Sunday, April 1, 2018

Favorite Movie Lines That May Not Be Well Known, Part I

SPOILER ALERT! The plots will be discussed.

For this post I have decided to share some favorite movie lines that may not be so well known, and comment why they are memorable to me.

Fight Club:
There are many memorable lines in this film that deals with modern perceptions of masculinity and present-day consumerism, among other existential topics. Edward Norton’s character (who has no name, only aliases, emphasizing how his identity has been stripped away) has been worn down by an insensitive company that employs him in a job which takes him all over into different time zones to the point that he sleepwalks into dissociative identities. There is an explosion that destroys his condominium, and he seeks out a fellow traveler, Tyler Durden (Brad Pitt), who turns out to be his imaginary alter ego.
Over some beers and after Norton’s character bemoans his loss, Tyler emphasizes the futility of placing fulfillment in material objects because we become slaves to wanting them. He sums up this idea when he says, “The things you own, end up owning you.”
Tyler later emphasizes the need for being a genuine revolutionary against modern times, and not just paying lip service to a cause, when he humorously says, “Sticking feathers up your butt does not make you a chicken.”
When he and Norton look at ads on a subway which promote the proper underwear to be worn to be a “real man,” Tyler says, “Self-improvement is masturbation. Now, self-destruction …” This quote stresses Tyler’s argument that we must rid ourselves of accepted norms, break free of preconceived notions of success, and after resetting everything to ground zero, then rebuild ourselves.

Field of Dreams:
After Kevin Costner’s character, Ray Kinsella, receives his other-worldly mission to build a baseball field on his Iowa farm, he then receives a message to seek out a famous writer who has become a recluse. When he finds the writer, Terrence Mann (James Earl Jones) and tells him his story, and how he has to take Mann to a Boston Red Sox game to receive a further revelation, the writer thinks he is crazy. Mann says to him, “You’re seeing a whole team of psychiatrists.” I just think it’s a very funny line that depicts Kinsella’s supposed insanity by referring to his assumed delusion.

Back to the Future:
Marty (Michael J. Fox) time travels back thirty years to the year 1955 and tries to convince Doc Brown (Christopher Lloyd) that Marty is from the future. Doc asks him who is the president in 1985, and Marty tells him it’s Ronald Reagan. Doc laughs, and says “Who is the vice-president, Jerry Lewis?” In 1955, when television was in its infancy, the idea that an actor, instead of a person experienced in the world of politics, would become president seems ludicrous. However, when Doc Brown plays with Marty’s compact video recorder, he realizes that future technology has made video so important that he changes his tune. He says to Marty, “No wonder your president has to be an actor. He’s gotta look good on television.” This line is quite prescient, given how the importance of the way a person comes across in the mass media now dominates the world of politics.

Yes, I know this film has several famous lines, but the one that contains the most wit for me occurs when Captain Renault (Claude Rains) asks why Rick (Humphrey Bogart), came to Casablanca. Rick says, “My health. I came to Casablanca for the waters.” The astonished Renault says, “The waters. What waters? We’re in the desert.” To which Rick responds, “I was misinformed.” Not only is this a funny line, it also emphasizes Rick’s desire to isolate himself from others by being inscrutable.

Hell or High Water:
This more recent movie tells a great story about two brothers getting back at the bank that took advantage of their family. The siblings here love each other, but they, as do the lawmen in the film, show their affection by engaging in entertaining insults. In one scene, after seeing what his brother, Toby (Chris Pine), brought him to drink, Tanner (Ben Foster) says, “Are you trying to make me mad? I said Dr. Pepper. This is Mr. Pibb.” Toby informs Tanner that was all that was available. Tanner says, “Only assholes drink Mr. Pibb.” To which Toby smartly says, “Drink up.” Yes, you snobs form the northeast, Texans can be witty.

Lost in Translation:
As Bob (Bill Murray) gets to know Charlotte (Scarlett Johansson), he asks her what did she study in college. After she tells him that her major was philosophy, he says, “There’s a lot of money in that racket. You just have to work out all the angles.” Anyone who was a liberal arts major, like myself, has to laugh at Bob’s jibe at the impracticality of some academic pursuits.
Later in the film, when Bob takes Charlotte to a hospital to check out her injured toe, she comes out of the x-ray department and sees Bob with a large stuffed animal. She is moved and asks if that is for her. Bob says, “It can be for you.” I just love the way this scene starts out by being sweet, and then drops the suggestion that Bob bought the gift for himself, which humorously undercuts the sentimentality.

Groundhog Day:
Speaking of Bill Murray movies, this film is a very funny one which also has the serious theme about what we have to do to change our lives in order to move forward with them in a positive way. During one of his same day repeats, Phil (Murray) asks, “What would you do if you were stuck in one place and every day was exactly the same, and nothing that you did mattered?” The response from one of the locals, Ralph, is, “That about sums it up for me.” Before these lines, we are so focused on Phil’s weird predicament that we don’t realize that his situation is just a metaphor for our own. We laugh at Ralph’s line, but with a sad nod of our heads as we see that the majority of us share the same plight. Some may feel resignation, while others, hopefully, feel moved to stop living their lives in a loop of sameness.
Another quote I like is simply a humorous one. It again involves Phil and Ralph. After doing some serious drinking, outside the bar, Ralph looks like he is ready to vomit. Phil gives Ralph a puke option, “You wanna throw up here, or you wanna throw up in the car?” Ralph’s slow motion answer is, “I think … both.” He then quickly rebounds with a food request, “How about some flapjacks?” When my daughter, who is also a movie fanatic, and I go out and have a filling meal, we joke right after about having some “flapjacks.” I figure if you can use a line a lot in your own life to give you a laugh, it’s a good one.

There are some very funny lines in this film, but the late, great writer Paddy Chayefsky fashioned a forward-looking satire that is dark, and there are some observations here that are scary. In one scene, Max Schumacher (William Holden, in what I think is his best performance), shares his angst about life when he says to his love interest, Diana (Faye Dunaway), “I’m beginning to get scared shitless, because all of a sudden it’s getting closer to the end than the beginning, and death is a perceptible thing to me, with definable features.” He is trying to make Diana understand that living in a delusional TV world of denial about life’s realities stops her from understanding what he feels. But, the line is also a chilling reminder to all of us, and an acknowledgment of what senior citizens are all too aware of, that we must take into account our mortality as we try fully to live our lives.

The Hospital:
Here’s another Chayefsky satire, this one aimed at the medical profession. Dr. Herbert Bock (the superb George C. Scott), bellows out his rage and desperation with the inadequacies of a potentially great medical system to a patient’s daughter, Barbara (Diana Rigg), after the hospital almost killed her father doing a minor procedure: “We manufacture genes. We can produce birth ectogenetically. We can practically clone people like carrots. And half the kids in this ghetto haven’t even been inoculated for polio. We have established the most enormous medical … entity ever conceived, and people are sicker than ever. We cure nothing! We heal nothing! The whole goddamn wretched world, stangulating in front of our lives.” The film came out in 1971, and, despite medical advances, a great deal of the world either has no access to this “medical entity,” or can’t afford to gain access to it. Again, Chayefsky’s words are as relevant as ever.

Intolerable Cruelty:
I’ll finish this first entry on favorite movie lines, by showing my love for dark humor with another Coen Brothers movie, one many may not be so familiar with. The Coens have quite a range, form the serious Blood Simple and No Country for Old Men, to this comical film. However, when they are opting primarily for humor, they take a satirical aim at a target. In this movie, it is the legal profession, specifically lawyers. George Clooney is hysterical here as the smile fixated, success oriented divorce attorney, Miles Massey, who starts to question the profession in which he excels. He airs his doubts to his colleague, Wrigley (Paul Adelstein), about the self-destructive aspect of their job. He talks of their boss, the head of the firm, who looks like a scary skeleton, hooked up to IV bags and a breathing apparatus, as he keeps stressing the importance of billable hours. Massey says that the man never goes home. To which, Wrigley says, “Who needs a home when you’ve got a colostomy bag?” In other words, you’re able to poop anywhere.
Now the Coens are not making fun of a serious condition. It is the point of satire to elicit a laugh through a shocking statement to drive home the absurdity of a particular stance. In this instance, the attack is against the acceptance of a lifestyle that results in the sacrifice of everything for the purpose of making money to the point that it dehumanizes the individual.

Next time, more favorite movie lines.

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