And Words Are All I Have

"I’m just one stomach flu away from my goal weight."

Emily Charlton in
The Devil Wears Prada

Is He A Good Father, Katie?

Fans of The Way We Were know this line as well as their morning coffee order and can instantly picture Barbra Streisand as Katie Morosky unexpectedly reuniting with her still-beloved ex, Hubbell (Robert Redford), outside the Plaza Hotel at the film’s end.
Katie reaches to brush Hubbell’s hair out of his eyes and he stops her, taking hold of her wrist tenderly, with a look of such regret, such palpable longing on his face that each time after watching it I must reach down and gather the piteous shards of my heart up off the floor. This for me is biting my lip to keep in my sobs type of crying.

Enjoy the iconic scene.

The film was a cinematic milestone for me: I can recite the dialogue word for word. I know the list of groceries that Katie rhymes off, curbside, at her Brooklyn apartment, to entice Hubbell to stay for dinner. And how he asks at the end with a sly Hubbellesque grin: What kinda pie?

I know the color of the small drop down table in the kitchen of her tiny enchanting third floor walk-up, exactly where she stores Hubbell’s wristwatch for safekeeping overnight, and her breakfast offerings the next morning.

It seems I’ve spent way too many afternoons of my life in darkened movie theatres when I should have been meeting writing deadlines that paid the rent. The upside is that I’ve amassed what now borders on an encyclopedic knowledge of film, dating back to the 1940s. Within this storehouse are celluloid moments that rise above the rest: moments that have transfixed me, entranced me. Moments that endure.

My cinematic crème de la crème takes many forms. It may be one line of dialogue all on its own, or an entire scene’s worth. It might be a look or a gesture from one character to another, or to no one in particular. It might be as simple as the quality of light the director captured at a window in early morning.

Let’s take a look then at my Top 12 Treasured Movie Moments. I’ve included hyperlinks to the scenes I was able to source online.

1. The Deer Hunter
Michael (Robert De Niro) returns to his hometown, a decorated, now chastened soldier. But he cannot face the welcoming party that awaits him at his trailer. He checks in to a motel room outside of town to collect himself. In the soundless scene he paces restlessly in his room. He suddenly presses the heel of one of his hands against an eye as if in tortuous pain. With his back to a wall, he sinks down on his haunches, wincing, still clasping the eye, conveying wordlessly the trauma he has suffered and now lives with.

2. A River Runs Through It
Reverend Maclean (Tom Skerritt) sits in his study in mid-afternoon amid a melancholic light. A detective is telling him of the death of his beloved, reckless son, Paul, who had been killed in a fight over a card game the night before. While the father listens, the detective details the injuries that his son sustained, including to one of his hands that had been broken in several places.

The father then asks one question only of the investigator, in a halting voice that is almost inaudible. It is this:

Which hand?”

3. Tea and Sympathy
In this intelligent 1956 film the wife of the schoolmaster, Laura Reynolds (Deborah Kerr), asks a favour of her young lover, one of her husband’s students. It follows their sudden, passionate tryst and is the final scene of the film when Laura finally ends their affair. Before leaving Laura turns to the young man and asks him this, and only this:

“Years from now, when you speak of this, and you will, be kind."

Deborah Kerr speaks the line at 2:38 in this scene.

4. Jane Eyre

The unsurpassed moment for me here is when Jane Eyre speaks to Rochester one last time before leaving Thornfield Hall. It seemed Jane was uttering the very words I yearned for her to express, especially the final sentiment. It was an uncanny feeling.

Said Jane: “Do you think that because I am poor, plain, obscure and little that I am soulless and heartless? And if God had possessed me with beauty and wealth, I could make it as hard for you to leave me as I to leave you."

For the record my most beloved film version of this novel features William Hurt and Charlotte Gainsbourgh (1996) playing the lead roles. Orson Welles and Joan Fontaine did more than phone it in in their 1942 offering, but for me it was 1996's that most fully embodied Charlotte Brontë's remarkable story. (Film devotees: There are an astounding 45 film versions of the novel Jane Eyre in total, in a variety of languages and formats.)

Here's a compilation of moments from the film.

5. Frances
Frances Farmer (Jessica Lange) shares some stolen moments in a motel room with her beloved Harry (Sam Shepard) before returning ultimately to the confinement commandeered by her vengeful mother.

Upon awakening In the early morning light Frances asks Harry a question, which to me felt like a thetorical one. Lange’s exquisite delivery of the line invests it with all of her character’s heartache and sense of impending doom.

“Do you miss me, Harry?”

6. Out of Africa
Isak Dinesen (Meryl Streep) sits in her kitchen the evening before she parts from her great love, Denys Finch Hatton (Robert Redford). They both realize they will never see one another again.

Dinesen asks a favor of Finch Hatton. She explains she has a curious habit, that when things are very difficult she takes them one step further until they are unbearable. Will he help her to do that by dancing with her one last time?

Finch Hatton stands slowly, reluctantly, and the two of them come together and sway silently, slowly, for their final moments.

7. Frankie and Johnny
It is the final scene of the movie. “Clair de Lune,” Debussy’s haunting piece, is playing on the radio as the two title characters go about the business of the early morning. This follows a night of breaking up and making up and the two of them finally coming together, if tenuously. Eventually we see the early morning light coming through the brownstone window while Frankie (Michelle Pfeiffer) sits on the ledge looking out onto the new day, brushing her teeth, smiling ever so slightly. The exquisite music plays throughout, an anthem of hope somehow for these two emotionally battered souls. Here it is.
franky and johnny

8. Crossing Delancey
In this overlooked little gemstone, Peter Riegert plays Sam Posner, a pickle salesman on Manhattan's Lower East Side. He is courting the lovely Isabel (Amy Irving), but without much success. Isabel has just said something critical about Sam’s station in life. He fires back with something so brilliant, so succinct, it imprinted itself on me from that moment on.

“I sell pickles!" he volleys back. "Do you think that defines me?”

9. They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?
In the harrowing final scene of this film set in the Great Depression, the line of dialogue that electrified me was in the scene where Gloria (Jane Fonda), an unemployed actress, stands with Robert (Michael Sarrazin) on a boardwalk by the ocean. They are both exhausted, on a break from the grueling dance marathon they are trying desperately to win.

Gloria tells Robert she’s given up on acting. She says she is unable to get parts unless she goes through the impenetrable “Central Casting Agency.” He suggests there must be other ways. Sounding utterly defeated, Gloria looks out to sea, her face haunted, tired, and yet utterly lovely, and says:

“Maybe it's just like the whole world's Central Casting. They got it all rigged before you even show up.”

Watch it here.

10. Terms of Endearment
Emma (Debra Winger) is in her hospital bed close to death, dozing on and off. Her mother (Shirley MacLaine) keeps watch. Emma awakens suddenly, sees her mother, and delivers to her a look that has within it regret and sadness, love and longing.
It contains within it every one of those emotions.

Watch it here.

11. Reds
In this landmark film, the train station scene near the film’s end showing the moving reunion of the two lovers, American Communist Jack Reed (Warren Beatty) and political activist Louise Bryant (Diane Keaton). Keaton counts it among her favorite few minutes of anything she’s done on film. “It’s the memory of the kind of love I never imagined possible in the movies,” she said. “On that train station in Spain, where the scene was filmed, it was the sweet anguish of love when I saw Warren’s face.”

Watch it here.

12. Bridges of Madison County.
When Clint Eastwood’s character Robert Kincaid is leaving the kitchen of Francesca Johnson's farmhouse, he holds the kitchen door just before it closes so it doesn’t slam, causing Meryl Streep’s character to show, first, a look of utter surprise and secondly, one of sheer contentment. Francesca, it seemed, had spent a lifetime listening to her family let the door bang shut.

I’ll close with this memory of a scene from the film Doctor Zhivago in the form of a poem I wrote, describing a particular moment within the movie that resonated for me.

Still the Same

When I saw the film Dr Zhivago
what stayed with me most was not
the winter palace sheathed in ice
nor the vicious stabbing by the vengeful brother
in the exotic palace ballroom while revellers danced,
not even the two opposing armies,
grimly, excruciatingly
approaching one another,
late in the night,
the row upon row of impossibly young soldiers,
their heavy boots pounding the frozen Moscow street
moving ever closer
until face to face.

What stayed was this:
Zhivago’s return that sunny afternoon to Yuryatin
and his beloved Lara
after his escape from the army,
and his months-long trek across Russia.
How simple it was for him to retrieve
the skeleton key from the niche in the wall
and climb the snowbound staircase
to enter her lovely rooms once again.

To find himself,
her tiny apartment fully intact,
her soup simmering on the stove
while she was briefly away.

There is her bed as Zhivago remembered it,
the same linens atop,
the finely-stitched pillow of her grandmother
propped at the same angle,
her family photos lined up in the same identical order
above the fire grate,
warming him now as it ever did.
And the soup spoons
still in the same drawer.

This is a poem by Ellen Bass, whom I have been fortunate enough
to work online with this past year.
As ever, I find we learn the most from what is best.

Any Common Desolation

can be enough to make you look up
at the yellowed leaves of the apple tree, the few
that survived the rains and frost, shot
with late afternoon sun. They glow a deep
orange-gold against a blue so sheer, a single bird
would rip it like silk. You may have to break
your heart, but it isn’t nothing
to know even one moment alive. The sound
of an oar in an oarlock or a ruminant
animal tearing grass. The smell of grated ginger.
The ruby neon of the liquor store sign.
Warm socks. You remember your mother,
her precision a ceremony, as she gathered
the white cotton, slipped it over your toes,
drew up the heel, turned the cuff. A breath
can uncoil as you walk across your own muddy yard,
the big dipper pouring night down over you, and everything
you dread, all you can’t bear, dissolves
and, like a needle slipped into your vein—
that sudden rush of the world.

I am here, listening. Share your own stories with me, gentle reader.
pencil drawing red heart
tricia handwritten signature

"I would rather have had one breath of her hair, one kiss of her mouth, one touch of her hand, than eternity without it.

Nicholas Cage in City of Angels


"He brought us joy and we loved him well.
He was not ours. He was not mine."

Meryl Streep's character Karen Blixen bidding goodbye
to her beloved Denys Finch Hatton at his graveside in
Out of Africa.


"Brains. I like that in a man."

Kathleen Turner in Body Heat.

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Simply too good not to share.. Bioluminescence There’s a dark so deep beneath the sea the creatures beget their own light. This feat, this fact of adaptation, I could say, is beautiful though the creatures are hideous. Lanternfish. Hatchetfish. Viperfish. I, not unlike them, forfeited beauty to glimpse the world hidden by eternal darkness. I subsisted on falling matter, unaware …
Jello 🌊

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