In many movies, even the classics, there comes a scene in which the action screeches to a halt, the music swells and the camera sweeps in for a long, loving closeup as one of the characters imparts unto us the picture’s Big, Important Message. New Yorker film critic Pauline Kael warned us about such scenes, observing that it was as if the film’s director was jabbing us in the ribs and saying, “Listen to this; it’s pure gold.” Such is the power of cinema that we all too often accept the truth of the Big, Important Message without question. But, as the following instructive chart reveals, sometimes there is truth in the Message and sometimes the Message is pure Bandini.
“Life is like a box of chocolates . . . you never know what you’re gonna get.”
Forrest Gump (Tom Hanks)
Forrest is sitting on a bus bench, accosting a stranger with the story of his life.
Stupid is as stupid does, and not only is this line a stupid way to look at life, it’s a stupid way to look at a box of chocolates. Has Forrest never looked inside a chocolate box and noticed one of those little diagrams that tell you which flavor is which?
The Wizard of Oz
“If I ever go looking for my heart’s desire again, I won’t look any further than my own back yard. Because if it isn’t there, I never really lost it to begin with!”
Dorothy (Judy Gar-land)
Dorothy awakens from her Technicolor dream of Oz to find herself back in drab, sepia-toned Kansas.
Maybe the biggest lie in the movies. If you can’t find your heart’s desire in Kansas, get the hell out of Kansas! Not to be a Blue State snot or anything, but frankly I don’t know how many heart’s desires you could find in Kansas.
“All You Need Is Love”
A cartoon John Lennon
The Blue Meanies send out the Dreadful Flying Glove to “o-BLUE-terate” the Beatles, but Lennon defeats it with these magic words.
To paraphrase Keith Richards, “All you need is love, huh? Yeah, well, try livin’ on it.” It must be pointed out, however, that we have yet to test the real-life accuracy of love as a weapon against giant flying-glove monsters.
The Breakfast Club
“When you grow up, your heart dies.”
The basket case (Ally Sheedy)
The kids are commiserating about their awful home lives when Sheedy drops this pearl.
When you grow up, your heart does, indeed, die.
The Empire Strikes Back
“Do or do not. There is no try.”
Yoda (voice of Frank Oz)
Luke Skywalker has been trudging through the swamps of Dagobah all day with Yoda on his back, and when the exhausted apprentice Jedi fails to lift a spaceship through sheer will alone, Yoda berates him with this line.
There is no try? So there’s no such thing as a worthy effort? Ever? We’re not supposed to admire people who take bold risks, even if they fall short? Well, screw that, you moldy little sock puppet.
“Love means never having to say you’re sorry.”
Oliver (Ryan O’Neal)
The rich jock murmurs this deathless line to his impoverished, scrappy girlfriend, Jennifer (Ali MacGraw).
This is such a dopey line I’m not even sure the people who made the movie thought it made sense. Seriously, try getting through a relationship with any woman on earth without apologizing on a semi-daily basis.
The Rocky Horror Picture Show
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“Don’t dream it, be it.”
Dr. Frank N. Furter (Tim Curry)
After a night of murder, bisexual seduction and turning people into statues, the good doctor purrs this line while lazily floating in the castle pool on a life preserver labeled “TITANIC.”
As pithy and true as the golden rule. Who would have guessed that a homicidal drag queen from another planet could be such a font of wisdom?