You’ve seen their lists of best and worst movies of the year — now take a look at EW critics Owen Gleiberman and Lisa Schwarzbaum’s picks for best and worst scenes of the year.
Best scene — Owen’s pick
A president strategizes in Lincoln
At a cabinet meeting, Abraham Lincoln makes a startling confession: He has no idea if his Emancipation Proclamation is even legal. He just…did it. In fact, he’s been winging the legality of his actions through most of the Civil War. But then he floats a head-spinning case for why his push against slavery is legal—and why the courts, with no 13th amendment, may still overrule him. This spellbinder of a monologue seizes us with the intricacy of Lincoln’s mind, even as Daniel Day-Lewis’ acting shows us his secret renegade spirit. And Steven Spielberg uses a very slow zoom to mythically echo the scene in The Godfather when Michael Corleone ”joins” his family. That’s great filmmaking.
Worst scene — Owen’s pick
A guidette confession in One for the Money
As Stephanie, the screwup-turned-bounty hunter of the deadly rom-com thriller One for the Money, Katherine Heigl does working-class sexy slovenliness in an overly thought-out way. When the cop she likes subdues her by handcuffing her to a shower rod, she offers up the line: ”I confess, I fantasized about being handcuffed and naked in front of [you] once. Maybe twice.” Ick!
Best scene — Lisa’s pick
Man and refrigerator in Flight
In a superb white-knuckle drama about a plane crash and a human nosedive, the most breathtaking action sequence is a wordless one involving a hotel mini-fridge, a tiny bottle of booze, and a man standing stock still with his life in the balance. Will he open the bottle? And if he does, will he drink the contents? Nooo! Don’t do it! we pray, sick with knowing that we’re helpless to protect the man from himself. The scene is so finely constructed by director Robert Zemeckis, screenwriter John Gatins, and star Denzel Washington that just the whir of the refrigerator motor kicking in sounds as loud as an explosion, and the appliance light glows like an entrance to hell.
Worst scene — Lisa’s pick
Man and urine stream in Trouble With the Curve
Clint Eastwood has made a late-career specialty out of playing grumpy old men—broken-down loners and growlers who want everyone off the damn lawn. It is arrrghhh! unfortunate that, in playing a broken-down, growling loner of a baseball scout in Trouble With the Curve, Eastwood is first seen at a toilet bowl, talking either to his urine or his penis (reasonable people can disagree as to which) in an effort to get his day off to a good start with a hearty pee. Earlier this year at the Republican National Convention, the fellow famously talked to an empty chair. Get this man some friends!
For more of our best & worst picks of 2012, buy our year-end double issue on newsstands now or subscribe to EW.