Jump to content

Great movie lines deserve Oscar consideration


Recommended Posts

Great movie lines deserve Oscar consideration

MICK LASALLE, San Francisco Chronicle.

What is it that makes particular lines of dialogue so irresistible that they become enduring catchphrases?

Sometimes they just have a certain something that makes people want to repeat them. Like, "Stella!!!" Or "Bond. James Bond."

Sometimes they're just endlessly adaptable to myriad life situations. Like, "What a dump!" ("Beyond the Forest"). Or "Houston, we have a problem" ("Apollo 13"). Or "They're ba-ack" ("Poltergeist II"). Or "I can handle things, I'm smart" ("The Godfather II"). Or my favorite, "You're bastard people. That's what you are, you're just bastard people" ("Waiting for Guffman").

Often lines rise to join the collective consciousness because they contain a kernel of truth about life, even if that truth -- the truth of, for example, "Say hello to my leetle friend!" ("Scarface") -- remains elusive. Sometimes their truths are contained in an attitude, sometimes an observation, sometimes a secret desire, but they stay with us.

It's time the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences recognized the art and importance of individual lines of dialogue and considered an award for best line. At the very least, critics' groups around the country might test out that awards category and see how it goes.

After all, catchphrases have been a major part of people's enjoyment and contemplation of cinema for almost 100 years. The phenomenon even predates sound. In 1915, millions of Americans went to see Theda Bara as a deadly vamp in the silent film "A Fool There Was." In an intertitle she told her hapless slave, "Kiss me, my fool!," which was immediately adapted as "Kiss me, you fool!" and said by millions of women to their husbands and boyfriends.

What was behind the desire to repeat that? Perhaps it was an aspiration to sexual power, the same thing that launched Jean Harlow's line "Would you be shocked if I put on something more comfortable?" ("Hell's Angels") in 1930. Or Mae West's "Come up sometime and see me" (improved upon by the public as "Come up and see me sometime") from "She Done Him Wrong" (1933).

The first all-talking picture, "The Lights of New York" (1928), contributed an enduring catchphrase, when a gangster instructed his henchmen: "Take him for ... a ride." Again, we find an assertion of power that, out of context, becomes comical.

We see that same appeal in "I love the smell of napalm in the morning" ("Apocalypse Now"). Or in "You've got to ask yourself, 'Do I feel lucky?' Well, do you, punk?" ("Dirty Harry"). Or in that macabre yet funny moment from "What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?" (1962) when Bette Davis raves at Joan Crawford in her wheelchair, "But ya are, Blanche, ya are in that chair!"

Just imagine the 1939 Oscar competition, with "Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn" going up against "Toto, I have a feeling we're not in Kansas anymore." Actually, the "Gone With the Wind" line would have won in a walk, though all these years later, Dorothy's remark in "The Wizard of Oz" seems more routinely applicable to life as we know it.

That's another facet of catchphrases: They go in and out of fashion, tied to the fluctuations in what people value and how they look at the world. "Casablanca" has contributed more indelible lines than any other film besides "The Godfather," but the lines we hear most often have changed over the decades. The misquote "Play it again, Sam" was the most common point of reference for years. In the '80s, you'd often hear "I came to Casablanca for the waters. ... I was misinformed." Today, the shameless hypocrisy of "I'm shocked, shocked, to find that gambling is going on in here" sounds the familiar chord.

Similarly, we note a change in the public mind in that "I'll make him an offer he can't refuse" was the most repeated line of 1972. But today the less crude and even more cold-blooded assertion of power -- "It's not personal. It's strictly business" -- has become the most-often referenced moment from "The Godfather."

These things have to be more than coincidence. They don't just happen. The world doesn't just suddenly stop saying "Show me the money" during a recession and start saying "You had me at hello" from the same movie ("Jerry Maguire"). There are currents in American life. We can't grasp and understand them all, but they're around us, and these catchphrases are little hints that tell us how the winds are blowing.

Think about this. In 1967, at a time when everyone was talking about the importance of communication, of the generation gap and of the cluelessness of authority, we get Strother Martin as a sadistic, delusional warden saying, "What we've got here is failure to communicate" ("Cool Hand Luke").

In the mid-1970s, a very difficult time -- post-Watergate, post-Vietnam, with the economy in the toilet and national confidence sinking -- two lines were heard everywhere: "You talkin' to me?" (spoken by a lunatic soon to go on a rampage in "Taxi Driver") and "I'm as mad as hell and I'm not going to take it anymore" from "Network." Again, we find assertions

of power, but this time they're beleaguered ones.

Contrast that to the happy aggression and confidence of the booming 1980s, which gave us "It's good to be the king" ("History of the World Part I"), "Go ahead, make my day" ("Sudden Impact"), "I'll be back" ("The Terminator"), "Greed ... is good" ("Wall Street") and "Yippee-ki-yay, mother ..." ("Die Hard").

In the past 20 years -- since "Hasta la vista, baby," from "Terminator 2" (1991) -- we've seen fewer catchphrases penetrate the national consciousness. One could argue that it takes years for lines to enter the lexicon, but no. In 1983, even the president of the United States was going around saying, "Go ahead, make my day."

This is not to say the past 20 years has been a wasteland. But we could use more indelible lines, which is yet another reason for the academy and for critics groups to introduce a catchphrase award -- to foster and encourage this vital yet accidental art form.

I thought this was interesting. Feel free to add your faves.........

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I'm not quite sure whether these fit here, but Al Pacino sure deserved an Oscar for his performance as Lt. Col. Frank Slade in the movie "Scent Of A Woman" :lol:

"Whoo-ah" (Scent Of A Woman)

"Well, gentlemen, when the shit hits the fan, some guys run and some guys stay" (Scent Of A Woman)

"Out of order, I show you out of order. You don't know what out of order is, Mr. Trask. I'd show you, but I'm too old, I'm too tired, I'm too fuckin' blind. If I were the man I was five years ago, I'd take a FLAMETHROWER to this place! Out of order? Who the hell do you think you're talkin' to? I've been around, you know? There was a time I could see. And I have seen. Boys like these, younger than these, their arms torn out, their legs ripped off. But there isn't nothin' like the sight of an amputated spirit. There is no prosthetic for that. You think you're merely sending this splendid foot soldier back home to Oregon with his tail between his legs, but I say you are... executin' his soul! And why? Because he's not a Bairdman. Bairdmen. You hurt this boy, you're gonna be Baird bums, the lot of ya. And Harry, Jimmy, Trent, wherever you are out there, FUCK YOU TOO!" (Scent Of A Woman)


Link to comment
Share on other sites

A good idea but how can you compare a great comedy line to a great dramatic line?

Unless of course they have their own category which is unrealistic.

"Fuzzy wuzzy was a woman?" Gene Wilder, See No Evil, Hear No Evil

"Think you used enough dynamite there, Butch?" Robert Redford, Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid

"Can't swim?, the fall will probably kill ya!" Paul Newman, Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid

Link to comment
Share on other sites

A good idea but how can you compare a great comedy line to a great dramatic line?

Unless of course they have their own category which is unrealistic.

Good point.

Dr. Frederick Frankenstein: Igor, help me with the bags.

Igor: [Imitating Groucho Marx] Soitenly. You take the blonde, I'll take the one in the turban.

Dr. Frederick Frankenstein: I was talking about the luggage.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

"May The Force be with you." (Star Wars)

"No. I am your father." (Star Wars)

"We're doomed" (Star Wars)

"No. Try not. Do... or do not. There is no try." (Star Wars)

"My momma always said, 'Life was like a box of chocolates. You never know what you're gonna get.'" (Forrest Gump)

"The horror... The horror..." (Apocalypse Now)

"You're only supposed to blow the bloody doors off." (The Italian Job)

"My precious!" (Lord Of The Rings)

"I see dead people." (The Sixth Sense)

"It's just a flesh wound." (Monty Python And The Holy Grail)

"'Tis but a scratch." (Monty Python And The Holy Grail)

Just a few of them. Movies like Star Wars and Monty Python And The Holy Grail are full of memorable quotes. Actually I think every line in Monty Python And The Holy Grail is funny and memorable.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

English, motherfucker, do you speak it? Pulp Fiction

They've done studies, you know. 60% of the time, it works EVERY time. Anchorman: The Legend of Ron burgundy

Not a hard man to track. Leaves dead men wherever he goes. The Outlaw Josey Wales

Dyin' ain't much of a livin', boy. The Outlaw Josey Wales

Are you gonna pull those pistols or whistle Dixie? The Outlaw Josey Wales

That rug really tied the room together. The Big Lebowski

Hey, careful, man, there's a beverage here! The Big Lebowski

Oh, the usual. I bowl. Drive around. The occasional acid flashback. The Big Lebowski

Link to comment
Share on other sites


This topic is now archived and is closed to further replies.

  • Create New...