Contrary to what some of the more curmudgeonly folks you might be reading have said, 2011 was actually a very good year for film, in which countless filmmakers either ignored the industry’s distrust of originality entirely, or found new and interesting ways to smuggle bits of revelation and surprise even into formulaic franchise pictures. You’ll see a lot of “best of the year” lists floating around that run down many of the same easy picks for the year’s best films, but since each film is an accumulation of small parts — scenes, lines, pauses, etc. — we thought it would be fun to pick out some of the little, specific moments that stayed in our movie-going memories over the course of 2011. Ours are after the jump; we hope to see yours in the comments.
Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone’s first date in Crazy, Stupid, Love
Gosling and Stone are two people who we’ll watch doing just about anything, so the idea of the duo being paired for a romantic comedy was utterly irresistible. They’re not really put together until late in the picture; they have a brief (but electrifying) early flirtation that resumes with a second act stretch that is, far and away, the film’s best sustained sequence. Jilted by her mediocre-at-best boyfriend, Stone storms into Gosling’s favorite bar, plants one on him, and informs him that he’s taking her home. That’s a great, sexy moment, but the scene that follows is even better — suddenly stripped of her self-confidence and aware of his vast experience, she paces in his apartment and deconstructs the entire situation, to both his bemusement and alarm. It is, at risk of hyperbole, a perfect scene. Every beat is held exactly as long as it should be, every line is precise and correct, the chemistry is a slam-dunk, and these two actors — these two beautiful, witty, disarmingly natural actors — are utterly incapable of letting a false note seep in. They’re funny together, and charming, but the movie is in trouble after that, because Stone and Gosling have now rewritten the rules; they’re so real in that sequence that the sitcom contrivances and big speeches that follow feel even more patently false. But for that short stretch, Crazy Stupid Love doesn’t take a wrong step.