Days ago, I felt it necessary to branch out and construct, maintain and post a niche blog in order to build a portfolio to make myself attractive for freelancing gigs…and the carrot and the horse and the carrot and the carrot and the carrot¹…
So, one of my goals for my new blog is to maintain a news feed in regards to my niche. In my need to do so, I started looking around for news sources where I could draw information from, and in doing so, discovered Quora. It was a recommended site for bloggers who needed topics and inspiration. It’s a social site, so all you would do to engage with others is sign up, plug in your interests, and you’re off and running. If you’re a blogger, I highly recommend signing up with them. It’s free, and even though I didn’t know what to expect when I signed up, I’m pleased with what I’ve found so far.
As I was pouring over the subjects, I came across this topic, which off course set me off on a two-day adventure of my own to make my own list while cutting my teeth on Photoshop skills…and perhaps…gathering ideas for t-shirts…so, it’s all good.
The topic is:
At first, I couldn’t think of many, let alone one. I used to be all about the movies. For the longest time, it was my drug of choice; memorizing lines, repeated viewings when there was nothing on, holding my own personal marathons, going to independent movie houses to see something other than what Hollywood has to offer.
Now, not so much.
I actually had to think about this question for a second, whereas before, I could rattle off 20 in one breath...in character! I could have gone to my library and pulled out my greatest hits of all the movies that were integral to my generation, but I’m bored with that whole scene now. “Blahblalblah PulpFiction blahblahblah Clerks… wow, I’m so obscure!”
Instead, I chose to look at this as objectively as I could. If I were to compile a list of really great lines from movies from the dawn of the Talkies to now, what would be on it? Well, my list would probably more or less coincide with AFI’s list. Impressive as it is, there are one or two that aren’t on there. I thought more of the lines that made more of an impression; The lines that I’ve committed to memory. The lines that would serve as a wolf’s song². The lines that were delivered so perfectly, that I could sit around all day and analyze them. The lines that have woven themselves into my life…you know…those lines…here’s what I mean… My Top 10 List of Academy Worthy Lines… as compiled by me.
#10 The Princess Bride: As you wish…
Here is a movie that was released at a time when we all needed a new classic, and weren’t really expecting one. This film is all about the memorable lines and moments. Speaking of finding my tribe, I remember sitting at a table with friends while we all recited the entire movie verbatim. Even today, if someone were to randomly post in some random social media forum the line, “Have fun storming the castle!” the responses would be swift, immediate and more than likely, last for days. (Trust me on this one, try it out.) If you’re a fan, you’ll find your tribe real quick.
I could have gone with any number of lines from this film, but this one is the most memorable. This made my list because this most memorable line didn’t even crack AFI’s top 100. Shame on you, American Film Institute. Shame.
#9 The Usual Suspects: How do you shoot the devil in the back…?
The first time I saw this movie, it was on videotape. I remember watching this to the end of the credits, hitting the rewind button, watching it again, and repeating the process until the sun came up the next day. What a delicious little gem of a film this was; a gritty and gleeful throwback to the Film Noir era, spiked with enough F-bombs to make Raymond Chandler blush. Skillfully crafted and extremely well written. I tried to not foreshadow too much while constructing this poster…for the…one or two of you who haven’t seen this yet, so I’ll try not to give any spoilers. I chose this line because of the lyricism of it; there’s fear behind it. Palpable horror delivered with a legitimate concern. What would happen if you were faced with the same situation, and would you be prepared to face the consequences if and when it all goes wrong?
#8 Blade Runner: The light that burns twice as bright…
I tend to collect lines from movies. Some guys memorize baseball stats. This is what I do. I chose this one as an homage to friends long gone. I picked this one up a long time ago when late-night beer and movie binges were the norm. A friend of mine kept repeating this at random times until the context of it began to sink in. Again, it’s very lyrical, and it’s a subtle reminder of how futile and fragile we all are.
#7 Annie Hall: La-dee-da, La-dee-da
Once upon a time, there was this girl. This girl found it in her heart to date me. This girl loved Woody Allen movies. I think the only Woody Allen movie I’ve seen up until that point was “Zelig” so, I offered to set a date for a stack of movies, a couch and a coffee table full of take-out food. One night she took me up on it and we started with “Play It Again, Sam” and I think we ended with “Manhattan”. “Annie Hall” wasn’t a favorite, but I did like it a lot, and I promised to call it in the morning.
#55 on AFI’s list, this line made it into my top ten, simply because my slightly neurotic side has always had a crush on Diane Keaton. Although I could be wrong, and I’m open to discourse on this subject, but I don’t think there has been a performer before her who has captured that wonderful mix of trying not to be shy and awkward while being shy and awkward, served with a healthy dose of self-deprecation dolloped on top, a side of ambivalence…and a Diet Coke. This one line spoke volumes about the human condition at the time and has seldom been matched since. Incredibly charming.
#6 Silence of the Lambs: You know what you look like…?
Yes, I could have gone with the infamous “Fava Bean” line that immediately followed this on in the movie (#21 on the list), but it’s been done to death (pardon the pun). The fate of some poor census taker was a nice flourish to the end of a heavier monologue that has pretty much gone unnoticed. Unfortunate, because this part of the dialogue is fantastic.
Some guys collect sports memorabilia. I collect movie lines. It’s a habit I started a long time ago, and it has since been my niche of geekdom. I hear a line, sometimes the longer the better, I commit it to memory, and I make it mine. It’s what I did. It came in handy when I had to perform Shakespeare. I memorized this speech, only recently. For my own amusement. This one made the list because I like it. I like it because of the delicious creep factor. I love the subtle enjoyment in his voice as he unblinkingly peels Agent Starling like an onion. It’s the speech that cements Hannibal Lecter firmly in the pantheon of cinematic villains. The movie is awesome. Anthony Hopkins is fantastic. It’s Halloween. Pick a reason.
#5 Taxi Driver: You talkin’ to me?
I mean, honestly… How could I make a list of movie lines and not have this on here? That’s just plain ridiculous, and in some circles, downright blasphemous.
#10 on AFI’s list, I’m truly surprised that it hasn’t edged closer to the top. But I understand, going up against such lines as “Here’s lookin’ at you, kid,” and, “May the Force be with you.” Stiff competition indeed, but DeNiro’s line from Taxi Driver has found it’s way further into the modern day vernacular more often than any other pop culture reference that came before or since. It has made my list not only for its recognizability, but this scene is “Film Geek 101”. Scorsese’s patented pan shot, a young and hungry DeNiro going for it in every scene he’s in blahblahblah roll the clip!
#4 Casablanca: I am shocked…
A whopping six times Casablanca has made an appearance on AFI’s list, none of which are this scene. There is nothing about this scene that doesn’t fall flat. To this day, over 70 years later, this scene still holds up. It’s still fresh. It still pops. It’s timeless. The timing of the lines, the pathos, the blocking (I love the look Rick gives to his dealer in the background while Louis trots off after gathering his winnings). It made my list because it’s timeless.
#3 Chinatown: Forget it, Jake…
That moment when you’ve slammed your head against a wall because there is nothing else you can do to control a situation. That moment when you think you’ve figured it out, and then realizing that you haven’t even come close. That moment when your moment in being the knight in shining armor is taken away because there would be no way that would happen.
You know what I’m talking about, right? You’re in over your head. You need to get out now because the next words out of your mouth, or the wrong move in the wrong direction will get you in deeper, possibly fatal trouble. Walk away. Walk away and forget it, Jake…
This made my list because I’ve been here more than once…
#2 A Streetcar Named Desire: Stella!
This made my list for the same reasons DeNiro in Taxi Driver made the list. I believe it is written somewhere that if someone is going to compile a list of memorable movie quotes, the omission of Brando in Streetcar is punishable of up to 30 days in jail and a $2000 fine.
Holy crap, the feels behind this line. The way he squeezes every last ounce of air in his lungs? This is what anguish sounds like. This didn’t just make the list because it was more than obvious, it made the list precisely because this one word started a movement in the modern drama, and how it should be performed. A name shouted at the top of his lungs heralded in the new rein of “Method” actors, and the new face of Hollywood, and disappearance of fast-talking, high-trousered actors of the old guard.
And last, but not least… and certainly nothing to do with recent events…
#1 To Have and Have Not: You know how to whistle, don’t you Steve?
The look on Bogey’s face afterward says it all. We still feel it to this day. It packs a punch so hard that even the manliest man in the room has to say…
Lauren Bacall was a screaming hotty. She was the Mayor McHotty of Hottyville. They carved her likeness on the side of Mount Hotty. Archeologists in future will know her as The Once and Future Hotty and will dedicate a wing in the Hotty wing of the Smithsonian. Hotty.
…She will be missed.
In the course of making this list, about five other lines popped into my head. Keep in mind that this list reflects how I feel at the moment, and will probably change next week.
Maybe you all can help me out. What lines do you consider Oscar Worthy?
¹ Borrowed from Spaulding Gray’s, “Swimming to Cambodia”
² Meaning, if you were to blurt out a line from a movie in mixed company, say a party where you’re the stranger in town, and two or three people smiled and perhaps laughed a little while the rest of them roll their eyes, you tend to hang out with the people who smiled, because you have found your tribe…your pack.