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four scenes

I've been watching movies this weekend and everything seems to remind me of losing my home to foreclosure Monday, May 9, 2011. The Kraken is attacking The Pearl, and Captain Jack Sparrow orders his crew to abandon ship, because, after all, "She's only a ship, mate." Aunt May is packing up her belongings because the bank is foreclosing her house, too, when Peter comes over and tries clumsily to make up after he confessed his hand in Uncle Ben's death.

Spiderman 2 boasts one of my favorite scenes in a movie. Spidey meets Doc Ock at the clocktower but their battle descends to an elevated train below. Doc Ock forces a choice on Spidey: save the disabled train and all its riders from plummeting off the unfinished tracks, or save MJ from I don't remember what. Of course Spidey chooses to stop the train, the effort of which causes him to faint dead away. Just before he slumps off the front of the train, sans mask mind you, the good people whom he's just saved gently lift him above their heads and pass him to safety in the back of the train. They lay him on the floor and marvel at his youth. When he comes to, they promise to keep his identity a secret. Then, when Doc Ock comes after Spidey again, those Average Joes stand up to the mechanical menace. It's an act of certain bravery.

When I think of the cinematic scenes that genuinely move me, I find they have something in common. The stories usually center on a strong but flawed protagonist, and the scenes that move me most focus on that protector in a moment of vulnerability. The Abyss. Schindler's List. Gorillas in the Mist.

The Abyss. Lindsey and Bud have to make it from their failing sub to the rig, but there's only one diving suit. Bud's the stronger swimmer, so he agrees to don the suit and drag Lindsey to the rig. They know she'll die on the way to the rig but hope her body will go into deep hypothermia and she can be resuscitated on the rig. Bud drags Lindsey's body through the water and up onto the platform in the rig and starts resuscitation, defib, everything. She doesn't revive. But he won't give up on her. "Come on, breathe! Goddamn it, you bitch, you never backed down from anything in your fight!" And he slaps her, hard. She sputters back to life and from that moment on things between them change. For the better.

Schindler's List. I only watched it once in my lifetime because it was too painful to watch again, but there's a scene toward the end where Oskar laments the loss of all those souls, and what he could have done to save them but didn't. "This pin. Two people. This is gold. Two more people. He would have given me two for it, at least one. One more person. A person, Stern. For this. I could have gotten one more person … and I didn't! And I … I didn't!"

Gorillas in the Mist. Dian Fossey may have been a total nutjob, but she was passionate about her work. Sigourney Weaver's portrayal sets my jaw, or at least I wish it did. She did everything she could to save those gorillas, and in the end she couldn't do it. When the poachers killed Digit she turned to Sembegare, her tracker, and moaned, "They took his hands. They took his hands." Unthinkable.

A strong character in a moment of vulnerability. That's me, right now, in this life.


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