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The Slow Motion Hall of Fame

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No matter how elaborate the world of special effects becomes, there’s one gimmick that never seems to go out of style: Slow Motion. It draws attention, heightens emotion and allows a director to be master of the universe. And it’s cheaper than 3D! See what you think of these examples.

INCEPTION

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Let’s start with the ultimate, thinking man’s use of slow motion. There are MULTIPLE layers of it in Christopher Nolan’s modern sci-fi classic. Frankly, it’s so challenging to keep up with the various stories-within-stories (the plot has to do with dreams you can create and insert into someone’s subconscious mind) that you almost need the slow motion as a tiny respite. Cool beans.

2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY

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Director Stanley Kubrick will be mentioned more than once on this List. In “2001: A Space Odyssey,” he expertly lets slow motion convey a sense of the vast, impenetrable nature of both space and time. I think we’re still waiting for that animal bone the man-ape threw in the air to come down.

THE MATRIX

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Rarely, if ever, has slo-mo been more badass than in “The Matrix.” Come on! That dude, Neo, limbos his way out of the path of bullets without so much as adjusting his sunglasses! On a related note, I can’t reach back to grab my TV remote without spraining something.

INSTANT REPLAY

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Thanks to the advent of slow motion replays in televised sports, fans everywhere can judge for themselves how bad the umpires are. Unfortunately, it also means we occasionally have to endure Tim McCarver or some other knucklehead repeat the phrase, “He missed the tag!” about eight zillion times.

THELMA AND LOUISE

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The slow motion ending of “Thelma and Louise” driving off a cliff was so perfect, I’m surprised more movies don’t use the device. Who knows? “Battleship” might have made some money if they’d steered the boat off a cliff.

BONNIE AND CLYDE

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This was some cutting-edge, slow motion violence. In 1967, audiences were stunned by the stylized way Arthur Penn had “Bonnie and Clyde” meet their demise.

BRIAN’S SONG

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I believe “Brian’s Song” was what they call a “male weepie.” Man, that sounds bad. Anyway, Billy Dee Williams and James Caan starred in this 1971 TV movie about about real-life Chicago Bears players Gale Sayers and Brian Piccolo. There’s friendship, there’s loss – and there’s slow motion to wring out every last ounce of emotion.

ZOMBIELAND

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Oh, but the opening of “Zombieland” is a bit of gory genius. With snazzy graphic elements and a witty voice-over, a series of zombies chase down dinner in slow motion to illustrate the rules of staying out of their hungry clutches.

THE SHINING

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Kubrick again creates an iconic image in slow motion for 1980’s “The Shining.” Something yucky and unexpected is about to issue forth from this elevator, and it takes its sweet time.

HOOSIERS

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Sports and slow motion are a natural combination. It’s all about savoring certain moments, such as the big shot in the big game of the big tournament. Everyone has his or her favorite, and mine is the old-fashioned, high school basketball saga, “Hoosiers.” What makes it particularly nice is that the slow motion here is incredibly subtle.

SHERLOCK HOLMES

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Robert Downey Jr.’s “Sherlock Holmes” series very effectively speeds up and slows down the action as a way to illustrate the hero’s brilliant, lightning fast mind. You get to experience what Holmes thinks will happen, then see if it actually transpires.

10

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Slow motion accentuates the sex appeal of Bo Derek in “10,” showing her running along a beach as Dudley Moore gapes admiringly. This is a device often used to indicate physical beauty or desire.

CHARIOTS OF FIRE

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Or it can stand in for basic sentimentality and reverie. In “Chariots of Fire,” you have slow motion as an ode to the pure joy of pursuing a personal quest for God and country.

THE UNTOUCHABLES

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“The Untouchables,” starring Kevin Costner, featured an elaborate scene in which a gangster pushes a baby carriage down a flight of steps in order to escape the law. It’s grand, operatic – and based on a scene from the 1925 silent film, “Battleship Potemkin.”

THE WILD BUNCH

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Nobody did masculine, gritty violence quite like director Sam Peckinpah. For “The Wild Bunch,” which deals with a band of aging mercenaries, Peckinpah decided to slow the camera each time one of his geezers bit the dust at the end of the film.

THE SIX MILLION DOLLAR MAN

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Back in the 1970s, pretty much every wisenheimer worth his bell-bottoms did a stupid impression of Lee Majors in slow motion, as bionic agent Steve Austin in “The Six Million Dollar Man.” There was a silly sound effect to go along with it. Thanks, slow motion!

And now comes the part where I encourage you to add to The List. No rush. Take … your … time.

5 Film Turkeys I’m Thankful For

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This being Thanksgiving weekend and all, I’m devoting today’s List to some film turkeys I actually like. Some were critical flops, some were financial flops, some were both – but all of them were worth the price of admission to me.

1941 (1979)

Here’s the plot: Pearl Harbor has been attacked, and folks in California are convinced that an invasion is imminent. Naturally, comedic mayhem ensues. For my friends and I, this was an all-star cast to die for. You had the great John Belushi, and Dan Aykroyd, and John Candy, and Joe Flaherty, and Tim Matheson, and about a hundred others. It made no sense, of course. It was just good, boisterous fun.

SOLARIS (2002)

This George Clooney sci-fi flick absolutely bored the hell out of many viewers. For long stretches, it was as cold and meditative as watching a snowstorm from a a drafty window. But I found it engrossing. And the space setting, to me, was a perfect choice for a drama about grief, memory, delusion and perception.

STARDUST (2007)

Even after seeing the movie poster, you may not believe this film was actually made. It is – hang tight, now – a cute love story involving the winsome Claire Danes; it features Michelle Pfeiffer as a sexy, sarcastic witch; Robert DeNiro plays a gay pirate captain whose ship floats in the air; and it has a unicorn. Holy cinematic train wreck! Yet … silly as it is, its sheer energy and audacity won me over. Go figure.

GET CARTER (2000)

I don’t care what anyone says. I think the late-period Stallone has an aura of weariness and regret that seeps nicely into his work. In this case, a violent remake of a Michael Caine revenge flick, Stallone gives and gets quite a beating. The cast, meanwhile, is excellent, including Mickey Rourke, John C. McGinley, Alan Cumming and Caine himself.

WATERWORLD (1995)

Of COURSE it’s ridiculous. It’s FAMOUSLY ridiculous. But so what? Crazy mermaid-guy Kevin Costner tools around his waterlogged world in the coolest piece of transportation outside of the Batmobile. There’s one scene in particular where he catapults himself out of danger, slides down the length of his boat’s mainsail and makes a getaway. Come on, that’s just awesome. Plus, Dennis Hopper’s psycho villain makes me laugh.

Another thing I’m thankful for? Anyone who takes the time to read these little Lists. Happy Thanksgiving weekend to one and all!