Monday, June 1, 2015

Serious About The Craft

"I know what you're thinking...did he fire sixteen shots or only fifteen. But, this being a Glock 34, the finest combat handgun made and will blow a barn door out the back of your head, you have to ask yourself...." Detective Crazy Henry McClanahan.

If you are waiting to find out what the guy had to ask himself, perhaps this is not the right blog for you.

If you had your whiskey, tango, foxtrot moment nine words into this post, welcome. We are kindred souls.

I was doing the grocery shopping today when a woman passed me, talking to the person with whom she was cruising the aisles. Something had happened and the first woman said "I'm dying here, Smalls."


The line is "You're killing me, Smalls." It is from the movie The Sandlot. In the world of movie lines, it is iconic, worthy of respect, dignity, even reverence. There is, truly, no reason to paraphrase.

Thus it has been written, and thus truly said, that paraphrasing a movie line is like defacing a fine sculpture, or painting. A screenwriter somewhere labored over it, honed it, loved it. A gifted actor...well, an actor, anyway...delivered it in such a way as to cement its place in the world of movie line-dom. They should be cherished, nurtured and delivered at the right place, the right time and with just the right inflection. To wit:

Things are tense in the ole Command Post. Acting on the "commander's intent," the Ops person has put together a series of plans and contingencies to deal with the emergency. The incident commander turns to the SWAT Team leader and asks his/her opinion. "I love this plan," is the response. "I'm excited to be part of it!" Everyone laughs, because -

It isn't just the line, it's the situation in the movie being summoned. The Ghostbusters have been driven back ("If someone asks if you are a god, you say YES") and are about to "cross the streams..."


My daughters and I are moving furniture, so we can put down Pergo floors. I say "Pivot it a little." In unison both yell "Pivot!" and begin laughing so hard they have to set the thing down. It is from Friends, which I guess means it isn't technically a movie line. The fact that I've never seen that episode doesn't mean that I don't say it (or, that including it in a manuscript is out of line) to get the chuckle the girls got.

Which brings me to a peripheral point. Movie lines are gender neutral. Women are as adept, as talented, as good at this art as men, sometimes better. My wife and daughters can rock a movie line with the best of them.

Pivot has entered our lexicon, just as:

(The late comedian John Pinette is at a Dairy Queen and there is a skinny person in front of him.) "The guy says 'How small is a small?' It's small. The mediums are medium, the larges are large. If you have to ask how small is a small you're not hungry enough. COME BACK LATER!"

So when a good friend asked the barista, "How small is a small?" I couldn't help myself. I had to channel John Pinette. "It's small."

But the art requires accuracy. Would an aficionado of John Wayne quotes say "Fill your paw?" Did The Terminator say "I shall return?" The "Make My Day" law in Colorado was so named because THAT'S WHAT DIRTY HARRY SAID!

So, look. Can we all just agree. Movie lines are...sacred. Have some respect.

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