erik lundegaard

Why Can't I Quit Michael Cieply?

I always seem to be about a week behind in what I want to post about.

This piece, for example, “Longing for the Lines that Had Us at Hello,” showed up in The New York Times a week ago today, and it's been stuck in my craw, wherever my craw* is, ever since.

(*craw (n.): a pouch in many birds and some lower animals that resembles a stomach for storage and preliminary maceration of food)

One, it's by Michael Cieply, who's been a bit of a bete noire for me for the past few years. My site has a search function now, and if you search for “Cieply” you get 10 hits, most of them bitching about this or that now-forgotten article.**

(**My favorite of these is “Two Face,” from July 2008, in which Cieply's April prediction that “The Dark Knight” may underperform at the box office—because it's too gloomy at a time when people want to escape gloom—is juxtaposed with colleague Brooks Barnes' after-the-fact analysis that “The Dark Knight” did well at the box office because its gloominess reflected the national mood. Escape/reflect. Nice when the Times gets it both ways.) 

Two, it's about movie quotes, which I've written about before: once for MSNBC, once for me. So, egotistically, I feel like it's my turf.

Three, the Times' headline plays a bit with the text. Cieply's main argument, or thought, is: Where have all the good movie quotes gone? He doesn't mention longing.

Mostly, though, elitist that I am, I think the movie quotes that everyone quotes (“Show me the money!”) aren't as interesting as the movie quotes that movie lovers quote (“Takin' em off here, boss”). ***

(***Cieply also confuses the categories, putting “The Dude Abides” in the former when it's really the latter. “The Big Lebowski” kinda bombed on first viewing. It took years before quotes about the Dude started coming.)  

Here's the brunt of Cieply's argument:

Sticky movie lines were everywhere as recently as the 1990s. But they appear to be evaporating from a film world in which the memorable one-liner — a brilliant epigram, a quirky mantra, a moment in a bottle — is in danger of becoming a lost art.

I could argue that “Stupid is as stupid does” is not art, lost or otherwise. I could argue that sticky movie quotes get annoying fast. But there's really only one thing to say to Cieply at this point:

Why so serious?

What about you? What movie lines from the past 10 years do you quote? Feel free to put 'em in the comments field below.****

(****Shout-out to Joe Posnanski, from whom I got the idea of footnoting within the text of a blog post.)

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Posted at 05:36 AM on Wed. Oct 27, 2010 in category Movies  


jack bradbury wrote:

“Oh, Baxter, you are my little gentleman.” Ron Burgundy

Comment posted on Wed. Oct 27, 2010 at 08:06 AM

Erik wrote:

I often use the “Stay classy, San Diego” line, but usually with a different end, usually referring to classless moments. “Stay classy, America,” for example.

Comment posted on Wed. Oct 27, 2010 at 08:10 AM

Reed wrote:

“I drink your milkshake! Shshslllllp. I DRINK IT UP!”
--OK, so I wrote that before I read Cieply's article where he mentiones it. But I'm leaving it in because it's just too fun not to leave. I could leave about 30 more from the same film

Great point about the lines movie lovers quote versus the public. Cieply seems to be taking the point of view of only the public, and in that case, perhaps he has a point (that probably needed to be crafted better). I recall that when Grey's Anatomy first came out, I had a girlfriend who forced me to watch (after two seasons I told her that either the show goes or she does, and she acquiesced to watching it somewhere elsewhere than my couch - but I digress). The Patrick Dempsey character had a penchant for quoting movies. They started with the more obvious (“she's my sister, she's my daughter.” This was quickly eliminated from the show, I presume because the core viewership had no idea what he was talking about.

I think the majority of Americans may have lost their wonderment for film. TV now rules the day, and it's getting ever more dominant. What was the most oft-quoted line of the 00s in America? “I'm Rick James, bitch!” I'm not saying that this particular line wasn't hilarious in context, but it's not exactly poetry. Second most quoted? “Very niiiice!” These are basic, and go along with your comment about movie lovers as compared to everybody.

Last point - great lines take time to catch on. Your point about The Big Lebowski is apt. I actually loved the movie when I saw it in theaters, but it took a while for the lines to start sticking with me. The more they get repeated the more they have a life of their own. People who've never seen Gone with the Wind know “Frankly my dear...” Rome wasn't built in a day (no idea what movie/play/literature that comes from, kinda proving my own point).

Some future classics:
“Jack, I swear...” (gets me every time)

“We are the people you do not see. We are the ones who drive your cabs. We clean your rooms. And suck your cocks.”

“I always wanted to be a Tenenbaum.” “Me too. Me too.”

“At that restaurant. I beat up the bathroom.”

“If anyone orders Merlot, I'm leaving. I am NOT drinking any fucking Merlot!”

“You might as well know right off the bat, I had a vasectomy.”

Comment posted on Wed. Oct 27, 2010 at 08:39 AM

Erik wrote:

Reed, I like your comment about movies mattering less to the general population now than in previous decades.

I really should have picked up on this earlier. Many of Cieply's 1990s examples are from Oscar nominated movies, dramas, that were also top-5 box-office hits: “Jerry Maguire,” “Forrest Gump,” “A Few Good Men.” That combination doesn't happen anymore. Dramas get noms but they don't make the top 5. Hell, they don't make the top 20. The general population doesn't see them and thus can't repeat their lines.

But half of Cieply's movie quotes from the past are from sci-fi or action films. “I'll be bahck.” “Make my day.” Are these types of films not as quotable as they used to be? Certainly “I see you” is no “May the Force be with you.”

“The Dark Knight” has its lines:

“Why so serious?”
“Wanna know how I got these scars?”
“Some people just want to watch the world burn.”

I guess the main point, and in this way Cieply's article is legit, is that we all have to be on the same page to say the same lines. And we're not on the same page anymore.

Comment posted on Wed. Oct 27, 2010 at 09:18 AM

Erik wrote:

P.S. Re: “Tanenbaums”:

I love that line.

Comment posted on Wed. Oct 27, 2010 at 09:19 AM
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