The Art of Movie Quoting

Blagg Blog has a list of 5 films he wishes people would stop quoting from. I've only seen one of the five (Office Space), and I heartily disagree with his description of Will Ferrell as a genius, but he's got a point--far too many people quote movie lines badly. I was one of them, and occasionally still have problems, although not generally the types that Blagg describes.

Here are some general rules for successful movie quoting:

1. Don't go for the obvious. This is the case no matter whether we're talking about setting or situation--Blagg describes Old School quoting in bars or Office Space quoting in the workplace. He's right--it's just isn't funny. Why? Because it's expected. Funny is all about the unexpected, even slapstick. Quoting Sideways at a wine tasting gets you labeled as unoriginal.

2. If it gets used in the trailer, or it becomes a catch-phrase, don't use it. Ever. Because you just don't want to be that guy saying "Do I make you horny baby?"

3. Obscurity can be your friend, as long as you're not an ass about it. The problem with too many quoters is that they're either afraid to go obscure, or if they do, they feel the need to go into a long, tortured discussion about the context of the quote in the film and the surrounding geopolitical landscape. You don't. If you go obscure, and no one gives you a knowing wink or nod, then simply act as though the witticism was original. Trust your fellow conversers. Which brings me to rule 4.

4. Pick your spots. Nothing is more aggravating than the guy who thinks conversation consists of nothing but movie/tv/stand-up comic bits thrown out there in a depserate grasp at relevance. I was one of those people for a while, until my girlfriend, in a moment of frustration, gave me hell for it. After many months where I tried to restrain myself completely, I discovered that I could actually hold a conversation without making a single reference to pop culture. Now when I do it, it's with a purpose, as a tool to steer the conversation in a particular direction rather than to show the room the power of my voluminous memory to hold ridiculous bits of minutiae. Which brings us to the most important rule of all.

5. Make it relevant. Any dumbass can pop off a reference that adds nothing to the conversation. It takes a pro to make a a reference work in the context of the larger conversation without derailing the conversation into a quoting contest, which is always a danger. Nothing kills a group conversation more quickly than two people (usually guys) trying to outdo one another in a contest of "I can recite longer Monty Python passages than you can."

Hope that helps.

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