Good: 'The Wild Bunch' (Sam Peckinpah, 1969)
In this film about ageing outlaws, my favourite scene is when Pike Bishop (William Holden) turns to Lyle Gorch (Warren Oates) and says: "Let's go" and he replies, "Why not" - and that's their only words before they face inevitable death while trying to save one of their gang. I admire the scriptwriter for not giving them a big speech in their final sequence. There isn't any need because the drama has already set out the deeper implications, which is film at its best - visually telling a story rather than narrating it. We've already seen that they are mercenary outlaws and so their choice to save one of their own makes clear that they also have a sense of honour and loyalty. The scene also shows Peckinpah's ability to make an audience feel for characters whose values they'd normally despise. These outlaws are searching for something to fight for, fearing that life may have passed them by and they are willing to die to challenge these feelings. It's a very poignant moment.
Bad: 'Bill Durham' (Ron Shelton, 1988)
It's a scene that everybody loves except me, which means I hate one of my most famous scenes. Annie Savoy (played by Susan Sarandon) asks Bill Durham (Kevin Costner) about his beliefs and Bill replies with an immaculate, impassioned speech that is meant to be from his soul but it's as cheap as soft core pornography. I knew exactly what impact it would have. In the 40 seconds it took to type I understood that actors would love it, which mattered because I was a first-time movie maker who wanted their film made. I believed I would be able to take it out later. The irony is that everyone loved it, and only recently it topped a poll of great film moments. It's a dishonest speech - I'd rather he'd have replied that he didn't know what he believed, who does? A writer aims to be truthful and this is manipulative and false. But people love being manipulated.
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