Movie Magic

Give some of your favorite examples of Magic in the movies: not slight-of-hand-tricks by magicians, not fantastic special effects.

Things like…

The Wizard of Oz: when Dorothy opens her door and the screen goes from Sepia-tone to Technicolor.

Forrest Gump; when as a child he is running from the bullies and his leg braces explode from his legs, and his strides are strong and true.

Schindler’s List: The Jews on his list are having a Seder and light a candle…and the light from the candle is a radiant gold in comparison to the rest of the screen’s black-and-white.

For that matter, what about the little girl in the red coat in the same film? Keneally did an adequate job of describing the scene in the book; Spielberg did a superb job of conveying the drama by using long shots of the red-coated girl in the middle of the chaos in black-and-white.

I was thinking of that, too, unfortunately, the little girl with the colorized red coat meets a decidedly un-magical end.

The Natural and the shattering lights.

The opening scene of Star Wars: ANH

But isn’t it magical in it’s own way? The red coat directs the viewer’s attention to the little girl; an innocent, confused by what is happening around her, and then…

It is a powerful piece of filmmaking. Perhaps there is the magic, although not in a good way: Spielberg doesn’t just tug at the heartstrings; he rips them out and tromps all over them.

I don’t know if this counts, as all the ones used so far are reasonably positive moments,

But I would have to nominate Platoon - Sergeant Elias running through the bush while the helicopters cruise overhead, that beautiful music (D’Aggio for Strings IIRC) falling to his knees.

Sends a shiver down my spine every time I see it.

Orson Welles tracking a camera through a pane of glass in Citizen Kane.

The contra-zoom effects in Vertigo.

Bullet time.

In Contact in a flashback, Ellie remembers the night her father died - she hears him fall, goes to him, says “I’ll get your pills” and runs up the stairs to the bathroom to the medicine cabinet, and the whole scene has been viewed thru the medicine cabinet’s mirror

I always get a rush when the flying machine that the film has been building up drama and interest in for most of the story finally takes off.

So I love the takeoff moments in The Flight of the Phoenix and in Firefox. I get something of it when James Garner and Donald Pleasance’s characters take off in The Great Escape, too, though there’s not as much build-up (and in real life, as Paul Brickhill wrote it, they weren’t able to get into the plane, even after starting it up.)

The Big Blue, a French film about free divers. The first portion of the movie recalls events when the main characters are young boys in Italy (or Greece?) and is shot in B&W. Then, cutting to the present it switches to color with a shot of the Aegean on a dazzling, sunny day. The effect is stunning.