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One Big Scene: Nine Memorable Moments from the Best Picture Oscar Nominees

Regular readers know that our weekly One Big Scene column showcases an eye-popping, emotionally stirring sequence in a theatrical movie that – we believe – justifies the cost of a movie ticket. These scenes are so big, they absolutely must be seen on the big screen, because they just won’t have the same impact if and when you wind up seeing these movies on your home theater system months from now. 
With the Academy Awards set for Sunday, Feb. 24, audiences have a few days left to catch the Best Picture nominees at the multiplex. So I thought it would be the perfect time to single out One Big Scene in the Best Picture contenders. Some of them have been covered in the column already, and we’ll link back to that coverage. If you have a different scene that you think works for this year’s crop of Oscar contenders, let us know in the comments section below.
The Scene: It’s hard to find a larger-than-life scene in a quiet French movie about a long-married couple shuffling towards death. But Amour director Michael Haneke chooses to open his Oscar-nominated drama with a sustained shot from the stage of an opera that keeps its focus on the audience for such a long period that you hold your breath wondering when he’s going to cut away. It’s mesmerizing in its simplicity, and matches the intensity of the performances we’ll see all throughout Amour.
The Scene: Ben Affleck told me in an interview that the Argo sequence he couldn’t wait to film was the raid on the U.S. embassy that opens his period thriller. The still-young director said he’d never worked with that many extras in such an aggressive scene. But the loud, confusing attack sets the right tone for Argo … a tense and riveting slice of American political history. 
The Scene: I almost went with the hurricane scene, which floods Hushpuppy’s beloved Bathtub. But I’m going to go with the moment when the young heroine of Benh Zeitlin’s magical drama (played with grace by Best Actress nominee Quevenzhane Wallis) confronts the massive “beasts” that have been marching toward her home. The sound mix for the monster’s sounds is fantastic, and the message behind the scene might reduce most audience members to tears. 
The Scene: Another movie that’s brimming with memorable scenes, but my selection has to be the early members of the Ku Klux Klan racing in the middle of the night to attack Dr. King Schultz (Christoph Waltz) and Django (Jamie Foxx). Riding on horseback with torches in hand, the short-sighted marauders stop to ask if there’s a better way to wear a mask with cut-out eye holes, and Quentin Tarantino reminds us that humor is the best medicine for a tense and uncomfortable situation. 
The Scene: It’s tough to beat the scene we wrote about back in December – Anne Hathaway’s rendition of “I Dreamed a Dream,” which should earn the actress her first Oscar on Sunday night. 
The Scene: Another Best Picture nominee we covered in the One Big column. At the time, I singled out the shipwreck scene that isolates Pi (Suraj Shurma) on a raft with a tiger. That’s still the highwater mark, but director Ang Lee loads the screen with eye-popping visuals, making Life of Pi the most rewarding 3D experience you currently can have at the movies.
The Scene: Steven Spielberg’s historical biopic might have enough muscle to triumph over Ben Affleck’s Argo, considered by many to be the current frontrunner for Best Picture. The scene from Lincoln that moves our needle is the president’s address to the gathered masses after the passing of the amendment that abolished slavery. It’s a portrait framed by ace cinematographer Janusz Kaminski, a love letter to U.S. history that puts a notable stamp on Spielberg’s stunning accomplishment. 
The Scene: I’m probably supposed to say the dance competition that concludes David O. Russell’s dysfunctional comedy is the One Big Scene. But the sequence that tipped me off to Russell’s wizardry with the camera was the extended “wedding video” meltdown that had Bradley Cooper wrestling Robert De Niro in the dead of night as Led Zeppelin’s haunting “What Is and What Should Never Be” plays, unbroken, in the background. It’s chilling and disturbing and, yet, brilliant for the mood of the scene. It’s the moment that I realized SLP was going to be one of my favorite movies from 2012.
The Scene: Again, the scene we wrote about weeks ago is the one that continues to drive audiences into theaters to see Kathryn Bigelow’s military drama on the big screen – the raid on Osama Bin Laden’s Pakistani compound. We wrote about it here. Is it enough to earn ZDT the Oscar?

Our own Dave Karger has been covering every detail of the Oscar race in Fandango’s Awards Watch Guide, and you can hear his latest predictions in the major categories in the original video series, The Frontrunners!


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