Students speak with celluloid tongue
Forsooth, graduates may have lost the art of rattling off rhyming couplets, but, writes Ed Granby, why quote the Bard when you've got the barbed wit of Tarantino at your disposal?
Thursday 30 January 1997
Well that, as Clint Eastwood says in In The Line of Fire, is a lot of cockamamy bullshit. The truth is that our generation has its own cultural heritage, and we do quote from literature - just a different kind of literature. Here then, as proof to the grown-ups and a refresher course for the kids, is an indispensable guide to cool student film-speak.
"Wind the frog!" (Toy Story)
This is the cue to activate the clockwork amphibian creature which sets off the toys' complex escape plan at the end of the film. Cinema has given us thousands of lines to start things off with, but few as pricelessly jocular as this one. You can use it to start something pleasant, but its ideal use is to make light of what would otherwise be a very serious matter. For example:
Judge: I am minded to give you a custodial sentence. I have here a list of your previous marijuana convictions, which I would like to read to the court.
You: Wind the frog!
"The guns ... they've stopped!" (Star Wars)
Spoken by an actor called Jeremy Sinden, reaching the peak of his career here in his two-line part as Gold Two. His X-wing fighter is being fired at by huge Death Star laser cannons which suddenly and mysteriously stop shooting. Hurrah! After a few seconds, however, it becomes clear that the guns have stopped because the Death Star has mobilised its own fighters representing a far deadlier threat to Gold Two than the laser cannons.
As such, this is the ideal quote for all those occasions when something goes so suddenly and inexplicably right that you know it can only be a prelude to everything going far more terribly and disastrously wrong again:
Your flatmate: I've done your washing-up for you.
You: The guns ... they've stopped!
Your flatmate: Yes, we're throwing you out of the flat.
"F---ing Dante. F---ing poetry-writing piece-of-shit faggot f---!" (Seven)
Brad Pitt's frustration with the great 13th-century Italian poet has been shared by many a student of literature, and his critique can be adapted for almost any poet with only minimal change. If your tutorial is going nowhere, simply say in your cleverest voice that Shakespeare/Wordsworth/Auden/whoever always reminds you of Mr Braderick Pitt's perceptive comments on Dante. When your tutor asks, eyes wide with amazement and admiration, what exactly Pitt said about Dante, simply let rip.
(And if it blows up in your face, try to slip in Kevin Spacey's murderous little line from the same film: "I've gone and done it again").
"Who's the fellow owns this shit-hole?" (Unforgiven)
Clint Eastwood is probably the Shakespeare of cinema (only with more gunfights), and has come up with a vast array of quotable lines. This one is chosen only because of its usefulness in announcing your presence at the beginning of a social encounter (Clint uses it to establish who has gone "decorating their saloon with the body of my friend" - and thus who will be first to die). You can use it, however, when you first turn up at a party and wish to be introduced to your host; when you arrive for a job interview and are looking for the boss, or indeed when you wish to establish who has gone decorating their saloon with the body of your friend.
"I'm shaking." (from Hard Boiled)
This is obviously a standard sarcastic "Ooh, you really scare me" line, but what singles it out from all the others is the delivery. John Woo's tale of Hong Kong Yakuza is dubbed into English, of course, so what we have here is a second-rate voice-over artist reading the line totally without sarcasm - and a tough-as-nails gangster telling his tormentors that he is, indeed, shaking. Echo his impressive non-ironic tone whenever you are threatened with anything, and your persecutor will be thrown totally off-balance.
"I got two words for that: learn to f----in' type!" (Reservoir Dogs)
Steve Buscemi's advice to poorly paid waitresses (part of his forthright defence of his non-tipping stance) is an ideal response to the tiresome worries and panics of your final-year friends as they contemplate the prospects of graduate unemployment. Around January, they will, inevitably, start whining about how society undervalues the skills they have gained on their Russian Literature in Translation course, or how employees fail to understand the value a knowledge of Restoration Comedy could have for their companies. At this point, curtly issue Buscemi's sound - if numerically inaccurate advice - and leave the room.
"No more foreplay." (Goldeneye)
Pierce Brosnan at last confirms his status as a real James Bond with this little beauty. In true 007 style he says the line as he pulls a gun on some Iron Curtain cutie, and it is not entirely clear whether he is referring to actual foreplay or saying something rather more prosaic, like "Okay, down to business. Who are you working for?" This ambiguity is what gives the quote such amazing flexibility. You can use it as you finally turn the TV off and buckle down to that too-long-put-off essay; you can use it to cut through a lengthy or boring reply to your question ("No more foreplay, Dad. Do I get the loan or not?"), or - advanced use only - you can use it during sex to indicate that you've actually had enough foreplay.
For an interesting and surprisingly successful combination move, you may want to try "No more foreplay. Wind the frog!"
"It's alive!" (Frankenstein and others)
A good one for refuting the arguments of the Whinging Grown-ups. Tell them you can quote the line spoken in the film when the Monster first comes to life (above), and offer them a tenner if they can quote Mary Shelley's own, slightly less memorable line. Their line is "... by the glimmer of the half-extinguished light, I saw the dull yellow eye of the creature open; it breathed hard, and a convulsive motion agitated its limbs ..." You win.
Usage need not be confined to electrical monsters, however: the words "It's alive" can be applied to the bit of pizza stuck down the back of your sofa since last month, to the first stirrings of a drunk-unconscious flatmate, or to the fiendish machinations of the photocopier that's conspiring to give you 50 copies when you wanted only one.
"Kobayashi." (The Usual Suspects)
Not an actual quote, as such, but instantly recognisable as the brand- name printed on the bottom of Agent Kujan's coffee cup - and as the final piece of the puzzle that explains the whole story.
While sad oldsters attempt to "get with it" on popular culture by saying "Aiih don't beliiieeeve it!" when sudden realisation strikes, those with their fingers anywhere near the pulse are simply slapping their foreheads and saying "Kobayashi!" A typical Kobayashi Moment comes after you have been wondering for days why your girlfriend has been cold-shouldering you, and then suddenly - Kobayashi! - you remember your anniversary (last week).
It is at this point that you apologise for being such a complete Keyser Soze
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