More chat with Mills (segue fever)

It started with the link from Mystery Man to the 15 Nominees for Worst Movie Dialogue Ever. It segued from there and now to here...


Jill Gollick sent me this link:

start at the bottom and work your way up

and as for bad lines:

my #1 vote is for the Andie MacDowell line in "Four Weddings" - but it wasn't a bad line - it was just HORRIBLY, PAINFULLY, and INEPTLY delivered - but it wasn't a bad line in and of itself


I’ve been teaching first year screenwriting and during one of the first classes I showed them similar scenes – one terrible, one great. I chose Attack of the Clones and Sideways…

ANAKIN and PADME stop at the balustrade. PADME looks out across the garden to the shimmering lake and the mountains rising beyond. ANAKIN looks at her silently.

When I was in Level Three, we used
to come here for school retreat.
See that island? We used to swim
there every day. I love the water.

I do too. I guess it comes from
growing up on a desert planet.

PADME becomes aware that ANAKIN is looking at her.

...We used to lie on the sand and
let the sun dry us... and try to
guess the names of the birds

I don’t like sand. It’s coarse
and rough and irritating, and it
gets everywhere. Not like here.
Here everything’s soft... and

He touches her arm. PADME has become receptive to the way he looks at her but is nervous.

There was a very old man who lived
on the island. He used to make
glass out of sand - and vases and
necklaces out of the glass. They
were magical.

(looks into her eyes)
Everything here is magical.

You could look into the glass and
see the water. The way it ripples
and moves. It looked so real...
but it wasn’t.

Sometimes, when you believe
something to be real, it becomes
real. Real enough, anyway...

They look into each other's eyes. He touches her chin.

I used to think if you looked too
deeply into glass, you would
lose yourself.

I think it's true...

ANAKIN kisses PADME. She doesn't resist. She comes to her senses and pulls away.

I shouldn't have done that.

I'm sorry. When I'm around you,
my mind is no longer my own.

It's the situation... the stress...

He looks at her.

...the view.

Against Sideways. Interesting that the scene ends different in the film. Rewritten or improvised…

Can I ask you a personal question?

(bracing himself)

Why are you so into Pinot? It's like
a thing with you.

Miles laughs at first, then smiles wistfully at the question.
He searches for the answer in his glass and begins slowly.

I don't know. It's a hard grape to
grow. As you know. It's thin-skinned,
temperamental, ripens early. It's
not a survivor like Cabernet that
can grow anywhere and thrive even
when neglected. Pinot needs constant
care and attention and in fact can
only grow in specific little tucked-
away corners of the world. And only
the most patient and nurturing growers
can do it really, can tap into Pinot's
most fragile, delicate qualities.
Only when someone has taken the time
to truly understand its potential
can Pinot be coaxed into its fullest
expression. And when that happens,
its flavors are the most haunting
and brilliant and subtle and thrilling
and ancient on the planet.

Maya has found this answer revealing and moving.

I mean, Cabernets can be powerful
and exalting, but they seem prosaic
to me for some reason. By comparison.
How about you?

What about me?

I don't know. Why are you into wine?

I suppose I got really into wine
originally through my ex-husband. He
had a big, kind of show-off cellar.
But then I found out that I have a
really sharp palate, and the more I
drank, the more I liked what it made
me think about.

Yeah? Like what?

Like what a fraud he was.

Miles laughs.

No, but I do like to think about the
life of wine, how it's a living thing.
I like to think about what was going
on the year the grapes were growing,
how the sun was shining that summer
or if it rained... what the weather
was like. I think about all those
people who tended and picked the
grapes, and if it's an old wine, how
many of them must be dead by now. I
love how wine continues to evolve,
how every time I open a bottle it's
going to taste different than if I
had opened it on any other day.
Because a bottle of wine is actually
alive -- it's constantly evolving
and gaining complexity. That is,
until it peaks -- like your '61 --
and begins its steady, inevitable
decline. And it tastes so fucking

Now it is Miles's turn to be swept away. Maya's face tells
us the moment is right, but Miles remains frozen. He needs
another sign, and Maya is bold enough to offer it: reaches
out and places one hand atop his.

Bathroom over there?


Miles gets up and walks out. Maya sighs and gets and American
Spirit out of her purse.

Or this scene from The English Patient


Almásy is in the bath. Katharine, wearing his dressing gown,
pours in a jug of steaming water. Almásy leans over the rim
of the bath. He's sewing, carefully repairing the torn

I'm impressed you can sew.


You sew very badly.

You don't sew at all!

A woman should never learn to sew,
and if she can she should never
admit to it. Close your eyes.

That makes it harder still.

She pushes the sewing from his hands, then pours water over
his head, then begins to shampoo his hair.

Almásy is in heaven. The biggest smile we have seen from
him. She continues to massage his scalp.

When were you most happy?


When were you least happy?

(a beat)

Okay. And what do you love? Say

What do I love? I love rice
pudding, and water, the fish in it,
hedgehogs! The gardens at our house
in Freshwater - all my secret

She rinses his scalp, then slips off the robe and CLIMBS IN
BESIDE HIM, covering his neck and shoulders in kisses.

What else?

Marmite - addicted! Baths - not
with other people! Islands. Your
handwriting. I could go on all
(a beat)
My husband. Almásy nods.

What do you hate most?

A lie. What do you hate most?

Ownership. Being owned. When you
leave, you should forget me.

She freezes, pulls herself away, out of the bath, looks at
him, then SLAPS HIM VERY HARD across the face.

She picks up her dress, the thread and needle dangling from
it, and walks, dripping, out of the room.



You bastard!

You send me an email and my mind wrings itself into knots.

Thank you.

Not entirely apropos - nor rendered in purely accurate script form - but here's a few to consider:



HAROLD begins humming the "Love Waltz".

This way, m'lady.

And champagne.

(imitating her)
It's all right. It's organic.

Oh, Harold.
(fluttery laugh)

For you.

He puts a tiny ring box on the table.

... which I hope will make you very happy.

Oh, I am happy, Harold. Ecstatically happy.
I couldn't imagine a lovelier farewell.


Why yes. It's my eightieth birthday.

But you're not going anywhere, are you?

Oh yes, dear. I took the pills an hour ago.
I should be gone by midnight.

And then there's Robert Towne's sublimely simple scene in the bathroom between EVELYN MULWRAY and JAKE GITTES where she's tending his cut nose and he sees the flaw in her iris --- or any scene between Warren Beatty and any of his female co-stars in Towne's "Shampoo" --- or the scene between MAX and his wife LOUISE in Paddy Chayevsky's "Network" which I won't re-write here because there just isn't enough fucking room in the entire internet for paragraphs that long and I'm tired and, frankly, not that frickin' obsessive (although I used to be) but it's a great scene and it concludes with:

You're in for some dreadful grief, Max.

I know.

and then:

There's the scene in "It's A Wonderful Life" where Jimmy Stewart as George Bailey finally gives in to his love of Donna Reed as Mary - it's a perverse scene wrought from anger and denial and emotional violence and it's all played out in a close two shot - just great stuff.

What else?

ANY SCENE from James Goldman's "The Lion In Winter"


ANY SCENE from Anthony Minghella's "Truly Madly Deeply" - God I love that film.

Of course Shakespeare counts too but as far as American cinema, and wanting to find love scenes that work or don't, some of the best don't have dialogue at all - or they result from a cumulative effect --> the love scenes in Casablanca were sooooo hackneyed - but were presented within the aura of romantic remembrance (abetted by the bourbon and champagne) which allowed the restrained glibness of later scenes to exist in their own pools of deeper richer meanings.

It's ALWAYS what is left unsaid - a simple gesture - a horribly flawed film like John Avildsen's "Slow Dancing In The Big City" with Paul Sorvino and the eternally delicious Anne Ditchburn was just one big clusterfuck from the get-go - but there was one little scene - one little shot (didn't save the film) where Sorvino escorts Ditchburn and "almost" puts his arm around her - a brief visual hesitation - and the whole audience moaned with empathy ... after that the moans were more painful and deservedly so.

Soooo many cathartic love scenes are actually small pantomimes played out against "meaningful" popular song - "An Officer & A Gentleman" springs (if not slaps) suddenly to mind as an example. The propensity to use music and song, especially already popularized songs, as a crutch upon which to lean a haggard excuse for a story and lack of character has always been the bane of my movie-going existence.

That last bit pushed a memory to the fore of a made-for-TV adaptation of John Updike's "Rabbit" stories, entitled "Too Far To Go" with Blythe Danner (don't get me started, I just simply have always lusted after her) and Michael Moriarity (who was never better than in "Report To The Commissioner") and the resounding simplicity of the scenes between them as their marriage slowly dissolved over time and they watched their love ebb away even as they gained a greater appreciation for what it was. Remarkable. I don't know who wrote the adaptation - I'll have to look it up now. Damn you - you make me busy.

We remember lines of dialogue because that is what we can most easily recall and recreate. We can embrace them and use them in our definitions of ourselves. We can recite them and play them out before our friends and co-workers. The gestures - the looks - the physical moments - those are more difficult to recreate or carry with us for a quick display in any social situation .... but those are what dig in the deepest - the linking of bodies - the fervid almost touching of lips - the dance between lovers - the look upon their faces - the shots cutting between the propellers of the plane starting up on the tarmac and the quick desperate glances between Ilsa and Rick. The love scenes of film - as experienced and as remembered - are not restricted to the words spoken.

In Coppola's "The Conversation" the spoken dialogue between the young troubled lovers pacing through the supposed anonymity of Ghirardelli Square is touching. Context changes that. Later it becomes sinister. It's still a love scene.

"We'll always have Paris." - means nothing without the unfolding of the previous scenes between Rick and Ilsa - and the references between other characters in other prior scenes which serve to further define and enhance our awareness of their characters and relationship - before those words, those classic words, are ultimately, inevitably, spoken. On their own - they mean nothing.

"And with a kiss - I die." - carries volumes of meaning beyond the simple scenes played before it by Romeo and Juliet and even more than what is conveyed in prior scenes within the play itself - and yet those words never fail to elicit the choked breath and sobs of the audience, regardless of how little of the full context those audience members bring to those words which pass through their ears and into their consciousness.

I'm pontificating now - I'll stop.

Too many films - too many wonderful scenes - "Philadelphia Story" - "Who's Afraid Of Virginia Woolf?" - "Julia" - (the scenes between Hammett and Hellman) - there are too many individual moments to pick out - they gain their weight, their gravitas, their power from the context of what came before and what comes after. If the filmmaker betrays that contract with the viewer - then the moment, no matter how grandly constructed, loses all meaning.

Andie MacDowell - dear, sweet, sort-of pretty, far too content just being herself and knowing its the best thing in the existence of the universe, Andie MacDowell held the pulsing heart of "Four Weddings And A Funeral" in her grasp as she butchered it with her clumsy, uncomprehending, grip on the final conclusive line: "Is it raining? I hadn't noticed." A single line. A single fucking line! A line worthy of some of the greatest romantic films of all times. "An Affair To Remember" springs foremost to mind but it's more of a chick flick for my tastes and there I just shake my head and murmur de rigeur affection for an acknowledged classic. Regardless! A single fucking line! It could have destroyed the entire fucking thing. It is a testament to ALL that had gone before in the film that the audience actually stifled their groans, played along with the moment, felt even more sorry than before for poor dear sweet Hugh Grant (poor bastard, he actually has to end up with HER, oh my god) and then we all got to rejoice in the calculated emotions of the final credit sequence. Yay! Everything that occurred before the botched finale made up for, excused and otherwise obviated whatever abomination Ms. MacDowell could possibly have wrought with that one simple line of dialogue. She could have been barfing like Mister Creosote, whilst peeing blue flames and scorched dead baby debris and simultaneously fisting a young, wide eyed, piteously yelping, wee puppy - and the audience would still have enjoyed "the movie". Of course, her career would have been completely toasted and one wonders why the filmmakers didn't do us that one small favour - but I suppose we can't have everything.

Another theme to explore in your studies, Mark, would be Death Scenes.

The current Rambo film doesn't count because most of those are scripted as: SPLAT!

But I digress.


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