I’m a meat-and-potatoes moviegoer more than I am a nuts-and-bolts one. Admittedly, considering my weird hardware-and-hearty-fare metaphoric and personal terminology, that no doubt means nothing to you. Here’s what it means to me, and here’s how I can best explain it:
I usually stay for the end credits, but not because I’m a cinema snob-o-rama who absolutely needs to take note of all the production details to find out who the 2nd Assistant Gaffer was. What I am most curious about – and this information is pretty much stuck on at the tail end of the credits -is the location settings and the music used; I’m resourcefully cheap enough to vicariously use films as travelogues and song sampling buyer’s guides. And as long as I’ve waited the thirteen minutes to get to that point in the eye-glazing acknowledgments, I’ll stick around to see if any animals were harmed in the making of the movie.
Another essential cinematic nutrient lies in keep-it-simple offerings. There’s nothing terribly wrong with fast-food for thought, and I’m too impatient and restless for most multi-course feasts. Ninety minutes is a perfect length for a movie – a constraint conducive, like a short story, to disciplined craftsmanship.
But the most important ingredient for the best meat-and-potatoes fare lies in the good writing, of course; pearls of wit and wisdom that are contained in the bon mots and repartee make for a more memorable and evocative film, resonating long after the sticky floors, popcorn smells and nine bucks shelled out fade to black and blocked memory.
I may not always be able to tell you who-done-it, but I can usually remember who said it and what was said – committing quotes to recollection much better than problematic plots, cardboard characters, and the name of that 2nd Assistant Gaffer. Here’s some of my favorite lines – some the usual suspects, others not AFI-approved – that satiates an aphoristic appetite and satisfies a hunger for gift-of-gab confabs, from stuff ‘n’ nonsense to a deeper truth-delving. The quotes are grouped into three classifications – other than that, no particular order. I don’t need no stinkin’ order:
1. The Appetizers. Usually non-essential to the plot, these do little to advance the story line but whets a desire for a film’s full flavoring. Many are stand-alone lines or non-sequiturs that are funny, astute or absurd in and of themselves, regardless of who is saying them, although most are hinged upon an appropriate delivery and a few are almost inseparable from the character or actor:
“It’s in that place where I put that thing that time.” – Nancy Ticotin, Hackers.
“Gentlemen, you can’t fight in here. This is the War Room!” – Peter Sellers, Dr. Strangelove.
“She tried to sit on my lap, and I was standing up at the time.” – Humphrey Bogart, The Big Sleep.
“If I hold you any closer, I’ll be in back of you.” – Groucho Marx to Esther Muir, A Day at the Races.
“I’d like to kiss you, but I just washed my hair.” – Bette Davis, The Cabin in the Cotton.
“Let’s go get sushi and not pay!” – Dick Rude, Repo Man.
“He’s the only man I know who can strut sitting down.” – Gene Kelly on Fredric March’s Mathew Harrison Brady, Inherit the Wind.
“Son, you got a panty on your head.” – store clerk, Raising Arizona.
“We’re not talking about killing people. Herb’s talking about killing me and I’m talking about killing him.” – Henry Travers, Shadow of a Doubt.
“What in the wide, wide world of sports is a-going on here?” – Slim Pickens, Blazing Saddles.
2. The Main Course. Dig in with these more substantial and cerebrally ample, satisfyingly, stick-to-your-ribs lines. These are usually integral to the plot and theme and overall tenor and mood of the movie, whether nourish or comedic. Not only character-driven but often used to define and convey character and personality, these are the quotes most ingrained with the protagonist or antagonist or actor–imbuing empathy or ill will–and sometimes helping, unfortunately, to typecast him or her:
“I don’t mind if you don’t like my manners. I don’t like them myself. They’re pretty bad. I grieve over them long winter evenings.” – Humphrey Bogart, The Big Sleep.
“What a dump.” – Bette Davis, Beyond the Forest.
“I can never get a zipper to close. Maybe that stands for something, what do you think?” – Rita Hayworth, Gilda.
“Who are those guys?” – Paul Newman and Robert Redford, at different times, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.
“She gave me a smile I could feel in my hip pocket.” – Robert Mitchum, Farewell, My Lovely.
“There’s no crying in baseball!” – Tom Hanks, A League of Their Own.
“It was a hot afternoon, and I can still remember the smell of honeysuckle all along that street. How could I have known that murder can sometimes smell like honeysuckle?” – Fred MacMurray, Double Indemnity.
“Would you mind putting that gun away? My wife doesn’t mind but I’m very timid.” – William Powell, The Thin Man.
“My, my. Such a lot of guns around here and so few brains.” – Humphrey Bogart, The Maltese Falcon.
“It’s a terrible thing to hate your mother. But I didn’t always hate her. When I was a child, I only kind of disliked her.” – Laurence Harvey, The Manchurian Candidate.
“I can no longer sit back and allow communist infiltration, communist indoctrination, communist subversion, and the international communist conspiracy to sap and impurify all of our precious bodily fluids.” – Sterling Hayden, Dr. Strangelove.
“I don’t use a pen. I write with a goose quill dipped in venom.” – Clifton Webb, Laura.
“Goodness had nothing to do with it” – Mae West, after an onlooker said, “Goodness, what beautiful diamonds!” Night After Night.
“He used to be a tough mug, but he’s cracked up and gone soft over a dame.” – dock worker talking about Robert Armstrong, King Kong.
3. Dessert. Loosen-your-belt time. For good measure, these are the take-it-or-leave-it lines, not especially character-based, that put the icing on the cake for a little added surround-sound dimension. But they are often the ones – not especially imperative or inextricable from the fabric of the film – that you remember or try to look up later because you can take them out of context with no-harm no-foul consequences later on and repeat them as your own splendid witticisms. Or at least until the movie goes into wide-release:
“Positive thinking is fine in theory. But whenever I try it on a systematic basis, I end up really depressed.” – Taylor Nichols, Barcelona.
“Sell crazy someplace else, we’re all stocked up here.” – Jack Nicholson,
As Good As It Gets.
“Playing strip poker with an exhibitionist somehow takes the challenge out of it.” – Chris Eigeman, Metropolitan.
“I don’t want to move to a city where the only cultural advantage is that you can turn right on a red light.” – Woody Allen, Annie Hall
I see disaster; I see catastrophe; worse – I see lawyers!” – Danielle Ferland, Mighty Aphrodite.
“You chased a dog and you beat a horse. You’re stronger than you think.” – George Kellerman, The Out of Towners.
“I once asked this literary agent what writing paid the best, and he said `ransom notes.’ ” – Gene Hackman, Get Shorty.
And roll the credits . . .