Chase was the name of the theme of the inaugural Phoenix Film Foundation educational outreach program, The Best Scene I’ve Seen as members of the Phoenix Critics Circle took audiences on a cinematic journey featuring their favorite chase sequence. Clips from each of the selected films are presented below.
Aside from putting on the annual Phoenix Film Festival every April, the non-profit Phoenix Film Foundation’s charter is to facilitate the ongoing education of the local film going public “that teach the art of independent filmmaking.”
As a part of the ongoing educational outreach, members of the Phoenix Critics Circle launched the The Greatest Scene I’ve Ever Seen program this evening. Using clips from various films, the team of presenters, including International Horror & Sci Fi Film Festival director Monte Yazzie, Arizona Republic critic Barbara Van Denburgh, Gone With the Twins’ critic team of Mike & Joel Massie and Dark of the Matinee’s Matthew Robinson shared their favorite clips featuring tonight’s theme, chase.
Both a verb and a noun, chase implies a pursuit in order to catch up with someone, or the act of pursuing someone or something.
During his opening remarks, Mr. Yazzie shared that the purpose of this presentation was to be as interactive as possible, and they achieved that. But, he also asked members of the audience to start thinking about their own favorite chase sequences. Admittedly, when this program was first announced a few weeks back, my immediate thought went towards car chases.
The group’s opening sizzle reel set to Sweet’s “Fox on the Run” tantalized not only car chases, but foot chases as well and it did not disappoint. As Mr. Yazzie asked us to think about our favorite chase scenes, he mentioned it could be a car chase, a skateboard chase or even a foot chase.
Mr. Robinson opened the presentation with a historical perspective offering 1903’s The Great Train Robbery, a western short from Edwin S. Porter. Painting Mr. Porter as a rebel during a time where film was for the working class because it was far cheaper to record an actors’ performance rather than having an actor on stage each evening. Mr. Porter’s film was shot on location, the first film to do so, creating the first chase sequence. I’ve included a link to the 12-minute film, which was selected for preservation in 1990. Mr. Robinson’s choice was a perfect way to begin our cinematic exploration.
Ms. Vandenburgh next shared with us her personal favorite film, Carol Reed’s The Third Man featuring Orson Welles and Joseph Cotton. The scene she selected was the final chase in the sewers of post war Vienna. The film, which I had not seen until the 2015 limited theatrical release, is a gripping tale of a man on the lamb and his friend who thought him to be dead and the chase depicted in the scene is as much about escape as it is about two friends coming to terms with their situation. It was a perfect entry for this evening’s discussion.
Joel and Mike Massie, who are notoriously hard on films (you should see their Top 100 list and their list of perfect score films) “dumbed things down” for us with their favorite scene, that of the tank chase in St. Petersburg, Russia in 1995’s GoldenEye which introduced us to Pierce Brosnan’s take on the role. Martin Campbell infused the sequence with humor, a marked transition from Timothy Dalton’s raw and gritty take on the character five years prior.
Monte Yazzie’s wealth of film knowledge is limitless. Tonight, he chose to share with us his love of Brian De Palma, whose birthday it happens to be (Happy Birthday, Mr. De Palma) and the use of the Steadicam in his gangster film, Carlito’s Way (something I have sadly not seen all the way through.) Monte’s passion for this film and Mr. De Palma was as invigorating as the sequence he shared, that which closes the film in Grand Central Station. Monte also included a clip from the recent documentary, De Palma talking about Pacino’s discomfort with the number of takes it took to get the subway shots.
Barbara came back up on stage to share with us the car retreat sequence from Alfonso Curaon’s Children of Men. The unique nature of this shot is that it was completed in one shot, meaning there were no edits. According to Ms. Vandenburgh, the production had budgeted for three takes over 12 days and they managed to get the final shot on the third take, in a complete fluke.
The Massie Twins returned to the stage to share their next clip. Much like their GoldenEye clip, their love for Steven Spielberg’s Raiders of the Lost Ark was center stage. The Twins shared that Spielberg had tried to appeal to “Cubby” Broccoli for him to direct a James Bond film. When he and George Lucas were vacationing in Hawaii following the release of 1977’s Star Wars, Spielberg shared his desire to direct a Bond film with Lucas. Out of that discussion, Indiana Jones was born. The Desert Chase sequence makes gorgeous use of John Williams’s score as well as numerous stunt sequences as Indy tries to recover the Ark from the Nazis.
The evening came to a close with Monte’s closing remarks. The was a friendly competition over whose clip was the audience’s favorite, which Ms. Vandenburgh won.
The evening was a lot of fun, and went a long way towards fostering the educational outreach of the Phoenix Film Foundation. From the birth of the chase to a horse strutting it’s stuff down a mountainside to a tank chase on the streets of St. Petersburg, the team of experts from the Phoenix Critics Circle did an amazing job and I’m looking forward to the next program, where the theme will be music.
For the record, our favorite chase scene is the Paris car chase from John Frankenheimer’s Ronin. We’d love to hear from you about your favorite chase sequence, whether it be on four wheels, a horse, or a foot chase, sound off on social media.