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DID YOU READ

The Rules of Movie Quoting

The Rules of Movie Quoting (photo)

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If I didn’t quote movies, I might not be married.

I have a weird memory for dialogue. If you asked me what I ate for lunch yesterday, it could take me ten minutes of piecing my week together to figure it out. If you asked me to tell you what George Costanza said to Jerry Seinfeld when Jerry announced he wasn’t going to have a menage a trois with two women, I’d have the answer instantly (“What? Are you crazy?!? This is like discovering plutonium by accident!!!”). It’s just this strange way I’m wired. I’ve gotten a rotten brain. “IT’S ROTTEN, I TELL YA! ROTTEN!”

How’d this antisocial behavior land me such a beautiful wife? Despite my incredible physique and raw animal magnetism, I was a bit of a dork when I was 19 years old. I used to quote a lot of stuff, but my favorite was “Austin Powers” and its sequel. “Austin Powers” was so widely quoted in the late 90s that my lovely wife — who never quotes any movies — often quoted “Austin Powers” at parties. Two mutual friends noticed this and thought our shared love of Fat Bastard was a strong basis for a relationship. Eleven years later, I think it’s safe to say they were right; “love actually is all around.”

So quoting movies can be a force for good in the universe. In 2011 though, movie quoting’s role in a film nerd’s life has changed. In the days before the Internet, there were no message boards or blogs where you could meet people who shared your passion. Comparing movie quotes was how you did that. They were like secret Masonic handshakes; a way for cinephiles to identify and connect with other cinephiles. In the days before YouTube, before DVD chapter stops, before IMDb “Memorable Quotes” pages, movie dialogue was like a geek badge of honor. It required work. It showed you cared. As Lester Bangs says in “Almost Famous,” “the only true currency in this bankrupt world is what we share with someone else when we’re uncool.”

As Patton Oswalt observed in his now-infamous piece for Wired, “Wake Up Geel Culture. Time to Die,” all of those technological advancements brought movie quoting to the masses. They practically made it cool, however briefly, to quote “Austin Powers.” And let’s not forget, before “Austin Powers” went mainstream with its mega-grossing sequel (right around the time file sharing really started to take off), it was basically a cult film. Being able to recite Dr. Evil’s shushing run doesn’t have the cache it used to (if it ever did in the first place) because anyone can find a transcript of it online. Unless you’re one of those people who’s “okay with being unimpressive,” it’s not enough.

Last Friday, a friend forwarded me an article from Splitsider, along with a note, “Thought this would be up your alley.” He was right. The article, by Luke Kelly-Clyne, is called “Please Stop Quoting These Comedies Forever Immediately,” and obviously my alley is a dark and nerdy place where “Monty Python” falsettos endlessly echo off the blacktop. Kelly-Clyne’s concedes to occasionally indulging in the practice of quoting memorable lines for movies, but believes a moratorium is needed on certain titles, including “Anchorman,” “Wedding Crashers,” and “Borat.” Here is his rationale for eliminating “Borat” from the movie quote lexicon:

“It was shocking and wacky, yes. Six years ago. The whole thing is over. If you’re at a party where the host is giving out those memory-eraser pens from “Men In Black,” then you can quote “Borat.” Otherwise, don’t.”

I don’t have a problem with people being sick of “Borat” quotes — I’m sick of them too — but I think there is an arbitrariness to Kelly-Clyne’s piece. He lists ten things you should never quote, and ten things you should quote, and there’s a significant amount of overlap between the two lists. Don’t quote “Chappelle Show” sketches about Rick James, he says, but do quote sketches involving Nick Cannon. Mostly, these lists read like one film lovers’s personal tastes. That’s why we need a standardized set of rules for movie quoting, rules that move beyond simple subjective judgments to acknowledge the pleasure of quoting without denying that pleasures’ limits. Sort of a “The first rule of Fight Club is…” thing.

I feel like I need more time to mull The Rules of Movie Quoting. But this is a solid first draft:

RULE #1: If you don’t know it, don’t quote it.

Like I said, I love a good movie quote. But if you don’t have a quote right, you shouldn’t be reciting it to others. Now that the Internet has made this kind of knowledge so much more accessible, there’s really no excuse not to have a movie quote’s wording and phrasing exactly right. The only thing less cool than quoting a movie is quoting a movie incorrectly. Do it, just do it right. “I’m talking about drawing a line in the sand, Dude. Across this line, you DO NOT… Also, Dude, chinaman is not the preferred nomenclature. Asian-American, please.”

RULE #2: Respect and understand your audience.

There is a time and place for movie quoting. But there are also wrong times and wrong places for movie quoting. For example: if you’re in the theater, waiting for a sequel, don’t sit there and quote the original movie. We all get it, the first movie was great; that’s why we’re here to see the second one. This is the cinematic equivalent of wearing a band’s T-shirt to their concert. “Don’t be that guy.”

RULE #3: Go for the deep cuts.

A repertoire of movie quotes is like a stock portfolio: diversity is key. Back in the Stone Age (pre-2000), movie quotes were about shared experience. Now, they need to become more about connoisseurship. To a lowest common denominator movie quoter, the question “What’s that from?” is a conversational kiss of death. It shouldn’t be. Quoting something obscure can be a pop culture gateway, a chance to share something you love with someone who hasn’t discovered it yet.

“Borat” is a fun movie, but we’ve all done it. Same for “Austin Powers” and “This is Spinal Tap” and “Monty Python and the Holy Grail.” Instead, try something a little more unusual: “Wet Hot American Summer,” or “Quick Change,” or Arnold Schwarzenegger’s commentary track for “Conan the Barbarian.” Be different, but remember: “just because it’s loud doesn’t mean it’s funny.”

I think this is a really good starting point but I welcome your feedback and suggestions in the comments section below and at my Twitter page. If you don’t like it then “up your butt with a coconut.” No refunds if you disagree with me, either. “Consider your refund escaping this death trap with your lives!”

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Hacked In

Funny or Die Is Taking Over

FOD TV comes to IFC every Saturday night.

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We’ve been fans of Funny or Die since we first met The Landlord. That enduring love makes it more than logical, then, that IFC is totally cool with FOD hijacking the airwaves every Saturday night. Yes, that’s happening.

The appropriately titled FOD TV looks like something pulled from public access television in the nineties. Like lo-fi broken-antenna reception and warped VHS tapes. Equal parts WTF and UHF.

Get ready for characters including The Shirtless Painter, Long-Haired Businessmen, and Pigeon Man. They’re aptly named, but for a better sense of what’s in store, here’s a taste of ASMR with Kelly Whispers:

Watch FOD TV every Saturday night during IFC’s regularly scheduled movies.

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Wicked Good

See More Evil

Stan Against Evil Season 1 is on Hulu.

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Okay, so you missed the entire first season of Stan Against Evil. There’s no shame in that, per se. But here’s the thing: Season 2 is just around the corner and you don’t want to lag behind. After all, Season 1 had some critical character development, not to mention countless plot twists, and a breathless finale cliffhanger that’s been begging for resolution since last fall. It also had this:

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The good news is that you can catch up right now on Hulu. Phew. But if you aren’t streaming yet, here’s a basic primer…

Willards Mill Is Evil

Stan spent his whole career as sheriff oblivious to the fact that his town has a nasty curse. Mostly because his recently-deceased wife was secretly killing demons and keeping Stan alive.

Demons Really Want To Kill Stan

The curse on Willards Mill stipulates that damned souls must hunt and kill each and every town sheriff, or “constable.” Oh, and these demons are shockingly creative.

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They Also Want To Kill Evie

Why? Because Evie’s a sheriff too, and the curse on Willard’s Mill doesn’t have a “one at a time” clause. Bummer, Evie.

Stan and Evie Must Work Together

Beating the curse will take two, baby, but that’s easier said than done because Stan doesn’t always seem to give a damn. Damn!

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Beware of Goats

It goes without saying for anyone who’s seen the show: If you know that ancient evil wants to kill you, be wary of anything that has cloven feet.

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Season 2 Is Lurking

Scary new things are slouching towards Willards Mill. An impending darkness descending on Stan, Evie and their cohort – eviler evil, more demony demons, and whatnot. And if Stan wants to survive, he’ll have to get even Stanlier.

Stan Against Evil Season 1 is now streaming right now on Hulu.

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SO EXCITED!!!

Reminders that the ’90s were a thing

"The Place We Live" is available for a Jessie Spano-level binge on Comedy Crib.

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Unless you stopped paying attention to the world at large in 1989, you are of course aware that the ’90s are having their pop cultural second coming. Nobody is more acutely aware of this than Dara Katz and Betsy Kenney, two comedians who met doing improv comedy and have just made their Comedy Crib debut with the hilarious ’90s TV throwback series, The Place We Live.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Dara: It’s everything you loved–or loved to hate—from Melrose Place and 90210 but condensed to five minutes, funny (on purpose) and totally absurd.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Betsy: “Hey Todd, why don’t you have a sip of water. Also, I think you’ll love The Place We Live because everyone has issues…just like you, Todd.”

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IFC: When you were living through the ’90s, did you think it was television’s golden age or the pop culture apocalypse?


Betsy: I wasn’t sure I knew what it was, I just knew I loved it!


Dara: Same. Was just happy that my parents let me watch. But looking back, the ’90s honored The Teen. And for that, it’s the golden age of pop culture. 

IFC: Which ’90s shows did you mine for the series, and why?

Betsy: Melrose and 90210 for the most part. If you watch an episode of either of those shows you’ll see they’re a comedic gold mine. In one single episode, they cover serious crimes, drug problems, sex and working in a law firm and/or gallery, all while being young, hot and skinny.


Dara: And almost any series we were watching in the ’90s, Full House, Saved By the Bell, My So Called Life has very similar themes, archetypes and really stupid-intense drama. We took from a lot of places. 

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IFC: How would you describe each of the show’s characters in terms of their ’90s TV stereotype?

Dara: Autumn (Sunita Mani) is the femme fatale. Robin (Dara Katz) is the book worm (because she wears glasses). Candace (Betsy Kenney) is Corey’s twin and gives great advice and has really great hair. Corey (Casey Jost) is the boy next door/popular guy. Candace and Corey’s parents decided to live in a car so the gang can live in their house. 
Lee (Jonathan Braylock) is the jock.

IFC: Why do you think the world is ready for this series?

Dara: Because everyone’s feeling major ’90s nostalgia right now, and this is that, on steroids while also being a totally new, silly thing.

Delight in the whole season of The Place We Live right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib. It’ll take you back in all the right ways.