Strange Brouhaha

Thursday, November 18, 2004

Movie quotes

The AFI's latest list is of the top 100 movie quotes. The AFI's lists are hit-or-miss propositions for me, and I'm sure this one will be no different.

For example, I don't think "You want the truth? You can't handle the truth!" is not a great quote. Whatever resonance it has, I think, comes from Jack Nicholson's delivery of the line. Maybe that'll be part of the criteria they use--not just the words, but the performance. As a line, it just seems to kind of...sit there. I don't remember "A Few Good Men" all that well--is that line really anything more than an indicator of how far around the bend Nicholson's character has gone? It's certainly become a part of our cultural landscape--another one of the criteria, no doubt--but is it really important?

Contrast that with "Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn." That line, cliche though it may have become is the point that the entire thirteen hours of "Gone With The Wind" has been building towards. It caps Rhett and Scarlett's story perfectly, gives Scarlett the one thing she's needed the entire movie, shows how fed up Rhett is, and to top it all off, hearing "damn" in a movie in 1939 was probably the cultural equivalent of seeing Janet Jackson's tit on national television today. It seems important in so many ways, I can't see how there's another quote that's more important.

Some others that are going to have to be on the list to make it at all valid (in my opinion), but weren't in the article:

"Go ahead. Make my day."

"I'm ready for my closeup, Mr. DeMille."

"I'm gonna make him an offer he can't refuse."

"I coulda been a contender, instead of a bum, which is what I am."

"Let him feel the power of the Quickening!"

Okay, I'm kidding about that last one. That's a line delivered by Sean Connery in the execrable "Highlander 2," and he delivers it so wretchedly that you can tell that all he's thinking is "The paycheck better not bounce."

What are some of your favorites? What criteria do you think the AFI should use, versus what they're going to use? What should be on the list? What shouldn't be?

(I'll give an example of what shouldn't: the article mentions "My precious" by Gollum. Yuck.)


  • (Matt) "I'll be back" gets my vote for #1

    But, seriously, I hope Andy Dufresne's "Get busy livin', or get busy dyin'" from Shawshank Redemption is in the top ten.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 12:34 PM  

  • Heh--that one was originally one of the ones I used as an example of a quote that was kind of dull and shouldn't be on the list. I think that's only because I resent the hell out of that movie, though. Considered objectively, it is pretty important to the movie.

    But I thought Red said that, not Andy.

    By Blogger Robert, at 1:39 PM  

  • (Matt) I know you hate the ending. And although I would have preferred it ending with Red on the bus, the ocean-side scene does not ruin the film for me. It is one of my favorites. And it was Andy that said it. That's why red was all worried when Andy didn't show for morning roll call -- he figured he killed himself.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 2:19 PM  

  • (Savannah) Yeah, "My precious" is a literary thing transferred over to film. It's not a line, it's a concept. And to me, it has no importance *in* the film itself. Not really. Not, for example, like "You talkin' to me?", which *defined* the movie it appeared in. And should be on the list.

    Umm, other favorites. See, a lot of 'em depend on context, like "I want my father back" or "I waited." (The latter comes from an old movie I read about where this guy is lying in a hospital afraid that gangsters are going to come and kill him. The guy calls someone in from the hall who is, or seems to be, there because of his hurt wife. Our antihero says "Wait with me until morning." So the stranger does. Then in the morning he calmly sets about kidnapping the guy out of the hospital to take him to the gangsters. "I waited," he smirks.)

    I'll have to try and think of some more. Most of my favorite movie memories aren't lines at all, but moments--Captain Kirk getting his first look at the dying Spock in Star Trek II, for example. Or an exchange, as in "I love you"/"I know" from The Empire Strikes Back. (And that one, again, is entirely dependent on context.) Ah, here's a good one: "I now pronounce you man and wife. Proceed with the execution." (The African Queen.)

    Now I have to go check out the list...

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 2:44 PM  

  • "I have been and always shall be your friend," from STII.

    "I want my father back" is a good one, but they'll probably go with "Hello, my name is Inigo Montoya, etc. etc." It all depends on whether they consider just the quote, I guess.

    By Blogger Robert, at 3:41 PM  

  • Be excellent to each other, and party on, dudes.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 10:22 PM  

  • (Fj) I think "top movie quotes" should be that defining moment that makes you laugh out loud, or cry, or shout "yeah", etc.
    How about "Nobody's perfect" by Joe E. Brown at the end of the movie "Some Like it Hot"?
    A lot of the "top picks" on the AFI list are unknown, some made me laugh with recognition, like "I'll have what she's having" from Sleepless in Seattle.
    I didn't see a John Garfield quote on the list. There must be one.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 11:49 PM  

  • "Nobody's perfect" is really good. I love that movie, too. I bet it's on the voting list; did you see that Billy Wilder had thirteen of the nominees?

    "Be excellent to each other" is good, too. It'd be neat to see B&T get some kind of acknowledgement. My favorite line from that movie is probably where they're introducing the historical gang to Missy--Maxine of Arc, Bob "Genghis" Khan, Herman the Kid, Socrates Johnson, Dennis Frood, Dave Beethoven, and...uh...Abraham Lincoln.

    By Blogger Robert, at 9:33 AM  

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