Sunday, April 8, 2018

Favorite Movie Lines, Part II

SPOILER ALERT! The plots will be discussed.

Here are more not too well known movie lines that I like, and why I think they are noteworthy.

The American President:

Primarily a romantic comedy, this film, written by the man of many interesting words, Aaron Sorkin (A Few Good Men, The West Wing), also deals with the world of politics. Michael Douglas’ President Andrew Shephard (Does he have to ‘shepherd’ his country through the mire of negative politics?), who is a widower, must deal with the opposing party accusing him of undermining family values by becoming involved with a lobbyist, Sydney Ellen Wade (Annette Bening). She is depicted as a radical, who many years ago was at a flag burning, and is now pushing for environmental legislation reform. Shephard’s critics condemn him for having Wade sleep over at The White House, and thus exposing the president's young daughter to immorality.  Shepard’s speech at the end of the film addresses the divisive tactics of his political adversaries: “America isn’t easy. America is advanced citizenship. You gotta want it bad, ‘cause it’s gonna put up a fight … The symbol of your country can’t just be a flag: the symbol also has to be one of its citizens exercising his right to burn that flag in protest.” He goes on to point out that instead of trying to solve a problem, some are only interested in gaining power, so they divert the population by “making you afraid of it, and telling you who’s to blame. That, ladies and gentlemen, is how you win elections.”

Given the current adversarial political environment in America, where people denigrate others, blaming all of the nation’s ills on groups of people, instead of reaching out to come up with workable solutions, Sorkin’s words are still quite relevant.

French Kiss:

Here we have a lighter romantic comedy. Canadian Kate (Meg Ryan) is in France to try to win back her fiance. She encounters Luc (Kevin Kline, who adopts a very good French accent) who is outwardly a crook, but turns out to be the romantic good guy, who just wants enough money to own his own vineyard. Of course, by the end of the film the two become a couple.

Before that happens, Luc hides a stolen necklace in Kate’s bag, and sticks with her, saying he will help her with her boyfriend problem. Kate tries to convince Luc that it is important to display one’s feelings. She tells him, “A healthy person is someone who expresses what they are feeling inside. Express, not repress.” Luc feels that Kate shares too much of what she feels, and his sarcastic observation of her advice that sounds like it was uttered by some TV shrink is “In that case, you must be one of the healthiest people in the world.” Obviously these two are initially separated by more than where they come from geographically. Luc has a more pessimistic view of what to expect out of life, which can be seen when he says, “When people tell me they are happy, my ass begins to twitch.” Kate makes fun of Luc’s attitude by predicting what will become of him. She makes her face appear sad and droopy, pretends to hold a cigarette, and says in a raspy voice, “You’ll become one of those hunchbacked lonely old men, sitting in the corner of a crowded cafe, mumbling to yourself, ‘My ass is twitching. You people make my ass twitch.’”

By exposing each other’s foibles, and their good qualities, the two draw closer, realizing their happiness resides in neither Canada nor France, but in the love they share for each other.

Forget Paris:

It looks like we have a trend here centering on romantic comedies and France. This relatively unknown film is one of my favorites. Billy Crystal was one of the writers, and he also directed and starred in this movie. There are lots of lines to choose from here, and I just picked out a few. Mickey Gordon (Crystal) is a professional basketball referee. His father, who abandoned his family, dies, but wants to be buried with his war buddies in France. Mickey takes the body there, but the airline loses it. That’s where Ellen (Debra Winger) comes in, because she works for the airline. The body has been quarantined for health reasons, which astonishes Mickey: “He’s dead. He’s been de-healthed!” Ellen is very sympathetic, they get to know each other, fall in love, marry, and then separate. Their backstory is related at a dinner party. One recollection is that of Mickey saying to Ellen, “I’ll never forget my father’s last words to me: ‘Get out of my way.’ You can’t buy memories like that.”

At the dinner, Andy (Joe Mantegna) gets into a fight with his fiance, and Craig (Richard Masur) tries to console him by saying, “Here have some bread. Everything will look better after bread.” I like this line, because I know that food among my fellow Italian Americans is considered a non-pharmaceutical antidepressant. So, I can definitely relate to the sentiment expressed here.

While hanging out with his fellow referees, one guy reads from a tabloid which says that they dug up Abraham Lincoln, gave him a shot of some kind of reviving agent, and brought him back to life. Mickey says, “What were his first words? How did the play end?” It’s just a witty remark about the absurdity of these so-called “newspapers.”

The couple reunite and show up at the dinner. What a funny, and feel-good, movie.

Sleepless in Seattle:

Yeah, I know, another romantic comedy. But, the late, great Nora Ephron wrote this movie, so you can see why I would choose it. Widower architect Sam Baldwin (Tom Hanks) is hoping to spend some romantic time with a woman he met while working. However, his son, Jonah (Ross Malinger), does not like the lady, and wants his dad to pursue the person who sent a nice letter to him after Jonah talked of Sam’s loneliness on a call-in radio show. However, Sam does not know this lady (Meg Ryan, who shows up in a lot of these types of films), and warns Jonah how dangerous a strange woman can be by pointing out the movie, Fatal Attraction. After Jonah reminds his father that he wouldn’t let his son watch it, Sam says, “Well I saw it and it scared the shit out of me. It scared the shit out of every man in America!”  I just think Sam’s line is funny, fierce, and sums up the the deep impact that cautionary film about marital infidelity made on men. Do you know where your pet rabbits are?

Cat Ballou:

Lee Marvin plays an alcoholic cowboy named Kid Sheleen who was once a notorious outlaw in this Old West comedy. He is hired by the the title character, played by Jane Fonda, to get revenge for her father’s death. Sheleen gets sober enough to help save the day, but reverts to his drunken ways by the end of the film. One of Cat’s friends, Jackson Two-Bears (Tom Nardini) sees Sheleen on his cross-legged horse, both of who appear intoxicated, leaning against a building. Jackson comments about Sheleen’s eyes, and the outlaw asks what’s wrong with them. Jackson says, “Well they’re red, bloodshot.” Sheleen’s slurred response is, “You ought to see ‘em from my side.” A very funny sort of reversal joke that I didn’t see coming. When Marvin accepted the Oscar for Best Actor, he said that part of the award belonged to the horse.

Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid:

While on the topic of Western comedies, here is one of my favorites. It also addresses the theme of how progress can destroy those who no longer fit the current age. Butch (Paul Newman) and Sundance (Robert Redford) try to rob a train for the second time, but it is now equipped with a modern safe. Butch, ignorant of how to deal with this new security invention, asks for more explosives. The result is that the whole railway car gets blown up. As pieces fly everywhere, Sundance uses understatement to comical effect when he says, “Think ya’ used enough dynamite there, Butch?” Not only funny, but also sums up how the duo are out of touch with the new world which eventually pushes them out of the West to South America, where they meet their demise. I know the plot doesn’t sound funny, but if you have seen this movie you know there are plenty of humorous lines exchanged between Newman and Redford.


Well there’s not much that is funny in this revisionist Western from Clint Eastwood, which earned him Best Director and Best Picture Oscars. The notorious Will Munny (Eastwood) comes out of retirement after the death of his spouse, who reformed him, supposedly as a hired gun to get revenge for some prostitutes who had one of their co-workers disfigured by a client. However, the money for Munny becomes secondary, as the story shows a variety of violent men incapable of freeing themselves from their pasts. Except, there is a new young man who wants to become an outlaw, The Schofield Kid (Jaimz Woolvet), who has to face the horror of killing someone. Will tells him, “It’s a hell of a thing, killing a man. Take away all he’s got and all he’s ever gonna have.” The words are plain, but they are powerful in summing up how death ends not only what someone is but it also denies all of a person’s possibilities for the future. The Kid tries to rationalize their lethal actions by using the cliche, “Yeah, well I guess they had it coming.” Will won’t let The Kid off the hook, as he says, “We all got it coming, kid.”


My favorite Coen Brothers film, that somehow manages to perfectly blend humor and violence in this tale of crime in one of the coldest parts of the country. Even though the weather conditions are harsh, and the bad guys commit gruesome acts of violence, the story holds out hope in the relationship between the characters of Marge (Frances McDormand, in her first Oscar-winning role), and her husband, Norm (John Carroll Lynch). She is the pregnant police chief, called early in the morning, to get on the case involving some murders on the road. Norm rises, too, to make sure his wife has her breakfast. The two say how they love each other, and then she walks out of the door to her police car. But, she comes back in the house and says, “Hon?” Norm answers with the oft repeated regional response, “Yah?”  Then she says, “Prowler needs a jump.” Her words deliver the right sound and economy that fits Marge’s world. But, beyond that, the exchange shows how these two, despite the frigid temperatures, and the crimes committed in cold blood (brought about in contrast by a family devoid of affection), are there for each other, ready to bring a new child into their heart-warming world.

Oh Brother, Where Art Thou?

Since we’re talking about the Coens, here’s another winner. George Clooney is great in this film about three guys who escape from a chain gang and embark on a variety of adventures, suggested by The Odyssey and The Wizard of Oz. Clooney’s character, Ulysses Everett McGill, has the gift of gab, and thinks he can talk his way out of any situation, but he can’t. The convicts’ car breaks down, and he needs a part that the local vendor says will take two weeks to arrive. He then also has no use for the hair gel that the store stocks, and wants his usual brand, Dapper Dan. The vendor says he can order it, but it will take two weeks. Everett, which is what he is called, says, “Well, ain’t this place a geographical oddity. Two weeks from everywhere!” The line exemplifies Everett’s way with words, and also shows that no matter how he tries, he usually winds up eventually saying, “Damn! We’re in a tight spot!”


Even in this sci-fi horror classic from James Cameron there is a pretty funny line. The Marines have entered the area of the complex where the amazingly lethal aliens have cocooned the human occupants. Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) has realized that the soldiers can’t fire any weapons because they might rupture the nuclear reactor beneath them. When the Marines are told they can’t use their weapons and they must hand in their loaded magazines, Private Frost (Ricco Ross) says, “What the hell are we supposed to use, man, harsh language?” It’s just a great example of gallows humor, since the only way to deal with a hopeless situation is to laugh about it.

Blade Runner:
Speaking of classic sci-fi movies, here’s another one, which, again, is primarily serious, yet still maintains a bit of humor. Here we have a future that has become dehumanized, in the sense that the real people show less empathy and elicit less sympathy from the audience then do the synthetic humans, known as Replicants. The rich and the genetically superior have escaped earth to live “off-world,” where Replicants are used as slaves, and this world has become a sort of futuristic ghetto. One character, Sebastian (William Sanderson), a genetic engineer, suffers from a condition which disqualified him from leaving the planet. His aging process is accelerated, a situation that he shares with the Replicants, who have a four year life span. Sebastian helped to make these androids, but he has also tainted them with the human limitation of a limited lifetime. In this dehumanized world, Sebastian, says, “I make friends.” This statement is a funny play on words, because he literally creates robotic toys to keep him company. They march around his apartment in an abandoned building, symbolic of the emptiness in his small world and the one at large.

The Dark Knight:

This movie is “dark” for a number of reasons, especially in the use of the character of the Joker, played by Heath Ledger (for which he won, sadly, a posthumous Best Supporting Actor Oscar). This nihilistic clown dispenses only sick comic touches as he murders and blows up stuff on his ride down anarchy road in Gotham City. In one scene he explains how he, supposedly, received the upturned scars on his face that produced his deformed smile. He says his father, who “was a drinker and a fiend,” came at him with a knife and said, “‘Why so serious?’” He sticks the blade in my mouth. ‘Let’s put a smile on that face.’” The “s” sounds come out like the hissing of a snake, adding to the almost Satan-like quality of this villain. The inversion of comedy into horror is done by subverting the idea of showing happiness with a grin through mutilation. It is very effective writing, and acting.

The Ruling Class:

This is a film most people have never heard of, which is a shame, because it is a devastating satire on the British class system. Jack (Peter O’Toole, in a no-holds-barred performance) is a member of the aristocracy who is crazy, thinking he is Jesus Christ. He even has a huge crucifix in his mansion, where he literally hangs out on occasion. When asked how does he know he is God, he answers, “Simple. When I pray to Him, I find I am talking to myself.” An irreverent, but funny line. The irony of the story is that in his benign Christ-like delusion he is rejected by his peers, but is later welcomed when he becomes a sinister character.


Although quite intelligent, and a filmmaker who makes references in his films to great artists, Woody Allen, nevertheless, likes to poke fun at the his fellow New Yorkers for allowing their intellectual abilities to be undermined by over-thinking everything. In this movie, while at a party, Allen’s character of Isaac listens to a woman who says, “I finally had an orgasm, and my doctor said it was the wrong kind.”  Isaac’s rebuttal is, “You had the wrong kind? I’ve never had the wrong kind, ever. My worst one was right on the money.”

Isaac also mentions that there is going to be a rally by Nazis, and that they should do something about it. One party guest says there is a satirical piece about it in the New York Times that is “devastating.” Isaac questions how effective intellectual tools are in this situation when he says, “Well a satirical piece in the Times is one thing, but bricks and baseball bats really get right to the point.” Yes, violence begets violence, but one could understand his outrage at how detached the purely cerebral stance can be.

Grosse Pointe Blank:

In this dark comedy about a professional killer who is losing his taste for his profession, we have John Cusack’s Martin returning to his home town after ten years for a high school reunion, hoping to reconnect with the person he once was, and also his girlfriend, Debi (Minnie Driver), who he split on. He has a difficult time accomplishing his goal. He has a humorous exchange about his cat with Debi, after he refers to the animal as “it.” She says, “It. You don’t know if it’s a boy or a girl?” Martin’s response is, “I respect its privacy.” Funny, but also revealing, showing how Martin hasn’t been able to even have a close relationship with his pet.

He also feels frustrated that he can’t even see his old house, because it has been torn down, and a convenience store is now on the property. Martin, putting a twist on a famous phrase, says, “You can never go home again … but I guess you can shop there.”

At the end of the film, after some mayhem which involves the hilarious Dan Aykroyd, playing a hitman who wants to unionize assassins, Martin gets to drive off with Deb, who says in a prerecorded message on her radio show, “Some people say forgive and forget. I say forget about forgiving and just accept. And, … get the hell out of town.”

And that’s what I’m going to do now. The next film to be analyzed is Lifeboat.

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