“Movies touch our hearts and awaken our vision, and change the way we see things. They take us to other places, they open doors and minds. Movies are memories of our lifetime, we need to keep them alive.” –Martin Scorsese
If those words—and the image of Roberto Benigni’s effervescent spirit—bring an instant smile to your face, you just might be a member of my tribe. They come from the film Life Is Beautiful, one of my all-time favorites. And even though the movie’s dialogue is all in Italian, somehow that line has become part of the story of my life, something I quote regularly and smile about often. That is how a great movie is, and especially a well-written one.
I love writers and their words. Whether they come from a song, a newspaper, a novel, a blog, or a screenplay, I am captivated by the language that these talented people use to tell the story of our lives and times. While I definitely appreciate journalists and non-fiction writers—I include myself in this category—I am particularly envious and in awe of the writers who pull these amazing tales and beautiful words right out of their souls. It is an astonishing gift.
What makes movies such a transcendent art-form to me is that they combine the writer’s beautiful gift with the talents of so many other artists: actors, directors, cinematographers, lighting designers, costume designers, musicians, and on and on. All of these great artists come together for one thing: to bring to life the words of the writer.
And they live! Oh, how they live.
I don’t know about you, but one of the ways I assess people is how well they incorporate movie lines into their everyday lives. Someone who can effortlessly insert a great quote into their conversation that fits the situation perfectly absolutely scores some points in my book.
It has been a while since I was fluent on the popular movies of the day—one of the many failings that I blame on having children—but I still cling to memories of my old favorites (and I have even added my kids’ animated selections to my repertoire). And since I spend much of my time alone or with children, much of my dialogue is contained among the many characters swimming around in my head. They seem to have fun, though, so I don’t judge. Let them talk!
These are some of the lines that regularly make their way into the screenplay of my life (I will try to give you the clean version, though truthfully, I have quite a knack for internal commentary that is a bit more, shall we say, colorful). Enjoy!
“No pain! No Pain!” –Duke, Rocky IV. Perfect for pretending I am really working out hard. Otherwise, I just sing “Eye of the Tiger”.
“Ah man, first The Fat Boys break up, and now this!” –Boney T, Boomerang. When something good ends, it is comforting to have Chris Rock’s voice in my head.
“Ah, hon, ya got Arby’s all over me.” –Marge, Fargo. I have little ones, so I am muttering this one all day long.
“My father stormed the beach at Normandy!” –Teddy, Stand By Me. I have this at the ready any time someone starts telling a potentially embarrassing story—as inevitably they all are—about a family member of mine.
“South America. It’s like America, but South.” –Ellie, Up. I insert this into any conversation about geography. What?
“What the hell is Goofy?” –Vern, Stand By Me. If your children spend any time watching Disney and Mickey Mouse, you need this line to keep you sane. Trust me.
“I’m not a smart man….but I know what love is.” –Forrest, Forrest Gump. Because I have a lot of opportunities to remind myself that I am not a smart man.
“You are a sad, strange little man, and you have my pity.” –Buzz, Toy Story. Though this will come into your head often in this world, I recommend keeping the words inside most of the time.
“It’s all happening.” –Polexia, Almost Famous. In one of those rare moments when everything seems to be coming together for me, this says it all.
“I don’t sweat you.” –Paulie, Rocky II. I use this one as trash-talk when I am playing driveway basketball with my six-year-old. He has no idea what I am talking about. Whatever.
“Supermodels are beautiful girls, Will. A beautiful girl can make you dizzy, like you’ve been drinking Jack and Coke all morning. She can make you feel high, full of the single greatest commodity known to man: promise. Promise of a better day. Promise of a greater hope. Promise of a new tomorrow. This particular aura can be found in the gait of a beautiful girl. In her smile, in her soul, the way she makes every rotten little thing about life seem like it’s going to be okay. The supermodels, Willy, that’s all they are: bottled promise. Scenes from a brand new day. Hope dancing in stiletto heels.” –Paul, Beautiful Girls. Sometimes just quoting any line from this movie in any situation makes me giggle. But Paul is pure in his romantic buffoonery. So I love this monologue. If I don’t have it all in me, I go with his shorter version: “A beautiful girl is all-powerful, and that is as good as love. That’s as good as love.” Hee hee!
“Chopper, sic balls!” –Milo, Stand By Me. This one works for any yippy dog in my neighborhood or in the car next to me at a stoplight.
“I can smell you.” –Dug, Up. I have a sensitive sniffer, so I have to amuse myself when it gets offended . It’s either this or the Top Gun gem “Slider, you stink.”
“Until you do right by me, everything you even think about gonna fail!” –Celie, The Color Purple. My wife loves to break this one out on me. She’s usually joking.
“Love is a many splendored thing. Love lifts us up where we belong. All you need is love!” –Christian, Moulin Rouge. Love is a deep topic; you might as well make a melodious montage out of it!
“You’re the gourmet around here, Eddie.” –Clark, Vacation. Great for when someone wants to share cooking stories with me and I have nothing to add.
“Willie C!!! Stay cool, man. Stay cool forever.” –Kev, Beautiful Girls. This is enough of a goodbye for me. Sincerity makes the words become magic.
“You want to get out of here…..GET RID OF THAT MONKEY!!!” –Chatter Telephone, Toy Story 3. When my kids are asking over and over when we can leave, I throw this back at them. Or just anytime (some things are just fun to say).
“You got to coordinate.” –Mr. Jackson, Boomerang. This just makes getting dressed so much more enjoyable.
“Honey, I’m not an ordained minister.” –Clark, Vacation. I like to pull this one out whenever I am doing something out of my league (assembling something with tools, mathematics, etc.).
“Carpe diem. Seize the day, boys. Make your lives extraordinary.” –John Keating, Dead Poets Society. Because sometimes it is not a joke. Sometimes I need a reminder about what this thing called Life is all about.
“Do you like apples? Do you like apples? Well, I got her number! How do you like them apples?” –Will, Good Will Hunting. When I need to rub something in someone’s face, I break out my thickest Boston accent for this one.
“This house is ours.” –Grace, The Others. When my wife is freaking out after hearing a strange noise in the house, I call upon the ghosts. It momentarily quells the fear. Or intensifies it.
“I will fight on!!!!” –William Wallace, Braveheart. When I am watching Roger Federer play tennis—totally stressing out—and he wins a huge point, I shout this, in my best Scottish accent, at the top of my lungs. My wife shakes her head upstairs.
“Real tomato ketchup, Eddie?” –Clark, Vacation. My version of a compliment to the chef.
“Sometimes there’s so much beauty in the world, I feel like I can’t take it, and my heart is just going to cave in.” –Ricky Fitts, American Beauty. You should be so lucky to have a few of these moments in life, quote or no quote.
“Double Burger. Double Burger. Chuck-I-had-a-Double-Burger.” –Morgan, Good Will Hunting. Always appropriate when waiting impatiently for someone.
“The list is life.” –Stern, Schindler’s List. What did we need at the grocery store?
“I wish I knew how to quit you, Ennis!” –Jack, Brokeback Mountain. Though this comes from a serious moment in the film, I like to pull it out when my wife is teasing me about something. It makes me laugh.
“I’m sorry I had a fight in the middle of your Black Panther party.” –Forrest, Forrest Gump. Because sometimes just trying to imitate Forrest is enough to keep me going. “That’s my boat,” “Hey Bubba,” and many others work, too.
“Now, a question of etiquette: as I pass, do I give you the ass or the crotch?” –Tyler Durden, Fight Club. Though this was an airplane scene in the movie, I smirk as I think this line while scooching down any row anywhere in the world. School programs and church are particularly amusing.
Oh, I could go on and on! And I do, most of the day through. How else does a guy survive? I am not as funny as these screenwriters, so I must steal their lines. It keeps me smiling, anyway. And though we could banter all day, I will leave off with a final thought from my friend, Forrest Gump: “That’s all I have to say about that.”
How about you? What movie lines do you use to narrate your daily life? Open up your journal, and maybe your entertainment cabinet for a reminder. What quotes seem to flow out of you on a regular basis? Are there a couple that have become your staples? Do they come from your most favorite movies, or are they just great lines? Do your normal quotes come from movies you have seen a million times? Are they from your childhood or adulthood? Do you say them mostly in your head or out loud? In conversation, do you use them with people for whom the line is a shared inside joke, or with anyone at any time? How often do the people understand where the line comes from? Does that matter to you? Is it more fun when they get it or when they don’t? Why do you use the quotes? Do they say things better than you can? Do they just make conversation—internal and external—more interesting? Do they make ordinary events more tolerable, even exciting? Do they help you through the worst of times? Do they help you connect with others? Do they simply make you laugh? For me, all of those apply. I guess they just help me tell my story my way, simply through the lines that I choose, which vary by the day. How about you? Which quotes do you choose most often? Leave me a reply and let me know: Which movie lines narrate your life?
Smile at your world,
P.S. If this letter made you smile or think, I hope you will pass it on.