April 13, 2011

Blades of glory



Watching La Dolce Vita again the other morning, and thinking about the fantastic helicopter scene over Rome that opens it, with one helicopter shifting a statue of Christ and the other a news helicopter tracking it -- which has been interpreted as either a parody of the Second Coming or Fellini telling us that everything that follows this prologue is taking place in a post-Christian world (the second interpretation, personally) -- I wondered: is this one of the great helicopter scenes? Surely it is.

Call this a social media experiment. The best helicopter moments in films, I said on Twitter. Apocalypse Now. La Dolce Vita. Blue Thunder. Black Hawk Down. Those are the inevitable choices; the last two films are even named for their helicopters, films where machinery matters as much as humans.

Twitter responses: Emily Perkins nominated Thelma and Louise. Steve Braunias nominated Unstoppable. (We now have two Ridley Scotts and one Tony Scott). Charlie Gates nominated the helicopter moment in The Godfather Part III as the only good bit in that film -- a fantastic helicopter attack scene I'd totally forgotten about (two Coppolas now). Cheryl Bernstein liked "Goodfellas, in the last days before the FBI move in". Matt Nippert said "You'd also have to include Jarhead -- but admittedly that's the scene where the marines are cheering on Apocalypse Now ..." Is there a fresh way of doing helicopters after Apocalypse Now/Vietnam? Even Avatar's helicopter-in-jungle scenes were Vietnam derivatives. The other way is apocalyptic: spectacular helicopter business in George Romero's Dawn of the Dead, with helicopter as both escape device and killing machine.