Tag: moviequotes

Earlier this month, I reconnected with a good friend from college. Conversation soon turned to movies, and she recommended “Housekeeping” (1987). Directed by Bill Forsyth, it is based on Marilynne Robinson’s 1981 novel. If you watch it in a mood similar to mine when I saw it a couple of weeks ago, you might be taken aback by the use of the word “comedy” in the opening of Vincent Canby’s November 1987 review for The New York Times. Taken in full, the description “haunting comedy” feels closer to the mark.

The movie, which dips a toe in the 1950s before bringing us into the 1960s, “tells the story of two young girls who are taken on a sudden and puzzling motor trip by their mother to visit a relative,” Roger Ebert’s January 1988 review reads. “Soon after they arrive, their mother commits suicide and the girls are left to be raised by elderly relatives. A few years later, their mother’s sister, their Aunt Sylvie, arrives to look after them.”

Aunt Sylvie is played, charmingly, by the wonderful Christine Lahti. The review by Desson Howe for The Washington Post says, “Sylvie’s guidance is not what they expected. Part overgrown child, part homeless Annie Hall, Aunt Sylvie’s more at home snoozing on park benches and wandering around in the dark than packing lunches for school. When the sisters play hooky for several days, she seems not to notice. And when a shin-high flood fills the house, she sloshes around in it like a benevolent amphibian.”

We — and the girls —  soon discover that she likes to sit in the dark. We see her come home one day with a fish sticking out of her coat pocket. We hear her talk about loneliness, telling the girls that a woman can be married and have children and still be lonely. We watch as she accidentally sets the curtains on fire while lighting candles on a birthday cake.

When we hear, in a context I won’t spoil, “The problem is, you spend too much time looking out the window,” we are nudged beyond that window to places of adventure, discovery, pain and joy. We are, though, still spectators, viewing Aunt Sylvie’s life through the girls’ memories, on a screen that is itself a window, one that shows us their story, time and place. Through that same pane, it’s possible to see ourselves, and to recall the instances when perhaps we spent too much time looking out the window.

Newspapers comprise a curious motif in the movie. There are clippings about a tragedy that happened in the movie’s fictional town of Fingerbone, Washington, and over time after Aunt Sylvie’s arrival, the house she shares with the girls, Ruth and Lucille, becomes filled with stacks of newspapers. Aunt Sylvie is also fond of collecting tin cans, washing them cheerfully after removing the labels, and arranging them in gleaming stacks.

As Ruth and Lucille gradually drift apart — Ruth increasingly identifying with Aunt Sylvie, Lucille becoming more like the sociable teens at her school — we hear in Ruth’s narration from the future pieces of her that align with Aunt Sylvie’s spirit.

“As soon as the weather allowed, we stopped going to school altogether, although we still left home every morning as a courtesy to Sylvie. I felt an odd affinity with the hobos who gathered at the bridge. There we all were, on a chill spring morning, in unsuitable clothes, worthlessly passing time by the lake — like the marooned survivors of some wreck.”

“Sylvie had no awareness of time,” Ruth says later. “For her, hours and minutes were the names of trains. We were waiting for the 10:52.”

Trains are another powerful motif, central to the retelling of a fatal derailment we learn about early in the movie — and a metaphor for the transient nature of people, of the events in their lives, and even the details of those events as we try to recall and recast them, viewing them through whatever filters invest our perspectives and needs at any given time.

The same dresser drawer that contained clippings about that major news story of years earlier included a photo album containing black-and-white pictures of relatives and other people the girls had never known. After discovering the scrapbooks following their grandmother’s death, Ruth bonds with those people, too, over time.

“Most of the people in the photographs remained strangers with no names. I returned to the album often, until the faces became familiar and comfortable — like family. It was comforting to find Lucille and mother and me there, too. It seemed to suggest that we belonged.”

The quote that’s stuck in my head is about the trip the girls take to the Pacific Northwest at the beginning of the movie, just after the shot of the plains at the beginning of the movie and at the top of this post. Sitting in the backseat as their mother drives them toward their new life — and the end of hers — the girls are blissfully unaware of what is coming. They count things they see out the car windows. “Horses,” one tells her mother, who had asked what they were counting. “And cemeteries!” the other calls out loudly, even cheerfully.

Years later, Lucille and I still talked about the trip to Grandma’s. Lucille would remember one thing, and I another, until we pieced together the whole journey. We tried so hard that we ended up not knowing what we really remembered from what we had just imagined, and we often fought over the details.”

There is something about that dynamic that I connect with and that feels universal.

As for the details: One sister remembers their mother’s hair as brown. The other remembers it as red.

I recall hearing that Forsyth said he made the movie as a commercial to get people to buy Robinson’s novel and read it.

Sold.

“Movie Quote Stuck in My Head” is self-explanatory, but it’s more than that. It’s a chance to dig inside an old quote for new meaning, or a new quote for an old truth, or to chew on a line for fun or sustenance. It’s also inspired by and a tribute to “Real Time Song Stuck in My Head,” a popular feature on the Twitter feed of the late Craig Stanke, a former editor for CBSSports.com and, for too short a time, a leader by example to me during my time working there. You can read about him here.

Donald Trump cartoon by Michele Paccione via Shutterstock.

I thought we were gonna get television. The truth is, television is gonna get us.

Over the weekend, I watched the 1994 film “Quiz Show” again. Like a lot of movies, books, short stories, TV shows, documentaries and news stories I’ve revisited in the past year or so, it unexpectedly spoke to the ugly realities of this point in time.

The movie is based on “Remembering America: A Voice from the Sixties,” a book by Richard Godwin, who became curious about rumors of scandals and rigged television quiz shows during the 1950s. As a congressional lawyer, he was able to do something about it. Working as special counsel to the Legislative Oversight Subcommittee of the U.S. House of Representatives, he was part of an investigation that included “Twenty One,” the quiz show featured in the movie.

The investigation proves the show was rigged, but Godwin (played by Rob Morrow) is disillusioned by the outcome, in which the network (NBC) emerges largely unscathed. There are many reasons for this. The often-blurred line between reality and fiction in entertainment is one of them.

Nothing speaks to that more loudly and with more serious implications than the rise of Donald Trump from lifestyles-of-the-rich-and-famous ’80s television curiosity to his role on “The Apprentice” to his improbable 2016 election as president of the United States. “The Apprentice” (on NBC, it’s worth noting) furthered the creation of a Donald Trump character made to stand for the real Trump but one that obscured the real Trump, the truth about his business practices and his many character flaws. There is superb reporting dating to the ’70s and ’80s that reveals the reality of the man, but to viewers whose primary exposure to Trump was on television, the myth became real. Many voted for the myth and elected the man. And here we are.

To anyone paying attention the past 28 months, since Trump announced his candidacy for the presidency, television’s role in his election is clear. It helped enable his branding in the ’80s by focusing more on style than substance. It glossed over his many business failures in later years by continuing a tabloid-like flavor to its coverage of Trump. Cable news became his greatest ally early in his campaign and could never cure itself of what amounts to journalistic malpractice. And as much as he tried to explain it away as a joke, CBS CEO Leslie Moonves showed his hand with his comments in February 2016.

“It may not be good for America, but it’s damn good for CBS.”

“Man, who would have expected the ride we’re all having right now? … The money’s rolling in and this is fun.”

“I’ve never seen anything like this, and this going to be a very good year for us. Sorry. It’s a terrible thing to say. But, bring it on, Donald. Keep going.”

Watching “Quiz Show” again, my mind instantly recalled television’s fingerprints on Trump’s presidency when the Godwin character summed up the unexpected turn at the conclusion of what had seemed like a successful investigation into scandal. I heard it differently than I had the other times I’d seen the movie.

I thought we were gonna get television. The truth is, television is gonna get us.”

“Movie Quote Stuck in My Head” is self-explanatory, but it’s more than that. It’s a chance to dig inside an old quote for new meaning, or a new quote for an old truth, or to chew on a line for fun or sustenance. It’s also inspired by and a tribute to “Real Time Song Stuck in My Head,” a popular feature on the Twitter feed of the late Craig Stanke, a former editor for CBSSports.com and, for too short a time, a leader by example to me during my time working there. You can read about him here.

slowPhoto by Fabrik Bilder

You can order “Reuben, Reuben” online —  on VHS. It’s not available on DVD or any of the streaming services. It’s an all but forgotten 1983 film starring Tom Conti as “a drunken Scottish poet, who hasn’t written a word in years, (who) feels compelled to regain control of his life and work after meeting a beautiful young woman.”

The quote from Conti’s character, “Gowan McGland,” that’s stayed with me all these years comes early in the movie, when he’s dining with a group that includes men from decidedly white-collar professions that in no way call to mind poetry. One of the men extols the virtues of a speed-reading workshop, citing an employee of Allied Fertilizer who, previously unable to be productive on the job because of the stack of reports piling up on his desk, went on to read “War and Peace” in 55 minutes.

McGland puts on the brakes.

But he read the book the way the fertilizer man reads reports; he did not read it as a book. I, for example, would like to read Fitzgerald’s ‘Tender Is the Night’ as slowly as possible. In fact, I would pay vast sums for anyone to teach me to read the books I love at a snail’s pace.

The others are not impressed, but McGland isn’t finished making his point.

Why restrict oneself to reading? Why not also listening? A ‘Minute Waltz’ in five or six seconds, or one could go to the ballet and by 9 o’clock be home in bed with your wife, or if you’re lucky, somebody else’s wife.

There you go: a bonus quote, and a little more insight into the movie’s main character.

His resistance to speeding up, and his desire to slow down, resonated with me when I saw the movie in the cinema, before I’d written or edited hundreds of thousands of words for newspapers, magazines and websites. The appeal is greater now, and not just because the current incarnation of newspaper copy editor often feels like a combination of some of the dynamics of air traffic controller, caffeine-fueled proofreader and fact-checker, all while making sure the B.S. detector is working, and all of it approximating a game of speed chess.

In advance of National Get Outdoors Day, we urged people to embrace it by unplugging from the iLife, as we put it. Plugged in, wired, wireless, connected, networked, linked, encircled, notified, alerted, reminded, messaged, instant-messaged, emailed, texted, tagged, geotagged, located, tracked, spotted, tweeted, quoted and retweeted, we live in a world our man McGland couldn’t have imagined — and would have railed against.

As I actively pursue opportunities to slow down and simplify, I metaphorically raise a glass (and literally, a cup of coffee) to Gowan McGland.

“Movie Quote Stuck in My Head” is self-explanatory, but it’s more than that. It’s a chance to dig inside an old quote for new meaning, or a new quote for an old truth, or to chew on a line for fun or sustenance. It’s also inspired by and a tribute to “Real Time Song Stuck in My Head,” a popular feature on the Twitter feed of the late Craig Stanke, a former editor for CBSSports.com and, for too short a time, a leader by example to me during my time working there. You can read about him here.

“The Judge,” the 2014 film starring Robert Duvall and Robert Downey Jr. as a father and son, judge and lawyer, left a lot of good lines in my head, but the quote stuck in there right now wasn’t spoken by either of those Roberts.

Halfway through the movie, Vera Farmiga, who plays the former girlfriend of Downey’s character, explains to him the origin of the name of her establishment, the Flying Deer Diner, telling a story about a close call on the road one day while she was driving with her daughter in the car. “This deer jumps, flies over the hood, his back hoof taps the glass; one mile an hour faster, he’s coming through the windshield, all antlers and hooves killing me for sure, maybe both of us.

“I make a decision right then and there: Whatever had or hadn’t happened in the past, I was gonna be the hero of my own story.”

Their history has an unresolved storyline, as do several relationships in the movie, which reveals those loose ends along the way — sometimes just to us, sometimes to us and to the characters. What has or hasn’t happened in the past invests much of their motivation, and it drives the film through its twists and turns, toward its denouement.

I watched the movie on the recommendation of a co-worker, someone with whom I’ve had more than one conversation about Duvall and what he brings to his characters. “Watch ‘The Judge,’ ” my co-worker said when he left the office Monday night. The next day, I checked to see if it would be on cable soon. I discovered it would be on HBO a little more than 24 hours later, during what is my weekend off work. Perfect timing.

When I asked my co-worker for some background on the movie, he mentioned that critics were split about “The Judge,” that some called it contrived, among other unflattering things. I can understand that now, even as I found much to like about the movie.

The quote stuck in my head planted itself there even as I knew what some critics probably said out loud when, after telling the story, Farmiga’s character took stock of what she’d just said and asked, “Was that corny?”

I liked it because it spoke to self-determination in a way that perhaps sounded corny but elevated the idea of shaping one’s life to something heroic, with the hero appearing from within rather than from without. It felt like something someone who survived a near-fatal collision and decided to start her own business might say to herself, and then to others.

spoileralertThere was much in the movie that I could identify with, in small and larger ways, that fit the film’s darker subtexts of mortality, regret, unfulfilled promise and more. On a different day, I might have chosen to write about the dynamics of a son fishing with his father, or about a son watching his father suffer the effects of terminal cancer, or about a son visiting his mother’s grave during a time of crisis in his life, or about moving on with life after the dream of an extended baseball career ends, all of which I’ve experienced — or about the relationships between brothers, which I’ll never experience.

But not today. Today, the movie left me with something else I wanted to make note of here.

It’s unexpected, really, that the quote stuck in my head isn’t one delivered by Duvall, who could read the newspaper aloud for two hours and I’d buy a ticket and some popcorn and sit down to watch and listen. But on this particular day, the line that sank its hooks in me was the one about becoming the hero in one’s own story, and I think everyone could use at least a little belief in the possibility that they could make that happen.

“Movie Quote Stuck in My Head” is self-explanatory, but it’s more than that. It’s a chance to dig inside an old quote for new meaning, or a new quote for an old truth, or to chew on a line for fun or sustenance. It’s also inspired by and a tribute to “Real Time Song Stuck in My Head,” a popular feature on the Twitter feed of the late Craig Stanke, a former editor for CBSSports.com and, for too short a time, a leader by example to me during my time working there. You can read about him here.

James Stewart is the protagonist in “Harvey,” the 1950 film in which our man Elwood P. Dowd’s best friend is a 6-foot-3½ invisible rabbit, a pooka. This causes concern in Elwood’s family. Is it the booze? Is he crazy?

Is he more clever than all of them?

There will be no answers here. The reason for this post is this “Harvey” quote stuck in my head, and the reason why.

“In this world … you must be oh so smart or oh so pleasant. Well, for years I was smart. I recommend pleasant.”

For about a decade, if I saw those words on my computer screen, chances are there was something worth reading above them. That quote from the movie was part of the tagline of SF_Express at SportsJournalists.com, a site where I and many others in the newspaper business (and other walks of life) discussed journalism, writing, editing, pop culture, current events, nonsense and further nonsense. SF_Express brought considerable experience and wisdom to bear on many topics, especially about good writing and editing. The tagline on his posts at SJ.com also included a link to his blog, which changed names a time or two, but mostly was about using words well.

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misquotedCartoon by Cartoonresource

This is the longest piece I’ve posted here to date. It’s about the way we quote people —  and misquote them. It’s a lot of words about sometimes minor differences between the reality of what someone says and the popular but inaccurate way it’s later retold. In the end, very little of substance is affected, but it’s always been interesting to me the way what a person says, quite often, goes down in history as something other than the actual, verbatim quote.

Equally engrossing to me is deciding when it matters and when it doesn’t. Most times, it’s nothing more than a minor footnote, of interest only to someone like me who enjoys dissecting and analyzing what people say and how other people retell it. For most people, this entry falls into the “too long, didn’t read” category, and that’s OK. But if you have a similar interest in how quotes become misquotes, you might have noticed these things too. Also, if you make it to the end, you’ll be rewarded with a couple of fun videos that poke fun at misquoted lines, or list dozens and dozens of them. So, there’s that.

Don’t misunderstand me (or misquote me): This is not a dissertation, nor an indictment of the way popular culture hands down such quotes. Also, I don’t have the answers from oral-history experts regarding questions I have about this common dynamic, and I don’t have scientific explanations, particularly regarding misheard or misremembered quotes, but I’ve enjoyed collecting and writing about phrases that have become part of history or pop culture, or both. And, as I consider this post a work in progress, a collection of notes I’ve kept over the years, expect it to be augmented and perhaps annotated from time to time.

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2015-05-19 19.58.57OK, technically, it’s not a quote, but I’m giving myself some latitude on this one. I caught the end of the 1997 film “Contact” on cable tonight, and no matter how many times I see the final scene fade to … well, not black, but to a sky full of stars … I’m always caught off guard by what appears next.

The movie has some interesting moments, and some quotes I like, but for some reason this is always my new favorite part when it appears.

Of course, the filmmakers are referring to Carl Sagan.

And that’s pretty cool, too.


“Movie Quote Stuck in My Head” is self-explanatory, but it’s more than that. It’s a chance to dig inside an old quote for new meaning, or a new quote for an old truth, or to chew on a line for fun or sustenance. It’s also inspired by and a tribute to “Real Time Song Stuck in My Head,” a popular feature on the Twitter feed of the late Craig Stanke, a former editor for CBSSports.com and, for too short a time, a leader by example to me during my time working there.


An exceedingly sad movie, beautifully told. Even the most quiet dignity contains at times achingly haunting and silent screams — of unrequited love or unfulfilled promise, or perhaps unbearable pain. Sometimes it is all three, and at other times … well, who’s to say?

You know what I am doing, Miss Kenton? I am placing my mind elsewhere while you chatter away.

That line, one of many I remember from the movie, is in the official trailer. It popped into my head earlier today while someone outside my apartment talked and talked and talked and talked …

And then …

spoileralert(In case you haven’t seen the film but plan to) *

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movieticketPhoto by www.BillionPhotos.com

Today’s Movie Quote Stuck in My Head comes from “Keeping the Faith,” the 2000 film starring Ben Stiller, Edward Norton and Jenna Elfman. They play childhood friends who grow up to be, in order, a rabbi, a priest and a businesswoman.

At one point, Norton’s character, Father Brian Finn, is struggling with his feelings for Elfman’s character, Anna Riley. Finn looks to the pastor of his church, Father Havel, played by longtime actor, writer and director Milos Forman. Father Havel shares his personal stories of inner conflict with Father Finn before getting to the heart of the matter.

“The truth is, you can never tell yourself that there is only one thing you could be. If you’re a priest, or if you marry a woman, it’s the same challenge: You cannot make a real commitment unless you accept that it’s a choice that you keep making again and again and again.”

Whether that line was the work of writer Stuart Blumberg or was improvised on the set, it’s a powerful statement about the true nature of commitment. I’ve forgotten the specific context, but I quoted the line years ago in a sports story, one that took a look at dedication to a goal or series of goals, as well as to teammates. I imagined it seemed largely out of place to many readers, but the idea that commitment is a choice we keep making again and again and again, every day of our lives, is true of all of us, regardless of our place in the world.

As I was channel surfing, I saw that “Keeping the Faith” was on, and I heard that quote again, and now it’s rattling around inside my head again.

Back to the cast, here are some other names you may have heard of: Anne Bancroft, Eli Wallach, Holland Taylor and Lisa Edelstein, among other wonderful supporting players. It doesn’t hurt one bit that the movie begins with Father Brian walking the streets of New York as this song from the soundtrack plays behind the opening credits.

So, there it is, the movie quote stuck in my head today, perhaps to be replaced only by the song above.


“Movie Quote Stuck in My Head” is self-explanatory, but it’s more than that. It’s a chance to dig inside an old quote for new meaning, or a new quote for an old truth, or to chew on a line for fun or sustenance. It’s also inspired by and a tribute to “Real Time Song Stuck in My Head,” a popular feature on the Twitter feed of the late Craig Stanke, a former editor for CBSSports.com and, for too short a time, a leader by example to me during my time working there.