Movies - Quotes postsMonday January 28, 2013
My Top 10 Movie Lines of 2012
I'm like Alice's Rabbit, late late late. But I have a day job, it's been a busy month, and the distributors, as usual, are slow to getting some of the more acclaimed movies to the outer reaches of the land, which is to say Seattle. Can't SIFF help with this? You'd think. At the same time, I'm earlier than last year's list. So there's that.
Someday I hope to do a piece on the ways movies in any given year complement and refute each other. I saw the big-budget musical “Les Miserables” a month after the doc “How to Survive a Plague,” and thought you could played Marius' survivor's-guilt lament, “Empty Tables and Empty Chairs,” from the former, over the closing credits of the latter. Meanwhile, the best counterargument to the overall torture storyline of “Zero Dark Thirty” isn't the folks, such as me, blah blah blahing about the inefficacy or immorality of torture; it's Ken Burns' doc, “The Central Park Five,” where we realize we don't need enhanced interrogation to break people; just interrogation. ZDT tells us everyone breaks; CPF tells us the innocent always break first.
So here we go. Here's to the screenwriters who write the words. Here's to the actors who say them.
10. “The story is in the ice somehow.”
-- Photographer James Balog in the documentary “Chasing Ice.”
The story James Balog winds up telling, or showing, is time-lapse photography of the destruction of beauty. We watch glaciers melt away in a matter of months. It's like watching La Sagrada Familia or the Louvre or Marion Cotillard melt away. The story he tells is a kind of horror story, and it's ours, and it's ongoing. See it. Or at least be aware of it.
9. “Thank you, Vishnu, for introducing me to Christ”
-- Pi Patel, age 5, in Ang Lee's “Life of Pi.” Screenplay by David Magee. From the novel by Yann Martel.
“Life of Pi” seems to be about a boy and a tiger, as “Django Unchained” seems to be about an ex-slave bounty hunter; but both movies are ultimately about storytelling. This is the first of Pi's stories: young, curious and Hindu, and coming across Christianity and other religions. The story of Jesus confuses him at first. A story of self-sacrifice? By a god? But God? What's the point of that? In a way, young Pi is like most moviegoers. He wants wish-fulfillment fantasy. He wants the strong to be strong and smite the evil and foolish. Eventually he comes to understand Jesus on a deeper level.
8. “I liked being watched. I liked turning them on. I liked getting them all worked up. But then I'd just get bored.”
--Stephanie (Marion Cotillard) in Jacques Audiard's “Rust and Bone.” Screenplay by Jacques Audiard and Thomas Bidegain. Based on a story by Craig Davidson.
Stephanie and Ali (Matthias Schoenaerts) don't exactly meet cute. She's on the floor of a disco with a bloody nose. He's the bouncer who bruises his knuckles taking the guy out. He looks at her legs driving her home. He ices his knuckles at her place. By the time of the above admission, she's lost her legs (that's why the past tense) and his knuckles have another rendezvous with ice. But it's the stark admission of it. The honesty of it. We don't get that in many movies. It's a good reminder to men, too. Your interest is assumed; what else have you got?
7. Lori: I know I’m not a talking teddy bear but at least you didn’t have to make a wish to get me. John: How do you know?
-- Lori (Mila Kunis) and John (Mark Wahlberg) in Ted. Screenplay by Seth MacFarlane, Alec Sulkin and Wellesley Wild.
I would've liked this movie a lot more if it hadn't steeped itself in the worst pop-cultural crap, but asking Seth MacFarlane not to do that is like asking Steven Spielberg to end a movie abruptly or Quentin Tarantino to tone down the gunplay. MacFarlane's humor will always be hit or miss to me. But the above line? A bouquet of roses in a junkyard.
6. “How can I hold that all men are created equal when here before me stands, stinking, the moral carcass of the gentlemen from Ohio, proof that some men are inferior, endowed by their maker with dim wit impermeable to reason, with cold, pallid slime in their veins instead of hot, red blood. You are more reptile than man, George. So low and flat that the foot of man is incapable of crushing you.”
-- Thaddeus Stevens (Tommy Lee Jones) in Steven Spielberg's “Lincoln.” Screenplay by Tony Kushner, based on the book by Doris Kearns Goodwin.
For all the great dialogue in “Lincoln,” the revelatory moments, it's the insults, the eru-fucking-dite insults that stand out. We think we're bad motherfuckers in the 21st century when it comes to trash talk. We actually owe the 19th century an apology for how far we've slipped.
5. “We accept the love we think we deserve.”
-- Mr. Anderson (Paul Rudd) to Charlie (Logan Lerman), and Charlie to Sam (Emma Watson) in Stephen Chbosky's “The Perks of Being a Wallflower.” Screenplay be Stephen Chbosky. Based on his novel.
Dr. Phil would go out of business if everyone tattooed this quote somewhere on their body or mind. That wouldn't be a bad thing. Either thing.
4. “Remember in the sixties when girls wore short skirts? Wasn’t that great?”
-- Paul Simon remembering a convesation with South African artist General M.D. Shirinda in the documentary “Under African Skies.”
Shiranda wrote the song that Simon would adapt into “I Know What I Know.” At this point in the story of the making of “Graceland,” and its subsequent controversy, Simon worries that the album isn't political enough; that it isn't evoking the reality of South Africa enough. So he asks Shiranda what his song is really about. This is his answer. Shiranda's right, too. It was great.
3. “It sort of felt like reaching the Wizard of Oz. It's like you’ve got to the center of the whole system and there’s just this schmuck behind a curtain.”
-- ACT-UP activist Mark Harrington in the documentary “How to Survive a Plague.”
I immediately flashed to “All the President's Men”: Deep Throat telling Bob Woodward of the Nixon White House, “These are not very bright guys ... and things got out of hand.” That's still one of my most-quoted movie lines. Harrington is talking about meeting up with the scientists and bureaucrats of government agencies that allow or don't allow the rest of us to use this or that drug. “Schmuck Behind a Curtain” could be the title of any number of books or movies. It explains the world.
2. “I was a terrible father. [Pause] It's a bullshit business. It's like coal mining: You come home to your wife and kids, you can't wash it off.”
-- Lester Siegel (Alan Arkin) to Tony Mendez (Ben Affleck) in Ben Affleck's Argo. Screenplay by Chris Terrio. Based on an article by Joshuah Bearman and a book by Tony Mendez.
This is before the trip to Iran to rescue the hostages. Siegel and Mendez are just talking matter-of-factly on some steps in Los Angeles during magic hour. They've got fast food. They're opening up. Why not? Life is short. It's a great line reading by Arkin. There's disappointment in his voice but not much. It's a mea culpa without too much culpa. By this point in his life he recognizes the ways of the world, and of men, and of himself. He's past fooling. He's describing Hollywood but he could be describing any business. They're all like that. That's why it resonates. We all carry that bullshit home. It infects everything. None of us can wash it off.
1. Loki: You were made to be ruled. In the end, you will always kneel. German man (rising): Not to men like you. Loki: There are no men like me. German man: There are always men like you.
-- Loki (Tom Hiddleston) and German man (Kenneth Tigar) in The Avengers. Screenplay by Joss Whedon.
For all the CGI and Jack Kirbyesque action sequences, it's Whedon's words in “The Avengers” that won me over. “I have an army.”/“We have a Hulk.” But this is the most poignant point in the movie. I'd always liked the line of Loki's from the trailer about how human beings were made to be ruled. I wanted to see what they did with that. This is what they did. During the above exchange, Loki is amused because he knows himself to be a god, not a man, but the man reduces him with a few words. With a turn of a phrase, he suggests Loki isn't above men but below them, because there is no one so low as he who forces others to kneel. It's an Ozymandias moment, really. It's Ozymandias reduced by words rather than time.
My Most-Quoted Movie Lines: 'She's a drag, a well-known drag...'
A few years ago I wrote a piece, in five parts, on the movie lines I quote the most. These were not the institutionalized, AFI-approved movie lines everyone knows: “Here's looking at you, kid”; “May the Force be with you”; “Plastics.” Those lines have no real cache in conversation. Everyone knows if you quote “Star Wars” you go with one of the lesser-known lines appropriate to a particular situation. Say you're overruled as to evening plans: “But I was going into Tosche Station ...” You're arguing with your wife: “Look, your worshipfulness...” A good movie quote is like a password to a club. It's a search for the like-minded.
The original plan was to write a follow-up piece, with five new lines I quote, but then I realized: Wait, I have a blog. I can just make it a regular deal.
So here it is. A regular deal.
The first line, for no reason other than I used it the other day, is from George Harrison in “A Hard Day's Night.”
She's a drag, a well-known drag. We turn the sound down on her and say rude things.
You really lay on the Liverpudlian when you say it, too, in the manner of Paul Rudd and Jason Schwartzmann and Justin Long in “Walk Hard.” (About Jack Black's Liverpudlian, the less said the better.)
I guess I say this a lot because I often say things are a drag and the rest just follows. When I was younger, the notion of something being a well-known drag cracked me up. Now I know the world is mostly made up of well-known drags.
Here's the scene. George says the line at 3:15:
(Damn, that secretary is hot. I'd forgotten that.)
The whole scene is full of quotable lines:
- “You don't see many of these nowadays, do you?”
- “Oh, by all means, I'd be quite prepared for that eventuality.”
- “Well, I'll have a bash.”
- “And who's this Susan when she's at home?”
It's a brilliant scene. Watching it again, I suddenly flashed back to the first time I saw it, in the 1970s at the Uptown Theater in Minneapolis. I remember being incensed that this guy 1) had no idea who George was; 2) thought his TV personality, Susan, that posh bird, was hipper than one of the Beatles; and 3) thought he and his crowd could manipulate us in the manner talked about. I thought my interests, my buying patterns, my loves and fears, all sprang up organically. I didn't see the manipulation. Now I see nothing but. I know. It's a drag, a well-known drag.
My Top 10 Movie Lines of 2011
I like collecting quotes. I guess I've been doing it since I began to care about serious reading and writing, which was probably in college. I used to write favorites on the inside cover of whatever sad journal I was keeping at the time. The usual undergraduate stuff:
“Everyone is broken by life ... afterward some are stronger in the broken places.”
“The God I believe in isn't short of cash, mister!”
Here are a few of the movie lines from 2011 that stuck with me. Some are short, some are long. Some I can quote; some I just love. There's life advice and contextual stuff that I imagine myself repeating down the road. The Malick quote is already part of my life. It's changed, or at least articulated, some way that I see the world.
No back-and-forth exchanges. That's a whole other beast. So you won't get anything like this from “Moneyball”:
Peter Brand: It's a metaphor.
Billy Beane: I know it's a metaphor.
Or this from “Young Adult”:
Matt: What're you doing back in Mercury? You moving back?
Mavis: Course not. Gross.
Feel free to add your own in the comments field below.
10. “I didn’t know that was your diary; I thought it was a very sad, handwritten book.”
--Brynn (Rebel Wilson), the Brit roommate from hell, to Annie (Kristen Wiig), in “Bridemaids.” Original screenplay by Kristen Wiig and Annie Mumolo. One of many I could've chosen from this movie. I think I've probably quoted the “Daily Show” line more than any, but this one relates so well to the sad journals I used to keep.
9. “Because you’re his girlfriend he’s got cancer you cheated on him you fucking lunatic!”
-- Kyle (Seth Rogen) to Rachael, the girlfriend from hell, when asked why he doesn't like her, in “50/50.” Original screenplay by Will Reiser. It's less the insult than the exasperrated run-on quality of it. I included no punctuation because Rogen doesn't imply any. It's Joycean in its stream-of-consciousness.
8. “If you're first out the door, that's not called panicking.”
-- John Tuld (Jeremy Irons) to Sam Rogers (Kevin Spacey) in “Margin Call.” Original screenplay by J.C. Chandor. What I love is the unmentioned follow-up: So what DO you call it? You call it survival, I suppose, or dickishness or reptilian. You call it capitalism. You call it (see no. 1) the way of nature.
7. “When you’re dealing with a kid or an adult or a horse, treat them the way you’d like them to be, not how they are now.“
-- Buck Brannaman in the documentary ”Buck.“
6. ”You are about a hundred miles from smart.“
-- Matt King (George Clooney) to Sid (Nick Krause) in ”The Descendants.“ Original screenplay by Alexander Payne. A second later, the kid demonstrates that he's closer to smart. Or at least closer to pain—and smart enough, or kind enough, not to bring it up during the pain of others.
5. ”That’s how I know he can be beaten. Because he’s a fanatic. And the fanatic is always concealing a secret doubt.“
--George Smiley (Gary Oldman) in ”Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy.“ Adapted screenplay by Bridget O'Connor and Peter Straughan, from the novel by John LeCarre. Although aren't we all concealing secret doubts? Although I guess for some our doubts aren't so secret. For the fanatic they would have to be.
4. ”If the sun were to explode you wouldn't even know about it for eight minutes because that's how long it takes for light to travel to us. For eight minutes the world would still be bright and it would still feel warm.“
--Oskar Schell (Thomas Horn), in voiceover, in ”Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close.“ Adapted screenplay by Eric Roth, from the novel by Jonathan Safran Foer.
3. ”Fuck you, you fucking fuck.“
-- T-shirt worn by Lisbeth Salander (Rooney Mara) in ”The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.“ In case anyone's thinking belated birthday or early Valentine's Day gift: I'm a medium.
2. ”My death, of course, will quickly vindicate those who call me naïve or idealistic, but I will be freed of a burning curiosity and, God willing, will immerse my gaze in the Father's and contemplate with him his children of Islam as he sees them. This thank you which encompasses my entire life includes you, of course, friends of yesterday and today, and you, too, friend of the last minute, who knew not what you were doing. Yes, to you as well I address this thank you and this farewell, which you envisaged. May we meet again, happy thieves in Paradise, if it pleases God, the Father of us both. Amen. Insha'Allah.“
-- Christian (Lambert Wilson) in ”Of Gods and Men.“ Xavier Beauvois (adaptation et dialogue), Etienne Comar (scenario).
1. “The nuns taught us there were two ways through life: the way of nature and the way of grace. You have to choose which one you'll follow. ... Grace doesn't try to please itself. Accepts being slighted, forgotten, disliked. Accepts insults and injuries. Nature only wants to please itself. Gets others to please it, too. Likes to lord it over them. To have its own way. It finds reasons to be unhappy when all the world is shining around it. And love is smiling through all things.”
-- Mrs. O'Brien (Jessica Chastain) in voiceover in “The Tree of Life.” Original screenplay by Terrence Malick.
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