When I was in England, I remember going to see a blockbuster film in London. This was back in 2002, and it cost £10 ($20), and that was the matinee price. I was appalled, but I tried to keep that part quiet because someone was treating me, and I wanted to seem grateful.

The movie, Signs, was horrible, and I think worldwide we might have been the only ones who went because it was only in theatres for a week.


Besides my frugal outrage, all I remember about the film was the way it so deliberately reminded the audience of a seemingly throw away scene, upon which the entire film now hinged. I felt cheated. It made me wonder if all films only kept scenes that directly moved the plot. I loved the idea of a scene for its own sake that didn’t have to single handedly hold up the story line – like a weight bearing wall in a home.

When I think back on my life, of course I remember those foundational moments – many only visible in hindsight – but more often than not it is the little gestures, the chance encounters, the serendipitous moments, the minor events that truly breathe life into my story and make it real. Stupid teenage boy comments, tiny liver linings to laying  off friends, accidentally telling the Grad School Dean the equivalent of “my panties are wet,” all of these give my life depth.

Good movies have these moments – the character development scenes that could be removed without destroying the story: the running scene in Forrest Gump, the boring biscuit scene in Love Actually, Gar visiting his son at his ex-wife’s house in Full Monty. Wow, no movies this decade have made an impact on my memory in this way!

Before Signs, I’d never thought anything at all about construction. Now how things are put together fascinates me. What a perfect example of what not to do … even if it did star Joaquin Phoenix.

Where do you stand on “superfluous” scenes? or What movies from this decade you enjoyed the most?

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