For a culture that perpetuates its short attention span with MTV, TiVo and Xbox, the list is life. Love the '80s? Here are the decade's 25 greatest moments. Need to quit smoking? Here are three easy ways. How can we pare down a century of cinema? The American Film Institute's annual "100 Movies" list.
The recipe: Pick a topic, skewer films into categories like shish kebabs, and serve them up in a three-hour television special. For flavor, toss with talking heads -- Dennis Miller empathizing with King Kong, Wolfgang Puck eating fava beans and drinking Chianti. Shake, don't stir. Repeat yearly.
The AFI's latest concoction, "100 Years . . . 100 Movie Quotes," featured all this and more when it aired Tuesday on CBS. The list of the greatest cine-zingers was culled from a ballot of 400 (rather obvious) quotations chosen by industry professionals via these criteria, posted on the AFI's Web site: The quotes must be dialogue spoken in an American film (so no "Go and boil your bottoms, you sons of silly persons!" from "Monty Python and the Holy Grail"), have a lasting cultural impact and come from a feature film released before Jan. 1, 2004 (so Ray Romano was a talking head, but his lines in "Welcome to Mooseport" were unfortunately ineligible).
As with any of the AFI's "100 Years . . . 100 Whatevers," the telecast was a booster shot for an industry that thrives on its own legend.
"Toga! Toga!" "Attica! Attica!" "Adrian! Adriaaan!" "It's alive! It's aliiiive!" "Stella! Stellaaaa!" Despite a list clogged with guttural exclamations, the comparatively low-key "Casablanca" dominated with six entries and the top spot was claimed by the cold shoulder felt round the South: Clark Gable's "Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn" in "Gone With the Wind." No big surprises from the AFI, but these are the same folks who previously voted "Some Like It Hot" the funniest movie, "Psycho" the scariest and "Citizen Kane" the best. They've always been better at preserving our movie heritage and training young filmmakers than making edge-of-your-seat television anyway.
Thanks to some colleague collaboration, here is a selection of quotes that might've spiced up the proceedings.