Friday, May 10, 2013

Movie Lines We Live By

People love movie quotes in general, but sometimes lines from films become more than mere trivia items and evolve into part of the viewers' vocabulary, especially in groups where people have the same viewing history. In fan communities these lines become part of a code that denotes membership in the "inner circle" - people who can endlessly trade lines from Firefly, Doctor Who, or Star Trek recognize one another by the level of their knowledge. In more personal settings, however, the quoted lines can actually serve as a kind of shorthand communication between speakers: knowledge of both the source and the context is a given, and speakers are able to express a number of things at once, reinforcing the power and nuance of their shared experience.

I sometimes wonder what outsiders make of the conversations my husband and I have, since they are loaded with movie quotes that mean very particular things to us, and perhaps to us alone. We have been watching movies together for 22 years, more than 16 of those as a married couple. Along the way, we have collected enough movie lines that we could probably have an entire conversation composed of nothing else. The lines that become part of our vocabulary - a sort of cinematic "twin language" - reflect shared experience and interests, both personal and generational. In other words, we're a pair of Gen X geeks, and it definitely shows in the movies we quote to one another.

Here are some of the movie lines we live by, along with a little commentary about where they come from and what they mean to us.

"Chefs do that." - The Long Kiss Goodnight (1996)

Renny Harlin's noirish action picture stars Geena Davis as an assassin with amnesia; early in the picture she begins to recover some of her memories and forgotten skills, including some radical knife wielding abilities. My husband simply cannot pick up a knife in the kitchen without this line coming into play, but we also use it when one of us does something unexpected while cooking. Accidentally drop a plate and then catch it in mid-air? "Chefs do that." Almost lost a finger chopping broccoli? Ditto.

"Honestly... Who throws a shoe?" - Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery (1997)

The actual line in the original Mike Myers spy spoof is reversed, but if either of us says "Honestly!" we are compelled by a deep-rooted psychological force to follow it with "Who throws a shoe?" It's a perfect expression of disbelief at a ridiculous event. The first Austin Powers movie is really quite a goldmine of domestic quotes, including "One MILLION dollars!" and "An EVIL petting zoo?"

"They told me they fixed it!... It's not my fault!" - The Empire Strikes Back (1980)

No self-respecting Gen X geek could get by without quoting Star Wars a couple of times a day, but in a domestic setting this line from Lando Calrissian proves especially handy. My husband tends to employ it most often whenever plumbers, carpenters, or car repairmen are involved, but computer technicians also inspire the line. When you expect something to work and it doesn't, it's time for the Lando line.

Other household favorites from the original trilogy include "I am not a committee!", "Would it help if I got out and pushed?", "I've got a bad feeling about this," "Would someone get this walking carpet out of my way?" and "I have altered the agreement. Pray I do not alter it further." We don't quote the prequel trilogy because that stuff is heresy. It would be like Baptists quoting the Book of Mormon.

 "You must not read from the book!" - The Mummy (1999)

I really couldn't tell you how many times we have watched Stephen Sommers' remake of the classic mummy movie, but it's enough that the dialogue has permanently embedded itself in our brains. Being a family of avid readers, we find a lot of use for this line about The Book of the Dead, but the film is full of gems that pop up regularly in our conversation. An icky corpse on a murder show often prompts, "Looks like you boys found yourselves a nice gooey mummy."

"She's a gasper!" - Rising Sun (1993)

My husband quotes this line, in a terrible Sean Connery impression, every time kinky sex is part of a plot on a TV show or film (or in the news). He can't help himself. In the original reference, the dead woman engaged in choking as part of bedroom play. For us, the line stands in for any crazy sex quirk, but of course the Connery impression only cements the idea of the act as ridiculous. At this point, I really don't remember that much about the movie, aside from it not being an especially good film, but this line will live on in our household vocabulary.

"Jesus, Grandpa! What did you read me this thing for?" - The Princess Bride (1987)

Of all the quotable lines in The Princess Bride - and there are dozens of them - this is the one that gets the most play at our house, primarily when one of us has suggested a film, TV show, or book that is a lot more violent or horrible than we expected. All one of us has to say is "Jesus, Grandpa!" and we know it's time to hit the stop button on the DVD player. It's also a handy line to communicate the inappropriate nature of a film or show for our kid - "No, I think that would end up being a 'Jesus Grandpa' experience. Let's skip it."

Runners-up from The Princess Bride include "Remember, this is for posterity, so be honest," often used when talking about how sick or injured one of us is, and "Get some rest. If you haven't got your health, you haven't got anything," which is a particular favorite in my conversations with my over-taxed BFF.

This list could go on for a long time, but I think you get the idea. I'll leave you with ten more of our favorite lines and their sources. In the comments section, feel free to tell me about some of the movie lines you live by!

"Cats and dogs living together...!" - Ghostbusters (1984)
"Cute plan, though." - Heist (2001)
"I like you, Clarence. Always have. Always will." - True Romance (1993)
"There's a snake in my boot!" - Toy Story (1995)
"The stars at night are big and bright - *clap clap clap* - deep in the heart of Texas!" - Pee-Wee's Big Adventure (1985)
"Two girls with green eyes!" - Big Trouble in Little China (1986)
"Snake Plissken... I heard you were dead!" - Escape from New York (1981)
"It's not a tumor!" - Kindergarten Cop (1999) *NB - We didn't even see this movie, and the line still stuck! Probably tied with "Consider this a divorce!" - Total Recall (1990) Both have to be uttered in the worst Arnold Schwarzenegger impression possible.
"Damn! We're in a tight spot!" - O Brother Where Art Thou?" (2000)