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Qlassic Quotes: Cypher Says “Get Ready” in The Matrix (1999)

Posted by Andrew Unterberger on November 27, 2007

“Why oh why…didn’t I take the BLUE pill?”

Do you remember what it was like watching The Matrix for the first time? After two sequels, infinite parodies, and maybe one too many stoner discussions on the movie’s philosphies and mechanics might sort of retroactively dull the thrill, but watching this movie for the first time in the theater was just unbelievable. The number of things I saw in that movie that I had just never seen before is basically unrivaled for me. And this was at the height of my movie snob phase, no less–thank god the movie got 3 1/2 out of 4 in the Inquirer, otherwise I probably wouldn’t have seen it until after the third one was out.

Even more impressive than how, well, impressive the movie was, was how unexpected the whole thing. Before the internet made critical and fan consensus hype virtually unavoidable, all I really had to go on at the time were the previews. And they were ridiculously enigmatic–purposefully so, I think, meant to build buzz the old-fashioned way through mystery and word of mouth. It’s an approach that works exactly one out of every 137 times a studio tries it, but it really worked here–going in, I had as little idea about what The Matrix was going to be like. No greater favor can be afforded a movie than low fan expectations, and The Matrix was brilliant to do so little to assuage them–especially since the movie more than spoke for itself.

So it was kind of cool that Neo’s indoctrination to the world of The Matrix sort of echoed that of the fans–unlike most movies of The Matrix‘s size, where you already know exactly what’s going to happen and just hope that getting there is kind of cool, you legitimately had absolutely no idea what was coming next watching this movie. A whole lot of weird shit happens to him in the first half-hour or so in the movie–his mouth grows shut, evil mechanical scorpions crawl into his belly button, and eventually he gets swallowed by a liquid mirror. All things considered, he handles it pretty well–better than 13-year-old me, anyway, who was freaking out at just about every moment. In a good way. As Neo swallows the Red Pill and prepares to have his mind blown, we’re suddenly bracing ourselves for anything and everything.

Enter Joe Pantoliano. Is there a more underrated pop cultural force from the last 25 years? It’s easy to call him a quintessential that guy–everyone knows his face, nobody knwos his name–but after enough hits, don’t you stop being a ____-hit wonder and start being a legitimate Greatest Hits act? I mean, c’mon, this is Ralphie Cifaretto we’re talking about! John G! Guido the Killer Pimp! Not to mention Midnight Run, Bound, The Fugitive, Bad Boys, Goonies–Al Pacino’s resume from the last two and a half decades isn’t even this impressive. Add in his turn here as cyberturncoat Cypher…you’ve got a veritable pop culture legend on your hands.

In just about all of these movies, Joey Pants’ characters hit that perfect mix of pity, disgust and dread, to inspire a blend of hatred and sympathy from viewers rivalled by few. You definitely don’t like him, but you kinda see where he’s coming from. I mean, who is this Neo guy anyway, and why does everyone love him so much? He doesn’t even wear an earring! Or have facial hair! He’s a Christ figure, and Christ figures have lousy senses of humor. He has no place for a sardonic wisecracker like Cypher in his revolution, or even in his social circle. Cypher’s betrayal was more of a pre-emptive strike than anything.

But before all that, before Keanu even goes down the rabbit hole, Cypher gives Neo a piece of advice that no one watching the movie could ever forget:

“Buckle your seat belt, Dorothy. Because Kansas–is going BYE BYE.”

Yeah, I know. It’s a terrible line. A truly epic piece of badness. My brother once hit the nail on the head: “It’s like it packs every bad action movie cliche ever into one line.” Yet–it works. Because that’s exactly what The Matrix felt like–that rollercoaster ride feel where you get that rare and unbelievably exciting feeling that you’re in uncharted cinematic territory. It’s totally right. Minus the badness.

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Qlassic Quotes: Roddy Piper’s Announcement of Intent in They Live (1988)

Posted by Andrew Unterberger on September 4, 2007

“You…you’re OK. This one…real fucking ugly.”

Friends had been raving to me about They Live for years (well, a year anyway) before I finally decided to rent it a few weeks ago. Going in, I had gleaned the following pieces of information about the movie from their repeated conversations on the subject:

  1. John Carpenter wasn’t a fan of 80s consumer culture
  2. The movie stars “Rowdy” Roddy Piper, who was a wrestler maybe?
  3. “Rowdy” Roddy Piper is running low on Big Red.

They didn’t even tell me that the movie starred all-time top ten That Guy Keith David, or that his epic six-minute fight with Piper inspired the famous “Cripple Fight” between Timmy and Jimmy in the South Park episode of the same name. But it sounded pretty good anyway. The movie on the whole is flawed as hell–wildly uneven, taking too long to get going and then finishing suddenly (and kind of weirdly), and with one of the most useless female leads/love interests/villains in action history. Still, it’s a movie of seriously quality moments, and the now-legendary line is of course one of them.

In addition to being one of the most famous action one-liners, however, it’s also one of the strangest and most uncalled for. Most great action quotables are delivered in reaction to something specific–a stylistic kill, a successful seduction, at least some quality bantering. Piper’s quote, on the other hand, is appropos of absolutely nothing. He’s done some mild altercating with aliens, but in general, things have stayed pretty low-key. Then he just strolls into the bank of people and peoplealiens minding their own business, shotgun in tow, and delivers the line:

“I have come here to chew bubblegum and kick ass…and I’m all out of bubblegum.”

From there, the movie goes into action movie warpdrive, with Piper blowing away alien folk indiscriminately and tossing off one-liners like there’s no tomorrow (“Mama don’t like tattletales!“) The line would have a similarly galvanizing effect a half-decade later when a pissed-off Nicky Katt would echo it to a patronizing Adam Goldberg in Dazed & Confused (“I only came here do two things, man. Kick some ass and drink some beer. Looks like we’re almost out of beer”), prompting a fight scene significantly less sprawling and evenly-matched, but almost as awesome as They Live‘s.

If only the line had been a bit more purposeful, “Rowdy” Roddy Piper could have been the next Schwarzenegger. Instead, the first John Cena. Unfortunate.

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Qlassic Quotes: Setting Shooter Straight in Happy Gilmore (1995)

Posted by Andrew Unterberger on July 17, 2007

“Spoken like a true asshole!”

Forget Darth Vader. Forget the Wicked Witch of the West. Forget Iago, either the Shakespeare character or the Gilbert Godfried-voiced bird. Hell, even forget Mary Tyler Moore in Ordinary People. If you grew up in the mid-90s, there was but one personage whose name and face was immediately synonymous with the purest of evil, and that man’s name was Shooter McGavin. The first in a long line of cartoonishly wicked villains in Adam Sandler movies (Glenn Goulia, whatever the name of Bradley Whitford’s character in Billy Madison was), Shooter isn’t even given the boon that most villains get of usually being cooler and more fun than the heroes–rather, Shooter’s villainy stems merely from his sheer tooliness.

As a consequence, one has virtually no choice but to root for Happy Gilmore in his clearly destined-to-be-successful rush against Shooter in the PGA pro tour. But despite how obvious the hero and villain roles are in Happy, the movie keeps throwing in random characters who seem to exist only to prove how much more righteous Gilmore is than Shooter. There’s Richard “Jaws” Kiel, who despite getting shot by Happy in the head with a nail gun at the beginning of the movie, shows up to cheer him on and bully Shooter around (“And you can count! ON ME! WAITING FOR YOU! In the parking lot!“) There’s that barely-intelligible black dude, who slurs something about “don’t worry Happy, you got this, Shooter’s gonna choke” (whose presence, unless it was a Wesley Willis cameo and I missed that in the credits, continues to make no sense to me whatsoever). The only guy seemingly not rooting for Happy to win is the doctor who treats him after he gets hit by a car, but decides to go on with the match anyway. (Incidentally, the doctor gets the movie’s second best throwaway line: “Fine! Do whatever you like. What would I know, I’m just a doctor…”)

And then there’s Mexican American golf legend Lee Trevino. I have no idea why he was given this role in the movie, but it’s one that’s unbelievably integral. He hangs around Chubbs Peterson’s funeral, eavesdropping on Happy and Shooter’s conversation long enough to hear Shooter respond to Happy’s promise to win the tournament for Chubbs with “Yeah, and Grizzly Adams had a beard!”

Grizzly Adams DID have a beard!” he responds.

Cut back to Shooter, looking confused and walking away. End scene.

I didn’t get this line the first 15 times I saw Happy Gilmore, and now that I know who Grizzly Adams is, I think I get it even less (similarly, I did not know until writing this very blog entry that the dude responding to Shooter’s taunt was anyone other than a random short Mexican-American dude–does this mean that the random black guy is actually a pre-fame/weight loss Tiger Woods?) Is not the beard Grizzly Adams’ defining characteristic? Is it a reference to something? How could you know who Grizzly Adams is and not know that he had a beard (and if he was being sarcastic about it, why does he look so confused after being corrected?) Or is the point how totally clueless Shooter is? Whatever it is, the line continues to puzzle and delight, getting only better and weirder with age.

Is it weird, though, that the movie’s obvious anti-Shooter agenda is starting to make me feel slightly sympathetic towards him? I mean, let’s be fair–Shooter thought this was finally going to be his year, and now some young upstart who never played the game before a couple weeks ago is stealing all the attention, glory and groupies? You’d probably be a little bit pissed off too–maybe not so much as to hire Joe Flaherty to try and kill him, but enough to definitely feel that the media’s extremely one-sided portrayal of the feud was unfair, to say the least. Maybe I’ve just seen that I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry ad one too many times.

Also: noticed for the first time watching it yesterday that when the recently-deceased Chubbs is playing the piano in Happy’s happy place vision, when he lifts his hands up to show Happy that they’re both back to normal now, the piano keeps playing. Nice touch.

Posted in Qlassic Quotes | 9 Comments »

Qlassic Quotes: The Ultimate Line of Intimidation in Road House (1989)

Posted by Andrew Unterberger on June 6, 2007

Keep your eyes on the road and your hands upon the wheel

Various 80s dudes have long been preaching to me (and whoever else will listen) about the virtues of Road House, the post-Dirty Dancing Patrick Swayze vehicle which raked in about a tenth of that movie’s box office, was nominated for five Razzies (luckily for Swayze and producer Joel Silver, this was the year of Star Trek V: The Final Frontier) and would probably have permanently wrecked Swayze’s career had he not gotten a leg up from Whoopi Goldberg and the Righteous Brothers a year later. Needless to say, I was somewhat skeptical, but as usual, 80s dudes were right–Road House is a film of countless bizarre and delectable wonders. These include:

  • Full-cast bar brawls roughly every fifteen minutes
  • Lots of fat dudes with beards wearing suspenders
  • Monster trucks
  • Multiple reapetedly exploding buildings
  • “Pain don’t hurt”
  • Performances from all-time Top 20 That Guys Keith David and Kevin Tighe
  • Tons of ridiculously gratuitous nudity, including of Swayze himself
  • Performances from future Big Lebowski alums Sam Elliot and Ben Gazzara (in their respective good and evil roles)
  • A hysterically unerotic Swayze-Kelly Lynch sex scene set to Otis Redding’s “These Arms of Mine,” as if to say “Hey, remember that really succeessful movie I was in a couple years ago with all those cool classic soul songs?”
  • “A polar bear fell on me”

Anyway, these are all well and good, but none can even come close to the film’s best moment (and overall best scene), which occurs after the house of Swayze’s kindly old landlord is blown up by one of Gazzara’s evil goons (Marshall R. Teague, famous for pretty much nothing else). As he drives away on his motorcycle, cackling evilly (of course), Swayze gives chase, eventually intercepting him with a heroic leap and jump-starting the movie’s most epic fight scene. Their pre-fight exchange

“Prepare to die!”
“You are such an asshole!!”

is almost worth an essay in itself, but actually, it’s just the beginning. The real corker comes a couple minutes into the fight, where a bloody, worn-down and hopelessly shirtless Swayze appears to have bitten off more than he could chew for once. A few punches to the back and kidney appear to render him helpless, as Teague lifts him up, puts him in a headlock, and whispers this priceless chestnut in his ear:

“I USED TO FUCK GUYS LIKE YOU IN PRISON!!”

Does it quite match Iceman chomping his teeth in Maverick’s general direction in Top Gun for the most blatantly homoerotic attempt at misguided badassery of the decade? It’s probably too close to call, but no matter–any upper ground Teague could possibly have had in the fight is instantly lost by this come-on-as-threat, a situation helped little by his proximity to Swayze’s glistening, half-naked body, nor by the George Michael-esque earring he’s wearing.

That’s not to say that there’s nothing intimidating about this line–in fact, had he tweaked it slightly, it might’ve actually sounded almost cool. Here’s some suggestions for possible alterations, all of which I think would have been largely preferable in such a situation:

  • I USED TO FUCK GUYS TOUGHER THAN YOU IN PRISON!” (better demonstrates Swayze’s relative weakness)
  • I USED TO MAKE GUYS LIKE YOU MY BITCH IN PRISON!” (gets the same point across without being needlessly graphic)
  • I USED TO HAVE GUYS LIKE YOU SUCK MY DICK IN PRISON!” (shows greater dominance in the situation)
  • I USED TO FUCK GUYS LIKE YOU IN PRISON EVEN THOUGH I WOULD HAVE PREFERED TO HAVE SEX WITH A FEMALE! (just so Swayze doesn’t get the wrong idea)

But no, Teague prefers to keep both the sexual preference and consensuality of his prison trysts ambiguous, which while refreshingly open-minded for a tough-guy action movie, is probably not the sort of impression he wanted to get across in this particular scene.

After the line, Swayze quickly turns the fight around by using the old “get-them-to-get-their-kicking-leg-stuck-in-a-v-shaped-tree-and-then-kick-’em- in-the-balls” manouever, and eventually wins with a fatality by ripping Teague’s throat out, tiger-style (or is it puma? Is there a difference?) But really, Swayze had won the fight long before, with Teague’s utterance of this somewhat provocative but largely inappropriate would-be one-liner. After a line like that, it’s only a matter of time before someone kicks you in the testicles and then rips out your throat.

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