Top 5: Conversations About Movies

When I came up with the idea of compiling a Top 5: Conversations About Movies, I had two scenes in mind already, quickly came up with two more and then struggled for weeks to find a fifth one. I’m sure there are some good ones I’m missing, and I’ll be happy to read about them in the comments or on Twitter. The latter is where I asked two fellow cinephiles if they wanted to make their own lists, and I’ll update this post to include links to their output if and when they post it. It’ll be interesting to see how they interpreted my deliberately vague suggested theme.

Here are my five:

5.
“Well, the first one was scary, but the rest sucked.”
(Scream, 1996)

CALLER
You like scary movies?

CASEY
Uh huh.

CALLER
What’s your favorite scary movie?

CASEY
I dunno.

CALLER
You have to have a favorite. What
comes to mind?

CASEY
Halloween.

I haven’t seen “Scream” since it came out, and I don’t actually remember that much about it, but I do remember the opening scene. Right out of the gate, the movie announced two things: it was aware, of its genre and itself, and anyone‘s expendable, even (spoiler?) Drew Barrymore. It’s a great scene, and after seeing it again I’m even tempted to give to movie another go, even though the scariest thing about it might just be the sight of 1990’s fashion and and hairstyles…


4.
“Re-Animator!”
(American Beauty, 1999)

LESTER BURNHAM
Did you ever see that movie where the
body is walking around, carrying its own
head, and then the head goes down on
that babe?

RICKY FITTS
Re-Animator!

Maybe ‘conversation’ is stretching the definition of the word a bit – it’s only two lines – but it’s an important scene for me personally because it introduced me to what quickly became one of my favorite campy horror classics, Stuart Gordon’s “Re-Animator,” which I have watched numerous times over the years, preferably with an (unsuspecting) audience. I did so again last week when I invited a bunch of strangers from the Internet over for Halloween, and the movie elicited exactly the right response, somewhere between laughing at and with its ridiculousness. And while I’m not easily scared by this sort of horror, there was at least one viewer who had to leave the room for a minute when things got a bit… bloody. So all in all a full success!


3.
“Any contractor working on that dead star knew the risk involved.
If they got killed, it’s their own fault.”
(Clerks., 1994)

DANTE HICKS
Empire had the better ending. I mean,
Luke gets his hand cut off, finds out
Vader’s his father, Han gets frozen and
taken away by Boba Fett. It ends on such
a down note. I mean, that’s what life
is, a series of down endings. All Jedi
had was a bunch of Muppets.

This scene came up on my favorite new podcast, Star Wars Minute, a couple of times recently. 11 years after “Return of the Jedi,” Kevin Smith re-started the conversation about Star Wars, sparking renewed interest in the trilogy. Special Editions and prequels followed. But Randal’s concern for “independent contractors working on the Death Star” also lay the groundwork for similar explorations into the lives of background characters in “Family Guy” and “Robot Chicken.”


2.
“You know, that movie? I liked it and I didn’t like it.”
(Minnie and Moskowitz, 1971)

MINNIE
You know, in movies it’s never like
this. You know, I think that movies are
a conspiracy? I mean it. I mean it!
They are actually a conspiracy,
because they set you up, Florence. They
set you up from the time you’re a little
kid. They set you up to believe in
everything. They set you up to believe
in ideals and strength and good guys and
romance and of course… love.

Gena Rowlands and Elsie Ames share a drink or two and talk about romance, sex, and movies. Now, I’d happily watch Rowlands talk just about anything, but what she (and John Cassavetes) have to say about how our expectations are warped by movies, especially when it comes to relationships, rings as true to me today as it might have been in 1971.


1.
“How the hell did they ever get a hold of The Searchers?”
(Who’s That Knocking at My Door, 1967)

Who's That Knocking at My Door

GIRL
That’s a good picture.

J.R.
Good? That picture was great!

GIRL
Well, I– I’m not used to admitting I
like Westerns.

J.R.
Oh, yeah? Why not? Everybody should
like Westerns. Solved everybody’s
problems if they liked Westerns.

GIRL
Okay, I like Westerns!

J.R.
Okay then.

I am just head over heels in love with this scene. From the moment I first saw it, when I started the Scorsese marathon, I couldn’t get it out of my head. I was so excited by it that I even showed it to friends and talked about it with them. And each time I watch it I discover something I hadn’t noticed before. At first the scene reminded me of one of Quentin Tarantino’s (should be the other way around, of course), but the more I got to know Scorsese and listened to him talk about movies, I realized that Harvey Keitel is completely channeling the author here. This is everything Scorsese is about. It’s perfect.


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