This week’s AVQ&A comes from a chat the A.V. Club had during a staff meeting:
What movie do you quote most often?
This one is tough. I channel Philip Seymour Hoffman’s Twister character practically every time I’m hungry: “Food. Fooood.” And I can pretty much quote the surprisingly star-studded Drop Dead Gorgeous and Noises Off from beginning to end. But I most often call on the 1996 gem The First Wives Club. There are of course the well-known go-tos (“I had guests!” “Who, Guns ’n Roses?!”) though I commonly rely on deep cuts like Bette Midler requesting a kiss on the cheek from her son with a call for “affection,” Diane Keaton’s unapologetic “I’m soorrrrryyyyyyy,” and Goldie Hawn’s “I’m not happy, Maurice.” There really is a quote for any occasion. We may not be getting a sequel, but at least those three stars are reuniting for a new movie.
Growing up, a fair amount of my friends expressed an early, collective interest in becoming educators. This was an exciting development not only for the future children who would ultimately end up with passionate role models, but also for us, the youngsters who quoted Sister Act 2 constantly. At last, we would have a legitimately good reason to firmly advise, “If you want to be somebody, if you want to go somewhere, you better wake up and pay attention!” Of course, they were also looking forward to the opportunities to shape young minds and become positive beacons in their communities. If that involved a hip-hop rendition of “Joyful, Joyful” every now and again, then, so be it. (Fun fact: “Your teacher says take off your robes… I don’t know, just take off your robes” would actually come into play years later, when my closest friend became a drama teacher. I took immense joy in that. The kids didn’t get it at all.) I still—as recently as this week, even—will glibly declare that something “was cool for what it was, but it wasn’t all that.”
Like Patrick, I feel like I’m more of a screenplay cherrypicker than someone whose vocabulary is shaped by any single film. And then I remember the number of times my wife and I have parted ways with an exchange of “Be seeing you”/ “I hope not sporadically,” and the verbal versatility of Clueless dawns on me like Cher Horowitz realizing she’s in love with her stepbrother. Amy Heckerling’s script didn’t reflect the way ’90s kids talked as much as it gave us a whole dictionary of elevated slang and highbrow/lowbrow references—and 25 years later, the impact lingers. Encounter a track from Everybody Else Is Doing It, So Why Can’t We? in the wild? “I can’t find my Cranberries CD—I gotta go to the quad before somebody snags it.” Mention a popular soft drink? “You guys got coke here?” And, inevitably, whenever I’m in California and about to get in a car: “Everywhere in L.A. takes 20 minutes!”
I almost never have an opportunity to “voir dire a witness” or show off my general automotive knowledge, but lines from My Cousin Vinny still regularly find their way into my conversations. Joe Pesci and screenwriter Dale Launer gifted a young me with the ultimate dismissal and a way to connect with my fellow yutes, but Marisa Tomei’s Mona Lisa Vito was a veritable font of snappy retorts. Tomei, who won the Best Supporting Actress Oscar for the role, is the perfect combination of Brooklyn smarts and leather-clad glamour, but smart-ass teens and adults can still get a lot of mileage out of her comebacks. “What are you, a fuckin’ world traveler?!” and “You’re a smooth talker, you are!” are both great responses to know-it-alls, but if you’re just trying to emphasize a point, you can always punctuate your sentences LIKE. THIS.
I’m more of a TV-quoter than a movie-quoter, but I have actively tried to shoehorn a couple of choice lines from The Avengers into my regular rotation. I’ve pulled out “I’m bringing the party to you” when playing online video games and I lure an enemy team into an ambush… or when I’m getting chased and need help. “Just like Budapest all over again” is a good one for when you’re in a weird situation, but the most useful quote comes from Bruce Banner. Somebody asks if I’m hungry or tired or whatever? “That’s my secret, Cap. I’m always _____.” It’s a lot of fun.
I’ve watched Dirty Work more times than I can count. It is the best, stupidest movie I have ever seen, and my speech patterns have forever been altered by my relentless quoting of all things Norm Macdonald. I’m prone to saying I need to “lift weights” when leaving a social gathering, and dissatisfaction of any sort will often result in me having “a good mind to go to the warden about this.” But Adam Sandler’s cameo as Satan is another favorite—”We eat the pig and then together we burn”—as is Don Rickles’ myriad insults, specifically, “Why don’t you go work in a zoo and stop bothering people?” I swear if I ever find myself having to call the police, I will have to stop myself from saying, “Hi, real cops?”
I don’t have a mind for memorization, and rather envy those who do. But there is one movie that was burned into my brain from such a young age that it feels instinctual to recite back lines from the film, and that’s Young Frankenstein. Thanks to my parents and their love of Mel Brooks, Young Frankenstein was in regular rotation alongside Star Wars and Raiders Of The Lost Ark during family movie nights growing up, and it’s quite common for someone to blurt out “Frau Blucher!” and get a neighing noise in response when my siblings and I are together. But it’s my poor sister who gets the worst of it; she wasn’t named after the movie or anything, but being named Abby in our household means you have to put up with a lifetime’s worth of “Abby who?” “Abby...normal” cracks.
Katie isn’t wrong to call out Indiana Jones as a source of quotes; my family has done more variations on “throw me the whip, I throw you the idol!” than I can count. But at the end of the day in 2020, it’s hard for me to not begrudgingly acknowledge the film I cite most nowadays is The Blue Brothers. “We’re on a mission from God” is a perpetually renewable resource; same goes for any number of quotes from the songs infused therein. But it probably wouldn’t have made the grade had I not found a more or less endless need for the opportunity to use Dan Aykroyd saying, “Hey you sleaze—my bed!” in a thick Chicago accent. (It’s when Jake falls asleep on Elwood’s bed, while the El train passes by “so often, you don’t even notice it.”) There are plenty of other films that get an unexpectedly large usage in our home: From Old School’s “Cheeeese!” to Three Amigos’ “You will die like dogs,” I have no shortage of readily applicable quotes, but Jake and Elwood Blues remain my most fruitful source.
My most-quoted movie is a bit cliché, but you might be surprised how often the Rob Reiner’s “rockumentary” This Is Spinal Tap comes in handy. The movie is practically part of my DNA now thanks to so many repeated viewings, so I keep churning out lines like “None more black,” “It’s such a thin line between stupid and clever,” and “Mime is money” with alarming frequency. Since the movie’s release in 1984, so many of these primarily improvised lines have worked their way into the pop-culture lexicon: “That’s nitpicking, isn’t it?”, “I envy us,” “This goes to eleven,” even “Don’t even look at it!” Granted, it’s more difficult to work lines like “You can’t really dust for vomit,” “Do you have any artificial plates or limbs?” and “He died in a bizarre gardening accident” into everyday conversation, but for the sake of the Tap, I try as often as possible. Plus it also gives me a change to trot out my abysmal English accent.