Scenes That I Love: The Opening of Staying Alive


We’re still in the process of recovering from last week’s winter storm down here and I have to admit that, for me personally, it’s been a bit of a struggle to actually maintain my focus.  Last week’s combination of power outages and freezing weather threw me off of my usual rhythm and I’m still getting it back.

Fortunately, I have a little help from my friends.  Earlier tonight, a group of us watched the 1983 film, Staying Alive.  Staying Alive is the somewhat notorious sequel to Saturday Night Fever.  If Saturday Night Fever was actually a dark and gritty coming-of-age story disguised as a crowd-pleasing musical, Staying Alive is …. well, it’s something much different.  It’s a film about dancing and Broadway, directed and at least partially written by Sylvester Stallone.  Why exactly would anyone think that Sylvester Stallone was the right director to make a movie about dancing and Broadway?  Your guess is as good as mine but, in the end, the important thing is that Stallone wrote a key supporting role for his brother, Frank Stallone.  Frank not only performs several songs but he proves that he can glare with the best of them.

As for the film itself, it opens with Tony Manero (John Travolta) having left behind Brooklyn and the world of disco.  Now, he lives in Manhattan, he teaches a dance class, he humiliates himself looking for an agent, and he’s struggling to make it on Broadway.  (Basically, he’s turned into Joey from Friends.)  When Tony’s lucky enough to get cast in a lavish musical called Satan’s Alley, Tony has a chance to become a star but only if he can …. well, I was going to say control his ego but actually, his ego isn’t that much of a problem in Staying Alive.  Actually, there’s really nothing standing in Tony’s way, other than the fact that — in Staying Alive as opposed to Saturday Night Fever — he’s portrayed as kind of being an irredeemable idiot.  If Saturday Night Fever was all about revealing that Tony was actually smarter and more sensitive than he seemed, Staying Alive seems to be all about saying, “Whoops!  Sorry!  He’s just as obnoxious as you thought he was.”

Staying Alive is a notoriously ill-conceived film, though it’s also one of those films that’s just bad enough to be entertaining when viewed with a group of snarky friends.  That said, the opening credits montage — which features Tony dancing while Kurtwood Smith glares at him — is actually pretty good.  Travolta smolders with the best of them and the sequence does a good job of capturing Tony’s mix of desperation and determination.  It’s unfortunate that Kurtwood Smith pretty much disappeared from the film following the opening credits.  Judging from what little we see of him, Smith would have been pretty entertaining as a permanently annoyed choreographer.  Finally, how can you not love the neon credits?  This a scene that screams 80s in the best possible way.

So, while I continue to work on getting back to my usual prolific ways, why not enjoy this scene that I love from Staying Alive?

Scenes That I Love: Ruth and Sonny in The Last Picture Show (Cloris Leachman, RIP)


Yesterday, it was announced that the actress Cloris Leachman had passed away at the age of 94.

Leachman had a long career.  I know that most people know her from her comedic work.  Indeed, when it was announced that she had passed, Twitter was full of people posting clips from Young Frankenstein, Raising Hope, and a host of other comedies.  However, Leachman was also just as a capable as a dramatic actress.  She began her career in 1947 and, though she worked regularly (and appeared in the noir classic, Kiss Me Deadly), her career really didn’t pick up until she won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress in 1972.

She won that Oscar for playing Ruth Popper in The Last Picture Show.  Ruth is the lonely wife of a closeted high school coach in a small Texas town.  She has an affair with teenager Sonny Crawford (Timothy Bottoms), just for him to abandon her for the beautiful but self-absorbed Jacy Farrow (Cybil Shepherd).  At the end of the film, after realizing that Jacy actually has no interest in him, Sonny attempts to return to Ruth.  It’s a powerful scene, largely due to Leachman’s performance.

In memory of Cloris Leachman, here’s a scene that I love:

Scenes That I Love: The Phone Call From Sam Wainwright From It’s A Wonderful Life


Tonight, NBC will be airing It’s A Wonderful Life.

Watching It’s A Wonderful Life on Christmas Eve is a tradition for many people.  It definitely is for me and my family.  I’ve watched It’s A Wonderful Life so many times that I’ve practically got the entire movie memorized.  It’s not only my favorite Christmas movie but also one of my favorite movies of all time.

Everyone knows, of course, that It’s A Wonderful Life is a film about a man named George (played by Jimmy Stewart) who gets a chance to see what the world would be like without him.  What I think is often overlooked is that it’s also a powerful and poignant love story and that the scenes between George and Mary (Donna Reed) are some of the most intensely romantic ever filmed.

In the scene below, George and Mary get a phone call from Mary’s ex, Sam Wainwright.  Sam has a business opportunity but George has more on his mind than staying in Bedford Falls and making money.  This scene, which begins with Mary upset and George feeling lost, ends with one of the most powerful kisses of the 1940s.

This is a scene that I love from a movie that I love and I look forward to watching it tonight!

Scenes That I Love: Daria Nicolodi in Shock


As soon as I heard the great Daria Nicolodi had passed away at the age of 70, I knew that I had to find a scene from one of her films to share here on the Shattered Lens.

Unfortunately, YouTube was not very helpful.  I was tempted to re-share the scene of her arm-wrestling David Hemmings in Deep Red but I chose not to because, according to our stats, a lot of you already visited that post after the news of her passing was announced.

I also nearly shared the finale of Shock.  This was Daria’s best performance and one that she always cited as being a favorite.  However, I hesitated to do so because that scene features Daria’s character dying in a rather gruesome manner and I worried it was perhaps a bit too morbid to share under these circumstances.  But this scene also shows what a good actress Daria Nicolodi was and, again, Shock was a film that she always cited as being one of her personal favorites.  That said, I just can’t bring myself to pay tribute to someone on the day of their passing with a scene in which they die.  So, I’m sharing a different scene from Shock.  This one is perhaps a bit less dramatic than the finale but it still shows what a good and expressive actress Daria Nicolodi was.  She makes the scene below feel real.

So, in memory of the great Daria Nicolodi, here she is in Mario Bava’s Shock: