Friday, July 11, 2008

Top 10 "F**k You" Moments in Film

Now, hopefully the headline grabbed your attention, be it due to the use of the word "fuck" or the fact that it is the only time in this article that I plan to censor the word "fuck." Also, as the first sentence has evidenced, I plan to use it gratuitously, because after having just watched "The Departed," I have learned that if I am to continue aspiring to writing an Oscar-winning screenplay one day, I need only Bostonian accents and about 726 uses of "fuck" to accomplish my goal.

When discussing "The Shawshank Redemption" not too long ago with my roommate (a film I somehow have never seen), he alluded to the ending as a great "fuck you" moment, out of the fact that it is a triumph of a character against forces plotting against him. I made two observations on this:

1.) My roommate is a dick for spoiling the ending of a classic film I have not yet seen.
2.) What truly defines a "fuck you" moment?

From my understanding, a true "fuck you" moment is not simply limited to somebody overcoming all odds. It is simply, within the context of the film's story, when a film's character has an epic moment of personal triumph against whatever battle they happen to be fighting. This can be a battle against a person, an organization, a culture or even an abstract concept, but they win out, the audience cheers, the lights go up and everybody goes home a little bit happier. Also, I believe that another facet of this definition is that the character gets what they want, even if this is a negative thing; they finally attain what they've been fighting for, in a way that functions as a direct slap in the face to any barrier that impeded the way there.

With this in mind, I would like to present my top ten of these. Feel free to disagree or point out glaring omissions. Given the nature of this article, this should be obvious, but MAJOR SPOILERS AHEAD. Also, I've included YouTube clips of the ones I could find.

10. The King of Kong: A Fistful Of Quarters (2007)

At the supposed end of the film, Steve Wiebe ends up unable to claim the world record for "Donkey Kong" from scumbag Billy Mitchell, and the film ends with a touching denouement in which his good name is cleared, after months of dealing with Mitchell's slander. Cut to black, and you just feel sad for poor Steve, and angry as hell that the bad guy won. But then, (and I'm not using cliches here; the film actually says "But then...") the opening tune of "Ride of the Valkyries" begins to swell, and we see Wiebe playing again. A year after the events chronicled in the film, he took the world record. Score one for the good guys and fuck the hot sauce salesman.

9. The Usual Suspects (1995)

As far as big twist endings go, I stand by my opinion that the finale to the first "Saw" is the best ever, but this is the standard by which all others are measured. After being harassed, browbeaten and threatened by Agent Kujan (Chazz Palminteri), Verbal Kint (Kevin Spacey) gets the last laugh when Kujan lets him walk out the door, only to discover that the entire labyrinthe story Kint just spun was no more than just that: A story. Using clever powers of observation, Kint used the room he was held in to talk his way out. A bonus: As Kint walks to his car, his straggling limp suddenly turns into an assured walk, the walk of a murderer. The walk of Keyser Soze.

8. Clerks II (2006)

Given that the first is my all-time favorite film, I'll admit that I'm biased when I say that the last half hour of the sequel is one big fuck-you moment. Regardless, the logic holds up. Dante (Brian O'Halloran) and Randal (Jeff Anderson) buy the Quick Stop and run it together, Dante leaves his shrewish fiancee for the woman perfect for him (Rosario Dawson, as nerdy-hot in real life as she is here) and Jay and Silent Bob finally have a steady hangout spot. Romantic comedy standards and others' ideas of how to lead a "real adult life" be damned, this is as touching as a film with a donkey show as a major plot point can possibly get.

(Note: This isn't the whole ending. The final shot, in its own way, is even sweeter than this.)

7. Little Miss Sunshine (2006)

As Olive (Abigal Breslin) performs what's basically a striptease dance to the tune of "Superfreak," the suddenly offended pageant officials demand that her father (Greg Kinnear) get her offstage. Instead of ruining her dream, he, followed by the rest of the family, get onstage in dance, which leads to them being barred from California beauty pageants for life. They accept, push their decimated van up to speed, and then break though the exit gate and out onto the highway and towards the sunset.

6. Trainspotting

This film had to end triumphantly. If it didn't, it would've just been an early precursor to "Requiem For A Dream." After kicking heroin, trying to assimilate to normal life, getting back on heroin, leaving Scotland, kicking heroin again and selling a massive amount of it, Renton (Ewan McGregor) finally decides he's had enough of his friends ruining his life and holding him down. He takes all the money and runs, leaving a tiny bit for Spud (Ewen Bremner), the most honest of the bunch. To complete the fuck-you, it ends with one of the best monologues ever put to film.

5. The Breakfast Club (1985)

I don't think this is the best fuck-you moment ever, but it's easily the most iconic. After an afternoon of brutal high-school honesty, the Jock, the Brain, the Princess, the Basketcase and the Rebel all go their seperate ways, but not before Judd Nelson and Molly Ringwald end up together, and Nelson throws his fist up in the air, in victory.

4. The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou (2004)

After going through a darkly comic hell involving a massive stop-motion shark, the raid of a pirate island and the death of his long-lost son, Steve Zissou (Bill Murray) has nothing left in the tank. Therefore, instead of watching the true masterwork of a film created out of his story, Zissou sits outside the theater, on the red carpet, smoking a joint with his trophy at his side as paparazzi snap photos. Then, when the theater empties out, instead of being drowned in accolades, Zissou takes a small German boy he met once before upon his shoulders and leaves everybody in his wake as he walks far, far away from everything. Also, the entire thing is set to the tune of David Bowie's "Queen Bitch."

3. The Devil's Rejects (2005)

After barely surviving a nightmarish evening with the psychotic Sheriff Wydell (William Forsythe), the equally psychopathic trio of Baby (Sheri Moon Zombie), Otis (Bill Moseley) and Captain Spaulding (Sid Haig) head for the highway and safer ground. However, Otis stops, and when the camera loops around, we see that just ahead is a police blockade with guns drawn, waiting to kill them. There is no turning back, so the three pull their guns out and drive into a hail of gunfire, shooting to their very last breath. I realize that this is the same ending as "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid," but that didn't have fake blood or "Freebird."

2. Network (1976)

Rarely does a film resonate more with audiences thirty years after its release than at the time of, but "Network" pulls it off, in no small part due to the fact that this film essentially predicted the glut of reality television, decades in advance. While the famous "I'm mad as hell!" rant is the most famous sequence, the best one is the final blowoff that Max Schumacher (William Holden) gives to Diana Christensen (Faye Dunaway). He breaks up with her by pitching her the premise of a television show, in which a woman manipulates a man, ruins his life, and only barely does the man make it out in time. But don't worry, there'll be a nice, happy ending during sweeps week.

1. Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (1998)

Being that most of Hunter S. Thompson's life was one big fuck-you moment, it's only appropriate that the film based on his most famous work would be as well. As Raoul Duke (Johnny Depp) finally hits the "edge" (Thompson's explanation for the point of no return, that only dead men have seen), he realizes that the American Dream was never meant to be found in Las Vegas; only the rubble of it. This doesn't stop him, though, as the film ends with him speeding through the desert, waving the American flag and keeping the dream alive.


Somehow, some way, I forgot the climactic destruction of Parilament at the end of "V For Vendetta." There is no way that this list would be complete without a dead revolutionary's body being detonated on a subway train. Also, pay no attention to the subtitles in the clip.

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