What's Your Line? Mine Is....

2009-08-14-movieposters.jpg [Disclaimer: Despite research and a pretty good memory, some of the quotes below may not be exact, but the spirit of the words is clear and intact.]

It started last month at the opening night of the Stony Brook Film Festival, the university-based bash for Long Island movie lovers. The film that evening was a trifle called The Answer Man, in which Jeff Daniels alleged a special relationship with God and, based on that, had garnered a reputation for knowing everything. It was inevitable, thus, that someone would ask him about the existence of hell.

"There is a hell," he said. "And its name is Reno, Nevada."

Having been in Reno, I could pretty much agree with that (although anyone I've met who lives there has been very nice). Whatever, this started discussion with various people about the movie lines they found most memorable and, after almost a month of this, I've learned some stuff.

First, I literally cannot count the number of times I've heard "Keep your friends close, your enemies closer" from The Godfather. This is clearly excellent advice in many walks of life but I've heard it most often in political circles.

Second, most of us don't get the lines quite right. But that's OK. As noted above, the intent of most is obvious.

Third, with one exception I've found differences between the favorites of men and women are mostly rooted in the type of movies -- the genre -- in which the lines are said.

Men, I've noticed (duh!) tend to quote lines from what one might think of as "guy" films. ("What we've got here is failure to communicate," from Cool Hand Luke and, "Go ahead, make my day" (Clint in Sudden Impact).

Women will often quote the likes of Bette Davis preparing for a "bumpy night" in All About Eve or Diane Keaton in Annie Hall borrowing "Fiddle-de-de" from Scarlett O'Hara. Women also display an inordinate fondness for "Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn," "Here's looking at you, kid" and "You know how to whistle, don't you, Steve? You just put your lips together and blow."

And so on.

Now, my friend Herman -- with whom I talk movies a lot -- is that exception mentioned in the third point. He says he believes the difference in what lines people remember is gender-based only insofar as men -- unless coerced -- don't ordinarily see anything generally classified as a chick flick. He, however, will see almost anything and really loves film.

Herman doesn't deny that gender differences are valid. I went to see The Wrestler with Herman. When they started to play with that staple gun it got me so nauseated that I couldn't even drink my soda. The feeling lasted well into dinner although it was an afternoon showing. Herman however, sat still, watching and cheerfully munching on his popcorn, but he says there are exceptions to the gender thing.

He quotes lines from Terms of Endearment and Beaches as memorable. What that tells me is that he's one secure man as I don't meet a lot of men who are so comfortable with themselves that they can seriously discuss Beaches.

The first line my daughter Lauren came up with was, "These go to eleven," (a reference to the amps in This Is Spinal Tap). My other daughter Ruth can probably still quote lines from Back to the Future, a movie she loved as a small child and that she completely memorized it.

The fact that when I was seeking memorable lines someone mentioned "I'm walkin' here! I'm walkin' here!" from Midnight Cowboy made me wonder what makes someone remember a line. On second thought, it's obvious -- we remember what has meaning to us, either easily definable meaning or deep, hidden meaning. That person must have issues with crowds.

The line about Reno at the beginning of this post is not my favorite, nor my most memorable. It just struck a chord. In fact, I'm not sure what my favorite is, as circumstances seem to dictate the choice.

A new one I like because its sheer silliness really made me laugh is from the current film The Hangover. Ed Helms is distraught because the ring his grandmother brought to American after surviving the Holocaust has been given to someone whom he doesn't want to have it. Zach Galifianakis, the doofus in the cast, listens to Helms and asks doof-ily, "You mean they give out rings at the Holocaust?"

As noted, it just made me laugh.

I'm also very fond of one obscure line. It's from the 1991 movie Switch with Ellen Barkin. Here, JoBeth Williams* is wearing a fur coat. As she's about to enter a taxi in New York City she's approached by a protester who shouts, "Do you know how many animals had to die to make that coat?" She responds, "Do you know how many animals I had to f*** to get this coat?"

I think I remember it because the character thought so well and quickly on her feet. I'd like to be like that, rather than think after the fact about what I should have said. And, it was funny.

What's your line?

If you like movie quotes, check out the terrific AMC Filmsite. You can get lost in it for hours. *Tim Dirks, who moderates that site, was the one who told me Williams said the line I like.