Movies - Quotes posts
Friday June 25, 2021
What does it mean to you to direct an actor or an actress?
You cannot generalize that. That is like asking a doctor the same kind of question. “Well, there are some nice patients, there are some terrifying nudniks, there are hypochondriacs and there are some jolly ones who say, 'So I've got a 106-degree fever, I'll be all right, Doc.'” It all depends. Maybe if there is some kind of generalization possible, I would say that fifty-five percent are bores. Yes, expecially when they start digging deep into the character, because then you have to spend a week with them saying, “Yes, blah, blah, my father, my grandfather, blah.” And then I say, “For Chrissakes, learn those goddamned lines and let's get it over with.”
-- George Stevens Jr. interviewing Billy Wilder in Conversations with the Great Moviemakers of Hollywood's Golden Age
Wednesday March 03, 2021
'Free, White and 45'
More takes on that early 20th-century catchphrase “Free, White and 21,” which I wrote about in 2009 (“Fugitive from a Chain Gang”) and revisited 10 years later (“What Price Hollywood?”). This spin is from George Cukor's “Dinner at Eight:
The character on the left is Hattie Loomis, whose carping husband, Ed, would rather go to the movies than to the titular event. She's played by Louise Closser Hale, who sadly died before the movie premiered. The character on the right is Millicent Jordan, host of the dinner, at which most everything that can go wrong does. Recognize her? Billie Burke. Six years later she played Glynda the Good Witch of the North in ”The Wizard of Oz.“ Her husband in this movie is played by Lionel Barrymore, who played one of the most horrible men in cinema, Mr. Potter from ”It's a Wonderful Life.“ He's about the only good man in ”Dinner at Eight."
For more on the history of the phrase, check out Andrew Heisel's well-researched 2015 Jezebel article.
Thursday February 04, 2021
The only thing soggy is the paper.
I've got most Marx Brothers movies all but memorized but not The Cocoanuts, which I only saw once or twice in my heyday with the Marx Brotherhood. Just didn't care for it. I put it with Room Service or Love Happy as the disappointments. Yes, it was a big Broadway hit and their first Hollywood movie, but it's so unevenly paced. Paramount put two directors on it and the Brothers didn't think much of either. “One of them didn't understand English,” Groucho said, “and the other one didn't understand comedy.”
Anyway I watched it the other day and it still isn't good but it has its moments. Harpo shines. The auction scene is great. Plus, of course, “Why a duck.” But I missed this great pun right before the “Why a duck?” bit. Groucho is about to auction off lots in the Florida land boom and he wants Chico to bid up the price, and he's explaining to him where the lots are.
Groucho: This is the riverfront. And all along the river, those are all levees.
Chico: That's the Jewish neighborhood.
Groucho: [Gives him a look] Well, we'll pass over that.
As a kid in Minnesota, I probably didn't know levees or Levys (not to mention Passover), which may be why the joke never stuck. But man did I laugh the other day.
Something else that stuck this viewing: During this scene, Groucho also says to Chico, “Look, Einstein...” This was in 1929. It made me wonder about the first ironic usage of an “Einstein.” Is there an earlier recorded example? And did Einstein's friends ever use it on him when he got something wrong? “Nice going, Einstein.”
Friday November 16, 2018
William Goldman (1931-2018)
- “You just keep thinkin', Butch, that's what you‘re good at.”
- “Rules? In a knife fight?”
- “Are you crazy? The fall will probably kill ya.”
- “You think you used enough dynamite there, Butch?”
- “Who are those guys?”
- “Follow the money.”
- “The truth is, these aren’t very bright guys, and things got out of hand.”
- “Now don't tell me you think that all of this was the work of little Don Segretti.”
- “You haven't got it.”
- “Is it safe?”
- “Nobody knows anything.”
- “Hello. My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.”
- “No more rhymes now—and I mean it!” “Anybody got a peanut?”
- “You keep using that word. I don't think it means what you think it means.”
- “This is true love. You think this happens every day?”
- “As you wish.”
Saturday September 29, 2018
Fun with Subtitles: The Mayor of Hell (1933), Cont.
OK, so last week I talked about the shitty, closed-caption transcription of the 1933 Cagney flick “The Mayor of Hell.” The characters were saying “Miss,” the transcription updated it to “Ms.” A Jewish kid called someone a “gonif,” the transcriber, gentile no doubt, went with “[INAUDIBLE].”
But this is the worst:
He's saying Fagin. As in the character from “Oliver Twist”—the corrupt man leading a group of Dickensian pickpockets. “Where's the Fagin that runs this joint.”
Look, I know how tough it is to transcribe. In the 1980s, I did it for a Taiwanese record company, which needed accompanying lyric sheets for their English and American records. I remember listening over and over to some songs and never figuring out certain words, and having to go with my best guess.
But this? This is embarrassing. For Warner Bros. and Filmstruck.
At the least, we're narrowing down the identity of the transcriber: progressive, gentile, not a big reader.
Friday March 17, 2017
One of the Greatest Lines in Movie History
The shit you come across on Twitter.
This thing somehow wound up in my feed today. It's a right-wing defense by a right-wing idiot of Donald Trump's severe and idiotic budget cut proposals.
In Matt 25, when Jesus talks about caring for “the least of these,” he isn’t talking about the poor in general, but fellow Christians.— Erick Erickson (@EWErickson) March 17, 2017
What do you do with that? Argue? Face palm? Move to Mexico?
On the plus side, it did make me recall one of the greatest lines in movie history—something that is truer today than when it was originally said in 1986:
Point for the arts, currently on the chopping block.
Saturday October 04, 2014
Talking Back at the Screen: The Equalizer
We get a lot of dumb lines masquerading as wisdom in “The Equalizer,” directed by Antoine Fuqua (“Olympus Has Fallen”) and written by Richard Wenk (“The Expendables 2”), which gives the movie an air of a bloody Bill Cosby action movie, if you can imagine such a beast. “You gotta be who you are in this world, no matter what,” spoken to a child prostitute, is one of those lines.
Here's another. It had me talking back at the screen. In my head, I mean. I don't talk out loud at movies. (Although I might groan occasionally.)
Robert McCall (Denzel) is a former super-espionage agent trying to live out the rest of his life with a quiet warehouse job. It's a friendly place, and he's friendly there, and he tries to help an overweight Hispanic worker, Ralphie (Johnny Skourtis), become the security guard he always wanted to be. So he keeps him on his diet and trains him on weekends. He has him pull tires at a local park. (This exercise will come in handy later in the movie.) But Ralphie keeps giving up on himself.
Here's the line and here's what I answered back:
Denzel: Hey, don't doubt yourself. Doubt kills.
Me: So does certainty.
I was thinking specifically of the certainty, the hubris, of the Bush adminstration, and all of the people who died as a result. They were certain it made sense to demote Richard Clarke, terrorism czar, to a deputy position, and 9/11 happened. Then they were certain it made sense to invade Iraq and take out Saddam Hussein. They could nation-build in a matter of months—they were certain of that—and get out cleanly. And their certainy killed. It goes on killing, even after they've long left the scene.
Of course, we go to the movies for the very certainty someone like Denzel projects. That's part of the wish-fulfillment-fantasy bargain. We're fearful and doubtful. He's brave and certain, and in the end he'll save the day. It's great to see up on the screen. If only it stayed there.
Certainty, about to do some killing.
Wednesday May 21, 2014
A Born Liar, Now Convicted
“The idea that the [Obama] administration would be in any way 'rattled' by D’Souza’s documentary is highly unlikely. '2016' spins a cockamamie theory that President Obama is using his power to diminish America’s standing in the world in order to fulfill the aspirations of the father he never knew. It’s a derp-fest for the high-brow anti-Obama zealot who believes the president is a “Third World anti-colonial” and also demands slick production values.”
-- Simon Malloy, “The Right's Favorite Criminal: Inside the hopeless obsession with Dinesh D'Souza,” on Salon.com.
I particularly like “derp-fest.” But not as much as I like the schadenfreude of D'Souza's troubles.
What Billy Martin said of both Reggie Jackson and George Steinbrenner can now be said of just D'Souza: a born liar, now convicted.
Saturday December 14, 2013
Quote of the Day
“Stefania, mother and woman, you're 53 with a life in tatters like the rest of us. Instead of acting superior and treating us with contempt, you should look at us with affection. We're all on the brink of despair, all we can do is look each other in the face, keep each other company, joke a little...Don't you agree?”
-- Jep Gambardella (Toni Servillo) in Paolo Sorrentino's “La Grand Bellezza” (“The Greaty Beauty”), which is currently playing at the Varsity Theater in the U District in Seattle.
Monday October 14, 2013
Krugman Does Montoya
“I do not think that word 'compromise' means what Mr. Ryan thinks it means.”
-- Paul Krugman in his column, “The Dixiecrat Solution,” about You Know What. The rest of the piece focuses on “How does America become governable again?” Read that part, too.
For more on movie quotes and why Krugman's works, here.
Wednesday July 17, 2013
Quote Quiz: Fill in the Blank with the Movie Title
“The film shrewdly touches contemporary nerves. Our society is pervaded by a conviction of powerlessness. ___________ makes it possible for all of us, in the darkness of the movie house, to become powerful. It plays upon our inner fantasies, not only on the criminal inside each of us but on our secret admiration for men who get what they want, whose propositions no one dares turn down.”
-- Arthur Schlesinger, Jr.
Tuesday July 16, 2013
My Most-Quoted Movie Lines: ‘Most Certainly’
For a while I kept screwing it up; I kept saying “Most definitely.” Then I watched “The Insider” again and realized it was “Most Certainly.” That's how “Play It Again, Sam”s are born, I guess. Particularly in the age before VHS and DVD and Blu-Ray and streaming, and all of the options you and I have.
The line comes at 2:25. The whole scene is great. That everyone involved, from director Michael Mann on down, could make what is essentially the taping of a “60 Minutes” segment so fascinating, making it into one of the best movies of the 1990s, says a lot about the talent involved.
Extra credit: Jeff Wigand, on Charlie Rose, talking about the exemplary job Russell Crowe did in portraying him. He calls it “surreal” and “eerie.” Most certainly.
Monday 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 Africaenough. 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.
Friday October 26, 2012
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.
Thursday February 02, 2012
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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