November 19, 2004

400 greatest movie quotes.

It takes a while to read through all 400 quotes nominated as greatest movie quotes by the American Film Institute, which Throwing Things threw at me. If you decide to read over the downloadable PDF document available at the first link, note that the list is in alphabetical order, not order of greatness: "All-righty, then" from "Ace Ventura: Pet Detective" is not the greatest quote in the history of film. I spent a moment contemplating how anyone could think such a thing. These are nominees, from which a final 100 will be chosen. Reading the standard the jurors are asked to apply helps makes some sense of some of the choices (e.g., "Damn!"):
Movie Quotes that viewers use in their own lives and situations; circulating through popular culture, they become part of the national lexicon.

Movie Quotes that viewers use to evoke the memory of a treasured film, thus ensuring and enlivening its historical legacy.

Well, so we're really trying to generate a list of greatest catchphrases. It's not so much great writing as a particular actor memorably getting off a "Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn" zinger at a key point in a big film. Once that's clear, it's fun to read the list.
"Sanctuary!" (from "The Hunchback of Notre Dame")

"Oh, no, it wasn't the airplanes. It was beauty killed the beast." (from "King Kong")

"Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain!" (from the "Wizard of Oz")

"Hey, lady!" (Jerry Lewis as Herbert H. Heebert in "The Ladies' Man")

Some work for me as beautiful lines:

"I was born when she kissed me. I died when she left me. I lived a few weeks while she loved me." (from "In a Lonely Place")

"To God, there is no zero. I still exist." (from "The Incredible Shrinking Man")

And some are perfectly insufferable:
"It's amazing, Molly. The love inside, you take it with you." (from "Ghost")

Here's the most hilariously bad one:
"Oh, Moses, Moses, you stubborn, splendid, adorable fool!" (from "The Ten Commandments")

And somebody please teach these clowns some basic Italian. It's not "Take the cannolis."

UPDATE: A reader writes:
"Cannolis" may not be grammatically correct in Italian, but indeed the Godfather mafiosi called them "cannolis" in the movie, and so do all my Italian in-laws.
I haven't gone back and checked the movie. I'm seeing both versions on line. The DVD doesn't have this line as a chapter title. Sarah Vowell called her cool book "Take the Cannoli."

Important note: I don't mean to insinuate that anyone who says "cannolis" is a clown, only that if the original movie has "cannoli" and AFI corrupted it into "cannolis," they're clowns. They present themselves as an "Institute," suggesting an academic take on film. Now they produce these top 100 lists, that are more pop culture and promotional, so their reputation is on the line. They need to get the quotes right. As to what the right quote is, the emailer makes me doubt my memory of the film.

ANOTHER UPDATE: A reader notes something I didn't know about that "In a Lonely Place" quote.

And as long as I'm back here updating again, let me ask, with respect to the email quoted in the previous update, if the mafiosi say "cannolis," why don't the mafiosi say "mafiosis"?

YET ANOTHER UPDATE: I've checked the DVD, and it is "Leave the gun. Take the cannoli." It's a little hard to hear, and easy to imagine you hear an "s," but I listened to it four times and also put on the English subtitles, and it is definitely "cannoli." Which I'm sure is a relief to Sarah Vowell and to grammarians everywhere. And to people who think the AFI is not the high-tone outfit it might like to seem to be.

BONUS: Here's a good, amusing article about Americanized Italian-speaking.

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