the action.” So he zaps it at the best friend, and now she’s in the last scene of It’s a Wonderful Life. And she is — she’s standing in the back of the Bailey’s home, everyone’s singing “Auld Lang Syne,” the cop and the cab driver are dumping out a basketful of cash, and somewhere a bell is ringing. Little Zuzu tells her daddy, “Teacher says, ‘every time you hear a bell [now baritone] A ZOMBIE TAKES A SOUL TO HELL.”

“That’s right, precious, that’s right.” says George, deeply moved.

And now we cut away from the original It’s a Wonderful Life footage, to a point of view shot from the BF’s perspective. It’s still black and white, and all the people from the Capra movie are there — there’s still snow on Bert the cop’s shoulders. And they turn around and now they’re all zombies.

Of course the girl backs up to the door, and then hands start breaking through the door grabbing at her … then the mob of zombies coming at her parts. It’s little Zuzu. And she’s carrying a spade.

I didn’t just dream this. I tracked down this movie at a video store so I could watch this one scene again. Completely different from every other cheesy moment of this movie.


Keith 04.16.05 at 7:47 am

Bad scene in a good movie:

At the end of Planet of the Apes when Taylor kisses Zira goodbye. His character is such a misanthrope he left humanity on a rocket ship. Yet, after being tortured and put on a show trial by a bunch of apes, he decides oh what the hell, come here monkey breath and let me kiss you goodbye. It’s a sentimental gesture that is so totally uncharacteristic, that it seems it was put in for either shock value (“If those saps won’t buy the evolution angle, then the implied bestiality will get ‘em!”) or some ham-handed racial message tacked on to the end. Not that it in any way ruins the movie, which is one of my favorite allegorical sci-fi movies. (as for the umpteen sequels, the less said the better. Seriously, Mr. Burton, what the fuck is with that ending?!)

Bonus fun: Planet of the Apes re-imagined as an episode of the Twilight Zone.


Xn 04.16.05 at 8:43 am

Good scene in a bad movie.

In the middle of the movie “Say Yes,” a failed and often embarrassing (for all involved in making it and for the viewer who for some reason continues to watch) attempt at a Blake Edwards style screwball romantic comedy:
The hero, who aspires to be a concert pianist, has a room with several pianos for him to practice on. The heroine sits down at one and tentatively tinkles out a few remembered tunes from her piano lessons as a child. Each time she does this, the hero plays a variation on the tune, and gradually it turns into a duet between the two.
It’s an extremely charming little scene, and I really hope some enterprising screenwriter has the decency to plagiarize it and put it in a better movie.


DT 04.16.05 at 2:33 pm

Bad scene in a good movie: Billy Crystal as Miracle Max in the Princess Bride. Terrible humor, and Crystal sticks out like a sore thumb. In the midst of a wonderfully clever movie, they’ve plopped down Billy Crystal hamming it up.


lalala 04.16.05 at 7:00 pm

Good scene, bad movie: In “Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back” – a really really awful movie – the scene where Matt Damon and Ben Affleck are playing themselves filming a sequel to “Good Will Hunting” is hilarious, or at least I remember it to be so.


Timothy Burke 04.16.05 at 8:59 pm

Bad scene, good movie:

In “Spider-Man 2”, the daughter of his Russian/Eastern European landlord comes up and asks Peter Parker if he wants some chocolate cake.

I thought this was such a bizarre scene–I kept wondering if I’d missed something earlier in the film.


aaron 04.17.05 at 2:41 am

Bad scene in a great movie:
Preston Sturges’ Sullivan’s Travels bears the anachronistic blight of the African American cook playing up the worst of stereotypes. Otherwise, great film.
Good scene, bad movie:
In the poor Hitchcock knock-off Niagara with Marilyn Monroe the scenes with the chimes are chilling. Everything else is pretty much leave it, including what may be the worst line ever for the end of a movie: “It may be the first time that someone said, ‘scuttle it!’ as a prayer.” “And had it answered.”
Honestly, it is so bad, it’s worth seeing.


David Fiore 04.17.05 at 4:08 pm

Bad scene, good movie:

In “Spider-Man 2”, the daughter of his Russian/Eastern European landlord comes up and asks Peter Parker if he wants some chocolate cake.

I thought this was such a bizarre scene—I kept wondering if I’d missed something earlier in the film.

interesting Timothy–I think that scene puts the rest of the film to shame…occasions the thought that there was a completely different (and–almost certainly–better) way to tell this story…


Geoduck 04.17.05 at 7:09 pm

Good scene/Bad movie:

Disney produced a lackluster animated adaptation of The Sword In The Stone, the first part of T.H. White’s Arthurian _The Once And Future King_. The movie isn’t bad, exactly, but just plods sluggishly along from plot point to point.
Except for one scene, where Merlin and the young Arthur run into a gleefully evil villianess named Madame Mim. Mim and Merlin engage in a all-out shape-changing Wizard’s Duel in the middle of a swamp, and for about five minutes the film kicks into glorious high gear. As a final bonus, Merlin’s method for winning the duel is both non-lethal and quite clever. Sadly, all too soon, Mim is defeated, and back into snoozeville the movie plunges…

Bad scene/Good movie

The recent Dawn of the Dead remake is a nicely gory horror flick which wisely didn’t try to be a carbon-copy of Romaro’s seminal original, but followed a no-frills, straight-ahead, entrail-strewn plotpath. (The opening credits montage is particularly inspired.) It does great right up until the closing credits, where it tacks on a totally unneeded and unpleasant coda. As one reviewer put it, when the boat pulls out from the dock and you hear the gunshot, turn off the movie. You’ll be glad you did.


Chris 04.17.05 at 11:13 pm

Good scene in Bad movie –
The Fall of the Roman Empire (roughly the same story as Gladiator – why are epics so attracted by Commodus?)was wearily long and of zero interest, except that at the end they have a scene where commodus and not-crowe are fighting with javelins inside a square of soldier’s shields, and that is just fantastic – luckily it’s included more or less in its entireity as a trailer on the DVD of El Cid, so I no longer have to weigh up recommending that people waste several hours of their lives to see this one scene.


rilkefan 04.18.05 at 1:06 am

Re SM-2: “I think that scene puts the rest of the film to shame…”

Yep. It was odd to find oneself watching a major summer blockbuster and seeing a quiet scene with a nobody, non-conventionally beautiful woman just being human. The scene is the culmination of a series of brief glances and shows the hero has other options without hitting us over the head with its message.


lth 04.18.05 at 6:30 am

I’m with David and rilkefan – that scene was the best in a terrible movie, not the other way around!


cc 04.18.05 at 11:06 am

Re that restaurant scene in Fargo:
The hilarity is from the Asian guy speaking wid da Norvegian accent, ya know? The whole movie was a send up of people who live in the upper upper midwest–they way they talk, act, and believe.


Uncle Kvetch 04.18.05 at 11:40 am

CC, I lived in Minneapolis for 3 years and found a lot of Fargo‘s gentle spoofing of Upper Midwestern language and customs really spot-on and funny. But I still don’t get the restaurant scene. You can find American-born Asian Americans who speak with any given regional American accent…what’s funny about that eludes me.


David Fiore 04.18.05 at 2:53 pm


I’m of the opinion that the slapstick scene in Sullivan’s Travels cannot be read (or cringed at) in isolation from the rest of the film–it’s part of a much more complicated (though still, to my mind, unsatisfactory) racial discourse… it gets even better if you ponder the relationship of Sturges’ film to Spike Lee’s Bamboozled


aaron law 04.18.05 at 10:56 pm

I have yet to see Bamboozled, but have heard that it is quite good, and will watch now soon as refracted throug the lens you suggest. I don’t know what I think about the juxtaposition of the church with the slapstick scene. Sturges’ talent certainly warrants a more textured reading. Yet, viscerally that scene hits me like Birth of a Nation (Yet I have even heard people suggest that this film can be viewed as critique as well). I guess I privelege Lee as a source of socially-conscious satire more readily than I do Sturges, and as a result, the slapstick scene complicates my feelings for the film. The Lady Eve, on the other hand IMO, is easily one of the most perfect films from all ages.
thanks for your response.

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