Wednesday, November 12, 2014

My List of Awesome Moments in Popular Entertainment

These are in no particular order.  I wrote them down as I thought of them.
  • A Charlie Brown Christmas, when Linus gives his recitation of the Shepherds' vision of the angels' announcement of Jesus' birth. The scene has a moving power that rivets you to the screen regardless of your beliefs, regardless of the fact it's a Talking Heads scene.
  • The Sandman story "A Midsummer's Daydream" was the first comic book to win the World Fantasy Award for Best Short Story, much to the shock of the "real writers" who had also been nominated alongside Neil Gaiman (who at the time was primarily known for his comic book work).  It was also the last comic book to win that prize:  after heavily lobbying on behalf of many of the "real writers" in question, the rules were changed to prevent a comic book from ever being nominated again, much less actually winning.
  • Luciano Pavoratti was billed to perform "Nessun Dorma" during the 1998 Grammy Awards broadcast, but came down with a throat ailment and was advised by his doctors to give his voice a rest. Literally at the last minute, Aretha Franklin came out of the audience and agreed to fill in for Pavoratti, and proceeded to bring down the house.
  • Superman:  The Movie.  The opening credits, with that music.  You know that music.  Even now, as I talk about it, its playing in your head.  You feel that music in your bones.  And any time you think about Superman, you think about that music.
  • The New Zealand All Blacks rugby team does a Battle Haka before every game.  This is awesome in itself.  But when time comes to play the national team from Timor, the New Zealanders do their Haka... and then the Timorese do one right back at them!
  • Jim's "What's Trash Is Trash" speech from The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.
  • The Budweiser "Tiny Dancer" commercial. Anything that gets a Badass like Peter Stormare singing an Elton John tune is made of win and awesome.
  • Rick Astley hijacking the 82nd Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade and singing "Never Gonna Give You Up". Yes, the guy who performed the song in the first place effectively Rick Rolled all of America.
  • Queen's appearance at Live Aid in 1985.  It was voted the Greatest Live Performance by Any Rock Band, Ever by musicians and music critics alike.  In that performance, during "Radio Ga-Ga", they got the 75,000 people present in Wembley Arena to clap in unison!. If that isn't awesome, then nothing is awesome.
  • Sam Malone, in the Cheers First Season episode "The Boys in the Bar", when the regulars are trying to pressure him into ejecting two suspected homosexuals by threatening to find another bar.  Especially when Sam says that his bar is "not going to turn into the kind of bar that I have to throw people out of."
  • Superman's "World of Cardboard Speech" from the last episode of Justice League Unlimited. Not to mention him "cutting loose" immediately afterwards.  The look of utter shock on Darkseid's face as the punch connects seals it. You can see him realize, in that instant, that he seriously underestimated the Man of Steel.
  • The Monkees, a fictitious bubblegum pop band created for a TV show in The Sixties, a group often deliberate dismissed or overlooked by the hipster Caustic Critics for not having any influence or importance in popular music in spite of "bringing long hair into America's living rooms", is the first ever band to have a successful hit record in pop music using a synthesizer when Micky Dolenz uses a Moog modular synth on the track "Daily Nightly" (from the album Pisces, Aquarius, Capircorn And Jones, Ltd). In 1967. Ahead of The Byrds, The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Who and other pop innovators. Ahead of even Wendy Carlos' "Switched-On-Bach" a year later. Micky Dolenz helped to usher in much of the next forty-something years of musical innovation on a slapstick teenybopper TV sitcom on NBC.
  • Oh yeah, and when The Monkees went on tour, they hired this completely unknown musician whom no one had heard of, but who could really jam on a guitar and whose sound they were absolutely into to open for them. The dude's name? Jimi Hendrix. The Monkees had no influence or importance in popular music my wide white ass.
  • The Cadbury chocolate advert. With the gorilla and the Phil Collins song. You know the one I'm talking about.
  • V's response to Creedy, who foolishly dismisses him as a threat, in the film version of V for Vendetta.  When Creedy points out that all V has are martial arts tricks, while his men has guns, V retorts with, "No. What you have are bullets, and the hope that when your guns are empty I'm no longer standing, because if I am... you'll all be dead before you've reloaded."
  • Eddie Timanus, the first blind contestant to compete on Jeopardy.  He was expertly accommodated by the show — he had a Braille keyboard at his podium to type Final Jeopardy! responses, and was given a Braille card containing the categories by Alex before each round (this was shown on-camera, although it was up to Eddie to recall what clues were remaining on the board). Merely competing on the show with such a... well, some would consider it a handicap or disadvantage... would have been awesome on its own, but Eddie was a great sport about the whole matter and was very smart -— he became an undefeated champion!
  • From the movie version of Contact, the childlike awe on Elenore Arroway's face as she perceives the Milky Way galaxy from the outside, and weepingly repeats to herself, "They should have sent a poet!"  Jodie Foster totally sold that emotional moment.
  • From All Star Superman, Superman has been poisoned and a crisis looms that threatens the entire earth.  With his limited time to stop the destruction of the entire planet, the Man of Steel still takes the time to stop a young woman from jumping off a tall building and ending her own life.  And he does it with words:  "It's never as bad as it seems.  You are stronger than you think you are.  Trust me."  And then he hugs her.  Because he's Superman, and that's what he does.
  • From the end of the film version of The Lord of the Rings:  The Two Towers, where Samwise Gamgee gives a motivational speech to Frodo Baggins about why heroes endure such pain and sorrow.  Its because "there is some good in this world, Mr. Frodo, and its worth fighting for."
  • Everything that happens in The Nightmare Before Christmas that follows the line "Hello, Oogie."
  • In the Battlestar Galactica episode "Exodus, Part 2", everything that happens after Admiral Adama gives the order "Prepare for turbulence!"
  • The skeleton fight from Jason and the Argonauts.
  • In what may well be the greatest comic book fight scene ever put down on paper, Will Eisner chose to depict the climactic battle between The Spirit and his arch-nemesis, The Octopus, as a a fight in a darkened room, showing only what was illuminated by a dropped flashlight rolling around the floor.
  • The "Hundred-Mile Dash" scene from The Incredibles.  Dash is being chased by Syndrome's Mooks, who are herding him toward a beach where they know he'll be trapped up against the water.  Dash closes his eyes, throws his hands up for the inevitable crash... and then realizes he's running on water.  Its the joyful giggle -- the giggle of a young boy reveling in doing something truly cool -- that he gives then that makes this truly awesome.
  • Rory Williams shows the 12th Cyber Legion why it is he, and not the Doctor, who is the Good Man referred to in the proverb "Demons run when a good man goes to war", in the Doctor Who episode "A Good Man Goes to War."
  • From that same Doctor Who episode, the entire "Colonel Runaway" speech.
  • Swamp Thing #27, "By Demons Driven."  Swamp Thing is fighting the demon Etrigan and during the fight, Etrigan literally bites one of the Swamp Thing's arms off.  Without even pausing, Swamp Thing picks the arm up, casually reattaches it, and then uses it to punch Etrigan right in the kisser.
  • The last shot in the film Being There, where Chance the Gardener (played by Peter Sellers in one of his last roles) leaves the funeral and wanders a bit, then casually strolls out onto the surface of the lake.
  • Megamind's confrontation of Tighten, at the end of the film Megamind.  "Oh, you're a villain all right, just not a super one!"  And you know what the difference between an everyday villain and a super-villain is?  PRESENTATION!
  • In the Heat of the Night. Sidney Poitier's crowning moment of awesome in indisputably when a rich white bigot slapped Poitier's character, Detective Virgil Tibbs, for daring to question him on suspicion of murder.  Tibbs instantly slaps the bigot back, an act that was previously unthinkable for African American characters in mainstream Hollywood films.
  • In Jaws, Quint's famous monologue about what happened to the USS Indianapolis. Unsettling, horrifying, and worst of all based on Real Life.
  • Mythbusters dedicated an episode to not just busting moon landing hoax conspiracy theories, but rhetorically stomping them flat, setting them on fire, and pissing on the ashes.
  • Donald O'Connor running up and back-flipping off the walls at the end of "Make 'Em Laugh" from Singing in the Rain.  Even better because it was all improvised. When he fell over from exhaustion at the end? That was real.
  • The cover of Avengers/JLA #4.  Superman, surrounded by his fallen comrades against the rogue Oan Krona, armed with Captain America's shield in one hand and Thor's hammer Mjolnir in the other.
  • In the 1971 film Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, when Wonka reveals the Chocolate Room to the tour group: it's a vibrantly colorful wonderland that the camera and score treat with a quiet, respectful awe. And suddenly we hear Wonka in voiceover: "Hold your breath. Make a wish. Count to three," which leads into the lovely, haunting, joyful musical number "Pure Imagination". The way he keeps holding the group back as they progress down the stairs, the little punchline involving the buttercup... fantastic.
  • Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. This is going to be a long list, boys and girls:
  1. Neville Longbottom lives up to his potential as the Boy-Who-Almost-Fit-The-Prophecy by killing Nagini with the Sword of Gryffindor. While on fire.  Right after he pulled a "Shut Up, Hannibal!" to Voldemort and breaking out of a Voldemort-inflicted Full Body Bind, just when it looks like their last hope is dead.  In addition, he spends most of the book as the sole resistance leader in Harry's absence.  He shows no care about his severe injuries, he's goddamn pissed when Harry tries to stop them from engaging in an open fight with Voldemort and reacts to Harry's request to take on Nagini with barely any emotion.  If there's any good that came from this war, it's that it forced Neville to grow up and become a Badass.
  2. Harry, curb-stomping Amycus Carrow for insulting McGonagall. "You shouldn't have done that." As well as his simple response to his reasoning. "He spat at you."
  3. The fact that Sybil Trelawney, who was almost a complete joke character, started fast-pitching crystal balls onto the Death Eaters' heads from above, and the first person she took out was Fenrir Motherfucking Greyback, the most dangerous, powerful, and vicious werewolf alive. And note that this is the same werewolf who singlehandedly took down Bill Weasley, who was a professional cursebreaker, making him a very powerful wizard. Bill couldn't take him down with all the jinxes and hexes at his disposal, but Trelawney took him down with, of all spells, Wingardium Leviosa.
  4. *Punch*   "And that's the second time we've saved your life tonight, you two-faced bastard!" In one action and fourteen words, Ron (who arguably suffered the most from him) pays back Malfoy for all the crap he's taken from him over the years.
  5. During the Circling Monologue between Harry and Voldemort, Harry refers to the most feared Dark Lord in history as "Riddle." British boarding-school students generally call each other by their last names, so when Harry calls him "Riddle," he's bringing the Dark Lord down to the level of a fellow student: a complete equal.  Its a casual insult that slips past most people.  "The Dark Lord shall mark him as an equal" indeed.
  6. The charge of the House Elves. Magical powerhouses they may be, but you certainly wouldn't expect much of a fight from such meek little creatures. Then they come busting out of the kitchens wielding butcher knives and other utensils like minions from hell. The Death Eaters never stood a chance
  • Perpetual chew toy Charlie Brown got a massive, well-deserved moment of awesomeness during a week of Peanuts strips where he taught Linus and Lucy's little brother Rerun to play marbles.   Rerun then went on to play against an older kid who pretended that they were playing for fun but, when he won, said "Keeps" and took all of Rerun's marbles.  In retaliation, Charlie Brown challenged the older kid and won back all of Rerun's marbles.  "Knuckle down, Joe. This is for keeps."
  • Stephanie Brown earning her stripes as Robin, and then again as Batgirl.
  • The Miracle on Ice. All of it. Greatest moment in sports. Ever.
  • Captain Atom showing his disapproval for superheroes who kill casually in Captain Atom:  Armageddon.  His casual beat-down of Apollo (who Captain Atom beats by way of his knowledge of nuclear physics) and Midnighter (over whom Captain Atom is simply so powerful that there's no way Midnighter's supercomputer brain can devise to beat Atom) is very, very satisfying.
  • In the Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode "Choices", when Willow gets taken by Faith, Buffy wants to trade the Box of Gavrok for her best friend. Wesley refuses to let her do this because it's exchanging thousands of lives for one person, and everyone present - Wesley, Buffy, Giles, Xander, even Angel - begin shouting their opinions, standing around arguing. Oz, after wordlessly staring at Wesley through his speech, calmly stands up, walks over the vase he and Xander prepared for the Box-destroying ritual, grabs the pedestal, and sends the entire thing flying into the wall, smashing it to pieces. It's quickly decided afterwards to trade the Box for Willow.  As usual, Oz manages to get his point across with as few words as possible. In this case, none.
  • In the Miami Vice episode "Glades", the bad guy is holding a shotgun to a little girl's head as Sonny Crockett approaches with this pistol drawn and aimed. The bad guy begins threatening to shoot the girl if he's not let go, saying "If I so much as twitch, she's go--" BLAM  Sonny shoots him right between the eyes, with the Post-Mortem One-Liner, "Maybe you won't twitch."
  • In Outsiders #3, the Joker captures Lex Luther and tortures him at length for information.  Luthor holds out for a long, long time, but finally agrees to tell the Joker what he wants to know.  But first, he has a question of his own for the Joker:  "Does it bother you that Batman likes Catwoman better than you?"  The audacity of the question leaves the Joker speechless, allowing Luthor to continue with, "He'll never love you, sweetheart!  You can keep screwing with his city, but he's never gonna take you to the prom!"
  • The December 2, 1977 airing of The $20,000 Pyramid and Billy Crystal's 26-second blitz through the Winner's Circle, giving only one clue for each box. Made even more amazing through some rather unusual chains of thought — would you have gotten "Things in a Barrel" if given the clue "monkeys", or "Things That Are Wilted" given the clue "old flowers"? Amazingly, his record has stood the test of time — as of April 23, 2012, Crystal's time still  hasn't been beaten.
  • The reveal of Andy Dufrense's escape from The Shawshank Redemption.
  • Captain America, explaining to Spider-Man why he hasn't walked away from the US or hidden outside of the grasp of Iron Man's fascist army:  "Doesn't matter what the press says. Doesn't matter what the politicians or the mobs say. Doesn't matter if the whole country decides that something wrong is something right. This nation was founded on one principle above all else: the requirement that we stand up for what we believe, no matter the odds or the consequences. When the mob and the press and the whole world tell you to move, your job is to plant yourself like a tree beside the river of truth, and tell the whole world - "No, you move."
  • The entirety of the WKRP in Cincinnati episode "Turkeys Away".  Fan reaction to that single episode was so overwhelming that it convinced the network to keep the show on the air despite its low ratings. Believe me when we say that there is a reason why "Turkeys Away" was voted the greatest single episode of any show, in any genre, ever broadcast in the history of television.
  • Barbara Billingsley, who played June Cleaver in Leave It to Beaver, uses "Jive" to put to men in their place in the movie Airplane.  What a funny, not to mention classic, way to bust your own stereotyping, Ms. Billingsley.
  • The Pied Piper sacrificing his life to destroy the planet Apokalips by playing Queen's "The Show Must Go On".
  • The fist-fight between Bob Barker and Adam Sandler in the movie Happy Gilmore.  Because we always knew Bob Barker was a badass.
  • The funeral speech in Four Weddings and a Funeral, wherein John Hannah quotes poet W. H. Auden.  A more beautiful statement of pure love, and the loss of that love, I have never seen in a movie.
  • Lloyd Dobbler holding up a boom box in an attempt to get Diane Court back, from Say Anything.  The ironic thing was, it didn't work.  But it made for an utterly iconic image.
  • During the last episode of MASH, B.J absolutely refuses to say good bye to Hawkeye, and Hawkeye gets on to him about it.  The two men shake hands, BJ drives off on his motorcycle, and Hawkeye climbs into the helicopter.  And as Hawkeye lifts into the sky, he can see that BJ has rearranged all the white stones that marked the helicopter landing pad to read "Goodbye".
  • Aliens.  "Get away from her you BITCH!"  Do I really need to explain this one?
  • From Pretty Woman, Julia Roberts walking into the snooty clothing store on Rodeo Drive and asking the question, "You girls get paid on commission, right?"  A very subtle way of getting vengeance, and one that goes right over her target's heads.
  • From the film version of The Lord of the Rings:  The Return of the King, Legolas takes down a Mamukil all by his lonesome.
  • The scene from Alan Moore's Watchmen graphic novel in which Rorschach explains to the entire population of a prison that he is not locked in there with them... they are the ones locked in with him!
  • "Sonnet 116" by William Shakespeare.  Such beauty in so few words.
  • The "Hodges' Lucky Day" segment from the seventh season CSI episode "Lab Rats". That is the way you bring a background supporting character to the fore without it seeming forced.
  • Vir Kotto grows a pair in Babylon 5, demolishing the stall of a Drahzi trader who has insulted him with a short-sword taken from Londo's apartment wall. Londo's explanation:  "I promoted him."
  • In the Sandman story "Three Septembers and a January", Dream of the Endless grants a despairing Joshua Norton a boon:  he makes him a king.  And the resultant story is awe inspiring.
  • The big reveal at the end of Usual Suspects.
  • The Muppets + Queen + David Bowie = The Greatest Ad for Google Ever Seen!
  • The "Boogie Wonderland" scene from Happy Feet.
  • The greatest, most amazing moment ever for Aquaman, and he wasn't even there:  At the end of Patton Oswalt's Justice League:  Welcome to the Working Week, the Big Bad, having just been defeated, is nevertheless still gloating that it took the entire Justice League to take him down.  The Big Bad laments, "I am saddened... your Sea-King isn't here."  The response is "You're lucky our Sea-King isn't here!"  Because if Aquaman had been there, the beat-down would have been that much worse for the villain.
  • A little blue fish from Finding Nemo explains a fool-proof method of dealing with the troubles that life throws in your way:  "When life get's you down, you know what you gotta do?  Just keep swimming.  Just keeps swimming.  Just keep swimming, swimming, swimming.  What do we do?  We swim."
  • Two words:  "Puny god."
  • The gunfight on the staircase from The Untouchables.  It was originally produced as an homage to a similar scene in Battleship Potempkin, but has become iconic all on its own.
  • The entirety of This Film Is Not Yet Rated, a muckracking, highly critical movie about the opacity and the inequity of the ratings system propagated by the Motion Picture Association of America.  In this film, producer Kirby Dick slammed the board for hypocrisy, double standards, and its Star Chamber-like secret membership right before he reveals the identities of the Ratings Board members.  And then, just to show he has big brass balls and carries them around in a wheelbarrow, he submits the film to the MPAA to get rated. After the initial cut gets rated NC-17 for "depicting examples of what will get a film rated NC-17", Dick adds the footage of the rating and appeals process to the final version of the film.  Which is not now and never will be rated.
  • The ending of 8 Mile.  I'm not even a huge fan of Eminem (he's got a couple of songs I like, but for the most part I give him a pass), but the climax of that film is epic!
  • The last 20 minutes of Last of the Mohicans.  Especially Chingiscok's easy takedown of Mogwa.
  • Olga Korbut's absolutely stunning, legendary performance on the uneven bars during the Munich 1972 Summer Olympics.  It truly must be seen to be believed.

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