Michael C. here. Over at Serious Film I've been handing out awards for 2012, but when I tried to name the dance scene of the year I realized 2012 was too packed with great contenders to choose only a single champion. So here is a more comprehensive list of the best scenes where characters couldn't fight their dancing feet.
I consider Holy Motor's accordion scene more parade than dance otherwise it would surely top this list. Likewise I don't know quite how to classify Philip Seymour Hoffman's disturbing performance during The Master's nude party fantasy although it certainly impossible to forget. As for Magic Mike all the movie's dance scenes blended together in my memory, so maybe some Ladies of Tampa can enlighten me in the comments as to which one was the standout.
Top 10 Dance Scenes of 2012
10. Take This Waltz
I wasn’t as in love with this infidelity drama as many were, but it had a handful of great scenes where I could see what everybody else was so excited about. The finest was a house party where the secret life of Michelle Williams’ character threatens to spill out into public view on the dance floor to the tune of Feist’s terrific cover of Leonard Cohen’s Closing Time.
9. Silver Linings Playbook (and 8 more films after the jump)
Silver Linings is at it best when its off-kilter characters are freed from the requirements of plot to bounce off each other. This is why I much prefer the early rehearsal scene with Chris Tucker acting as dance coach to the big crowd-pleasing finale.
Danny: Black it up, Pat.
Pat: What’s that mean?
Danny: You know damn well what it means.
Sure you’ve just unexpectedly murdered somebody but that’s no reason to delay the dress rehearsal for your local production of The Music Man. Jack Black tamps down his natural vitality for a stilted rendition of 76 Trombones which, like everything else in Bernie, seems normal on the surface but odd in a way you can’t quite put your finger on.
7. Greta Gerwig Double Feature
Dance scenes were the highlight of two Gerwig films in 2012. (It would have been three if Frances Ha had secured an earlier release date). The centerpiece of Whit Stilman’s Damsels in Distress was the self-proclaimed International Dance Craze,”The Sambola!” while in Lola Versus Gerwig hit the dance floor in a scene that will have you rushing to iTunes to download Dan Deacon’s “The Crystal Cat”.
6. Anna Karenina
One thing you can’t accuse Joe Wright’s Anna Karenina adaptation of is a lack of effort. I thought the film suffered from a lack of chemistry between the two leads but you wouldn’t know it to watch the camera swoop and dive through the ballroom dance sequence. It’s not a good sign when the film’s avant-garde choreography is more memorable than the romance but it is sure was a sight to see.
5. On the Road
Anna Karenina tried to force passion into the film but it proves no amount of elaborate staging can substitute for two actors giving off genuine heat. Case in point: Kristen Stewart and Garrett Hedlund whipping up a sexual tornado with their frenzied dancing to Dizzie Gillespie and Charlie Parker’s “Salt Peanuts” Stewart gives off more erotic sparks in seventy seconds then in untold hours of passionless dead-eyed “romance” scenes.
4. Cabin the Woods
3. Moonrise Kingdom
I’ve already written plenty on Moonrise Kingdom, so I’ll just say that movie moments don’t come more purely joyous than the young heroes’ beachfront dance to Françoise Hardy’s Le Temps de L’amour
2. This is 40
Wow, you really leave everything on the dance floor.”
So says the stunned hockey player to Leslie Mann after witnessing her bust out some of the most inventive dance moves since Romy and Michelle. One of the comedic highlights of 2012 and more evidence that the everyone missed the boat with the total lack of buzz around Mann's performance.
1. Perks of Being a Wallflower
Living room routine!”
If you’re going to have the word “wallflower” in the title of your movie then the one scene you absolutely have to nail is the one where the title character gets up the nerve to approach his dream girl on the dance floor.
Stephen Chbosky staging is inspired, timing Logan Lerman tentative head-bobbing steps to the rising crescendo of Come on Eileen. It perfectly captures the butterflies-in-the-stomach leap of faith it requires for the shy kid to peel himself off the sidelines.