While sitting around the dining room table, whether eating or playing games, my kids like to quote lines from their favorite movies. Then they'll ask someone to identify the film.
However, the dialogue they quote has usually originated in some other, older movie.For example, someone will say, "Go ahead, make my day," then pause and add, "Name that movie." To which someone else will respond, "Michael J. Fox in `Back to the Future, Part III.' "
Then, Dad can't wait to say, "Well, actually that line goes back to one of Clint Eastwood's `Dirty Harry' movies . . .," at which point the kids all roll their eyes.
There's a reason for their ignorance, of course. They've never seen any of the "Dirty Harry" movies. That includes the older kids - those in their 20s with children of their own - since they were not allowed to watch most R-rated movies when they lived with me.
This speaks to a couple of things. First, young moviewatchers don't take advantage of that marvelous invention, the VCR, to catch up with movies from the past. Instead, they simply use it to watch the same contemporary movies over and over. (Now that "Liar Liar" is on video, note how many times your kids rent it - or, if you actually purchase it, note how many times they watch it.)
Second, modern moviemakers use these older movie references in film after film because they have little experience with real life. Their experience has been lived vicariously, through movies and television.
Back in the olden days, the truly great filmmakers lived full lives before and during their early motion picture careers, which gave them a terrific frame of reference from which to draw. We're talking John Ford, John Huston, Howard Hawks, etc. Even Martin Scorsese drew on his experiences on the streets of New York for his early efforts.
But these days, young filmmakers (especially those trained in film schools) tend to offer a frame of reference that comes directly from other movies.
And as far as I can tell, only Steven Spielberg, and more recently, Quentin Tarantino have been able to make that work. Just about everyone else makes movies that look too much like other people's movies.
Right down to the dialogue.
Which bring us back to those quotes.
Without any scientific evidence to support this theory (I haven't been counting), Clint Eastwood's Dirty Harry line, "Go ahead, make my day" is probably the most overworked phrase in movies. And it's only 14 years old.
There are many others, of course. So, here's a brief quiz to give your kids. See if they can name the original films these lines came from - not the dozens of movies that have reworked or parodied them. (Answers are on Page W3.)
1. "You talking to me?"
2. "I'm gonna make him an offer he can't refuse."
3. "I've got a feeling we're not in Kansas anymore."
4. "Love means never having to say you're sorry."
5. "Badges? We ain't got no badges! We don't need no badges! I don't have to show you no stinking badges!"
6. "May the force be with you."
7. "Fasten your seat belts, it's going to be a bumpy night."
8. "I am not an animal."
Back to Dirty Harry. To which of those films (five in all) do the following lines belong?
9. "A man's got to know his limitations."
10. "Being as this is a 44 Magnum, and would blow your head clean off, you've got to ask yourself one question: `Do I feel lucky?' Well, do ya, punk?"
11. "Go ahead, make my day."
12. And what great 1942 classic gave us all of these:
- "Play it, Sam."
- "Of all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world, she walks into mine."
- "Here's looking at you, kid."
- "We'll always have Paris."
- "Round up the usual suspects."
- "I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.'
The answers to the questions in Chris Hicks' column on Page W1:
1. Taxi Driver (1976)
2. The Godfather (1972)
3. The Wizard of Oz (1939)
4. Love Story (1970)
5. The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948)
6. Star Wars (1977)
7. All About Eve (1950)
8. The Elephant Man (1980)
9. Magnum Force (1973)
10. Dirty Harry (1971)
11. Sudden Impact (1983)
12. Casablanca (1942)